Saturday, 30 March 2013

Let us rejoice

The fire-starters are outside loading up the oil drum with kindling. The MC is making final preparations and the choir are settling in to make sure that they have firmly in their minds how all the bits of the modern rite of the Easter Vigil fit together (not easy) and I have done the last edit for my sermon. We have four catechumens to be baptised and I have heard 75 confessions during the Great Week to prepare to rejoice in the resurrection of Christ. A great festival is almost upon us.

There has been much to ponder over the past few days and I have been reading many blogs, ruminating on various opinions expressed, and forming some thoughts in my own mind which may mature enough for me to think they might be worth sharing in due course.

In the meantime, let us rejoice because Christ is risen indeed. We have life in Him through our Baptism, the "bath of regeneration" (Titus 3.5) and continually through our communion with the Church of Rome founded on the rock which is Peter. Let us rejoice and be glad. Alleluia!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

A child's question: "Can the priest tell the Pope your sins?"

My daughter is preparing for her first Confession and I was explaining to her about the seal. I thought you would be amused by her question “Can the priest tell the Pope your sins?”

I am glad that you knew the answer to your daughter’s question and that you were able to explain to her that the priest is not allowed to reveal anyone’s sins, even to the Pope. As so often, the simple questions of young children take us deeper than we might think at first.

The Pope is the supreme legislator in the Church. If the confessional seal were a matter of ecclesiastical law, he would be able to dispense from it. Catholics know instinctively that there would be something wrong with that. Their instinct is right because the confessional seal binds the priest by divine law, not Church law. The only person who can give a priest permission to speak about a confessed sin is the penitent himself. If the priest, in the context of sacramental confession, comes to know of a grave evil that could threaten another, or the state, he can only urge the penitent to make it known: under penalty of denying absolution if necessary. The Church can also take action against particular sins by imposing ecclesiastical penalties such as excommunication, or by making a sin a “reserved sin” for which penance and permission to absolve can only be given by the Bishop or by the Holy See (the identity of the penitent is concealed in such cases to preserve the seal.)

Various corrupt rulers and governments in history have attempted to force priests to break the seal of confession. What they have failed to realise is that a priest who breaks the seal is acting as if he were God, assuming the power to set aside a matter of divine law. St John Nepomuk, who was martyred by a King Wenceslaus (not the “Good” one) for refusing to break the seal of confession, is a reminder to priests of the sacredness of the trust committed to them, and to governments that it is foolish to attempt to overcome that trust.

Catholic Dilemmas column published in the Catholic Herald
Suggestions for Catholic Dilemmas are always welcome in the combox.

Weather almost reaches "Rather Tiring" level

I know that some of you in the Midwest or Alaska or somewhere like that, bravely endure temperatures of 30 below for much of the winter, but here in South East England we don't expect to be freezing in the last week of March. We had the Palm Sunday procession accompanied by a light dusting of snow, for goodness sake!

Normally placid and enduring friends of mine who will put up with rain at Wimbledon or the Oval, and think nothing of the occasional unseasonal gale are beginning to lose patience with the weather. We have run out of variants on "Oof! It's chilly." If the temperature of "not much above zero with a windchill of -5 degrees" continues for much longer there is a real danger of some losing control and becoming "Just a Bit Fed Up."

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Children prevent the stones from having to cry out

The four gospels often describe the same episode in slightly different ways: a good example is the entry of Our Lord into Jerusalem. The analysis of these differences is called "redaction criticism" in scripture studies, focussing on the distinct contributions of the different authors.

What is not studied so much is the way in which the texts of the sacred liturgy often give us a ready-made reconciliation of the gospels. In the case of the traditional sung texts, this composite picture is an important source in itself. In the sung texts of the traditional Roman rite, the first part of today's Palm Sunday liturgy gives greater emphasis to the children than we might otherwise take from a reading of the gospel texts themselves. Particular weight is given to the mention of children in St Matthew's gospel:
And the chief priests and scribes, seeing the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying: Hosanna to the son of David; were moved with indignation. And said to him: Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus said to them: Yea, have you never read: Out of the mouth of infants and of sucklings thou hast perfected praise? (Matt 21.15-16)
In the spirit of the liturgical emphasis on the Pueri Hebraeorum (the Hebrew children with whom we begin the procession) I like to associate the children with the declaration of Our Lord (in response to the demand of the Pharisees that Our Lord should rebuke His disciples):
"I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out" (Lk 19.40)
Our Lord comes into His own domain (in propria venit) and His own people do not accept Him. In accord with the eternal plan or economy of God, He comes as the crowning glory of all creation, Himself having taken on a human nature while being the living God in person. Jerusalem, the focus of the worship demanded by the law given by the Most High, is above all His domain. It would be blasphemy by omission if He were not to be acknowledged as the triumphant King of all creation, the one who brings peace and salvation.

The children in their innocence acclaim Him. The liturgical emphasis on the children teaches us that their freedom from sin makes them able to give Him praise in simplicity of heart. Thanks to them, the stones could continue to remain silent until they split apart in protest at the outrage of His crucifixion.

