Saturday, 31 August 2013

New Secretary of State and confidentiality

The big news today in ecclesiastical circles is that Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Pietro Parolin as Secretary of State. Since the reforms of Pope Paul VI, this is now considered to be the most important position in the Holy See after the Pope himself. Personally I'd like to see a return to the Holy Office being the most senior dicastery, the "Suprema" with a pro-Prefect as head in recognition of the fact that the successor of St Peter is the real Prefect.

That is probably not going to happen any time soon, so congratulations to Archbishop Parolin. here is his statement on the occasion of his appointment and here, courtesy of John Allen, is a translation of the last interview he gave before being appointed.

Here are some biographical notes from Vatican Insider. These were issued before the appointment which was widely leaked to Vaticanisti and via them to the entire world. Although I like to speculate as much as anyone else, I think that this process of leak-then-announcement is unfortunate. Surely it should be the Holy See that announces appointments, not journalists who have friends in high places? I don't blame the journalists but do question why officials at the Holy See choose to leak information. Along with everyone else, once a rumour surfaces publicly, I will gladly speculate about it, but actually I would be happy without this process. I don't suppose Pope Francis can completely stop the leaking of information but it would be a good thing if the Pontifical Secret were treated with a little more respect.

Archbishop Cyril Cowderoy of Southwark had a ruthless approach to rumours. If he moved a priest from one parish to another, he insisted that the move be confidential until the announcement was made. If it leaked out, he would sometimes actually cancel the move.

If someone tells me something and says that it is in confidence, I keep it confidential. Sometimes I am embarrassed by this by continuing to keep mum when in fact an official announcement has been made. This is no great hardship. I like to recall the pithy advice of St Josemaria Escriva:
How can you dare ask others to keep your secret, when that very request is a sign that you have not been able to keep it yourself? (The Way 640)

British Confraternity of Catholic Clergy Colloquium: bookings open

The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, British Province of St Gregory the Great, now has the booking form available for the annual Colloquium which will be at at the Oratory School, Reading, from Tuesday 22 to Wednesday 23 October. Here are links to the Programme of the Colloquium and a brochure with booking form. (All inclusive £50 for the Conference. Annual subscription to the CCCB £20.)

The Colloquium is a great opportunity to meet with other priests. I will be going, and I do encourage priests who agree with the objects of the Confraternity to come. Speakers this year are:
  • Fr Francis Marsden - ‘The Priesthood under fire - Past, Present and Future’
  • Father John Saward - ‘“Giving Wisdom to Little Ones”: St Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Little Way’
  • Fr Jerome Bertram Cong. Orat. - ‘The Conversion of England’
These are three excellent speakers and I guarantee that they will all be worth listening to. I can also confidently guarantee that you will not be asked to share your feelings in a group, pick stones meaningfully from a bowl or walk round a new-age spiritual labyrinth.

The programme also includes a spiritual conference, adoration and Benediction both days, and time for confessions, as well as plenty of opportunity to share one's gaudium et spes, as well as one's luctus et angor, particularly over the all-important convivium.

The principal Mass is in the modern rite (celebrated with gravitas) but priests can rest assured that there are facilities for celebrating private Masses in the morning in either form, and at the principal Mass it is fine either to concelebrate or to assist in choro.

Friday, 30 August 2013

A special Simple Prayer Book for our troops

The Catholic Truth Society have produced a special version of their Simple Prayer Book for the armed forces.

In case you are not from Britain, the "Simple Prayer Book" is one of the classic publications of the CTS which has sold squillions of copies over the years. I often recommend it when someone comes to confession after being away from the Church for a long time as it contains basic Catholic prayers, prayers for Confession and Holy Communion, a summary of the faith and many other useful things. A standing instruction for the pamphlet rack in my Church is that there must always be copies of the Simple Prayer Book available.

The Knights of St Columba have funded the production of 30,000 copies of this specially adapted version for the forces. On 15 September, at the Roman Catholic Garrison Cathedral of St Michael and St George in Aldershot, Bishop Moth (Bishop of the Forces) will bless a copy and symbolically hand it to a serving member of the forces.

CD 273: Competitiveness at work

We are under pressure at work to achieve targets and our results are made public as a way of encouraging us. This can give rise to some bad feelings between us: can my faith be of any help in this?

Competition is not a bad thing in itself and can be a way of encouraging people to work hard, but the intense atmosphere of some workplaces with public comparisons has an obvious downside in tempting people to deceit, jealousy and disloyalty to colleagues. Certainly our Christian way of life can be of help. First of all, at a management level, whilst competition is a motivator, the cohesiveness of a team is also crucial to overall effectiveness and better results. Backbiting in the office is not going to have a positive effect on the balance sheet.

If you are not in a position to change the overall ethos at management level, you can still try to promote a better work atmosphere by living the virtues opposite to the vices which harm relationships in your own team. Integrity, honesty, trustworthiness and loyalty to colleagues –combined with hard work along with them – will mean that at least some balance is brought in. Crucial also both to the effectiveness of the competitive spirit in business terms, and to the fostering of good relationships, is the sincere and friendly recognition of the success of others.

