Monday, 30 June 2014

Deserved recognition for Kevin Knight, founder of New Advent

Kevin Knight founded New Advent nearly 20 years ago, and keeps it going today. The site itself is a one-stop shop (where everything is free) for the Catholic Encyclopaedia, a Greek-English-Latin parallel-column bible, the texts of the Fathers of the Church, and the Summa.

I was in South Thamesmead when the project to transcribe the 1913 Catholic Encyclopaedia was mooted back in 1994. It was one of the earliest examples of crowd-sourcing, using the enthusiasm of volunteers, backed by solid organising ability, to accomplish this seemingly impossible task in what was an amazingly short time for those days. The ability to see the potential of crowd-sourcing, and the importance of making information available free, was at the heart of the success of New Advent, and Kevin Knight deserves the highest acclaim for seeing that so clearly when the internet was still only beginning to become popular.

Kathy Schiffer has interviewed The Man Behind America's Largest Catholic Super-Site with reference to New Advent being ranked number one in the ChurchRelevance list of the Top 300 Christian Blogs for Ministry. Kathy also has a background piece on the interview: My Interview With Kevin Knight, Humble King of the Catholic Blogosphere.

I still regularly use the reference materials on New Advent. The relatively recent addition of the polyglot bible is particularly useful, but like most people, I often look up material in the Catholic Encyclopaedia. However the site has also developed what is probably the best daily RSS feed of stories and I look at that most days through Feedly. It is particularly helpful in that it picks up on articles that are not simply a re-hash of what everyone else is writing about, but provide an original insight or a different angle. There are also one or two wider interest pieces included each day such as one I read earlier: This Brave Man Dives Into The World’s Biggest Waves. What He Captures On Camera Is Spectacular!

Congratulations to Kevin Knight. May God continue to bless us through his solid and persevering labour in the vineyard of the Lord.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Evenings of Faith in July

Evenings of Faith are organised by the Faith Movement to address important themes in theology for lay people. People of all ages are welcome to the two talks below:
Wednesday 2nd July, 7.30pm
The Human Person: Made for the Grace of God
Gregory Farrelly

Wednesday 16th July, 7.30pm
St John Paul II: Developing our Vision of the Human Person
Joanna Bogle
The meetings are held in the parish rooms below the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory, Warwick Street, W1 by kind permission of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Access is via the basement steps outside 24 Golden Square (a short walk from Piccadilly Circus.)

Saturday, 28 June 2014

The Sacred Heart and the purifying of our emotions

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is founded on orthodox Christology hammered out in the first centuries of the Church. Our Lord's human nature and His divine nature are united in one person - this is called in theology the hypostatic union. Following on from this doctrine, anything we predicate of Christ, either according to his human nature or his divine nature, is predicated of the one person Jesus Christ the Word made flesh. (What theologians call the "communication of idioms") So we can say that God the second person of the Blessed Trinity, was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered, and was sometimes hungry; we can also say that the man Jesus was omnipotent, all-knowing, and infinitely loving.

In the devotion to the Sacred Heart, we think especially of the human love of God made man. We can also speak of His emotions of joy and of sorrow that flow from that love. Our Lord was joyful when people responded to Him in faith, and He was sorrowful when people sinned.

Since He is truly God made man, the human nature of Christ is perfect. One of the most damaging errors of the "New Catechetics" which spread like wildfire in the late 60s and early 70s, and still influences teachers today at all levels of education, is that of making Our Lord "just like us" in the sense of attributing to Him all the moral weaknesses that flow from the concupiscence of our fallen human nature, and from our past personal sins and habits of sin. So Jesus is presented as wavering between the choice of good and evil or tempted to give up, as though He were unsure whether or not to follow His conscience.

