Sunday, 24 April 2016

Peter, teach us; confirm thy brethren


For my breakfast reading at the moment, I am enjoying Pius IX And His Time by the Rev Aeneas MacDowell Dawson which I obtained free of charge from Amazon. It is fascinating to discover the scope of the ministry of Blessed Pio Nono and his concern for the Church throughout the world at a time when his own liberty and life was threatened.

In the midst of great troubles, he consulted the bishops of the world on the advisability of defining doctrine of the immaculate conception of our Blessed Lady. He gathered in Rome the largest concourse of Bishops since the 4th Lateran Council in 1215. The question arose whether the bishops would assist him in coming to a decision and pronounce simultaneously with him, or leave the final judgement to him alone. MacDowell reports:
[...] the debate, as if by inspiration from on high, came suddenly to a close. It was the Angelus hour. The prelates had scarcely resumed their places after the short prayer, and exchanged a few words, when they made a unanimous declaration in favor of the supremacy of St. Peter's chair: Petre, doce nos; confirma fratres tuos - "Peter, teach us; confirm thy brethren."

Monday, 18 April 2016

Three cheers! A new lectionary in the pipeline - using the RSV

Ten years ago, I reported the news that Ignatius Press had produced a lectionary using the text of the Revised Standard Version 2nd Catholic edition and that it had been approved for use - in the Antilles. I suggested then, that "It would be a very good thing if this version were approved for use in England."

In November 2015, there was some good news on this front which went largely unnoticed. In the Plenary session of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, one of the short resolutions was:
The Bishops’ Conference agrees to seek the approval of the Holy See for the use of the Revised Standard Version (2nd Catholic edition 2010) and the Revised Grail Psalter (2010) in the preparation of a Lectionary for use in England and Wales.
I don't think there are any major changes to the 2010 version, so I presume (and hope) that the approval of the Holy See would not present any problems.

Since there may be some questions regarding details, it would be well to clarify a few points.
  • The RSV Catholic edition of 1966 is still legitimate for use in England and Wales, though no new lectionaries using this version have been produced for many years. 
  • The 2006 (2nd Catholic edition) published by Ignatius, was brought into accord with Liturgiam Authenticam
  • The most noticeable change is the use of modern pronouns and verb forms. In the 1966, the form such as "Thou didst" were used in texts where God is addressed directly. 
  • Other changes relate particularly to favouring Catholic renderings of versions of disputed texts. The most famous of these is the translation "Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear a son" (Is 7.14) rather than "young woman." 
  • The RSV is very different from the New Revised Standard Version. The NRSV was strongly committed to inclusive language (see this page for information) and was rejected for liturgical use by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
To be honest, I don't know what differences, if any, there are between the 2006 and 2010 editions, but I would be surprised if there were any important ones.

For English Catholics, the change to using the RSV will be a vast improvement. We have been largely limited to the Jerusalem Bible version which is not a translation from the original texts but from a French translation. Worse than that, it is filled with laughable colloquialisms.

Off the top of my head, and therefore without references, but with a weary familiarity with an utterly undignified text, here are just a very few examples of what we may soon be able to say goodbye to:
"You make a fine king of Israel and no mistake!" [Jezebel to Ahab]
"Peter, who had practically nothing on ..."
"Simon, son of John, you are a happy man ..."
"and he began to feel the pinch" [the prodigal son]
"Leave off! That will do!" [Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane]
"You don't seem to have grasped the situation at all" [Caiaphas]
It would be worth publicising your favourite silly verses from the current Jerusalem Bible lectionary, because as sure as night follows day, we can expect a whingeing sub-marxist campaign against this sensible and long overdue resolution of the Bishops. Be prepared to be told how you, the people, are being oppressed by the fancy words and non-inclusive language of the inspired scriptures translated with reasonable accuracy.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Confession leaflets back online

People quite often ask me for the confession leaflets that I published on the website of my previous parish. Fr Zuhlsdorf was kind enough recently to make them available via his blog. I have now found a home for them on an almost dormant website that I set up a few years ago for my own stuff. Here is a link to the downloads page. I am delighted to make them available for priests and catechists, but please don't email me asking for permission to use them. As the page says, they are released under a creative commons licence and you can use them without asking (I do receive enough email to keep me from getting lonely, thanks.)