The hard-driven nature of your work also presents particular challenges in your own spiritual life and your relationship with your family. If at all possible, try to keep work and home life separate: “switch off” before you get home. One way of doing this would be to schedule a time of reflection (with an examination of conscience) at the end of your working day. If you can visit a Church before catching the train home, that is ideal. If not, there may be a park or open space you can walk in for, say, a quarter of an hour whilst trying to pray reflectively. As a last resort, you could load some sacred music on your phone and listen to that prayerfully on the train.

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

Thursday, 29 August 2013

New Oratory for Brisbane

A new Oratory is to be opened in Brisbane with the permission and support of Archbishop Mark Coleridge. (See The Brisbane Oratory in Formation.) There are currently three priests and a seminarian intending to form the initial community.

The priests will begin a community in formation possibly in late 2015 but probably not until early 2016. The priests will then have three years of formation under the guidance of a delegate appointed by the Procurator General of the Oratory in Rome. If all goes well, and subject to the approval of the local Ordinary, it will then petition the Holy See for canonical establishment as a Congregation of the Oratory. One of the clergy of the nascent community is Fr Paul Chandler whom I met at the Colloquium of the Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy in June. The others are not making their commitment public until nearer the time that the community comes together.

The seminarian is Shawn Murphy whom I met when he was helping out at the ACCC. He will start formation immediately at the St Philip's Seminary in Toronto.

This will be the first Oratory in Oceania and is placed under the patronage of Our Lady, St. Philip Neri, Blessed John Henry Newman and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. Please pray for its success and particularly for the selection of a suitable location in co-operation with Archbishop Coleridge.

Litany of Syrian Saints

In response to my post yesterday about Praying to St Ephrem and the Syrian Saints a reader sent me this Litany of Syrian Saints which he composed himself last night. Let us pray for peace in Syria and in the Middle East.

Litany of Syrian Saints
For private use only

Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison, Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison.
Christe audi nos, Christe audi nos.
Christe exaudi nos. Christe exaudi nos.

God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
God the Holy Ghost,
Holy Trinity, one God,

Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Mother of God,
Holy Virgin of Virgins,
St Michael,
St Gabriel,
St Raphael,
All ye Holy Angels and Archangels,
St John the Baptist,
St Joseph,

All ye Holy Patriarchs and Prophets, pray for us.
Blessed Peter the Apostle, and first Patriarch of Antioch,
Blessed Paul the Apostle, born in Tarsus,
Blessed Paul the Apostle, blinded and converted on the way to Damascus,
Blessed Paul the Apostle, enlightened and baptised at the Street called Straight,
Blessed Peter and Paul, models of humility and justice at Antioch,
St Ananias of Damscus, laying thy hands on Blessed Paul,
Blessed Luke the Evangelist,
St Manahen, disciple of the Lord and foster-brother to Herod Antipas,
All ye holy Syrian disciples of the Lord,
All ye holy Syrian innocents,

St Apollinaris, pray for us.
St Felix of Nola,
St Abraham of Arbela,
St Dorotheus of Tyre,
St Eusebius of Samosota,
St Anthony of Antioch,
All ye holy Syrian Hieromartyrs,

Ss Victor and Corona, pray for us.
Ss Galation and Episteme,
Ss Cosmas and Damian,
St Romanus of Samosata,
And thy Holy Companions Ss Jacob, Philotheus, Hyperechius, Abibus, Julianus and Paregorius,
St Anastasius of Antioch, and thy Companions Ss Julian, Celsus and Marcionilla,
Ss Romanus of Caesarea and Barulas,
St Andrew Stratelates and thy 2953 Companions,
St Julian of Cilicia,
All ye Forty Soldier Martyrs of Sebaste,
St Eusiginius,
Ss Sergius and Bacchus,
Fr Francois Mourad,
All ye holy Syrian martyrs,

St Ephrem the Syrian, pray for us.
St John Chrysostom,
St John Damascene,
All ye holy Syrian teachers of the Faith,

St Evodius, pray for us.
St Ignatius of Antioch,
St Herodian of Antioch,
St Theophilus of Antioch,
St Serapion of Antioch,
St Asclepiades of Antioch,
St Babylas of Antioch,
St Eustathius the Great of Antioch,
St Anastasius II of Antioch,
All ye holy Patriarchs and Bishops of Antioch,

Pope St Anicetus, pray for us.
Pope St Sergius I,
Pope St Gregory III,

St Cyril of Jerusalem, pray for us.
St Sophronius of Jerusalem,
All ye holy Syrian Bishops and Patriarchs of Jerusalem,

St Maron, pray for us.
St John Maron, first patriarch of the Maronite Church,
St Mar Awtel,
St Domnina of Syria, Virgin and disciple of St Maron,
Blessed Abdel Moati, Francis and Raphael Massabki, and thy Holy Companions,

St Birillus, ordained by Blessed Peter, pray for us.
Ss Philo and Agathopodes,
St Jacob of Nisibis,
St Frumentius, Apostle to Ethiopia
St Maruthas, Father of the Syrian Church,
St Romanos the Melodist,
St Cosmas the Melodist, and foster-brother to the Damascene,

