Sunday, 30 April 2006

Sermon on Prayer and Meditation

A spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (Luke 24.39)

Our Lord showed himself to the apostles and made it clear to them that he was risen in the flesh; he was not just an appearance, a dream or a ghost.

It is essential to know that Jesus is real if we are to pray properly. I promised that I would spend some time after Easter talking about prayer and how to pray. Many people have been to confession during Lent and the beginning of the Easter season. The celebration of the sacrament of penance is a good way of beginning a deeper life of prayer, a life that follows our Blessed Lord more closely.

In order to lead a devout life, we must first do battle against any serious sin in our lives. Battle is the right word because we must be determined to root out any sin that can kill the life of grace in our soul. The weapons are many and varied but will always include the regular use of the sacrament of penance and a daily act of contrition. We also need to change our lives to avoid any occasions of sin: people places or things that we know will make it easier and more likely for us to sin. If we cannot avoid them entirely, we must make them more remote – for example making sure that we are not alone with a particular person or making sure to avoid some place.

Now I said I would talk about prayer but I want to make it clear first of all that we cannot undertake any serious progress in the spiritual life if we are not coming to Mass every Sunday or if we are breaking one of the other commandments in a serious way. People sometimes say "I can pray to God just as well in my own room." They are wrong. We do not have the real, substantial presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist in our own room and the one perfect sacrifice of Christ is not made present anew in our own room as it is in the Mass. We must come to Mass at least every Sunday as Our Lord asks us - and also pray in our own room.

Christian prayer is a personal encounter with God who is himself personal. Some pagan forms of prayer were simply rituals that had to be carried out in order to achieve specific results or avoid particular evils. For many of the ancient Romans, it was not all that important whether the gods actually existed; what mattered was that the public rituals were carried out. We find this sort of thing today when people rub crystals or burn incense sticks for good karma or good luck or whatever.

Christian prayer is very different. It is the conversation of a human person with a personal God. A traditional Christian definition of prayer is “the raising up of the mind and heart to God.” We may do this in various ways.

Set prayers are helpful to us because they were: composed by Christ (e.g. the Our Father), inspired by the Holy Spirit (e.g. the psalms) or written by saints (e.g. the Memorare). When we come to Mass, we participate in “Liturgical” prayer: the words and actions are specified by the Church and we are united with Christ and the whole Church when we pray this Liturgy.

When we pray using set forms of words, it is important to try to pray with the heart: to mean what we say. This can be difficult because we may not understand some of the words or we may find it difficult to concentrate. For our understanding, the new Compendium of the Catechism is an excellent place to start. For many people, it would be a great idea to become familiar with some traditional Catholic prayers such as the Hail Holy Queen, the Memorare, the prayer of St Ignatius and others that can be found in the Simple Prayer Book.

So if you are not in the habit of praying every day, it is a great start if at night, before going to bed, you say the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Act of Contrition and one or two other prayers from the Simple Prayer Book. Make sure that Sunday Mass is an absolutely fixed part of every week and come to Confession regularly. Then God will call you a little closer.

God always does this. I heard a good saying recently: “God is easy to please but difficult to satisfy”. He will never treat us with contempt and allow us simply to be mediocre or lukewarm. He will always beckon us to something greater.

For very many people, that something greater could begin with some daily mental prayer or meditation. This is not difficult or esoteric. Unfortunately, the word “meditation” can be associated with beads, sandals and smoking strange substances. But meditation has always been a part of the Christian way of prayer.

It is simply the offering of some time to Almighty God, in which we ponder the scriptures, one of the incidents in our Lord’s life, or some truth of our faith. As we do so, we speak to God in our own words or simply rest in his presence. Since our prayer should always change our lives, many of the great saints who wrote about prayer recommended that before the time of prayer ends, we should make some practical resolution for that particular day; something small perhaps, some kindness to someone, some act of self-control when we know we are going to be angry, a resolution to drive more carefully – we can all think of some way we could be more like Christ that day.

The best time for this prayer for most people is first thing in the morning – we could get up a quarter of an hour earlier to make room for it. There have been very many good books written by saints about prayer and meditation. If I were to pick just one, I would recommend the Introduction to the Devout Life written by St Francis de Sales.

If we begin to give God even a short time, say ten minutes, and pray in this way, we will very soon find that it is the most precious and fruitful time in our day. Of course, the Mass is even more precious but this practice of spending some time with God in meditation will be a new thing for many people and will immeasurably enrich our participation at the Mass. What we will be doing is to allow God to work in our soul, to teach us, to sanctify us – and to love us. We are then motivated to love him in return.

Sermon at Blackfen for the 3rd Sunday of Easter 2006

New Rector for Wonersh

Just heard this evening that the new Rector of St John's Seminary, Wonersh is to be Mgr Canon Jeremy Garratt, parish priest of St Laurence's, Petersfield and Vicar General of the Diocese of Portsmouth.

Please remember him in your prayers as he prepares to take up this vital work in the Church.

Fr Lang and Archbishop Ranjith

Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, shakes hands with Fr Michael Lang of the London Oratory after the launch of the Italian version of his book Turning Towards the Lord

In his Foreward to the book, the then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote "At a propitious moment it seems to me, this book resumes a debate that, despite appearances to the contrary, has never really gone away, not even after the Second Vatican Council. The Innsbruck liturgist, Josef Andreas Jungmann, one of the architects of the Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, was from teh very beginning resolutely opposed to the polemical catchphrase that previously the priest celebrated 'with his badk to the people'; he emphasised that what was at issue was not the priest turning away from teh people but, on the contrary, his facing the same direction as the people.

Cherie Blair - quotes

Some background given the recent meeting of Cherie Blair with Pope Benedict:
"Women still do not get due respect in the Church which is why, in the opinion of many people, it gets some things wrong like its teaching on contraception."
Daily Telegraph 6 June 2005
"In addition to the fringe meetings, and to continue our 75th anniversary celebrations, Cherie Blair helped to cut a special birthday cake at our stand at the Labour Party conference. We also gave away a vibrator to a lucky winner, which got The Observer’s Pendennis in a bit of a spin!"
FPA (Family Planning Association) Archive
Cherie Blair also gave a reception at 10 Downing Street in support of the IPPF campaign "Lust for life" to provide condoms to Africa.

Saturday, 29 April 2006

Cherie Blair and the Pope

Amy Wellborn has a funny caption for the photo of Pope Benedict and Cherie book: Fill in the blanks...

Statue of St Josemaria Escriva

After saying Mass in St Peter's, I was walking down the corridor from the Sacristy to the Basilica when I noticed the new statue of St Josemaria Escriva. The base has the legend Sanctus Iosephmaria Escriva Conditor Operis Dei. The book held by the angel has the text Et ego si exaltatus fuero a terra omnes traham ad meipsum ("And I, when I have been lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" - John 12.32) This text was a particular focus of meditation for St Josemaria.

The statue was blessed by Pope Benedict on 14 September last year, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The statue is over 15 feet high, sculpted in marble by Romano Cosci. It was Pope John Paul II who allocated the niches in the exterior of the Basilica for statues of saints of our own time.

Il Papa Professore

A welcome innovation since my time in Rome as a student is the use of large television screens during major functions. It makes the audience and the Papal Masses much easier to follow when there is a large crowd.

Here is the Pope teaching his people - Il Papa Professore as the Romans have dubbed him.

Not very near to the Pope ...