When we are convinced of the faith of the Church concerning Our Lord's human nature, it is actually much more helpful than making Him "just like us" in an effort to soothe our guilt. Today, the emotions of joy and sorrow are much damaged, especially in matters of the heart. Because of original sin, we are tempted to find joy in disordered and sinful sexual pleasure, and tempted to sorrow because our own wilful inclinations have been frustrated. Each of us could think of other examples in our examination of conscience: our emotions are often unruly, contrary to what is good and true, and a drag against supernatural virtue.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart, among many other blessings, teaches us to tame our emotions, to recover from them when they lead us astray, to repent of our indulgence of them, and to work to align them to the perfect example of Christ who was never angry except when entirely justified, never joyful except in the good, never sorrowful except when faced with evil.

One prayer that should not be forgotten is this rhyme I learnt as a child:
O Sacred Heart of Jesus I implore
O make me love Thee daily more and more.
Or if you like French, here is a delightful couplet from St Margaret Mary Alacoque:
Je possède en tout temps et je porte en tout lieu,
et le Dieu de mon cœur, et le cœur de mon Dieu.

Retrouvaille weekend: for those experiencing difficulties in their marriage

I am happy to pass on this information from Retrouvaille, a service to the church through a programme designed to help couples whose marriages are experiencing difficulties.
Stress in Your Marriage? – Retrouvaille is a program for married couples that feel bored, disillusioned, frustrated, or angry in their marriage. Some experience coldness. Others experience conflict in their relationship. Most don’t know how to change the situation or even communicate with their spouse about it. This programme has helped 6,000 couples who were experiencing difficulties in their marriage in the past year.

For confidential information about or to register for the programme commencing with a residential weekend on 19th -21st Sept 2014, the email ; call or text 0797 338 0443 or visit

Monday, 23 June 2014

CD 282: Self-imposed obligations

I promised to abstain from meat on Wednesdays as well as Fridays. Is it a sin if I fail in this?

In the normal course of our spiritual life, we must keep the obligations that the Church imposes on us: these are summed up in the precepts of the Church which you will find in the Catechism. (2041-2043) There several things to beware of in any self-imposed obligation. If we choose to bind ourselves to further obligations, they should be considered carefully with the advice of a good confessor or spiritual director. We can choose to make private vows but it is wise not to take such a step lightly. We are weak and fall into sin often enough without creating further sins for ourselves by creating an obligation in which we are likely to fail. Private vows are more appropriately reserved for a major change in our lives in which we undertake to serve God in a particular way.

With a resolution to do a particular penance it is usually best to include it more generally within the context of the spiritual life without taking a vow which would bind under pain of sin. The second commandment forbids us to take the name of God in vain and this would include making any rash promises or vows. We must also be aware of the temptation of pride which will subtly convince us that we are heroes when we need to progress further in the virtues, in our commitment to prayer, and in our life of daily charity.

Having given that caution, I would encourage you to make penance a part of your spiritual life; abstinence on Wednesdays as well as Fridays would be a reasonable and moderate form of penance, best undertaken as a small “gift” to Our Lord in reparation for past sins and in humble pleading for His grace. In addition to any positive penance that we undertake, we should be ready always to accept the penances that come our way in the inconveniences of everyday life. Offering these up in union with Our Lord’s passion is always a powerful means of sanctification.

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

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Celebrating Corpus Christi

2014-06-19 21.06.48

Someone who is very familiar with the traditional Roman rite can tell from a photo exactly what point of the Mass the priest has reached. The above photo is unusual in that the celebrant is at the Gospel side of the altar but facing partially towards the centre. This is the Last Gospel at a Mass where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed.

In fact it is the end of our Corpus Christi Mass last Thursday, to the Blessed Sacrament is exposed only after Holy Communion, in preparation for the Blessed Sacrament procession which is concluded by Benediction. The Mass at the end of the Forty Hours is celebrated entirely coram sanctissimo and so the priest has to adjust various movements so that he never has his back to the Blessed Sacrament. I am always reminded of the scene in "Gladiator" where the gladiators are told to face the emperor "AND DON'T TURN YOUR BACK ON HIM". Our Lord is the King of Kings and infinitely more worthy of respect than an emperor.