St Palladius the Desert Dweller, pray for us.
St Thalassius of Syria,
St Alexius of Rome, the Man of God,
St Simeon Stylites,
St Baradates,
St Auxentius of Bithynia,
St Simeon Stylites the Younger,
All ye holy Syrian Priests and Levites,
All ye holy Syrian Monks and Hermits,

St Philip of Agira, pray for us.
All ye holy Syrian Confessors,

St Serapia, pray for us.
St Margaret of Antioch,
Ss Domnina, Berenice and Prosdoce,
St Basilissa, pray for us.
All ye holy Syrian Virgins and Widows,
All ye holy Syrian Saints of God,

Be merciful, spare us, O Lord.
Be merciful, graciously hear us, O Lord.
From all evil, deliver us, O Lord.
From all sin,
From thy wrath,
From sudden and unlooked for death,
From the snares of the devil,
From anger, and hatred, and every evil will,
From the spirit of fornication,
From plague, famine and war,
From revolution,
From all false prophets,
From the errors of Mohammed,
From jihad,
From infidelity, heresy, paganism and heathendom,
From everlasting death,

Through the mystery of thy holy Incarnation, deliver us, O Lord.
Through thy Coming,
Through thy Birth,
Through thy Baptism and holy Fasting,
Through thy Cross and Passion,
Through thy Death and Burial,
Through thy holy Resurrection,
Through thine admirable Ascension,
Through the coming of the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete,
Through the blood of thy Holy and Blessed Syrian martyrs,
In the day of judgment,

We sinners: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst spare us: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst pardon us: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst bring us to true penance: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to govern and preserve thy holy Church: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to preserve our Apostolic Prelate, and all orders of the Church in holy religion: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to humble the enemies of holy Church: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to give peace and true concord to Christian kings, princes, and rulers: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to grant peace and unity to the whole Christian world: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst call back to the unity of the Church all who have strayed from her fold, and to guide all unbelievers into the light of the Gospel: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to give discernment and wisdom to the rulers of nations: we beseech thee, hear us.

That thou wouldst vouchsafe to confirm and preserve us in thy holy service: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst lift up our minds to heavenly desires: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst render eternal blessings to all our benefactors: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst deliver our souls, and the souls of our brethren, relations, and benefactors, from eternal damnation: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to comfort the afflicted people of thy Holy Syria, we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to give and preserve the fruits of the earth: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to grant eternal rest to all the faithful departed: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe graciously to hear us: we beseech thee, hear us.
Son of God: we beseech thee, hear us.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, parce nobis, Domine.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, exaudi nos Domine.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.

Christe audi nos, Christe audi nos.
Christe exaudi nos. Christe exaudi nos.

Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison, Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison.

Pater noster [silentio]
Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo.

Domine exaudi orationem meam, et clamor meus ad te veniat.


For world leaders:
O God, who taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant that, by the gift of the same Spirit, we may be always truly wise, and ever rejoice in his consolation. Through Christ our Lord. amen.

Against Persecutors of the Church:
O Lord, we beseech thee, crush the pride of our enemies and humble their insolence by the might of thy hand. Through our Lord Jesus Christ… Amen.

In any tribulation:
O Almighty God, despise not thy people who cry out in their affliction: but for the glory of thy Name, be appeased and help those in trouble. Through our Lord Jesus Christ… Amen.

For our enemies:
O God, who are the Lover and Guardian both of peace and charity, give to all our enemies peace and true charity, and grant the remission of all their sins, and by thy might deliver us from their snares. Through our Lord Jesus Christ… Amen.

For the defence of the Church:
Almighty, everlasting God, in whose hand are the strength of man and the nation’s sceptre, see what help we Christians need: that the heathen peoples who trust in their savagery may be crushed by the power of thy right hand. Through our Lord Jesus Christ… Amen.

In time of war:
O God, who bringest wars to nought and shieldest by thy power all who hope in thee, overthrowing those that assail them; help thy servants who implore thy mercy; so that the fierce might of their enemies may be brought low, and we may never cease to praise and thank thee. Through our Lord… Amen.

For peace:
O God, from whom are holy desires, right counsels and just works; give to thy servants that which the world cannot give; that both, our hearts may be disposed to obey thy commandments, and also, the fear of enemies being removed, our times, by thy protection, may be peaceful. Through our Lord Jesus Christ… Amen.

Domine exaudi orationem meam, et clamor meus ad te veniat.
Exaudiat nos omnipotens et misericors Dominus. Amen.
Et fidelium animae per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen.