As you can see, we didn't get very near to the Pope: there were about 40,000 people in front of us! It was still great to be there, though.

St Peter's Basilica

One of the things that a good tour guide will try to show you is how the perfect proportions disguise just how massive the basicica is. So here is my humble effort. Have a look at the facade of St Peter's. Look at the main pillars at the front. Now look at the next picture which shows two people walking past the base of one of the pillars.

Thursday, 27 April 2006

Saying Mass elsewhere in the world

It has just started a real scirocco downpour so there is no point leaving the Internet Cafe (and it is only 3 euros an hour or something). So a point about priests saying Mass while on holiday.

Some priests nowadays don't say Mass when they are on holiday. I find this difficult to imagine. Being a priest is just that - it is what you are, not something you do from 9 to 5. And the Mass is at the heart of the priesthood. Both John Paul II and Benedict have said this of the daily Mass.

However, when you are on holiday in many places it can be difficult to find somewhere to say Mass. You can find out the daily Mass time at the local parish and go to concelebrate. If I am ever in this position, I always make the offer to say the Mass in case the priest has a funeral later or some other school Mass or something. As a parish priest myself, I know how welcome this might be.

But if the local parish doesn't have weekday Mass or if the liturgical abuses are too much to tolerate, what do you do then? Many priests take a Mass kit and say Mass in their hotel room. This is far from ideal but often a sensible compromise between bad and worse.

Another solution is to go to places in the world where you can say Mass easily. The Domus Romana Sacerdotalis is one such. The downstairs chapel is available for the priests to say Mass any time of the day.

Lourdes is also very hospitable to priests. If you are on holiday there and simply want to say a private Mass, go to the crypt chapel) the one underneath the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and above the Basilica of the Rosary. At any time of the day, the sacristan will set up for Mass for you. If you bring your own missal, he will not bat an eyelid at your saying the old rite. Nor should he, given some of the liturgical abominations that happen at Lourdes. If you have a very small group (not more than three or four people), they could join you.

If any priests know of other places in the world where a Catholic priest who is travelling can easily say a private Mass, please do pass on the information.

Buy Turning Towards the Lord

I should, of course, point you to buy the book so here is my parish Amazon Associates link.

This Amazon links works for the UK Amazon site. If you want to buy it in the US, go to The Cafeteria is Closed and click on one of the links there to get into the US Amazon site!

Rivolti al Signore book launch

That is the Italian title of Turning Towards the Lord by Fr Michael Lang. It has generated massive media interest in Italy with feature articles in most of the major national dailies. (Did anyone notice when it was published in England?)

The book launch took place this morning in the Aula Minor of the Augustinianum with the lead "intervento" given by Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, the Secretary of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship. His discourse was an intelligent, inspiring and incisive analysis of the present state of the Liturgy in the Church. He referred often to Pope Benedict's The Spirit of the Liturgy and spoke diplomatically of how the "reform of the reform" might proceed.

Fr Salvatore Vitello, the priest from Turin who chaired the conference has promised to send me a copy of the speech. It may well be that Archbishop Ranjith wrote the original in English but if not, I will translate it.

The second speaker was Fr Bux. With a glint in his eye, he pointed out that the Church had been very keen on inculturation - except with regard to its own culture. He also pointed out the implications of the book's thesis for ecumenism with the Eastern Churches - an area in which he is an expert.

Fr Lang was subjected to questions from La Stampa and a senior professor at the Lateran University who was a close colleague of Archbishop Bugnini. He fielded these bravely and competently in Italian which is not the first of the languages which he speaks in addition to English and his native German. Marco Politti of La Reppublica threw in a little sideswipe about him being a young priest and not knowing how bad things were in the old days.

Fr Vitello pointed out at the close of proceedings how encouarging it was to see so many young clergy present. He also drew attention to the importance of ... "The Hermeneutic of Continuity"!

Trying out the Ecclesia Dei rescript at St Peter's

I always say Mass at St Peter's at least one day when I am in Rome. There was some discussion yesterday about whether St Peter's had changed their attitude to requests from priests to celebrate the Ritus Antiquior so I thought I might as well be straightforward about it, go there and ask.

But first the normal procedure. St Peter's now opens at 7am. I am sure it was earlier when I was a student, hence half an hour of prayer in the square before getting in. There were at least 500 people ready to go in at 7am. Clearly the news has got round that if you want to go to the tomb of Pope John Paul II, it is not a bad idea to get there early.

In the sacristy, any priest can turn up and say Mass before about 8.30am. The sacristy provides everything including amice and alb. You are given a Roman style chalice (tulip shape) and everything is perfectly laundered and starched by the good sisters who look after the sacristy linen. Then an altar server (chierichetto) will lead you to a free altar. If you want a missal in English (or another modern language), the server will bring it for you. If you ask to say Mass in Latin, he will get it from a cupboard hidden at the side of the altar itself. Often the server will simply leave the cruets on the altar and go. If it is his first Mass of the day, he will stay, make the responses and receive Holy Communion.

So today, I turned up with my Ecclesia Dei rescript and asked if I could say the old rite Mass. The response was that the Hungarian Chapel is in use. This might sound like the exchange of a coded greeting in one of those black and white films set in the Cold War. What it means is that the only chapel where the old Mass is permitted in St Peter's is the (not very beautiful) Hungarian Chapel. If it is in use, tough. It is given for use to other groups. So if you want to say the Old Mass in St Peter's, you have to book in advance. However, I have to say that the Sacristan was perfectly proper and polite. If you know the rules and follow them, you can say the old Mass. But why those rules!

I told the sacristan not to worry and said I would say the Paolo Sesto Mass (Paul VI). I was rather hoping that the server would just leave the cruets and go. Unfortunately, of course, it was his first Mass of the day and therefore I had to try to remember the Novus Ordo Confiteor.

Never mind. It is always a great thing to say Mass in St Peter's. I managed to get to confession as well and gain another plenary indulgence, Deo volente.

Bernie's Restaurant

English people of a certain age (mine or above!) will remember the chain of Berni Inn restaurants where you could get prawn cocktail, steak, chips and frozen peas, and black forets gateau. Last night, it was the restaurant of Fr Bernie O'Connor, a Canadian priest who is working at the Pontifical Council for Oriental Churches (he is responsible for the Syro-Malabar Rite). Fr Bernie used to be the spiritual director for a number of students at the English College. He is still the same - rotund, jovial and most sollicitous for the care of priests.

We were joined by Fr Charles Briggs, Fr Michael Lang and Fr Athanasius who is a young priest of the Ukranian rite, working in Rome on a history doctorate. After dinner, we took a short digestive stroll to view the new door with Pope Benedict's arms.

Pilgrimage to Gammarelli's

Most of the other items on the to-do list are now ticked off. Yesterday afternoon, I went with Frs Charles Briggs and John Boyle to Gammarelli. I ordered the buckled shoes and got a couple of other things there (OK - replacement fascia and biretta). Then to De Ritis which I can never resist referring to as De Ritibus where I found a couple of good albs to replace the rather worn out one I usually use and give some distinction to feast days. Barbiconi's provided some good sets of altar linens which I intend to give to one or two worthy causes - schools and charities which have their own chapels and always find this part of stocking them up the most difficult to get right.

