Saturday, 22 August 2015

Devotional highlights film of A Day With Mary at Margate

DWM 150718

The Day with Mary team has sent me a ten minute film with highlights of the Day With Mary that was held at St Austin and St Gregory, Margate on 18 July this year. Principal highlights are the crowning of the statue, the Marian and Blessed Sacrament processions, Benediction and the farewell procession. It was a glorious day. Above is a cropped still capture which I rather liked and below you view the video.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Catholic Dilemma 288: Cremation, Catholics and the Resurrection

I am now well into my nineties and have been considering my death for some years. I see that the Church now allows cremation, but since we believe in the resurrection of the body, what worries me is that afterwards, there is no body, only ashes.

The 19th century cremation movement, promoted initially by Italian freemasons involved an explicit denial of the resurrection of the body as well as (largely spurious) hygienic and public health concerns. In response, the Church insisted on the ancient custom of burial until 1966, by which time cremation had become more common and was less likely to be promoted for reasons contrary to the faith. The Code of Canon Law puts the present law simply: “The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the deceased be observed; nevertheless, the Church does not prohibit cremation unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine.” (Canon 1176.3)

In ancient Rome, the bodies of Christians were often recovered at great risk for a dignified burial. Some pagans thought that by burning the bodies, they would make their resurrection impossible. The early Christian writer Minucius Felix replied that Christians did not fear loss or harm from cremation “even though we adopt the ancient and better custom of burial.”

In encouraging Christian burial, the Church draws attention to the body which is washed in baptism, anointed at confirmation, and fed with the Holy Eucharist. The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and is treated with respect after death. The traditional custom of burial also acts as a symbol of the person sleeping in Christ until the resurrection. Likewise the ashes should be treated with respect after cremation at all times, and reverently buried, not scattered.

May I gently urge you to make a Will which includes your desire for a Requiem Mass (as well as the disposal of your mortal remains and any material assets.) This will be an act of kindness and will greatly help your surviving relatives when God calls you to Himself. And God bless you for giving us an example of lifelong active and enquiring faith.

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

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Why are the readings not chanted?

Singing the epistle at Pontifical High Mass in the Lateran Basilica, 
celebrated by the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship

Recently there has been an interesting exchange on the question of who should do the readings at at Mass in the modern rite. (Cf. Benedict Constable and Joseph Shaw.) Reference has been made to the question of instituted Lectors. Lector was one of the minor orders since at least the time of Tertullian, but in 1972, Pope Paul VI made Lector a lay ministry by the Apostolic Letter Ministeria Quaedam. (Latin original - English translation.) In the traditional orders, however, seminarians are still ordained to the Lectorate as a minor order.

A traditional seminarian who has been ordained Lector recently reminded me that Lectors in such seminaries do not read or chant the epistle at Mass. Their "ministry of reading" is limited to occasionally chanting one of the lessons when there are several before the epistle (on ember days, for example.) The epistle itself is always chanted by the subdeacon at High Mass, chanted by the celebrant at Missa Cantata (solemn Mass without a deacon and subdeacon) and read by the celebrant at Low Mass.

So if we are to base the question of who should read the epistle in the modern rite on the ancient practice, Lectors have nothing much to do with it. If the modern rite is to follow tradition in the matter of who does the first reading, it has to be the celebrant or a deacon, not an ordained Lector, an instituted Lector, or a layperson stepping into this role. Modern liturgists will probably want to argue that in the modern rite, lay people have a liturgical role and various ministries, and that doing the reading is one of them. This question is one of those left essentially unresolved by almost universally tolerated practice.

What I would like to raise is the question of why the readings are almost never chanted. It is true that the directives on music since the Council give quite a bit of flexibility over what may be sung at Mass. In the traditional form of Mass, you essentially either have sung Mass or a said "Low" Mass. At sung Mass, all of the sung parts must be sung, period. In the modern rite, there is a hierarchy of what is more important to sing. It is some time since I mastered the labyrinthine rules of this: they seem to change from time to time, and they are largely ignored in any case. Whatever the rules say, grand "set-piece" liturgies in the modern rite in Cathedrals and Seminaries round the world are praised to the skies for their wonderful music when neither the Introit nor the Communion is sung, let alone the Offertorium. (Many experienced musicians have never heard that there is such a thing as an Offertory chant in the modern rite.)

What you will very rarely come across is a chanted first reading or second reading in the vernacular. Occasionally in seminaries and the like, the Gospel is chanted, but that is still rare; most people will only have heard such a thing when watching papal liturgies on television. Yet surely the second Vatican Council emphasised the importance of the word? If the Preface at Mass or the Sanctus is chanted, why is St Paul so neglected? Are the very words of Christ Himself in the Gospel to be left spoken as though they are part of the private prayers of the priest?