Forthcoming new film on Our Lady

Ignatius Press are releasing a film about Our Blessed Lady called "Mary of Nazareth." The above video is the official trailer. Fr Donald Calloway (an excellent chap) says:
The most stunning portrayal of the Virgin Mary on film. It will make you want to love her more than ever. An absolute masterpiece! Yes, my friends, I can assure you that we finally have a movie that gets Mary totally right! Trust me, I am super hard to please when it comes to any portrayal of Mary in film, but this one nailed it entirely!
I suppose I would also be hard to please. One or two small things in the trailer started me reaching for Fr Stefano Mannelli's superb biblical mariology "All generations shall call me Blessed" (try this google search for various sellers.) Rather than nitpick, though, I want to be positive because it is always good to have new Catholic films: Lord knows we have enough anti-Catholic bias to complain about. I very much look forward to the release of the film on DVD.

(BTW there is a website for the film but to save you valuable clicking time, it is just a splash page to say that the website will be launching soon.)

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Praying to St Ephrem and the Syrian Saints

There is a great wealth of sensible comment on the question of military intervention in Syria and I do not think that I can add anything particularly useful to what others have said on the question.

I thought instead that it might be useful to read the Syriac Fathers. Fr Freddie Broomfield used to use this as a euphemism for going to have a rest after lunch. I am sure that today he would recommend us to read them in our helplessness before the events that are unfolding.

The best-known of the saints of Syria is St Ephrem who wrote poems and sermons in verse to encourage his people in times of trouble, and particularly during the invasion by the Persians. Here are a few extracts from his Nisibene hymns. (I don't know Syriac so I have to rely on the translations at New Advent.)

A prayer for peace:
To whom on any side, shall I look for comfort, for my plantations that are laid low, and my possessions that are laid waste? Let the message of the voice of peace, drive away my sadness from me! (6.21)
A programme for peace:
In these two things is profit; that neither should the just be weary in supplication, nor should the rebellious multiply transgression. (9.2)
A lamentation in war:
After the manner of wax, that melts before the fire—thus melted and dissolved, the bodies, of my sons before the heat— and the drought of my strongholds.

And instead of streams, of milk that used to flow—for my sons and my little ones, milk fails the sucklings, and water the weaned children.

The suckling falls, from its mother and gasps,— because it cannot suck, nor can she give suck:— they breathe out their spirit and die.

How is it possible, that Your grace can refrain— the welling of its stream, when it is not possible to restrain— the abundance of its flow?

And why has Your grace, shut up its mercies—and withheld its streams, from the people that cry—for one to moisten their tongue? (10.3-7)
At this time, let us pray earnestly to St Ephrem and the Syrian Saints for their intercession.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Blessed Dominic Barberi's wise advice on a vision

Fr Dominic Jacob, of the Oxford Oratory, has been posting on Facebook today concerning his patron saint, Blessed Dominic Barberi whose feast day it is. I thought that this story was just too good not to share on the blog:
A woman once came to Blessed Dominic, claiming to have had a vision of the Father and the Son.

" At what time of day did this take place?" he asked her gently. "At 6pm " she told him. "And when did you dine?" She replied "at 5 o'clock Father", " and what did you have for dinner?" "Two glasses of port wine Father." "Well my child, next time have three glasses, and I promise you will see the Holy Ghost too."
Father also posted earlier that Blessed Dominic's command of English was never that great and that he once told a group of nuns to whom he was giving a retreat: "Without face we cannot be shaved."

Presumably this is an Italian proverb that does not quite translate. It reminded me of Fr Gerald O'Collins at the Greg years ago. Some of the Professori were not so friendly to those from an Anglo-Saxon background. Fr O'Collins was, I think, mischievously balancing the account when he spoke Italian with an Aussie accent and used to translate English sayings literally into Italian. The one everyone remembers, along with the puzzled looks of non-English speakers, was "Questo veramente prende il biscotto."

[UPDATE: Commenters have tactfully pointed out that Bl Dominic's comment was not an Italian proverb but a mispronunciation of "without faith we cannot be saved." Doh!]

Lest, in these frivolities, anyone is unaware, Blessed Dominic Barberi was a great apostle for England. As Broderick noted, referring to the courageous Passionist who suffered ridicule and hostility in his mission:
The second spring did not begin when Newman was converted nor when the hierarchy was restored. It began on a bleak October day of 1841, when a little Italian priest in comical attire shuffled down a ship's gangway at Folkstone.
Blessed Dominic received Blessed John Henry Newman into the Church at Littlemore in 1845. In 1849, after suffering a heart attack on the train at Pangbourne, he was taken to the tavern next to Reading railway station where he died. I always say a prayer to him when stopping on the train at Reading.

Superb sermon by Bishop Gilbert welcoming Nashville Dominicans

When the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was in the process of being formed, Fr Roger Nesbitt (a priest of the Archdiocese of Southwark who has inspired many priestly vocations) describe them as "the cavalry coming over the hill." I was delighted to see Bishop Hugh Gilbert of Aberdeen use the same image in his sermon welcoming the Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia from Nashville, Tennessee, who are establishing a new foundation in Elgin:
What is happening today?

