Wednesday, 30 December 2015

A good day to arrive at St Thomas's hospital


Above is a good "My View for a While" photo, to use an expression coined by Fr Z. I'm on the 7th floor of St Thomas's hospital, opposite the Palace of Westminster. I arrived here yesterday on the feast of St Thomas of Canterbury, after whom the hospital is named: it goes back to within living memory of the holy Bishop and Martyr.

Today the consultant surgeon brought me the very welcome news that the waiting is over and tomorrow morning, I am to go under the surgeon's knife. Do remember me in your prayers - indeed thank you for all the prayers you have offered already. Several priests have very kindly offered their Mass intentions for me over the past couple of weeks and I am most grateful for that. If you have scheduled Mass intentions, a memento would be much appreciated.

On a practical note, general visits are not encouraged. If all goes well and there are no complications, I'll be in the intensive recovery unit for a bit, then gradually clearing out my lungs and staggering around until I reach the exit criterion which is walking up some stairs, apparently. The normal estimate for that is 5-7 days. Thanks be to God, I have sisters and a deputed logistics team to look after necessary supplies - spare pyjamas, newspapers, good coffee, Puligny Montrachet, you know the sort of thing.

Once I'm back and resting, and fit enough to sing the Preface, I'll sit back and direct arrangements for a solemn High Mass in thanksgiving to the Lord if He decides to give me some more years to make reparation for my sins and help a few people get to heaven. The subject of meditation today in the book that I am using (from St Alphonsus, of course) is "The Shortness of Life", beginning with the verse "All flesh is grass." That was most comforting.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

A uninterrupted sleep and then "all systems go"

Last evening I was moved to a side room in another ward. I was able to shut the door and sleep without interruption for seven and a half hours, waking up without having to struggle with grumpiness half the morning. Which was nice.

Now it is "all systems go." I am about to be transported to another hospital where a bed will be waiting for me, and presumably without much delay, will be prepared for surgery. Nowadays, heart bypass surgery is quite common, and generally successful, but it is a major business, so your prayers would be much appreciated - for the success of my operation and recovery if that is God's will, or for my eternal salvation if the Lord decides it is time for me to render an account of my stewardship.

Remember - heart attack or no heart attack - we will all face eternity within a few short years. We forget that so easily and concern ourselves with stupid trivia or even sinful things that last a moment but can lose us salvation. May I join my voice to that of Fr Z; Go to confession!

The helicopter landed outside my window earlier on. It would have been fun to go off in that, but I will be going in an ambulance. I've said the day hours, so I'll read some more of Disinformation which Fr Z kindly sent me to load up on my Kindle.

Friday, 25 December 2015

Serco turkey at the CCU

A nurse feeds a patient with a spoonful of Christmas pudding at a naval hospital at Kingseat in Scotland, December 1941. A6486

Since Wednesday, I have been on the shiny, hi-tec Cardiac Care Unit. I got taken down for the angiogram yesterday morning. The process bore more than a passing resemblance in my mind to a scene in a Jason Bourne film. The warehouse-like antechamber was in stark contrast to the futuristic op room with screened control desk, boom arms and an enormous screen showing things going round my blood vessels.

The upshot is that my coronary arteries are like the Dartford crossing on a Friday afternoon and so I will have a heart bypass operation as soon as a bed is available in the hospital where they do those. It will be an inpatient transfer, so in the meantime I wait on the Cardiac Unit.

This makes for an unusual Christmas Day. This morning, for the first time since my ordination, I was able to get the Urbi et Orbi blessing and indulgence. I unplugged the headphones at the end bit for the nurse to hear the papal national anthem - which, to be honest, is my favourite bit.

I have been able to say the breviary with leisurely calm and I have found that the last hour of the night shift is a good quiet time for the daily meditation. Hospital ward routine is quite fixed and predictable, making for a framework around which to build an adapted temporary daily rule of life.

The smell of Serco's Christmas dinner being steamed up is beginning to waft along the ward so perhaps I should stand and sing Benedicite.

Happy Christmas

May our Blessed Lord, born in the stable at Bethlehem for our salvation, shower his blessings upon you and your families on this holy feast.
"But tell me, my sweet Infant, why dost Thou turn Thine eyes on every side? What art Thou looking for? I hear Thee sigh; tell me wherefore are these sighs? O God! I see Thee weep; tell me wherefore dost Thou weep? Yes, replies Jesus, I turn My eyes around; for I am seeking for some soul that desires Me. I sigh out of desire to see Myself near to a heart that burns for Me, as I burn with love for it. But I weep; and it is because I see but few souls, who seek Me and, wish to love Me." 
St Alphonsus Liguori

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Liberated from the Mindray

Today is Liberation Day. When I came onto the ward, I was connected by five leads to a machine that displays a moving graph and numbers for ECG, oxygen saturation, non-invasive blood pressure and respiration. Yesterday, in everyday language, that started "playing up." These machines are like a lot of yesterday's technology in that they have a complex nest of menus and submenus with non-obvious titles, default settings and navigation. Once you get lost down a dark alley, it can be difficult to find the path home again.

The problem is that if an "Internet of Things" approach were adopted, and all such data were displayed in a user-chosen GUI on any device, there would be a whole new front opened up for hackers to steal sensitive data.

Anyway, my five-lead machine was replaced with a slightly newer three-lead machine that was basically similar in principle: the "Mindray Datascope Trio." On the website of Pacific Medical, there is a section "Customers who viewed this product also viewed" and at MedEquip, you get "Questions and Answers" beginning "Handle is broken off." This is a bit like a bad review for a little-visited hotel on TripAdvisor. You don't know whether it is just one fusspot who always finds hotel rooms too small, the sink smelly and the staff rude or whether the hotel does actually stink.

Likewise, we might at MedEquip have a lone bodily function monitoring enthusiast whose yorkshire terrier knocked over the Mindray he had saved up for, and smashed the handle off, or whether hospitals the world over have overstretched staff running up and down corridors for replacement Mindrays because of a general faulty handle problem. Comment may be free but it isn't always that helpful. (And let me just make it absolutely clear that in feedback, Integris equipment offered to replace the handle the same day.)

I found it disconcerting to be connected by wires to something called a Mindray, and carefully checked that the ethernet port had nothing in it. I'm not having my oxygen saturation data hacked and sold to my enemies. On Twitter, I declared my intention to root the Mindray, re-boot it with Linux Mint and load films on it. I didn't get round to doing that but I did find the user manual and download it in the name of patient autonomy.

I thought that my next step on the ladder of recovery was to be temporarily disconnected from the Mindray for visits to the bathroom. That would have been welcome enough, but to my joy, the protocol was actually for the electrodes to be unclipped and for me to "mobilise."

Friday, 18 December 2015

Being edified by hospital, gulping pills, and disconnecting from the drone


A mild December morning here in hospital land and all is well. It is the first time I have been an inpatient in a hospital and the experience is helping me to understand a bit more of how a hospital ward works. The crossover and co-operation between all levels of staff is impressive.

Normally as a visitor you only get to see passing snapshots of the care that is given. Being in the same ward means that you hear the whole saga when "Bert" or "Lily" needs some particular personal attention. It is moving to see the patient, respectful preservation of a person's dignity in such circumstances.