As a parish priest, I could not help but point out this morning that this entry of Christ into Jerusalem teaches us something about children in Church. They are not merely tolerated, they are essential. In simple biological terms, if we have a Church without children we are only waiting until the last one out turns the lights off; but in theological terms too, children offer in their innocence a level of worship to the Father which we have to recover ("unless you be converted and become as little children...")

Thanks be to God we had many children this morning both for the modern rite and for the (long) traditional rite - the latter was every bit a "Children's Mass." During the (40 minute) singing of the Passion I noticed one or two giggles at the synagoger tone. I took a Pope-Francis-style extempore moment to explain in my sermon that the different chants in the Passion told us who was Jesus and who were the "baddies."

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Confirmations, converts and men in white

The parish Confirmations are always a most enjoyable occasion for me. Seeing twenty-five young people come before the successor of the apostles to be anointed and receive the Holy Spirit's grace for strengthening is a sign of hope for the Church and a joy to the parish priest.

Today I also received two converts into full communion with the Catholic Church and we have four more to be baptised at the Easter Vigil next Saturday. It is wonderful to welcome people into communion with the See of Peter and through that bond into communion with every Catholic Church throughout the world.

On Wednesday evening I visited the Priory of St Philip at Chelmsford to give a talk on Lumen Gentium and the theology of the Church. On a cold evening it was impressive to see a full hall. The Norbertines are running a healthy large parish in Essex with fine Liturgy, including their own traditional rite. I had the chance for a chat with some of the Fathers afterwards. This morning, looking at the news feeds, I mused that Chelmsford it was rather like Castel Gandolfo with the men in white.

Holy Week now beckons: Palm Sunday is the most gruelling part of it for parish priests since we have our normal Sunday Mass schedule with all the add-ons in the Liturgy, including the Passion. The Triduum itself I find more peaceful since we have only the major services each day (though I always take the opportunity to hear confessions after everything.)

May the merciful Lord bless us all at this dramatic and richly blessed time as we follow His footsteps in the sacred Liturgy.

We adore Thee O Christ and we bless Thee.
Because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Holy Week with the Ordinariate

For people in reach of central London there are always many beautiful liturgical celebrations during Holy Week at various Churches. This year the Ordinariate will have a full programme in the Church which they have recently begun to take care of, Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory in Warwick Street, Soho. The poster above gives the details. I have posted the full resolution file so if you click it, you can see it full size.

On the new Pope from the Provost of the London Oratory

Fr Julian Large, Provost of the London Oratory, was himself a journalist before becoming a priest. His schooling in this field is evident in the quality of writing in his public Letters from the Provost and never more so than in his latest superb piece on the election of Pope Francis. This is genuinely pastoral writing at its very best.

In looking for a couple of quotes to pull out, I was spoilt for choice, so let me just take what I think is the core of Father's message to his people, while urging you to read the whole letter, especially if you are a bit nervous or confused at the moment:
Whatever personal feelings – euphoric, neutral or negative – an individual might experience towards the person of any particular pope are neither here nor there as far as being a good Catholic is concerned. There is, however, a very definite and proper Catholic response to the election of a new Pope. We receive the Successor of St Peter into our hearts with love, and we support him with our loyalty and with our prayers. Charity, or love, here does not mean a fickle sentiment that waxes and wanes depending on whether we are delighted with a pope’s thundering denunciation of gambling one day and then up-in-arms about his reluctance to be carried on the sedia gestatoria the next. Love in this context is something far more constant and practical. It means praying for the Pope every day, so that God’s grace works through his gifts and his limitations for the building up of the Church. It also means that, if ever we speak of the Supreme Pontiff, it is always with the respect that is due to the awe-inspiring dignity of his office.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Bishop Davies calls for loyalty to the Holy Father

I was thinking of writing something about our duty as Catholics to be loyal to the Pope. I am grateful that Bishop Mark Davies has saved me the trouble by writing a fine pastoral letter on the theme, calling inter alia for prayer and penance::

Pastoral Letter
To be read at Mass in all the churches and chapels of the Diocese
on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, 16th / 17th March 2013

My dear brothers and sisters,

“I announce a great joy to you: we have a Pope!” This announcement first made from the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome has echoed across the world. I write this Sunday to share with you the joy of welcoming Pope Francis as St Peter’s Successor, as Bishop of Rome and so as our Pope. During the past two weeks the Chair of St Peter has stood empty and the Pope’s name has poignantly been absent from the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass. We have felt this absence and today share a great joy that in Pope Francis we once more have a Holy Father, a successor in our time of the Apostle Peter. “To this day,” the Youth Catechism explains, “every Bishop of Rome has been, like Peter, the supreme shepherd of the Church, whose real head is Christ” (YouCat 141).

In these past few days you may have heard many commentators telling us what a new Pope should be like and what he should do. However, no ‘job description’ for a Pope is ever required, as every Pope is called to continue the supreme, pastoral ministry which Christ the Lord entrusted to Peter. Our Lord called Peter to be the “rock” on which his Church would be built; entrusted him with the keys of His Kingdom; and made him shepherd of the whole flock, calling him to confirm us in the faith (Mt 16:18; Jn 21:15-17; Lk 22:32). We place our faith in the promises of Christ, not confusing the giftedness of the man with the promises attached to the office of Peter. We know the Petrine ministry will continue in the Church until the end of time with one Pope following another. More than once during my own journey around the Diocese I have been introduced as ‘Bishop Brian’, my own predecessor and our Emeritus Bishop. It serves as a wonderful reminder that it does not matter who the bishop is, so long as he is your bishop!

