Wednesday, 30 December 2009

New blog: Libera Me

Dominic Mary recently started the blog Libera Me which is well worth putting on your blogroll, aggregator, or reader. The author is a convert who says in his profile:
The day I was received, a friend gave me a card which said 'Welcome Home' ! Never was a truer word spoken.

New altar rails for Christmas

Fr Gregory Charnock of St Bartholomew Parish, Lambert's Bay, South Africa, writes to tell of a Christmas present for his Parish Church.
Dave and Leslie Bashkier, with their son Paul, kindly donated, and travelled up from Cape Town specially (3 hours) on 21 December to install new permanent altar rails, to replace the temporary ones that had been in use since Summorum Pontificum.

After the installation, there were confessions, Rosary and Holy Mass. Following that, there was a traditional West Coast snoek (i.e. fish) and the blessing of the benefactors' car. They are pictured here with sacristans and Parishioners:

The altar rails were blessed the following day with some new vestments Father was given for the Christmas season.

(I feel rather envious seeing them all in summer clothes in the bright sunshine of the southern hemisphere just before Christmas.)

Symposium of The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum, whose Director is Dr John Rao, is a renowned Catholic historian. I have listened with profit to several of his lectures while driving round the M25 to Wonersh or Parkminster. The website informs us that
[The Roman Forum] was founded in 1968 in the wake of Humanae vitae by the great philosopher, Professor Dietrich von Hildebrand (1889-1977), whom Pope Pius XII called “the twentieth century Doctor of the Church”.
It is dedicated to a systematic teaching of the True, the Good and the Beautiful and promotes the revival of Christian culture, defending "the one force that can pull all of the aspects of nature and the supernatural together", namely Catholicism.

This July The Roman Forum is holding a Symposium in Italy (on the Gardone Riviera) on the subject "The Politics of Faith and Reason? Or the Triumph of the Will?". HLI, the Remnant, Inside the Vatican and the FSSP are all represented. There is sung Mass every day in the usus antiquior.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Blackfen minor basilica update

The idea of building a minor basilica in Blackfen is catching on. One family spent part of Christmas Day constructing a scale model for the gothic option:

I was informed that the material for the walls was "structural gingerbread". Amazingly, the stained glass windows are not made of cellophane (or any modern equivalent) but of melted boiled sweets stretched into a plane. The photograph is important since, as you can imagine, the model has now been eaten. (More detailed photos at Mulier Fortis.)

Another suggestion by way of the combox, was an ingenious idea for evading planning permission. It would be a relatively minor problem to inform the Civil Aviation Authority of the Mass schedule:

One wag suggested that it would be ideal for "High Mass".

Christmas Octave with families

Christmas Day itself I spent with my sister Mary's family - always a great day. After lunch I did actually watch television for a short while. It was an episode of "Shrek" in which the homonymous protagonist has lots of people round to his house, throws them all out, repents, searches for the "true meaning of Christmas", finds it is "everybody coming together", and then invites everybody back again. It was a truly remarkable feat in that as far as I could tell (I was not awake for the whole time, you understand) the entire programme managed to skirt around Christmas without a single reference to the nativity of Jesus Christ.

Later, we played "Scattegories" and "Balderdash": much more fun. The Wiki article says:
An oft used strategy in balderdash is to elect your own fake definition in an attempt to give it credibility in the minds of your fellow players. This is referred to as a "downstream balder". You do not score a point for guessing your own fake definition, only for other people who guess yours as being right.
I managed that a couple of times and I shall in future refer to it knowingly as a "downstream balder."

I was invited to a family on St Stephen's Day but the end of evening Mass, my cold had rather worn me down and I rang to give my apologies - most regretfully too, I might add, although I really did need an early night.

On Sunday, the feast of The Holy Family (OF)/St John (EF), I made up for my previous lethargy by visiting two families. The lunch table at one was dominated by a Christmas pumpkin:

The evening's entertainment gave me an opportunity to have a go on the "Wii". I wasn't much good at lightsabre fighting but managed to win a couple of consolation rounds against my eight year old oppenent. Archery, which involved less waving the arms around and more concentration was a little better until it proved necessary to compensate for wind speed and distance.

After bashing lots of things and people in virtual reality, I think that there was plenty of pent-up energy among the children to hit a real object with a large stick, so the Pinata came out:

On the feast of the Holy Innocents, it was my turn to entertain. Twenty or so members of my own family, including a great niece and nephew, came over to Blackfen. The Small Hall has a connecting door to the front room so it is a good place for children to play with radio controlled cars, throw felt balls at people with velcro covered hats on, and that sort of thing. My brother-in-law spent a considerable amount of energy convincing me of the value of the music of Messaien and I feel slightly less at a disadvantage in that respect now.

