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.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

What to do today

There’s an hotel in Stoke-on-Trent – I remember it as ‘The Grand’, but I may be wrong about that – where, many years ago now, a local Anglican Priest going to entertain to lunch, on the Feast of S. Ignatius Loyola, a couple of young friends who were staying with him. They had been out shopping, as they were redecorating the Vicarage, and were carrying their purchases with them as they entered the hotel . . . and the Reverend Father tripped and let go of a large can of paint, which described a graceful arc through the air, and then hit the floor and burst open covering everything within a huge radius with high-quality white gloss paint !

You may wonder where that’s leading . . . and the answer is however, really : except that whilst I imagine that the floor and everything else which were covered with paint may have looked pristine, underneath they were not only no better than before, but were probably a good deal worse.

I know myself well enough to know that I am prone to ‘whitewashing’ myself at times : and also to realize that this is neither wise nor useful. If I want sorting out, there’s only one way to do it . . . make a good preparation and Act of Contrition, and then go and make the best confession I can manage, and let God sort me out.

Although I am sure that the foyer looked shining white after the paint went everywhere, I am sure that it looked even better after it had been cleaned off, and both the original dirt and the superficial coverup had been removed.

Saturday is a good time to go to Confession; and S. Ignatius was a great believer in it . . . so let us, today, try to make the best confession we can, and ask S. Ignatius for his prayers that we may truly clean out our souls, rather than just covering them with an illusory coat of white paint !

Friday, 30 July 2010

'Union begets Strength'

At a recent meeting of the Dominican Family, fr Richard Finn OP, Regent of Studies at Blackfriars, Oxford, presented a paper discussing the use which the Order had made in the past of Confraternities : and he cited their erection as valuable tools for encouraging lay involvement in, and devotion to, the life of the Church – but also as a means of encouraging the laity to share in the fraternity or sorority of the Order : which must, clearly, be beneficial to all concerned.

I have a splendid book, originally published in 1910 (my edition is 1921) entitled ‘Early Steps in the Fold’ by Fr F. M. de Zulueta, SJ; and in chapter 19 Fr de Zulueta discusses ‘Confraternities, Sodalities, and Associations’, and lists no less than seven Confraternities, as well as a number of Sodalities, Associations, and the like : and he makes the point at the very beginning of the chapter that ‘The Catholic Church has ever understood the utility of banding her children into corporations for the pursuit of religious ends. The principle that ‘union begets strength’ in the affairs of the spirit as well as in earthly ones is powerfully illustrated by the numberless associations which have arisen amongst the faithful . . .’

These comments are, of course, self-evidently true; and to the Confraternities and Sodalities and the like one can add such splendid bodies as the Brethren of the Little Oratory, and other such groupings which help to keep Catholics together, and faithful.

However, in recent years it would seem that the membership of such bodies has declined significantly; and this seems to me to be regrettable, particularly at a time like this when the Church is under such constant attack from secularist opponents.

It’s hardly my place to suggest what you should join; that must depend upon your own inclinations, and upon what is accessible to you in your parish : but may I suggest that you may like to think seriously about this and, if you are not already a member, find a Confraternity (or other body) to which you are willing and able to give some allegiance, and a little of your time ? My own experience is that by doing so you will not only help and support the work of Holy Mother Church, but also give yourself a good deal of personal pleasure, as well as spiritual benefit.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Just being together . . .

fr Simon Tugwell OP said that when we are with our friends, we don’t think about them; we are just with them . . . and I think there’s a lot in that. If you have to think about the people you’re with, then you probably aren’t deep enough inside their skin to be totally comfortable with them; and although that may not prove that you’re not friends, it probably means that the friendship is fairly new.

A few times in my life I have been lucky enough to meet someone with whom, from the very first, I have been so close and comfortable that it is as though we have always known each other; and that, I have always felt, is a great touchstone of friendship . . . that it’s totally, unthinkingly, natural; as natural, in fact, as being with yourself, so that you often have no need to talk : just to be together, as by that you exchange all that needs to be exchanged.

Prayer is sometime regarded – certainly quite often in the Dominican tradition – as an act of friendship : so that in theory we are as close to God, at least in prayer in its highest form, as to our closest friend. The problem is that, as fr Timothy Radcliffe OP says ‘As there are no techniques for friendship, we really have no technique of prayer’.

However, he also suggests that ‘prayer is putting ourselves in God’s presence’; and when we think of it, isn’t that what friendship is all about ? Simply finding it entirely natural to be with someone, to be comfortable with them ?

I can’t give any answers as to how to achieve that; except to give God time to find Himself comfortable with us; or rather, to allow us to find ourselves comfortable with Him, so that we can experience that togetherness with Him which will grant us the closest experience of God we can until – by His grace and love – we come to be with Him for ever in heaven.

No Greater Love

Over the weekend I was given a rather attractive card telling me – or rather ‘teasing’ me – about a film called ‘No Greater Love’ : a film about the enclosed contemplative nuns of the Discalced Carmelite Order living in the Carmel in – of all places – Notting Hill in London.

Although I have not yet managed to see the entire film, I have managed to watch the trailer, and view the image gallery on its website (a photo from which appears above); and I have also explored the Carmel’s own website which gives what seems to me an excellent and sympathetic picture of the house.

I shall be watching the film as soon as I am able to; and I would certainly encourage you to investigate it further for yourself.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Honestly . . !

Am I alone in wishing that Mgr Summersgill, the ‘Papal Visit Co-ordinator’, would ensure that - when he appears officially in that capacity - he does so dressed in accordance with his office ? The photo which accompanies this week’s online ‘Update’ makes him look like a would-be trendy Anglican vicar . . . grey clerical shirt, and brightly-coloured pullover.

He is officially representing the Catholic Church in England and Wales; and I for one would rather he did so properly attired in correct clerical dress.

The Supper of the Lamb

fr Vincent McNabb OP said to young men ‘When you think of getting married, choose a girl who can cook a good meal for you; better a plain girl who can cook than a pretty one who cannot’.

This was part of his dislike of tinned food : he used to say that ‘the tin opener has taken the place of the oven’, and query whether one could be healthy on such a diet . . . although given his ‘Protestant stomach’ it is just possible that his opposition was at least partly based on the trouble which tinned food used to give to his digestive tract !

