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Friday, 23 June 2017

The healthy notion of reparation

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This evening during Benediction, we said the solemn Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as given in the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum. On the feast of the Sacred Heart, the faithful who participate in this act can gain a plenary indulgence. You might have expected that the indulgenced prayer would be an act of consecration, so it is worth recalling what reparation is all about.

We know that Our Lord was wounded by all our sins. In the Garden of Gethsemane, his soul was "sorrowful even unto death" and He sweated blood. St Luke adds the detail that an angel from heaven strengthened Him. When we offer prayers and penances in reparation for our sins and for the sins of others, we are united to the work of the angel in consoling the heart of Christ.

It is not a question of having a spiritual "day of rage" against all the sins of other people that we can work up ourselves to be cross about. When we offer reparation, it is always first of all for our own sins. What we try to do is to be converted ourselves and contribute positively to the spiritual good of the world by our love for the heart of Christ.

We are fortunate because Our Lord and Our Blessed Lady have been kind enough to instruct us. We say an act of reparation today because that is what Jesus asked when he appeared to St Margaret Mary. He also asked us to make a communion of reparation on the first Friday of the month.

And of course Our Lady asked us to say the rosary, meditate, and receive the sacraments of penance and Holy Communion on the first Saturday in reparation to her Immaculate Heart.

Recently it has struck me more forcibly than before that when Jesus and Mary ask us to do specific things like that, it's best we just get on and do them.


Thursday, 22 June 2017

Celebrating St John Fisher


We celebrate today the feast of one of my favourite saints: St John Fisher. He is, of course, celebrated together with his friend St Thomas More, who naturally receives more attention because of being a married layman and a great statesman. I do agree with Thomas Craughwell at the National Catholic Register that "Fisher needs is his own version of A Man for All Seasons—a big, gorgeously filmed, beautifully written, destined-to-be-a-classic film, with an all-English cast."

I would suggest Mel Gibson, but somebody would have to stop him from reducing it to a piece of anti-English propaganda with gallons of blood spurting from the holy bishop's neck at the crucial point. Perhaps Sir Ridley Scott (Gladiator etc.) could do something, or Peter Weir (Master and Commander.) Now that Russell Crowe is a little old for the action hero role, could he do a gutsy elderly bishop? Or maybe Sean Bean could graduate from his new priestly persona?

To help film directors understand the dramatic potential of such a film, here are some of my previous posts on St John Fisher:

Feast of St John Fisher
Hymn to St John Fisher
St John Fisher's cell
Cardinals' badge of honour
Titular Church of Cardinal Fisher
If St John Fisher and St Thomas More were bloggers
"Alone of thy peers"
St John Fisher's prayer for holy bishops

I note with pleasure that Rorate Caeli have today recalled the detail of St John Fisher's final hours: when he was told that the writ of execution had arrived, he asked the gaoler to let him have another couple of hours' sleep. That's what a clear conscience looks like.

One important lesson from the lives of St John Fisher and St Thomas More is their response to scandal given in high places in the Church. Here's a link to something I wrote on it some time ago: How to respond to scandal in the Church.


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Beautiful photos of FSSP Ordinations

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And the prize for best collection of liturgical photos so far this year goes to... John Aron's magnificent Flickr album for FSSP England. The occasion was the ordination to the sacred priesthood of Fr Stewart and Fr Sanetra at St Mary's Shrine in Warrington by Archbishop McMahon last Saturday.

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I was very glad to be able to receive Fr Sanetra's blessing on Sunday. He was at the Shrine of St Augustine where we have our Thanet Deanery Blessed Sacrament Procession each year: this year, of course, he carried the Blessed Sacrament. He had also celebrated his first Mass at the Shrine in the morning. Father has a particular love for the shrine at Ramsgate which was influential on his vocation.

Congratulations to the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter and thanks be to God for two new priests.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Recommended: Calloway's "Champions of the Rosary"

Fr Donald Calloway gives a substantial account of the history of the Rosary, a collection of briefer chapters on champions of the Rosary, including various saints, blesseds and popes. The third part (which I have not yet read) is a guide to praying the Rosary.

Fr Calloway is a priest of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. His conversion story is action-packed, and he is a tireless promoter of devotion to Our Lady and especially the Rosary.

In the book, he takes some definite positions on controversial matters which was partly what influenced me to buy it when a brother priest recommended it to me. Fr Calloway defends the historical value of the tradition that the Rosary as we know it, with meditations on the mysteries, was revealed to St Dominic by Our Lady. He also defends the Luminous Mysteries. I am concerned that simply by writing that last sentence, I may have put some of you off buying the book - so let me add that Fr Calloway points to the example of Blessed George Preca who suggested almost the same set of meditations almost fifty years earlier; St Louis Grignon de Montfort also suggested that we might meditate on other themes than the fifteen traditional mysteries. At any rate, it is worth reading something thoughtful on the question.