We had a solemn reading of the obelisk inscription and then a beer in the Piazza del Pantheon. The inscription on the Pantheon reads (if my memory serves me) M. AGRIPPA. L.F. COS. TERTIUM FECIT - that is Marcus Agrippa, the son of Lucius, consul for the third time, made it. It is a fine example of Roman blunt simplicity. I remember Fr Reginald Foster telling us about a discussion between Pompey and Cicero whether TERTIUM or TERTIO should be written (on Pompey's theatre). Pompey ducked the question and wrote TERT. Marcus Agrippa was made of more decisive stuff.

Wednesday, 26 April 2006

Photo prospects

Not brilliant weather here in Rome for photos. I have taken a few and hope to salvage something from them when I get home. I'm trying to look for one or two unusual things. At least the useless new camera (no viewfinder, only screen) has the merit of being lightweight enough to carry everywhere without being a nuisance.

Purchases at the Vatican bookshop

Yesterday, after lunch with Fr Patrick Burke, I went for my visit to St Peter's to get the plenary indulgence. On the way, in the San Carlo arm of the colonnade, I called in to a temporary exhibition on the 500th anniversary of the Swiss Guard. It is well worth a visit. There is a film showing but that lasts an hour and 5 minutes so I bought the DVD to watch at home.

Then to the Vatican bookshop where I make a mental note of books to order from Pax Books when I get home. But I can never resist getting some books while I am here. So I have bought the foundational document for this blog - the Pope's address on the second Vatican Council 40 years on. I also got a copy of the Vatican edition of the Stations of the Cross. It has some beautiful pictures to illustrate the text. Slightly more off-beam, I bought a copy of the law governing the Roman Curia. So? Might come in useful.

The best thing I bought was "5000 Proverbi e Motti Latini" (5000 Latin mottoes and proverbs) gathered together by some enthusiastic Italian scholar who has translated them all into Italian and added source references and explanatory notes. Over 700 pages, it cost me 19 euros. Outstanding!

To-do list update

Main one not achieved - oh well, we still got to see the beloved Holy Father from a distance and had the vicarious enjoyment of Fr Lang's encounter. Pasta al Ragu' (in fact fettucine, not penne) - easy enough. Glass of Amaro Averna ditto. This afternoon, we're going on a pilgrimage to Gammarelli's where I should be able to tick off most of the other items.

As you can see below, lots of unexpected delights too which is always to be expected in Rome.

At lunch today

A most enjoyable lunch today in the company of Fr Charles Briggs and Fr John Boyle from Southwark diocese, Fr Michael Lang and Fr Nicola Bux. Fr Bux is a consultor at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and a long-time friend of the Pope since before he became a Bishop. Fr Bux's area of expertise is Eastern theology and Liturgy. It was he who first noticed Fr Lang's book in Italy and got things going for the Italian translation.

Also in the house at the moment is the Bishops' conference of Ghana who are in Rome for their ad limina visit. We have also been able to catch up with Fr Bernie O'Connor who works at the Pontifical Council for Oriental Churches. Fr Bernie was a good friend many years ago and gave spiritual direction for a number of students at the English College back in the 80s.

Turning Towards the Lord Italian launch

I did not expect to meet Fr Lang here in Rome but that is one of the good things about the Eternal City - there are always pleasant surprises.

He is here for the launch of the Italian translation of his book "Turning Towards the Lord." It will take place tomorrow morning at 11.30am at the Augustinianum. The main presentation is to be given by Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith whom I have just seen at lunch at the Domus Romana Sacerdotalis. Archbishop Ranjith is the recently-appointed Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

So I don't think I need to spell it out. The Secretary of the Vatican's congregation in charge of the Liturgy is promoting a book that argues for Eastward-facing celebration of Mass.

In Italy, they understand these things and their importance. Hence, the book launch has received major coverage in Il Giorno and La Repubblica. After finishing today's posts, I intend to go and get a copy of today's Avvenire which apparently has a whole page article on it. I wonder if any English newspapers will notice?

Fr Michael Lang

Fr Michael Lang is a young German priest at the London Oratory. A respected patristic and liturgical scholar (doctorate from Oxford University etc.), he wrote a book, published by Ignatius Press, called "Turning Towards the Lord". In it, he presents the historical and theological case for priest (and people) facing Eastward during the Mass. The then Cardinal Ratzinger, who knew Fr Lang, wrote a Foreword for the book. The book has recently been translated into Italian - but there lies another story...

General Audience today

Yesterday was Liberation Day or something and so it was not possible to get into an internet cafe and post. This morning, Fr Briggs and I managed to get to the Audience. Sadly, we could not get reparto speciale tickets so no chance of getting anwhere near our beloved Holy Father. Nevertheless, it was a great experience. It is difficult to convey just how overwhelming this experience was. The square was full. Remember this is not some special feast day or major occasion, just an ordinary Wednesday. My ticket is number 43417. There must have been over 50000 tickets issued and then another few thousand people just coming along to be there.

Pope Benedict spoke about how Tradition in the Church is not simply about conserving things but is a living river from apostolic times in which Christ remains present in his Church. He is very much the Papa Professore, giving a good and easily understood lecture to his "students" in the square from all over the world.

Back at lunch, I looked at Fr Michael Lang to see whether he was happy or sad. He was happy. Having obtained a prima fila (front row) ticket, he had got to meet the Pope and will be getting his photo later from l'Osservatore. Not only that, but the Holy Father recognised him, saying "Oh, you are here!" So I had better tell you why...

Sunday, 23 April 2006

Bernini's elephant Inscription

Here's the elephant. (That's the Pantheon in the background.)

And here is the inscription:

It reads:

Which is to say "Whoever sees here that the symbols of the Egyptian sage, inscribed on the obelisk, are carried by the elephant, the strongest of the beasts: understand that it is a proof of a robust mind to sustain solid wisdom."

I first read this inscription on a tour of the twelve obelisks of Rome, led by the incomparable Fr Reginald ("Reggie") Foster. He was the best teacher of anything that I ever knew and I always try to call in at the beginning of his class. 25 years on, he teaches at the same time, in the same room, with the same dry sense of humour and the same passionate love of Latin.

The obelisk is outside the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva where St Catherine of Siena lies. Gammarelli's is across the square. You are round the corner from the Pantheon. Within 5 minutes walk, you can visit the Roman College where St Robert Bellarmine gave his lectures De Controversiis to some of the English martyrs, the body of St Philip Neri at the Chiesa Nuova, the Church of the Gesu' and the body of St Ignatius, the Piazza Navona and the Fontana di Trevi ...

Quanto sei bella Roma ...

To do list for Rome

(Not necessarily exhaustive or in order of importance)

  1. Say Mass in St Peter's (preferably at St Gregory or St Pius X - depends how helpful the chierichetto is)

  2. Eat some penne al ragu' (not difficult)

  3. Drink at least one glass of Amaro Averna (this is an acquired taste - I acquired it as a student)

  4. Buy some buckled clerical shoes at Gammarelli's (So?)

  5. Visit Bernini's elephant and read the inscription (I always do this even though I know it by heart)

  6. Get some more good photos of Roman scenes (forecast is sunny for the first part of the week)

  7. Go to the General Audience and try to get near enough to our beloved Pope Benedict to get in an Osservatore photo (absolutely no guarantee of that but you can bet it will be posted here if I succeed!)

Where I will be tomorrow

Looking forward to it! My travelling companion is Fr Charles Briggs, the parish priest of St Mary's, Chislehurst which is where the emperor Napoleon III was first interred before Eugenie constructed Farnborough Abbey and his magnificent mausoleum.