At the same time, it has led me to consider something about modern life which, on examination, I don’t think I like.

We hear a lot nowadays about the ‘Culture of Death’; and I think it’s well accepted that this is something which Catholics should be very concerned about for all sorts of reasons; and it seems to me that the issue which fr Vincent raises – and which I imagine we can all recognize as a common experience in today’s world – is a manifestation of that.

Essentially, nowadays people seem increasingly reluctant to do things for themselves : to ‘make do and mend’. They would rather replace than repair; they seem to accept the ‘death’ of their possessions rather than wishing to cherish them, maintain them, and get as much benefit out of them as possible; and they can always find something better to do than to cook a proper meal, and sit down and eat it and talk with those with whom they share it.

Let me give you an example : the other day I could not find a long-arm stapler with which to fasten together a small booklet of information; and I happened to comment that if I’d had a needle and thread to hand, I would just have stitched it : that would have been just as effective, if a little slower.

One of my young female colleagues looked at me and said ‘what do you mean, “sew it”; you can’t do that !’ When I asked why not, she suggested that I couldn’t sew . . . because, apparently, nobody sews anything nowadays. When I asked what happened when a button came off one of her blouses, she said ‘I throw it away and buy a new one’ (a suggestion which reminded me of the famous Arab in the 1960s who bought a new Rolls-Royce because the first one had stopped in Piccadilly . . . having run out of petrol !).

I accept that I don’t always try and darn socks when a hole appears; but the idea of throwing a blouse or shirt away because a button came off seems to me to give a good indication of why people seem to be moving towards accepting euthanasia . . . ‘don’t worry about it; just get another one’, sort of thing.

Similarly, it seems that a meal is no longer viewed as a social function, a time to relate to people, but rather a matter of practicality : one refuels, and then continues with one’s other – and so much more valuable – activities.

I may not seem to be the best person to comment on this. Like many other single people, I have a bad habit of making use of ‘convenience food’ : but at least I can say, quite truthfully, that I dislike doing so, and pine to be allowed to cook proper meals, and then sit down and enjoy them with others, and converse and appreciate the food, hopefully the wine, and in any event the company. (Fortunately, I have more than a few friends who are kind enough to appreciate my cooking, so I do at least get the opportunities to do this !)

What concerns me, though, is that – as with the ‘disposable culture’ evidenced by my young colleague – the modern viewpoint is ultimately a triumph of style over substance. The impression of food is more important than its reality : the pretty girl who can’t cook is a better option than the plain one who can . . . but this is, surely, the wrong way round.

I don’t know how well cooked the lamb is at most Passover seders : I imagine that, like many ‘standard’ meals (such as Christmas Goose, or Thanksgiving Turkey) the quality varies from cook to cook; but I strongly suspect that the meal itself is always an enjoyable and a memorable one, regardless of the quality of the cooking, because the whole experience combines to make it so. We don’t know who cooked the Last Supper; but if it was the Apostles, then it may well have been pretty unexciting; they were, after all, fishermen, not women who had been taught to cook (as in those days it was always women who did the cooking) : but we know that the meal was utterly memorable, because it was a special meal, for a group of special people.

I think that clinging to things which make our lives – not just our meals, but every part of our day-to-day lives – special is a positive step towards bringing the love of God into the world; because I am sure that it is through Him, and His love, that we perceive the joy in being together . . . but it’s pretty hard to get excited, even interested, in grabbing a hamburger. It may fill you up, but it doesn’t have any spiritual significance.

I often suggest that we should do things in small doses; and I do so again now. Can we all try to increase the number of times – even if only slightly – when we can raise a glass to fr Vincent with an honest conscience, sitting at a meal which has been properly cooked out of ingredients rather than just prepared from packets, and which has – as a result – justified its existence by being a meal shared by friends or family, rather than just a way to ‘fill up’ ?

If we can do that, however rarely, I believe we are making a very small step towards the Supper of the Lamb which, God willing, we may hope to share one day in His kingdom.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Walking a Tightrope

Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, in the context of dealing with enquirers, and even with bigots, that ‘Instructing is not arguing. One can win an argument and lose a soul.’

At first sight, this is an obvious truth : and none of us would contest (at least when we are thinking about it calmly and rationally – I say nothing about the heat of the moment) that we have a duty to be patient and forbearing when dealing with those who disagree with us, and wish to contest, often strongly, those things which we believe.

At the same time, it does seem to me that there is also a potential danger : the danger of allowing forbearance to prevent us being true to the Faith we hold.

A couple of days ago I got involved in an online discussion with someone about Anglicanorum Cœtibus : and it rapidly became apparent that my correspondent – himself an ex-Anglican – was possessed more of a detestation of all things Anglican than of any desire to discuss the matter calmly. He was content to condemn the Holy Father, despite (what appeared to be) an imperfect appreciation of what had led His Holiness to make such a generous gesture, simply because he could not tolerate anything which – in his eyes – wasn’t Catholic; and nothing which was of or from the Church of England could possibly be Catholic.

I tried to make my comments in charity, but eventually concluded that there was nothing to be gained by continuing the discussion, because of my opposite number’s absolute refusal to accept any basis for discussion other than his own forthright condemnation of Anglicanism as a concept.

In that case, I don’t think I betrayed the Faith, because I was discussing something with another Catholic, and any shortcomings in his Faith are not matters on which I am properly qualified to comment : that is between himself and his Director.

On the other hand, it seems to me that things may be different when – as has also happened recently – I find myself involved in a discussion with a non-Catholic (in this case at least arguably an atheist; certainly an agnostic) about certain fundamental truths of the Faith.

Can I then back away, or qualify the truths of the Faith so as not to cause offence ? As it happened, the person I was talking to about the Church's teaching on such matters turned out to have a fairly strong ‘pro-Life’ position of her own; but could I justifiably have moderated the Church’s uncompromising teaching so as not to drive her away before I had an opportunity to discuss with her the merits of it as an expression of Divine will ?