Our Catholic faith leads us to recognise and promise today, as I promised on the day I became a bishop, to be faithful, obedient and united under the authority of the Successor of the Apostle Peter (Rite for the Ordination of Bishops). In the Catholic heart, there is not only a recognition of the vital ministry of the Pope, but a love for the Pope. The Acts of the Apostles tells how the Church at the beginning prayed unceasingly to God for Peter (Acts 12:5).

This Sunday, conscious of the awesome responsibility Pope Francis has accepted, we pray very much for the man called to take the place of Peter in our time. On Wednesday 20th March I would ask every parish and community in the Diocese to join me in prayer and to offer Mass for the Holy Father. I also invite you to offer some small sacrifice, some act of self-denial for our Holy Father and for the mission now entrusted to him.

It is significant that the announcement that we have a new Pope should be made from Vatican Hill where St Peter’s mortal remains were buried following his martyrdom. Amid testing times, the Pope must always be ready to face a form of martyrdom. The Pope is neither a politician nor a celebrity, but always a witness to the Truth, to the One who was crucified, to the faith handed down by the Apostles. The word ‘martyr’ means ‘witness’ and describes those who suffer and die for Christ. In these hopeful and challenging days, when the Church sees a great expansion of her life on a global scale, with more Catholics and more vocations than at any moment in her history, together with the sad phenomenon of the de-Christianisation of societies like our own, much is asked of the Pope.

This moment surely invites us to renew personally our loyalty to the Pope chosen to guide the Church in these testing times. In the faithful witness Pope Francis will give, often in the face of opposition, may you and I always stand steadfastly and courageously with St Peter’s Successor. I ask you to renew this promise with me today. I am certain there can be no progress for the Church in the Shrewsbury Diocese without this living, faithful, loving unity with the See of St Peter, with our Holy Father, Pope Francis.

May God bless our Pope and renew this love and unity in all our hearts,

+ Mark
Bishop of Shrewsbury

Friday, 15 March 2013

The lifeblood of the Mystical Body of Christ

One day earlier this week I saw a mother about the baptism of her baby, a grieving family about the funeral of a fine father and grandfather, schoolchildren about singing the texts of the Mass, teenagers about their forthcoming Confirmation and then a couple to rehearse their marriage ceremony. Today I heard the confessions of some children in the school and later some children making their first Confession after our evening service of Rosary, Benediction and Novena. Tomorrow I will be celebrating a funeral and on Saturday a wedding.

All of these things bring joy to me as a priest. Baptisms and Weddings obviously, but also funerals because the rites of the Church enable us to overcome the world's attitude to death as meaningless, and in the sacrament of Penance we rejoice in the Lord's compassion and mercy. I have several funerals to celebrate in the next two weeks and it is most consoling if I have also given the Sacraments to the person during their time of dying so that Our Lord can consecrate this crucial time of their lives.

As a priest, the celebration of the Liturgy is not a chore but a joy. The "celebration" of The Meeting (one of which I have also had to travel to this week) does not bring such consolation except in the coffee break and the genuine chance to meet and interact with fellow workers in the vineyard of the Lord. On the other hand, teaching future priests about the sacraments is refreshing, even despite the sometimes gruelling journey round to the seminary on a Sunday night after celebrating three Masses and two baptisms.

This is really the heart of the priestly ministry. The Mass takes the first place of course: what could be more sublime than to pronounce the words of consecration, to lift the body of the Lord for the veneration of the people and then to feed on the Word who gives His flesh and blood, soul and divinity to us as spiritual food? Yet the other sacraments bring joy also to the priest because they are the great fountains of grace for the people that God wishes in His superabundant mercy to save from their sins, enrich by His grace and bring to heaven.

This is truly the work of the Church. From the grace given in the sacraments, all other works flow: the care of the poor and the homeless, the attempt to help those who are in turmoil because their marriage is on the rocks or their children are lapsing, the urge of good Christians to engage in public life to make the world a better place. It is Christ who is at the centre, Christ who gives us strength.

This is so for the lowly parish priest (who, as I can readily testify, does not necessarily seek any higher office) and for the highest ecclesiastic. May the Lord help us all to play the part that we should as members of the Mystical Body of Christ.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

An apology to Rorate Caeli and a correction on TLM provision in Buenos Aires

My post on the Old Rite Mass in Argentina was in response to several comments I read in various places stating that there is no provision for the usus antiquior in Argentina. I did not intend to make any criticism of the Rorate Caeli blog (which did not make that assertion) and I apologise if that impression was given. I am also happy to link to NC's post How Summorum Pontificum was blocked and trampled on in Buenos Aires: facts, not fantasy and disinformation.

