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Showing posts from December, 2012

Happy Christmas

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"Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will."

A hundred and forty-one years ago the Prussian Chancellor, Bismarck, attempted to crush the Church with the Kulturkampf. He failed. Translated, this is the “Culture War” which we face today, especially in Europe and the United States. Stalin tried something similar, though more saunguinary, taunting “How many divisions does the Pope have?” Blessed Pope John Paul did not need any tanks. Neither did the apostles and their successors in the early Church need Legions to gain freedom for the Church in the face of the might of the Roman Empire.

These battles, along with our Culture War of today, are fought without weapons, often despite dungeon, fire and sword being used against the innocent followers of Christ. We do not win every battle in this peaceful struggle, but we know that with Christ as our champion, the Nazirite, the new Sampson, over the centuries, and in the end, the final victory of the truth of…

Dan Cooper Bene Merenti

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Congratulations to Dan Cooper (known here as Sir Dan of the Blogosphere) who has been awarded the Benemerenti medal by the Holy Father: well deserving indeed. He is pictured above with the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Southwark who presented the medal, and a painting of St John Fisher who, in the words of the school hymn, alone of his peers brooked the displeasure of King Henry VIII. The school has a report on Dan's work there which concludes:
He is a strong defender of the Catholic Faith, the unborn child, marriage and family life, the Eucharist and fidelity to the Holy Father. Dan has worked for several decades with boys at the John Fisher school and has, with the help of the Holy Spirit, been influential in promoting many priestly vocations. When I spoke to him, Dan was very appreciative of this papal honour, but those who know him will be amused, but not surprised, to hear that he also said "medals won't solve the crisis in the Church."

New media sacramentals?

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A few weeks ago, my Catholic Dilemma column for the Catholic Herald ran as follows:
I use my iPad to follow the readings at Mass, for prayers after Communion and sometimes to follow the chant. Last week someone behind me tutted loudly. Is it wrong to use an iPad in Church?

Some readers might say “Yes, you should be using an Android tablet” but I prescind from that argument. There is no intrinsic reason why you should not use an electronic device to read the scriptures or the text of prayers and devotions. The iPieta app is a wonderful collection of spiritual writings, scripture, theology and magisterial teaching, and I know several Choir Directors who find the Liber Pro app an amazing resource for Gregorian chant.

One potential problem with using any backlit device in Church is that the bright screen could distract others. A small phone can be hidden but a tablet is likely to catch peoples’ eyes from quite some distance, especially if the lighting in the Church is subdued. In the curr…

A little bit of dusting

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If you are overwhelmed by the cleaning you have to do before Christmas, consider the Sampietrini who have to clean the baldacchino in St Peter's. I'm going to look closer at it next time I am in Rome. Apparently there is a bronze rosary hanging off the base of one column as if someone just left it behind.

H/T CNS via Luke Coppen at the Catholic Herald

Pope: article in FT and address to Curia

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Photo credit: Servizio Fotografico O.R.
I was as surprised as anyone when I read the other day that the Holy Father had written an article for the Financial Times: A time for Christians to engage with the world. He takes as his starting point the verse "Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God," and offers a reflection that I venture to hope would be respected by the readers of the FT. Apparently the Editorial Office just asked and the Pope responded willingly "despite the unusual nature of the request."

This morning, the Holy Father gave his annual Christmas address to the Roman Curia. The key section is where he speaks about the question of gender, referring with approval to the study of the Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, and launching his criticism of the new philosophy of sexuality from the expression of Simone de Beauvoir "one is not born a woman, one becomes so." He defends the idea of a human nature and the …

Diocesan magazine's Youth Page - on the old rite!

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When I looked quickly at the "Teens & 20s" page of the current Portsmouth People (the Diocesan magazine) I thought that it was just another Yoof piece. In fact, it is given over to Thomas Messenger's account of why he goes to the FSSP at Reading for Mass in the old rite.

"Oh the times they are a-chay-ee-an-gin!"

Questioning the use of microphones

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Before 1876 when Emile Berliner invented the first microphone used as a telephone voice transmitter, it would not have been possible to hear the prayers that were said by the priest at the High Altar of a large Church unless he shouted (a suggestion made by Luther) or sang. Hence, at High Mass in the traditional form, any prayers that are not sung are said secreto. To preach, the priest would walk some way down the nave, climb into a pulpit, and project his voice with the aid of a sounding board above him.