We'll be staying at the Domus Romana Sacerdotalis. It is just off the Via Conciliazione, near Castel Sant' Angelo and therefore quite near St Peter's. The photo below was taken from the roof terrace during the amazing procession of visitors to pay their respects to the late Pope John Paul.

I recommend the Domus Romana to any priest who wants to stay in Rome. The rates are very reasonable, the food (and wine) is wholesome, and there is a tasteful chapel downstairs with four side altars: you can say Mass whenever you want. There are a number of permanent resident priests, mostly working in the Curia, and you can meet some very interesting fellow guests. One time I was sat next to an Argentine Archbishop and a Japanese seminarian from Gricigliano. Another time, I bumped into Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako - a great man who has inspired hope in his persecuted people in the Sudan.

Screwtape on DVC

Eric Metaxas has written a very clever piece in the form of a letter from Screwtape to Wormwood on the Da Vinci Code. In case you are puzzled, C S Lewis wrote a classic book called "The Screwtape Letters" which were letters from a senior devil to a junior devil to advise him on how to get humans into hell. (This reminds me to update my recently started Parish Virtual Bookshop.)

Many thanks to Barbara Nicolosi and her blog Church of the Masses for this great post.

Saturday, 22 April 2006

Roman Miscellany

Roman Miscellany is a new blog by another priest in England, Fr Nicholas Schofield, a historian and the archivist for the Archdiocese of Westminster. It is part of the movement for which he coined the phrase baroque ressourcement.

For biretta lovers everywhere

I was just thinking today that it would be good for my biretta to get a little worn ...
Roman Miscellany: The Psychology of an Old Biretta

Parish Priests and the Sacrament of Penance

The Congregation of the Clergy issued the document The Priest, Pastor and Leader of the Parish Community saying that it was "being relayed" to the priests "through the kind offices of their Bishops". Just in case the Bishop didn't send your priest a copy, here is a quote:
It is notable that the Code makes specific mention of frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist and of the Sacrament of Penance. This would indicate that the parish priest, in establishing the times for Masses and confessions in his parish, would take into consideration those times which are convenient for the majority of the faithful, while bearing in mind also the need to facilitate those who have difficulty in easily attending the celebration of the sacraments.

The parish priest should devote special attention to individual confession, understood in the spirit and form established by the Church. He should be mindful that confession must precede first Holy Communion. Moreover, the individual confessions of the faithful, for pastoral reasons and for the convenience of the faithful, may also be received during the celebration of the Holy Mass.

Care should be taken to ensure respect “for the sensibilities of the penitent concerning the manner in which he wishes to confess, either face to face, or from behind a grill”. The confessor may also have pastoral reasons for preferring the use a confessional equipped with a grill.

Father's Bentley?

Luvverly motor!

But perhaps building a new garage to accommodate a classic Bentley would not give a good image of evangelical poverty.

Marriage - from the old Pocket Ritual

I always like to read the instruction from the old Pocket Ritual. I post it here for the convenience of any priests who might like to do the same. I don't think anyone need have any scruples about using it in the place where it says "these or similar words".
N and N, you are about to be married. Now for children of God and members of the Catholic Church marriage is more than a human contract. It is something supernatural and holy and must be approached with that thought in mind. It was God himself who joined our first parents as husband and wife, and with the first nuptial blessing made them the founders of the family and the home. And it was our divine Saviour who raised marriage to the dignity of a Sacrament, thus adding to it the grace he won for us when he died upon the Cross. Remember what St Paul told the Ephesians. The union of a husband and wife is only to be compared with the union between Christ and his Church.

The life, therefore, to which God has called you, is noble and sublime. Yours it is to cooperate with God in his creation, bringing into the world new lives, to be children of the Church and heirs of the kingdom of heaven. Here today, before the altar, in the presence not only of your relatives and friends but of the angels of God and the whole court of heaven, your two lives are to be united in a bond that will endure as long as life shall last. May God in his goodness never cease to strengthen the love that unites you.

Have no fears but rather great confidence. Fulfil your religious duties, your prayer, your reception of the Sacraments. Learn to love each other, but also to understand each other, sometimes to put up with each other. Keep a place for Our Lord in your home. Where he is, there is no room for the evil things that can destroy your happiness and drive God’s grace away. Ask his holy Mother and St Joseph that they may be with you as well. Model your lives and your home upon theirs; and may their prayers obtain for you many years of happy life together.

Congratulations to Paul and Catherine

Married today at Our Lady of the Rosary

Father, keep them always true to your commandments.
Keep them faithful in marriage,
and let them be living examples of Christian life.
Give them the strength which comes from the gospel
so that they may be witnesses of Christ to others.
Bless them with children
and help them to be good parents.
May they live to see their children's children.
And, after a happy old age,
grant them fulness of life with the saints
in the kingdom of heaven.

from the Nuptial Blessing

Letter to the Bishop of Orange

This lengthy letter of complaint to Bishop Brown might, in times past, have been presented as the model way not to get any results. That was before people could blog such things all over the known universe...

Friday, 21 April 2006

Enjoyable rant against the DVC

Jeff Miller kindly pointed out that the idea for going to see another film when the DVC opens was first mooted by Barbara Niclosi, author of the Church of the Masses blog. Looking it up today, I find her DVC rant which is well worth reading.

Da Vinci Code talk at the London Oratory

It is always such a joy to visit the London Oratory. If you are reading this from the USA and haven't heard of this vibrant centre of Catholic life in London that is making real gains in the culture war, just take a look at the Liturgical Celebrations tab on their website and look at what is on offer on any given Sunday. The young fathers organise regular talks under the banner of "Call to Youth" in the magnificent setting of St Wilfrid's Hall. They keep in touch with the young people by emails which remind them also of the times of Mass, devotions and confessions.

I was there tonight speaking on "The Da Vinci Code: is there any truth in it?" (There is a copy of the talk on my Da Vinci Code page along with some other links.) There were about 100 young adults in attendance. Afterwards, I got to speak to someone from New York who is in London doing consultancy work, someone working at the British Museum, some members of "The Work" (Opus Dei), an equities broker on a break from Thailand, an RE teacher, a TV production guy interested in producing Catholic materials, and many others, enthusiastic young Catholics eager to learn more and take St Peter seriously: Always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3.15)

The Oratorians provided wine and sandwiches for a long social session after the talk and mingled affably with the people who had come. The whole occasion would have delighted St Philip, I'm sure, and they are living proof that solid Catholic priests who are proud to be seen as such and celebrate the liturgy with due gravitas, can draw the young to Christ.

Thursday, 20 April 2006

Family Life International Conference

Greg Clovis of FLI UK is organising Conference for Saturday 29 April 2006 at the Sacred Heart School, Hammersmith. Details at Family Life International Online - Events. Highly recommended!

Excellent video with "Habemus Papam" soudtrack

American Papist has posted a Habemus Papam Music Video; as he says "hey DJ, bring that back!"

"10 rules for Dating my Daughters"

Have to admit this one made me laugh out loud

Dating my Daughters

Wednesday, 19 April 2006

BBC resistance

And while I'm on the subject of the BBC, may I recommend the excellent Abolish the TV Licence website, also titled "BBC Resistance.

The BBC's spin on the Pope

Among the "Pope Benedict one year on" stories is the predictable take from the BBC. Former sister Lavinia Byrne is quoted as saying:
"I am very disappointed, because I thought he would be more interesting and sparky. We know who his tailor is, and whose sunglasses he wears, but we do not know much about what he thinks."
Given his voluminous output, a person could only fail to know much about what he thinks if she (a) hasn't read much of what he has written, or (b) hasn't understood much of it.