Obviously I could quite properly have tried to direct the conversation so that I had an opportunity to convince her of the rightness of our teaching before confrontation occurred : but if I had been asked outright at the very start, could I properly have done other than spoken the unvarnished truth ? In love, of course; but nonetheless unpalatable ?

Of course one does not want to drive people away : but I do wonder whether there may just possibly be times when the need to be true to the Faith may justifiably lead to the private martyrdom which comes from recognzing that one has, by one’s own inadequacy, lost a chance to save a soul. The early Christians died horribly, and in their hundreds, rather than compromise in the slightest on the truths of the Faith : and though one might wonder whether they might have had more chance of converting others if they had been more moderate in their position, yet it is they whose ‘robes are washed white in the blood of the lamb’.

God lead me to discern how to deal with issues like this, so that I can always stay faithful to His will, true to His Faith, and yet also be a tender and loving exponent of His holy Word.

Laughter and the Love of Friends

Book I of Evelyn Waugh’s biography of Ronnie Knox is subtitled ‘Laughter and the Love of Friends’; and it is a phrase which comes into my mind from time to time, particularly when it is manifested in practice, as it was this last weekend; and if I may borrow from fr Bede Jarrett OP, ‘Oh dear friendship, what a gift of God it is. Speak no ill of it.’

Since I came home to the Catholic Church, I have been fortunate to have found much friendship – and much joy, not to mention a fair bit of mirth – amidst the friars of the Order of Preachers; and not a little amongst others who share my delight in belonging, more or less, to S. Dominic’s family.

A song of my youth contained the line ‘there was joy, there was fun, there was laughter in the sun’; and that was in many ways an excellent description of Saturday. I gave a lift to two friends who were going to make their way from London to Oxford, and we much relished an enjoyable, and substantially mirthful, day. The Ordination, of course, was devout and inspiring; but even then there were one or two modest moments of mirth; but thereafter all was laughter and delight as a large gathering celebrated, and many old friends had an opportunity to enjoy the hospitality of Blackfriars . . . which in its turn appeared thoroughly delighted (as always) at the chance to welcome so many friends and strangers.

Thereafter we wandered about Oxford for a while, and finally ate good curry in Southall on our way back to London : and all the time laughed, and rejoiced in God’s generous love.

Now, I know that there are those who are very worried by ‘particular friendships’; and indeed there are many authorities on the spiritual life who sternly counsel against them : but I’m afraid this is one place where I am unashamedly certain of the correctness of one particular approach . . . that of fr Bede.

‘Evil is overcome by good, by God, by love of God, by reaching for Him everywhere. You must not be afraid of looking for Him in the eyes of a friend. He is there. You can at least be sure of that. To love others is not to lose Him but if possible to find Him in them. He is in them. You will miss finding Him only if you merely love yourself in them. That is the blinding nature of passion; it is self-love masquerading under a very noble disguise . . .’

‘You love Y. because you love him, neither more nor less, because he’s lovable. You won’t find any other sincere reason however hard you try . . . Enjoy your friendship, pay the price of the following pain for it, and remember it in your Mass and let Him be a third in it. The opening of The Spiritual Friendship : “Here we are, thou and I and I hope that between us Christ is a third.” O dear friendship, what a gift of God it is. Speak no ill of it.’

Obviously it’s not always easy to restrain oneself; and to seek only God in one’s friends : although I think it’s quite a lot easier when you share a clear and distinct commitment to Holy Mother Church, and perhaps even more so when you share, for instance, a particular nuance of it such as the Dominican Family offers.

The crux, though, it seems to me, is that by accepting friendship – and one’s friends – as the gift of God, one not only gains enormously from the riches which the friendship offers you, but also has the chance of at least beginning to see Him in other people too . . . people with whom one has less in common, people – even – whom one dislikes; but the more one finds God in other people, the closer one moves to Him . . . and by His grace, the closer one moves to Heaven, where all relationships will, I presume, be perfect examples of such friendship.

To all my friends, then, who shared in Saturday with me, and who shared my delight and joy, I say from the bottom of my heart ‘Many, many, thanks; and may God, our Blessed Lady, and S. Dominic, richly bless you’ : and to those who were not there, all I can say is that you were there in my spirit, and in my prayers, and (I make little doubt) in the spirits and prayers of many others. I thank God for you all.

Monday, 26 July 2010

“Prayer for Vocations creates Ordinations”

Someone commented on facebook yesterday that she had always wanted to attend an Ordination, but had never been able to : and as I thought about it, I realized that although I have been to quite a number over the years, there’s one fundamental issue which has to be recognized . . . that Ordinations only occur where there are Vocations : hence the caption.

This weekend’s Ordination at Blackfriars was a wonderful, moving, and inspiring occasion; but it all started years ago when the three young men discerned their vocation to the Dominican life, as Friars Preachers, and as priests.

I for one was very conscious on Saturday of the presence of a new force against ‘the world, the flesh, and the devil’; in these new priests and deacon; and in these days it must be clear to all of us that this is something which we need increasingly.

So, it seems to me that we must all pray fervently for vocations – both to the priesthood, and to the religious life – not only so that we may have more opportunities for joy in the Ordinations which will result, but so that we can see more soldiers leading the fight for God’s truth and love in the world.

(Thanks to Rob Haines for the photo above of fr Lawrence Lew OP being ordained Deacon.)

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Indulgent about Indulgences . . .

I don’t have my Enchiridion with me at present, but I seem to remember that there are Indulgences for attending an Ordination, receiving a new priest’s First Blessing, and attending the First Mass of a newly-ordained priest . . .

So, with luck, the Holy Souls will have done well from me this weekend : not through any merit of mine, but through the opportunities provided by my generous friends of the Order of Preachers.

Yesterday I actually received three First Blessings, because I finally met up with Fr David Rocks, whose ordination I unfortunately had to miss at the beginning of the month, and who then went off to see his family in Ireland; so I (and a couple of other friends) received his First Blessing before the other excitements of the day began : and as we did so kneeling in the middle of S. Giles’, in front of a large coachload of ‘language students’ having a day out in Oxford, we may hope that we also offered some witness to the sanctity of the Sacred Priesthood.