Today on the feast of St Thomas of Canterbury, I celebrated Mass for the parish altar servers at which four of them were enrolled into the Guild of St Stephen. We had a little party afterwards with tea, coffee, cakes and squash. There was even a glass of sherry available but few takers this far into the Octave.

All of this has left me confirmed in the truth that the vocation of the celibate priest and the vocation of the married couple are complementary and mutually enriching. As the great Abbé Lacordaire said of the priest, he is "a member of each family, yet belonging to none."

Sentenza N. 311

Here's a nugget I noted before Christmas but did not get round to posting. I think it is worth bringing to your attention. You will remember back in November that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) upheld a complaint by Soile Lautsi, a Finnish woman with Italian citizenship, that her children had to attend a state school that displayed a crucifix in each classroom. She got an order for 5000 euro compensation to be paid by the Italian Government.

It seems that this has concentrated the minds of the Italian Constitutional Court which has issued Sentenza N.311 which states that where rulings by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) conflict with provisions of the Italian Constitution, such decrees “lack legitimacy”.

See: Gerard Warner Who'd ha thunk it? Italian Constitutional Court tells ECHR to take a hike, asserts national sovereignty

Saturday, 26 December 2009

The first priority

Other bloggers have picked up on this extract from Pope Benedict's sermon at the Christmas Mass:
For most people, the things of God are not given priority, they do not impose themselves on us directly And so the great majority of us tend to postpone them. First we do what seems urgent here and now. In the list of priorities God is often more or less at the end. We can always deal with that later, we tend to think. The Gospel tells us: God is the highest priority. If anything in our life deserves haste without delay, then, it is God's work alone. The Rule of Saint Benedict contains this teaching: "Place nothing at all before the work of God (i.e. the divine office)". For monks, the Liturgy is the first priority. Everything else comes later. In its essence, though, this saying applies to everyone. God is important, by far the most important thing in our lives. The shepherds teach us this priority. From them we should learn not to be crushed by all the pressing matters in our daily lives. From them we should learn the inner freedom to put other tasks in second place however important they may be so as to make our way towards God
Some years ago, I was responsible for the theological formation of permanent deacons. At a planning meeting, an eminent ecclesiastic said that he was concerned that some might be too fond of prancing round in liturgical finery and not devoted enough to works of charity. My response - and I still maintain this - is that all of the permanent deacons that I know give sterling service in pastoral charity but the one area in which some need a little extra help and formation is in the Sacred Liturgy which they might, in genuine humility, shy away from.

We need to get away from the false dichotomy that sets Liturgy against pastoral work and charity. Didn't Vatican II say that the Eucharistic Sacrifice is the source and summit of the activity of the Church? (Sacrosanctum Concilium n.10)

Friday, 25 December 2009

Happy Christmas

I wish all of you, dear readers, a happy and blessed Christmas. May the infant Jesus bless you and your families and loved ones.

Getting through the three Masses has been something of a battle since I have a heavy cold, but through the fog of snuffles, spluttering, and coughing, I have enjoyed the beautiful texts that the Church proposes for our meditation in the Sacred Liturgy, and our magnificent repertoire of English Christmas carols. We have been blessed with some wonderful music from the parish choir at Midnight Mass, and a scratch choir for the 9am Mass which harmonised the carols and sang Stille Nacht in German.

I'm now off to visit my sister Mary and her family in Croydon for lunch, good conversation, exchanges of gifts, and some uproarious parlour games.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Those outrageous maniples

Recently there was an article at Zenit by Fr Mauro Gagliardi, a consultor of the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, called Liturgical Vestments and the Vesting Prayers. The article is a fine exposition of the vesting prayers that may be said by the priest before Mass. As many bloggers picked up, Fr Gagliardi affirmed that although the maniple fell into disuse, it was never abrogated.

At the NLM, Matthew Alderman introduces a piece about this by saying:
Perhaps as news this is a bit of a stretch, but a few years ago the idea that the manipulum fletus et doloris would be discussed in a remotely mainstream venue, at least complimentarily, would have seemed both outrageous and unthinkable.
This reminds me of a few years ago when I served for a short time as a delegate for the National Conference of Priests (NCP). At a lunch after a Mass in the old rite (all a bit clandestine in those pre-Summorum Pontificum days) I asked the clergy whether they felt there was anything that I should "bring" to the NCP. Fr Martin Edwards suggested, tongue-in-cheek, that I should propose the resolution:
"Conference asserts that the maniple was never prohibited but was merely made no longer compulsory."
I'm afraid that I never did introduce this; it would indeed have been considered "outrageous and unthinkable" alongside such resolutions as:
"Conference affirms that the Eucharist has been sacrificed on the altar of celibacy."
A while later I mentioned the suggestion of Fr Edwards to the late Bishop Henderson when he was visiting my parish. I expected him to laugh but instead, he looked earnestly at me and said "Well he's right, you know."