So at the "Et verbum caro factum est" the celebrant genuflects towards the Blessed Sacrament, not towards the altar card as he usually does:

2014-06-19 21.07.20

The Missal for the modern rite does in fact say that it is desirable to have a Blessed Sacrament procession after Mass on the feast of Corpus Christi. Many good and orthodox priests who only know the modern rite have restored the procession in recent years. The growing popularity of the usus antiquior where the presumption is that there will be a procession, has helped this process of restoration.

Of course, we get to celebrate twice over in Blackfen, because the feast is celebrated in the modern rite on the Sunday. A lot of the nonsense involved in the unpopular Holyday transfers would be overcome if the Octaves were restored, or even if they were explicitly spoken of as an option. Then you could celebrate the feasts on the proper day and celebrate them on the Sunday as part of the Octave.

Here is a photo from the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament after Mass last Thursday:

2014-06-19 21.14.43

And here we are back in the Church for Benediction, the photo taken at the words "veneremur cernui":

2014-06-19 21.23.20

Photo credits: Mulier Fortis

Corpus Christi by Bishop Athanasius Schneider

A powerful appeal for the restoration of kneeling to receive Holy Communion on the tongue is put forward in Bishop Athanasius Schneider's new book "Corpus Christi. Holy Communion and the Renewal of the Church." As with his previous book Dominus Est: It is the Lord!, Bishop Schneider combines edifying stories of love for the Blessed Sacrament with patristic sources and sound theological teaching.

External reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, especially at the time of receiving Holy Communion, is a powerful means of increasing interior devotion. This is only to be expected since as human persons, body and soul, God has provided for our worship of Him to be incarnated in the signs and symbols of the sacred Liturgy.

The book is listed on the UK Amazon: Corpus Christi: Holy Communion and the Renewal of the Church and is available from Gracewing.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Faith Movement "Come and See" video

A short introductory video presenting the Faith Movement, featuring a kindly endorsement from Bishop Mark Davies.

See the website for more information about the Faith Movement, and for details and a booking form for the Faith Summer Session at Woldingham from 4-8 August 2014.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

New website for the Faith Movement

Do visit the new website of the Faith Movement. Along with a lot of other useful content, videos, and information, the Movement's flagship Faith Magazine is available to read online or downoad as a pdf. If you get the Android App called Issuu, you can read the magazine on your android phone or tablet (and indeed you can subscribe and get a paper copy by post.)

The current issue is a special one for the Synod of the Bishops on the Family with an excellent editorial article responding to Cardinal Kasper, and a reflection by Archbishop Samuel J Aquila of Denver: "Faithful Heralds of the Joy of the Gospel of Marriage."

The site also has light-hearted elements, with a cat picture on the Blog page, and this one of Fr Hugh MacKenzie on the Contact page.

Congratulations to the team which has put many hours of labour into getting this all together. The Faith Movement has a great deal to offer, especially in terms of responding to modern atheism and secularism with intelligent orthodox Catholicism, and deserves to be much better known. The new website will help a lot.

Monday, 16 June 2014

A political photo

2014-06-14 14.12.53

I've been following these politician johnnies and I think I've got the gist. Thing is, they have a photo reading the paper, or having a sandwich or having a pint. Why not combine all three? Obviously I can't be pictured with the Sun newspaper, so used The Remnant instead. Unfortunately you are not allowed to smoke in pubs nowadays, otherwise I'd have lit up a small cigar.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

A lego Church that is better than quite a lot of real ones


On Saturday I was delighted to see this amazing lego Church put together by some children (OK, I think Dad helped a bit.) They are joined by children from another family who, I think, might pick up on the idea. It struck me that families like this should be employed in preference to the experts who have designed some of the more egregious "worship spaces" the People of God have had to endure over the past few decades.