So although Cardinal Bergoglio did initially arrange for a Mass according to the norms of Summorum Pontificum, it was such that the readings were from the modern lectionary in the vernacular - so far in accord with a possible first reading of SP (though Universae Ecclesiae n.26 made clear that the readings should be from the 1962 lectionary) - but also with lay readers which is not provided for in SP. Attendance at the Mass dwindled and it was discontinued.

Just to be clear also, the Masses which are on the google map that I linked to are all outside the diocese of Buenos Aires which is just the area in white on this map.

I write this post in the interest of accuracy. As is probably fairly obvious, I am trying to post as many positive things about Pope Francis as I can. However that is a useless exercise if the truth is not adhered to carefully. The purpose of this post is not to fan the flames of criticism of our new Holy Father but to be as accurate as possible. Let us pray the God will guard and guide the Holy Father in all his responsibilities, including his governance of the Sacred Liturgy.

Holy Father prays at the tomb of Pope St Pius V

Just by the way ...

A Marian Pope

At the Day With Mary last Saturday, some people said to me that they were praying for a Marian Pope. Last night, Pope Francis said "Tomorrow I wish to go and pray to Our Lady, that she may watch over all of Rome."

This morning at about 8am, the Holy Father visited the Basilica of St Mary Major and prayed before the icon of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani after placing a small bouquet of flowers on the altar. So it seems the prayers were answered and we do have a Marian Pope.

Old rite Mass in Argentina

There have been many comments flying around alleging that there are no old rite Masses in Argentina apart from those offered by the SSPX. It seems that things are different. reported that 48 hours after Pope Benedict issued Summorum Pontificum, Archbishop Bergoglio arranged for Mass according to the usus antiquior to be said regularly at St Michael the Archangel in Buenos Aires. (Source: Regresó la misa en latín, con mujeres cubiertas por mantillas)

There is also a google map of places where Mass is said in the old rite in Argentina according to the provisions of Summorum Pontificum. (i.e. not the SSPX chapels in Argentina but regular chapels either diocesan or religious.) Una Voce Argentina also has news of Masses celebrated in that country.

Unless these sources are all completely bogus, they do scotch one rumour that seems to be taking hold. I have seen bald assertions in various places that there are no old rite Masses in Argentina except those of the SSPX. That is wrong.

It may be that Cardinal Bergoglio was not personally enthusiastic about the usus antiquior but as a Jesuit who exercised authority, it seems that he was loyal enough to implement Summorum Pontificum. Let us pray for him as he enters the world of papal liturgy which may be a different experience from the liturgy celebrated in many places in Argentina. Let us pray especially that he be given the grace of state as he begins his ministry as the successor of Peter.

H/T Defénde nos in proelio and the comments box of Holy Souls Hermitage.

Matt today

From Matt, the top cartoonist. Daily Telegraph.

Which St Francis?

Our new Holy Father has taken the name Francis. Along with many others I have suggested that he was thinking of St Francis of Assisi. Quite a few people have said that since he is a Jesuit, he may have been thinking of St Francis Xavier. But why not St Francis Borgia?


St Francis Caracciolo
St Francis de Sales
St Francis of Paola
St Francis Solano
St Francesco Antonio Fasani


Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos
Blessed Francisco Martos
Blessed Francis Faà di Bruno

or even possibly:

St Frances of Rome
St Frances Xavier Cabrini

I still think it most likely that he was thinking of St Francis of Assisi, but he may also have had St Francis Xavier in mind - but why not also St Francis Borgia who, along with St Pius V and St Charles Borromeo showed how corruption in the Church can be overcome by sanctity. (St Francis Borgia, sometimes known as the second founder of the Jesuits, was the grandson of Pope Alexander VI.)

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Chant Café immediately has Oremus pro Pontifice posted

People have said that this is the first social media Pontifical election. There are many manifestations. I have just been blown away by the fact that Chant Café has already posted a graphic with the Oremus pro Pontifice with the name of the new Pope all nicely included. Must have a little practice so that I can lead the people with this tomorrow morning.

A valiant defender of life and the family

Lifesite News has a post recognising the achievements of Pope Francis as a valiant defender of life and the family. Regarding the proposed legalisation of same-sex marriage in Argentina, he said:
"We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God."
He has also strongly opposed abortion and euthanasia.

Rebuild my Church

Just now it occurred to me that in the chapel of San Damiano, St Francis was told by Our Lord "Francis, Go and rebuild my Church, which you can see has fallen into ruin." He began by physically rebuilding the church but then realised that the call was to rebuild the Church spiritually.

Obviously I am not the only one to think of this, but what a beautiful thought that perhaps Cardinal Bergoglio took the name Francis with this in mind.

Some links for background on Pope Francis

Pope Francis I is from Buenos Aires, Argentina and is the first Jesuit Pope in history. He is 76 and was ordained in 1969. He obtained a doctorate in Germany. As Cardinal he lived in a simple apartment and travelled by public transport. He was Ordinary for the Eastern Rite faithful. Along with his simple and ascetical lifestyle, he has been a vocal opponent of abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage while promoting social justice. (I think the Tablet will have a job deciphering this.) His style has something in common with St Charles Borromeo.