It seems they were indeed both right. (I have used the maniple at Novus Ordo Masses for some time now.)

St Meinrad shows the way forward for music publishing

Photo by Chris Light

Jeffrey Tucker, Sacred Music correspondent for the New Liturgical Movement, is understandably thrilled to see that the Archabbey of St Meinrad in Indiana is making its music available in pdf form free of charge on the internet with an explicit Creative Commons licence.

If you wish to buy a printed copy of one of the books, you can do so. St Meinrad have chosen to publish their books via Lulu. There you can see that some works are still only available as e-books (with a small charge) but the monks are committed to making them all available for free download in due course as and when they are able to prepare them.

The music that St Meinrad is offering is properly liturgical music - Gregorian chant - adapted for the English texts. I know that some musicians would argue that Gregorian chant is not suited for the English language and that other styles of sacred music might be better - or some other way of adapting Gregorian chant, or something. I'm not qualified to comment on this but I do think that it is important that a change is made in the way that music is available for sacred worship, and therefore I share Jeffery's enthusiasm for this development at St Meinrad.

If the music is available under a creative commons licence, no choir master needs to worry about the morality of printing of and photocopying music for their choir or for the congregation. (The problem is exacerbated by the practice of some publishers who inclusivise old hymns and then slap a copyright notice on the new and inferior version.) In terms of a "business model" my strong suspicion is that this freedom will also lead to higher sales for the printed books. If you are running a choir and have to get printed books for each choir member, you can soon run into the end of your budget and so will be reluctant to use newly composed music. If you are free to print and copy the music, you might well buy a couple of copies for the choir master and organist.

The use of Lulu publishing is an interesting move, too. Lulu is essentially a "print on demand" service and is well suited to books that are not going to need a very large print run. You can simply publish a book without being tied in to a contract with a publisher or a limited run of copies. If the book would benefit from being more widely available, Lulu offers various services such as marketing via Amazon if you want.

For traditional chant in Latin, the Church Music Association of America (Musica Sacra) been a pioneer in the field. Scroll down the sidebar for "Chant Resources" and you will find many pdfs that have been painstakingly prepared and cleaned up from old books. Again, you can purchase printed copies from the Lulu store of CMAA and they have an Amazon shop as well.

I have heard of other projects in preparation using this same combination of Creative Commons downloads and Lulu printed books. Doubtless, the technology will develop and I should imagine that particularly the price of books printed on demand will remain competitive as other firms come into the field.

A new Year's resolution of my own is to get a few things available on Lulu ...

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Christmas Decoration Slackers

H/T to Patrick Madrid - as he says, there's one in every neighbourhood.

Mass for David & Dora Foster RIP

Dominic Sullivan sends the following notice:

Holy Mass will offered by Fr Nicholas Schofield for the repose of the souls of David and Dora Foster at 1245 on Tuesday 29th December in the Little Oratory. David Foster was the founder of the International Summer School for Young Catholics (now renamed Christ the King Summer School). The 29th December is the first anniversary of his death. The Mass of the feast of St Thomas à Becket will be said in the Extraordinary Form.

Co-adjutor for Shrewsbury

Mgr Mark Davies, Vicar-General of the Diocese of Salford, has been appointed Coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Shrewsbury. (This means that he succeeds as Bishop of Shrewsbury when the present Bishop, Brian Noble, resigns.)

The CBCEW website has a short biography and an interview with Bishop-Elect Davies.

A wedding in the snow

Congratulations to Paul Fox and Katie Stone who were married today at Our Lady of the Rosary.

Although it snowed again yesterday afternoon, and the ground today was not best suited to the train of a wedding dress, Katie's bridesmaid, Alice managed very well. Fortunately, the sun was out and so the light was good for photographs. The professional photographer may send me one or two of his shots in return for a link here.

I did like the gleaming white Roller - luvverly motor!

(Finesse Wedding cars, a one-man firm based in Bexleyheath 020 8301 1480 - 07956 505 807)

Worth a thousand words?

One website offering the e-book of Cornwell's "Hitler's Pope" carries this picture:The English edition of the book has this rather clearer version which demonstrates how the above one has been altered. At least this one shows that the chap wearing the peaked cap is obviously the driver; nevertheless, the juxtaposition of the title is says it all. Originally, the picture was referred to on the dust-jacket as being from 1939, "Cardinal Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, leaving the presidential palace in Berlin."

