LIBERA ME, Domine, Iesu Christe, ab omnibus iniquitatis meis et universis malis,
fac me tuis semper inhærere mandatis et a te numquam separari permittas. Amen.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

But . . . the greatest joy is still HERS

As I’ve already said, this is really something which really creates a quite and provide person . . . something which turned into complex, and difficult, and increasing concern to others, rather than to her : but which originally, at the very beginning, it was just her business, her private relationship to God . . .

We have all been there : coped well enough with life when it only affected us, but then discovered we’re not good being part of a big picture . . . which may be why so many are bad having relationships with others; and others simply can’t cope with that sort of thing at all.

Surprisingly for someone like me, someone who really rather enjoys liturgical excesses and the possibility of a major Mass, I have to say that that there really ought to be at least one part of it all which is very quiet and discreet . . . because, when we think about it, the excitement of today was in fact here purely private . . .

As is perfectly normal, in due course I’m sure that there was all sorts of things said and seen in the later days of maternity : but today it was entirely private . . . the right thing for a maiden’s maternity.

So, whilst we rejoice today in the grandeur and wonder of God’s wonderful majesty for His world as it is shown today, let us also try to remember that, at least in the very start, it was simply a very quiet and private thing . . . the magical, and yet magnificent, generosity of His infinite generosity which Our Lady encountered totally privately in her Son’s first beginnings in her womb.

What an Odd Morning . . .

What a lovely day it was . . . and yet at the same time, what a strange one.

You look at this, and realize that in reality there was nothing outwardly grand about it all . . . just a little girl who had a discussion with an Angel of God : and that was that . . . the rest was, in one way, very quiet; and in another the most fundamental of all moves from God.

Today is her day; her day of rejoicing in what, I strongly suspect, was solely and exclusivelt a private magic of hers . . . a day all her own, and without any involvement, or discussion, in anyone else's.

Perhaps it's a good thing  to remember that we all benefit from at least some private involvement in God's world.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Getting Ready for a special day . . .

Tomorrow is one of those days in the Church's year which we all like . . . and even if it’s not quite obvious, simply because although we obviously know exactly what it’s all about now, it’s very hard to understand what it was about then . . .

But at the same time this is one of those things which probably didn’t make particularly sense at the time, precisely because for a newly-conceived girl there was little or nothing absolutely apparent . . . just concepts, and thoughts, and private things to think about.

And in an odd way I try to remember that this is something which is true for all of us . . . that we don’t know the important things until after they’ve happened; which is a difficult thing for us to get our minds to get round, but which is, nonetheless, entirely sensible in the context of reality.

More of which, of course, later on . . .

The Dominic Booklet . . .

The lovely Dominican lady 'Rosamundi' was now emailed to let us know that the Dominican Ordo for the UK is now readiily available . .

So do please contact them the website
and I am sure that they will do their best to ensure that you have it as quickly as possible.

And another splendid Saint . . !

Today is the Feast of S. Ambrose, one of the Church's great 'Doctors of the Church', and undoubtedly one of the great names of early ecclesiastical thought.

He gave much preaching and teaching on which the early parts of the Church's were based, and was largely responsible for ensuring that unified teaching and theology were encouraged and perpetuated not only for his time, but for the time to come.

Let us pray that the Church will always be provided with people to match his teaching, preaching, and faithful theology so that the wisdom of God's love is always perpetuated in the Church's fidelity today, and eternally.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Happy S. Nicholas' Day

A suitably appropriate image of the Bishop with the three young men which he rescued - and, of course, the essential fruit as well !

Do enjoy this wonderful day - particularly if you are the Netherlands, of course - and there will be more later on.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

What was important was what DID happen . . .

. . . which was that even if there wasn't quite the largest congregation, there was a perfectly adequate one; there was certainly a complete group, both of clergy and of servers, for there to be a Solemn High Mass (Extraordinary Form); and there was a good deal of cheerfulness afterwards, even if not quite everyone who would have liked to have got there had managed it.

However, in one way this is (of course) exactly the way life goes : you end up with what you get, not what you'd like . . . and perhaps that's a very valuable lesson for all of us; not only in the context of learning to cope with what actually happens, but also in recognizing that God's will is so precious.

I'm hoping that I shall be able to say a few more things, not only about Mac's delightful gathering yesterday, but on other things I think may interest, later on today; but even if that doesn't work out today, at least the weather is getting better in my part of the world, so hopefully things are now improving generally.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Mmm . . . Saturday provides a whole new world

Well, after a rather lengthy day yesterday trip to Oxford for the Dominican Funeral as previously mentioned (by a rather lengthy route because the most convenient was apparently still not reliable), and then a further journey back by what turned out to be even more convoluted . . . although that seems to have been at least largely a combination of my lack of knowledge and bad timing.

However : that was today, and having risen early to make sure, it appears that the weather has at least partially improved, so hopefully the journey to northern Kent, and Mac's occcasion, will be comparatively painless . . . and I am quite sure that the Mass itself, assuming that I get there, will  be wonderful. However, we shall have to see . . . there's still much that I can't see from here.

So : more in due course, and in the meantime I would ask that you, like me, will keep Mac in your prayers today as she renews her Vows.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

S. Ephrem saw the obvious benefit . . .

In the reading from S. Ephrem in this morning’s Second Lesson of the Office of Readings, he has commented on Christ’s observation to the Disciples, when He said ‘About that hour no one knows, neither the angels nor the Son. It is not for you to know times or moments’; and it is interesting to notice just why he says that Jesus said that : ‘To prevent His disciples from asking the time of His coming’.

And why was this ? Well, quite simply : because by keeping these answers secret, we may always keep watch for Our Lord’s coming, and thus have a genuine concern for His arrival . . . as he says, ‘He promised that He would come but did not say when He would come, and so all generations and ages await Him eagerly.’

So, as we are in Advent, we should remember that there is a good, heavenly, reason why these things are kept from us . . . to make sure that we remain alert, and our minds focussed on His will; and to ensure that we thereby achieve the optimum ambition : that of true, enduring, commitment to His will.

As S. Ephrem put it, ‘He used these words to increase respect for the signs of His coming’.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Useful for the Dominically incllined !

As you probably know, the English Order of Preachers has its own - appropriate - Ordo, which provides for the Feasts and things of the Province : and this year's was released last evening (they are, I should say, provided with information up till the end of the kalendar year, so that there has been no problem with it not quite having arrived in time for Advent Sunday).

For those who are interested, the 2010 - 2011 Ordo can now be seen on line, and I would assume that the printed copy will be available in the not too far distant future.

The S. Andrew Novena

My only excuse for not having mentioned the S. Andrew Novena yesterday is that I didn’t know about it until I read about it this morning !

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
in which the Son of God was born
of the most pure Virgin Mary,
at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold.
In that hour vouchsafe, O my God!
to hear my prayer and grant my desires,
through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ,
and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.
This is apparently an old prayer which those seeking God's will have to say fifteen times each day from S. Andrew’s Day until Christmas Day . . . and providing that one does, it is said that you will gain the intentions for which it is offered.

The prayer – and a good deal of useful information – was provided yesterday on the Moniales OP website, which I recommend you to visit to get all the information . . . as well, of course, as all the other pleasing things which you can find there : so do pay them a visit.

Celebrating after, not before ?

I have thoughts about Advent which are to do, more than almost anything else, with the fact that there seems to be an almost frightening willingness nowadays for even reliably solid Christian communities to start talking and worshipping the Nativity far too early, and thus largely ignoring all the important things which Advent was originally intended – as, for instance, considered in the Second Reading yesterday – to consider.

So it seems to me that ther is very persuasive reason to make a positive decision not to start celebrating Christmas until it actually gets here : and if that means continuing its celebration well after most people have given up and forgotten about it, well perhaps that will, eventually, get peoples’ minds to accept that there is some rational logic in celebrating anything after, rather than before, it happened.

Am I being sensible about this ? What do you think ?

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

O what a glorious sight . . .

In one quite significant way I’m not a great one for the special ‘S. Andrew’s Dinner’, because I actively dislike any dishes based on sheep . . .