So far today, I've given an early-morning blood sample, cracked jokes with the trolley guy who bought round the breakfast, got to know the student nurse, managed to shave using a cardboard bowl of hot water, and bought a copy of The Daily Telegraph which nowadays I only buy in emergencies such as this when it might be a diversion later to do the crossword. The qualified nurse - who seems to be short on colleagues this morning - has just given me today's cup of sweeties, nature's own heart-attack medicine, aspirin, and a stomach injection which actually isn't as painful as it sounds (when the first one was announced yesterday, I thought it was going to be like that scene from Pulp Fiction.)

The doctor should be along soon. He will doubtless bring tidings of great joy. I hope to persuade him that I can safely walk the few feet to the bathroom.

UPDATE: Seen one Doc who was very helpful. Another one will come to see me later. But I have secured permission to disconnect from the beeping drone when needed.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

A Minor Cardiac Episode and my view for a while

Claud Cockburn won a competition with colleagues at the Times for the most accurate yet boring headline "Small Earthquake in Chile, not many Dead." I am reminded of this when trying to calm friends and family down over what happened to me in the wee small hours this morning.

I had a minor heart attack. One of the doctors did use that expression, though a young nurse who spoke to me later was versed in the new terminology of "cardiac episode" which makes me want to think up a script for Doctor Who. I'm not dead, but the experience of not being able to breathe properly does help to sharpen up one's focus on those meditations of St Alphonsus. Perhaps my many repetitions of the prayer "that we may not be surprised by a sudden and unprovided death" got me off this time.

I have been x-rayed, injected, and given a cocktail of drugs that has brought my blood pressure down to an impressively normal figure. I have wires connecting my chest and a bleepy machine. The hospital food is actually edible and as everyone knows, despite the crazy and wasteful management of the largest employer in Europe, the staff are wonderful.

I'm actually feeling fine, which is frustrating since I am not allowed to walk about unsupervised until Doctor says so. With hindsight, I'm sure I have been haring around Tube stations in central London in a far more precarious state of health. Ho hum. Obedience again. I was in the middle of a short break when The Episode occurred so I do at least have a full kit for communications. Perhaps I will be able to get some blogging done.

My pro-tem superior, The Doctor, says I must be here for about 5 days to be thoroughly prodded, poked and peered at. (To be fair, he didn't say that.) Then I will have to take it easy. I am considering, tongue-in-cheek, that it may be a little while before I am able to manage the stress of the modern rite with all its choosing of texts and interactivity.

With a Hat-Tip to Fr Z, here is my view for a while.


Saturday, 31 October 2015

Sir Roger Gale MP's sound words on Sunday Trading

Westfield Stratford City, 14 September 2011 (1)

My MP, Sir Roger Gale, has consistently voted pro-life and, for example, has been in the lobbies to vote No to the redefinition of marriage, three parent embryos, and assisted suicide. H sends out articles to constituents who wish to receive them, and the other day, I was delighted to read his sound and well-argued piece on Sunday Trading. Here is a sample paragraph:
There is, within any family`s budget, only a certain amount of money that can, after all the demands for housing, utilities, transport, clothing and so on have been met, be spent upon the purchase of new curtains, carpets and sofas.. The idea that we are all now so busy that we cannot, somehow, find time within six days of virtually round-the-clock shopping in the High Street, the Mall or on line, buy all of the goods that we can possibly afford (and probably also goods that we have no way of paying for) is retail rubbish. We have, nonetheless, already added in a chunk of Sunday for those incapable of organising their diaries to accommodate the retail urge on any other day. Is that not enough?
I was amused to read that he had been on Margaret Thatcher's "Handbag List" since being one of the twelve who confronted her in the Yellow Drawing Room on this issue many years ago.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Plenary indulgences and Masses for the Holy Souls


As the month of November is fast approaching, it is good for us to remember the generosity of the Church at this time - indeed the great mercy that is shown to our departed brothers and sisters. There are two plenary indulgences that we should all try to gain:

1. A plenary indulgence may be obtained under the usual conditions on the commemoration of All Souls by visiting a Church and saying the Our Father and the Creed.

2. A plenary indulgence may be obtained under the usual conditions by those who visit a cemetery from 1-8 November and pray for the faithful departed.

For "the usual conditions", please see my post Plenary indulgences not impossible.

Most Catholic Churches have a box for donations for the "Holy Souls" box. Mine now has a brief explanation since I am sure it is by no means obvious to many Catholics, let alone non-Catholics what happens with a donation for the Holy Souls. Essentially these are used to provide Masses for the Holy Souls. Each diocese sets (or should set) a standard stipend for Masses. (In the Archdiocese of Southwark it is currently £10.)

Priests and people are not bound by this if an individual asks a priest to say a Mass for a particular intention. The priest might accept less than the standard stipend, and a kindly benefactor might give more. But for Masses requested by organisations or Masses from the Holy Souls box, the standard stipend in applied.

We rightly pray for our departed relatives, friends and benefactors, and have Masses said for them, but during November we should remember the forgotten souls in purgatory as an act of charity, as a practical act of mercy. So many funerals today omit entirely to pray for the deceased person - even in Catholic Churches, this aspect of the funeral is often played down in favour of fond reminiscences which would be better left to the reception afterwards.

There are many poor souls in purgatory who will be eternally grateful (eternally, remember) for the prayers that you offer for the Holy Souls during November. They will thank God that someone at least has realised what their greatest need is, and helped them when they cannot help themselves.

Those among you who have all the virtues in a heroic degree will also have the virtue of humility and hope, and will not presume on final perseverance, of course. After your canonisation, the Lord in His infinite mercy will apply the suffrages offered for you to some poor bloke in purgatory whose funeral was a "Celebration of the life of..." in which people learnt that he liked a drink and a bet on the horses.

For the rest of us, November is a good time for us to remember that we will one day be most grateful for prayers offered for the Holy Souls. In the meantime, being aware of our mortality, and the eternity that we will face, helps us to set our lives in order and lessen the time that we will have to spend being purified of our sins. This example of a Christian clock (Exeter Cathedral, c.1484) puts it well:

Exeter 028

Pereunt et imputantur: (the hours) vanish and they are reckoned to our account

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Chasuble development examples in the V&A


The other day, I spent a while in the Victoria and Albert Museum, a wonderful collection that never fails to fascinate. I noticed that there are several examples of chasubles made in the 15th century that were later altered in the 17th century. The notes on the chasuble in the above photo tell us that it was dates from 1425-1450, and was remodelled after 1600. (We are also told that it is of silk damask with metal thread, from Italy or Spain, with embroidery from Southern France in linen and silk with metal thread.)

If I have correctly applied what I have learned about these things (I am by no means an expert) then presumably the chasubles were originally of a much fuller shape (perhaps even conical) and were cut down to a more-or-less Roman style, a little like the "Borromean" style which has become more popular recently.

I am reminded of the stories of Cardinal Hinsley who was wont to take scissors to gothic styled vestments to make them Roman in shape.

Confraternity Mass with Bishop Byrne


As promised, here are some photos from yesterday's Mass with Bishop Byrne at St Edmund's, Ware, for the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy.




Ordinarily, the principal Mass at the Colloquium is mainly in English, but this year, the Bishop particularly asked to celebrate the Mass in Latin. Most of the priests concelebrate, but attending in choro is perfectly acceptable and a number of priests choose to do this. Facilities are available for private Masses (in either form of the Roman rite) before breakfast.