The Ordination you already know that I attended – and seemed to be surrounded by bloggers and friends from facebook ! – and I then received First Blessings from both Fr Robert and Fr Thomas.

Today I managed to attend both of their First Masses, as Fr Thomas sang his at 12:00 noon at S. Dominic’s in London, and Fr Robert celebrated the conventual Mass at 18:15 in Oxford : so a ‘full house’ not only of joyful celebrations this weekend but, as I have said, opportunities for Indulgences as well.

I did advert to my intention to gain these Indulgences in my prayers on both days; and I hope that I shall have achieved more than a little benefit for the Holy Souls. I know that remembering to form an intention to gain Indulgences is something I don't always manage : I think I am going to add such a thing to my morning prayers, and you may wish to do the same, given the enormous benefits you can obtain for the Souls in Purgatory without having to do anything other than intend to gain them.

Meanwhile, I hope and pray that those Souls who benefit from such Indulgences as I have gained this weekend will, when they arrive in Heaven, keep all our newly-ordained Brethren - who provided the opportunity for those indulgences to be gained - firmly in their prayers, and under their patronage.

(I should, incidentally, also note that fr Lawrence Lew, ordained Deacon yesterday, was also at both Masses, acting as Deacon. I wasn’t exactly surprised when he sang the Gospel this morning; indeed, I wasn’t exactly surprised when he did so this evening, except that it turned out that he had to do that ‘on the fly’, as when he opened the Lectionary he discovered that it was a different translation from that which he had sung earlier . . ! You won’t, of course, be even vaguely surprised to discover that it was, nevertheless, quite beautiful.)

My final comment is to say that you will note that I have referred to all of the new priests above as Fr, rather than my more usual fr. Tradition having been honoured, they can relax : I shan’t do it again !

Deo Gratias !

Yesterday – as I am sure you are well aware, I went to the Ordinations at Blackfriars, Oxford; and also to the splendid celebrations afterwards – for which many thanks to my friends in the Order of Preachers ! (I say nothing of the festivities afterwards with two blogging friends, which added further to the delight of the day - but thanks to them both as well !)

Today I shall have the privilege of attending the First Masses of both Fr Thomas (12:00 noon, S. Dominic’s, London), and Fr Robert (18:15 at Blackfriars, Oxford) – at which I imagine Fr Lawrence will also be assisting as Deacon.

Do, please, pray for our new priests and deacon, that they may always be faithful, and may take the news of God’s love and mercy to an increasingly heedless world.
(The photo has been borrowed from fr Lawrence's facebook page; but I do not know who took it, so I cannot acknowledge them personally . . !)

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Bringing God to His people

Two new priests, and a Deacon . . . I pray that they will be richly blessed by God in His service, and that they will always fulfil their ministry with love and devotion.

Fr Peter Clarke OP in Grenada recently posted an interesting item which – from a somewhat unexpected direction – addressed at least one aspect of that : the question of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, and the cost to some of God’s ministers of making It available to His faithful : and of course Bishop Schneider, in ‘Dominus Est’ told a number of tales about people who showed similar devotion to the need to make Our Blessed Lord physically available to His people.

The history of the Church is full of examples of priests, deacons, and laity who were devoted to the Most Holy Sacrament, and risked – and in some cases, not the least of which was S. Tarcisius, gave – their lives in Its service.

When they made Solemn Profession, they declared themselves to be faithful to the Order, and to the family of S. Dominic, ‘usque ad mortem’.

Today, let us pray that they will show that same fidelity to their ministry of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar to God’s people until they come to stand before Him, and their Holy Father S. Dominic, in the Kingdom of Heaven : to which may God, in His infinite love and mercy, in good time bring them all.


Today, at 12:00 noon, Archbishop Longley will ordain two Dominican friars - frs Robert Gay and Thomas Skeats - to the Sacred Priesthood, and one - fr Lawrence Lew - to the Diaconate, in the Priory Church of the Holy Spirit, Blackfriars, Oxford.

As you probably know, the motto of the Order of Preachers is ‘Veritas’ - ‘Truth’ : and in these days when everything we hold dear in the Catholic faith is under attack from all directions - even tragically, from inside the Church - staunch and articulate upholders of the Faith are more urgently needed than ever.

Please pray that these excellent young men will uphold the reputation of S. Dominic’s sons, and so live their Faith, and preach the Truth, that the Church may be defended and extended through their ministry : and if you happen to be within reach of Oxford, I think you may be sure of a warm welcome at the Ordination.

Request for Prayers

In the grand scheme of things I appreciate that it isn't the most burningly urgent reason to ask for prayers; the splendid Mac, of Mulier Fortis, has done some damage to her knee which had her in hospital for several hours yesterday, the first day of her summer holidays, and is now home - although apparently with no permanent damage done - in pain, and walking with crutches : read all about it (and adore the cat pic) here.

Not the best way to start your holidays, of course, but on the other hand not death, or terminal illness, or anything like that . . . but I still ask you for your prayers : because Mac is a much-loved blogger who has had quite enough trials and tribulations of late, and has accepted them bravely (and largely silently), and deserves the care and support of her friends and those who admire her contribution to preserving and promoting the Catholic Faith.

Mac, I have little doubt, will continue to offer it all up for some poor soul in Purgatory. I ask you, please, to join me in supporting her suffering, and her generosity, with your affection and prayers.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Priests supporting the Pope

Fr Ray, over at S. Mary Magdalene, has put up a post in the form of an An Open Letter in Support of Pope Benedict seeking priestly support for a position which he clearly defines using the Holy Father's own remarks.

May I encourage all my priestly readers to visit Fr Ray's blog, and - hopefully - to sign up as supporters of this fine initiative.

My lay readers, of course, are also encouraged to visit the post, and to support both practically and with your prayers all those priests who join with Fr Ray.

Hither and Yon

There have, of course, been many ordinations over the last few weeks; and tomorrow the lives of three young Dominicans at Blackfriars, Oxford, will be changed, as they are ordained – two to the Sacred Priesthood, one to the Diaconate (and your prayers are asked, of course, for all of them) : and then they will go off in various directions to start their ministry.