. . . which makes it particularly strange that, over the years, I have had to put my kilt on more than a few times in order to deliver that rather spectacular Address to the Haggis (yes, Robbie Burns again !) which is an essential element of the occasion.

However, with luck one manages to avoid all but the absolute minimum particle of the Haggis . . . and that can probably be concealed by the tot of Whisky which one gets to go with it : particularly if one gets the usual large one which one normally gets when one has done the duty of addressing it all in one’s best attempt at Burn’s version of Scottish.

Fascinating, I hear you say : but what, precisely, has it to do with anything relevant . . . to which the only answer I can provide is ‘Nothing at all; it’s purely one of those odd days when one concentrates on things which are not of great importance in the general scheme of things, but are nonetheless of personal relevance to many reasonable people’.

Of course, one of the drawbacks is that S. Andrew’s day comes in Advent almost as often as it comes outside it : but at least for the Scots that is hardly relevant; and even for the rest of us in the UK it is perhaps acceptable to remember it at least a bit . . . so I trust that you will at least recall S. Andrew’s Feast today, however you actually choose to celebrate it.

Happy S. Andrew's Day

A brief Welcome to all, and particularly to our Scottish friends, on this S. Andrew's Day . . . there will, of course, be a little more later on.

Monday, 29 November 2010

. . . and now today's Meditation

This morning’s second Reading in the Office of Readings was a very appropriate one to have at the beginning of Advent. Just consider this thought of S. Charles Borromeo’s :

In his infinite love for us, though we were sinners, he sent his only Son to free us from the tyranny of Satan, to summon us to heaven, to welcome us into its innermost recesses, to show us truth itself, to train us in right conduct, to plant within us the seeds of virtue, to enrich us with the treasures of his grace, and to make us children of God and heirs of eternal life.

As S. Charles says in the Reading, the Church uses Advent to urge us to renew our memory of the great love of God which Christ showed us in His life; and he also reminds us that His love was not only for those of His day, but also for us : and that His power has still to be communicated to us all.

It is for this that we should gladly accept the grace Christ earned for us, and live by that grace and in obedience to Christ; and we must keep that vital fact in our lives day by day : for as S. Charles said, when we remove all obstacles to His presence He will come, at any hour or moment, to dwell spirituality in our hearts - a change which will surely move us even closer to our Blessed Lord, as by His spiritual dwelling in our hearts He will also be bringing with Him the riches of His grace.

This, surely, will help us be ready to be with God not only spiritually during our lives, but also hereafter to be with Him practically in heaven : which is a very valuable thought to get firmly into one’s mind right at the beginning of Advent . . . and perhaps I’m not alone in thinking that it’s a particularly appropriate thought, also, as one for the beginning of the new life which fr Austin OP has begun today.

Please, as well as pondering these words of S. Charles from the Reading for yourself at the start of this Advent, give a moment or two of your time to pray for him.

Request for Prayers

When someone one knows and admires dies, there is in one sense only a single that one should say . . . ‘May he rest in peace, and rise in Glory’ : and that, today, I say for the repose of the soul of fr Austin Milner OP, whose photo from his Golden Jubilee Mass earlier this year is to the right, and who died at Blackfriars, Oxford, this morning.

At the same time I suspect all of us are prone to thinking, at least when we consider the prospect of our own deaths, the shortfall of our own failings and abilities as compared with what they ought to be : and yesterday’s Dominican sermon, by fr John Kenrick OP, reminds us very firmly of this when he says ‘If we truly long for God's reign our conversion to Christ cannot be half-hearted.’

For fr Austin, however, I don’t think that a concern such as this is something that needs to worry us too much : he was such an obvious loving and caring servant of Christ, whose conversion was not ‘half-hearted’, and I understand that the last hours of his earthly life were entirely as one would expect of a living member of God’s family, a child of S. Dominic, who knew that he was close to going home.

Let us pray for him, and remember him with affection.

I understand that fr Austin's funeral is to take place at Blackfriars at 11:30 this Friday, 3rd December; and I am quite sure that all who can come will be very welcome.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

A New Year Prayer for you all

May God bless you all in this New Year :
may Our Holy Mother Mary
keep you always in her love and prayers :
and may S. Dominic and all the Saints constantly intercede for you.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

A thought about Confession today . . .

S. Cyprian actually finished the passage which was quoted in yesterday’s Office of Readings by saying :

My dear brothers, let all our longing be to join them as soon as we may. May God see our desire, may Christ see this resolve that springs from faith, for he will give the rewards of his love more abundantly to those who have longed for him more fervently.

In other words, we should recognize that this world, and this life, is – however good it may be – still only a short-term, temporary, passage en route to (DV) joining God in His Heaven.

As I’ve already mentioned, it would be good for all of us to make our confessions either today or, at latest, before Mass tomorrow; and I suggest that remembering this fact will ensure that we take a proper view of our conduct through life, and gain the greatest benefit from our self-examination and confession.

Obviously rejoicing in the start of the Church’s New Year is both natural and proper; but let us also recognize that it is virtuous for all of us to acknowledge that every New Year we experience is also evidence that we are closer to our eternal life in Heaven (we hope and pray), and that we should therefore seek to be closer to God and His will now, at the end of this year, than we were at the beginning.

Friday, 26 November 2010

The Ultimate Aim is Going Home

We ought never to forget, beloved, that we have renounced the world. We are living here now as aliens and only for a time. When the day of our homecoming puts an end to our exile, frees us from the bonds of the world, and restores us to paradise and to a kingdom, we should welcome it.

Thus said S. Cyprian in this morning’s second reading of the Office of Readings : and it does seem to me to be quite valuable to recollect at this time of year (as it comes to an end) that, however easy it may be for us to forget that our primary purpose is to prepare for our ultimate Heavenly life, that is nevertheless our ultimate aim, and that we should therefore try to focus at least as much of our lives as possible on that important purpose.

Indeed, the Saint points out that :

What man, stationed in a foreign land, would not want to return to his own country as soon as possible?

For those of us who have even the slightest commitment to God, this should be true : and if it is, then we need to remind ourselves often that, however pleasant earthly life is, and however much of God’s will and purpose we are achieving during it, it is still only a temporary activity; and that His ultimate will for us is to recognize, and achieve, that His purpose for all of us is to ‘return to our own country’ in Heaven, where we can – and shall – spend eternity praising and rejoicing in Him.

I think there is a need for us all to recollect, even if only very quietly in the depths of our prayers, that this is the case : and it certainly seems to be this that S. Cyprian was focussing on in the last paragraph of that passage :

My dear brothers, let all our longing be to join them as soon as we may. May God see our desire, may Christ see this resolve that springs from faith, for he will give the rewards of his love more abundantly to those who have longed for him more fervently.

Let us, in these last days of this year, and as we prepare for the Church’s new year which starts tomorrow night, remind ourselves of this; and by reminding ourselves constantly of it come to increase, this year and every year, of His love and generous will until we eventually come to share it with Him for ever in Heaven.

An Interesting Discussion . . ?

An interesting point has been made by a well-known Newspaper, which is arguing that it would be in Great Britain’s best interest to leave the European Union.

Just for the moment I’m not saying anything about my own opinion on this point, but you may like to read the relevant Newspaper Article, and perhaps pass your comments on, and then if there seems to be any interest on this subject it could be discussed further after Sunday and its ‘New Year’ celebrations.

Going to Confession . . .

Just as an example of how to ensure that the faithful’s needs are properly met, I thought I might put up the information about Confessions in the London Oratory, which is particularly well provided with times at which they are available . . . but I do realize that there are plenty of other Churches all over the place which also offer exceptionally good confession times for their faithful : so all this is really just to emphasize the position to us . . . to remind us that we never have the excuse of not being able to get to confession, so it really is as easy as that to make arrangements to make our confession before the beginning (or, I suppose, at the beginning) of the Church’s New Year, this coming Advent Sunday.