There will be much comment in the next few weeks so I will leave it at that for now and hope to learn much from the Holy Father himself and from others. For the moment leave you with a few links:

Here is the basic Vatican biography

Taylor Marshall has quickly posted Ten Facts about Pope Francis

John Allen in his article (already re-titled) in a wide-ranging series of "men who could be Pope" very much hedged his bets, but there is some interesting information.

An amazingly rapid update of Wikipedia already has a reasonably useful article on Pope Francis I, which will presumably be further updated over the next few days.

More quick links via Big Pulpit.

(The BBC has a mediocre piece of blurb with a picture of him as a Cardinal looking grumpy but I won't link to that.)

Vatican website quick off the mark

It is nice to see that the Vatican website is updated within minutes of the announcement of the new Pope. I'm now going to do the new notice for the sacristy: "Nomen Papae: Franciscum."


Watching the announcement

The Vatican National Anthem is now being played so time to start a new post while waiting for Cardinal Tauran to appear. Some quite good drill on display as well. It is great to be able to follow everything via CTV on the internet with enthusiastic and positive commentary  rather than some useless secular media service. (We could tell the BBC that the Cardinals have now not "failed" to elect a Pope.)

Now well over 100,000 people gathered and the via Conciliazione is filled up...

Lights on in the Hall of Benedictions ...

Cardinal Tauran appears on the balcony...
Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum. Habemus Papam. Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum. Dominum Georgium Marium, Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Bergoglium. Qui sibi nomen imposuit Franciscum.
Viva il Papa! God bless Pope  Francis I.

Here are some more screen grabs from the first address and blessing of Pope Francis:

Nail-biting moments

Thanks be to God in His loving providence I am able to watch CTV and see the crowds in St Peter's Square rejoicing that the white smoke is billowing out of the Sistine Chapel chimney. In Rome, people run to St Peter's Square or drive and then park their cars anywhere to be there. The Square is already full so I expect the Via della Conciliazione will itself get filled.

It will be a nail-biting time for the next 45 minutes or so, but there is a great joy that we do have a Pope, whoever he is. In the meantime, I'll get a couple more screen grabs from CTV.

The delight of a religious sister

Crowds pouring down the Via della Conciliazione towards a packed square

Hey! They got a band!

And they got another one


Children taking part in the Conclave

Home from the Council of Priests meeting and catching up on some email and paperwork, I have CTV switched on, waiting for the smoke. The children of one of my families in the parish have been taking part in the Conclave in their own way, encouraged by their parents. Above you can see the chimney they have made.

Go over to Defende Nos in Proelio and you can see the papal flag prepared in the garden, together with a bell that will be rung to alert the neighbours if there is white smoke.

When Pope John Paul was elected, I was with a good friend in his rooms at Keble College Oxford, listening to Vatican Radio. When the name Carolum was pronounced, he immediately said "Goodness! It's Woytyla!" He was probably one of few in the world who was so well-informed. Nowadays the internet has changed things dramatically. I have printed off the CNS list of Cardinal electors' "first names" in Latin to experience that jittery "is it really him?" moment. (BTW: should not a Catholic News Service speak of "Christian Names"?)

Here is a screen grab from CTV of the enormous crowd gathered in the rain in St Peter's Square waiting for the smoke.

UPDATE 1807 GMT: White smoke!!!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Inside the Domus Sanctae Marthae

Rome 014

How do I have a collection of photos from inside the Domus Sanctae Marthae? you ask. Have the Blackfen papal ninjas organised a black op to get photos for the Hermeneutic of Continuity? The answer is more prosaic, I'm afraid. Back in 2010, for the International Colloquium of the Confraternities of Catholic Clergy I stayed there along with most of the other priests. I thought that I should take some photos of the room I was allocated (one of the better ones as it happens) since they might come in useful one day. Well I suppose today is that day.

Above you can see the house chapel. Here is the study part of my superior room (the Cardinals are allocated the rooms by lot.)

Rome 001

and here is the bedroom part:

Rome 003

There are good, tall, cassock-friendly wardrobes with plenty of space (it has to be assumed that the Cardinals might be staying for a few weeks, even if most recent conclaves have been short)

Rome 002

An interesting point for Americans; here is the small organ in the chapel:

Rome 016

The modest plaque tells that it was donated by the Knights of Columbus:

Rome 015

The Cardinals were due to arrive at 7am today (Cardinal Sodano seems to be a hard taskmaster) and will be settling in. The Domus Sanctae Marthae was described in the past by some breathless reporters as a "Five Star Hotel." Not so much. It is clean, elegant and a pleasant place to stay, but there are no televisions in the rooms, and there is no bar. (There was a sign on the stairs that pointed promisingly to "Bar" but that actually meant a coffee machine and a soft drinks machine.)

With two other small chapels and a well-run refectory serving wholesome local food, there is everything that a priest, or indeed a Cardinal might need for a few days' stay, without any unnecessary luxuries. For me, the most attractive thing about staying there was to be inside the Vatican territory and just behind the sacristy of St Peter's.