All pretty damning, no? Cardinal Pacelli, just before becoming Pope Pius XII, consorts with the Nazis and is saluted by them after visiting Hitler ... or something?

Here is the picture without blurring or additions:

It is actually from 1927. Archbishop Pacelli, then papal nuncio to Bavaria, had been to a birthday reception for Hindenberg, the President of the Weimar Republic. (Hitler did not become chancellor for another six years.) The soldiers in the picture are soldiers of the Weimar Republic. They are not the SS.

Why then, I wonder, was this picture chosen to illustrate Robert Mickens' article "Anger as Pius moves closer to sainthood" in today's Independent? The caption to the picture is:
"Pope Pius XII leaves the presidential palace in Berlin in 1927. The controversial former pontiff was moved a step closer to sainthood on Saturday"
They managed to get the date right but I wonder how many Indie readers know without looking up google, that Archbishop Pacelli was not made a cardinal until 1929, and was not elected Pope until 1939. The picture is used, as ever, to give a sombre hint, in vintage black and white, of Pope Pius XII consorting with the Nazis.

See also a good post from R. J. Grigaitis: Photographic Evidence of the Pope Meeting Hitler

While we are on the subject of Pope Pius XII, you might like to have a look at a post from January 2007: "KGB plotted to discredit Pius XII" and the links given there. Basically, Ion Mihai Pacepa, a high-ranking intelligence official in Roumania who defected to the West, tells National Review Online how the KGB organised the play "The Deputy" in order to discredit the Church.

Father Gumpel, relator of the cause for beatification of Pius XII, urged prudence over some aspects of the revelations of Pacepa but was in agreement over "The Deputy" being a tool of Soviet propaganda. In countries under Soviet occupation, the showing of the film was obligatory at least once a year in major cities.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Catena Aurea from Baronius Press

Baronius Press have published a newly typeset edition in four volumes of St Thomas Aquinas' Catena Aurea, as translated into English by the Venerable John Henry Newman. I was very excited to receive a copy of this recently.

"Catena Aurea" means "golden chain" and the work consists of a running commentary on the four gospels, taken from the Fathers of the Church. It thus provides a sure guide to the spiritual sense of the gospels and the apostolic tradition in relation to their interpretation.

The intrinsic quality of the work is remarkable: the theological genius of St Thomas Aquinas is applied to the selection of quotations from the Fathers, and summaries of their teaching. He was commissioned to compile the commentary by Pope Urban IV. There could scarcely be a better translator than Newman, a highly competent classicist in his own right, and a master of the use of the English language.

In his preface to the 1841 edition, Newman wrote:
[...] it is impossible to read the Catena of S. Thomas, without being struck with the masterly and architectonic skill with which it is put together. A learning of the highest kind, — not a mere literary book-knowledge, which might have supplied the place of indexes and tables in ages destitute of those helps, and when every thing was to be read in unarranged and fragmentary MSS. — but a thorough acquaintance with the whole range of ecclesiastical antiquity, so as to be able to bring the substance of all that had been written on any point to bear upon the text which involved it—a familiarity with the style of each writer, so as to compress into few words the pith of a whole page, and a power of clear and orderly arrangement in this mass of knowledge, are qualities which make this Catena perhaps nearly perfect as a conspectus of Patristic interpretation. Other compilations exhibit research, industry, learning; but this, though a mere compilation, evinces a masterly command over the whole subject of Theology.
Although the text has been entirely reset, Baronius have take great care to ensure that the new edition is in continuity with the original edition published by John Henry Parker (Oxford) & J. G. F. and J. Rivington (London) in 1841. They have followed the page numbers of the older edition so that page references may be easily found, and have reproduced the typographical character of the original. The four volumes are leather bound, with two ribbon markers for each volume, gold blocking and marbled endpapers. This is a beautiful and high quality set. It would make a welcome gift for a priest or seminarian, and a fine addition to any home as a guide to the text of the gospels.

Available direct from Baronius Press at £89.95 ($139.95 in the USA.)

"We've Waited Long Enough" petition

In recent days, I have skimmed over posts on other blogs about the petition "We've Waited Long Enough" - for the new ICEL translation, that is. I mistakenly assumed that it was the same as the one I mentioned a few weeks ago. It's not, it is a different one. Here is the wording:
We believe that the newly approved English translation of the 2002 Missale Romanum needs to be implemented as soon as possible.

We believe that the Church in English-speaking nations has waited far too long for an accurate, faithful translation of the original Latin.

We believe that the current translation currently in use in English-speaking nations is overdue to be replaced, as it was developed using the method of dynamic translation, a method rejected by the Vatican in the document Liturgiam Authenticam.

We stand united with the English-speaking bishops' conferences in their approval of the new translation.