I have a number of old files that could do with a bit of editing and sprucing-up, but will be suitable for adding to the page. Now that colour printing via internet-based firms is so much cheaper than it used to be, I'll be converting the confession leaflets and some other things to make colour versions available as well.

And maybe some articles from my personal archive ...

Monday, 11 April 2016

Saint Gemma, scourge of the crypto-modernists

Today, 11 April is the feast of Saint Gemma Galgani generally - the Passionists celebrate her feast on 16 May. I just reminded myself in time yesterday when I was looking up various calendars for feasts that are usually missed, such as that of Saint Philomena on 11 August - or indeed that of Saint John Nepomuk on 16 May. He could be important for Margate since we have such a large number of Czech and Slovak people in the parish.

Saint Gemma was one of those saints of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who excited the rabid opposition of those I am increasingly inclined to think were crypto-modernists. If you want another example, consider the scorn with which the process for the canonisation of Saint Bernadette was regarded by Fr Herbert Thurston SJ. And don't get me started on the liberal sceptic attack on Saint Philomena in the Catholic Encyclopaedia.

The "problem" with Saint Gemma (and I suppose Saint Bernadette) was that she was favoured by Almighty God with extraordinary manifestations. I think that she was an extraordinarily great saint and that we do well so seek her intercession.

For further information and links, see my previous posts Saint Gemma GalganiSaint Gemma prayers, and Not just the stigmata .... There is also the Saint Gemma Galgani website and you can read the Letters of St Gemma Galgani online.

Saint Gemma Galgani, pray for us.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

"He placed his hand on his breast and would bless none of them"

Johann Michael Rottmayr - Apotheosis of St Charles Borromeo - WGA20155Saint Charles Borromeo is one of my favourite saints. A great reformer in the true sense, he was austere in his personal life, but generous in his use of all the outward signs which would emphasise the sacredness of his office. He was a stickler for the proper observance of liturgical ceremonial, but kindly towards those who made unintentional mistakes. He was much loved by the poor, not least because of his heroic ministration of the sacraments during the plague, but also because of his generosity.

Ecclesiastical censures were a part of his daily ministry, used by him for their salutary purpose, regardless of the dangers with which he was sometimes threatened by the powerful who resented his integrity. He was also adamantine in using them to draw people to genuine conversion, without succumbing to the weakness of a false mercy that would leave them in their sin. One episode, which the biographer describes as remarkable, occurred when Saint Charles was making a visitation of the Diocese of Brescia and travelled through the valley of Camonica which was influenced by the Calvinists. In Plano, the people were under interdict for failing to pay their tithes, but they were enthusiastic to see the Saint:
"As the cardinal passed through, they all ran out to see him, wishing to get his blessing; but he placed his hand on his breast and would bless none of them. Deeming they were deprived of a great treasure, they ran after him, weeping and crying for pity, begging him not to leave them without granting the boon. As he wished them to acknowledge their fault, he paid no attention to them, telling them to obey their Bishop and pay their tithes."
He later sent a trusted colleague to preach to them, and promise the blessing of the Cardinal if they would do their duty. They accordingly repented, received absolution (from the sin and the censure) and were able to welcome Saint Charles on his return, when he said Mass for them, and gave them his blessing.

