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, 31 March 2010

Pondering the Readings

Yet again this week, the Mass Readings today have something to say in light of the current situation in the Church.

In the First Reading, Isaiah is reassuring himself that whatever happens will not matter.

Yes, things look very bad : ‘I made no resistance, neither did I turn away . . . I did not cover my face against insult and spittle’ – but then he goes on ‘The Lord comes to my help, so that I am untouched by the insults . . . My vindicator is here at hand . . . Who thinks he has a case against me ? Let him approach me. The Lord is coming to my help, who dare condemn me ?’

I’m sure that the Holy Father will take comfort from reading those words in today’s Mass; and let us, when we hear them, offer our prayers to God for the Holy Father, that God may support and uphold him, and defend him against the insults of those who offer him insults and spittle.

Equally, today’s Gospel ought to resonate in the hearts of a number of people just at present; specifically, a number of Bishops, Priests, and Religious : ‘alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed ! Better for that man if he had never been born.’

One trusts that all those guilty of the sexual abuse of children will remember that, and turn their hearts now to repentance . . . but one may also think of those Bishops who have failed in their duty - in that respect, and perhaps in others.

Please pray for them during this Holy season, that they not be like Judas, hardening their hearts to their eternal perdition, but rather like Peter – admitting their faults, with that true contrition which leads ultimately to salvation.

Thought for Today - Spy Wednesday

‘He who runs away from one cross, will meet a bigger one on his road.’
S. Philip Neri

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Getting at the Truth

Fr Thomas Brundage, JCL, was the Judicial Vicar of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee from 1995-2003; and presided over the criminal trial of Fr Lawrence Murphy.

He is clearly very far from impressed by the inaccuracies and spin apparent in much of the recent reporting of that case, and in particular the assertions about the then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s involvement in it; and he has written about it for the newspaper of his current Diocese, setting the record straight.

For example, he says of the Holy Father :
‘He has been most reactive and proactive of any international church official in history with regard to the scourge of clergy sexual abuse of minors. Instead of blaming him for inaction on these matters, he has truly been a strong and effective leader on these issues.’

I recommend Fr Brundage's article to anyone – which I trust is all of my Followers and Readers – who is interested in knowing the truth about this tragic affair.

Knowing it off by heart

S. Philip Neri, apparently, never said any part of his Office by heart, but read every word of it, line by line.

Why ? Well, I think that sentence has actually highlighted it : we talk about ‘knowing something by heart’ – but all too often, that’s exactly what we don’t do – it’s hidden in our subconscious somewhere, but we don’t think about it when it comes out . . . in other words, the one bit of us that doesn’t ‘hear’ it is the heart.

I mention this because Holy Week is the one week of the year when – from Vespers of Palm Sunday onwards – almost nothing changes, and the little that does is just a different version of the same thing : and as a result it’s all-too-easy to ‘know it by heart’ . . . I know that I could repeat huge chunks of this week’s Liturgy without even thinking about it, and I’m sure that I’m not alone in that.

The danger, it seems to me, is that it’s far too easy to pass over the deep significance of this week’s liturgy, simply because we know it so well.

Please don’t misunderstand me. As I’ve mentioned before, for about thirty years I went to a Triduum which – apart from the homilies – basically never changed from one year to the next : not even the music, because so much effort had gone in to making it all as perfect as possible that there was little or nothing that could be done, in anyone’s opinion, to improve it; and I know that it touched many hearts every year, and moved many souls to a greater love of God. If your Triduum is like that, then I say ‘Thank God’, and would urge you to change nothing, but pray God to bless all those who participate, through it, in the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of His Son.

What I’m actually getting at is the idea that we must, though, this week of all weeks, take very great care to focus our minds on what we are hearing, and saying, especially if we’re very familiar with it. Let us read it through in advance, perhaps; or, if we are able to do so comfortably, read it in Latin (or some other language) before or after the Liturgy so that we have to think about it; and above all let us pray each and every part of it carefully . . . don’t let it just ‘wash over you’; actively try to make it your prayer .

At the same time, as with lectio divina, if your soul is caught up by some text, something you read, or something you hear – perhaps even some piece of music – then go with it, for as long as your spirit moves you to do so, and pick the main thread up again when that particular inspiration has gone.

Of course you know what is going to happen next; but precisely because of that familiarity it seems to me that (providing you’re in the congregation : Celebrants should not try this out !) trying to get the maximum out of a few parts of the Office and the Liturgy of this week is the best course of action; and will also have the benefit of making next year’s Holy Week a fresh experience, because a different set of ideas, and intentions, will enter your mind.

I shall be posting various things this week which I hope may get your thoughts going, and I'm sure there'll be plenty more around to choose from : but I pray that, however you follow Our Lord’s story this week, you will have a very blessed and holy time, and come to the joy of Easter Day with a full heart, secure in the knowledge of God’s infinite love.

About a Thought

I won’t say that the appearance of today’s ‘Thought for Today’ (just below) is entirely fortuitous; because there was some sort of logic in my mind when, just before Lent began, I sat down and selected what appeared to me to be apposite quotations for every day from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday, and tried to put them into some sort of faintly rational order.

However, the fact that this particular ‘Thought’ appears today, as the howling of the mob around the Holy Father continues to intensify, is pure chance : but I think we do well to consider it.

‘It is when the Devil sees that a soul is tending towards union with God that he redoubles his efforts.’

Could there be any clearer sign to the faithful heart that our Holy Father is struggling, often against heavy opposition, to do God’s will than this present determined effort from so many quarters – some of them within the Church – to discredit him and diminish his efforts ?

I think not; and I shall pray hard for the Holy Father over the next few days, and earnestly invite you to do the same.

Thought for Today

‘Blessed are they that are tempted ! It is when the Devil sees that a soul is tending towards union with God that he redoubles his efforts.’
S. Jean-Marie Vianney, Curé d’Ars

Monday, 29 March 2010

'On his account . . .'

Today’s First Reading from Isaiah begins ‘Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom my soul delights . . .’; and the Gospel ends with the observation that ‘The chief priests decided to kill Lazarus as well, since it was on his account that many of the Jews were leaving them and believing in Jesus.’

Those two short extracts have put me in mind of the Holy Father’s current position : many of the faithful, clearly, delight in him, and yet it is all-too-apparent that there are many people out there who, seeing the adverse effect he is having on their hidden agenda of self-satisfied destruction of the true Church and the historic Faith, wish to ‘kill’ him, at least in the sense of annihilating any influence or authority he may possess.

I’m sure that you’re only-too-well aware that there’s a lot of fuss going on at the moment around the Holy Father : but I’m not talking about the ‘public’ fuss of which we have heard so much recently - I’m talking about some much more ‘internal’ fuss, within the Church, where there is beginning to be an obvious ‘agenda’ amongst a number of people who disagree with the Holy Father about almost everything, and who want him to shoulder the blame for much of it.

Now, whether or not this also involves his abdication is not clear; but it must be apparent that ‘item two’ of their agenda is the election of a nice wishy-washy liberal who will get rid of all the Catholic teachings which they dislike, so that they can continue to say that they are Catholic, whilst being allowed to ignore any and every teaching of the Church which they personally find inconvenient or incompatible with modern populist thought.

Well, just for the record, here’s one person who disagrees with them, and who isn’t going to shut up about it.

I didn’t become a Catholic in order to jump from the frying pan into the fire : like many another convert before me, my primary reason for seeking full communion with the Holy See was the desire for authority, and certainty. If I’d wanted wishy-washy liberalism, I could have stayed in the Church of England, where I could quite easily have got all the things the ‘Stand Up for Vatican II’ brigade (et hoc genus omne) want without the slightest inconvenience . . .

Equally, I have to admit that the Holy Father’s clear determination to pursue the healing of the Church, within and without, and to take a dynamic approach to that aim, was a considerable influence on me – and I suspect many others – in leading me to make the decision to seek reception : so I suppose you could truthfully say that he is ‘one in whom my soul delights’ – and yet there are those, within the Church (usually all their lives) who cannot see him as anything but a disaster and a stumbling block.