In one of the sections dealing with the tradition of the origin of the Rosary with St Dominic, my curiosity was rewarded by finding a trenchant appraisal of the skeptical thesis of Fr Herbert Thurston SJ: in fact a trenchant appraisal of Thurston himself as well. This is of interest to me since Thurston's biographer, Fr Joseph Crehan SJ, used to teach at Wonersh when I was a student there in the first year. I had the consolation of serving his Latin Mass from time to time. In those days (the late 70s) it would have been impossible for him to celebrate the traditional form, so it was the then still quite Novus Ordo. Fr Crehan taught sacramental theology at the seminary and I eventually became his unworthy successor: he was an immensely erudite man. As students, one favourite piece of mimicry was to burble inaudibly for a bit, ending the "sentence" with an audible "Father Thuuurston."

Reading Fr Calloway's sections on Fr Thurston prompted me to search for a copy of Fr Crehan's "Father Thurston: A memoir with a bibliography of his writings" and I was fortunate enough to find a very cheaply priced copy on AbeBooks which should be on its way to me from the USA within a week or two. Thurston interests me as one of those learned, but also clever and dismissive scholars who were chastened by the crack-down on modernism and liked to poke at established positions. Not the most healthy way of "doing theology", but of significant interest in understanding where we are a century later.

But do not let my reminiscences distract you from considering this excellent book during the centenary of Fatima. "Champions of the Rosary: The History and Heroes of a Spiritual Weapon." is available from Amazon UK and US in paperback and Kindle formats and is very reasonably priced. If you haven't yet decided to do what Our Lady asked, and say the Rosary every day, this book might help to convince you.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst and the newly blessed Theodore House


The Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst aims to make the Stonyhurst Collections more accessible and to offer Christian leadership formation, education, and retreats in the tradition of Stonyhurst College. The Stonyhurst Collection is the oldest surviving museum collection in the English speaking world. It includes cultural treasures from the Catholic culture that were rescued from the reformation as well as object gathered by Jesuits on missionary and teaching work throughout the world.

A Stonyhurst Museum was established in 1884, but it was dismantled in the 1970s and the collection put in storage. The Stonyhurst Christian Heritage Centre Trust now wishes to house this incomparable collection in a suitable manner. It "is seeking to rectify the anomaly by which a collection of global weight and calibre has for too long remained virtually unknown."

Just by way of example, the collection includes a First Folio of Shakespeare, the Book of Hours of Mary, Queen of Scots, and a reliquary containing the rope that bound St Edmund Campion to the hurdle at the time of his execution. (right)

In addition to being a museum in its own right, the Christian Heritage Centre aims to provide a study, retreat and leadership centre with accommodation for guests. To this end, it will be renovating the Old Mill Building for which it will pay an annual rent of one loaf of bread and six altar candles. The building will henceforth be known as Theodore House. This is a fitting dedication. As one of the students noted in his introduction to St Theodore at the blessing of the building on Monday:
"He was 67 by the time he arrived in England. From this time until his death on the 19th of September 690 aged 88 and wonderfully described by St Bede as ‘being old and full of days’ he served as one of the most exceptional leaders in the history of the Christian Church in England."
In the middle of the photograph of the procession below, you can see Lord Alton the Chairman of the CHC Trustees. The students leading the procession with banners are members of the thriving Sodality of the college.


Here is a photo from the beautiful chapel of the Sodality, taken when I was celebrating Mass there a few years ago.


Independent Catholic News reported yesterday on the blessing of the foundations of the new Theodore House and there is an article at the Catholic Herald today.

Readers in the USA will be interested to read of the links between Stonyhurst and America.


Monday, 1 May 2017

New Oratory at Bournemouth to begin

Guido Reni - St Filippo Neri in Ecstasy - WGA19295


News was announced yesterday of the start of the new Oratory at the Sacred Heart Church in Bournemouth which will begin on 31 May. Fr Peter Edwards, Fr Dominic Jacob, and a student brother will form the initial community. The Sacred Heart is an ideal location for an Oratory, being in the centre of town, just off Richmond Hill.

Bournemouth is in the Diocese of Portsmouth and Bishop Egan has given his warm encouragement to the formation of the new Oratory.