I have just finished Giussano's monumental Life of St Charles, which is available free at the Internet Archive. I paid 99p on Amazon for a nicely made-up copy for my kindle. It was one of those books I felt sad to reach the end of, so yesterday I was looking around for something good to read. For the sum of £0.00 I found Pius IX and His Time by Æneas MacDonell Dawson. Enjoying it so far.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Putting Becket's name out of all the bokes

Father Daren J. Zehnle, KHS, a priest of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, studying Canon Law at the Greg, was pleased to have just had approval to submit his thesis on the order and age of Confirmation in the Latin Church with only minor amendments (Congratulations, Father!), and so found himself with some extra time after visiting Scotland recently. He travelled South to make a pilgrimage to the grave of JRR Tolkien. He also made a last-minute decision to visit Canterbury and the site of the shrine of St Thomas.

You can read his post The hooly blisful martir for to seke and enjoy some great photographs. Here is my own photo of the place of the shrine:


It was reckoned to be one of the most richly adorned shrines in Christendom, thanks to the generosity and devotion of the pilgrims who donated to it. I find it heartbreaking to look over the empty space resulting from the callous and spiteful destruction of Henry VIII which also involved the alienation of a large amount of valuable property. Apparently 26 wagons were needed to carry off the valuables after the attentions of the Commission for the Destruction of Shrines. What could be melted down ended up at the Royal Mint at the Tower of London.


St Thomas excited Henry's particular hatred because he stood up for the rights of the Church against the usurpations of the crown. The story of St Thomas being put on trial for treason and being sentenced to having his bones burnt seems to be reckoned as apocryphal, but there was a determined effort at rubbishing his memory by blaming his death on his own behavour.
"And he not only callyd the one of them bawde, but also toke Tracy by the bosome, and violently shoke and plucked hym in suche maner, that he had almoste overthrowen hym to the pavement of the Churche; so that upon this fray one of their company, perceivynge the same, strake hym, and so in the thronge Becket was slayne."(Quoted in: Constitutions of Clarendon "Henry VIII's Proclamation, 1538: The Unsainting of Thomas Becket")
I suppose with all that taking by the bosome, shaking and plucking, and calling people bawdy he was just asking to have his skull cleaved in half and his brains poured out all over the flagstones.

In a damnatio memoriae, his images were ordered to be destroyed and his name to be erased:
"Therefore his Grace strayghtly chargeth and commandeth that from henseforth the sayde Thomas Becket shall not be estemed, named, reputed, nor called a sayncte, but bysshop Becket; and that his ymages and pictures, through the hole realme, shall be putte downe, and avoyded out of all churches, chapelles, and other places; and that from henseforthe, the dayes used to be festivall in his name shall not be observed, nor the service, office, antiphoners, colletes, and prayers, in his name redde, but rased and put out of all the bokes.”
Some of those "bokes" can be found in the British Library whose Medieval Manuscripts blog has a fascinating page on Erasing Becket.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Adoring Jesus the embryo

Giotto, Lower Church Assisi, The Visitation 01

When the Magi found the child Jesus, we are told by St Matthew that "falling down, they adored him", thus offering the worship of latria to a new born infant. Rightly so, because in the divine and human natures of Christ are united in one divine person. This is true from the very beginning of his human life and therefore it is fitting for the worship of latria or adoration strictly reserved for God, to be given to Our Lord even as an embryo.

Today's celebration of the Annunciation reminded me of this important truth. After the text read at today's Mass, the gospel continues: "And Mary rising up in those days (ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ταύταις - in diebus illis), went into the hill country with haste (μετὰ σπουδῆς - cum festinatione) into a city of Juda." (Lk 1.39) The narrative of the Visitation follows.

We may assume that the child Jesus was conceived in the womb of Our Lady at the moment she gave her consent with the words "Be it done to me according to thy word" in verse 38. In a different context, "in those days" could mean generally within a space of time, perhaps a few weeks or months, but the addition of the qualifying "with haste" indicates that the journey was undertaken immediately. Ein Karem, the probable site of the Visitation, is about 95 miles from Nazareth, making for a journey of five or six days if undertaken in haste by someone who was fit and used to walking.

So Saint Elizabeth's greeting "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? " (Lk 1.42-43) was made in the presence of the 5-6 day embryo (or blastocyst) who was Lord. And Saint John the Baptist leapt in the womb in recognition of the divine embryo.