Now we have clip-on radio microphones that can transmit every whisper, cough and snuffle of the celebrant, catching sometimes on the polyester collar of modern vestments to interject loud scratching noises into the Mass. Fortunately I think that the use of these devices is now being called into question. In the older form of the Mass, microphones are not generally used except for preaching, where they will usually be necessary until the pulpit is rediscovered.

The bad influence of …

Advice for the end of the world

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As you probably know already, this Friday 21 December is the end-date of a 5125-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar. While Mayan experts do not support predictions of impending doom, it appears that in Russia and China particularly, people are buying up candles, matches and tinned food, and preparing to go to the top of a nearby mountain to be rescued by aliens.

Actually, the world might end on Friday. Our Blessed Lord Himself, according to the knowledge proper to His human nature, did not know when the end of the world would be. Neither do we. So what should we do if the end of the world is to be on Friday?

Matches, candles and tinned food won't help, nor will climbing the nearest mountain. The best thing to do would be to be baptised if you are not already baptised, to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church if you are not already in communion. For those who are in communion with the Catholic Church, a good confession would be sensible, acco…

Negotiating same sex marriage confusion

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In the general bafflement over the Prime Minister's obsession with legalising same sex marriage, an obsession surprisingly shared by Iain Duncan Smith, John Major, Michael Gove and others we thought might have known better, we are all wondering what on earth is behind this. A popular suggestion is that it is David Cameron's Clause 4 moment, that he is seeking to shed traditional conservatives from his party to make it more electable, just as Tony Blair changed the face of the Labour party.

The suggestion is hotly denied, even by Charles Moore who looks at the political implications of David Cameron's determination to introduce same sex "marriage". I find it all very difficult to understand in political terms. Given the rolling news story of corruption in our political class, I'm afraid I just assume that somebody is shelling out large sums of money.

My Catholic Dilemma for last weekend's Catholic Herald was on the question:
As a lifelong conservative I a…

Solid good sense from Bishop Egan

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Thanks be to God for Bishop Egan. His letter to David Cameron is just what we need from our Bishops. Not only does he challenge the Prime Minister forthrightly but his background in philosophy and theology comes to the fore in pinpointing alone of the basic fallacies in the whole gay marriage fiasco and in much other public policy besides:
"Equality can never be an absolute value, only a derivative and relative value."Do go over to the Portsmouth diocesan website and read the whole letter. If you are tearing your hair out at the folly of the Government's determination to push this through, at least you will be able to read a sensible refutation.

Economist article "A traditionalist avant-garde"

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The Economist this week carries an article on A traditionalist avant-garde. It’s trendy to be a traditionalist in the Catholic church. I thought it was very good - we are used to silly uninformed articles on the Catholic Church in the mainstream media and it is good to see something that is balanced and informative with an intelligent understanding of the issues.

Any of us might baulk a bit about the idea that being traditionalist is now trendy, but the Economist has picked up on something. We all want it to be much more than just trendy: it is up to us to make sure that it is.

Fr John Edwards dormivit in Domino

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Dear Father John Edwards SJ died yesterday evening shortly after assisting at Mass on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. May he hear the words "Well done, good and faithful servant" from Our Lord whom he served so faithfully. He was a highly effective mission preacher and retreat giver, wrote straightforward booklets on a variety of subjects including "Ways of Praying" that has helped countless people embark on a serious path of prayer whilst living in the world.

He was also a "priest's priest"; as a guest he would express himself diffidently though it was clear that he thoroughly understand the demands of parish life and the task faced by the parish priest. He will be remembered with great fondness by priests and people alike.

He also preached effectively on purgatory and the importance of praying for dead. So let us return that kindness by praying for him. Even if he does not need our prayers himself, there will be many souls grateful to him as th…

@pontifex crowd-sourcing evangelisation

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Andrew Brown has an article at the Comment is Free section of the Guardian, headlined The pope's Twitter blessing: not absurd or boring to Filipino migrant workers. The article has the strapline: "Pope Benedict XVI has started tweeting. Bored, rich westerners may mock, but so far he has made a success of his account."