At the same time, I am engaged in moving : in my case only my office, but even that is proving to be more exciting (in the Chinese sense) than I had expected . . . and it has led me to think a little about the whole business of development, and movement, and to recognize what I suspect is some sort of paradox.

T. S. Eliot said in ‘Little Gidding’ :

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time

Rudyard Kipling also said something which seems not irrelevant :

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

The two new Priests will go to their new assignments; the new Deacon will spend the summer in pastoral work before returning to his studies in September . . . but they will all take with them the formation process of the last few years : the time in Cambridge, and Oxford (and Rome, in fr Thomas’ case) . . . the friends they have made, the good times they have enjoyed and the bad they have gone through . . . and if I know anything, the meals they have cooked for others, and those of others’ cooking which they have eaten (and not all Dominicans can cook well straight away !).

The more I look at it, the more I think that Eliot and Kipling were wise. Knowing who and what you are is fine : but knowing all the things about you – all the things you aren’t – is also important, because by recognizing and acknowledging those things you bring yourself into a definition which strengthens you and makes you more rounded, and thus more of the person God created you to be.

The Greeks used to say gnōthi seauton – ‘Know Thyself’ : and I believe that this is incredibly valuable advice; but it also seems to me important to recognize that the only way to do that is to go out, wander hither and yon, and find out where you started from by coming back again . . . and if on the way you get lost for a while, then you probably find out even more.

I pray that these young friars will learn still more about themselves tomorrow, and in the days, months, and years ahead; and I pray, also, that you (and I) will do the same.

(The post has been updated thanks to Fr PF - see Comments - who made good my forgetfulness about the works of T. S. Eliot !)

Thursday, 22 July 2010

A Picture-Perfect Deacon

This Saturday, 24 July, Blackfriars Oxford will see – as regular readers already know – the Ordinations to the Sacred Priesthood of two Dominicans, frs Robert Gay & Thomas Skeats : but it won’t end there, because there will also be an ordination to the Diaconate – that of fr Lawrence Lew OP, who is arguably one of the best-known of English Dominicans through his wonderful photos, which appear on many websites and blogs around the world, and his articles on New Liturgical Movement and other sites.

This will, of course, be one Blackfriars occasion which fr Lawrence won’t be recording for posterity (although I am sure that one of his friends will); but I am sure that all of his very many friends in the blogosphere will join me in praying for him at this important moment in his life.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Ask, and you shall receive.

The use of sacramentals is one of the key distinguishing features of Catholics : the taking of Holy Water, the wearing of scapulars . . . and the use of Blessings. The Rituale Romanum contains an enormous selection of Blessings for use on many different occasions; some of them deeply unexpected. One can see the point of the Benedictio Coronarum Sacratissimi Rosarii B.M.V.’ (Blessing of Rosaries), or the ‘Benedictio Vasorum pro sacris Oleis includendis’ (Blessing of Containers for the Holy Oils); but one suspects that the Parish Priest who solemnly turned up at the local Fire Station to perform the ‘Benedictio Machinæ ad Exstinguendum Incendium’ (Blessing of Machines for Extinguishing Fires) would receive an astonished - and probably somewhat guarded - welcome !

However, the use of Blessings generally appears to be on the decline. Holy Water, yes; but it’s a rare Parish nowadays where the PP goes round blessing the houses on Holy Saturday; and there seem to be few where throats are blessed on the feast of S. Blaise, or Chalk on the solemnity of the Epiphany; still less where parishioners bring their cars, aeroplanes, beehives, or electrical generators to receive the Church’s benediction.

I think that is sad. All these – and many other – things which people use in their lives depend, ultimately, on the good providence of Almighty God for their safety and reliability; and as in many cases the well-being of His people depends on these things, it is surely a good thing to seek His active assistance in ensuring that they serve the purpose for which they were created. I, certainly, am a great one for getting everything – possible and, sometimes, only marginally possible – blessed, because I remember that verse of Scripture ‘ask, and you shall receive’.

That is why I was very happy a day or so ago when Rosamundi, having announced to the world in general (in a finely titled post) that she was buying a bicycle (not, please note, a ‘bike’; this is a stately example of fine English engineering, not some flashy bit of foreign rubbish), also mentioned on facebook that she thought she might like to have it blessed.

Out with the Rituale, and . . . ‘Benedictio Vehiculi seu Currus’ : begging that those who ride it may always be defended from every danger, and be shown the way of salvation . . . which seems a sensible invocation for a bicycle which is going to be used to ride from East London to the West End !

I duly passed this on, and very much hope that Rosamundi will in fact have her bicycle blessed : that she will ensure that she takes a picture of this being done : and that she will then post it, to encourage others to make more use of this valuable means of grace.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

More Protection for the Holy Father

The lovely Ros over at Shadowlands put up a comment on my earlier post on pointing out that she has a prayer on the head of her blog for the Pope in preparation for his visit to the UK. It apparently originated with Fr Z (one I missed), and has a partial indulgence attached.

V. May the Lord protect the Pope during his visit to the UK. Let us pray for our Pontiff, Pope Benedict.

R. May the Lord preserve him, and give him life, and bless him upon earth, and deliver him not to the will of his enemies.

Our Father. Hail Mary.

Let us pray.
O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look mercifully upon Thy servant Benedict, whom Thou hast chosen as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we beseech Thee, that by his word and example, he may edify those over whom he hath charge, so that together with the flock committed to him, may he attain everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Request for Prayers

Your prayers are asked for the repose of the soul of Edward de Toësny Wingfield Longford, who died on Saturday last, æt.85.

Although he died as a lay Catholic, and member of the congregation of S. Dominic’s, Downham Market, having been received into full communion with the Holy See, alongside his wife Joan, on the Feast of the Annunciation this year, Fr Ted – as he was universally (and perhaps not surprisingly) known – had previously been a priest of the Church of England (and latterly at S. Edmund’s, the church next door to S. Dominic’s) for over 57 years, and it is in that capacity that most people – including myself and, I strongly suspect, many of the saints and angels – will remember him.

Whether his orders were ultimately valid or not is not, I feel, in this context, greatly important. He came home to the Catholic Church, and died in it; but he will be judged, as will we all, on the whole of his life; and most of that was as a good, caring, and dutiful priest of the (catholic end of the) Church of England, who ministered for well over half-a-century to the people in his care : people who look back on him, and his ministry, with great affection and respect.