Here are the Fortescue vestments that I wore for Mass yesterday morning:


The East window (click on it to get to the Flickr page, then enlarge it to more of the details):


The rood:


The vestment press first thing in the morning, when the College's collection of old Missals was in demand:


And an item from the College museum: the original copy of Adeste fideles:


For all the photographs, if you click on them, you are taken to the relevant flickr page where you can get the code to embed them, share them on Twitter/Facebook etc. or download them. 

As with most of my photos, they are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic licence

This means that you can reproduce them free of charge, without asking permission, but you should give credit for them (A link to this blog or to the Flickr page is fine.) If you edit them, you must say so, and may only re-distribute your edited version using the same licence.

Statement of the British Confraternity of Catholic Clergy

At the AGM of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy held yesterday at St Edmund's, Ware, we agreed to make public the following statement following the Synod of Bishops:


Feast of Ss Simon and Jude, Apostles
Wednesday 28th October 2015

The British Province of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, at our Annual Colloquium, in St Edmund’s College, Ware, expresses gratitude to the Fathers of the Ordinary General Synod on the Family for affirming, in a climate of challenge and confusion, Christ’s unchanging teachings and the Church’s constant doctrine regarding marriage, the family, and the true meaning and purpose of human sexuality.  We particularly appreciate their upholding the importance of the family as the foundation of civilisation, confirming marriage as an indissoluble union between one man and one woman, affirming the teaching of Humanae Vitae on the essential procreative nature of the marriage act, and the brave refusal to accept the ideological colonization of those who promote same-sex unions. We are certain that thus remaining in the truth of Christ will bear great fruit for the Church and for souls.

We continue to pledge ourselves to proclaim the beauty of marital love, of supporting faithful families in their courageous witness, and in encouraging and accompanying those who have been wounded by our broken culture, to be healed and made strong again in Christ.

We recognise the special concern shown by the Synod Fathers for the divorced and civilly remarried. We pledge ourselves to minister to those in this situation, according to the mind of Christ, and the Law of his Gospel. As pastors, we strive to help them discern the will of God in their lives, as the Synod has recalled: 'this discernment can never be detached from the exigencies of truth and the charity of the Gospel proposed by the Church'. The discipline of the Sacraments, especially the Most Holy Eucharist, must faithfully reflect the Church's solemn doctrinal teaching. We express relief that the Synod Fathers did not heed attempts to separate doctrine from sacramental and pastoral practice.

Finally, in ministering to all the families and individuals entrusted to our care, we note the special value of the magisterium of Pope St John Paul II, and, in particular, his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio. We remain committed to the great work of being joyful Ministers of God’s Mercy, and pledge ourselves to faithfully follow the bold but gentle example of the Good Shepherd who never abandons His sheep.


Fidelity, Formation and Fraternity at St Edmund's, Ware


We have just concluded the annual colloquium of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, the British Province of Pope St Gregory the Great and a jolly good event it was too. This year, we were at St Edmund's, Ware, for the first time. The place breathes English Catholic history, and the Headteacher gave us a fascinating introductory tour.

We had papers from Fr Hunwicke on "Church or Churches? Who owns the Magisterium?", Fr David Marsden on "The Formation of the Mind of the Priest" and Fr Nicholas Schofield on "St Edmund's College - the Douai of the South". The variety of topics worked well in giving us plenty of material for reflection.

Bishop Robert Byrne came to celebrate Mass for us yesterday. Several of us celebrated private Masses first thing and were able to assist in choir or, in my case, to be free to take photographs discreetly. I have quite a few and will upload the best ones to Flickr tomorrow and post a selection here.

We were well looked after by the staff and the dinner proved to be a most enjoyable convivial gathering as ever.


In advance of other photos, here is just one from benediction on Tuesday evening, with Fr Simon Henry of the Offerimus tibi Domine blog as celebrant.


The chapel, by AWN Pugin, is stunning, and there are gems all around of great interest. For my Mass yesterday morning, the vestments I was given to wear just happened to be from the Fortescue collection.

At the AGM, a couple of priests were concerned that some of their friends were unsure about how to join the Confraternity. It is very easy: here is a link to the information about membership. Those who want to join are asked to affirm that they support the objects of the Confraternity.

Monday, 26 October 2015

The hermeneutic of continuity applied to #Synod15

In a small bus, nearly 40 years ago, as a first year student from St John's seminary at Wonersh, on my way to do pastoral work of some sort, I listened to a discussion about sacramental theology that I have never forgotten - or rather I have forgotten most of it except for the exasperated exclamation of a man who was my senior, delivered in a broad South London accent "Oh no! Not all that ex opere operaaaato stuff!" Perhaps some readers of the title of this post might be inclined to moan similarly "Oh no! Not all that 'ermenootic of continuuuity stuff!" Please bear with me.

Fundamental to Pope Benedict's concept of the hermeneutic of continuity is that it is not a description, but an imperative. Over the years of writing this blog, I have many times seen withering comments deriding the idea that Vatican II is just like all the other councils, or that the modern rite of Mass is just the same as the traditional Mass. If the hermeneutic of continuity were meant to make either of those claims, it would be justly rejected as preposterous.

Pope Benedict is not a fool, and he did not apply the hermeneutic of continuity in that way. He spoke of how the second Vatican Council ought to be understood, how it should be interpreted. To be sure, he described two ways in which it had in fact been understood, but he clearly characterised one of these as correct and the other as false. The correct interpretation was the one that was in accord with tradition, and the incorrect one was the one that was in terms of rupture with the past.

Earlier today, I watched this video on Twisted Sifter. Its anarchic, quirky and bizarre surprises made me wonder if it was somehow a metaphor for #Synod15.

INPUT/OUTPUT from Terri Timely on Vimeo.

Only a few days ago, there were serious commenters telling us that everything was fine. The so-called disagreements were spun by the media and the twitter pundits who did not know what it was really like in the Synod Hall, with overwhelming peace, agreement, and general wafting of niceness to the rafters. Now that the Holy Father himself has said that the different opinions were expressed "at times, unfortunately, not in entirely well-meaning ways" it seems that we are allowed to admit that there was some disagreement.

Not that it is difficult to see. In the one corner, we have Cardinal Kasper saying that he is satisfied and that "the door has been opened to the possibility of the divorced and remarried being granted Communion." (text at Rorate Caeli) And in the opposite corner, we have Cardinal Pell saying that
The text is certainly been significantly misunderstood. First of there is no reference in paragraph 85, or anywhere in the document, to communion for the divorced and remarried. That is fundamental.

And also in paragraph 63 there is an adequate section on the proper understanding of conscience, which has got to be informed in the light of the word of God. And the discernment that is encouraged in paragraph 85 has to be - in these particular matters - has to be based on the full teaching of Pope John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio; and there is another reference to the teaching of the church.