Here is a view from the nave:


A close-up of the High Altar. Obviously there is a mixture of elements here, but the collection shows that there is scope for composing models of any of the services described in Fortescue.


In one of the side chapels, there is exposition. This is "proof of concept" rather than a suggestion that you would have exposition at a side chapel while there was a function going on at the High Altar.


The Baptistry:


A confessional which would meet the sensible legislation of St Charles Borromeo, complete with confessor and penitent:


My friends, when there are children like this, we have hope for the future.

Friday, 13 June 2014

A day out to Margate


Yesterday, blessed as it was with glorious sunshine, could hardly have been a better day to make a visit to Margate. The train journey from Ebbsfleet is only an hour and ten minutes, thanks to the high speed track as far as Ashford.

As you can imagine, priests changing parishes have a multitude of things to talk about. There are important strategic things like evangelisation, the make-up of the congregation, the school, the hospital and the finances. Then there are the more personal matters which anyone would need to know about when moving from one place to another - it occurred to me the other day that I'm going to miss my excellent dentist at Blackfen! Obviously the conversation is confidential, but suffice it to say that I was greatly cheered by my visit.

You can see the sanctuary of St Austin and St Gregory's above. (The stained glass in the east window was donated by the singer John McCormack.) Here is a view towards the rear of the Church:


On the south side, the niche contains this altar to St Joseph:


One of the highlights of the Church is the Lady chapel:


Here is a photo of the floor tiles:


On such a beautiful day, it would have been a pity not to take a walk down to the seaside, so on the way back to the Station, I made my way through the old town, past the Turner Contemporary gallery and along the Harbour Arm.


Tuesday, 10 June 2014

CD 281: Missing Mass and mortal sin

Is it a mortal sin to miss Mass on a Sunday without a good reason, simply because you don't bother, or is it a matter of individual conscience?

Since questions about mortal sin frequently frighten people or give rise to complaints about the dark old days and fear of hell, let us first be clear that a mortal sin is only committed when the matter is serious in itself, when the person has full knowledge that it is seriously sinful, and when full consent of the will is given to the action. Some people take this to mean that hardly anyone ever commits a mortal sin, but the Church's practice suggests a more robust view of our human nature and our ability to commit sin.

If we commit a mortal sin, we may not receive Holy Communion until we have made a sacramental confession. This does not mean that we are condemned to hell until we have been to confession. An act of contrition, made out of the love of God will restore us to grace there and then, as indeed the "penny catechism" teaches, if we also have the intention of receiving the sacrament of penance in due course.

The answer to your question is that the Church teaches that missing Mass on days of precept through our own fault is grievous matter. If we know this and there is no excusing cause then we have committed a mortal sin. Our conscience is not a matter of deciding for ourselves what is right or wrong; our conscience speaks within us to warn us away from sin and to prompt us to good. It is our duty to inform our conscience according to the teaching of the Church so that it points us towards the truth. Our properly informed conscience should ideally help us not simply to avoid sin and do the minimum, but to act in the way most pleasing to God, especially in valuing the privilege of participating in the most holy Eucharist in which Christ's redeeming sacrifice on the cross is offered for us.

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

Evangelium Conference 2014

The Evangelium Conference for young Catholics has become a major summer event for intelligent, orthodox, upbeat and positive Catholic formation in the faith, together with daily Mass and adoration, and a variety of social events.

The Conference is open to Catholics aged 18-35 and takes place at the Oratory School in Reading from Friday 1 August to Sunday 3 August.

You can find further information at the Evangelium website: a summary of the Conference, a list of speakers booked so far (including Bishop Philip Egan) registration forms, and online payment facility.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Cardinal Piacenza writes again

I was disappointed when Cardinal Piacenza was moved from being Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy to be the Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary. I entirely accept the necessity of the work of Vatican officials and I do not envy them their task, but their important ministry does not usually affect me personally. In the case of Cardinal Piacenza, I used to look forward to receiving emails of his letters to clergy especially on the eve of great feasts. They offered solid, spiritually challenging, down-to-earth reflections for those of us at the coal face, and often helped with preparing sermons. I felt that he was not simply supervising clergy but actually speaking as one of us, with the genuine pastoral care that should be a mark of high office.