Please pray for the repose of his soul : and pray also for peace and comfort for his wife Joan, and for their sons Bill, Tom, and Nick together with their families.

Protect the Pope . com

Yesterday, Fr Tim had a good post about a fairly new blog,, which is run by Deacon Nick Donnelly of the Diocese of Lancaster.

I’m not soing to say much about it other than that it is an excellent site, and I urge you to visit it NOW, and then to go back to it regularly to keep yourself informed – and if necessary to inform others – about acts of anti-Catholic religious hatred in the run-up to the Holy Father’s visit; and to provide yourself with the information needed to combat dis- and mis-information, spite, and pure ignorant malice.

The Future of the Church

The future of the Church is in its priests; and this Saturday, 24 July, at 12:00 noon, two Dominican friars will - as I have previously mentioned - be ordained to the Sacred Priesthood in the Priory Church of the Holy Spirit, Blackfriars, Oxford, by Archbishop Longley.

The second of them is fr Thomas Skeats OP : and I’m embarrassed to admit that fr Thomas is someone whom I scarcely know, simply because he has spent much of the last couple of years away from Blackfriars studying at the Angelicum in Rome. On the negative side, this means that I can’t regale you with exciting stories about him : on the plus side, that fact probably relieves him greatly !

However, what I do know, from what I hear from all my Dominican friends, is that he will make another fine Dominican priest; another priest on whom we can rely for the Truth of the Faith at this time when all we believe is under attack from every side.

It will be my privilege to be praying for fr Thomas at his Ordination, and I do urge you to have him in your prayers as well, both now, and on Saturday as he becomes ‘a priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedech’.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Oh Dear !

Mac, of Mulier Fortis, has tagged me in a meme . . . fortunately early enough on that I’m not faced with practically every known Catholic blogger having already been tagged before !

What she’s interested in – and I think it’s a splendid idea, because I think it’s something which will interest practically everyone – is prayer : what prayers do we like, and why . . . so here goes.

The Rules (straight from Mac)
The rules, which need to be posted: Name your three most favourite prayers, and explain why they're your favourites. Then tag five bloggers - give them a link, and then go and tell them they have been tagged. Finally, tell the person who tagged you that you've completed the meme... The Liturgy and the Sacraments are off limits here. I'm more interested in people's favourite devotional prayers.

My Prayers
I’m exercising a self-denying ordinance in my interpretation here, because the Rosary would undoubtedly be No.1 on my List : but as it’s actually made up of a compilation of other prayers, I am going to leave it at that mention, and stick to three ‘discrete’ prayers.

1. Salve Regina
I’ve loved this ever since I first heard it – in English – and I often wonder whether it was the Salve which led me, in some way, to my affinity with the Dominican Family : because they are very heavily into it (apart from Eastertide, it is the invariable anthem at the end of the day, instead of the variable one of the ordinary Roman usage). Every Dominican hopes to leave this life to the sound of his/her brethren/sisters singing the Salve, and although my own circumstances are not likely to make that possible, I’d certainly love to . . . to the Dominican melody, of course !

2. Angelus / Regina Cæli
I like these because – being linked to particular times of day – they draw one’s mind back to the central truth of the Incarnation on a regular basis, and remind us constantly of the essential involvement of Christ in our redemption. (I have to confess, also, that the Regina Cæli is a prayer that always ‘gets me going’ – I don’t think I’ve ever got through that first one, after Mass on Easter Sunday, without tears in my eyes . . . Maria Consolata indeed !

3. Act of Spiritual Communion
Work often prevents me getting to Mass on a daily basis : but an Act of Spiritual Communion really is a precious way of keeping in touch with Our Lord . . . and you can say it anywhere, at any time. Many great Saints used to commend it as a regular practice, and although I’m not as good at remembering to make it as often as I am sure I should, there is no doubt in my mind that it is always beneficial.

My Tags
Again, I’ve exercised a self-denying ordinance here – or rather two of them. No clergy – I’m sure they’re too busy – and I’ve also left off the Dominican Students (because they’re all over the place now on their summer placements), and the Dominican Nuns at Summit NJ, because I don’t feel that it’s appropriate to place even the slightest burden on a contemplative community (although if the Novitiate feels like joining in, Sisters, feel free !)

So : first off, the lovely Ros, of Shadowlands. As well as being a fervent promoter of the Rosary, she also has a vast knowledge of the Scriptures, and of interesting prayers, so I look forward to her choices with interest.

Laurence of That the Bones You have Crushed May Thrill is a favourite read of mine, although for no particular reason not somewhere I seem to comment very much; but he combines sound theology with solid devotion, and is always an interesting read, so I think he will have something good to tell us on this topic.

Karen, of Gem of the Ocean describes herself as a ‘Right-minded woman on the Left Coast’, and although there’s been rather a lot of criticism of the alarming antics of the current Obama administration recently, there’s also been interesting material on her reliance on traditional values about the Blessed Sacrament, and her developing fondness for the Extraordinary Form, so again I expect some interesting choices winging their way from the other side of the world.

Hawker of When the Patriarch Was Returning is a liturgist, so will probably provide some unexpected answers; and finally

Rosamundi is a Lay Dominican, and thus will ensure that there’s at least some Dominican influence !

September 19th

Two months today - September 19th - will be a wonderful day for English Catholicism, as Ven. John Henry Newman is Beatified by the Holy Father in what we pray will be a splendid ceremony in Birmingham.

Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons only a tiny handful of the faithful will be able to attend the Beatification : the last I heard was 60,000, and I suspect that is an overestimate . . . which - for the great majority of us - leaves the question of what we are to do to celebrate this important occasion wide open.

However, report has reached me of at least one significant event that day to which those of us not able to attend the Beatification can go to share - in some measure - in this joyful day. As soon as I have confirmed details, you may be sure they will be posted !

I must make it clear that this is no criticism of anyone who is going to be fortunate enough to be able to attend the Beatification. I sincerely hope that they will go, enjoy every moment of the day, and support the Holy Father joyfully, knowing that they, in turn, are supported by our prayers.