Why ? Because he seeks to teach and promote the real Catholic Faith - hard as it can be - not their comfy perversion of it : because, in effect, he is like Lazarus - and it is on his account that people are ‘leaving them and believing in Jesus’.

However - and I know that I’ve said this before - disagreement with the Holy Father in his teaching office is schism – and schism is not only a sin, it is also something which incurs canonical penalties because it damages the unity of the Body of Christ.

As far as I understand the Catechism and the Canon Law, being Catholic is about being in full communion with the Holy See : and it seems to me that if you disagree, especially if you disagree loudly and publicly, and seek to encourage others to do so, with the Holy Father, and the teaching of the Church, then you run a serious risk of being considered at the last day not to have been in full communion with the Holy See . . . to have been, in other words, a schismatic - a ‘snake in the grass’ : and there will be a price to pay for being so.

Let me make it clear : I’m not impugning the sincerity of my former Anglican brethren, nor any other person who professes Christianity but sincerely disagrees with the teaching and discipline of the Catholic Church; I am not saying that they are not genuinely Christian, nor suggesting that they are not loved by Christ . . . and I am quite sure that many of them will get into heaven a long way before me, if indeed I am lucky enough to do so . . . because they are true to what they believe and profess.

I’m not so sure about the snakes in the grass, though : I rather think Our Blessed Lord said something about them, and although I’m sure they’d say it wasn’t my place to tell them anything - all these cradle-Catholics who are sure that they know so much more than I do about the Church, but who have failed to grasp the central fact that ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia - I have one thing to say to them : if you don’t like what the Holy Catholic Church teaches, as taught by the Holy Father, then ‘In the name of God, Go !’

Go, and be honest dissenters, honest protestants; but stop claiming to be something you quite patently aren’t – Catholics – because you don’t deceive anyone except yourselves, and on Judgement Day that deception will do you no good at all.

Thought for Today - Fig Monday

‘We ought to apply ourselves to the acquisition of virtue, because in the end the whole terminates in greater sweetness than before, and the Lord gives us back all our favours and consolations doubled.’
S. Philip Neri

Sunday, 28 March 2010

The Hour of Darkness

In today’s Passion – from Luke – Our Lord says to the Disciples in the Garden, after He has been arrested ‘This is your hour; this is the reign of darkness’.

Looking at the Church today, you might think that Our Lord was talking about 2010 : after all, look at the ongoing criticisms of the Church and the Holy Father; child-abuse in the US, Ireland, and elsewhere; the recent legislative oppression of Catholic teaching in the UK and the US; the European Court decision about Italy . . . it would be hard to suggest that the Church wasn’t being attacked by the powers of darkness : and I think that might just be right.

S. Philip Neri said that you should be grateful when you start to be tempted; because it proves that the devil recognizes that you are making progress towards God : and I notice that there has been an increasing amount of this sort of attack on the truths of the Faith in the last few years . . . clearly the world, the flesh, and the devil are fighting very hard against the Church and the Faith just at this time.

As we continue through this Holy Week, let us remember the other words of Our Lord in the Garden, this time to His Disciples : ‘Pray not to be put to the test’ . . . but let us pray also that, if we are, we may – with the strength of His grace – survive it.

Palm Sunday

I have a fantasy, if you like, about Palm Sunday : about the crowd that cheered, and ‘Hosannah-ed’, and waved branches and threw palms and cloaks beneath the feet of that donkey that carried Our Lord into Jerusalem.

All the Gospel accounts say, you may remember, that there was a ‘crowd’ of people; but Luke is more precise : ‘the whole group of disciples joyfully began to praise God at the top of their voices for all the miracles they had seen.’

What I like to think is that, amongst that crowd, amongst those throwing branches and garments before Him, were those disciples whom we never hear of by name . . . and I like to think that, perhaps, that first Palm Sunday was really special for them, because it was a day out for the lepers whose limbs were sound again; the blind who could see again; even Lazarus, and the boy from Nain, and Jairus’ daughter . . .

I’m sure that the historians will tell me that, no, it was just a popular clamour of people supporting the concept of a rebellion against Roman Rule; a crowd hoping that here, at last, was the Messiah who was to drive the Romans out of Palestine . . . and they may very well be right.

But, I have some faith in S. Luke; he was, after all, a doctor – and an observant one, too – and he is the one person who speaks of a ‘whole group of disciples’ . . . am I being so fanciful to think that perhaps, for that one day, so many people came to gave thanks ‘for all the miracles’ they had not only seen, but also experienced personally ?

At the same time, it wasn’t a grand parade like the Lord Mayor’s Show in London, the S. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York, or the Rose Parade in Pasadena . . . it was just an impromptu, lively, gathering; an excited crowd of people who decided to follow Jesus, and make much of Him . . . and what more likely that the many who owed Him so much would want to be ‘in on the act’ ?

Of course, Jesus knew it was going to happen : that was why He sent the Apostles for the donkey and its colt; but even that wasn’t anything grand – no caravan of camels, nothing elaborate : just an ordinary working beast . . . and here I come to an unashamed commercial.

I have two friends who have left behind a comfortable retirement in England to go and look after working donkeys in India. None of the beasts they care for will be hearing Hosannahs today, I shouldn’t think; but if you are interested, you may like to look at their website . . . and if it moves you, perhaps you might like to make a small donation to their work : because Jesus’ donkey that first Palm Sunday was probably like those Indian donkeys that Bob and Jean care for : hard worked, poorly treated, and unloved . . . a donkey like that carried Our Blessed Lord to His Passion, to bring us eternal life; do we, perhaps, owe it a little something ?

Thought for Today - Palm Sunday

‘If the earth is not cultivated, it brings forth thorns and thistles. In like manner, the sinner’s soul, unless it is cultivated by grace, brings forth nothing but the thistles and pricks of sins.’
S. Thomas Aquinas

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Contemplata aliis tradere

The Dominican motto is 'Contemplate and pass on the fruit of your contemplation to others' : and fr Lawrence Lew OP has undoubtedly done that in his Meditation on Godzdogz today.

Specifically, he has considered the tragic problem of the sexual abuse of children within the Church, and tried to understand how it affects our relationship with God - and God's relationship with us, His Church.

I think it is the best piece of its kind I have read, and I urge you to read it, and to take his conclusions with you into the Holy Week which is just about to start as a source for your own contemplation at this Holy Time.

‘Whence art thou ?’

One of the consequences of conversion, of course, was that I suddenly lost the Holy Week I had been used to for many years . . . for over thirty, in fact, I had been blessed enough to be able to go to a continuous sequence of Holy Week and Easter Week liturgies which had been thoughtfully planned, and organically developed, to preach the mysteries of the Passion and Resurrection with staggering effectiveness . . .

As you can imagine, then, I expected my first Holy Week and Triduum was going to be something of a shock to my system, and that I was going to feel myself – and perhaps even be obvious as – ‘a man from a far country’ : but it wasn’t like that at all. It was totally different, of course, from what I was used to; but the realization that (as one of Ronnie Knox’s friends once said) I was now part of the same church as Judas Iscariot was, in a strange way, very comforting, and gave a whole new dimension to all of it.

That said, perhaps I found it less of a shock because for many years I have based my Holy Week very substantially around the Office, and certain Spiritual Reading, rather than just around the public liturgy of the Triduum : and that, of course, I have been able to bring with me, and it has fitted in well in my new home.

So, in the eight days to come, I hope you’ll bear with me if I share with you some meditations and thoughts of my own, interspersed with extracts from books which are part of my Holy Week, and other odd snippets . . . not least of them being Maria Desolata (on Good Friday) and Maria Consolata (on Easter Day) which seem hardly to be known in the UK, but which I always find deeply moving.

All my Followers and Readers will be very much in my prayers throughout this coming Holy Week : and I pray that you may all share in the contemplation of Christ’s passion so as to come to rejoice fully in the glory of His Resurrection on Easter Day.

Stations of the Cross ~ An Advert

For anyone who is in Oxford, or can get there, on any of the first three days of Holy Week, you may like to know that the Dominican Studentate are leading the Stations of the Cross each day at noon in the Priory Church at Blackfriars (on S. Giles', just along from the 'back door' of the Ashmolean.)