Fr David Hutton was to have been one of the members of the oratory in formation but sadly he became seriously ill. He was clothed in the Oratorian habit in January and died on the feast of his patron St David, on 1 March this year. (See: obituary notice.) Please remember him in your prayers and please pray for the success of the new Oratory.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

A timely reflection on St Catherine of Siena

Dolci, Carlo - St. Catherine of Siena - Google Art Project

The full version of Butler's The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints is available at the Internet Archive and in a conveniently arranged online edition at Bartleby's Great Books Online. The 1894 Benzinger Brothers edition is very much abridged but is useful for short daily reflections on the lives of the saints. It can be found at the Sacred Texts website and put onto your mobile device as part of the excellent iPieta app.

I often use iPieta for various things and yesterday evening, in preparation for the various relevant spiritual and liturgical occurrences of today, I read the abridged entry for St Catherine of Siena. The abridged version adds short reflections for each day, probably written by the editor John Gilmary Shea. For St Catherine of Siena, it reads:
The seraphic St. Catherine willingly sacrificed the delights of contemplation to labor for the Church and the Apostolic See. How deeply do the troubles of the Church and the consequent loss of souls afflict us? How often do we pray for the Church and the Pope?
As things are at the moment, I think every single day would be about right.

Incidentally, when you consider all that St Catherine accomplished during her life, it is humbling to recall that she died at the age of thirty-three.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Accipe signaculum: Receive the seal


Fr Zuhlsdorf has written today in response to a query about a Bishop slightly changing the form of Confirmation (See: ASK FATHER: Non-standard form for Confirmation – valid?)

In the newest English version of the Rite of Confirmation, the form is: "N., be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit." In our new England and Wales and Scotland 2015 version, beautifully printed by the CTS on quality off-white paper with fine binding, the form is set in large type in bold and in small caps, making it clear that this is the really important bit. So I entirely agree with Fr Z that priests and bishops should just use the proper form for the sacraments and not leave the faithful in any doubt about the validity of the sacraments. He makes the point forcefully and has done so often in the past, particularly with regard to the sacrament of penance.

Without wishing in any way to detract from this important point, I have another quibble with the form of Confirmation in our current English version. Simply put, it is not a correct translation of the Latin text.

In 1971, in the Apostolic Constitution on the Sacrament of Confirmation, Pope Paul VI noted that the form of Confirmation used until then had first been used in the 12th century. He thought that the more ancient form of the Byzantine rite was preferable and so he ruled that from then on, the following should be observed in the Latin Church:
Sacramentum Confirmationis confertur per unctionem chrismatis in fronte, quae fit manus impositione atque per verba: "Accipe signaculum Doni Sancti Spiritus Sancti"

(The Sacrament of Confirmation is conferred through the anointing of chrism on the forehead, which is done by the imposition of the hand and by the words: "Receive the seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit")
Except that in English translation (the new version does not change it from the previous pre-2015 version) does not say that. It says "Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit." I do not think that it is pedantic to point out that "Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit" is not the same as "Receive the seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit."

The seal is something that is given and received. In the Roman army, recruits were marked on the hand or the forearm with an abbreviation of the name of the general. This tattoo was called the signaculum. (In the film Gladiator, Maximus has the mark on his upper arm and cuts it away with a flint while he is being transported to be sold into slavery.) In Greek the word would be sphragis and there is a rich vein of material in the Fathers of the Church that brings out the significance of this in the rite of Baptism and Confirmation. Danielou in his "The Bible and the Liturgy" devotes a chapter to it.

The signaculum or sphragis was an indelible seal, a mark of belonging to Christ, of being incorporated into the Church, a mark of protection, and a mark of enlistment into the army of Christ. The notion of being a soldier of Christ did not originate with Faustus of Riez, it was there in St John Chrysostom. The military metaphor was made more explicit by the Roman use of signaculum, of course.

So using the phrase "Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit" in our current translation is not the same as "Receive the seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit" which is what the Latin original means. The seal, as something given and received, is a rich source for catechesis and reflection. It is a great pity that after all the wrangling that we have had in recent years over improving the translation of the modern rites, this small but significant inaccuracy should have been allowed to remain.

Please don't misunderstand me here. I do not doubt for a moment the validity of the sacrament of Confirmation conferred with the English form as it is currently translated. For one thing, the form of Confirmation has varied over the centuries and the Church has approved the current English form, so that is enough. Furthermore, the difference in meaning is not enough to destroy the idea of receiving a seal or of receiving the Holy Spirit or of receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation.

It is just such a pity that we have to continue for the foreseeable future with an impoverished form that could so easily have been corrected for the benefit of the faithful.

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