This made me a little shamefaced after my (I hope gentle) mockery of the Pontifical High Tweet yesterday. This morning I tweeted:
Don't forget to reply to tweets from @pontifex - he needs us to engage, not leave it to the anti-clericals Looking at the Twitter account and the replies to the Holy Father's messages, the penny dropped. It dawned on me that while the Pope's tweets are of necessity rather general in scope, they do provide an instant opportunity for the entire Catholic twitterverse to engage with others.

Entirely predictably, many of the replies to the Pope's tweets are aggressive, anti-clerical and snarky. For those who have the …

Bishop Campbell of Lancaster on marriage redefinition proposal

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Just in today, Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster's statement on the government's proposal to redefine marriage. Here is the text:
STATEMENT FROM THE BISHOP OF LANCASTER ON THE GOVERNMENT PROPOSAL TO REDEFINE MARRIAGE IN FORTHCOMING LEGISLATION

Despite the widespread opposition evident in the recent consultation, the Coalition government appears determined to introduce legislation which will redefine the traditional understanding of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. This government proposal, if passed into law will, I believe, prove seriously detrimental to one of the pillars of our society which is family life, and carries extremely worrying long-term consequences for the family as we know it.

This proposed alternative vision of married life stands in marked contrast to the Catholic and Christian understanding of marriage as something inherent in the divine purpose for the well-being of humanity. We believe that Almi…

Englishman as new Nuncio for Australia

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Yesterday's Bollettino announced that Archbishop Paul Gallagher has been appointed as Apostolic Nuncio to Australia.

Archbishop Gallagher was ordained priest by Archbishop Worlock for Liverpool Diocese and served in a parish for a time before going to study at the Accademia Ecclesiastica in Rome during my time as a student at the English College. It was rumoured that he was the only Englishman who ever completed the course there, but that may be an urban myth.

He has served the Church at the European Council at Strasbourg, and as Nuncio at Burindi (where the previous Nuncio was murdered and the Nunciature was mortared) and recently as Nuncio in Guatemala.

Please pray for the Archbishop as he takes up this new and important responsibility.


Michael Davies on the hermeneutic of continuity

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I came across this nugget in Michael Davies' book on Vatican II. For the Year of Faith and the 50th anniversary of Vatican II, I am currently reading various secondary works on the Council and finding some interesting tidbits along the way. Michael says:
We should, then, accept the conciliar documents as official, though not always well formulated, Church teaching which must be studied with prudence and reserve and measured against, and interpreted in accordance with, the traditional teaching of the Church - particularly the Councils of Trent and Vatican I. Pope John himself provided us with a mandate for this in his opening speech when he insisted that his own Council concurs "with tranquil adherence to all the teachings of the Church in its entirety and preciseness, as it still shines forth in the Acts of the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council." (Michael Davies. Pope John's Council. Augustine Publishing. 1977. page 216) Michael gives as his reference f…

Pontifical High Tweet

I must confess to chuckling through this video of the Holy Father's first tweet. He has set an example of how to tweet in style.

Now I am thinking that I must set up in the Parish Hall a good antique table and throne, have an altar server solemnly bring in the iPad (perhaps accompanied by acolytes) and arrange for various people to be on hand to film and take photos (probably Mulier Fortis and one or two children.) I think that I could persuade the MC and a local politician to dress in white tie and be the gentiluomini, accompanied by some technical staff (Defende nos in proelio) to make sure that the tap was done correctly: that after all would be the essential matter of the quasi-sacramental ceremony. A crowd on hand to cheer and sing songs (led by Bara Brith) in celebration of the tweet seems to be the thing, so I'd probably need to get some champagne and cake. This would make me obnoxious to the charge of treating as well as tweeting but in all honesty I don't think I…

Bishops criticise "shambolic process"

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Thanks to Archbishop Nichols and Archbishop Smith for their statement on the government response to the same sex marriage consultation:
The meaning of marriage matters. It derives that meaning from its function as the foundation of the family. The union of one man and one woman for love and mutual support and open to procreation has over the centuries formed a stable unit we call the family. Marriage is the enduring public recognition of this commitment and has been rightly recognised as unique and worthy of legal protection.

The government has chosen to ignore the views of over 600,000 people who signed a petition calling for the current definition of marriage to stay, and we are told legislation to change the definition of marriage will now come to Parliament.