Monday, 11 March 2013

A simple Mass everyone can join in with

Here is a link to the booklet for the Mass for the Election of a Pope which will be celebrated by the Cardinals in St Peter's tomorrow morning at 10am Rome time. (9am GMT) It is all very straightforward - the propers are sung in Gregorian chant and Mass VIII (de Angelis) is sung with Credo III.

(The Psalmus Responsorius is sung instead of the Gradual with a slightly jaunty response and the psalm in that universal language of Italian (che?) but the Psalmus Responsorius is an enduring problem for the Novus Ordo so that is a minor quibble.)

The Eucharistic Prayer will be the Roman Canon. During Holy Communion the Adoro te Devote will be sung (in addition to the Communion antiphon, not as a replacement). The choir and people will sing alternate verses: perhaps that means that the choir will sing some polyphony. After the end of Mass, Ave Regina Caelorum.

Seeing this booklet makes me rejoice. Pope Benedict succeeded in reforming the Liturgy of the Papal Masses and this is reflected in the plans for tomorrow's Mass. Nothing special, no gimmicks, no attempt to entertain, just a celebration of Mass that would be recognisable to many people throughout the world. And indeed one in which they could demonstrate partecipazione attiva. Many of the children at Blackfen could join in with everything (except possibly the responsorial psalm); though some of the bright sparks might suggest having Mass IV and Credo VI.

SPUC Youth Conference - book now

There is still just time to book in for the SPUC International Pro-Life Youth Conference 2013 from 22-24 March. This promises to be an enjoyable and informative weekend for young pro-lifers. See John Smeaton's post today: Leading experts will address SPUC's int'l youth conference, 22-24 March. If you are young and free for a weekend, this is a conference not to miss.

Personally, I would be most interested to hear Patrick Pullicino on the Liverpool Care Pathway as this is something that worries me as a parish priest. I won't be able to get to the conference of course as I will be celebrating several hours worth of Palm Sunday Masses, but I look forward to reports.

FSSP Vocations weekend

Fr De Malleray sends news of a Vocations weekend organised by the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter in England. Please remember in your prayers the young men from England who are already considering applying to the seminaries of the Fraternity this year, and the priests who will be participating in the Fraternity's retreat in Bavaria.
Vocation discernment weekend
26-28 April 2013 at St John Fisher House in Reading:
For any English-speaking Catholic men between 18 and 35 years of age (under 18 please contact us).

Starts on Friday 26 April at 6pm – Mass 7.30pm (arrivals from 5pm) – ends on Sunday 28 April at 3pm. Led by Fr Armand de Malleray, FSSP, assisted by Fr Matthew Goddard, FSSP.

Location: St John Fisher House, 17 Eastern Avenue, Reading, RG1 5RU, England. Off-street parking available.

Programme: Spiritual conferences, socials, Holy Mass each of the three days (Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite) including polyphonic Sung Mass on Sunday, silent prayer, and optional private talk with Fr de Malleray, FSSP. Fr de Malleray will explain what a vocation is in general and to the priesthood in particular.

Cost [for the whole weekend, 2 days + 2 nights, including full board accommodation at St John Fisher House]: no set price for students or unwaged – any donation welcome; others: £50 suggested.

Contact: Telephone 0118 966 5284; Email; FSSP England website
We are looking forward to welcoming you here.

Please pray for our 8 seminarians from England.
God bless you!

40 Hours at London Oratory as Conclave begins

Thanks to Divine Providence the Forty Hours arranged by the Oratory Fathers in London coincides with the start of the Conclave. If you are in reach of London, this is a great opportunity for you to pop in to pray for your adopted Cardinal, say the Novena Prayers (you can, of course continue saying them even though the Novena has been completed), say the Rosary or just spend some time in meditation before the Blessed Sacrament (half an hour gains a plenary indulgence.) Here is the notice from the Fathers:
This year the Quarant'Ore devotion takes place over the first days of the Papal Conclave. The Church will therefore be open all night on Tuesday and Wednesday. Please pray to our Eucharistic Lord that he give us a shepherd after His own Most Sacred Heart.

Tuesday 12th March (CHURCH OPEN ALL NIGHT - please enter by side door after midnight)
6.30pm Solemn Mass of Exposition and Procession of the Blessed Sacrament
(Latin - Ordinary Form)
Toccata Quarta (alla Elevatione) Frescobaldi. 
Missa Vinum bonum Lassus.
Panis angelicus Rebelo. Tantum ergo Duruflé. 
Lauda Sion Correa de Arauxo. Pange Lingua Palestrina

Wednesday 13th March (CHURCH OPEN ALL NIGHT - please enter by side door after midnight)
6.30pm Conducted Holy Hour

Thursday 14th March
7.00pm Lauda Sion (Mendelssohn), Solemn Benediction
O salutaris Hostia Fernand Laloux. 
Lauda Sion Mendelssohn.
Tantum ergo à 5 Victoria. 
Prelude: Kyrie, Gott heiliger Geist (671) J.S. Bach.