Sadly I shan't be able to be there; but those of you who have been following their meditations on Godzdogz during Lent will not need to be told that these Stations are likely to be inspiring, challenging, and at the same time deeply prayerful . . . so do pop along if you can.

(For those, like me, who can't be there, I wouldn't mind betting that the at least some part of the meditations will appear on Godzdogz as well, sooner or later.)

Thought for Today

‘We must be resolutely determined never to give up prayer for any difficulty that we may encounter in it.’
S. Francis de Sales

Friday, 26 March 2010

Just a Thought . . .

‘The only thing which can be absolutely and unconditionally the object of our wishes, our desires and our prayers, is the glory of God, and, next to it, whatever can serve to unite us to that supreme Good, such as faith and the fear and love of God.’
The Catechism of the Council of Trent

Where that 'Yes' led Mary

Yesterday was the Annunciation; and today is one of the two days on which the Church commemorates the Seven Sorrows of our Blessed Mother. This one, the Friday in Passion Week, is found only in the Extraordinary Form – the other, September 15th, is of course common to both forms.

This year, though, with it falling on the day after the Annunciation, it seems to me that it is particularly appropriate to give the subject a little consideration today.

The Annunciation is, ultimately, the story of Mary’s ‘yes’ : her ‘fiat’‘be it done to me according to thy word’ : and, as F. Fordham reminded the congregation at yesterday evening’s Solemn Mass at the Oratory, that ‘fiat’ is also a foreshadowing of those words which most of us, no doubt, say many times a day in Our Lord’s own prayer – ‘Thy will be done’.

Mary, of course, meant exactly what she said : she accepted God’s gift of His Son to be her child; and at the same time she accepted, ‘sight unseen’, all that would go with that gift : and in particular the Seven Sorrows which Simeon foretold when she and Joseph presented Our Lord in the Temple in compliance with the law of Moses.

I wonder how much we mean it when we say to God ‘Thy will be done’ ?

Are we really open to accept whatever it is that God sends us ?

I don’t know if you remember the hymn I posted on New Year’s Day – ‘Glorify Thy Name’ ? Well, that says that we will accept whatever God sends us, and we will accept it in order to glorify His Name . . . remember ? ‘And, in deepest woe pray on, “Glorify Thy Name”.’

‘Of course’, you say ‘I will accept whatever God sends me, but I’m not sure that I can cope with too much pain, or loss, or misery, or suffering . . .’

Our Blessed Lady was a young girl when Gabriel appeared to her, at the Annunciation : and yet she simply said ‘Yes’ . . . ‘fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum’ : and thereafter, as well as the joy of her Blessed, perfect, Son, she also had to cope with the usual sorrows of a Mother; not to mention seven exceptional sorrows unique to her . . . and yet she continued, to the end of her life when her Son took her home to Heaven, to say ‘Yes’.

Whatever we have to suffer in our lives, it will never be anything like what Our Blessed Mother suffered; still less like what Our Lord suffered for us . . . and what we suffer, we deserve; He did not.

As we consider our Mother’s Seven Sorrows today, let us reflect that they were the price of that ‘Yes’ which she said only yesterday, and for which we gave such heartfelt thanks : and let us resolve, at least for today, whenever we say the Paternoster, to mean those words ‘Thy will be done’ . . . for then we shall be at least a little bit worthy to be children of Mary, and to benefit from the prayers of our loving Mother in her sorrow.

Thought for Today

‘In saying the Paternoster we ought to reflect that we have God for our Father in heaven, and so go on making a sort of meditation of it word by word.’
S. Philip Neri

Thursday, 25 March 2010

The Annunciation at work

In today’s meditation on Godzdogz, fr Nicholas Crowe meditates on the Annunciation in the context of the Lenten season of penance; and discusses the use of the desert as the metaphor for Lent, and then suggests that it is Mary that Isaiah’s comment that ‘the desert will rejoice and bloom’ comes to fruition.

Pondering this, it occurred to me that the purpose of the desert was not to prevent us recognizing that God works within us, and can bring His work to fruition in us and our lives . . . but to emphasize forcibly that His work in us is independent of the world around us; which is merely His temporary gift to us as a place in which to live and grow as we journey towards the Heavenly – and permanent – home which He has created for us on the other side of this earthly ‘desert’.

Thought for Today

‘We must never trust ourselves, for it is the devil’s way first to get us to feel secure, and then to make us fall.’
S. Philip Neri

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Be it unto me . . .

I admit that my heart lifts every time I read a post on Moniales OP, the blog of the Dominican Nuns of Our Lady of the Rosary at Summit, NJ, USA : because whenever you see them in their photos, they are all so obviously, wonderfully, in love with God. It is one of my dreams to visit them one day : ideally, I suppose, for October 7th – after all, what better place to spend it ?

In today’s post, they speak of their custom of having a Solemn Chapter on the eve of certain special feasts, during which they have a Homily on the Gospel – and today’s homily was given by Sr Mary Magdalene, who was only clothed as a Novice on the Immaculate Conception.

It is not long; but it is a stimulating and challenging piece which provides many excellent thoughts for our meditations tomorrow, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Blessed Lord.
(I have used the photo above because it seemed to be a particularly appropriate image of the Annunciation to use for several reasons . . . see how many you can identify !)

Thought for Today

‘All soldiers are good in garrison. On the field of battle we see the difference between the brave and the cowardly.’
S. Jean-Marie Vianney, Curé d’Ars

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Cardinal Pell : 'Get Your Facts Straight'

In an article he has written for 'The Australian' today – which begins with the uncompromising statement that ‘The evil of sexual abuse has no place in the Catholic Church’ – Cardinal Pell of Sydney hits back at the Holy Father’s critics; and makes the entirely proper comment that ‘This issue is too sad and too serious for misinformation to be circulated, adding to victims’ pain.’

In this context he cites Christopher Hitchens, who recently alleged that in 2001 the then Cardinal Ratzinger issued an Instruction to Bishops compelling absolute and perpetual secrecy in respect of sexual abuse allegations.

Unfortunately for him, the wording that Mr Hitchens quotes came from an Instruction issued by the Holy Office in 1962, which was superseded by the 2001 Instruction.

In fact the 2001 Instruction required all bishops ‘to refer allegations of pedophilia against priests to the congregation for investigation’, and an authoritative source quoted by the Cardinal makes it clear that the Holy Father’s handling of such allegations when he was head of the Congregation ‘displayed great wisdom and firmness’, and that he did so ‘without respect for persons or rank’.

His Eminence also points out – again, undermining Mr Hitchens’ claim – that ‘victims are always encouraged to go to the police. That is what we would prefer. But victims often value their privacy.’

It’s not a diatribe, rather a thoughtful and compelling piece which should – if people actually bother to read it – set at least some of the most widespread misconceptions straight.

I do encourage you to read it, and persuade others to do so.


It is understood that Immigration Officers at UK Ports of Entry have been advised to be on the watch for a foreign national who is wanted for questioning by Police.

He is alleged to be in breach of Section 74 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 (which comes into force today), which makes it a criminal offence to stir up ‘hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation’.

He has publicly stated that homosexuality is ‘an intrinsic moral evil, and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder’, which is alleged to breach this provision.

Anyone seeing this man, or being aware of his travel arrangements, is requested to notify the authorities immediately.

Thought for Today

‘In very truth, some sadness is praiseworthy . . . namely, when it flows from holy love, as, for instance, when a man is saddened over his own or others’ sins. Furthermore, it is employed as a useful means of satisfying for sins.’
S. Thomas Aquinas

Monday, 22 March 2010

It were better for them . . .

Gerald Warner at the Daily Telegraph is often an interesting read, especially for those of us old enough to see little merit in change for the sake of change : and today’s post is particularly stimulating, because he suggests strongly that there may well be a direct connection between the theological and liturgical laissez-faire which came in after Vatican II, and the sexual abuse scandals which are currently causing horrendous problems for the Church in many parts of the world.

One paragraph seems to me both accurate and poignant :
‘How could clergy transgress so gravely against the doctrines of the Church ? What doctrines ? These offences took place in the wake of Vatican II, when doctrines were being thrown out like so much lumber. These offenders were the children of Paul VI and “aggiornamento”. Once you have debauched the Mystical Body of Christ, defiling altar boys comes easily.’