Confessions at London Oratory

Mondays - Fridays
Confessions can be heard at the Oratory House :
9.30am – 12 noon,
3.00pm – 5.30pm
8.00pm – 9.00pm

or in the Church :
12 noon – 12.30pm,
5.30pm – 6.00pm.

in the Church :
10.00am – 12.55pm
3.00pm – 6.00pm
and at other times apply to the Oratory House

On request at the Oratory House except from 1.00pm – 5.15pm,
in addition nto which there is also almost always a priest hearing confessions in the Church between Masses during Sunday morning.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Thinking about our American friends' today

Today is Thanksgiving for our American friends : and for us non-Americans I have to admit that it is the beginning of what appears (to some of us, anwyay - see what I wrote yesterday) to be a rather inverted period of time . . . most, at least, of the US gets very excited about Christmas more or less from now until Christmas Day, and then moves on to other things the very next day !

That, however, is not an issue down to either the Founders of the US, or even to the Catholics of it . . . I’m sure that the Founders understood the need to keep Christmas going throughout its proper period, and I live in hope that the Catholic Church there, at least, continues to do so today.

But that’s not the issue today, anyway : today it’s simply - and entirely properly - about thanking God for His infinite love and generosity, and for His generosity in leading all men through His Church to the blessed vision of peace.

So, although I personally dislike pretty much everything that appears to be considered to be fundamental element of the normal Thanksgiving Dinner (I dislike turkey, have serious reservations about mashed potato with roasts, and am allergic to sweetcorn !) I wish all my American friends and readers a splendid and enjoyable day, and assure them that they in particular, and the US in general, are in my prayers today.

Father, all-powerful,
Your gifts of love are countless,
and Your goodness infinite.
On Thanksgiving Day we come before You
with gratitude for Your kindness :
open our hearts to concern for our fellow men and women,
so that we may share Your gifts in loving service.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.

Just a slight thought . . .

It seems to me that we should all try to ensure that we make a good and full Confession this weekend, so that we start the Church’s New Year with as clean a soul as possible . . . so check now when Confessions are heard in whichever Church it is you go to, and then make sure that you get there . . . and also make sure that you’ve had plenty of time to think things through in advance, so that you make a full, and honest, confession.

Do that, and you are starting the New Year off well, which must improve your chances of getting some long-term benefits out of the forthcoming year . . . and perhaps even of improving your own spiritual life during the year as well.

As I said . . . just a thought.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Continuing to ponder . . .

As I had been saying before I got distracted by the forthcoming Royal Wedding, it is getting close to what is, at least for us, the ‘New Year’ . . . at least in the context of its being the start of our rational approach to the Church’s year, and in particular to the Nativity of Our Blessed Lord on Christmas Day.

(And, incidentally, it will also, next year, also be the latest possible Easter . . . and if memory serves, none of us now alive will ever see it so long again; for what relevance or importance that may be !)

But why is it important ? Well, I suppose in the overall scheme of things, probably not at all : and yet I do think that there is much merit in Catholic Christians trying very hard to hang on to the Church’s teaching, and trying very hard not to start thinking about it even before Advent, and then letting it all rapidly disappear straight after the Festival . . . I remember realizing just how little attention there really was when I was in the US for a while : there, what we in the UK call ‘Boxing Day’ is irrelevant, and the post-Christmas sales start early – and universally – on 26 December.

So, I do see merit it trying to hang on to the traditional idea of Christmas beginning, rather than ending, at the Feast, I am at least sticking to the traditional religious viewpoint . . . .not to mention adhering to the principle which (to the best of my knowledge and belief) still remains true in the British Royal Family, where the cribs, and trees, only go up just before the Festival, and then remain there until Candlemas . . . as they should.

I know that looks as though we’re just trying to be difficult, and try and cause problems . . . but are we ? After all : it is a religious feast, which has been there for two thousand years . . . so is it so unreasonable to want it to keep in step with the event, and the significance, that it’s really about ?

Personally, I don’t think so.

An Unexpected Benefit

So last evening I went to my Director to renew the Oath which I took at this time last year . . . an Oath which is, I hasten to make clear, of no particular significance whatever : it simply makes it possible for a layman to confess to sins relating to his failings in relation to his saying of the Divine Office without Confessors becoming confused about how they can be considered as sinful if one is under no obligation to say it anyway !

And what did I discover when examing the last year ? Well, primarily that – apart from a few odd occasions when I had fulfilled the external obligation but perhaps allowed my mind to work externally at the same time – I had managed for I think the first time since I started saying the Office in the early 1970s to get through the year without sinful omission or failing.

I’d obviously had a few days when timings had been less than ideal; and I’d obviously also had a couple of days without the Office, caused by my illness in the summer, when I didn’t have the Office with me, and was in any event unconscious for most of it . . . but those were legitimate reasons for my ommissions, and constituted no sinfulness.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that I was consistently focussed on my Office; but it does mean that I found an actual external obligation which I had specifically taken for the year did have a positive benefit in persuading my mind to take things seriously at times when they otherwise might not have done . . . which must be a benefit.

I don’t suggest, of course, that this way of doing things means that everyone ought therefore to (a) start saying the Office, and (b) take this Oath : but you may want to consider whether there is any aspect of your own life where having the self-adopted external obligation may help you to focus on, and therefore to remain faithful to, that aspect . . . to your own benefit.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The Holy Souls . . . and ours in particular

There was a particularly good post on the Society of S. Tarcisius blog earlier this month which I probably ought to have directed your attention to earlier, not least because it has some excellent prayers from the Raccolta for the Holy Dead - not to mention providing the address at which to find the whole of that valuable volume !

Seriously : we ought to pray for the Holy Souls much more than most of us, at least, do; if only because we ought to consider how grateful we shall, in due course, be for such prayers ourselves . . . and those prayers are both apposite and interesting.

So, it being November, may I suggest that we all make a point of becoming familiar with them, so that in the fullness of time we can make use of them constantly without the need for a book, which is therefore beneficial both to us and to the Holy Souls.

Cor . . .

Well, the date of the Marriage Ceremony of HRH Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton has been released today, and is to be Friday 29th April 2011 in Westminster Abbey . . .

. . . which is going to give us what - as far as I can see, anyway - must be going to be the most astonishing 'holiday period' around Easter that has ever happened : because the previous Sunday, 24th April, will be Easter Day, which means that not only will be the usual four-day holiday period there, but there will then (I assume) be the holiday on Friday 29th April, which will presumably be followed by the usual 'First Monday in May' off on Monday 2nd May . . .

What fun that will all be . . . especially as 29th April is also the Feast of S. Catherine of Siena, who is not only a very important person religiously (being amongst other things a Doctor of the Church and a Patroness of Europe), but who was also a Lay Dominican . . . so a particularly good day for those of us with loving connections to the Order of Preachers.

I'm sure it's all going to be very interesting for all sorts of reasons : but in any event, let us keep HRH Prince William and Miss Middleton in our prayers.

Congratulations . . . and prayers

There have been one or two opportunities for the Faithful to greet and applaud the new Cardinals in the last few days; and whilst I obviously respect all of them, there are two in particular which I very much applaud . . . and as the splendid J. P. Sonnen appears to have managed to get to these functions, and has certainly been able to display all the photos, photos of these two are available to see.

His own splendid site Orbis Catholicus Secundus has a great many pictures of the Holy Fathers (as well as a great many other fascinating and important things, which you will undoubtedly enjoy going to look at) and I can only hope that he will forgive me putting two of them, of my two favourite appointments, up here for your delight.

Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke,
who has been appointed Cardinal Diaconia di Sant’Agata de’ Goti
(which is the same appointment as was held by Enrico Cardinal Dante)


Albert Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith Patabendige Don,
who has been appointed Cardinal of San Lorenzo in Lucina.

Let us pray for them, and for all the other new Cardinals.

Humility is virtuous . . . I hope.

Just a very little thing . . . a dear lady whose blog (and music) I very much enjoy commented the other day that she had finally been looked at by the Vatican City : which struck me as being obviously a great (and entirely appropriate) privilege.