This is routine, self-absorbed, smarty-pants, British media spin. The luvvies have not read his books and have shown interest only in his sunglasses and his clothes, so "we do not know much about what he thinks". And our nation is still glued to this garbage daily!

So before your brains turn completely to porridge, take your television to the nearest "Civic Recycling Centre" and in the hours that you would have spent watching it, read some good books instead. I suggest starting with some of the books written by Cardinal Ratzinger.

St. Peter's Basilica website

Just found this enthusiast's website devoted to St Peter's Basilica in Rome. It has a superb collection of photos and even lists all the saints on the colonnade.

AmericanPapist: poll on universal indult

AmericanPapist Poll: Would a universal indult be a good thing? (When I voted (Yes) just now, the result was 74.6% in favour.)

Tuesday, 18 April 2006

Excellent B16 picture and caption from AmericanPapist

AmericanPapist: Not Your Average Catholic!: Your PPOTD! (Papist-Picture-of-the-Day): Tue., April 18

Novel idea for countering DVC

The Holy Spirit Interactive blog on the Da Vinci Code has a good suggestion. On the opening weekend of the film, every Christian should go to the movies - but see a different film to try and muck up the stats for the release. I hope it catches on.

Holy Spirit Interactive: The Da Vinci Code, The Gospel of Judas, and Other Assorted Things

Monday, 17 April 2006

Easter sermon

This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 117.24)

The four gospels all give accounts of the appearances of Jesus after his resurrection. Like all eye-witness accounts of a major event, there are some conflicting elements. There is full agreement on the basic facts that the tomb was empty and that Jesus was truly risen from the dead in flesh and blood.
St John’s account focuses on St Mary Magdalene At first, she is distraught that “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him”. It would be quite believable that the enemies of Jesus had taken his body to desecrate it or to bury it in an unmarked grave where his disciples could not pay their respects. We can imagine how awful that must have seemed.

We are told of the apostles going to the tomb. St John tells us that the other disciple (that is, himself) saw and believed. The other accounts have the women go to tell the apostles. Indeed, St Luke tells us that the disciples thought the women were talking nonsense. In fact, it may well be that St John, the beloved disciple did understand that Jesus was not simply missing but risen.

But let us return to St Mary Magdalene She is still weeping and the angel asks her why she is weeping – again “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Finally Jesus himself asks her “Why are you weeping?” and this time, thinking him to be the gardener, she asks if he has taken away the body.

Clearly, St Mary Magdalene loved Jesus very much. And The Da Vinci Code is only the latest in a long line of dirty-minded and blasphemous speculation that cannot imagine a genuinely spiritual friendship.

We cannot necessarily identify St Mary Magdalene with the “woman caught in adultery” (although historically, many spiritual writers have.) Much more likely is that she was the woman in Luke 7 who wept over the Lord’s feet and wiped away her tears with her hair and anointed him. St John reports this action as done by “Mary” the sister of Martha in chapter 12 of his gospel.

St Mary Magdalene's love for the Master was obviously familiar to the apostles. John had actually referred to her earlier as the woman who had anointed the Lord’s feet. It was not something people were likely to forget in a hurry and obviously Mary was referred to as “You know, the one who anointed the Lord’s feet.” Both Matthew and Mark also report an incident of a woman anointing Jesus with expensive ointment.

This deeply affectionate gesture was also an act of great humility. She knew she was likely to be gossiped about and indeed they did gossip. But Our Lord rebuked them and said that she must have been forgiven much to show so much love.

Now we find her inconsolable in her grief that the Master has been crucified and it seems that they cannot even leave his body to rest in peace. Then Jesus rewards her by his presence and she goes to tell the disciples the wonderful news that the Master is risen and alive.

As we celebrate Easter, it is a good thing to think of St Mary Magdalene during the Mass. Pope Benedict today carries out his office as the successor of St Peter in once again proclaiming that it is true, that Jesus Christ our Lord is risen. In the Mass, our Lord is truly, really and substantially present in his risen body and blood. We should reflect that without Christ, we would be lost in our sin, there would be no hope of salvation or eternal life. Our joy on this day should be very great. As we imagine the intense joy of St Mary Magdalene, we can ask her prayers to help us to celebrate the feast of Easter beginning at this Mass.

We can also think of the others, St Peter, St John and the rest of the disciples. They were slow to believe that it had really happened but they must have experienced the most incredible excitement and hope for the future when Jesus got through to them that he was truly alive.

During the Easter season, I want to focus a little on the life of prayer of the Christian, what it really means to pray and how we can pray well. St Teresa of Avila said that prayer is “conversation with Christ”. Well you can’t have a conversation with someone who is not alive. At the heart of prayer is our faith in Jesus Christ who is risen, alive, real and listening to us.

The challenge of prayer is the call to make our prayer a real conversation in the way that we speak to our Lord. It is a lifetime journey and at times a hard struggle. However, when we look back at a period of our life when we have sincerely tried to love Christ in prayer, we will be able to see that it was a time of blessing not only for us but for all those around us. If we are faithful to that prayer of familiar conversation with Christ, we can change the world.

The right to a fixed grille

Canon Law gives the faithful the right to go to confession in a confessional with a fixed grate or grille:
The conference of bishops is to establish norms regarding the confessional; it is to take care, however, that there are always confessionals with a fixed grate between the penitent and the confessor in an open place so that the faithful who wish to can use them freely. (Canon 964 §2)

Now here's the bit that some people don't know. The priest can also insist on the use of a fixed grille. Here's the original text from the Vatican Website. It's in the section for the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, under the heading Interpretationes Authenticae. (I give a translation below.)

Can. 964, § 2 (cf. L'Osservatore Romano, 13-14 luglio 1998, p. 2)

Patres Pontificii Consilii de Legum Textibus Interpretandis, in ordinario coetu diei 16 iunii 1998, dubio, quod sequitur, respondendum esse censuerunt ut infra:

D. Utrum attento praescripto can. 964, § 2, sacramenti minister, iusta de causa et excluso casu necessitatis, legitime decernere valeat, etiamsi poenitens forte aliud postulet ut confessio sacramentalis excipiatur in sede confessionali crate fixa instructa.

R. Affirmative.

Summus Pontifex Ioannes Paulus II in Audientia die 7 iulii 1998 infrascripto Praesidi impertita, de supradicta decisione certior factus, eam confirmavit et promulgari iussit.

Archiepiscopus titularis Vertarensis

Episcopus titularis Drivastensis
a Secretis
Now here is the (unofficial) translation:
The Fathers of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, in their ordinary meeting of 16 June 1998, determined that the question (doubt or "dubium") which follows should be answered as below:

Q. Whether, keeping in mind the prescription of canon 964, §2, the minister of the sacrament, for a just cause and excluding the case of necessity, may legitimately decide - even if the penitent strongly demands otherwise - that sacramental confession should be heard in a confessional constructed with a fixed grille.

A. Affirmative.

The Supreme Pontiff John Paul II in the Audience on 7 July 1988, granted to the President mentioned below, having been informed of the above decision, confirmed it and ordered it to be promulgated.

+Julio Herranz, titular Archbishop of Vertara, President
+Bruno Bertagna, titular Bishop of Drivasto, Secretary

So - priests or people - don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

Busy confessional - Deo gratias!