It is, I suppose, implicitly a criticism of the Hierarchy to the extent that they are responsible for failing to organize a venue which would allow the largest possible number to attend - which one would have thought was self-evidently desirable - but no more than that.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Ex Umbris et Imaginibus . . .

As I mentioned recently, a picture has been released of the new altar in honour of Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman which is to be erected at the London Oratory in the space under the Choir Gallery presently occupied by the Calvary.

The altar has been designed by the Oratory’s architect, Russell Taylor, and is to be constructed of stone and scagliola; the communion rails are apparently (and in my view somewhat confusingly, given the image) to be of carved wood.

It is hoped that the Altar will be blessed at a special Mass of Thanksgiving on Wednesday 22 September 2010, at 18:30 : just three days after the Beatification.

As you may imagine, the cost of the new altar will not be insignificant – in fact £109,020 is the (strangely precise) figure that has been quoted – and donations will therefore be very welcome. Cheques should be made payable to ‘London Oratory Charity’, and sent - please - to ‘The Provost, The Oratory, Brompton Road, London, SW7 2RP’.

More on Catechetics

Joe (of ‘Catholic Commentary’ – and to whom a slightly belated ‘Happy Birthday’ for yesterday) made a comment on my recent post about The Penny Catechism.

What he said was ‘Surely the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is the contemporary equivalent of the "penny catechism"....Question and answer format, and able to be memorised.’

Now he’s quite right that the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church was intended to be just that; and it certainly uses the traditional catechetical format.

The drawback is that it is still far too complex.

It has more than 200 more questions; and the answers are in general a great deal longer. I’m prepared to believe that it might be possible to memorize it; but I certainly couldn’t, and I’d be interested to hear from anyone who ever has : whereas I think if I offered a small prize to anyone who has memorized The Penny Catechism I would be significantly out of pocket !

I think the problem with the Compendium, as with so much modern catechetical material, is that the idea seems to be not so much to condense the essentials of the Faith into the smallest size commensurate with completeness and accuracy, but rather to include everything that might be desirable . . . and my personal belief is that this creates a sort of mental muzziness in many people, particularly many children. Something that is small enough to remember in detail can provide immediate answers; something which is too large to remember except in outline tends, ultimately, to provide more questions than answers . . .

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Hat Right Off !

Apologies for the sudden absence : somewhat bizarrely a power cut brought all my IT-based activities to an abrupt halt on Friday, and left me badly behind when normal service was eventually restored !

This is a brief post to encourage you to read a post by Mac and also the one by Fr Ray to which it links. Both are excellent, and important; so no mere hat-tips here - this is the full-blown doffing of the headgear !

Fr Ray exposes a scandalous situation; Mac gives her own – and entirely right-thinking – take on it.

What both of them are considering, in slightly different ways, is the need either to accept what the Church teaches – like it or not – or to go elsewhere; but in any event to accept that you have no claim whatever to be a Catholic if you refuse to accept that fundamental doctrine that it is the Catholic Church which God protects from error, and which He ensures will survive to the end, so that the teaching of the Catholic Church is the teaching of Almighty God.*

My only caveat is that if you suffer from high blood pressure you may be better to leave Fr Ray’s post until the morning !

(* For the avoidance of doubt : I accept that anyone is entitled to have doubts and uncertainties about matters of faith; and that theologians are even entitled to discuss these. However, that is clearly not the same as actively promoting positions which are at variance with the Church’s teaching, or stating unequivocally that the Church is wrong.)

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Another Good Tip from Mac

The inimitable Mac, over at Mulier Fortis, has posted about a new blog : new to her, anyway.

Actually it’s new to me as well but, as she rightly says, it looks good : so go and visit Defend Us in Battle, and see what you think.

Islands in the Storm

I’m not defending what Raoul Moat did, because it’s indefensible. There was no excuse for it, and no legitimate justification. I have the greatest sympathy for all those who were damaged by his wickedness, and pray for them.

At the same time, I find it fairly hard to defend David Cameron and all those who are up in arms about the sympathy which some have for Mr Moat : because they clearly haven’t grasped the fact that although what he did was totally wrong, the underlying cause of it appears to have been a disordered personality – at least part of the damage to which was the fault of modern society. Fr Ray posted about it yesterday, here.

I’m not saying that society is responsible for what Mr Moat did : he was, and he alone . . . because we’ve all been damaged at times, whether by society in general, or by others, and coping with that damage, and accepting it as part of our penance in life, is one of the things that being a Christian is all about.

Notwithstanding that, though, I don’t think society has the right to assume that because people have that obligation, it doesn’t matter what society does to people; because it clearly does, if only because not everyone can cope with everything that happens to them – so those who care about God’s children, and about His world, must remember Raoul Moat and his death, and try and ensure that others are not damaged in the same way.

‘No man is an island’, said John Donne : in other words, on some level, we are all responsible for the damage done to Mr Moat, and all the other people like him; and I’m afraid I’m not all that impressed by a Prime Minister, a man with a good education and considerable resources behind him, who cannot recognize that elementary fact. Let us pray for them both : Mr Moat, that in Purgatory he may recognize what he has done, and through penance come in time to the divine life in Heaven; and Mr Cameron, that he may gain a more realistic appreciation of life in the modern world in which he has a real opportunity to help prevent such tragedies in the future.

Speaking This Evening

I’m sorry it’s late notice; but it occurs to me that some of my Followers and Readers may be interested in the talk being given this evening by Fr Uwe Michael Lang, Cong.Orat., who is a Consultor to Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Pontiff

The title is ‘An Introduction to the new English translation of the Missal’, and it is taking place in S. Wilfred’s Hall at the London Oratory at 20:15.

All are welcome, and admission is free; although given the interest I imagine there will be, it might be as well to be early to be sure of a seat !

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Penny Catechism

I’ve commented before on what seems to me to be a great lacuna in the catechetical activity of the Catholic Church, at least in England & Wales, over the last forty years or so : and I know that I’ve suggested that it might be, at least partly, the fault of laissez-faire attitudes which in turn probably found their origin in the same attitude to the liturgy following Vatican II.