So there are two contradictory interpretations within a day of the Synod's final report being published, each given by the most senior rank of ecclesiastic. If we follow Pope Benedict's teaching concerning the hermeneutic of continuity, our primary concern will be to assess which of them is most in accord with the tradition of the Church. And that is easy. Cardinal Pell is right.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

St Alphonsus, a saint for the Year of Mercy

In just another act of generosity that marks the best of Catholic internet activity, somebody has scanned/transcribed the texts of three important spiritual books:
  • Meditations and Readings for Every Day of the Year selected from the writings of St Alphonsus Liguori
  • The Spiritual Combat by Father Dom Lorenzo Scupoli
  • True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary by Saint Louis de Montfort
The texts are available at the Religious Bookshelf. I am currently using the Meditations selected from St Alphonsus for each day. St Alphonsus is a completely trustworthy writer: so much so that Blessed Pius IX proclaimed him a doctor of the Church in 1871, just 32 years after he was canonised by Pope Gregory XVI. Each day, there is a meditation for the morning, a short passage for spiritual reading, and a meditation for the evening.

St Alphonsus was certainly able to write with passion about the love and mercy of Our Lord. His reflections on the passion are filled with heartfelt gratitude for the sacrifice which our Redeemer offered for us. When he writes of the Blessed Sacrament, he cannot keep from exclaiming in wonder at the generosity of the Lord. He encourages us to ponder the love of the Sacred Heart:
Oh, if we could but understand the love that burns in the Heart of Jesus for us! He has loved us so much, that if all men, all the Angels, and all the Saints were to unite with all their energies, they could not arrive at the thousandth part of the love that Jesus bears to us. He loves us infinitely more than we love ourselves.
He is one with St Paul in exclaiming how much grace abounds for us:
Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, Who came into the world to obtain salvation for us His sheep, has said: I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly. (Jo. x. 10). Mark the expression, more abundantly, which signifies that the Son of Man came on earth not only to restore us to the life of grace we lost, but to give us a better life than that which we forfeited by sin.
At the same time, St Alphonsus always spoke with fervour to sinners to persuade them to convert, to turn away from sin and change their lives:
"The sinner says: But God is merciful. I reply: Who denies it? The mercy of God is infinite; but with all that mercy, how many are lost every day! I come to heal the contrite of heart. (Is. lxi. 1). God heals those who have a good will. He pardons sin; but He cannot pardon the determination to sin."
This kind of admonition is never left as though it is merely a criticism of others. Our Saint makes his own the prayer of repentance, offering us an expression that we can use in our own prayers:
"Behold, O Lord, one of those madmen who so often has lost his soul and Thy grace, in the hope of recovering it! And if Thou hadst taken me in that moment, and in those nights when I was in sin, what would have become of me? I thank Thy mercy which has waited for me, and which now makes me sensible of my folly. I see that Thou desirest my salvation, and I desire to be saved. I repent, O Infinite Goodness, of having so often turned my back on Thee; I love Thee with my whole heart. I hope, through the merits of Thy Passion, O my Jesus, to be no longer so foolish; pardon me speedily, and receive me into Thy favour, for I wish never more to leave Thee."
St Alphonsus is piercing in his assessment of the abuse of God's mercy:
God is merciful but He is also just. "I am just and merciful," said the Lord one day to St. Bridget; "sinners regard Me only as merciful." Sinners, says St. Basil, choose to see God only under one aspect: "The Lord is good, but He is also just; we will not consider Him only on one side." To bear with those who make use of the mercy of God only to offend Him the more, would not, said Blessed John of Avila, be mercy, but a want of justice. Mercy is promised to him who fears God, not to him who abuses it. "His mercy is to them that fear Him," as the Divine Mother sang.
And again he applies it in prayer by way of fostering our own conversion:
Ah, my God, behold, I have been one of those who offended Thee because of Thy goodness to me! Ah, Lord, wait for me; do not forsake me yet; for I hope, through Thy grace, never again to provoke Thee to abandon me. I repent, O Infinite Goodness, of having offended Thee, and of having thus abused Thy patience. I thank Thee for having waited for me until now.
The meditations of St Alphonsus offer us plenty of food for meditation during the Year of Mercy.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried but not for those who refuse the Church tax?

Edward Pentin's "The Rigging of a Vatican Synod" (links below) is well worth reading. It is subtitled "An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family." One commentator suggested that Ignatius Press must have insisted on the question mark in the main title and the "alleged" in the subtitle. I'm not sure this is fair. Edward Pentin does present a studiously balanced account, giving quotations and arguments from both sides. The evidence that is presented is clear enough, but it is not forced on the reader.

We English are noted for understatement and it can be a powerful debating tool. Pentin genuinely leaves the reader free to make up his own mind, having taken the trouble to obtain replies from those who would take issue with the idea that the Synod was rigged. This results in the case being made more clearly and convincingly than it would be in a tendentious and one-sided account.

For anyone interested in the Synod, Edward Pentin's book is an essential contribution to the growing corpus of meta-studies on the proceedings. There are many nuggets of interest. One which jumped out of the (virtual) page was the comment of Professor Stephan Kampowski in relation to the Kirchensteuer, the German Church Tax. The Catholic Church in Germany receives about £5 billion each year give or take a few million. To stop paying the tax, you have to make an official declaration that you are leaving the Church.

I am not a moral theologian, but I guess that my colleagues in that discipline might be able to argue that there are grounds for making some sort of mental reservation on the grounds that you do not wish to actually renounce the faith, but wish to pay a little less in support of the Church according to your means. This would be difficult to justify, but plausible - as plausible, say, as arguing that your marriage is dead because you were both a bit young, or felt that you didn't take it all seriously and have now grown apart. However there are different approaches to the two cases.

Whereas many of the German bishops are in the vanguard of the campaign to admit the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion, no such mercy is shown to those who refuse the Kirchensteuer.

In September 2012, the German Bishops issued a decree ruling that those who choose not to pay the Kirchensteuer. (Allgemeines Dekret der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz zum Kirchenaustritt) Section II.1 of the decree states that a person who has made the declaration of withdrawal from the Church,
  • May not receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, confirmation or Anointing of the Sick - (except in danger of death)
  • May not hold any ecclesiastical offices or functions in the church
  • May not be godfather or godmotther
  • May not be a member of a parochial or diocesan councils
  • Loses active and passive voting rights in the Church
  • May not be a member of the public ecclesiastical associations
This inconsistency is not an original discovery. Sandro Magister and many others have drawn attention to it before, but it is the first time that it has really struck me and I thought it would be of interest to others. Some of those pushing hardest for the admission of the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion are apparently content to deny Holy Communion and other aspects of participation in the life of the Church to those who do not pay a tax that has made the German Church extraordinarily wealthy.

"The Rigging of a Vatican Synod" is available only as an electronic book download. Here are the links:
Ignatius Press

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

St John Paul's invitation to women who have had an abortion

pope-john-paul II and the Divine MercyOne of the key differences between the 1917 Code of Canon Law and the 1983 Code is that in the 1983 Code, there are no longer any reserved sins, only reserved censures - and there are not many of those.

Nevertheless, both Misericodiae Vultus, the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy and the recent letter to Archbishop Fisichella, speak of permission being given to priests to absolve reserved sins. The letter to Archbishop Fisichella was widely misinterpreted in the press, but that is no surprise, since we have now had two massively important documents that themselves confuse the forgiveness of sins with the remission of canonical censures. Perhaps there might be someone in Rome much more learned than I am in the byways of canon law who could proof-read these things before they are published to the world.