When people have asked me this year how Holy Week went, my principal reason for giving thanks to God is the unprecedented number of confessions there have been in the parish. As I said to the people, this will do our parish more good than raising a million pounds in fundraising.
I built the confessional a couple of years ago because the existing confessional did not look good and was in a space that was perfect for a Lady Chapel. (The Lady chapel has been built and I will do a post on that sometime.) There is a seat for people who can't kneel. It is padded so that people who have arthritis of the spine or other difficulties can be more comfortable. The door is wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, and the kneeler (and chair) are removable so that a person in a wheelchair can make their confession with dignity.

There is a fixed grille and a curtain to provide anonymity and to give a certain gravitas to the celebration of the sacrament. Under canon law, the penitent is entitled the use of a fixed grille and the priest is entitled to insist on a fixed grille. I will look up the references now and post them now.

Thursday, 13 April 2006

Prayer card for priests

A scan of both sides of the prayer card that was handed out to the priests before the Chrism Mass. The picture is of Our Lady of China - it was used by Aid to the Church in Need for one of their selection of Christmas Cards.

Thanks to priests

Here are some photos from today's Chrism Mass at St George's Cathedral, Southwark. Mac McLernon and Joanna Bogle organised some volunteers to hand a prayer card to the priests as they entered the Cathedral, offering their thanks for the work of the priests. Very much appreciated by most - only one refusal this year!
There's the placard and the early arrivals -
the one with the red jacket is Joanna Bogle, just arrived by bike.

A smile and a "Thank you"

left to right: Fr Richard Whinder, Fr Stephen Langridge, Fr Tim Finigan, Fr John Weatherill, Fr Marcus Holden

Wednesday, 12 April 2006

Child Protection - Nolan and DfES

The Final Report of the Nolan Committee's Review on Child Protection in the Catholic Church in England and Wales (September 2001) deals with suspension of paid employees (Recommendation 65) "where judged necessary by the police, social services, or the CPC and his/her Team". We would surely agree that, as they say, the clergy should be treated no differently than lay people in this respect. The report continues:
3.5.16 [...] Our clear view is therefore that, on the recommendation of the CPC and his/her Team, following consultation with social services and the police, any priest or deacon should be required to take administrative leave (the nearest equivalent for a priest of suspension for a secular employee) at a location to be determined by the bishop. We are aware that 'administrative leave' is provided for in canon law within the context of a judicial trial initiated by the Church. But we underline the necessity for the Church to have satisfactory administrative procedures to achieve the withdrawal of the priest or deacon from contact with children in those circumstances where a judicial procedure has not been, or cannot be, initiated by the Church. It is well understood in professions such as teaching that suspension in these circumstances does not imply guilt.

It is relevant to compare this with the DfES Guidance issued to schools in September 2004, entitled "Safeguarding Children in Education". Section 15 of Appendix A reads:
15. Suspension should not be an automatic response to an allegation. The Head teacher, or chair of governors in a case in which the head teacher is accused, should consider carefully whether it is the appropriate course in each instance. Although suspension on full pay is in law a neutral act, it is bound to be distressing for the accused person and disruptive for the school. The Head teacher or governors will need to take into account the seriousness and plausibility of the allegation, the risk of harm to the pupil concerned or to other pupils, and the possibilities of tampering with evidence, as well as the interests of the person concerned and the school.

The two sets of Guidance are not strictly contradictory. Nolan recommends "administrative leave" where judged necessary by the Police, Social Services or the CPC. The DfES Guidance allows for suspension where "appropriate".

However, there is a clear difference of emphasis and the DfES Guidance recognises the disruption caused by suspension, even though theoretically "neutral". An obvious difference is that the DfES has the Teacher Unions to think about.

Clearly, it is important to protect children effectively from abuse. In this respect it is notable that the DfES Guidance sensibly considers the disruption that is done to the school. Earlier Guidance (Annex to DfES Circular 10/95) issued prior to Nolan, also considered the effects of a hasty decision to suspend a teacher.
In the same way, an over-hasty or ill-judged decision immediately to suspend a teacher (there will, usually, be a range of options to be considered, only one of which is suspension) when an allegation of abuse is made, can have a substantial, detrimental effect upon a teacher's career. It can, at the very least, prove to be a traumatic experience for the teacher concerned, for children at the school and their parents, and for other staff. Over-hasty or ill-judged action including a decision to suspend a teacher, can also be very distressing for any children concerned, who may feel responsible when they are not. A teacher facing an allegation of abuse needs to have confidence that agencies will act in a careful measured way when allegations are brought to their attention.

Perhaps the most important thing is to bear in mind is the "Paramountcy Principle". The best interests of the child should be placed first. The 10/95 circular considers the interests of children in relation to over-hasty use of suspension in response to an allegation. In addition to destroying the career of a teacher, it can cause trauma to the children. The same is certainly true in the Church where a priest is removed at short notice from a parish. Nobody would question the need for suspension or "adminstrative leave" where the Police or Social Services advise that an allegation is serious and plausible. However, where these conditions are not met, there does not seem to be any explicit alternative "range of options" in the Church.

The Church in History Website

The Church in History Website has some excellent articles on James II, Bismarck and the Gospels, Joan of Arc and many other subjects. The articles are very useful for apologetics, dealing with questions such as "Did St Thérèse want to be a priest?", the anti-christian roots of Nazism, and the Crusades.

Tuesday, 11 April 2006

Soham murder report not to be allowed to get in the way of underage sex

It appears that even the official report and recommendations after the murder of two girls must not get in the way of the Government's determination not to restrict underage sex. This report from SPUC news:
The Children's Minister, Beverley Hughes, has rejected the recommendation of the Bichard Report that social workers should ordinarily notify the police about sexual offences committed against children. Ms Hughes was speaking in Leicester to the Association of Directors of Social Services on 6 April. The Bichard report recommended that, by default, known offences should be reported, but the minister told social service departments that only where there is "reasonable cause to suspect ... harm" should a referral occur. She told health professionals never to report a case of a child involved in underage sex to the police without consulting a child protection expert first. [The Times, 7 April] The Bichard report investigated the background to the murders of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells in Soham in 2003.

I wonder when ordinary parents are going to wake up to the corruption that is being foisted on their children and the danger to which they are being exposed.

Sunday, 9 April 2006

St Mary Major's

The Vatican website has a superb presentation of The Patriarcal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore

Lessons for Iraq from Cyprus and Malaya

Last year, I had the great good fortune to be invited by my old friend from Oxford days, Lt Col James Sterling Corum, to stay for dinner and overnight at All Souls College, Oxford. Jim was on a visiting fellowship to do some research on counter insurgency. He has just emailed me news of the publication of his monograph. It takes a detailed look at British operations in Malaya, which were successful, and in Cyprus, which were not.

In Malaya, the British initially threw manpower at the problem of the Chinese Malayan insurgents with little success. With good leadership, the indigenous police force was given high quality training and local leadership. Corruption in the police force was tackled seriously and the police were trained, notably in intelligence gathering. A further successful policy was the recruitment of officers from "the enemy" Chinese ethnic group and the training of the Home Guard as an effective force for local security, even where that meant arming and training local Chinese communities. In Cyprus, corruption in the police force was not tackled, training was not given priority and the "enemy" Greek ethnic group was greatly assisted in recruiting by the corruption of auxiliary Turkish police who notoriously refused to intervene when local Turkish people attacked Greeks and looted Greek property.