We strongly oppose such a Bill. Furthermore, the process by which this has happened can only be described as shambolic. There was no electoral mandate in any manifesto; no mention in the Queen’s speech; no serious or thorough…

Strong testimony from Bishop Egan

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In his address to the Bishops of England and Wales after their meeting in November, the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Mennini said:
“We find that we are placed in a similar situation to the Church in France, where Cardinal Vingt-Trois and the French bishops have issued a spirited appeal to the faithful asking them to do all in their power to resist so-called ‘same-sex marriage’. We surely can do no less and I thank all of you for your strong testimony.”At the website of the Portsmouth Diocese, we have this spirited statement from Bishop Egan:
STATEMENT ON “GAY MARRIAGE”
13th December 2012, Memorial of St. Lucy

In response to a recent TV interview with David Cameron in which he gave his backing to gay marriage in church (BBC News, 7th December) and the outcome of the so-called consultation process, Bishop Philip Egan has issued the following statement to the priests and people of the Diocese and to all people of good will:

David Cameron has said that he is an enthusiastic supporte…

CD 267: Prayer and exams

I have important exams coming up and life is really hectic preparing for them. Isn’t it reasonable to cut down on some of my commitments at the Church?
If you are involved in a lot of apostolic activities, it might be reasonable to assess priorities – though primarily because doing your best at your exams will help you to have a more effective apostolate afterwards. What must not be dropped is the essential core of your prayer life. Advice for examinees always includes ensuring that you have a proper amount of sleep and exercise, and eat sensibly. As Christians, we take an even more holistic approach, including our spiritual health as a part of being properly geared up for the ordeal. So don’t be tempted to give up your daily prayers and your assistance at Mass (serving if you are a altar server): and make a good confession as part of your preparations, so as to be in the best possible state of soul.

Satan is the father of lies: one of his whoppers is to convince devout people that pra…

English College students (properly dressed) meet the Holy Father

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Last Monday, the Holy Father venerated a relic of St Ralph Sherwin, the first of the 44 martyrs of the Venerable English College in Rome. The occasion was the 650th anniversary of the founding of the hospice for English pilgrims in Rome (the oldest English institution outside of England) which became in 1579 a College for training students to return as priests to the English mission at the risk of their lives. Here are two quotations from the the address of the Holy Father:
Potius hodie quam cras, as Saint Ralph Sherwin said when asked to take the missionary oath, “rather today than tomorrow”. These words aptly convey his burning desire to keep the flame of faith alive in England, at whatever personal cost. Those who have truly encountered Christ are unable to keep silent about him. As Saint Peter himself said to the elders and scribes of Jerusalem, “we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). [...]

Your forebears faced a real possibility of martyrdom, and it is r…

Will the Tablet survey saga put the laughing policeman out of business?

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Last week I posted on the Tablet survey on the now established translation. Five days later, after a lot of comment in the blogosphere about how they had misquoted the texts about which they were asking people's opinion, the survey was corrected and the results to date were trashed. So now there is a new version, which has re-jigged the questions. There's a "ner ner" question comparing the old ICEL to the usus antiquior:
Just as admirers of the Tridentine Rite have been allowed to continue using the pre-Conciliar liturgy, I think people who favour the old English-language translation of the Mass should be allowed to celebrate it in that version. So there!
Another question of the kind that Bara Brith compares to the Blackadder and The Flanders Pigeon Murderer trial asks whether you think that "Some of the florid language is obsequious and distracting." The title of the survey is itself of the same genre: "The new Mass text - has it won you over?" …

Another new rite at Blackfen

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Quietly, with just two members of the faithful and myself, we had a little piece of history at Blackfen last night with Mass celebrated here for the first time according to the Book of Divine Worship (BDW). This is the book produced for the Anglican Use parishes in the United States (they are in full communion with the Church). It is legitimate for priests of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham to use this rite.

Fr Simon Heans is a great help to me at Blackfen, usually saying either Saturday or Sunday evening Mass and often assisting at other functions. He often says a quiet Mass on a Wednesday evening when his prison Chaplaincy duties allow, and I suggested that he might like to offer this Mass according to the BDW. With a small and friendly congregation it is a good opportunity for him to become accustomed to the rite. It is also a chance for diocesan Catholics in the parish to hear and pray some of the beautiful prayers of the English tradition.

The Mass begins in a differen…

A stunning Church in Hull, the Hull Revised Version of Exodus and a Hull cat post

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St Charles Borromeo Church in Hull is a gem, much loved by people in Hull and environs, especially students. I stayed in the presbytery last night after speaking to the Hull Faith Forum, organised by Fr William Massie with the help of various students. I was last up in Hull in 2008 and it was great to see some of the same young people now graduated from being interested teenagers to being active young adult apostles, as well as some new younger auditores. Helpers included James Preece of Catholic and Loving It.