As at least some people know, now that the dust has settled, many Conferences of Bishops have, for many decades, agreed that they will all give all their priests faculties to absolve from the censure attached to procured abortion. In fact, it is likely that many women who have had an abortion will not have incurred the censure because of fear, psychological coercion or ignorance of the gravity of the sin, but it is helpful for the priest to be able to take any doubt away by formally absolving from the censure.

(What is often forgotten is that the censure does not only apply to the mother, but also to the doctor and, in many cases the person(s) who organised or paid for the abortion - they have "procured" abortion, and usually they would not have the same excusing circumstances as the poor mother.)*

Generally, priests will have heard many confessions of abortion over the past decades, dealing compassionately with mothers who have bitterly repented this bad decision, developing pastoral praxis in the confessional - or to put it more simply, learning what are the most helpful considerations to put before their penitents to help in the process of healing and confidence in God's loving mercy. It is galling to have the chattering classes now publishing articles that assume that mercy towards women who have had abortions is a stunning new idea that has just been thought up to shake the nasty priests out of their misogynism.

The words of Pope Francis to women who have had an abortion are much to be commended and I pray that they bring hope and solace:
I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion. I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision. What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope. The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father.
These words of Pope Francis reminded me of a passage that I have often quoted when speaking on pro-life topics. St John Paul, in his magnificent encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae, also spoke in a personal and compassionate way to women who have had an abortion, emphasising the mercy of God. This was a theme dear to his heart as shown by his encyclical letter Dives in Misericordia, his devotion to St Faustina, and his promulgation of the feast of Divine Mercy. Here are his words on forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation for abortion:
I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child.
St John Paul, however goes further than this in a striking, one might say daring way:
With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone's right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.
St John Paul does not leave women in the position of being forgiven, of passively receiving mercy. He brings a note of positive confidence and encouragement to action and leadership.

Pro-life groups will affirm that some of their most generous supporters, and indeed sometimes some of their most powerful speakers, are women who have themselves had an abortion and have later experienced a conversion to the pro-life cause.

* In my canonico-legal naivety, I did not know that Ed Peters has made a canonical case arguing that no women have incurred the censure since the promulgation of the 1983 code because of the omission of the words matre non excepta. See this article which has a footnote referring to further articles.)

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Some meek thoughts on Mitis Iudex


Frequently during my priestly life, I have given heartfelt thanks to God that I am not a canon lawyer. Most of my canonist priest friends spend a great deal of their time on cases alleging nullity of marriage and I am glad not to be involved too much in that. As a parish priest I do necessarily become part of the process from time to time. This usually begins at the baptism of a child, when it turns out that the parents are not married, or are married outside the Church. If, after gently enquiring about the circumstances, it turns out that things could be put right by a declaration of nullity of a previous marriage, and a person wants to go ahead with petitioning for nullity, I do everything I can to help them.

This involves some careful explanation of the process, helping them to fill in the forms, and assisting them with writing the initial statement. My personal view of the nullity process does not come into it - I am bound to offer the best help that I can for the person to benefit from the Church's law as it stands.

I will continue to do my best to help people who come to me, now that a change in the law has been decreed by the Holy Father. My view of the law is of no account. I thank God even more heartily for the protest that I can make when people think I am a canon lawyer: "No! I am not a canonist, I am a dogmatist."

Along with everyone else, I went to the ever excellent Ed Peters for an initial summary of Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus. If you are interested, there are two articles to date: A first look at Mitis Iudex and A second look at Mitis, especially at the new fast-track annulment process. Notoriously in both civil and canon law, a small change can have wide and unexpected ramifications. From my non-lawyer perspective, this seems to be especially true of tax law and marriage law. The reforms which have just been introduced do seem to be major and I fear for the consequences.

There is no such thing as free beer. Nor in fact is there any such thing as a free nullity process. In the paragraph asking Bishops to make the process free, the caution is issued "salva iusta et honesta tribunalium operatorum mercede" (always providing for the just and honest wage of the workers of the tribunal.) People who work on a tribunal cannot go into the supermarket, take things off the shelves, walk out of the shop without paying for them, and say to the security guard "It's OK, I work for a marriage tribunal." So perhaps the idea is that all the faithful pay for the nullity processes by having yet another second collection - there might be envelopes, leaflets, posters and some special activities for the Children's Liturgy group for Nullity Sunday. At the rate we are going, we will have to introduce third collections, perhaps during the Responsorial Psalm or something, since we will soon run out of Sundays.

The question of where the money comes from is something we can joke about. But there is also no such thing as a consequence-free marriage breakdown and this is where it gets more serious. It might happen - I don't say that it will necessarily, but I think we have to admit the possibility - it might happen that the new process means that there are more declarations of nullity. That could simply be down to the number of genuinely invalid marriages that can now be declared null because of a shorter and simpler process. That might be the case.

What worries me is that it might happen that the indissolubility of marriage could be compromised by making it simply too easy to obtain a declaration of nullity. We should be crystal clear about the fact that this would not be merciful. It might seem lovely to just bend the law a bit and make nullity a rubber stamp process, but it would not be kind or loving, and it would definitely not be what Jesus would do.

Church tribunals are not adversarial in the way that English courts are. They are of the nature of an inquisition, though nobody calls them that any more. As such, they seek to establish the truth and to make a judgement based on the truth. That is also the case with the final judgement before Christ, except that He will not need to establish the truth because He will know it already. We all do well to keep this in mind every day.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Lego Mass sets

Father Z today has an article about Lego Mass set bricks from Domestic Church Supply. Here is the picture of the Church with the priest celebrating Mass:

I could not help thinking back to A lego Church that is better than quite a lot of real ones about which I posted last year. As you can see, it has some more traditional elements (see the post for other photos):


There is a transatlantic difference here as well - in England we play with Lego, not Legos. Can you really have lots of Legos? Or a single Lego? Discuss venomously on Twitter, imputing nefarious motives to either myself or Fr Z, and dragging in various tangentially related issues.

Top marks to Thuan, who features at the end of Fr Z's post. At the age of 4 has mastered the concept of "Say the Black, Do the Red." after watching daily Mass on EWTN.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

A Year in Margate


On Tuesday the second of September last year, I trundled down to Margate followed by a van full of boxes, most of which were filled with books, most of which have now been put onto shelves. I loved Margate from the day I moved in, and still love it. At lunchtime today I wandered down to the harbour, had a sandwich in Cafe G, a hot chocolate in Bernie's Chocolate bar, and checked out the superb Pararphernalia antique shop, noting a couple of things that might be useful for the sacristy and making a mental note to bring a tape-measure next time.

In the parish, we are planning for the autumn Quiz Night, pre-Christmas fair, and yes, the Christmas schedule, at least in terms of dates. We have a new organist for the 9.30am sung English Mass on Sunday, and the beginnings of a new choir. The 11.30am traditional Latin Mass is going well, with good numbers and again a few more volunteers for the schola. There is a healthy attendance at weekday Mass and it is great to have extras like the Rosary on Wednesdays and Benediction after Mass on Friday evening.

Getting to grips with administering a new parish takes time, even when it has been left in excellent shape as was the case when I came to Margate. I sometimes think that one measure of good pastoral balance is not to spend too much time in front of a computer. In fact some of the time can be well-spent if it means setting things up so that the computer does some of the work in the future. So I have devised databases that I always meant to set up and never got round to and they are beginning to pay off.