Two developments have contributed to this effective downgrading of the word of the Lord. The first and less interesting to my mind, is the invention of the microphone. Nowadays the words can be heard even if they are just spoken, whereas the chant made the voice carry more effectively in a large building. The general rule at the traditional Solemn Mass is that the public prayers are sung while the private prayers are said in a low voice (secreto). Conversely at Low Mass, the texts that would be sung at Solemn Mass are said audibly, whereas the private prayers are again spoken secreto. The anomalies (particularly the prayers at the foot of the altar and the Last Gospel) are generally associated with elements considered extraneous to the core of the rite of Mass. The microphone makes it possible in practice to ignore the distinction between public and private prayers, and so it is in fact ignored, thus damaging the balance of elements in the Roman Rite. It is one of those unforeseen consequences of the hasty reform of the rite.

More interesting, I think, is the question of what exactly we are doing when we proclaim the word of God. It is almost universally accepted that at the Mass, the word of God is proclaimed solely for the instruction of the people. Obviously it would be foolish to consider this as irrelevant; there are plenty of patristic homilies commenting on the Gospel of the day, and clearly the instructional or catechetical element has a long and noble history.

However this does not rule out the possibility which is rarely mentioned, that the chanting of the scriptures at Mass has a doxological and sacramental dimension. The division between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist in the modern form, or between the Mass of the Catechumens and the Mass of the Faithful in the traditional form, cannot be taken to mean a division between worship and non-worship, or between classroom and prayer. The whole rite is an act of worship, including the proclamation of the scriptures. The one who reads is enunciating words inspired by the Holy Ghost. They are meant to be set forth with reverence and solemnity. Even liturgical abuses such as the deacon dancing around in a meaningful pattern, accompanied by voile-swirling ladies, while waving the Gospel book above his head, are witness to the fundamental meaning of the reading of the Word as an act which is in itself the worship of the Father and not just a didactic exercise.

The acclamation in response to the proclamation of scripture is Deo gratias or Laus tibi Christe, not pursed lips and a nod of understanding. We do not affirm that we have heard and digested, we give thanks and praise, two fundamental actions of participation in the action of Christ in the divine Liturgy.

So why are the readings always spoken and never chanted at sung Masses in the modern form?

It occurred to me that if this thesis spreads like a forest fire and inspires liturgists around the world to re-introduce the chanting of the readings, there is a strong possibility that some liturgists will assume the freedom to go beyond the traditional sober chants in their noble simplicity so commended by the second Vatican Council. As with the Responsorial Psalm, there could be new chants composed, especially for the bits with lots of compassion and "mothering" images, that might make the prophet Hosea sound like a cross between the Carpenters and Dolly Parton. I disclaim all responsibility for any such consequences now or in the future, anything to the contrary notwithstanding.

Monday, 17 August 2015

The blessing of a chariot

When I studied Latin in Rome with Fr Reginald Foster, he used to suggest that a good word for a car was autorhaeda, a word in fact used in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis of 1965 when speaking of a visit made by Pope Paul VI to the Basilica of St Chrysogonus in Trastevere. The word raeda (without the "h") was used by Caesar, Cicero and Horace for a travelling wagon with four wheels and the addition of "auto" does not make for too awful a neologism.

In the Rituale Romanum, the blessing for a motor vehicle is the Benedictio vehiculi seu currus. The word currus is normally translated as chariot and reflects the way that people often view their car.

Since one's motor vehicle is more likely to be the locus of one's death or injury than many other artefacts, it does make sense to have it blessed. Above you can see us striding purposefully past the Georgian houses of Victoria Road and here is the blessing of the classic mini:

The blessing given in the Rituale has a typical scriptural reference and calls to mind our journey to eternal life:
Benedictio vehiculi seu currus

V. Adjutórium nostrum in nómine Dómini.
R. Qui fecit cælum et terram.
V. Dóminus vobíscum.
R. Et cum spíritu tuo.

Propitiare, Dómine Deus,supplicatiónibus nostris, et béne + dic currum istum déxtera tua sancta: adjúnge ad ipsum sanctos Angelos tuos, ut omnes, qui in eo vehéntur, líberent et custódiant semper a perículis univérsis: et quemádmodum viro Æthíopi super currum suum sedénti et sacra elóquia legénti, per Levítam tuum Philíppum fidem et grátiam contulísti; ita fámulis tuis viam salútis osténde, qui tua grátia adjúti bonísque opéribus júgiter inténti, post omnes viæ et vitæ hujus varietátes,ætérna gáudia cónsequi mereántur.Per Christum Dóminum nostrum.
R. Amen.
Et aspergatur aqua benedicta.
Here is an English version from the Small Ritual of 1964 which is in parts more of a pious reflection on the text than an accurate translation:
V. Our help is in the name of the Lord
R. Who made heaven and earth
V. The Lord be with you
R. And with your spirit