And then I discovered that I have been too : and I felt suitably privileged by that . . . until I realized that what I actually felt was merely humbled.

Ah well . . .

Monday, 22 November 2010

Mmm . . . pondering an unexpected mistake

Now I’m not going to say who was involved . . . but I witnessed a rather unexpected thing on Saturday evening when I went to the vigil Mass of Sunday at the Oratory.

As you’ll remember, this was the Mass of Christ the King . . . so it was White : indeed, being the Oratory, it wasn’t just ‘white’ – there were ten lit candles on the High Altar, and the four large reliquaries on the lower shelf with the four episcopal statues on the higher shelf between the large candlesticks . . . so very grand indeed.

And what was the unexpected thing ? Well, the fact that when another priest came out of the Sacristy to assist with Holy Communion, he was wearing a green, rather than a white, stole . . . which was definitely not what I (or, I suspect, anyone else) was expecting : and I suppose that I have to be honest and admit that my first reaction was that this was just dreadful.

On thinking about it, however, I realized that, although it would have been better if it had not happened like that, in reality it probably didn’t make that much difference, for two reasons.

The first is that, however hard I may find it to credit this, there are a large number of people, even at the Oratory (and perhaps even more elsewhere) who simply neither know nor care about these things . . . and the second is that I have a deep suspicion that it will all be utterly irrelevant in heaven in any case . . .

So, although my immediate reaction was – shall we be tactful – horrified, when I thought about it I had to accept that what mattered was the truth and importance of the Most Holy Sacrament, and not the fairly trivial issues of the liturgy . . . trivial, anyway, in the context of Heaven, which is where I trust that we shall all eventually end up : so although the mistake was, in one way, irritating and inaccurate, in the global scheme of God’s love as bestowed upon us in Heaven it was simply unimportant . . . which is perhaps a valuable lesson for all of us : getting it right is a valuable tribute which we owe to God, but of no consequence whatever in the context of the effect it has upon us.

(And I hasten to add that the photo was not taken on Saturday; I have simply included it because it show the High Altar looking grand with all those reliquaries on it !)

Oh Whoops . . !

Mea Culpa ! I'm afraid that having had a rather problematic day on Friday, I inadvertently went home without the dongle which allow me to connect my home computer to the Internet . . . which meant that I was unable to do anything at all over the weekend.

So : a sincere Mea Culpa, and I'll try and make sure that the mistake doesn't happen again.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Dies Iræ – Day Nineteen

Pie Iesu Domine,
dona eis requiem. Amen.

Lord, all pitying, Jesu blest;
Grant them Thine eternal rest.

The Sequence ends with the simple comment which, ultimately but discreetly, reminds us of the fundamental truth . . . we have no merit which can ensure redemption without the pity and love of Our Blessed Lord; and it was for us and our salvation that He not only came to earth, but gave His life.

Let us pray that His infinite loving generosity may save not only us, but all God’s children, however unworthy we all may be.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Pondering gently . . .

One of the things which I find interesting in the writings of some people is the apparently obsessive objection to developments in the liturgy . . . and yet surely this is something which must need to change from time to time, if only because there are from time to time more Saints who need to be commemorated . . . even if only in various places, and/or for various reasons.

Similarly, the suggestion that any change in the liturgy is inherently ‘mad, bad, and dangerous to know’ is unsatisfactory. I’m all in favour in preventing individual priests from making changes . . . but suggesting that the Holy Father, especially after discussion with a Council, cannot decide that changes need to be made seems to me to be a position which has one very particular characteristic . . . it may be many things, but it’s surely not Catholic.

As a funny, one of the churches in which I used to worship in my Anglican days habitually used – unaltered in any way – the Roman Missal; and apart from one or two ‘locally interesting’ Feasts which did not appear in that Missal, also adhered to the Roman Kalendar . . . and what it achieved was sufficiently good for quite a number of students of the Venerabile – the Catholic English College in Rome – to visit it (allegedly at the suggestion of the Rector of that College) whilst in the UK to see just what could be done within the modern provisions of the Paul VI Missale Romanum.

Don’t get me wrong : I personally have always preferred to older Mass, and imagine that I always shall; but at least I don’t believe that it is impossible for the modern Mass to be decently and reverently celebrated, and I am grateful to that church, and its clergy over a good many years, for allowing me to realize that.

Personally, I’d like every Catholic Parish to have the Extraordinary Form on a regular basis, as well as the Ordinary Form . . . but I have to be honest and say that I think it’s probably more important for every Catholic Parish to celebrate the Novus Ordo Mass decently and reverently, as I was used to for many years whilst an Anglican; simply because that is probably more common, and thus what more people have to rely on.

Dies Iræ – Day Eighteen

Lacrimosa dies illa,
qua resurget ex favilla
iudicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus:

Ah ! That day of tears and mourning !
From the dust of earth returning,
Man for judgment must prepare him;
Spare, O God, in mercy spare him !

We have to acknowledge that we merit nothing; and that judgment by our merits would be terrifying indeed : but that God’s infinite love and mercy will allow us, if we have the contrition, the recognition of our sinfulness, to receive God’s loving forgiveness . . . and thus eternal life with Him in heaven.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Laudare, Benedicare, Praedicare

This is just a short post to suggest that you may enjoy looking at the post by the same name on the splendid website of my good friend Rosamundi - herself a Lay Dominican - who recently delivered a lengthy seminar to Baptist ordinands.

She has now put a slightly reduced versin of her speech at that Seninar on her blog, and I do most enthusastically encourage you to pay her a visit and read it . .  !

It really IS the beginning we are approaching . . .

Looking not very far ahead one finds that almost no-one sees Advent Sunday – now impendingly close – as being of any particular significance : and yet it is, and it is in a way to which we really ought to pay some attention, because in one sense it’s (perfectly obviously) the beginning of the Church’s Year, and so ought to be celebrated as a ‘New Year’.

Indeed, a good few years ago now a small gang of us went off to celebrate ‘New Year’s Eve’ in a restaurant . . . not exactly the biggest concept for the restaurant; but then given that there was a very large function there from a local rugby club, I don’t think they actually even really noticed what we were focussing on . . . until we started celebrating actively, and singing appropriately, at midnight.

At that point someone or other from the 150 or so people from the rugby club went and complained that we (all ten of us) were disturbing them . . . as a result of which we were asked to leave; but with the modest generosity that, having done nothing in particular wrong, they weren’t minded to give us a bill !

I have to say that I’ve scarcely repeated that episode since; but that’s circumstances, not a change of mind . . . and I do try and have a small glass of something at midnight, and recognize that the Church’s Year has begun, and that it is a good time to recognize God’s infinite loving generosity to us all.

How about you ?

Dies Iræ – Day Seventeen

Oro supplex et acclinis,
Cor contritum quasi cinis:
Gere curam mei finis.

Low I kneel, with heart submission;
See, like ashes, my contrition !
Help me in my last condition.

Ultimately our hearts, our minds, must recognize that we have no merit; that it is only through our recognition and acknowledgement of our sinfulness and unworthiness that we may be saved . . . so we beg God, even now, to give us the grace to achieve the condition which will merit His love.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

So why do we do it now . . ?

Praying for the Holy Dead is, of course, something which we should all do regularly – indeed constantly; which might lead us to wonder why we have a particular obligation to do so in November.

For what it’s worth, I think that there is a double answer; and one which, on consideration, at least appears to be nonsensical . . . although I don’t think it actually is.

The first answer is that we have a general obligation to do this; but that November provides an opportunity for us to address the ‘private’ issues of praying for those close to us, those for whom we have – or at least feel we have – a direct and personal obligation : family, for instance, or old friends . . . so it’s a month to deal with very personal matters.

The other answer, it seems to me, is that it is also an opportunity for us to remember, even if only in a fairly general way, that there are – and perhaps more so now than before – those who no longer have anyone to pray for them; and to offer God our prayers for His servants and handmaidens who are no longer included in the intercessions of anyone else . . . which is kind, and appropriate.