Unfortunately, the blog has suffered from the busyness of the first year in a new parish, but I hope that I can get going with it a bit more now - a friend commented the other day that it seemed to be creaking, puffing and emitting odd bursts of steam over the past few weeks.

A bonus of living in the original seaside town is that people do come down to visit. It reminds me a bit of my time in Rome when we often heard more about events all over England than did the people living there. I have had the pleasure of catching up with many people over the summer and, thank God, most of them have experienced Margate at its most attractive, with glorious sunshine, as well as getting to see our lovely Church of St Austin and St Gregory.

Tomorrow in the modern calendar it is the feast of St Gregory, and so our weekday Mass will be a sung Mass with sermon. We will also celebrate it as an external solemnity on Sunday in both forms. Please remember the parish and myself in your prayers.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Devotional highlights film of A Day With Mary at Margate

DWM 150718

The Day with Mary team has sent me a ten minute film with highlights of the Day With Mary that was held at St Austin and St Gregory, Margate on 18 July this year. Principal highlights are the crowning of the statue, the Marian and Blessed Sacrament processions, Benediction and the farewell procession. It was a glorious day. Above is a cropped still capture which I rather liked and below you view the video.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Catholic Dilemma 288: Cremation, Catholics and the Resurrection

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 at great risk for a dignified burial. Some pagans thought that by burning the bodies, they would make their resurrection impossible. The early Christian writer Minucius Felix replied that Christians did not fear loss or harm from cremation “even though we adopt the ancient and better custom of burial.”

In encouraging Christian burial, the Church draws attention to the body which is washed in baptism, anointed at confirmation, and fed with the Holy Eucharist. The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and is treated with respect after death. The traditional custom of burial also acts as a symbol of the person sleeping in Christ until the resurrection. Likewise the ashes should be treated with respect after cremation at all times, and reverently buried, not scattered.

May I gently urge you to make a Will which includes your desire for a Requiem Mass (as well as the disposal of your mortal remains and any material assets.) This will be an act of kindness and will greatly help your surviving relatives when God calls you to Himself. And God bless you for giving us an example of lifelong active and enquiring faith.

Catholic Dilemmas column published in the Catholic Herald
Suggestions for Catholic Dilemmas are always welcome by email or via Twitter @FatherTF

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Why are the readings not chanted?

Singing the epistle at Pontifical High Mass in the Lateran Basilica, 
celebrated by the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship

Recently there has been an interesting exchange on the question of who should do the readings at at Mass in the modern rite. (Cf. Benedict Constable and Joseph Shaw.) Reference has been made to the question of instituted Lectors. Lector was one of the minor orders since at least the time of Tertullian, but in 1972, Pope Paul VI made Lector a lay ministry by the Apostolic Letter Ministeria Quaedam. (Latin original - English translation.) In the traditional orders, however, seminarians are still ordained to the Lectorate as a minor order.

A traditional seminarian who has been ordained Lector recently reminded me that Lectors in such seminaries do not read or chant the epistle at Mass. Their "ministry of reading" is limited to occasionally chanting one of the lessons when there are several before the epistle (on ember days, for example.) The epistle itself is always chanted by the subdeacon at High Mass, chanted by the celebrant at Missa Cantata (solemn Mass without a deacon and subdeacon) and read by the celebrant at Low Mass.

So if we are to base the question of who should read the epistle in the modern rite on the ancient practice, Lectors have nothing much to do with it. If the modern rite is to follow tradition in the matter of who does the first reading, it has to be the celebrant or a deacon, not an ordained Lector, an instituted Lector, or a layperson stepping into this role. Modern liturgists will probably want to argue that in the modern rite, lay people have a liturgical role and various ministries, and that doing the reading is one of them. This question is one of those left essentially unresolved by almost universally tolerated practice.

What I would like to raise is the question of why the readings are almost never chanted. It is true that the directives on music since the Council give quite a bit of flexibility over what may be sung at Mass. In the traditional form of Mass, you essentially either have sung Mass or a said "Low" Mass. At sung Mass, all of the sung parts must be sung, period. In the modern rite, there is a hierarchy of what is more important to sing. It is some time since I mastered the labyrinthine rules of this: they seem to change from time to time, and they are largely ignored in any case. Whatever the rules say, grand "set-piece" liturgies in the modern rite in Cathedrals and Seminaries round the world are praised to the skies for their wonderful music when neither the Introit nor the Communion is sung, let alone the Offertorium. (Many experienced musicians have never heard that there is such a thing as an Offertory chant in the modern rite.)

What you will very rarely come across is a chanted first reading or second reading in the vernacular. Occasionally in seminaries and the like, the Gospel is chanted, but that is still rare; most people will only have heard such a thing when watching papal liturgies on television. Yet surely the second Vatican Council emphasised the importance of the word? If the Preface at Mass or the Sanctus is chanted, why is St Paul so neglected? Are the very words of Christ Himself in the Gospel to be left spoken as though they are part of the private prayers of the priest?

Two developments have contributed to this effective downgrading of the word of the Lord. The first and less interesting to my mind, is the invention of the microphone. Nowadays the words can be heard even if they are just spoken, whereas the chant made the voice carry more effectively in a large building. The general rule at the traditional Solemn Mass is that the public prayers are sung while the private prayers are said in a low voice (secreto). Conversely at Low Mass, the texts that would be sung at Solemn Mass are said audibly, whereas the private prayers are again spoken secreto. The anomalies (particularly the prayers at the foot of the altar and the Last Gospel) are generally associated with elements considered extraneous to the core of the rite of Mass. The microphone makes it possible in practice to ignore the distinction between public and private prayers, and so it is in fact ignored, thus damaging the balance of elements in the Roman Rite. It is one of those unforeseen consequences of the hasty reform of the rite.

More interesting, I think, is the question of what exactly we are doing when we proclaim the word of God. It is almost universally accepted that at the Mass, the word of God is proclaimed solely for the instruction of the people. Obviously it would be foolish to consider this as irrelevant; there are plenty of patristic homilies commenting on the Gospel of the day, and clearly the instructional or catechetical element has a long and noble history.

However this does not rule out the possibility which is rarely mentioned, that the chanting of the scriptures at Mass has a doxological and sacramental dimension. The division between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist in the modern form, or between the Mass of the Catechumens and the Mass of the Faithful in the traditional form, cannot be taken to mean a division between worship and non-worship, or between classroom and prayer. The whole rite is an act of worship, including the proclamation of the scriptures. The one who reads is enunciating words inspired by the Holy Ghost. They are meant to be set forth with reverence and solemnity. Even liturgical abuses such as the deacon dancing around in a meaningful pattern, accompanied by voile-swirling ladies, while waving the Gospel book above his head, are witness to the fundamental meaning of the reading of the Word as an act which is in itself the worship of the Father and not just a didactic exercise.

The acclamation in response to the proclamation of scripture is Deo gratias or Laus tibi Christe, not pursed lips and a nod of understanding. We do not affirm that we have heard and digested, we give thanks and praise, two fundamental actions of participation in the action of Christ in the divine Liturgy.

So why are the readings always spoken and never chanted at sung Masses in the modern form?