Low Masses each day as per normal schedule: 7.00am, 8.00am Mass (Latin - 1962 Missal), 10.00am, 12.30pm

If you are intending to come after midnight, please let the Fathers know:

Sunday, 10 March 2013

The joy of a Day With Mary

Yesterday the team from A Day With Mary came to Blackfen. As parish priest, I feel that we are privileged to be able to host one of these days. The mother of one of our young families has posted her own appreciation on A Day With Mary at Blackfen with the photos that I have posted here, and some others.

The day begins with the crowning of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima - or Our Lady of the Rosary as she referred to herself, making me proud to host this event in a parish with that dedication. In the picture to the right, you can see me precariously atop a stepladder placing the crown which was carried by one of our young girls in the parish. There follows an outdoor procession of Our Lady around the streets which are conveniently such that we can say five mysteries of the Rosary along with the Litany of Loreto in the time it takes to go round the block.

Mass follows: the DWM team are happy to have either form of the Roman Rite, according to the direction of the parish priest, so we had the usus antiquior with the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate singing the propers for the Mass of Santa Francesca Romana. That takes us up to lunch. As a priest, I was honoured with the gift of some food which, I think, is mainly Filipino in style - some lovely noodles and chicken with vegetables. In the Hall, there is a large bookstall and another stall with devotional objects. I joked with the bookstall holders that I was looking for a book by Hans Kung. Not available, I'm afraid.

In the afternoon, the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, and there is an outdoor procession of the Blessed Sacrament (our sacristy team has now constructed a proper canopy) there are two sermons, two more sets of five mysteries of the Rosary, and meditations on the Passion before a tea break.

The day then concludes with solemn Benediction, enrolment in the brown scapular and the miraculous medal and the blessing of devotional objects. The finale is the farewell procession with an English translation of the hymn used at Fatima "O Fatima Farewell" with people waving handkerchiefs or tissues. This is a moving devotion in which the hankies sometimes need to be used to wipe the tears away.

If you have the chance to attend A Day With Mary, I do recommend going. Blessed John Henry Newman, in his novel Loss and Gain describes how Charles Reding found the true faith in a humble Passionist Convent. The Day With Mary always reminds me of this passage which is one of my favourites from Newman:
Though Reding had continued standing, no one would have noticed him; but he saw the time was come for him to kneel, and accordingly he moved into a corner seat on the bench nearest him. He had hardly done so, when a procession with lights passed from the sacristy to the altar; something went on which he did not understand, and then suddenly began what, by the Miserere and Ora pro nobis, he perceived to be a litany; a hymn followed. Reding thought he never had been present at worship before, so absorbed was the attention, so intense was the devotion of the congregation. What particularly struck him was, that whereas in the Church of England the clergyman or the organ was everything and the people nothing, except so far as the clerk is their representative, here it was just reversed. The priest hardly spoke, or at least audibly; but the whole congregation was as though one vast instrument or Panharmonicon, moving all together, and what was most remarkable, as if self-moved. They did not seem to require any one to prompt or direct them, though in the Litany the choir took the alternate parts. The words were Latin, but every one seemed to understand them thoroughly, and to be offering up his prayers to the Blessed Trinity, and the Incarnate Saviour, and the great Mother of God, and the glorified Saints, with hearts full in proportion to the energy of the sounds they uttered. There was a little boy near him, and a poor woman, singing at the pitch of their voices. There was no mistaking it; Reding said to himself, "This is a popular religion". He looked round at the building; it was, as we have said, very plain, and bore the marks of being unfinished; but the Living Temple which was manifested in it needed no curious carving or rich marble to complete it, "for the glory of God had enlightened it, and the Lamb was the lamp thereof". "How wonderful," said Charles to himself, "that people call this worship formal and external; it seems to possess all classes, young and old, polished and vulgar, men and women indiscriminately; it is the working of one Spirit in all, making many one."

Manif Pour Tous - a Londres!

The French Association “La Manif Pour Tous” are holding a national demonstration in London against same-sex marriage, and to support traditional marriage between a man and a woman. They say:
Please join us if you share our belief that the ancient institution of marriage and the traditional family should not be sacrificed for the sake of politically-correct fashion.
Meet in
Parliament Square UPDATE: TRAFALGAR SQUARE at 2pm on Sunday 24 March. For more information, see:

Catholic Medical Quarterly February 2013 online

The February 2013 edition of the Catholic Medical Quarterly is now online. This is certainly of interest to any Catholic healthcare professionals but is also of more general interest to Catholics concerned with medical ethics - that's all of us in today's Britain.

By way of example, there is a fine article by Andrew Pollard on The Crisis of Declining Human Fertility which meets head-on the arguments of the population control scaremongers.

The February issue also has an article on the Medicine of the Crucifixion and several other good articles including important advice on some of the things that you might say to a woman considering an abortion.

Asking the protection of Our Lady

When I was at seminary, we used to have sermon practices in which we would give a sermon and than have it dissected by a group of half a dozen or so fellow students and a Prof. Nowadays, we have the opportunity to have our sermons critiqued by thousands. I willingly gave permission to The Day With Mary team to put my sermon from yesterday's Day With Mary at Blackfen onto YouTube. It is a good humiliation to see yourself preaching on video and try to learn from it.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Sistine Chapel prep gang

Rome Reports has been doing some great background videos. They manage to produce excellent short films which I suppose we might call "video-bites." I enjoyed this one of the Sistine Chapel being prepared for the Conclave. There will be a lot of passed-on knowledge among the people doing the nuts and bolts stuff. I can imagine there being a tough old chief ganger who knows the ropes keeping the newer lads in line to get everything exactly as it should be. "Right get that No2 box opened and be careful with it - it's the stove."