As I said : I don’t actually think this is either unreasonable or nonsensical . . . because during the year I think we tend to think, when we pray for the Holy Dead, either for individuals who have just died (or whose anniversary it is), or – in a rather more ‘general’ way – for the Holy Dead of a family, or a Parish, or a Community, or something like that.

November is our opportunity to ignore the ‘structures’, and simply to offer God our prayers for individuals who occur to us . . . family and friends, perhaps people who for various reasons tend to slip between the normal structures; but in any event to locate ourselves in God’s perception of the World in the context of those whom we owe, and who, perhaps, even owe us . . . some of whom will probably be Saints in heaven, though we do not yet recognize this, and others of whom who may have greater needs for our prayers than we know of . . . it’s all invisible to us, we just keep on praying, and letting God make use of it as He knows is appropriate.

So, let us make use of the rest of this month in praying for those who are dear to us – or even who ought to be – but not forget also those who no longer have anyone to intercede for them, but who deserve our prayers . . . and who will probably, in due course, give us the benefit of their intercessions too, to our great benefit.

Dies Iræ – Day Sixteen

Confutatis maledictis,
Flammis acribus addictis:
Voca me cum benedictis.

When the wicked are confounded,
Doomed to flames of woe unbounded,
Call me, with Thy saints surrounded.

We must recognize that we deserve nothing; and yet we beg that by our faith in His loving mercy we may be saved from eternal woe . . . that our contrition may save us from ultimate wickedness, that God may call us to be numbered with His saints.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

. . . very thankful indeed !

I am, of course, deeply grateful for the comments made both here and on facebook; and also for the prayers which I have clearly received . . . though whether or not I deserve them is a rather different question, of course !

However; following something which a friend and I were discussing over the weekend, it occurred to me to give you just a little bit of history, which may, amongst other things, clarify why it took me so long to find my way home to the Catholic Church.

Being quite honest, I think that the answer is that I didn’t ever become an Anglican; so that although I wasn’t a Roman Catholic – in the sense of being a member of Holy Mother Church – until two years ago, I don’t think I ever really had the theological position of the Church of England . . . which is probably why it took me so long to realize just what the position was, and what effect it had on me.

Being honest, I think that the Methodist minister who was responsible for suggesting that I should go to the local Anglo-Catholic Church was entirely sensible : it was just (as in ‘a couple of weeks’) before the introduction of the new English Mass in the Catholic Church, with all the confusion that that was going to cause, so it was probably wise of him to send me to the Anglo-Catholics instead, where I would find continuity and stability . . . which in turn led me on, albeit through one or two odd (but entirely typically) Anglican places, to a particular (and famous) Anglo-Catholic church which, in retrospect, was probably entirely atypical, and allowed one to ignore the realities of much of the C of E . . . as in fact I did.

The move was in the mid-1970s, and I then stayed there, with various temporary moves connected with work, and local problems, until about the time of the problems in the C of E in the early 1990s . . . which coincided with a spectacular change in life anyway, so that the separation was just part of a much larger picture.

By the time things had calmed down I had found myself back at another Anglo-Catholic church which was, again, rather ‘out of touch’ with much of the rest of the C of E, and then life moved me a little further and I ended up at another one which I remained at, with an old friend as PP, until I finally managed to make sense of things, and made my submission to the Holy Church two years ago . . .

. . . but the crux of it all is that, looking back, none of the Anglican churches to which I really felt I ‘belonged’ were centres of ‘Anglicanism’, but rather ‘Anglo-Catholic’, so that I was able to ignore many of the ‘Anglican’ issues . . . and as I look back now, I realize that I don’t think that I was ever really an ‘Anglican’, but just a ‘Catholic’ within the C of E, who finally (and gratefully) managed to find his way home . . . as, as I look about, have so many others as well.

So, looking back over the last two years, I am grateful that I found my way ‘home’; but have to recognize that I was never really an ‘Anglican’, but rather a ‘Catholic’ who may have been technically within the C of E, but probably had, in reality, little or nothing to do with it . . . which doesn’t stop me being grateful for what I did get from it from time to time, but also, at the same time, makes me acknowledge that I was probably never really a ‘member’ of it in any meaningful sense.

I’m home now, though; and for that I am utterly and totally grateful, and can only continue to thank God in my prayers for all the love and support I had before I arrived, and have had continuously ever since; and to offer my intercessions that all my friends who aren’t in Holy Mother Church yet will find their ways here sooner or later . . . and preferably sooner !

(And the picture of Our Lady of Walsingham is there simply because I love Mother, and owe her so much; and not because this statue is an ‘Anglican’ one . . . because it isn’t, actually : but that’s another story, which Ill deal with another day !)

Dies Iræ – Day Fifteen

Inter oves locum præsta, Et ab hædis me sequestra,
Statuens in parte dextra.

With Thy sheep a place provide me,
From the goats afar divide me,
To Thy right hand do Thou guide me.

We pray that God will allow us to adhere to those who love Him, and seek His path to their eternal home : not, of course, because we can ever deserve that, but simply out of His infinite generosity.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Being Thankful . . .

It was two years ago today that I was received into Holy Mother Church : and ever since that Feast of S. Albert the Great I have been grateful to God for that infinite gift and Our Lady for her infinite prayers and care . . . but also to a whole posse of Dominicans of Blackfriars, Oxford : three of whom were there to bring it about, and many of whom were not there for various reasons but who were - and have ever since remained - supportive, caring, and even loving of this new and really unexceptional convert.

So : many thanks to all of them, not only for them, but for everything since . . . affection, encouragement, support, and simply friendship . . . and thanks to all of you for being interested in at least some of what I say.

Dies Iræ – Day Fourteen

Preces meæ non sunt dignæ:
Sed tu bonus fac benigne,
Ne perenni cremer igne.

Worthless are my prayers and sighing,
Yet, good Lord, in grace complying,
Rescue me from fires undying.

We have to be reminded that there is nothing which we can offer to earn our salvation : that is solely the fruit of God’s infinite generosity . . . but even for that it is right that we should pray, and remind ourselves of our overwhelming unworthiness.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Dies Iræ – Day Thirteen

Qui Mariam absolvisti,
Et latronem exaudisti,
Mihi quoque spem dedisti.

Through the sinful woman shriven,
Through the dying thief forgiven,
Thou to me a hope hast given.

Ultimately, it is what we see in others before us which allows us not only to believe, but to know, that God not only has infinite love, but that He will give us His mercy if we are only humble enough to recognize our faults, and ask for the mercy of His love.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Dies Iræ – Day Twelve

Ingemisco, tamquam reus:
Culpa rubet vultus meus:
Supplicanti parce, Deus.

Guilty, now I pour my moaning,
All my shame with anguish owning,
Spare, O God, Thy suppliant groaning !

We must always be aware that, of our own acts we can deserve absolutely nothing of God but anguish; and that it is His infinite love for our humility and repentance which spares us, rather than any merit of ours - because we simply do not have any.

Friday, 12 November 2010

So what are we doing . . ?

It’s been interesting reading the discussion between one of my friends on facebook and the various people – myself included – who have been discussing this coming Sunday : Remembrance Sunday.

It is clear that there are many who feel that, even if it is acceptable to have a Sunday by this title, that piece of reasoning should still not justify a Requiem Mass on a Sunday . . . indeed there appears to be something of an argument that this is not only unjustifiable, but is actually offensive in some way.

So I thought I’d say a little something about it : not because I’m trying to get at anyone in particular, but simply because, as tends to be the way nowadays, I think that the passage of time has changed peoples’ attitudes and approaches . . . and that the question therefore deserves consideration whilst there are still those around for whom it has the original symbolism.

Let me start at the beginning.

In 1985 there was a very fine French film which was shown on TV in the UK. It was called Shoah, and it lasts just slightly longer than most films . . . 570 minutes, to be exact; and it covers, in incredible, and totally accurate, detail the WWII Holocaust and its effect on the Jewish community in Europe.

The UK broadcast was on two consecutive evenings, and on both evenings, although it was on a commercial channel, there was no advertising : just a single break half-way through during which the screen displayed a single image, simply so that those watching could relieve themselves, and if necessary obtain more refreshment . . . but there was definitely nothing to break the train of the film.