His conclusions I will leave you to read in full; but I can’t resist quoting one crucial section about the Bishops :
‘These clowns in their pseudo-ethnic mitres and polyester vestments with faux-naïve Christian symbols, spouting their ecumaniac episcobabble, have presided over more than sexual abuse : they have all but extinguished the Catholic faith with their modernist fatuities. They should be retired to monasteries to spend their remaining years considering how to account to their Maker for a failed stewardship that has lost countless millions of souls.’

One of the comments, by ‘Chrysostom’, quotes his eponymous Saint, who said that ‘very few bishops will save their souls’ : in light of Our Lord’s comment about millstones, perhaps several members of the episcopate should be heeding Mr Warner’s warning.

It has been suggested that I may have misrepresented Mr Warner’s position slightly. On re-reading his column, I’m not sure that I have : but to avoid uncertainty, let me say that I recognize - and I am sure that Mr Warner does too - that there were plenty of sexual misdemeanours prior to Vatican II.
That said, I think that there is some substance in his premise that the relaxation of theological and liturgical discipline which followed the Council had a damaging effect on self-control at all sorts of levels, and that it is this which is - at least in part - responsible for the comparatively huge incidence of such abominable actions as those which we have heard about in Ireland in recent years.

Thought for Today

‘Men should often renew their good resolutions, and not lose heart because they are tempted against them.’
S. Philip Neri

Sunday, 21 March 2010

re : The Divine Office

With some trepidation, and mainly because no-one else seems to have done so, I have created a blog specifically aimed at encouraging the laity to say the Divine Office.

Its highly ingenious and original title (!) is re : The Divine Office, and you can find it here.

However, unlike Libera Me (and most other blogs), it will be essentially reactive; but enquiries, suggestions, and experiences are all invited : there is a contact box, and contributions can be emailed there, and can be posted anonymously if you wish.

Your support - and prayers - are invited.

Well, did you ever . . ?

I'd not have expected to discover this was readily-available information : so H/T to the splendid Auntie Joanna for letting us all know that the Holy Father can be sent direct email !

His email address is

Just at the moment, emails of loving support and the assurance of prayers might seem to be a good idea, don't you think ?

Sound Familiar ?

Here are two comments, which seem to me to offer interesting (and I think valid) insights into current Catholic life :

On the increasing tide of secularism in modern life :

‘We can never tolerate in silence the rehabilitation of evil. We can never permit ourselves, by way of the false, pseudo-morality of modern science, to believe that the shameless mockery of all things Christian is an unavoidable reality. We should always remember that civilizations go into irreversible decline once restraint is abandoned; that is the lesson of history. Nations collapse. Intellectual aberrations hold sway. Degrading corruption of public standards is everywhere in evidence. These are the inevitable consequences of abandoning God. The stinging criticism that we are retrograde is a badge of honour in this war, not a reason to succumb to the enemy.’

and on . . . well, I'm sure you can think of a possible subject !

‘Silence has another meaning. It is often the case that, for the sake of a false peace and in deference to the false virtue of human respect, Catholics avoid their duties and do not speak out, professing the faith in public as is their duty, denouncing error, defending revealed truth . . . They avoid issues that are controversial, which is tantamount to a profession of neutrality on matters religious, and is the sin of religious indifferentism in practice. . . . In this kind of atmosphere nothing is fixed and stable. Truth coexists with error. Truth becomes intimidated by error. She backs down, she is quiet. She is even wholly silent.’

So : would you like to identify the author ?

Thought for Today - Passion Sunday

A good religious complained one day ‘O Lord, what have I done to be treated thus ?’
Our Lord answered him ‘And what had I done, when I was led to Calvary ?’
S. Jean-Marie Vianney, Curé d’Ars

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Confession is Good for the Soul

Fr Pat at HumblePiety has a first-rate Post on Confession - even if the priest in the atmospheric picture at the top is Orthodox ! Read it here.

The Holy Father speaks to Ireland

The Holy Father’s Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland has been published on the Vatican Website.

As we might expect, it is a letter full of concern for those who have been abused, and for the damage that the abuse has done to the Church in particular, and to Irish society in general; but unlike the bromides put out by certain hierarchs (not just in Ireland) in relation to such abuses, the Holy Father pulls no punches :

To priests and religious who have abused children
You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals. You have forfeited the esteem of the people of Ireland and brought shame and dishonour upon your confreres’

Similarly, he is not exactly reserved in his remarks to the Bishops :

To my brother bishops
It cannot be denied that some of you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse. Serious mistakes were made in responding to allegations . . . it must be admitted that grave errors of judgement were made and failures of leadership occurred. All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness.’

I think it is obvious to all that the Holy Father has taken this matter with a great deal more seriousness than at least some of the Irish Bishops – and indeed more than some other Bishops elsewhere in the Church : certainly there can be no suggestion that his expression of regret is in any way equivocal :

To the victims of abuse and their families
You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated. . . . It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel.’

Clearly, whatever the world may want to think, the Holy Father is seriously concerned, and determined to do something about this situation : we must just hope that men of goodwill outside the Church will recognize and acknowledge this, and offer him their support . . . and we Catholics, of course, must not only support the Holy Father in thought and word - which includes sharing in the ‘shame and remorse’ to which he refers - we must support him in deed also :
in which context I should draw to your attention His Holiness’ ‘Prayer for the Church in Ireland’.

God of our fathers,
renew us in the faith which is our life and salvation,
the hope which promises forgiveness and interior renewal,
the charity which purifies and opens our hearts
to love you, and in you, each of our brothers and sisters.

Lord Jesus Christ,
may the Church in Ireland renew her age-old commitment
to the education of our young people
in the way of truth and goodness,
holiness and generous service to society.

Holy Spirit, comforter, advocate and guide,
inspire a new springtime of holiness and apostolic zeal
for the Church in Ireland.

May our sorrow and our tears,
our sincere effort to redress past wrongs,
and our firm purpose of amendment
bear an abundant harvest of grace
for the deepening of the faith
in our families, parishes, schools and communities,
for the spiritual progress of Irish society,
and the growth of charity, justice, joy and peace
within the whole human family.

To you, Triune God,
confident in the loving protection of Mary,
Queen of Ireland, our Mother,
and of Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid and all the saints,
do we entrust ourselves, our children,
and the needs of the Church in Ireland.

Thought for Today

‘The devil does not fear austerity, but holy obedience.’
S. Francis de Sales

Friday, 19 March 2010

Congratulations !

His Hermeneuticalness Fr Tim Finigan has today celebrated a splendid achievement : the two millionth visitor to his blog 'The Hermeneutic of Continuity'.

I'm sure my Readers will join me in congratulating a priest who is an inspiration to the Catholic blogosphere, and particularly to his own 'home team' of amazing Blackfen bloggers.

Ad Multos Annos, Fr Tim !

Why, O Why . . ?

Do Priests concelebrate when they don’t have to ?

I understand that there are occasions when it’s necessary (or at least appropriate) to do so : but why is it that, even when it’s totally unnecessary, so many priests still seem to feel that it’s in some way better for them to concelebrate than to say individual Masses ?

If you go to the London Oratory on a Saturday morning, there will be at least three or four ‘private’ (as opposed to publicly scheduled) Masses - sometimes, with visiting priests, many more than that - and the holiness in the Church is absolutely palpable.

At Westminster Cathedral, on the other hand, although they have at least as many resident priests, there are the public Masses . . . and that’s basically all; none of the side Chapels is ever used for a Mass (at least, not that I’ve seen in recent years). Instead, what you get is two or three priests concelebrating at one public mass.

I know the answer, ultimately – it’s part of the ‘Vatican II’ legacy - the idea that the unity of the Church was better shown by having a few larger celebrations, in which everyone was gathered together : and that is how it has stayed, despite His Holiness’ suggestion that concelebration was not always appropriate.

However; if you have several Masses, you increase the opportunity for the Faithful to hear Mass – even if they don’t receive Holy Communion – and to gain graces for themselves and the Holy Souls; you increase devotion; and you increase the overall sense of the sacred with no extra effort on the part of the clergy.