I’m old enough to remember Westerns. And here we are, wagons drawn close, feeling our last days have come and our scalps about to be removed, when – lo and behold – the US 7th Cavalry appears over the hill. Here they are, armed not with carbines but rosaries. And we can breathe again.
It was also good to see his echo of a point (made before, I think, by Cardinal Danielou):
Every renewal of the Church has had a renewal of religious life at its heart. It is a barometer of the general state of the Church at any given time or place.
The sermon is a masterpiece, combining erudition, humour and a generous recognition of the different traditions of consecrated life. (In this respect it is great to see that in his description of the present picture of religious life in the diocese of Aberdeen, Bishop Gilbert includes the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer.) The sermon is well worth reading in full.

There is also a good article by Madeleine Teahan in the Catholic Herald: American Dominican Sisters move to Scotland.

Do say a prayer for the good sisters, not only that their work will be fruitful in the new evangelisation of Scotland but also that they will be given the grace to cope with the weather up there after moving from Nashville.

Photo credit: Scottish Catholic Observer

Blessed Cyprian Tansi pilgrimage

The Blessed Cyprian Tansi, who baptised Cardinal Arinze while a priest of the Onitsha diocese, became a monk of Mount St Bernard Abbey in 1950. Each year the Abbey has a pilgrimage in his honour. This year's pilgrimage will be on Saturday 31 August in the grounds of the abbey guesthouse, starting at 11am. The pilgrimage will include Holy Mass, Rosary Procession, Exposition and Benediction and end about 5pm.

Here is a link to a previous article with some information about Blessed Cyprian Tansi

For any enquiries, contact: or 01530 810410

Friday, 23 August 2013

Ordinariate Sisters have a permanent home

Some great news on my arrival home today. Here is the Press Release from the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham:
Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary Move to Permanent Home

The new religious community of the Personal Ordinariate, the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, have a permanent home for the first time since they were received into the full communion of the Catholic Church on New Year’s Day. They are to move on Tuesday (August 27) into a convent in Birmingham which is the former home of the Little Sisters of the Assumption.

Mother Winsome, the Superior of the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, said: “We are absolutely overjoyed to have been given the opportunity to live in this convent. We have prayed long and hard and the Lord has opened up this way for us. It is a gift from God.”

The community, established as part of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham adopting the Benedictine rule, includes eleven sisters who had been part of the Anglican Community of St Mary the Virgin in Wantage Oxfordshire and one, Sister Carolyne Joseph, who belonged to an Anglican community in Walsingham.

With no endowments to keep them afloat financially, the sisters have been living for the last eight months as guests at an enclosed Benedictine abbey on the Isle of Wight. “The abbess and the community there shared their Benedictine life with us and welcomed us into their hearts in the most wonderfully generous way”, Mother Winsome said. “It has been a life of complete harmony and joy and it will be a wrench to leave. But we are pleased beyond measure that our journey of faith has taken this new direction”.

The provision of Benedictine hospitality through retreats is central to the community’s charism. Their intention is to earn a living at their new home by offering retreats and the ministry of spiritual direction.
The Benedictine Sisters on the Isle of Wight have been very kind in offering hospitality to the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary and is a mark of their generosity to the Church as a whole. The flourishing of contemplative orders is an indicator of vitality in any local Church and such communities have an impact way beyond the confines of their enclosure.

I wish the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary well in their new home.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

1066 and other things


"... and all that" would be a cliche, though I have resolved to get the book and re-read it. Yesterday Fr Briggs and I surveyed the battlefield at Battle and took the longer walk all around it as well as visiting the ruins of the Abbey that King William built in reparation for all the slaughter of that decisive clash.


Today we climbed up to the keep of Lewes Castle and looked over the motte and bailey mound that was one of Williams first establishments to consolidate his position.

Tomorrow we'll take our customary stroll over Beachy Head. Here is a video from a previous visit.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Christians suffering in Egypt

The Muslim Brotherhood are understandably angry after the killing of 638 people by the security forces of the military regime during the clearing of protest camps. However, as in Syria, the persecution of Christians is going largely unremarked.

Having given praise where praise is due, to Paul Burnell's excellent reporting on the Dome of Home, I cannot avoid taking up an issue regarding the BBC and that is the extraordinary silence concerning the burning of Churches in Egypt. Nowadays if you want some unbiased coverage concerning the persecution of Christians, you have to go to Aljazeera.

Deacon Nick Donnelly has a report from an Egyptian Christian listing Churches that have been attacked. Schools and orphanages have also been the target of violence. USA Today has an interactive map of various Christian institutions under attack. There is also a list with links to photos at The Blaze.

There are also reports of some Muslims offering their Friday prayers outside Churches to protect them from being attacked. Let us pray for peace in Egypt and for our Christian brothers and sisters there.

Excellent coverage of the "Dome of Home"

The Church of Saints Peter, Paul and Philomena was given into the care of the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest, by Bishop Davies in a far-sighted decision which has restored the much-loved Church into use for sacred worship. The Church has been given a grant of £35,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund. For a good and positive article on this at the BBC website, see: New lease of life for 'Dome of Home' in New Brighton.

The other day, I made flippant comments on Twitter and Facebook about a previous article that said that the Dome of Home was the only Catholic Church in England that regularly celebrated the traditional Latin Mass. In fact, the article was very positive, and I was only joking about a blooper at the end that was swiftly corrected, so thanks to Paul Burnell for his coverage both then and in the article above.