Further, every secondary school in the UK was, as far as I know, presented with a copy of that film.

Why ?

Because it was seen as essential that everyone had, and retained, a clear understanding of the truths of that dreadful time and what happened during it . . . and, by extension, of all the other similar periods and episodes in our history.

And today ? Well, I imagine there are probably some schools who still have a copy somewhere; but I understand that the film is now seen as being of no particular relevance . . . it’s so out-of-date and irrelevant to today’s world.

And, of course, not all that long ago we finally lost the last British personnel who had taken part in the Great War; and the number of people who took part in WWII is also dropping quickly now . . . and whilst it may be another fifteen or twenty years before the very last ones die, it’s very rapidly passing out of public thought except as a sort of academic concept . . .

. . . and so is the concept of remembering the Wars, and the dead, and what it’s all about.

Which is why I think it’s important that we retain the annual Requiems on Remembrance Sunday.

Don’t get me wrong; I’d be perfectly happy if we could keep it always on 11 November instead of always on the Sunday; but I have to accept that it’s nowadays quite impossible to persuade the entire globe that that is a suitable thing to do . . . so Sunday has to be the next best option.

What is important to me, though, is that we don’t simply allow the passage of time to let people accidentally forget, or even deliberately choose to ignore, the effects of war, and conflict . . . and not just the Great War and WWII, but all wars, worldwide, in all generations : and this means that it is important that we remember these essential things constantly.

So : whilst I’m not surprised that many of the younger generation see no point in Remembrance Sunday, and praying for all those – service personnel or civilians, allied or hostile, who died in war or as a consequence of war – I am quite certain, in my own mind, that it is important that such a tailing-off of such a memory is never allowed to take place . . . and that we all, always, remember what happened : because it is in that memory that we retain our best chance of ensuring that it never happens again.

So; on Remembrance Sunday, let us all not only remember, but also pray for the dead of the wars, whether we attend a Requiem Mass or simply prefer to go to the usual seasonal Mass and merely pray for them : but let’s pray for them this year, and next year, and every year . . . and pray also that God will allow us all to learn constantly from what has happened, so that it is never repeated again.

Dies Iræ – Day Eleven

Iuste iudex ultionis,
Donum fac remissionis
Ante diem rationis.

Righteous Judge ! For sin’s pollution
Grant Thy gift of absolution,
Ere that day of retribution.

God has bought us on the Cross; so now, realizing that, and recognizing God’s righteousness and His entitlement to be fully judgmental, we yet ask Him to give us His absolution for our sins so that we may yet hope for redemption.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

A prayer, perhaps . . ?

I suspect that he was quite happy to die on 11 November : but I also suspect that the date is probably a good reason why a large percentage even of those who like his writings can’t remember the exact date of his death . . . because they’re the sort of people who think of other things today; in my case, even as being more important than S. Martin, even, whose Memorial falls today.

Of whom do I speak ? APH . . . or A. P. Herbert, if you prefer.

But no, I’m not putting up any of his poems, puns, or songs; not making any of his funnies . . . but instead reminding you that he, like many another of his generation, felt it right and necessary to turn his mind, at least this once a year, to those who had died in war . . . forces or civilians, allies or foes, they have all gone before God as a result of war; and will be judged by God on that basis.

And APH ? Well, I like to hope that God showed him the amused tolerance that he was so good at applying to so much and so many, and that he is now gently bewildered and delighted by the gifts of God’s heaven . . . if only because I never met him, and have always hoped to have the chance.

Do, if you possibly can, find a little moment to offer God a prayer for him, as well as for the millions of Holy Dead whom we more obviously remember on 11 November.

Dies Iræ – Day Ten

Quærens me, sedisti lassus:
Redemisti Crucem passus:
Tantus labor non sit cassus.

Faint and weary Thou hast sought me,
On the Cross of suffering bought me;
Shall such grace be vainly bought me ?

Again, the petitioner reminds Jesus that it was to redeem him that Jesus endured His passion : and that He must surely recognize that it would be vain to have done this if there is no such result.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Dies Iræ – Day Nine

Recordare, Iesu pie,
Quod sum causa tuæ viæ:
Ne me perdas illa die.

Think – kind Jesu ! – my salvation
Caused Thy wondrous Incarnation;
Leave me not to reprobation.

In this verse the pray-er seeks Jesus’ recognition that it was the need for our salvation which caused Him to be born in the first place; and it implies that His recognition of that would surely not lead to us suffering ultimate reprobation.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Dies Iræ – Day Eight

Rex tremendæ maiestatis,
Qui salvandos salvas gratis,
Salva me, fons pietatis.

King of majesty tremendous,
Who does free salvation send us,
Fount of piety then befriend us !

This is just a little suggestion, in the main thread of the issue, that salvation may at least partly come from our piety which has in turn been our product from Jesus as the fount of piety itself.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Well . . .

Damian Thompson has a piece about the announcement by five Anglican Bishops this morning that they are resigning in order to seek membership of the Ordinariate within the Catholic Church . . . and one of the spin-off pieces mentions that there are also already a number of groups / congregations also preparing for the same step, although their details are, at present at least, being kept confidential.

I have only one comment.

Thanks be to God : and for what they may be worth, my prayers will be continuous for all of these people as they move in the direction of the Holy Catholic Church.

I do beg you, too, to include them in your prayers.

Dies Iræ – Day Seven

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus ?
Quem patronum rogaturus,
Cum vix iustus sit securus ?

What shall I, frail man, be pleading ?
Who for me be interceding,
When the just are mercy needing ?

‘The just are mercy needing’; in which case how much more will the rest of us be in desperate need of God’s infinite mercy . . . and we are reminded also that as we shall all come to be judged, we shall ultimately all stand or fall on our own record, and not through the love and care of any other human being.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Praying . . . and enjoying !

Well . . . WHAT a fun day had by so many : and yes, I am talking about The Latin Mass Society’s Annual Requiem at Westminster Cathedral !

The Mass itself was exactly what one would expect; a well-sung, well-celebrated, perfectly normal proper Requiem, with a very decent-sized congregation of several hundred and a sensible and encouraging Sermon from Bishop Arnold.

Indeed, I had only two quibbles, neither of which were to do with the Society : why did the Cathedral think that it was appropriate to provide purple stoles for the Priests who were assisting in administering Holy Communion, rather than black ones to match the vestments; and does it really have only one black cope so that the Assistant Priest had to ‘vanish’ at the end of the Mass so that his cope was available for the Bishop to wear for the Absolutions ?

However . . . we were all there, and we all prayed for the Holy (and possibly the unholy) Departed, and made our Holy Communions . . . and then, after the Absolutions and whatever closing prayers we chose to offer privately, we went off to do whatever we were going to do for the rest of the day . . . which for quite a number of us turned out to mean meeting friends (and new friends) and spending several hours enjoying their company, talking about practically everything under the sun, and generally rejoicing in God’s love for us all in a variety of different ways.

And if for some of us (five or six bloggers, plus numerous other friends) this meant causing the manager of a local Italian Restaurant some concerns when we asked for a table for thirteen when his restaurant was already full, and he was short-staffed, well that was just one of those unexpected moments . . . I should say, for the record, that the meal was good and enjoyable, and that despite the alleged shortage of staff we were well looked-after; and that we ultimately went on our various ways refreshed and revived, and glad of God’s generous grace for the day.

So : the Holy Dead had been prayed for (particularly important for me, yesterday, for various reasons), but God had also granted His servants the grace of experiencing, and enjoying, His generous love for us; for which I thank Him profoundly.

I hope you all had a good day, too; and that you have also offered your prayers to God for the Holy Dead.

Dies Iræ – Day Six

Iudex ergo cum sedebit,
Quidquid latet, apparebit:
Nil inultum remanebit.

When the Judge His seat attaineth
And each hidden deed arraigneth,
Nothing unavenged remaineth.