I never knew Westminster Cathedral in the days when all those chapels were in use two or three times every morning : but I can practically guarantee you this much – it felt a good deal holier in there then than it does now !

Fathers : it takes no longer to say your own Mass than to concelebrate; but the benefit to the faithful is huge. Please, I beg you; don’t just take the easy option, but think of the people, and say that individual Mass !

Happy S. Joseph's Day

Memento nostri, beate Ioseph,
et tuæ orationis suffragio
apud tuum putativum Filium intercede;
sed et beatissimam Virginem sponsam tuam
nobis propitiam redde,
quæ Mater est ejus,
qui cum Patre et Spiritu Sancto
vivit et regnat
per infinita sæcula sæculorum.
Oratio S. Bernardini Senensis ad S. Ioseph

Thought for Today

‘A virtuous life consists in mortifying vices, sins, bad thoughts, and evil affections; and in exercising ourselves in the acquisition of holy virtues.’
S. Philip Neri

Thursday, 18 March 2010

'Next Year in Jerusalem'

Devout Moslems allegedly regret the end of Ramadan, because despite the onerous fast which that month entails – far harder, I’d have thought, than anything which Catholics have to undertake – they say that ‘now the Angels won’t be amongst us until next year’.

Similarly, I don’t think there can be anyone who gets to the end of the Quarant ’Ore without a feeling of regret; not, of course, because Our Lord has gone from amongst us – never that ! – but because we have, for a short time, been given a very humble insight into the glory of Heaven, and the joy which awaits us there; and now that’s gone – until next year.

Our Jewish friends end their Passover seder with the words ‘next year in Jerusalem’ : and for some amongst us, no doubt, there will be no Quarant ’Ore next year – because by then they will either be amongst those in the heavenly Jerusalem, or at least en route there.

However, as this special time of grace, this annual opportunity to rejoice in the glory of Heaven, passes from us, let us recognize that unlike the Moslems we know that Our Blessed Lord and Saviour is with us, in His Most Holy Sacrament, at every moment, and rejoice in His love which gives us this great treasure : and let us also pray that, whether it be next year, or the year after, or whenever, we too will, one day, come to see our Blessed Lord not – as now – only as ‘reflections in a mirror’, but rather ‘face to face’ in the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem.

All my Readers have been much in my prayers during this holy time; and I pray that God may grant you many blessings, particularly during the Passiontide and Easter now which lies ahead.

Lauda Sion Salvatorem

The solemn Lauda Sion is just beginning at the London Oratory at the close of this year's Quarant 'Ore; and soon Solemn Benediction will signal the end of the event for 2010.

You have all been much in my prayers during it; and I pray that you will all be richly blessed - first of all in the Passiontide and Holy Week which lie immediately ahead - but more generally in the year to come : and I thank all those who have supported this splendid event with their prayers.

Not Trying to be a Wet Blanket, but . . .

I’m aware that most blogs today are rejoicing in the ‘victory’ Catholic Care won in the High Court yesterday; and I’m afraid I shall be regarded as a ‘wet blanket’ if I say that I don’t think it was actually a victory in anything more than a technical sense.

Certainly the not-inconsiderable number of people who have commented that other Catholic Adoption Agencies will now be realizing that they shouldn’t have thrown in the towel so soon have got the wrong end of
Mr Justice Briggs’ judgment.

Now; please don’t misunderstand me. I’m delighted at the judgment, and I’m delighted that Catholic Care still stands at least a fighting chance of being able to continue doing its very important work for children : but I think it’s important that everyone is clear what actually happened.

What was under discussion was the Charity Commission’s refusal to allow Catholic Care to amend its Charitable Objects (the governing framework of its activities).

As you will know, the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 made all sorts of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation illegal; including refusing to consider applications to become adoptive parents from same-sex couples.

The Charity, however, believe that Regulation 18 could be construed in a way which permitted it to continue its work in accordance with the teaching of the Church : and so sought to amend its Objects to reflect this – an application which the Charity Commission refused

Mr Justice Briggs’ decision was not that the Charity Commission was wrong and that the amendment had to be allowed – which undoubtedly would have been a victory for Catholic Care – but rather that the Charity Commission should go away and reconsider Catholic Care’s application in the light of the judge’s detailed statement of the legal position because – in the consideration it has so far given –
‘it has alighted upon what I have considered to be the wrong interpretation of Regulation 18.’

However, this does mean that the Charity Commission can still say ‘no’ : and given the attitude of the current Government, I think it likely that they may do that; although they may well then face a further Appeal, on the basis of the obiter dicta of Mr Justice Briggs, who made a number of very useful observations which the Charity Commission cannot safely ignore.

One significant point which he made was that allowing Catholic Care to continue to operate in accordance with Catholic teaching would not deprive same-sex couples of any significant benefit (ie ability to adopt a child)
‘not least since the only alternative of closure would make that benefit unavailable anyway’. (para.107(iv))

He also observed (which the Government apparently fails to perceive) that ‘any competition between the interests of the children and the interests (including the human rights) of prospective adoptive parents could only be properly resolved in favour of the children’. (para.107 (v))

So : yesterday was by no means a disaster for Catholic Care and the Catholic Faith, but it was certainly not the occasion to open the champagne either.

Catholic Care has another chance to persuade the Charity Commission, in the light of the Judge’s definitive statement of the law, that it should be allowed to amend its Objects as it wants to; and if it fails it will have another opportunity to challenge that refusal – whilst if it succeeds I think there can be little doubt that the Equality Gestapo will challenge that in the Courts . . . thus ensuring that this saga has lots of life in it yet !

Please, keep praying for Catholic Care, and that God’s law will ultimately prevail.

Thought for Today

‘Man is able by himself to fall into sin, but he cannot by himself arise from sin without the help of grace.’
S. Thomas Aquinas

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Semper Laudetur

The Holy Hour is just beginning during this year's Quarant 'Ore at the London Oratory, and you are invited to say a prayer in union with all those present there before Our Blessed Lord, asking for the rich blessings which He showers on all His faithful people during this time.

Please be assured that you are all - Followers, Readers, and other Bloggers - very specially in my prayers before Him this evening.

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh !

(I’m sorry that I cannot offhand validate this tale; I heard it from what I believe to be a reliable source, and pass it on on that basis.)

I'm sure you will know of the great S. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York (250 years old next year, if I’m not mistaken !); and you may be aware that much if not most of the USA goes green today . . . McDonald’s offer ‘Shamrock Shakes’, I’ve seen green bagels in Jewish delicatessens, and – as you can see above – Chicago actually dyes its river green !

Going back to New York, though, apparently a good many years ago, after many years of fruitless invitations, the organizers of the New York Parade were delighted to receive an acceptance to their invitation to the Lord Mayor of Dublin to attend the Parade as the Guest of Honour.

He turned up, and duly occupied the central seat on the dais outside S. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the Parade went by; and as it was passing, the Cardinal observed that they were very lucky to have such a distinguished Irishman as their guest to celebrate their Patron Saint : to which the Lord Mayor apparently replied ‘Ah well; I wouldn’t be knowing much about S. Patrick : I’m Jewish myself !’

You Know You Want To !

I know that it's the Extraordinary Form of the Mass which was once described as 'the most beautiful thing this side of Heaven' : but I have to say that Quarant 'Ore at the London Oratory comes pretty close.

Do drop in, even if only for a few minutes, just to say a quick prayer - you know you want to, and Our Lord would be truly happy to see you : and if you can't for some reason (like you're reading this in California, and the credit card is maxed out for the month !), then please say a prayer for the Good Intentions of all those who will make a prayer there this year . . .

. . . and know that you, and everyone reading this, will be most especially in my prayers throughout the Quarant 'Ore.

NOT about Bishops . . ?

Well, everyone seems to be posting a lot of generally critical stuff about the Bishops at the moment, and I’ve done a fair bit of it myself in the last couple of months; so I thought I might find something to muse about in a non-critical vein for a few moments . . . I know : Bishops !