It occurred to me that if this thesis spreads like a forest fire and inspires liturgists around the world to re-introduce the chanting of the readings, there is a strong possibility that some liturgists will assume the freedom to go beyond the traditional sober chants in their noble simplicity so commended by the second Vatican Council. As with the Responsorial Psalm, there could be new chants composed, especially for the bits with lots of compassion and "mothering" images, that might make the prophet Hosea sound like a cross between the Carpenters and Dolly Parton. I disclaim all responsibility for any such consequences now or in the future, anything to the contrary notwithstanding.

Monday, 17 August 2015

The blessing of a chariot

When I studied Latin in Rome with Fr Reginald Foster, he used to suggest that a good word for a car was autorhaeda, a word in fact used in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis of 1965 when speaking of a visit made by Pope Paul VI to the Basilica of St Chrysogonus in Trastevere. The word raeda (without the "h") was used by Caesar, Cicero and Horace for a travelling wagon with four wheels and the addition of "auto" does not make for too awful a neologism.

In the Rituale Romanum, the blessing for a motor vehicle is the Benedictio vehiculi seu currus. The word currus is normally translated as chariot and reflects the way that people often view their car.

Since one's motor vehicle is more likely to be the locus of one's death or injury than many other artefacts, it does make sense to have it blessed. Above you can see us striding purposefully past the Georgian houses of Victoria Road and here is the blessing of the classic mini:

The blessing given in the Rituale has a typical scriptural reference and calls to mind our journey to eternal life:
Benedictio vehiculi seu currus

V. Adjutórium nostrum in nómine Dómini.
R. Qui fecit cælum et terram.
V. Dóminus vobíscum.
R. Et cum spíritu tuo.

Propitiare, Dómine Deus,supplicatiónibus nostris, et béne + dic currum istum déxtera tua sancta: adjúnge ad ipsum sanctos Angelos tuos, ut omnes, qui in eo vehéntur, líberent et custódiant semper a perículis univérsis: et quemádmodum viro Æthíopi super currum suum sedénti et sacra elóquia legénti, per Levítam tuum Philíppum fidem et grátiam contulísti; ita fámulis tuis viam salútis osténde, qui tua grátia adjúti bonísque opéribus júgiter inténti, post omnes viæ et vitæ hujus varietátes,ætérna gáudia cónsequi mereántur.Per Christum Dóminum nostrum.
R. Amen.
Et aspergatur aqua benedicta.
Here is an English version from the Small Ritual of 1964 which is in parts more of a pious reflection on the text than an accurate translation:
V. Our help is in the name of the Lord
R. Who made heaven and earth
V. The Lord be with you
R. And with your spirit

Let us pray
Hear our prayer, Lord God, and raise thy hand in blessing over this carriage. Command they holy Angels to be near it, keeping danger far away from all who travel by its means. As thou gavest faith and grace, through thy Levite Philip, to the Ethiopian who sat in his chariot reading thy holy word; so now point out to those who are carried by this vehicle the way that leads to salvation. May thy grace enable them ever to travel to good purpose: and when at last life's journey is over and adventuring is done, may everlasting happiness be theirs. Through Christ our Lord.
R. Amen.
The vehicle is sprinkled with holy water.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Gothic vestments: the real thing


The Gothic versus Roman debate on vestments can lead to disproportionately strong feeling. The English College at Rome has a very fine High Mass set made by Pugin. At least it was very fine until the one-time Rector, Arthur Hinsley, cut the chasuble into a Roman shape. Poor Pugin, who was known to have dramatic emotional outbursts, would have had the mother of all tantrums.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of celebrating Missa Cantata for the feast of the Assumption at the shrine of St Augustine in Ramsgate with chant provided by the Schola Sancti Augustini under the leadership of Tom Neal. The shrine has recently received a massive grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund which is great news, since the plan is to restore Pugin's own Church to its former glory as well as providing a visitor and education centre.

In the fading light of a gloomy Thanet afternoon I found the above set of vestments designed by AW Pugin himself, waiting for me on the vestment press as if, you know, "we have plenty of them down here." Most modern vestments, even in traditional style, have damask made of synthetic fabric. It is quite a contrast to put on a chasuble made with heavy cotton damask. Here is a close-up of the orphrey and medallion.


There is an interesting detail on the front. The collar just about fitted round my medium-sized head but the cranially larger priest would have difficulty. To avoid an embarrassing struggle, the collar has a small hook-and-eye clasp that is still in perfectly good functioning condition.


After Mass I met yet another seamstress - there are at least three in my parish in Margate. We will be looking to form a local branch of the Guild of St Clare, I think. There are some fine patterns to work from in the area, and if gothic vestments can be made as splendid as the one I wore today in honour of the Assumption of Our Lady, I could be persuaded out of my predilection for baroque. - at least for some occasions anyway.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Downloadable booklets for Vespers

Gregorian Chant Hymns is a most helpful website that I mentioned in a post just over a year ago. As I said then, the site
"[...] promotes the learning of Gregorian Chant by making sheet music, recordings, translations, and instructions. There is a short guide to Gregorian Notation (those square notes) and to Latin pronunciation. Everything is available free of charge, in line with other great traditional music websites."
Work has continued at the site and there is now a section which makes available pdf (or .docx format) booklets for Vespers for every Sunday of the Year and a few major feasts. There is the basic booklet for ordinary Sunday Vespers which is supplemented by separate files for the Sundays after Pentecost which contain the Magnificat and Collect. Then there are booklets, for example for Advent and Lent, where the office is different from the regular Sunday Vespers with its antiphons. All of the booklets have texts and notation for Benediction and the Marian anthems which are usually sung in parishes after Sunday Vespers.

The booklets all have English translations - these are set out in a sidebar, rather than taking up a full column of a two-equal-column layout. I think this helps to emphasise the place of the translation as something subsidiary to the principal text and chant notation.

Many parishes that have the older form of Mass try to have Vespers from time to time. This is enjoyable both for the schola and the servers, and is a beautiful evening service for people to attend in praise of the Father. Gregorian Chant Hymns have done a great service in making booklet files freely available.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

"Sewing and Greek" and other summer activities

The Summer Session of the Faith Movement this week has seen young adults from all over the UK enjoying lectures, sport and social activities, daily Mass and other spiritual provision. One of the encouraging things about it is that every year there are newly-ordained priests and deacons along with a large number of seminarians progressing through their training at various colleges.

I visited yesterday and attended the lecture given by this year's visiting speaker, Mgr Keith Newton, the Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Mgr Newton gave an account of his personal experiences as an Anglican and the motivation which led him to seek full communion with the Catholic Church. During the question time, Fr Roger Nesbitt, who has done so much over the years to invite and encourage Anglican clergy to come into full communion, gave a warm appreciation of what the Ordinariate has brought to the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

During the past couple of decades, many summer initiatives have been developed, especially for young people. Last weekend, my neighbour, Fr Marcus Holden, was at the Evangelium conference, before that, the Summer School of the St Catherine's Trust welcomed youngsters (11-18) for a programme of lessons and other activities. I asked one young girl what she enjoyed most. She said "Sewing and Greek."

I think I recognise one of the servers from this picture at the FSSP England Facebook page.