This is simply said to remind us that, no matter how well we have concealed things on earth, God knows everything : and He not only knows everything, but will consider it all in making His decision about out eternal future.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Dies Iræ – Day Five

Liber scriptus proferetur,
In quo totum continetur,
Unde mundus iudicetur.

Lo ! The book exactly worded,
Wherein all hath been recorded;
Thence shall judgement be recorded.

This will not be the sort of trial where what we have to say will be of any relevance. The facts will be recorded beyond doubt : the repetition of them will only be so that we recognize the rightness of God’s sentence.

Friday, 5 November 2010

A Gentle Reminder

Just to remind you that the Annual Requiem of the Latin Mass Society will take place tomorrow, Saturday 6th November, in Westminster Cathedral at 2:00 pm, and will be a Pontifical Requiem celebrated by Bishop John Arnold, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster.

Do go if you possible can; quite apart from the desirability for support for such events, it also gives you a wonderful opportunity to pray for your own Holy Dead, and – not to be forgotten – those of the Faithful Departed who no longer have anyone left to pray for them.

May they all rest in peace, and rise in glory.

Dies Iræ – Day Four

Mors stupebit, et natura,
Cum resurget creatura,
Iudicanti responsura.

Death is struck, and nature quaking,
All creation is awaking,
To its Judge and answer making.

We must recognize that after death comes – whether we like it or not – our unavoidable recognition of our sins and their inevitable consequences. All we can pray for now is that by recognizing this we may yet be able to act and pray so as to spare ourselves from the worst consequences of our lives.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

How do we do what God wants . . ?

In the Sermon which forms the Second Lesson in this morning’s Office of Readings, S. Charles Borromeo suggests that - if we want help in our spiritual lives - ‘the Lord God has given us the means to find it easily’.

The means which he gives us is perhaps slightly surprising, though : it is to not involve ourselves in things which may distract us, but instead to focus on God’s will for us, and to meditate upon that ‘before, during, and after everything we do’; and he tells us this because by it‘we can easily overcome the countless difficulties we have to face day after day, which, after all, are part of our work’; and we do this, he says, because ‘in meditation we find the strength to bring Christ to birth in ourselves and in other men’.

A salutary thought for all of us : to need to focus on what God wants, not on what we think may be helpful, and by focussing on God be certain that He will provide us with the means, and the energy, to achieve His will.

Dies Iræ – Day Three

Tuba, mirum spargens sonum
Per sepulchra regionum,
Coget omnes ante thronum.

Wondrous sound, the trumpet flingeth,
Through earth’s sepulchres it ringeth,
All before the throne it bringeth.

We have to remember that the moment will come – and it is not a moment over which we will have any control – when everything will finally focus, for eternity, on what we have actually done . . . and when that moment arrives it will be too late for us to change anything : the seed is sown.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Oh Good . . .

I notice that there have been one or two posts in the last couple of days on Fr Mildew’s blog : so let me encourage you to keep an eye on this, as it would appear that it may not have disappeared completely . . . a very reassuring thought.

S. Martin de Porres

Today is the Feast Day of S. Martin de Porres; a Dominican Lay Brother who achieved a huge amount in South America in his sixty years.

This picture is apparently a contemporary, and accurate, picture of him; which leads one to realize that many of the statues and pictures which one sees - being conspicuously negroid - perhaps contain a discreet, and excusable, but nonetheless inaccurate, message about race . . .

In any event, he contributed greatly to the well-being of many of those about him in distressed and difficult circumstances, and should remind us of our obligation to offer our care to all those about us who need our assistance and support.

Dies Iræ – Day Two

Quantus tremor est futurus,
Quando iudex est venturus,
Cuncta stricte discussurus !

O, what fear, man’s bosom rendeth,
When from heaven the Judge descendeth,
On Whose sentence all dependeth !

Whilst one is alive, and one’s attention is distracted by more or less anything, it is so easy to ignore the fact that at the end of the day what matters is not how one’s behaviour relates to today, but how it relates to the eternal standards of God . . . and that it is on that view of our life and behaviour that all will depend.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

For the Month of the Holy Souls

I propose to work slowly through the Dies Iræ in the mornings of this month, with a very short meditation on each verse . . . just as a slight change from my usual vapid wanderings !

Dies iræ ! dies illa
Solvet sæclum in favilla:
Teste David cum Sibylla !

Day of wrath and doom impending,
David’s word with Sybil’s blending !
Heaven and earth in ashes ending.

The beginning of the Sequence focuses our minds on the fact that death brings a clear change : an end of one period of existence, and the start of another in which there is nothing left to focus upon except the inevitability of retribution for sin, and resolution of our shortcomings before we may be possibly be admitted to Heaven.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

October 31st

I know . . . today is All Saints’ Day.

Well actually it isn’t really . . .
it’s just the day to which that Solemnity has been transferred by the decision of the English Bishops; the Scots (and most others) will keep it tomorrow, November 1st, which has traditionally always been the Feast Day.

What today undoubtedly is, though, quite apart from this transferred observance, is the last day of October; which means that it is the last day of the Rosary Month : and it is in connection with that rather more significant fact that there is something which I thought was worth drawing your attention to . . .

. . . which is that if you aren’t already a Member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary, then you should join. It costs nothing, and your basic obligation is only to say all fifteen mysteries of the original Rosary once in every week . . . although you don’t sin if you aren’t able to do it for any reason.

In the side column on the left of this blog there is a ‘tag’ which allows you to make contact with fr Neil Ferguson OP, the English co-ordinator for the Confraternity : or you can email me (or put up a comment, which I shan’t display, but just pass on to him) giving me the personal details which he needs to receive so that you can be enrolled in the Confraternity.

As I’ve said before, there are many indulgences and blessings attached to membership of the Confraternity; so if you aren’t one already, do let me encourage you to end this Month of the Holy Rosary by becoming a Member of the Confraternity : not only so that you can benefit from your membership, but so that others can benefit from your prayers . . .

Be sure that, today and constantly, all my Followers and Readers are in my prayers as I say my Rosary : as are those I know who are coming into Holy Mother Church (as one facebook friend did yesterday, and another one is about to do), and those I know who are ill, dying, or departed . . . and I shall obviously be very grateful, on their behalves, for them to have even a tiny share in your own prayers, particularly your Rosaries.

As October ends, do reaffirm your commitment to the Rosary; to Mother and her love for the Church; and to all who share these feelings with you : and may God, and Our Lady, bless you in your devotion to, and use of, the Most Holy Rosary.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Well . . . how splendid

This is a very brief post, to encourage you to go and look at today's post on Godzdogz about the Dominican Volunteers International
. . . a scheme mainly aimed at the poor and marginalized in which four English Dominicans have taken part in the last ten years.
. . . and as one of them is fr Lawrence Lew OP, who is also the great photographer, who was invited to the tenth Anniversary celebrations in Rome last week, there are some wonderful photos to see . . . and you may like to look at the DVI's website as well.

Friday, 29 October 2010

It gets us there . . .

One of Neville Ward’s comments is interesting. He accepts that it is not, in general, possible to ‘meditate discursively’ whilst saying the Rosary (certainly not if one is saying it out loud, publicly); a comment which I personally find entirely accurate.

What I find even more interesting, though, is his suggestion that ‘It is enough to have a single thought in connection with each mystery, or simply to look at it in love and faith. But the saying of the Rosary is infinitely deepened in value if at other times we think about these great themes, penetrating as far as we can into their meaning.’

In other words, there is merit to considering the Mysteries of the Rosary at times other than when one is actually praying it; and I have to admit that, although I don’t do it all that often, I have found that this is both true and – in an odd kind of way – rewarding, as it slowly, over time, gets one’s mind into step with the whole rationale of the Rosary, and of its Mysteries.

At the same time, he makes another comment which I find both interesting and, in a way, rewarding and reassuring : As one becomes familiar with the Rosary the prayers gradually recede to form a kind of ‘background music’, and the mystery is before the mind as thought one is looking at a religious picture or ikon.