The conclusions applies the lessons to the current situation in Iraq. If you are feeling jaded by the routine denunciations of "Bush" and would rather read something that offered a positive way forward, this is a good place to start. The article is listed at the moment on the front page of the Strategic Studies Institute. Here is a link to the pdf of the monograph itself. Look out for his new book Quelling the Beast: A Counterinsurgency Strategy for America, to be published by Zenith Press later this year.

Saturday, 8 April 2006

Chrism Mass anti-demo

Mac McLernon tells me that she is organising another anti-demo for the Chrism Mass at St George's Cathedral this year. For a number of years, a group of protesters has put up a large banner calling for the ordination of women.

As a counter to this (not a demo, but a postive and prayerful anti-demo), Mac, Joanna Bogle and friends came 3 years ago with a large placard saying "Thank you to our priests" and handed out prayer cards assuring the priests of their prayers. If you want to join them, just turn up at the Cathedral at about 10.30am or email Mac to let her know you are coming. The group is mainly young women and mothers with families. Everyone is usually quite friendly although they are firmly kept out of the Cathedral precincts. Which seems odd. We usually meet up after the Mass and go on to a nearby pub.

The picture is "Our Lady, Queen of the Clergy" from the Lady Chapel of St John's Seminary, Wonersh and was used on the prayer card last year.

Cardinal Ratzinger on "good news"

Since this blog is dedicated to an idea expressed by Pope Benedict, I thought I would quote, from time to time, passages that I found particularly striking in his works.
The word evangelium means "glad tidings", we said. But it did not have, originally, the neat and somewhat ineffectual ring that it has today, even when it is translated more comprehensively - and admittedly, with a concomitant poverty of meaning - as "good news". In Jesus' time, the word had found its way into the language of contemporary political theology: the decrees of the emperor, all his proclamations, were called evangelium, even when, for the recipients, they were far from being good news. Evangelium meant "a message from the emperor". There was nothing trivial or sentimental about it but rather something majestic. Even though such messages were not always manifestly joyful, they were called joyful because they came from him who held the world together. Granted, it would be presumptuous for just any individual - even an emperor - to claim to be God and, for that reason, to call his messages "glad tidings", for it would be an expression of man's glorification of self. But when the carpenter's son of Nazareth uses this manner of speech, then all that has gone before is absorbed and surpassed: Jesus' message is evangelium, not because it is immediately pleasing to us or comfortable or attractive, but because it comes from him who has the key to true joy. Truth is not always comfortable for man, but it is only truth that makes him free and only freedom that brings him joy.

The Principles of Catholic Theology page 78

Now how about a new translation of the Scriptures called "Message from the Ruler of All Bible"?

Pope John Paul II slide show

I found the link to Independent Catholic News on The Cafeteria is Closed. Gerald Augustinus found it on Fr Stephanos' blog Me Monk. Me Meander. Fr Stephanos gives a link to this excellent slide show commemorating Pope John Paul II.

Cardinal Arinze's speech

The full text of Cardinal Arinze's speech at Westminster Cathedral is provided by Independent Catholic News. It is very encouraging, giving reminders such as
We manifest our adoration of our Eucharistic Jesus by genuflection whenever we cross the area of the tabernacle where he is reserved.

Friday, 7 April 2006

Old Mass spin

Page 5 of the Catholic Herald reports the rumours that have been going round the blogs about Pope Benedict signing a permission for the Classical Rite of Mass. Fr Allen Morris is quoted as saying that he had not had even a nod and a wink that anything was afoot. Well I am sure that when it is officially confirmed that no permission is needed to celebrate the old rite, Fr Morris will be given the "nudge nudge" that he can now celebrate the rite with impunity.

Page 9 carries an article by Gerard Noel which is firmly in the "hermeneutic of discontinuity" camp. He describes as a "lamentable misconception" the idea that the old Mass represented an ancient and traditional form of celebrating Mass whereas the Mass of Paul VI was based on modern innovations. "nothing could be further from the truth", he says. On the contrary, the Mass of Paul VI was a modern version of the Mass of the early Church and the Mass of Pius V was the medieval Mass.

Sadly for such reveries, the scholarship behind much of the recent reform of the Mass is now questioned by recent scholarship on the Apostolic Tradition "of Hippolytus" (probably not), the orientation of the priest (cf. Michael Lang's "Turning Towards the Lord") and the excellent articles published by the CIEL conferences and others.

The article includes a fanciful account of the liturgy of the "early Church" in which, after the sign of peace, the assembled Christians elected one of their number to preside over the Eucharist. Well let's just ignore St Clement, St Ignatius of Antioch, St Cyprian, St John Chrysostom and anyone else who gets in the way of what should have happened in the early Church.

This week's spin

The Catholic Herald headline this week is "Cardinal Arinze lays down the law". The article reports his speech at Westminster Cathedral last Saturday, giving prominence to the quote that Catholics who ignore the liturgical law of the Church are like "stupid brats" who ignore their parents. So there is plenty of room for liberals to characterise the Cardinal as a silly old man.

Nevertheless, the point about the tabernacle is well made. The visitor to many Churches could say with Mary Magdalene "They have taken my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him".

Compendium arrived

A parecel waiting on the doorstep this afternoon contained the 30 copies I had ordered of the new Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I ordered the hardback copies (£6.95 each) because I want people to be able to keep this book and refer to it often.

The Catholic Truth Society are to be congratulated on producing the book so well. Strong boards, good sewn binding, clear colours on the pictures and neat legible printing. If there are to be copyright restrictions on the new ICEL missal when it finally comes out, what about the CTS for the favoured publisher instead of those who have given us shoddy missals that fall apart after a few months?

The pictures are worthy illustrations for the text and are all given an interpretative explanation. The text is exactly what is needed for the average adult who is taking instruction to be baptised or to be received into full communion with the Church. The book will also be very useful for Catholics who had little doctrinal formation in their youth and want to see what it was that nobody told them. This is a book in which we can rejoice wholeheartedly. Get yourself a copy. (It is on Amazon.)

One question caught my eye - number 296 under "The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation"
296. What is the name of this sacrament?
It is called the sacrament of Penance, the sacrament of Reconciliation, the sacrament of Forgiveness, the sacrament of Confession, and the sacrament of Conversion.
So it is not itself a sin to call it "the sacrament of confession" and you do not need to go to confession for doing so.

Pope Benedict's red cape

Got this photo from AmericanPapist where there are some more good shots. He has also done a page of Pope Benedict XVI wallpapers.

Homosexual adoption research

An important article at Cosmos-Liturgy-Sex on research into homosexual adoption. Another article looks at research into the gay lifestyle.

St Peter Canisius

Just finished reading James Broderick's comprehensive biography of St Peter Canisius. Sadly, many people have never heard of this indefatigable apostle of the counter-reformation in Germany (and Holland, Austria, Poland, Switzerland etc.)

Canisius took part in the final session of the Council of Trent, wrote a several editions of a catechism for the education of ordinary people in the faith, founded several universities and colleges, was Jesuit provincial with some extraordinarily difficult characters in his charge, and found time to visit and care for the poor and the sick.

He was continually embroiled in diplomatic nightmares with princes both of Church and State who failed to exercise their authority or use their means to support the work of the Jesuits who were re-evangelising in territories devastated by scandalous clergy on the one hand and the ferocious polemic of the early protestants on the other.

Broderick's life is a superb account. It is well worth reading as is his equally good account of St Robert Bellarmine. My copies of both are from disbanded libraries of religious houses so there are probably more copies out there.

