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The “Readings” at Mass: Worship or Instruction?

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Following my post on Cardinal Sarah, reconciliation and the lectionary, Peter Kwasniewski kindly sent me a scan of his article “The Reform of the Lectionary” which was published in Liturgy in the Twenty-First Century. At first, I thought of simply summarising some of the main points but it occurred to me that several principles were important and worthy of further discussion, so I will look at some in due course.

The first is the most fundamental. Kwasniewski rightly says that it should be engaged before examining any particular principle behind the new lectionary. It is the question of the purpose or function of reading the scriptures at Mass. As he puts it:
“Is it a moment of instruction for the people, or is it an element of the latreutic worship offered by Christ and His Mystical Body to the Most Holy Trinity.” He affirms that what we may call the doxological purpose is primary.

This question determines any subsequent discussion of what passages are chosen, how they are distribut…

An edifying newsletter from a monastery with a welcome problem

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Silverstream Priory kindly send me their twelve page newsletter In Coenaculo. Parish priests receive a lot of newsletters and I am afraid that I don't tend to bother with most of them, but I find that news from Silverstream is always both encouraging and edifying. Father Prior (Mark Kirby OSB) has to preach sermons quite regularly for the clothing of new novices; he manages to come up with great personalised addresses each time. The diary is great to read, too. The newsletter is available as a pdf download at the website. Here is the link: In Coenaculo. Summer 2017 (pdf)

Silverstream has a serious problem, though. They have recently completed the construction of some new monastic cells and they are all now full. In the house Oratory, new members of the community have to sit in the window sills as there are not enough places for them.

(Just incidentally, as a matter of interest and nothing to do with any of this, of course, Silverstream celebrates the sacred Liturgy according to th…

Cradle Catholic snobbery as ridiculous as any other kind

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It was not until my first year at University that I became aware that some converts were unhappy about making a qualitative distinction between converts and cradle Catholics. I was told that the comparison was usually to the disadvantage of the converts.

Until then, I had just admired converts because they had found their way to the faith and taken the trouble to go through whatever steps were deemed necessary in their local parish before being received into the Church. My youthful reading included John Henry Newman, GK Chesterton and Ronald Knox, all of whom I enjoyed immensely; they helped me to have a certain reverence for the category of people “converts” and it simply would not have occurred to me to think of someone as a second class citizen in the Church as a result of their having made a conscious adult decision to join it.

Later, I came to understand how much of a price some converts had paid in their family and social lives for becoming Catholic. As a priest, I have had the…

The Transfiguration and Jewish feast days

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My post on "Interesting parallels in Jewish customs" seems to have been well received, so I thought it might be helpful to look at today's feast day in the light of two Jewish feasts. Many years ago, I was bowled over by Fr Jean Galot's observation concerning St Peter's profession of faith. He argued that if, as many scholars accepted, the transfiguration occurred during the feast of tabernacles, then the "after six days" of Matthew 17.1 would mean that the profession of faith of St Peter in Matthew 16.16 would have taken place on the Day of Atonement. This is highly significant because the Day of Atonement was the one day in the year on which the high priest solemnly pronounced the holy name YHWH in the holy of holies in the Temple. St Peter, by his confession of faith fulfils the work of the high priests, and Our Lord in His own person is the living presence the Most High.

Then there is the feast of tabernacles itself. This feast lasted for a week. O…

CD 291: Confession now I am older and have fewer temptations

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I go to Confession twice a year, at Easter and Christmas because I feel I should. My I find it difficult to know what to say as I no longer seem to be assailed by the temptations of earlier years. One priest told me rather irritably not to come to Confession if I had nothing to say.
I am sorry to hear that a priest was irritated with you. Say a prayer for him asking the Lord to give him the virtue of patience. I don’t agree with his advice. In your letter, you spoke of another priest who encouraged you to go to confession more frequently. He is on the right lines, I think. People who go to confession frequently usually remember more to confess. This is not because they are greater sinners but because their conscience becomes more sensitive to venial sins. This is not some kind of morbid “guilt” but a desire for holiness in small things. When you say that you do not have the temptations you used to have, perhaps you are thinking that the sacrament is only for mortal sins.

In fact it is…

Unsettling advice for preachers from St Alphonsus

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For the feast of St Alphonsus, I have been taking another look at some things I have quarried from the great man for this blog over the years. In 2015, I gathered some passages from St Alphonsus which were relevant for the Year of Mercy. Our saint writes with wonder at the love of God and the abundance of His grace, he encourages the sinner to convert, making a heartfelt prayer of repentance which we can use for profit, and warns sternly of the abuse of God’s mercy, using this again as a call to conversion. (See: St Alphonsus, a saint for the Year of Mercy)

There are a couple of salutary admonitions for priests which I was glad to be reminded of in the post St Alphonsus on preaching. The work “Sermons of St Alphonsus Liguori for All the Sundays of the Year” is instructive in the themes that the Saint chooses. I sometimes amuse brother priests by pointing out that his subject for the sermon for Easter Sunday is “On the miserable state of relapsing sinners.” In fact, St Alphonsus relat…

Saint Ignatius on heresy, and the capsizing boat

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On the feast of St Ignatius, I offer my prayers and good wishes to some great Jesuits. Just off the top of my head, I think of Fr Joseph Fessio SJ the founder of Ignatius Press which has not only published the English translations of various works of Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict, but has also given a break for good Catholic authors both of theology and of Catholic fiction. Then there is Fr Bob Spitzer SJ, with whom I studied in Rome many years ago, and Fr Paul Mankowski SJ who has written some superb articles over the years. Here in England, I recall Fr Anthony Meredith SJ, the great fatherly commentator on the Fathers of Cappadocia and in Rome, there is Fr Gilles Pelland SJ, the fierce French-Canadian patristics scholar was a bit harsh when I first arrived in the Holy City, but seemed to soften a bit when after 5 years he seeme satisfied that, though English, I was not a modernist.

Many of my Jesuit priest friends and mentors have now reached “that night when no man can work” an…

Sunday book notices: "Laurus" and "Spoilt Rotten"

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Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin
An extraordinary novel. It begins in the fifteenth century Russia and continues with a journey of redemption up to the recent past, following the life of a spiritual healer who eventually becomes a hermit. The blurb says that it will appeal to fans of "The Name of the Rose" but I think that it is much better than that. For Catholics, I would say that it will appeal to fans of Michael O'Brien. To find out more about the author, you could read an interview with Rod Dreher.

Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality by Theodore Dalrymple
The prolific Dr Dalrymple is an author whom people either love or hate, but since many of my friends share my enjoyment of his writing, I thought I would include this volume on an exasperating phenomenon of our times. The author has worked as a prison doctor and as a GP in an area of some deprivation, so the stories with which he illustrates his points are often amusing if macabre. For instance:
To ask how muc…

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

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

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

CD 288: Cremation and the Resurrection

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

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

Cardinal Sarah, reconciliation and the lectionary

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

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

Popular posts from this blog

Cradle Catholic snobbery as ridiculous as any other kind

Saint Ignatius on heresy, and the capsizing boat

CD 291: Confession now I am older and have fewer temptations

Cardinal Sarah, reconciliation and the lectionary

Unsettling advice for preachers from St Alphonsus