So I was delighted to find today that he has sent a letter to priests in his new capacity as Major Penitentiary. It is in his familiar fatherly style, starting off with the image of us gathered in the Cenacle with Mary, and speaking to us as brothers. He reflects on our ministry as confessors and comes up with a profound expression when he speaks of sacramental pardon as a "Pentecost for the soul." You can read the whole text at Zenit.

Dear Cardinal Piacenza, your letters are a great encouragement for us priests. We would love to continue hearing from you. May the Lord bless your priestly service at the heart of the Church.

Photo Credit: Irish College, Rome

The modern Sign of Peace is a distortion

At Rorate Caeli, Joe Shaw has published the latest in the series of papers for Una Voce: FIUV Position Paper: the Kiss of Peace. He has followed up with some additional comments at his own LMS Chairman blog. Both articles focus on the Kiss of Peace in the old rite, but obviously the discussion has implications for the usual practice in the modern rite.

A key point concerns the significance of kissing the altar. Many liturgists insist that in the Church the altar is the principal symbol of Christ. (The Blessed Sacrament is not a symbol of Christ but his body and blood, soul and divinity, ontologically present.) So when the celebrant kisses the altar and then turns to greet the people with Dominus vobiscum, he is not passing on his own greeting but that of Christ, in whose person he is acting when celebrating the Eucharist. In the modern rite, the priest is not directed to kiss the altar before turning to the people (if indeed he is celebrating ad orientem) and in some cases the link with Christ is completely obscured by the priest saying "Good morning everyone" or some equivalent banality.

At the Kiss of Peace in the usus antiquior, the celebrant and deacon first kiss the altar: the pax is then given in turn by the celebrant to the Deacon, by the Deacon to the Subdeacon, and by the Subdeacon to the clergy in choir. As a devotee of St Alphonsus, I was pleased to see him quoted as follows:
Before giving the peace, the priest kisses the Altar to show that he cannot give peace unless he has first received it from Jesus Christ, who is represented by the Altar.
The Sign of Peace as it is usually given in the modern rite, is problematic in various ways. At a formal level, one could point to the loss of the "chain" from Christ to the celebrant and then to others - the altar is not kissed, and the celebrant often wanders about the sanctuary shaking hands, or occasionally observing the traditional way of giving the pax.

This serves to obscure the link with Christ and with Holy Communion, so that the proposal is made, for practical reasons, to lose the link all together and put the Sign of Peace back to before the Offertory, perhaps on the basis of a superficial link in the scriptures or because of a selective archaeologism in favour of the Gallican rites which placed the Pax at that point.

In practice the much more destructive aspect of the modern practice of the Sign of Peace is that it has become simply a social greeting at which people smile, shake hands, wave, wander over to people who are deprived of a handshake, chat about the arthritis, the weather, or the new nephew, and generally interrupt the sacred ritual of preparing for Holy Communion for a while until the celebrant calls a halt by tactfully but authoritatively calling "LAAAAMB of God ..." into his throat microphone.

I honestly don't think that the Sign of Peace can be rescued in the modern rite, and the absence of its use among the laity in recent centuries is well-explained in the FIUV paper (as is the use in some places of the paxbrede.) Significantly, if it is omitted, any objections (and they are not in fact that common) tend to be on the grounds of the desire for a social and charitable greeting opportunity, rather than as a desire to prepare for Holy Communion, based on a sacred bond with Christ handed on through the priest or Bishop celebrating the Mass.

The best replacement for the modern distortion of the Pax would be to have tea and coffee after Mass, or some other opportunity for people to get together and chat (after making their thanksgiving.)