These events and others like them share a commitment to solid, orthodox catechesis and the reverent celebration of the sacred Liturgy, as well as offering a healthy environment for young people to meet and make friends among fellow Catholics who share their faith and usually, the experience of having to stand up and be counted. May the Lord bless us with vocations to the priesthood and the religious life as well as many more good Catholic lay apostles.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Sermon: Mary teaches us to worship

The Day With Mary came to the parish of Margate a couple of weeks ago. Claudio has now put up on YouTube the sermon that I gave at Mass on the theme of how Our Lady, as our Advocate, assists us at our worship. It is always embarrassing to see your own sermon on video - it reminds me of the sermon classes we had as seminarians. There is much to criticise, but I hope that it might be of some use.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Dreamland, the Shell Grotto and Botany Bay


Hardly a weekend passes these days without an article in one of the broadsheets extolling Margate as the place to be for leading-edge short breaks for the culture vulture with a sense of fun. I am beginning to get used to being in a parish where people come to visit; last week was rather special because all of my four sisters came down, together with various children, mostly now young adults whom I have a tendency to assume are all about 14 years old. Their accommodation varied between a good three-storey airbnb, a sea-view hotel and the 15th floor of the brutalist icon Arlington House with fantastic views.

The first evening, Dave opened up The Hoy specially for us after I asked to book a table for 16 people. I do recommend it: fresh food, local vegetables, reasonable price, excellent service, real ale and a view across the harbour. (#LoveMargate)

The following day was blessed with bright sunshine - perfect weather for a visit to Margate's funfair, Dreamland, re-opened recently with its Wayne Hemingway designs and confident retro-chic. The rides are not intended to compete with Alton Towers but rather to offer a slightly tongue-in-cheek trip to yesteryear with enough g-force to make it fun.


There were enough of us to take over all of the dodgem cars for a session, though only a select few went on what is usually called, I think, the wall of death or something - the one where it spins round and the floor drops away but you are pinned to the wall by centrifugal force. At Margate it is called the Barrel of Laughs. The ride hosts were delighted to have a middle-aged "Vicar" on board (I did correct them) and were amused when I suggested afterwards that it had cured my hernia.

If you are visiting Margate, I do warmly recommend Dreamland. The staff are charming, friendly and genuinely concerned that everyone should have a good time. The whole enterprise is good for Margate, both in attracting visitors and in providing much-needed employment.


The visit was also an opportunity for me to get to the Shell Grotto for the first time. I loved the old advertising poster which says that it is "declared by all the leading Journals to be a very great Curiosity" and that "It is considered the Lion of Margate, one of the World's Wonders, and the most extensive piece of Shell Work in Europe."


There is quite a bit of work going on to restore and clean the Shell Grotto, partly necessitated by its having been "splendidly lighted with gas."

A visit to Margate is not complete without seeing what Turner called "the lovelies skies in all Europe" at sunset. Here is a photo from after dinner at Botany Bay:


Friday, 24 July 2015

Archbishop Gänswein stands up for "faith and healthy doctrine"

Archbishop Gänswein is probably resigned to the fact that he will be forever known as Pope Benedict's secretary, but he is not shy of teaching in his own right. In an interview with Zenit, he referred to the teaching of St John Paul twenty years ago, in which he did not accept that the divorced and remarried could receive Holy Communion. (See Vatican Insider Gänswein:“Host for remarried divorcees is not possible")

In the present discussion, it is worth referring to the 1994 letter Annus Internationalis Familiae, written by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the Bishops on the subject. Section 6 states:
Members of the faithful who live together as husband and wife with persons other than their legitimate spouses may not receive Holy Communion. Should they judge it possible to do so, pastors and confessors, given the gravity of the matter and the spiritual good of these persons as well as the common good of the Church, have the serious duty to admonish them that such a judgement of conscience openly contradicts the Church's teaching. Pastors in their teaching must also remind the faithful entrusted to their care of this doctrine.
Archbishop Gänswein also addressed the question of why some pastors contradict this teaching:
“Why do some pastors want to propose what’s not possible?” Mgr. Gänswein asked himself. “I don’t know. Perhaps they give in to the spirit of the time; perhaps they allow themselves to be guided by the human applause caused by the media ... To be critical against the mass media is certainly less pleasing, but a pastor must not decide on the basis of applause or even less of the media. The measure is the Gospel, the faith, healthy doctrine, Tradition.”

Thursday, 23 July 2015

New priests for Southwark - St John Fisher pray for us

The Day With Mary in my parish coincided with the priestly Ordination of Fr Mark Higgins and Fr Matt O'Gorman at St George's Cathedral in Southwark. I had to give the parish priority and so was disappointed to miss the ordination, especially since I have known both of these new priests well since some time before they began their formation. I am delighted that they are now part of the brotherhood of the clergy in the Archdiocese of Southwark.

In fact, both of them, as well as Fr James Cadman who was ordained a few weeks ago, are old boys of The John Fisher School in Purley. I am a very-much-older boy of the same school. In my day, Fr Roger Nesbitt started up and ran the Faith Society from which the Faith Movement was formed. Although not all of the many priestly vocations from the school since that time were directly influenced by Faith, many of them were.

When the then Archbishop moved Fr Nesbitt into parish ministry in the mid 1980s (just before my own ordination) it seemed as though perhaps the Faith Society would gradually wind down. Thanks to Sir Dan of the Blogosphere, it has continued for another 30 years - and has continued to foster vocations.

The school is called "The John Fisher School" because it was founded shortly before the canonisation in 1935. Sir Dan does a great job of instructing the boys in the virtues of their patron saint. both he and I are enthusiasts of the school hymn which summarises those virtues admirably. May his prayers assist these fine new priests in their apostolate.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Marriage DVD sent to all priests

St Anthony Communications has produced a DVD on Marriage. The British Province of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy has raised funds to send a copy of the DVD to every priest in Britain. The sleeve has a summary of the film:
From the dawn of human history, mankind has understood the value of a lifelong, faithful, procreative union of one man and one woman in marriage. This natural bond, which was raised to a Sacrament by Our Lord Jesus Christ, has been the foundation of Christian civilisation for over two thousand years.

This powerful film presents the enduring Catholic vision and understanding of marriage and the natural law, the beauty and meaning of human sexuality, of family, of the gift of children, and addresses the challenges we face in our world today.

With presentations by Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Bishop Mark Davies, Fr Marcus Holden, Fr Andrew Pinsent, Louise Kirk, Fiona Mansford and Edmund Adamus, this documentary is an essential resource for every Catholic parish, school and home.
The DVD "Marriage. God's Design for Life and Love" is suitable for teaching in various contexts such as marriage preparation, convert instruction, and parish adult education. It is rationally structured in three parts with subsections. I have copied these from the scene selection page to give you an idea of the way the contents are ordered:
Part 1 – God’s Design for Marriage
  • Marriage in Nature
  • Unity, Indissolubility, Procreation
  • Sacrament of Marriage
Part 2 – Challenges to Marriage
  • Sexuality Misunderstood
  • Contraception and NFP
  • Cohabitation
  • Divorce and Remarriage
  • Same-Sex Attraction
Part 3 – The Family and the Future
  • Faith in the Family
  • Growing in Holiness
  • Hope for the Future
I warmly recommend this DVD. St Anthony Communications are to be congratulated on yet another first-rate resource, and the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy have made the best use of the work by sending a copy to all priests in the country.

If you want to buy your own copy (£9.95 + p&p), go to the DVD's information page.

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