Although I am fanatically anti-BBC, I do benefit from being reminded from time to time that there are some fine people working away there and doing good things.

Amazing footage of clothing at Ladywell Convent

This footage from 1962 was just too good not to share. (H/T newly ordained Fr Sam Davey who posted it on Facebook.)

Thursday, 15 August 2013

"ac Nostra"

Happy feast day! Let us praise and adore almighty God for the favour he has bestowed on us by calling the Virgin Mary to be the Mother of the Divine Word, by preserving her from all stain of sin from the moment of her conception, and by her consequent assumption, body and soul, to the glory of heaven where she is Queen of all the angels and saints. Let us thank God also for allowing her to be our Mediatrix, Advocatrix, Auxliliatrix and co-Redemptrix.

I liked the British Pathé video because of the clipped English accent of former days and the unaffected respect that the announcer has for the event even though he is presumably not a Catholic. (Though it doesn't have the formula of the proclamation.) You can see some other videos at Rorate Caeli. Unfortunately none of them has the all-important beginning of the magnificent formula:
auctoritate Domini Nostri Iesu Christi, Beatorum Apostolorum Petri et Pauli ac Nostra pronuntiamus, declaramus et definimus divinitus revelatum dogma esse : Immaculatam Deiparam semper Virginem Mariam, expleto terrestris vitae cursu, fuisse corpore et anima ad caelestem gloriam assumptam

by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and Our own, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.
The "ac Nostra" - "and our own [authority]" affirms that the Bishop of Rome, the successor of St Peter, has the same apostolic authority to teach, as shepherd of all the faithful, ex cathedra, what pertains to the deposit of faith committed by Christ to the apostles, enjoying, in the exercise of his extraordinary magisterium, that infallibility which Christ willed to give to His Church.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Getty, open content, and the Church

Today, the Getty has announced the Open Content Program "to share, freely and without restriction, as many of the Getty’s digital resources as possible." See: Open Content, An Idea Whose Time Has Come.

After a quick browse, I downloaded the above image of the Madonna and Child by "The Master of St Cecilia" (Italian, about 1290 - 1295, Tempera and gold leaf on panel.) On requesting a download, you have to choose from a small number of options in two dropboxes to indicate your use of the file. The download was 15Mb so I have re-sized the image to prevent the blog from being slowed down.

I find this sort of thing very encouraging. There really does need to be a re-think in the Church about "intellectual property" as we have seen with the ICEL copyright fiasco and, more recently, the recent really stupid hassling of Brandon Vogt and Fr Zuhlsdorf who gave their time and expertise to make the encyclical Lumen Fidei better known.

The Libreria Editrice Vaticana and some Bishops' Conferences (such as the USCCB) need to look at this Open Content Program and draw the appropriate lessons. If Getty finds it advantageous to share its collection as open content, it just might be a good idea to do the same with liturgical texts and papal encyclicals. N'est ce pas?

I couldn't resist looking through some of the photos. Here is one taken by William Henry Fox Talbot in 1844 of Nelson's column under construction:

The importance of mental prayer

For young people wanting to deepen their life of faith, and especially for those drawn to a vocation to the priesthood or the religious life, one of the most important habits to develop is that of daily mental prayer. The term “meditation” can put people off because of its association with esoteric practices. Essentially we are talking about setting aside some time deliberately each day to pray in addition to liturgical worship: to offer that time to the Lord as a holocaust, to give it completely to Him so that we can raise up our minds and hearts to Him, speak to Him, and listen to Him.

Just to be clear, the liturgical worship is essential, of course, including at least some of the divine office, regular confession, and the sincere effort to break down habits of sin. I am not suggesting that those things are unimportant, but a time of mental prayer is indispensable.

St Ignatius of Loyola is sometimes said to have invented mental prayer. Here I disagree with my good friend Fr Ray Blake, and I think also with Professor Eamon Duffy who has characterised discursive mental prayer as a feature of the counter-reformation. Certainly the counter-reformation did see a great flowering of Catholic spiritual writing and an outpouring of writing to help clerics, religious and lay people to grow in their spiritual life, but mental prayer as such is woven into the life of the Church from the beginning. I agree with Tanquerey that meditation or mental prayer has always been practised in one form or another, and that the gospel account of Our Lord Himself spending whole nights in prayer is the primary example for us. We also find such prayer encouraged in the writings of the Fathers, in Cassian, St John Climacus, St Bernard, the School of St Victor and indeed St Thomas Aquinas who says that the intrinsic cause of devotion on our part must needs be meditation or contemplation. (ST 2a 2ae 82.3)

For religious who sing the office in choir, together with the Mass that forms a part of the daily liturgical round, that is naturally the high-point of the life of prayer, as it would ideally be in a parish, and was in the medieval English parishes that Professor Duffy so brilliantly brings to life for us. Even so, a part of the life of the Benedictine is that lectio divina which is in all essentials the same thing as the meditation fostered in the counter-reformation period.