Thursday, 5 June 2014

TLM in Denmark and a distraction about "Canute"

Rorate Caeli reports on the Society of Saint Canute which promotes the Traditional Mass in Denmark. This is good news, but I thought I would hijack it to make another point in view of the almost inevitable reaction of some people in England to a traditionalist society with the name "Canute" in it.

Ho ho ho, they would say, King Canute thought he could halt the waves, but he couldn't, and was humiliated by getting his clothes wet. Well first of all, that is the wrong Canute. The traditionalist society is named after the Saint, Canute IV of Denmark (born about 1042.) The story about the waves is told of King Canute the Great who died in 1035.

More importantly, the story is often misunderstood, as though the silly King Canute thought he could stop the waves by his kingly power. This provides an easy jibe against traditionalists who, the liberals might say, are trying to stop the relentless march of modern liturgy.

Actually, the story in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle is to the credit of King Canute who used the inexorable power of the sea to proclaim that the power of kings is empty and worthless because nobody is worthy of the name of King except God "whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws." So perhaps it is rather the unstoppable tide of traditional liturgy that is willed by God, that earthly power tries, but fails, to halt.

As I said, this does hijack the original story about the Society of Saint Canute and it is about another Canute in any case, so let me say how delightful it is to hear that the traditional Roman rite is being fostered in Denmark.

New film about Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

A new film about Blessed Teresa of Calcutta is soon to be launched (see trailer above), exploring her life through the letters that she wrote to her spiritual director, Father Celeste van Exem. The director and writer is William Riead and the film stars Juliet Stevenson, Rutger Hauer, Max von Sydow. (Information from IMDb H/T @LukeCoppen)

The film will be launched on 5 September (Blessed Teresa's feast day) in the United States. Then, if the usual process happens, I suppose we will have to wait a few months to send for a US format DVD because nobody in England will show the film or offer it on DVD. I hope that this doesn't happen.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Headed for Margate in September

Archbishop Smith has asked me to become the parish priest of St Austin and St Gregory with St Anne, in Margate. Fr Steven Fisher will become the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen. The moves will happen in the first week of September.

As I have been seventeen years in Blackfen, this will be a major change in my life. When a priest moves, it is more than simply a change of "job", it is also a change of house, and more importantly, a change in the network of parishioners, colleagues, friends, local people you meet in the street, and generally many of the relationships that a parish priest grows into.

At the same time, there is the prospect of a new adventure. A beautiful Church, a seaside town, the challenge of ministering to people on holiday, a well-established and thriving parish, all make for something of a buzz as I begin to take it all in. So it will be sad to say goodbye to so many lovely people for whom I have been their priest for a significant time, but also exciting to "reboot" my priestly ministry so to speak.

To be honest, I never thought of asking to move from Blackfen. I made a promise of obedience to my Ordinary when I was ordained; without wanting to be flippant, this does not impinge on one's life ordinarily in day to day priestly work, but it sure does when you are asked to move. I have always taken the view that if you take the opportunity to exercise obedience in such a significant matter, then God will look after things in ways that are not necessarily obvious in human terms.

Do say a prayer for the parishioners of Blackfen and Margate, and spare one for me over the next three months.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Roman Forum - places still available

There are still a few places left for the Roman Forum Summer Symposium which I mentioned in March. Here is a re-post of the information and links:

Ten days by Lake Garda, stimulating lectures from orthodox scholars, sung Mass according to the usus antiquior every day - the annual Symposium of The Roman Forum is a treat that one year I will take advantage of. This year it is from June 30 to July 11 with the theme 1914-2014: Have We Learned Anything From This ‘Hundred Years’ War’?

The Roman Forum website carries full information, including the news that the team this year includes Fr John Hunwicke of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, whose erudite blog Fr Hunwicke's Mutual Enrichment deserves attentive reading.
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