We oppose any efforts to continue to delay this new translation.
Sign the petition here

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Crusading elephants?

Last July, as you may remember, Christians in the Indian state of Orissa were subjected to severe persecution. A 22 year old nun was burnt to death, an orphanage in Khuntpali village was burnt down by a mob, another nun was gang raped in Kandhamal, mobs attacked churches, torched vehicles, and destroyed the houses of Christians. Fr Thomas Chellen, director of the pastoral centre that was destroyed with a bomb, had a narrow escape after a Hindu mob nearly set him on fire. All together, more than 500 Christians were murdered, and thousands of others were injured.

In an extraordinary development, a herd of elephants has travelled some 300Km to attack villages that were the worst persecutors of the Christians, leaving Christian homes untouched. See: Elephants attack in Orissa exactly one year after persecutions

Saint news

Yesterday over lunch, Fr Briggs and I rejoiced at seeing the news of the decrees of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints.

Pope Pius XII and Pope John Paul II have had their heroic virtues confirmed, as has Mary Ward, founder of the Institute of Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Fr George Popiełuszko has had his martyrdom "propter odium fidei" confirmed, and a miracle has been confirmed as attributed to the Blessed Mary McKillop.

The picture above was snaffled from the blog of International Disciples showing Ven Mary Ward as an evangelist. For more about her, see the post Venerable Mary Ward: "That Incomparable Woman"

Crib Service at Blackfen

Our Crib Service today was a heartwarming occasion with little shepherds, angels and kings taking part in a tableau to celebrate the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Some of the older ones read passages from the Holy Scriptures:

and some of the younger ones just took part in their own way:

One young shepherd was particularly enthused by some of the carols:

The Kings made their procession with gifts as described in Holy Writ. It was great that so many dads came along like St Joseph, the "upright and just man", supporting the family occasion:

And finally, all the children gathered to sing, to receive a blessing, to be photographed by loving parents and to help us all to enter into the spirit of the feast day:

Friday, 18 December 2009

John Pridmore coming to Westminster Cathedral

John Pridmore is visiting England again in the New Year. He will be speaking at Westminster Cathedral Hall on 6 January at 7.30pm. John spoke at my parish last January: his witness to the Catholic faith was compelling (see Stirring stories for a packed Church). People of all ages will find his presentation of great interest but I do recommend it especially for boys and young men. If you manage to cajole one such to go along with you, I promise you that he will not be quite so lippy on the way home.

Below are Amazon links to his two books. "From Gangland to Promised Land" would be suitable for any would-be hardnut who thinks that religion is rubbish. "The Gangster's Guide to God" is for more suitable for people who have already discovered the faith.

I'll be in Rome on 6 January so if anyone is going to John's talk, I'd be grateful for a couple of photos and a brief report - let me know if you want me to publish your name or refer to you as "a correspondent" (or indeed both!)

Do please also say a prayer for John. Such powerful work for the Lord needs our spiritual support.

Footage of grit Cethlik siriminis

Thanks to Shawn Tribe for rooting out some fascinating Footage from British Pathe featuring various ceremonies from the time of Pope Pius XII and Blessed Pope John XXIII. There has been quite a development in papal ceremonies in response to the all-seeing eye of the camera; some of the scenes in these clips are quite chaotic although the MC seems to rule with a rod of iron.

On the clips that have commentary, you will notice that the tone is very respectful. On a more trivial note, the vintage posh English accent is amusing with its clipped vowels.

Google Wave and Flocknote

MmmmKay - as they say in some parts. I have just submitted to a nag and joined Google Wave. I have looked at some of the stuff about "Working with Waves" and am wondering how it is going to help. This is not meant to be a skeptical comment since Google have proved to be smart in developing tools that are indeed helpful: Google Mail was a breath of fresh air, for example. So if you have used Google Wave for anything, feel free to drop in a comment.

I am also seriously looking at FlockNote which provides parishes with a way to organise feeds to email, Facebook, or SMS. That attracts me because I have found that quite a number of people use SMS (mobile phone text messages) much more readily than email and it would be quite cool to allow people to choose how to receive feeds about various events. Again, if anyone is using FlockNote in their parish or organisation, I would be glad to hear how it's going.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Update on minor basilica

In my post the other day on Blackfen minor basilica news, I expressed a preference for a Baroque basilica if my benefactor were to win the lottery.

Today a kind commenter has sent a couple of sketches for possible interiors for the Church.

On balance I think I prefer the second - the Church of St Peter and St Paul in Oberammergau. Here is a close-up of the sanctuary with the "Volksaltar" that could be conveniently wheeled out of the way when necessary:

John and Yoko on "overpopulation"

H/T to Thomas Peters at American Papist for this video from a previous era of hype about "overpopulation". I cannot but agree with Thomas' observations:
Never thought I'd find myself agreeing strongly with John and Yoko ...