Let us pray
Hear our prayer, Lord God, and raise thy hand in blessing over this carriage. Command they holy Angels to be near it, keeping danger far away from all who travel by its means. As thou gavest faith and grace, through thy Levite Philip, to the Ethiopian who sat in his chariot reading thy holy word; so now point out to those who are carried by this vehicle the way that leads to salvation. May thy grace enable them ever to travel to good purpose: and when at last life's journey is over and adventuring is done, may everlasting happiness be theirs. Through Christ our Lord.
R. Amen.
The vehicle is sprinkled with holy water.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Gothic vestments: the real thing


The Gothic versus Roman debate on vestments can lead to disproportionately strong feeling. The English College at Rome has a very fine High Mass set made by Pugin. At least it was very fine until the one-time Rector, Arthur Hinsley, cut the chasuble into a Roman shape. Poor Pugin, who was known to have dramatic emotional outbursts, would have had the mother of all tantrums.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of celebrating Missa Cantata for the feast of the Assumption at the shrine of St Augustine in Ramsgate with chant provided by the Schola Sancti Augustini under the leadership of Tom Neal. The shrine has recently received a massive grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund which is great news, since the plan is to restore Pugin's own Church to its former glory as well as providing a visitor and education centre.

In the fading light of a gloomy Thanet afternoon I found the above set of vestments designed by AW Pugin himself, waiting for me on the vestment press as if, you know, "we have plenty of them down here." Most modern vestments, even in traditional style, have damask made of synthetic fabric. It is quite a contrast to put on a chasuble made with heavy cotton damask. Here is a close-up of the orphrey and medallion.


There is an interesting detail on the front. The collar just about fitted round my medium-sized head but the cranially larger priest would have difficulty. To avoid an embarrassing struggle, the collar has a small hook-and-eye clasp that is still in perfectly good functioning condition.


After Mass I met yet another seamstress - there are at least three in my parish in Margate. We will be looking to form a local branch of the Guild of St Clare, I think. There are some fine patterns to work from in the area, and if gothic vestments can be made as splendid as the one I wore today in honour of the Assumption of Our Lady, I could be persuaded out of my predilection for baroque. - at least for some occasions anyway.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Downloadable booklets for Vespers

Gregorian Chant Hymns is a most helpful website that I mentioned in a post just over a year ago. As I said then, the site
"[...] promotes the learning of Gregorian Chant by making sheet music, recordings, translations, and instructions. There is a short guide to Gregorian Notation (those square notes) and to Latin pronunciation. Everything is available free of charge, in line with other great traditional music websites."
Work has continued at the site and there is now a section which makes available pdf (or .docx format) booklets for Vespers for every Sunday of the Year and a few major feasts. There is the basic booklet for ordinary Sunday Vespers which is supplemented by separate files for the Sundays after Pentecost which contain the Magnificat and Collect. Then there are booklets, for example for Advent and Lent, where the office is different from the regular Sunday Vespers with its antiphons. All of the booklets have texts and notation for Benediction and the Marian anthems which are usually sung in parishes after Sunday Vespers.

The booklets all have English translations - these are set out in a sidebar, rather than taking up a full column of a two-equal-column layout. I think this helps to emphasise the place of the translation as something subsidiary to the principal text and chant notation.

Many parishes that have the older form of Mass try to have Vespers from time to time. This is enjoyable both for the schola and the servers, and is a beautiful evening service for people to attend in praise of the Father. Gregorian Chant Hymns have done a great service in making booklet files freely available.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

"Sewing and Greek" and other summer activities

The Summer Session of the Faith Movement this week has seen young adults from all over the UK enjoying lectures, sport and social activities, daily Mass and other spiritual provision. One of the encouraging things about it is that every year there are newly-ordained priests and deacons along with a large number of seminarians progressing through their training at various colleges.

I visited yesterday and attended the lecture given by this year's visiting speaker, Mgr Keith Newton, the Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Mgr Newton gave an account of his personal experiences as an Anglican and the motivation which led him to seek full communion with the Catholic Church. During the question time, Fr Roger Nesbitt, who has done so much over the years to invite and encourage Anglican clergy to come into full communion, gave a warm appreciation of what the Ordinariate has brought to the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

During the past couple of decades, many summer initiatives have been developed, especially for young people. Last weekend, my neighbour, Fr Marcus Holden, was at the Evangelium conference, before that, the Summer School of the St Catherine's Trust welcomed youngsters (11-18) for a programme of lessons and other activities. I asked one young girl what she enjoyed most. She said "Sewing and Greek."

I think I recognise one of the servers from this picture at the FSSP England Facebook page.

These events and others like them share a commitment to solid, orthodox catechesis and the reverent celebration of the sacred Liturgy, as well as offering a healthy environment for young people to meet and make friends among fellow Catholics who share their faith and usually, the experience of having to stand up and be counted. May the Lord bless us with vocations to the priesthood and the religious life as well as many more good Catholic lay apostles.

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