In the time of Our Lady and Saint Elizabeth, nobody knew about embryos: the development of life in the womb was not well understood. Now that we do know, it seems to me particularly important to recognise the divine person of Christ from the first moment of His conception. In the UK, it is legal to experiment on embryos up to 14 days old. After that, the experimental subjects have to be destroyed since they are deemed to be "of no moral value".

Sunday, 3 April 2016

The Church used by Queen Bertha and Saint Augustine


A short walk outside the Roman walls of Canterbury is St Martin's, the oldest Church in the English speaking world. St Bede says that it was in use in late Roman times but had fallen out of use until it was restored by Queen Bertha, the Christian wife of King Ethelbert, in about 580. When St Augustine arrived in 597, his community of monks enlarged the Church to make use of it for the choir offices and it was here that Ethelbert was baptised.

Since the Reformation, the Church has been in use as an Anglican Church and continues to be a parish Church today. The visitor is welcomed by one of a team of volunteers who are enthusiastic and knowledgeable. In the photo above, you can see the red, flat Roman bricks that were re-used in the walls, and the saxon buttress which was part of St Augustine's extension.

Among the many features of interest is the Squint, an angled hole in the western wall of the Church which was provided for lepers to be able to see the Mass being celebrated. I suppose this was a medieval effort at providing disabled access.

When time permits, I am reading up on the mission of St Augustine and other matters of historical interest related to East Kent. Canterbury is half an hour on the train and I hope soon to visit the Abbey which St Augustine founded once the community was more settled. As with many things in this part of the world, it is closed during the week from November until late March, so the improved weather also brings the possibility of more interesting day trips.


Saturday, 2 April 2016

A visit to the Shrine of Saint Jude


Faversham, a market town in Kent, ten miles from Canterbury, is home to the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, under the care of the Carmelites, and its annex, the National Shrine of St Jude. The Shrine is the attraction for large numbers of visitors from all over the world, thanks to the work of Fr Elias Lynch and his fellow Carmelites. Fr Elias was one of three brothers who were all Carmelite priests and leading figures in the revival of Carmelite life in England, a major part of which was the restoration of Aylesford Priory 400 years after its dissolution by Henry VIII.

The website of the British Province of Carmelite Friars has a page on the development of the shrine which is fascinating. The following quotation from the reflections of Fr Elias gives an idea of his spirit and energy:
Once you start producing religious pictures, people get the idea that you are unlimited in your range. They think that you can supply any religious picture they like to name. Our great trouble was St. Jude; the Apostle and Martyr; patron of hopeless cases. People used to write to us and say, "Have you got a picture of St. Jude?" Now, that poses a difficulty. He, or she, is a well meaning religious person. If you haven't got a picture of St. Jude, you have to write back and say "No". That means a personal letter and costs 3d. It involves personal correspondence. In the end, we decided that the only way out was to print a large number of pictures of St. Jude and send them out to everybody. I found an old German picture of St. Jude with a club big enough to murder anyone, and I reproduced a quarter of a million pictures of St. Jude and his club, with prayers in honour of St. Jude, and sent them out broadcast to all who called on us.
Roughly: "Well people were asking for pictures of St Jude so I just ran off a quarter of a million of them!"

Part of my heart-protecting discipline is trying to take a proper day off each week, so I took the train from Margate Station earlier this week. The journey takes 32 minutes, (compared with Google's estimate of 37 minutes by car) and the train stops at Westgate-on-Sea, Birchington-on-Sea, Herne Bay, Chestfield and Swalecliffe, and Whitstable on the way, with the sea visible for much of the time. Even at this time of the year, there was a constant trickle of pilgrims. Like Aylesford, the shrine at Faversham could be described as "the other modern." It is impressive to read that the shrine was constructed in two years.

The Church itself is also attractive with its beautiful mural behind the High Altar. I particularly liked the panel on the left, of Our Lady ascending the Temple steps at her Presentation.

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