Opus Dei day of Recollection

Now that the schools have broken up (two weeks before Easter! but that's another story) there was a rare chance to get away on Wednesday for a Day of Recollection for priests at Opus Dei's beautiful Retreat Centre, Wickenden Manor in the West Sussex countryside.

The advantage of Opus Dei Days of Recollection is that you know that nobody is going to ask you to blow up balloons, pick stones from an earthenware bowl, listen to whale music or lie on the floor and breathe through your stomach. Neither will the talks exhibit any evidence of the "hermeneutic of discontinuity" implying that everything before 1965 was evil or stupid.

Instead, two excellent talks, good company with sound priests, good food (not fastidious or extravagant), wise confessor, and reverent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with the Rosary. And God gave us a gloriously sunny day.

Thursday, 6 April 2006

"Diversity and Equality"

The "EU Network of Experts on Fundamental Rights" gave an Opinion (No 4-2005) on "The right to conscientious objection and the conclusion by EU members of concordats with the Holy See". (The full text of the "Opinion" is at

Basically, it is trying to undermine the draft treaty between the Slovak Republic and the Holy See where the treaty allows for conscientious objection e.g. by doctors not wishing to carry out abortions (or registrars not wishing to conduct same-sex partnership ceremonies.)

The "Experts" are worried that conscientious objection is in conflict with the "right to have access to lawful abortion services" and conclude that doctors who object to abortion must refer women to someone who will do the abortion. They also go on to say that Catholic organisations may choose to discriminate in favour of Catholics if there is a genuine occupational requirement but that they may not use this provision to justify not employing someone because of their sexual orientation ("whether that sexual orientation is hidden or not")

So far, so typically EU. But then, in support of the non-discrimination against homosexuals, they quote ... The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales! (page 26, quoting "Diversity and Equality").

Diversity and Equality, published last year, was prepared by the Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship and approved for publication by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. At the front, the document states "Production of this publication has been made possible with funding from The DTI (Department of Trade and Industry)" and it carries the DTI logo.

One of the key concerns of the document is set out as follows:
As employers, subject to limited and narrow exceptions, Catholic organisations must ensure that no job applicant or employee receives less favourable treatment than another on the grounds of race, gender, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation or age.

There does not seem to be any clear distinction made between the various different kinds of diversity mentioned. Indeed, the document affirms that:
The Catholic community includes people of heterosexual, homosexual and bi-sexual orientation.

In view of this, some pro-life groups in England have expressed concern at the recommendation which runs as follows:
There are other situations which are in principle open to all but where some groups are under-represented (eg Parent Teacher Associations, Justice and Peace Groups and other voluntary associations). In such situations it is important to reflect on the reasons for any lack of participation by particular groups and to try to eliminate anything that unnecessarily discourages full participation. In some cases, it will be appropriate to make special efforts to encourage the participation of under-represented groups.

Perhaps we will not see any measures taken to constrain Catholic voluntary organisations to monitor whether they are employing a balanced ratio of "people of heterosexual, homosexual and bi-sexual orientation". However Catholic organisations would reasonably wonder how much support they would receive if they were targeted by a militant homosexual group trying to test their employment policy.

Pope Benedict XVI on the hermeneutic of continuity

The title for this blog is inspired by an expression of Pope Benedict XVI in his address to the Roman Curia on 22 December 2005. In order to give the context, here is a quotation:

The last event of this year on which I wish to reflect here is the celebration of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council 40 years ago. This memory prompts the question: What has been the result of the Council? Was it well received? What, in the acceptance of the Council, was good and what was inadequate or mistaken? What still remains to be done? No one can deny that in vast areas of the Church the implementation of the Council has been somewhat difficult, even without wishing to apply to what occurred in these years the description that St Basil, the great Doctor of the Church, made of the Church's situation after the Council of Nicea: he compares her situation to a naval battle in the darkness of the storm, saying among other things: "The raucous shouting of those who through disagreement rise up against one another, the incomprehensible chatter, the confused din of uninterrupted clamouring, has now filled almost the whole of the Church, falsifying through excess or failure the right doctrine of the faith..." (De Spiritu Sancto, XXX, 77; PG 32, 213 A; SCh 17 ff., p. 524).

We do not want to apply precisely this dramatic description to the situation of the post-conciliar period, yet something from all that occurred is nevertheless reflected in it. The question arises: Why has the implementation of the Council, in large parts of the Church, thus far been so difficult?

Well, it all depends on the correct interpretation of the Council or - as we would say today - on its proper hermeneutics, the correct key to its interpretation and application. The problems in its implementation arose from the fact that two contrary hermeneutics came face to face and quarrelled with each other. One caused confusion, the other, silently but more and more visibly, bore and is bearing fruit.

On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call "a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture"; it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the "hermeneutic of reform", of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.

The hermeneutic of discontinuity risks ending in a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church. It asserts that the texts of the Council as such do not yet express the true spirit of the Council. It claims that they are the result of compromises in which, to reach unanimity, it was found necessary to keep and reconfirm many old things that are now pointless. However, the true spirit of the Council is not to be found in these compromises but instead in the impulses toward the new that are contained in the texts.

These innovations alone were supposed to represent the true spirit of the Council, and starting from and in conformity with them, it would be possible to move ahead. Precisely because the texts would only imperfectly reflect the true spirit of the Council and its newness, it would be necessary to go courageously beyond the texts and make room for the newness in which the Council's deepest intention would be expressed, even if it were still vague.

In a word: it would be necessary not to follow the texts of the Council but its spirit. In this way, obviously, a vast margin was left open for the question on how this spirit should subsequently be defined and room was consequently made for every whim.

The nature of a Council as such is therefore basically misunderstood. In this way, it is considered as a sort of constituent that eliminates an old constitution and creates a new one. However, the Constituent Assembly needs a mandator and then confirmation by the mandator, in other words, the people the constitution must serve. The Fathers had no such mandate and no one had ever given them one; nor could anyone have given them one because the essential constitution of the Church comes from the Lord and was given to us so that we might attain eternal life and, starting from this perspective, be able to illuminate life in time and time itself.

Through the Sacrament they have received, Bishops are stewards of the Lord's gift. They are "stewards of the mysteries of God" (I Cor 4: 1); as such, they must be found to be "faithful" and "wise" (cf. Lk 12: 41-48). This requires them to administer the Lord's gift in the right way, so that it is not left concealed in some hiding place but bears fruit, and the Lord may end by saying to the administrator: "Since you were dependable in a small matter I will put you in charge of larger affairs" (cf. Mt 25: 14-30; Lk 19: 11-27).

These Gospel parables express the dynamic of fidelity required in the Lord's service; and through them it becomes clear that, as in a Council, the dynamic and fidelity must converge.

The hermeneutic of discontinuity is countered by the hermeneutic of reform, as it was presented first by Pope John XXIII in his Speech inaugurating the Council on 11 October 1962 and later by Pope Paul VI in his Discourse for the Council's conclusion on 7 December 1965.

Here I shall cite only John XXIII's well-known words, which unequivocally express this hermeneutic when he says that the Council wishes "to transmit the doctrine, pure and integral, without any attenuation or distortion". And he continues: "Our duty is not only to guard this precious treasure, as if we were concerned only with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us...". It is necessary that "adherence to all the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness..." be presented in "faithful and perfect conformity to the authentic doctrine, which, however, should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another...", retaining the same meaning and message (The Documents of Vatican II, Walter M. Abbott, S.J., p. 715).

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