In other words, as one gets used to the idea of trying to pray one set of prayers whilst at the same time thinking – even slightly – of something else slowly develops into a method whereby both elements exist, and have merit, but perhaps somewhat independently of each other. Indeed, he points out that the balance frequently changes, and the prayers occupy the foreground of the mind for a time, and this may lead to a form of simple attention to God which is more like contemplation. If one finds one’s mind being led into a stillness and concentration of this kind it is good to let it happen.

Indeed Neville Ward recognizes, and teaches us, that it is a fact of Christian history that the saints put their money on contemplation rather than meditation for producing the longing for God. And the longing for God, if it is not the treasure itself, is certainly the field in which it is hidden.

. . . and if one knows the field, then surely one will have the inclination and the motivation to explore further until one finds it : which brings a whole new, and exciting, dimension to the use of the Holy Rosary.

Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy

October – the Month of the Rosary – draws towards its end; but I hope that none of us lose our commitment to the Most Holy Rosary, and the easy way which that offers of keeping directly in touch not only with Our Lady, but also with Our Lord through the repeated contemplation of the mysteries of His life and death.

There are, of course, many splendid books – and probably even more rather ‘average’ books – about the Rosary and its mysteries; and of course it’s never a bad thing to read and consider one of the good books, as it not only may give us some new insights, it will in any event freshen up our existing considerations just because changes in language and phrasing offer new directions for perception, and thus solidify and deepen our understanding of the implications and dimensions of the mysteries . . . which hopefully has benefits for us not only now, but into the future.

The very first book I personally read about the Rosary was perhaps, in one way at least, an unusual and unexpected book : Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy by J. Neville Ward was first published in 1971, and republished in 2007.

Unusual and Unexpected ? Well, I know that a lot of people, both at the time of its publication and ever since, have found it odd that a Methodist Minister wrote a book about – and enthusiastically commending – the Rosary; and I have heard (and have no reason to doubt) that Pope Paul VI had, and used, a copy of it in translation . . . which is all perhaps a little surprising, even now; and in 1971 was probably even more bewildering.

Let me commend the book to you; it will give you ideas and insights into the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary (alright; the original fifteen; it was written well before the Luminous Mysteries were suggested by His late Holiness), and stimulate your mind in ways which will undoubtedly have an effect on you . . . and very probably expand your thinking about the mysteries of the Rosary for ever.

Read the book – it’s still easy to obtain – I hope enjoy it, and do please say a prayer for the repose of Neville Ward’s soul.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Praying for people . . .

Ronnie Knox, in a sermon preached at the London Oratory (in celebration of the Golden Jubilee of its Consecration) was considering the ‘gracious showers of consolation which have fallen upon Christian hearts in this place’; and I have been thinking over the last few days about ‘gracious showers of consolation’ which have fallen in the Oratory, and perhaps more importantly will do so in the very near future.

Ronnie continued his thinking Favours bestowed, not always the favours we asked for; difficulties overcome, not always in the fashion we had in mind; strength to undergo the ordeals from which we would fain have been delivered; patience to bear the misfortunes we laboured to avert.

My own experience is that all showers of consolation, the Oratory’s or otherwise, are gracious, and remind one constantly of God’s infinite love and mercy : and yet as one gets older one realizes more and more clearly that there is so much truth in Ronnie’s comment that the consolations one receives are not necessarily what one either expected, or even hoped for.

I wasn’t received at the Oratory; and yet in an odd way it had a lot to do with my eventual reception, if only because of the great charity and concern – and welcoming, yet undemanding, handling of me in the 1970s of a priest of the Oratory now long dead, F. Edward Leicester. He, I think, realized – was it perhaps because of what was happening in almost all the Church in the UK in the early 70s ? – that my journey into the Church would be a lengthy, and perhaps convoluted, one; but that it would eventually succeed not only in bringing me home, but in bringing me home happily and with complete conviction and commitment.

I have to agree with every word of that continuation of Ronnie’s from my own experience; and I also have other friends who have been received at the Oratory who have found that it is absolutely true, yet agree with me that what they have found has been God’s greatest possible gift of consolation . . . thus proving Ronnie’s final comment that The angels of God have been thronging down the ladder too; no prayer ever went up, but some grace came down.

So why do I go on about this ? Well, because on Saturday one of my facebook friends will be received at the Oratory; and another friend – whom I have known better, and still longer – fairly soon hereafter : and I believe that it will be reassuring for them to know now that, despite the uncertainties and moments of concern which will beset them – especially a few days after their Reception – the ultimate evidence is that God will show His love and mercy to them, day by day, until they finally come to join Him in heaven : because no prayer goes up without grace coming down in return.

Do, please, keep these two friends of mine – and particularly the young lady who will be received this Saturday – in your prayers, even without knowing their names.

The Example of the Almost Unknown

Today is the Feast of Ss Simon & Jude; two Apostles about whom there is perhaps less known than about any of the others : indeed perhaps the only significant thing known about them is that it was S. Jude who, at the Last Supper, asked Our Lord why He only revealed Himself to His disciples.

His answer to that was If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.

In other words, it is conformity to God’s will which is the key to meeting Him; the adherence to His principles which will make you lovable, and by being lovable will ensure that you are loved by Him : and Jude’s epistle reminds us that we should contend for the faith once delivered to the saints . . . that is, always try to stick to what God told His saints He wanted them to do.

I try – and usually fail miserably – to remember this; and perhaps to remember most of all that we were directed to love one another, as I have loved you.

Why ? Because it seems to me that if I can love those whom God has put around me, then with a little bit of luck I may manage, by extension, to love Him too . . . and then, as Jesus said to Jude, God will love me, and I shall be saved by that.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Something we can do . . .

I suppose I’m a bit of an oddity; because I’ve never seen it as a problem for Christians to upset people who are opposed to the will of God, providing that what upsets them is our determination not to offend God, and not anything personal to us . . . and Lo and Behold ! - in the Office of Readings a day or so ago, S. Clement not only said that I was not sinning by this attitude, but actually commended it :

Let us offend foolish and thoughtless men, men who puff themselves up and boast in the pride of their words, rather than offending God.

In other words, we’re not meant to try and upset them; but we are allowed to do so by adhering to God’s will . . . and particularly if what we’re doing is offending against their pride and arrogance by complying with what God wants of us.

I mention this not because I’m trying to cause problems; but because I am conscious that increasingly nowadays there are people out there – people like Professor Dawkins, for instance – who do display an arrogance and a pride in their rejection of God : and I am aware that there are those who feel that resisting them forcefully, and contesting them clearly, is a type of arrogance and pride on the part of those who do it.

Well, I may be wrong, but I don’t think that’s the case; because people who do that are risking opprobrium, even hatred, in the interest of serving God; and are almost certainly reducing their status in the eyes of many people by standing up for the God in Whom they believe . . . in other words, they’re not puffing themselves up, but rather God; not boasting in themselves, but rather in Him Who created them, and will (they pray) in due course save them . . . which is not quite the same thing.

What they do do is set up a good example for God’s followers : and one which we should always be willing to follow, whenever His interest needs us to. Let us pray that we can do so.

Just a Thought . . .

The other night I received a request on facebook for me to join a campaign to ‘Wear Black’ for those babies who have been aborted . . . which is by no means a bad idea.

The only thing which bewildered me was the chosen date was Monday 1st November . . . and I did think that All Saints wasn’t the obvious day to ask people to wear black.

I then moved on to the following messages about the same thing . . . and discovered that someone had obviously realized that All Saints’ Day was not the ideal day.

Unfortunately they then suggested that the solution was to transfer it to Tuesday 2nd November : which is, of course, All Souls’ Day . . . and I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know that I wear black on All Souls’ Day anyway (and as a matter of hard fact I know that plenty of others do as well) . . . so no-one is likely to ask about that; and if they do, the answer would have to be confusing.

Is it so outrageous to suggest that – say – the following Saturday or Sunday might be chosen ?

That way, not only is it not a day which causes problems with people’s need to comply with working clothes, but it is also a day when one is likely to be mixing with people who might think it was odd, and ask a question which would justify an explanation . . .

Just a thought.