It must be great for them to be able to come home and tell their children what they were doing at work today - and in years to come, to tell their grandchildren.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

A word of encouragement for seminarians after the O'Brien scandal

Fr Stephen Langridge, the Vocations Director for the Archdiocese of Southwark, has had to cope with one of the effects of the Cardinal O'Brien scandal in pastoral life, that is, its impact on the morale of those who are considering a priestly vocation.

Young men who are thinking of the priesthood meet up with their friends in secular life and routinely have to face media-driven prejudice. With a story like this, the heat increases and there is sometimes an understandable temptation to despondency. Fr Langridge offers a moving Word of Encouragement as a true pastor:
How would we react if we were to discover that our father was committing adultery? I am sure there would be a range of emotions including anger, confusion and great sadness. But would we blame our mother? No. We would cling to her more closely. We would try to console her by the warmth of our love. We would stick with her. When the Church has been wronged by one of her members it should evoke within us a desire for reparation and a determination to respond with greater fidelity. Our fidelity is shown in little things: in getting up on time, in doing a day's work, in looking after our prayer, in our service of our neighbour, in our determination to turn away from sin.

This isn't a time to get disheartened. It is a time to be more faithful. That is what the Lord is asking of you today. Please be assured that I am praying for you.
Please pray for the young men who are going through the selection process this year, and for their vocations directors.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

An evening at Southwark's Centre for Catholic Formation

Liam Connnolly has organised a Study course on the Catechism of the Catholic Church as part of the Archdiocese of Southwark's provision for the Year of Faith, under the auspices of the Centre for Catholic Formation at Tooting Bec. The course is running over twelve weeks and people can either sign up for the whole lot, or choose to come for the sessions that they want. Completing the whole course and an assignment counts as a module for the Certificate in the Catechism of the Catholic Church awarded by Maryvale.

I was impressed by the number of people who came - I think it was in the region of seventy or so people and apparently most of the participants have signed up to the whole course.

The course covers nn.1-421 of the Catechism. This evening I gave a presentation on nn.268-294 on "The Almighty" and the first part of "Creator". Speakers have been left to approach the material in different ways. I chose not to go through all of the articles in detail since the participants have a course book and I expect that with the commitment they have shown, they will read the text of the Catechism carefully. I opted to focus on the themes of God's plan in creation and the place of Christ, as well as looking at the question of  science and religion, finishing up with the theme of creation giving glory to God and the link with the sacred Liturgy and the thanksgiving of the whole of creation offered through Christ to the Father.

The discussion groups seemed to be lively and purposeful and there were some good, positive and challenging questions at the end before we finished with Compline. It meant a late journey home for me but it was encouraging to work with such a committed gathering from all over the Diocese (and one or two from further away.) Congratulations to the Centre for Catholic Formation for organising such a successful course.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Complaining to the BBC about That Intro

Sometimes people ask for examples of what Catholic bloggers and others have identified as BBC bias against the Catholic Church. You could not wish for a clearer example that the intro to the 0810 interview of Cardinal Murphy O'Connor by John Humphreys yesterday on the Radio 4 Today programme. You can hear it for a few days on the BBC iPlayer. (The segment starts at about 2 hours 10 minutes.) I take the point that Cardinal Murphy O'Connor's performance was not all that we might have hoped for, but Leutgeb at Bara Brith has highlighted in her letter of complaint the relentless negativity that Catholics have to endure from the BBC.

It is also true that some gay people have abused children. (Example.) But elementary logic teaches us that the proposition "some gays are paedophiles" does not imply the proposition "all gays are paedophiles." The BBC would never make that mistake. Would it be too much to ask of the BBC that the same elementary logic be applied to the Catholic priesthood?

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Cardinal Ratzinger was not the "obvious candidate"

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been mildly irritated by the assertion of many journalists, particularly Catholic ones, that at the last conclave Cardinal Ratzinger was the obvious candidate (and that, by contrast, this time there is no such front runner.) This is nonsense. In 2005, people were suggesting all sorts of names but few people seriously thought that Cardinal Ratzinger would be elected. The surprise of his election added to the jubilation of the thousands in St Peter's Square and many more throughout the world.

Therefore I was most interested in this post at Rorate Caeli today and I am entirely in agreement with it - also thankful that they have put on record one or two telling pieces of supporting evidence. Pope Benedict's election roughly coincided with the growth of the Catholic blogosphere. In days gone by, it would have been possible for journalists to get away with a hindsight-coloured picture of events. That is more difficult today.

It is consoling to think that the Conclave which elected Cardinal Ratzinger was somewhat weaker in terms of traditional sympathies, than the one which will shortly go to the Sistine Chapel. Still, we need to get down on our knees and pray humbly and in tears for God's mercy.
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