On this point, I will propose a principle that has formed in my mind in recent years after hearing so much about Ignatian Spirituality, Monastic Spirituality, Eastern Spirituality, Franciscan Spirituality and the rest. There is only one “spirituality” in the Church and it is the spirituality of Jesus Christ in the gospels. St Ignatius, St Francis, St Benedict and St John Chrysostom were all rooted in the same gospel of Christ. They were also speaking to people with the same fallen human nature. The similarities in all the different schools of prayer are far greater than the minor differences of style or emphasis.

What the counter-reformation saints did was to adapt the practice of prayer for people living in a Europe that was now divided on religious grounds, and in an increasingly urban society that was on the steady road to that development which would culminate in the industrial revolution. It is fascinating to compare St Francis de Sales and St Ignatius of Loyola. In most people’s minds, the gentle Bishop of Geneva is contrasted with the fiery founder of a military style “Company of Jesus.” Yet the ten meditations for beginners in the “Introduction to the Devout Life” are simply a shorter version of the Spiritual Exercises, well adapted for lay people living in the world.

If you want to learn about mental prayer from scratch, I would suggest reading the “Introduction to the Devout Life.” Of course it has some dated references and style but it is easy to apply his teaching to everyday life today, and St Francis is a most sympathetic teacher of prayer. If you want to get going before you get the book, I did write a very short and simple guide to the practice of mental prayer.

Friday, 9 August 2013

IOR ("Vatican Bank") new website

The Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR), in a very sensible move, has set up its own website to give basic information and act as a point of contact for the media. The IOR is often referred to as "The Vatican Bank" but strictly speaking it is not a bank because it does not use deposits to lend money. (The question of whether it should become a bank is one of those raised by Pope Francis.)

In the nature of the case, the website is not the most exciting in the world, though it does have a pleasant minimalist design. There is quite a lot of information and plenty of links to relevant documents. The media section collects together recent press releases for convenience.

The principal function of the IOR is to look after assets transferred to it by Catholic institutions. 85% of its assets under management are from Catholic institutions such as religious orders, dioceses and the Holy See itself.

When looking at large numbers, especially concerning the Church and money, it is always useful to make comparisons. In 2012 the IOR had has assets under management of 7.1 billion euro (£6.1 billion). The Private Bank arm of HSBC, just to take an example, is over 50 times larger in that respect, having had $494 billion (£318 billion) under management in 2007 according to the Wikipedia article for HSBC. (Oh, and HSBC has also been accused of money laundering.)

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

40 Days for Life book

40 Days for Life which began in 2004 in Texas has grown in England in recent years and is now a regular part of pro-life witness. David Bereit and Shawn Carney, together with Cindy Lambert, have collected 40 short stories from life to give encouragement and inspiration to pro-lifers and, let us hope, to those who are undecided.

The stories show how God has transformed lives. Mothers have changed their minds about abortion, those praying have deepened in their spiritual lives, and even abortion workers have been converted. I was glad to see the chapter "From boys to men" focussing especially on the responsibility of young fathers.

40 Days for Life: Discover What God Has Done...Imagine What He Can Do ("True stories from the Movement that is changing hearts and saving lives on prayer at a time") Published by Cappella Books 272pp hardback. the link will take you to where the book is £13.12 and Kindle edition £4.99. Alternatively you can order the book via the 40 Days for Life website.

Mass at Blackfen with the Franciscans of the Immaculate

2013-08-06 20.52.45

Fr Giovanni Mannelli of the Franciscans of the Immaculate (the nephew of Fr Stefano Mannelli, co-founder of the Institute) came to Blackfen yesterday evening to celebrate Solemn High Mass for the feast of the Transfiguration. I was deacon and Fr Simon Heans of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was subdeacon. Father preached an inspiring sermon on the Transfiguration: this was quite a feat as English is not his first language but he managed very well. The Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate sang for the Mass and included a beautiful setting of the Ave Maris Stella at the end.

After Mass we had a gathering in the Hall which was a great opportunity for people to meet and chat to the sisters. As I said to them, their presence and their habits are a witness to the religious vocation. I was especially glad that lots of children got to meet the Sisters too: it is great that they grow up knowing that cheerful, kindly and devoted religious sisters are a normal part of Church life.

I did ask for prayers for the Institute since, as everyone knows, there are some internal difficulties just at the moment. I pray that these will be overcome by the spirit and practice of obedience and charity that is so evident in the Institute, and that St Francis will triumph with pace e bene. That was certainly evident at Blackfen last night.

2013-08-06 21.35.29

Photo credit: Mulier Fortis

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Evangelium Conference Report

I am very happy to pass on this report of the Evangelium Conference which took place last weekend:
Over one hundred young adults met deep in the Oxford countryside 2-4 August for the sixth annual Evangelium conference, designed to help Catholics explain and defend the Faith in the modern world. Delegates streamed away from the Oratory School, founded by the recently-beatified Cardinal John Henry Newman, enthused by top-class speakers and liturgical services of stunning beauty and dignity in worship of God. Participants expressed gratitude for the opportunities to make new Catholic friends, for the mutual encouragement in the Faith, for the chance to explore vocations and the commitment to holiness. One participant wrote in the feedback, “Never stop holding these conferences: you are making saints.”