As we all know, this is the ‘Year for Priests’; and the Holy Father has asked us to pray for and support our priests particularly during this year, and I imagine that most of us have been doing so, at least to some extent.

What I wanted to suggest to you was this : the Bishop doesn’t cease being a priest when he is consecrated; the mitre doesn’t stop him being a pastor, caring for souls – it just makes it a very great deal harder to do.

Do you remember Cardinal Heenan’s autobiography ? The second volume, about his time as a Bishop, was called ‘A Crown of Thorns’; and took its title from an episode when, as a priest, he visited Cardinal Hinsley, who had just received a new mitre and playfully put it on to Fr Heenan’s head . . . and then said to him ‘When you wear a mitre, you will find it a crown of thorns’.

Don’t, please, misunderstand me. I stand by everything I have said in my posts (and comments on other people’s blogs) about the apparent uncertainty and timidity of the Bishops at present : I just think that we must also pray for them, not because they are uncertain, or timid; but because, at the bottom of it all, they are priests – and most of them, I imagine, good priests – who suddenly find themselves being given a new job, for which in essence they’ve had little or no training, and which offers them a high-profile opportunity to make fools of themselves, without the sort of support network that they have been used to as priests.

We all joke about Fr Tim becoming a Bishop; or Fr Ray, or whoever . . . but I strongly suspect that, if the truth be told, they’d all hate the idea of putting on purple, and losing the close contact with their people - and their brother priests - which they have as priests.

So, whilst I shan’t stop speaking the truth in love when I feel that the Bishops are letting us down, or sending mixed messages to the world, I have also come to realize that if I have the right to do that, I only have it by the prayerful support I give to their ministry . . . ‘Rosary for the Bishop’ being just one way to do it.

I am making the sanctification and strengthening of all our Bishops one of my Intentions during the Quarant 'Ore this week; may I suggest that you may want to consider making one of your intentions as well, at least occasionally ?

Thought for Today

‘You must accept your cross. If you bear it courageously, it will carry you to heaven.’
S. Jean-Marie Vianney, Curé d’Ars

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Laudetur Jesus Christus

The Solemn Mass of Exposition is just starting at the London Oratory for this year's Quarant 'Ore.

Please ask Our Blessed Lord to give rich blessings to all those who attend and pray before Him during this event; and also for all those who cannot be there, but add their prayers to those of the faithful in the Church.

Please also say a Pater, an Ave, and a Gloria Patri according to the Intentions of our Holy Father the Pope; another according to the Intentions of all those who will venerate Our Blessed Lord in the Oratory Church during this period; and please be assured that all my Followers and other Readers will be very specially in my prayers during this time of especial graces.

A Prophet for Our Times ?

The Procurator-General of the Oratory Confederation, in his letter to the Congregations on the Beatification of Cardinal Newman, includes an extract from Newman’s allocution on the occasion of his reception of the Red Hat, in which he discourses on what he saw as one of the greatest problems in society of his day – Liberalism in Religion.

This is, of course, so entirely apposite today that I thought it would be useful to reprint part of it here :

‘I rejoice to say, to one great mischief I have from the first opposed myself. For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion. Never did Holy Church need champions against it more sorely than now, when, alas ! it is an error overspreading, as a snare, the whole earth; and on this great occasion, when it is natural for one who is in my place to look out upon the world, and upon Holy Church as in it, and upon her future, it will not, I hope, be considered out of place, if I renew the protest against it which I have made so often. Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining substance and force daily. It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion, as true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated, for all are matters of opinion. Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact ... and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy.’

As we prepare for the Beatification, let us be regular in asking Cardinal Newman’s prayers for help against this insidious evil in our midst : asking for strength to resist it, eloquence to combat it, and faith to confound it.

Amen !

A Press Release at 12:00 noon today confirms that the Holy Father will personally perform the Beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman during his visit to the UK later this year.

Apparently it will take place during a Mass in the Archdiocese of Birmingham on Sunday 19th September.

I think that the Holy Father's decision will be welcomed by all English Catholics, and must highlight not only his personal devotion to Cardinal Newman, but also his fatherly concern for England and its Catholics.

Pray for the Bishops . . . they need it !

We've all been knocking the Bishops recently - probably with some justification, it has to be said - but shadowlands has found a splendid idea : Rosary for the Bishop.

This is a scheme whereby you agree to pray the Rosary for a Bishop (or Bishops) on a regular basis - monthly, weekly, whatever - and it will even email or Twitter you to remind you to say your Rosary as you have agreed. You can also see how many other people are praying for any particular Bishop.

Do go and have a look.

Thought for Today

‘Love virtue rather than fear sin.’
S. Francis de Sales

Monday, 15 March 2010

Unashamed Advertising !

This week, the London Oratory keeps the Quarant 'Ore in what I think is arguably the best church in England for the purpose.

The Solemn Mass of Exposition (OF Latin) is tomorrow evening at 18:30, with a Procession of the Most Holy and Benediction; and the Church is then open until 22:00 (I understand).

On Wednesday the Church is open as usual from 06:30, and as well as the usual Masses there is a Holy Hour at 18:30 : for some reason I've never quite understood they don't appear to have have the 'Mass for Peace', at least not as an announced Solemn Mass as part of the event. The Church closes, I believe, at 21:00.

On Thursday the Church opens at 06:30 and there are all the usual Masses, with Lauda Sion and Solemn Benediction at 19:00 before the Quarant 'Ore ends.

Details of the Music are available here.

Please, if you are anywhere near, and can possibly get to the Oratory, even if only for half-an-hour during the Quarant 'Ore, drop in and say a prayer for the Holy Father, and for the life of the Church in England in these difficult times.

Thought for Today

‘We must pray incessantly for the gift of perseverance.’
S. Philip Neri

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Roses for Mother

Today is known, at least in England, as ‘Mothering Sunday’, or ‘Mother’s Day’; and it is traditionally the day when one gives flowers or gifts to one’s Mother, and very likely takes her out to lunch, or otherwise treats her . . . and very right all that is.

However : I’d like to make a double point about ‘Mother’s Day’.

First, let us not forget to give our Mothers something spiritual, as well as merely temporal things : let us hear an extra Mass today for her Intentions – or, if she has already gone home to God, let us perhaps try and have a Mass said for her one day this week, if not actually today. In any event, let us give her, as well as that bouquet of roses, a Spiritual Bouquet which will last, and give her pleasure, long after even the longest-lived flowers have lost their petals, and turned into dried-up, shrivelled, things.

And that brings me to the other side : for how many of us will remember to give something today to our heavenly Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary ? I know that she has many feasts throughout the year, and that we pray to her (I sincerely hope) daily : but does that mean that today, on ‘Mother’s Day’, she does not deserve to be remembered at least as much as our earthly Mothers ? Of course it doesn’t – and we should give her joy by our prayers today, particularly, in recognition of her motherhood not only of us individually, but also of the whole Church.

And what gift is the best possible thing we can give her ? Well, her Rosary, of course . . . that wonderful garland of 50 perfect roses . . . and best of all, let each of us offer a Rosary today for our earthly Mother, asking our Blessed Lady to bless her on earth, and after her death to take her speedily to heaven where we can have little doubt that – as two mothers always will – they will rejoice in telling each other fond tales of their beloved sons !

May Almighty God bless all Mothers today; and may Our Lady of Walsingham pray for yours – and mine – in particular.

Thought for Today - Lent IV

‘“Are we in affliction ?” says S. John Chrysostom; “we shall find all manner of consolation at Mass. Are we tempted ? Let us hear Holy Mass, and we shall find there a way of overcoming the Devil.”’
S. Jean-Marie Vianney, Curé d’Ars

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Public Opinion . . ?

Over the last few days - for much of which, of course, I have been rather out of circulation - things have been getting exciting in Brighton : a fact which I discovered from His Hermeneuticalness. He carries a post called 'Fr Ray in't papers', which discusses local (Brighton) media treatment of Fr Ray Blake, whose blog has - shall we say - been 'in the news' recently, with attacks in the local press.

Fr Tim tells you all about it, so I needn't repeat it here : but I felt I ought to share a true (and mildly amusing) story with you which is not irrelevant to this affair.