Catch the editorial comment by the show's host? Some things never change...

I especially like Lennon's last line.
The icy grip of the dictatorship of relativism has tightened since those days. It would be more difficult for a pop celebrity to express such opinions today, methinks.

Pope Benedict's message for World Day of Peace

The Vatican website carries the English text of the Holy Father's message for the World Day of Peace on 1 January 2010.

In the message, the Holy Father points out that the various crises faced by the world are ultimately moral:
Humanity needs a profound cultural renewal; it needs to rediscover those values which can serve as the solid basis for building a brighter future for all. Our present crises – be they economic, food-related, environmental or social – are ultimately also moral crises, and all of them are interrelated. They require us to rethink the path which we are travelling together. (n.5)
He reiterates the teaching of the Church that we do not have an absolute ownership of creation but are stewards of it:
Everything that exists belongs to God, who has entrusted it to man, albeit not for his arbitrary use. Once man, instead of acting as God’s co-worker, sets himself up in place of God, he ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, “which is more tyrannized than governed by him”. Man thus has a duty to exercise responsible stewardship over creation, to care for it and to cultivate it. (n.6)
The Holy Father also defends the dignity of the human person in opposition to a false "equality" which abolishes the distinctive nature of humanity:
[...] a correct understanding of the relationship between man and the environment will not end by absolutizing nature or by considering it more important than the human person. If the Church’s magisterium expresses grave misgivings about notions of the environment inspired by ecocentrism and biocentrism, it is because such notions eliminate the difference of identity and worth between the human person and other living things. In the name of a supposedly egalitarian vision of the “dignity” of all living creatures, such notions end up abolishing the distinctiveness and superior role of human beings. They also open the way to a new pantheism tinged with neo-paganism, which would see the source of man’s salvation in nature alone, understood in purely naturalistic terms. (n.13)

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Lunch at Aylesford

The temperature has dropped in this part of the world over the past couple of days and the pond at Aylesford had chunks of ice floating on the surface today.

Aylesford, the Carmelite Priory confiscated by King Henry VIII and re-acquired by the Carmelites in 1949, was the home of St Simon Stock who received the vision of Our Lady, granting him the brown scapular which is worn, in miniature form, by Catholics all over the world. I always love to visit the Priory which is a mixture of ancient and modern buildings, the home of a community living and working in the service of the gospel.

A forty minute drive in the coach took us there from Blackfen today for a "Christmas Lunch" organised by the Union of Catholic Mothers. I know it is still Advent but these occasions are a good way for people to get together, spend a day out safely, and enjoy a good lunch in good company. I'll admit that I did doze a little on the coach on the way back but I think I was not the only one.

Blackfen minor basilica news

The other day I mentioned that one of my commenters was prepared to fund the construction of a minor basilica in Blackfen if he were to win the National Lottery. My agent has replied encouragingly as follows:
Dear Fr Finigan.

Reference the National Lottery, we're on our way. I had three numbers come up, last Saturday, and won £10.

Therefore, please see, herewith, initial pencil sketch of possible new Blackfen Church.

If approved, you might have to tell the neighbours.

And move the bus-stop!!! "

It does seem churlish to quibble but I have to say that I was thinking along the lines of a Baroque Church. Therefore, while negotiations continue, I'll encourage Keith and Steve to carry on mending the leaks in the roof of our present building. (They're doing a sterling job in freezing temperatures.)

O antiphons and middle earth

It is that time of year again, when posts will appear on the Antiphonae Maiores, the O Antiphons for the latter part of Advent. To get you started, above is a re-post of the YouTube video of the antiphon for Vespers tomorrow.

For an original take, have a look at Singulare Ingenium: Cynewulf and the Great Antiphons where he manages to make a link between middle earth and the Sacred Liturgy.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Gaudete Sunday at Blackfen

More photos at Mulier Fortis.

The babies are coming

If you want to stop the pesky babies, you can use condoms, the pill or whatever and hope that they work. If you want to stop other people from having babies (especially poor people in other parts of the world) you can fund condoms for them to offset your carbon footprint and feel really virtuous. See Pop Offsets.

But hey! The babies are coming anyway:

H/T Tom Peters at American Papist

Transformation of a Church

A couple of years ago, there was a popular YouTube video of the transformation of an altar: La métamorphose d'un autel. Many thanks to NLM for this video of the transformation of the Church of St Ann in Charlotte, in North Carolina which might be called La Metamorphose d'une Église

A certain commenter on this blog has promised that if he wins the National Lottery, he will fund the construction of a new church in Blackfen for which I will attempt to acquire the status of a minor basilica.