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, as well as celebrating Mass for the second time in three years at the conference, spoke movingly on the great 19th century French saint, Jean Vianney, as an inspiration for the Faith in our age, and on the need for perseverance. Other speakers included Fr Jerome Bertram of the Oxford Oratory, James and Joanna Bogle, Dr Alan Fimister and Dr William Newton of the International Theological Institute, Fr John Hermer from Allen Hall, Fr Nicholas Schofield from Westminster Archdiocese, Dr Joseph Shaw from the Faculty of Philosophy at Oxford, Fr Ed Tomlinson from the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and Sr Mary Trinity of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT). Besides no shortage of discussion of hot-button topics in apologetics, philosophy, theology, and the defence of marriage and life, there was still time to chill out in the bar to live Colombian music.

The Evangelium project is sponsored by the Catholic Truth Society and started in 2006 with the publication of a catechetical course by Fr Marcus Holden and Fr Andrew Pinsent. The next Evangelium conference is planned for 1–3 August 2014.

New edition of Newman's "Tracts for the Times"

The Catholic publishers Gracewing are continuing their important contribution to Catholic scholarship in publishing the Millennium Edition of the works of Blessed John Henry Newman. The latest volume is "Tracts for the Times" which includes those tracts written by Newman with the exception of a few that have already been published in the series.

During the period of the Tracts for the Times, Newman was still an Anglican and argued against Romanism which he then regarded as heretical, but the process of trying to defend an orthodox doctrinal position within the Church of England was instrumental in his conversion to Rome.

The papers in this volume include the fascinating "Thoughts on Alterations in the Liturgy", "Mortification of the Flesh, a Scriptural Duty" and Newman's defence of the Via Media which he later repudiated.

The volume is edited and annotated by my good friend Fr James Tolhurst whose doctorate was on Newman's understanding of the Church.

552 pages £25 from Gracewing

Petition to Bishops to consecrate England and Wales to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that the Bishops of Ireland would be consecrating Ireland to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in response to requests from the faithful. I suggested that someone might like to start up a similar initiative here.

Well there is now a petition asking the Bishops to consecrate England and Wales to the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I encourage you to sign it, and to pray for our Bishops.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Age-limited Catholic events

2013-07-31 17.11.17

Various organisations arrange events for different age groups. In many cases this is uncontroversial; if an event is arranged such as the Faith Summer Break (coming up soon) for 11-15 year olds, it is unlikely that a 40 year old is going to be offended by being excluded. And I don’t have middle aged people complaining to me that they are not allowed to come to the toddlers’ group and play on the pretend police car.

In terms of sex specific groups we seem to have settled down. There is no push to have men join the Union of Catholic Mothers or the Catholic Women’s League and there seems to be peace as regards the Knights of St Columba being reserved to men.

Discontent does sometimes focus around groups for young adults. Typically the limit is 18-35. This is true of the Faith Summer Session, Evangelium and the London Oratory’s Young Catholic Adults group. People who have tripped over the age limit can be annoyed that they are not allowed to go. Since this is a regular complaint, I thought it would be useful to have a blog post that I can refer to in the future when this comes up.

It is perfectly reasonable to have events specifically for young adults and you have to set a limit somewhere: 18-35 seems a reasonable compromise. There is an advantage in allowing people within such an age band to meet together and share common interests, quite apart from the talks that might form part of the activity. One hopes that some good marriages might result, and experience shows that this sometimes happens. Of course it is a bit annoying for people to find that they have outgrown such groups, especially if they haven’t found them earlier in life.

We probably do need more groups for people of all ages. The recent Day of Faith was a response to this need, and the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham are doing a great job at providing events open to everyone. As we progress through the generation that lacked adequate catechesis and land up with the generation that does not know the “Our Father”, there is a real thirst for catechesis not only among the young but also among older people. People also need the opportunity to mix socially with Catholics who love their faith and to benefit from the encouragement and support that this provides.

So I am all in favour or groups for young adults but also support the wider provision of days and conferences that are open to all.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Faith Summer Session 2013

Yesterday John Deighan, the Parliamentary Officer for the Scottish Bishops' Conference, spoke at the annual Summer Session of the Faith Movement. The website of the Catholic Parliamentary Office has a regular newsletter and information about Catholic Social Teaching. John's talk was a hard-hitting examination of the state of society today and the need for the Church to be present in the public square against the attack on humanity.

The theme of the Summer Session is "Friendship with God - the Meaning of Following Christ" and features talks by priests and lay people of the Faith Movement on the person of Christ, the sacraments, prayer, the apostolate and Our Lady. In addition to Mass and parts of the Office, there is adoration each afternoon and plenty of social activities. The conference provides a great opportunity for priests to meet up, as well as seminarians. It was good yesterday to catch up also with families and friends who came for the day.

Above is the group from the Blackfen Faith Forum who are enjoying themselves immensely. Most of them are in fact all taller than me - I am standing on a small wall :-)
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