An Anglican priest friend of mine was once called to a major disturbance in his parish which was rapidly assuming the proportions of a full-blown riot.

What was it about ? Well, apparently the locals had found out about a child abuser living in the parish, and decided to take vigilante-style action to persuade this evil person to leave . . . NOW; with a view to achieving which end, they were proposing to burn down the house.

Fortunately my friend was able to get the police to attend and take control before the crowd burnt down the home of a perfectly respectable lady paediatrician !

Who'd 'a Thought it ?

I know I usually leave the liturgical eye-candy to other people, but I simply can’t resist sharing this photo with you.

It was taken earlier in the week, at an Ordination to the Diaconate.

Where ? No, it’s not the SSPX headquarters . . . it’s not even somewhere exciting in Italy : it’s in America; and that rather lovely seminary Chapel is so new that it was only consecrated three days before the Ordination !

Best of all . . . is the Bishop an exotic FSSP prelate from Europe ?

No – it’s the Most Reverend Arthur J. Serratelli, Bishop of Paterson, New Jersey, and – wait for this – significantly the Chairman of the US Bishops’ Conference Committee on Divine Worship (not to mention a Commissioner of the International Committee on English in the Liturgy) !

Clearly, ‘the times they are a changing’ !

(If you want to know more about the Ordination, you can ‘read all about it’ on New Liturgical Movement here.)

Caring and Sharing

‘We share in the sufferings and death of those we love.’
S. Francis de Sales

Tomorrow is Mothering Sunday; and a dear friend of mine is looking forward to tomorrow a bit more now than she was yesterday morning : but still not as much as she’d like to be.

A bit more than she was, because her Mother is now – to use that wonderful hospital phrase – ‘comfortable’ : although quite what that means for someone who’s had a stroke, I don’t know.

Not as much as she’d like to be . . . well, I think you can work that out for yourself, really, can’t you ? After all : who enjoys the idea of spending Mothering Sunday visiting Mum in the Stroke Ward of the local hospital ?

I was thinking and praying about this when I came across the quotation from S. Francis de Sales which heads this post; and it occurred to me that it was particularly appropriate to the situation : because obviously my friend, with the rest of her family, are going to share, in a particular way, in her mother’s suffering – mental, physical, and emotional – over the next few days and weeks.

Equally, as we approach Passiontide and the Sacred Triduum, we may find those words of S. Francis remind us of another important dimension to our spiritual journey through that holy season – one which I suspect many of us only normally think of on Good Friday, or when we do the Stations of the Cross : Our Blessed Lady’s share in Our Lord’s Passion.

I’m sure that many of us know the Devotion to the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady; and hopefully use it frequently : but I think we ought to try and remember that it wasn’t just those ‘seven swords’ which pierced Mary’s heart – she shared in every part of Jesus’ life, and death; because she was his mother.

So, if we try and think of the events of Passiontide and the Triduum as they felt to Our Lady, we shall get a new perspective on them; and a new perspective is always valuable in preventing us getting ‘stale’ about things which we repeat regularly, not to mention exciting us to greater devotion to Our Lady.

At the same time - and I think more importantly - we should dare to remember that Our Lady is not only Jesus’ mother : she is our Mother as well, so that we can take heart from S. Francis’ comment by realizing that she shares in our sufferings, and sorrows, and deaths, too . . . that, as she was with Our Blessed Lord, she will be with us - every step of the way until, please God, she is there, with Our Lord, to welcome us into our eternal home : an end which I sincerely pray for us all.

. . . and talking of praying, whilst my friend would be horrified were I to put her mother’s name on the web (as would her mother, I’m sure), God knows who she is, and I would ask you to pray that His will be done in her, and that she and her family have all the grace they need to accept His will gladly, and trust in His love : and may He richly bless you for your care and concern.

Thought for Today

‘Sin’s evilness isn’t in any way included in God’s will, but is a consequence of our free choice abandoning its relationship to God’s will.’
S. Thomas Aquinas

Friday, 12 March 2010

Thought for Today

‘To mortify one passion, no matter how small, is a greater help in the spiritual life than many abstinences and fasts.’
S. Philip Neri

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Thought for Today

‘Why do you oppose your own salvation ?’
S. Thomas Aquinas

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Something to Ponder . . .

‘For a member of the Confraternity of the Rosary to succeed in losing his soul, he would have to do himself as much violence as the other faithful do to save their souls, so abundant are the graces of this Confraternity.’
S. Jean-Marie Vianney, Cure d’Ars

Still More about the Rosary

fr Lawrence Lew OP has very kindly drawn my attention to the fact that my previous observation was wrong, and that the English Province does in fact have a web page about the Rosary Confraternity, here : and I recommend you to visit it.

(I might say that he very humbly says that it's not very 'posh'. Personally I think that the photography - which is, I strongly suspect, fr Lawrence's own - is very attractive, and improves the look of the page greatly.)

Thought for Today

‘The crosses that we shape for ourselves are always lighter than the ones laid upon us.’
S. Francis de Sales

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Ten Rules for Handling Disagreements like a Christian

Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit originally composed these Rules for the Seminarists when he was Rector of the Major Seminary in Detroit, fifteen years or so ago . . . but they’re very valuable, and we should all do well to bear them in mind !

1. The Rule of Charity : ‘Charity is primary.’
This has to be the place to start whenever we disagree with one another : with love.

S. Paul said: ‘If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal’ (1 Cor. 13:1). No matter how wise my insights or astute my plans, they count for nothing if I do not offer them with love.

Now, that charity is the first and fundamental requirement for all authentic Christian speech does not mean that such speaking can only be weak, but it does mean that whatever is said ought always to be offered respectfully and for the genuine service of others, especially my hearers. In fact, all of S. Paul’s sage advice in the ‘Hymn to Charity’ in 1 Cor. 13 spells out eloquently this ‘Rule’.

2. The Rule of Publicity : ‘Think with the mind of the Church.’
This rule is simply a translation of the Latin axiom ‘Sentire cum Ecclesia’.

This means that, when we disagree, the final measure for judging what’s on target and what’s off the mark is what the Church thinks, not, ultimately, what you think or what I think – not private opinion, but what the Church has said to all to know.

This is the reason I call this the ‘The Rule of Publicity’. The criterion for our deciding our disagreements is not one’s own private opinions, but the mind of the People of God, what the Church thinks.

In order to apply this rule effectively, we need to use a corollary : ‘Measure everything against the authoritative documents of the Magisterium.’The logical question to follow any call for us to ‘think with the mind of the Church’ is : How do I know what that is ?

The answer is: ‘Look in the places where the Church has expressed her mind with authority’. Look in the writings of the Councils and the popes, in the Church’s laws, and in the teachings of her Fathers and Doctors. Any survey or poll, no matter how extensive or accurate, if it contradicts the Magisterium, is not the Church’s mind.

3. The Rule of Legitimate Freedom : ‘What the Church allows is not to be disallowed.’
This rule means that in situations where the Church says that a variety of views or opinions is legitimate, I should not impose my option as a mandate on others.

For example : we can receive Holy Communion in the hand or on the tongue. Either one is acceptable.

4. The Rule of Catholic Freedom : ‘There’s something for everybody, but not everything is for everybody.’
This fourth rule is an extension of the one above. It applies the same sort of respect for diversity to the wider spheres of our common life. This rule is based on the recognition that ‘It’s a big Church’.

God has given gifts of grace in an almost dizzying variety. Some folks are attracted to the Carmelite Third Order, others gather for charismatic prayer. Nobody has to live the Christian life exactly the way I do.

Remember : ‘Think (and act) with the mind of the Church’. We need to respect every practice or approach that has a legitimate place in the life of the Church, and we cannot make our favourite practice or approach mandatory for others if the Church has not.

5. The Rule of Modesty : ‘Not all of my causes are God’s causes.’
Yes, it’s true that in many cases we invest our heart’s devotion because that’s what God commands for all his people. But that’s not necessarily so in every instance. Some of my agendas are mine. It’s right to embark on projects with a zealous desire to give God glory, but I have to remember that while it may be his will for me to take this on, there are cases when it’s not his will for everyone else to join me.