The new Motu Proprio and a pastoral doubt

Two changes were announced today in the Code of Canon law via an Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio Data, "Omnium in Mentem." (OIM) The first change concerns the nature of the diaconate. OIM clarifies that deacons do not receive the faculty of acting "in the person of Christ the Head" but the "power of serving the people of God in the service of the liturgy, the word and charity." This change has some important theological implications for the sacrament of Holy Order but that is perhaps for another day.

Pastorally, the greater impact will be felt from the change to the law concerning marriage. You can read more on the "In the Light of the Law" blog of Ed Peters. Anna Arco of the Catholic Herald also has a good article with an illustrative case: What the new Motu Proprio really means.

Up until now (in fact, up until three months after the Motu Proprio is published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis), a Catholic who has formally defected from the faith can marry validly without observing the proper canonical form - for example in a civil ceremony in a Register Office.

The new law will make it possible for such apostate Catholics to gain a nullity for their marriage on the ground of defect of form - such a nullity is relatively easy to obtain, being simply a documentary process. If you can prove that the person was Catholic (by a baptismal certificate) and that the marriage was not re-validated (by letters of freedom from the parishes where the couple lived together), then you get the nullity.

Such nullities from defect of form are already fairly common in pastoral practice - it is a rare exception for there to be a difficulty caused by someone actually making a formal defection from the faith. The pastoral question which troubles me is the fairness and rightness of such nullities in the first place.

The question goes back to the Council of Trent which tackled the problem of clandestine marriages. The Council's decree Tametsi declared that such marriages henceforth were invalid. It did this for the very good reason that it was easy to repudiate a marriage at which there were no witnesses - and great injustice could thus ensue. Henceforth, marriages were to be conducted before a priest and at least two witnesses or they would be invalid. The Council of Trent also affirmed the important principle that since the form of marriage was a legal contract, the Church could impose an invalidating impediment. So far, so good.

In 1908, the decree Ne Temere attempted to clarify the matter further. It was made an invalidating impediment for Catholics to marry without the proper form of the Church - and it was explicitly laid down that the marriages of non-Catholics were recognised as valid if they used a form that was lawful for them. That all seems good - Catholics should marry in Church but the Church does not attempt to legislate for the natural marriages of others, which should be respected. Even in the case of baptised non-Catholics, their own laws were respected.

However, the practical consequences are not so pretty. A parish priest is faced quite frequently with cases of people who wish to have their marriage annulled. If a Catholic has married in a register office, the marriage is declared null and void by rubber stamp once the relevant documentation has been collected together. This may be a grave injustice to the non-Catholic party if the Catholic has simply decided to repudiate the marriage and go off with someone else. In the case of a non-Catholic who has got married in a register office to another non-Catholic, the marriage is valid unless the whole process of nullity according to "lack of the necessary discretionary judgement" or "inability to undertake and sustain the vows of marriage" is completed over a lengthy period of time with the interviewing of witnesses, judgement, and referral to the tribunal of second instance.

At the heart of the matter is the Catholic teaching from the earliest centuries that it is consent that makes the marriage - not a ceremony, a blessing, or cohabitation, but the formally given consent. It does seem right to require Catholics to marry according to the form laid down by the Church but the consequences of making marriages "automatically" invalid, even when they have been conscientiously entered into, with a formal exchange of consent, by means of a civil ceremony, are pastorally problematic.

An unintended consequence of the present law, deriving from Trent, is that civil marriages are regarded as of little consequence and we seem to connive at the secular downgrading of marriage. The presumed validity of such marriages entered into by non-Catholics is salt in the wound when genuine troubles arise. If it is observed that Catholics can repudiate such marriages relatively easily, there is a real risk of scandal.

To set your mind at rest, let me say that I conscientiously observe all the provisions of canon law and when couples bring problems to my doorstep I do all that I can to help them - my duty is to help them live within the law and benefit from it, not to change it on my own authority.

The law on marriage has always been problematic and it is not surprising that attempts to adjust it have consequences that are less than perfect. For all the good that the new adjustment will bring, I think that there are also serious problems with the way that things are set up at the moment.

Monday, 14 December 2009

A remarkable French Bishop

Bishop Dominique Rey of the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon is a remarkable man. Before entering the seminary himself, he obtained a doctorate in economics and worked at the French Ministry of Finance. As a priest in the diocese of Paris, he also worked with the Emmanuel Community. From 1986-1988, he was superior of the chaplains at Paray-le-Monial, then exercised a post of pastoral responsibility for the seminarians and priests of the Emmanuel Community. He was a parish priest in Paris for five years before being appointed to Fréjus-Toulon in 2000.