I was speaking on the Church and trying to pitch things so that the younger ones would receive some catechesis while the young adults would also have some theology to take home. In the question session, one of the teenagers asked me to explain what I was saying about the Song of Songs as a type of the people of God looking forward to the coming of Christ. I chose an easier example to illustrate types: the crossing of the Red Sea. To get younger ones involved, I asked them to t…

Rosary of Reparation at National Gallery

The National Gallery has chosen to exhibit two offensive depictions of Our Lady in homage to the recently deceased British artist Richard Hamilton.  As part of the exhibition, which runs until 13 January, 'The Passage of the Angel to the Virgin' (2007) and 'An Annunciation' (2005) show Our Lady nude and in a sexually suggestive pose. For more information, see the article by Francis Phillips in the Catholic Herald.

By email, I have recived news that on the feast of the Immaculate Conception (this Saturday 8 December) at 2pm, a group will gather to pray the Rosary in reparation, in front of the offensive painting. This is intended as peaceful witness to pray "as much of the Rosary as we can before being asked to leave."

I can't imagine why the authorities should ask people to leave. This kind of "art" is intended to provoke a reaction from ordinary viewers. Surly nobody is going to exercise any authority would want to rule out reparative prayer a…

Holy See compares bloggers to bakelite plugs

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A cheeky metaphor for bloggers
As you all know, the Holy See has today launched the Holy Father's Twitter account @pontifex. At the time of writing, he has garnered over a quarter of a million followers in less than twelve hours without even writing a tweet. Viva il Papa!

And what a launch! Archbishop Celli and Mgr Tighe, President and Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Fr Federico Lombardi, Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, of Vatican Radio, and of the Vatican TV station, Professor Vian, Director of Osservatore Romano, and Dr Burke, Media Adviser at the Secretariat of State were all there - in the same room. Clearly peace has broken out among these departments which cynics insisted were at loggerheads with each other. "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb" and all that. I think there is room now for a new Pontifical Secretariat for Senior Communications Personnel of the Holy See - headed up by someone entirely new.

In the explanator…

Tablet survey on the now established translation

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There are still some people around who think that the translation of the Mass which we have now been using in England for over a year is a problem for the ordinary person in the pew. Myself, I find that ordinary people in the pew have more pressing problems in their lives and have just got on with it. But don't feel bound by my opinions. The Tablet has a survey about the new translation (which it calls the "new Mass") so why not go over and give your honest answers.




The expectation of Our Lady

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At the beginning of Advent I always look forward to Fr Faber's hymn Like the Dawning of the Morning which we recovered at Blackfen a few years ago. The above graphic will enlarge to a printable score if you want one. There is an older post with the words for all eight verses. Usually, people sing verses 1, 2 and 8 but if you have a lot of people for communion, you might want all the verses.

If you want some further food for thought on the theme, here is a sermon:During Advent, we should prepare spiritually for Christmas. We need to plan to make a good confession, we should look at our daily prayers to see whether we have let those slip, consider how we give priority to Mass by arriving early and staying afterwards to pray. You might also consider whether you can get to one of our times of adoration in the parish, on Thursday evening or on Saturday morning.

As we prepare for Christmas, it helps to consider the example of Our Blessed Lady’s own preparation for the birth of Christ d…

Science a replacement for religion?

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Fr Georges Lemaitre who first proposed the theory of the big bang, with Albert Einstein
A comment on the post The Lord of DNA (and everything else) deserves a post to itself because it highlights a common misunderstanding:
I'm never sure how to respond to students (such as a lad in my A level class) who claim that people had religion in the past because they didn't have science. ;) Two recommendations: 1. the magazine and pamphlets of the Faith Movement, especially the "Reasons for Believing" series "Can we believe that God exists?" and "What makes man unique?" 2. The excellent pamphlet by Frs Marcus Holden and Andrew Pinsent "Apologia" published by the CTS.

Science developed within the Christian culture of the middle ages precisely because Christian philosophy admitted the importance of secondary causes and therefore thought the world worth studying. As the Apologia pamphlet demonstrates, many of the great advances in science were broug…

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