6. The Rule of Integrity : ‘To do evil in order to accomplish good is really to do evil.’
Breaking one of God’s commandments is not the way to advance his Kingdom, ever. If, in the service of Christ, I act in an un-Christian way, I become a highly effective ally of the very forces I set out to combat. (Among those who are big ‘Star Wars’ fans, this rule is sometimes referred to as the ‘Darth Vader Axiom’.)

7. The Rule of Realism : ‘Remember that Satan is eager to corrupt my efforts to build up the Kingdom, and he’s smart enough to figure out a way to do it.’
This rule is strong statement about the need for each of us in our disagreements to practice that form of realism, for which the more common name is ‘humility’ . My cause may be right or my view may be true, but I have to watch that their goodness is not corrupted by my infidelity.

8. The Rule of Mystery : ‘Not all the habits and attitudes which belong to a society governed by a representative democracy are appropriate in the Church.’
In every age there is a tendency – often unconscious – to shape the life of the Church after the pattern of the secular order of the day. In the Middle Ages, the governance of the Church was often configured to the feudal system of the times, sometimes with very harmful consequences. For example, bishops and abbots were identified with the barons of the nobility.

In our own day, we could make a similar sort of mistake: thinking that the responsibility and authority of the Church’s pastors are of the same sort as that of our elected officials. In such mistaken identifications, what is at work is a forgetting that while the Church is, yes, a human reality, she is also a divine reality, a mystery, unlike any other community every known in the history of the world.

The Church is neither a democracy nor a monarchy. She is the Church, the Lord’s own creation, constituted according to his will and plan.

9. The Petrine Rule : ‘Nobody ever built up the Church by tearing down the pope.’
This rule follows quite logically from the one immediately above. The Holy Father’s leadership is part of the Church’s constitution from Christ. Because the pope is not the sort of democratic leader we are accustomed to in civil society, there is a tendency by some observers to characterize his office as a ‘throwback’ to times that we have surpassed, a ‘burden’ for the Catholic people that we would well be freed from.

Not so.

The pastoral care we receive from the Holy Father is a great grace, S. Peter’s own service of his fellow disciples continuing to this very day. A great pope makes us a better Church.

10. The Eschatological Rule : ‘The victory is assured; my job is to run out the clock with style.’
Christ is risen – truly, body and soul risen and in glory at the Father’s right. He has conquered sin and death and all the forces that threaten us. Whatever is at stake in our trials or conflicts, the certainty of Christ’s victory is not in doubt.

And He promised He would be with us always, until the end of time (cf. Mat. 28:20). He will never leave His Church, and His victory will be ours as long as we abide with Him in his Mystical Body.

This rule, of course, is not an excuse for giving less than our full effort to spread the Kingdom; that would be a kind of presumption. However, this rule is a call to remember that there is one Saviour, and it’s not you or me. Our mission is to serve the Lord in fidelity and hope, and be ready for Him to act, for He surely will.

(Sadly I can’t identify where I found these; so I hope that they’re not copyright - but if they are, I trust that ++ Allen will forgive me for spreading such valuable teaching around !)

More about the Rosary . . .

shadowlands has a very good post today about the Rosary, and about a particularly good way of praying the mysteries to make sure that you actually focus on them, and work through them, as you work through each decade.

Thought for Today

‘He who, in repenting of his sins, thinks only of God, has the truest contrition.’
S. Jean-Marie Vianney, Curé d’Ars

Monday, 8 March 2010

Join the Confraternity !

I’ve just been reading one of shadowlands’ posts, about saying her Rosary; and it reminded of something.

A while ago now she contacted me to ask about joining the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary; which is the original Rosary Confraternity set up many years ago by the Dominicans, and to which, over the years, many Popes have given great privileges and indulgences – indeed, most Popes have been Members of it, and recommended it highly.

It’s not exactly burdensome : joining costs nothing, and there are no meetings to go to . . . you just have to say your Rosary daily; and even that does not bind under pain of sin. The original theory was that you said all fifteen decades every day; but that has been altered, and once a week is fine nowadays – you still qualify, and you still get lots of indulgences, so the Holy Souls will be immensely grateful, quite apart from whatever good you do for yourself.

In fact, all you have to do is to be enrolled . . . and that’s the interesting bit : because, guess what, there’s a website for the Confraternity. What’s not so obvious is that it’s for the American branch; and whilst that won’t in theory make any difference to your enrolment, you will probably never hear anything to confirm that you’ve been enrolled, and I suppose it’s at least possible that they might conclude that it was simply someone being silly, and not enrol you anyway.

There is, of course, a Promoter of the Rosary in the English Dominican Province; but he doesn’t have a posh website.

However, he is fr Neil Ferguson OP, and you can email by clicking on his name, and ask to be enrolled in the Confraternity. (If you’re not in England, then he might be able to tell you who to contact in your own country, or your own Dominican Province should be able to tell you who your Promoter is.)

Oh : and you get a Plenary Indulgence for saying the Rosary on the day of your enrolment, on the usual conditions . . . so what are you waiting for ?

Decisions, decisions . . .

I received a Comment - which I have not approved (but not yet deleted) - about a Chaplet of prayers, giving a link to a website. When one follows the link, it takes one to a site which purports to have what appear to be 'revelations' from our Blessed Lady to a lady living in (as far as I can tell) the USA.

Now : as Followers and regular readers will know, I'm still quite new to this - and the site in question gives no indication of any Ecclesiastical authority, which I would have assumed was important to validate such 'revelations'.

Should I publish this Comment, with its link, or simply delete it ?

Thought for Today

‘The time for contrition is the whole of the present state of life. For as long as one is a wayfarer, one detests the obstacles which retard or hinder one from reaching the end of the way.’
S. Thomas Aquinas

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Causes not Symptoms

Earlier in Lent I was discussing the suggestion that one should be more concerned to ‘pick up’ things in Lent than to ‘give up’ things : and the ‘Thought for Today’, coupled with a comment made about it (for which H/T to Miss Ellen E), raised a further idea in my mind on that topic.

In the ‘Thought for Today’ the Curé d’Ars was suggesting that a good way to break bad habits was to do things which are the opposites of one’s besetting sins : and although this may be easier said than done, it is at least reasonably easy to understand as a concept – I mean, if one is overmuch given to eating Chocolate, for instance, then clearly giving it up for Lent is an obvious step on the road to mastering one’s cravings, and thus to controlling the greed which leads to overindulgence.

Similarly, one may decide to make regular use during Lent of some devotion which opposes some theological vice to which one knows one is prone : I know someone, for instance, who is saying Cardinal Merry del Val’s Litany of Humility every day of Lent this year.

So far, the sainted Curé’s advice is perfectly straightforward, and easy to understand – and, indeed, to follow at least in theory.

What occurred to me, though, was that for some of us our besetting problems may not best be approached in this way. Your besetting sin, for example, may in fact be something over which you have little direct control, simply because it is more the symptom of a problem than a problem itself. For example : your over-indulgence in chocolate may just be greed – in which case ‘giving up’ chocolate is what you need to do - give it up; no more, and no less.

If, though, it’s not ultimately greed that causes you to overdo the chocolate but – say – that you are subconsciously using it as ‘comfort food’ to help you cope with some long-standing emotional trauma, then recognising this, and actively working during Lent to try and address the cause of your chocoholism – ‘picking up’, in other words, the need to remove the source of the problem, and actively addressing that – will actually do you far more good, especially in the long term, than simply ‘treating the symptoms’.

Now : you may be feeling that this is a bit like saying ‘during Lent I will lose two stone in weight’, and I accept that using Lent in that way is ultimately not what it’s about.

Where what you’re trying to do here, though, is to reduce or eliminate problems which lead one to bad habits, whether they are vicious of themselves, or merely bad for one – and I think most moral theologians would agree that almost anything which is physically or mentally bad for one is, ultimately, at least likely to be responsible, sooner or later, for sin.

Thus, using Lent as a time not only to try to treat the bad habits – the symptoms – but also to identify, and try and resolve, the causes of those bad habits, actually is something else worthwhile which we can ‘pick up’ as a part of our Lenten discipline.