Pope John Paul II's promotion of the "new evangelisation" has always been a priority for him, something that is reflected in the fact that his diocese celebrates on its website the presence of 27 new communities in the diocese, such as the Community of St John, the Franciscans of the Immaculate, Shalom, and Points-Coeur.

He has written a book on the incompatibility between Catholic doctrine and freemasonry, and has resolutely spoken out in the public square on pro-life issues, especially demanding that donors to the French "telethon" should be able to specify that their donations do not go to charities supporting research on embryos. In 2008, he re-consecrated his diocese to Our Lady with 4-5000 people attending the ceremony.

It is not surprising to hear that his seminary is thriving: it is the second largest in France. During the past year, Bishop Rey ordained 14 priests and 11 deacons. Here is a video about the seminary (from the Diocesan website):

Significantly, as I mentioned a while back, he ordained a further two priests this year according to the usus antiquior: for service as priests of his diocese. The diocesan seminary welcomes candidates who are attached to the older form of the Roman Rite to train alongside the other seminarians and members of the various ecclesial movements.

Bishop Rey was also one of the French Bishops who signed the letter of support for Pope Benedict following the lifting of the excommunications of the SSPX Bishops.

The "new movements" in the Church tend to share a number of characteristics: loyalty to the magisterium, sound support for the Church's teaching on moral issues, especially pro-life and pro-family, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, devotion to Our Lady, and a missionary zeal for evangelisation. Sometimes (OK quite often) liturgical music and ceremonies are, shall we say, tip-toeing carefully, "areas for development".

Since Summorum Pontificum, I think that many of those involved in the new movements have begun to look seriously at the question of liturgy. Their loyalty to Pope Benedict and recognition of his sound judgement have led them to be genuinely open to what might initially seem a rather puzzling support for traditional liturgy. Those who have the opportunity to attend the older form of Mass and Benediction easily find an echo in their soul of many of the Catholic values that they hold dear.

For a Bishop actively and consciously to promote such convergence in his diocese is a most welcome phenomenon which holds out much hope for the future.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

The return of the monocle

Gerald Warner brings us an important report on a matter of vital moment:
The news that Vision Express is to start selling single eyeglasses (vulgarly known as monocles) in its London stores is raising some eyebrows (at least, those not already arched by a lens) and is baffling style gurus who are more used to assessing trends in baseball caps and trainers. Apparently it is a youthful fashion, in which case it will not last. It may cause some perplexity among the relentless dressers-down in Cameron circles and raise fears of a wave of reactionary opinion.
I have to say that my social background means that I did not even know that the single lens was called an eyeglass; but owing to the grammar school system which was still in place when I was a boy, I do at least know the word "monocle" which, for the sake of personal authenticity, is the term I shall continue to use for this accoutrement, even at the expense of seeming vulgar. As they say, "You can take the man out of Croydon, but you can't take the Croydon out of the man."

The fashion rather appeals to me but holy poverty compels me to wait until monocles appear on the website of Glasses Direct.

See: If monocles become popular eyewear, will it signal welcome reaction or undesirable 'inclusion'? Gerald's essay on this important topic in the Spectator is also essential reading.

Kum Ba Ya aerobics

Tired of Gregorian chant and polyphony? Wanna "get down" to some funky vibes that can really induce a rupture without the need for hermeneutics? Try this:

H/T The Ironic Catholic

Bishop Schneider in Estonia

Having visited Estonia last October, I was pleased to see news on the Finnish blog Summorum of the recent visit of Bishop Schneider, the author of Dominus Est, to Talinn. (See: Piispa Schneider Tallinnassa - there is a narrative in English at the foot of the post.)

There was a presentation of the Estonian translation of Dominus Est, in the presence of Bishop Philippe Jourdan, the Apostolic Administrator of Estonia. In the book, Bishop Schneider offers a spiritual, historical and theological defence of the traditional practice of receiving Holy Communion kneeling, and on the tongue.

Bishop Schneider also celebrated a Missa Cantata in the Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul in Talinn. I had the privilege of celebrating Mass there in October with the wonderful choir singing the chant with a grave Eastern interpretation that must surely have been familiar to Bishop Schneider.

Friday, 11 December 2009

News of Reggie

Many old Romans studied Latin with Fr Reginald Foster - those who didn't, missed out. A remarkable teacher, he always inspired his students with enthusiasm and a lifelong affection for him and for Latin.

I was very pleased to read news of him in the Milwaukee Catholic Herald which tells of his stay at Clement Manor, Greenfield, where he is receiving physical and occupational therapy after a variety of medical problems. He has made a big impact on the medical staff - nobody who knows him will be surprised at that.

See: 'Don't waste a moment being upset'
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