However, the more I have thought about it, the more I realize that there is probably another aspect of the matter which had a marked effect : the Catechism itself.

Prior to Vatican II, the usual form of catechism used in England & Wales was The Penny Catechism; which provided more or less everything you needed to know about the Catholic Faith in a simple catechetical format which even children of First Communion age could at least come to grips with, even if they didn’t fully understand all of it.

And then . . ? Along came The Catechism of the Catholic Church; and whilst I accept that it is much more comprehensive, and replete with scriptural authority for what it says, it simply isn’t something that most people can remember with any ease . . . certainly no child can hope to learn it by heart : and I believe that this change may well have had a dramatic effect on the standards of catechetical development ever since.

The Penny Catechism is still readily available in the UK, published by TAN Books in America, but widely distributed over here; and I wouldn’t want to be without my copy.

If you remember it with affection, go and get a copy and give it to someone whom you think will benefit from it; and if you never read it, go and buy yourself a copy and enjoy it . . . and if you agree with me that it’s a good thing, and you’re on facebook, then please join The Penny Catechism Group !

As two Commentors have already quite rightly said, the Penny Catechism no longer costs a penny. However, the S. Paul Bookshops (next to Westminster Cathedral amongst other places) have it for £2.25 a copy, which makes it just about the cheapest catechetical work available : and I have seen it even cheaper than that in one or two Repositories.

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité

Well, it was a good slogan; even if Liberty did mean the liberty to slay anyone you didn’t like, Equality the sort of equality spoken of at the end of ‘Animal Farm’, and Fraternity a brotherhood, at least in the early days, of the arrogant, greedy, and murderous.

In the last 221 years France has had its ups and downs; and I doubt it will ever again be the home of the Most Christian King.

However, it is still the home of many who do hold fast to the Catholic Faith; despite the grave shortages of priests, and sometimes the lack of enthusiasm and commitment on the part of some of the Bishops; and they need our prayers.

So please pray today for the Church in France, that the faithful may retain their commitment and their Faith; and that the faithless may be drawn back to the bosom of Holy Mother Church until France is once again a soundly Catholic country.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Raise a glass of Frascati

Today is the anniversary of the death of Henry Benedict Maria, Cardinal Duke of York and, at least to legitimists, Henry IX of England. He never sat on the throne of England : but the proximity of his tomb to that of S. Peter might just possibly be more precious.

He was made a Cardinal in 1747, being ordained priest the following year at the age of 23 and immediately made Archpriest of the Vatican Basilica; and shortly afterwards Cardinal Camerlengo. Thereafter he was consecrated titular bishop of Corinth in 1759, and became Cardinal Bishop of Frascati on 13 July 1761. He became Bishop of Ostia & Velletri, and Dean of the Sacred College, in September 1803, although he continued to reside at Frascati. He was a pious and earnest man, who did much good for the Church, although the French Revolution, and subsequent invasion of Italy, left him destitute until George III gave him an annuity. Although he sometimes signed himself ‘Henry R’ after the death of his brother in 1788 he never publicly claimed the throne of England, and referred to himself (and was referred to by the Vatican) as the Cardinal Duke of York. However, he did ‘touch for the king’s evil’, and was the last person to do so.

Many years ago now I had the privilege of handling his solid silver sermon case, which bore his arms – the royal arms of England complete with Cardinal’s hat and his Crown : and I also remember his reliquary of S. Andrew. It was essentially a baroque column, with the base and capital in heavy gold topped off with the cross of S. Andrew, and with the column itself made of crystal and containing the relic (although I don’t think the particular relic in it was his).

The priest who owned the reliquary subsequently became Catholic and lived in Fr Ray Blake’s parish; but although he apparently told Fr Ray that he would leave it to him, I understand that he died intestate, so that S. Mary Magdalene never received it.

Perhaps in an odd way that’s a fitting end to the story of a man – even a family – whose motto might have been ‘Never quite . . .’ May he rest in peace, and rise in glory.

Monday, 12 July 2010

So what did I say wrong . . ?

I was walking down Victoria Street in London on Saturday, when I was approached by a young lady of oriental extraction and bearing a sheaf of evangelical literature who wanted to know if I was ‘saved’. I said that I hoped to be in due course, but that I could not possibly know now – a remark which seemed to bewilder her, so I explained that I was a Catholic.

This prompted a polite, but very definite, explanation of why the Catholic Church had nothing to do with Christ and His teaching, and an exhortation to rely on what the Bible taught – indeed, on the very words of Scripture – rather than being mislead by twisted interpretations of it.

I suggested that I was in fact relying on the Bible, and indeed on the actual words of Our Lord, in adhering to the Church which He founded; and quoted Jesus’ words to Peter – ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock shall I build My Church, and I shall give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven’.

I explained that I could not see how you could have a plainer statement than that, which was why I was a Catholic, because on Jesus’ own authority, Peter was the foundation of the Church of Christ, and had the keys of the kingdom of heaven : to which her reply was that I didn’t understand, and that that wasn’t what my quotation meant at all.

When I pointed out that that was the plain meaning of the words, and that it was she who appeared to be trying to twist the meaning, rather than relying on the very words of Christ, she got all offended and went off in a huff.

Perhaps I’m not cut out for pavement evangelism . . .

Sunday, 11 July 2010

It’s Getting Closer

At Mass at the Oratory last evening someone sitting close to me had an artist’s impression of the new Chapel which is being created in place of what is currently the Calvary underneath the Organ Loft / Choir Gallery.

The Chapel is to be dedicated to Cardinal Newman following his beatification, and the illustration I saw - albeit not very closely - showed it as a traditional altar in an Italianate style, with what I must presume is a copy of the famous painting of Cardinal Newman (above) over the altar.

Altogether it looked very well from the fairly brief glimpse I had of it, and fully in keeping with the rest of the Church. I look forward to seeing the reality; and meantime, if I manage to track down a copy of the picture I saw, I shall post it here if I’m allowed to.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Seeking Your Support !

Fr Ray Blake had a post on Wednesday about the arrangements for the event in Hyde Park during the Holy Father’s forthcoming visit to England; and makes the suggestion that one might reasonably think that the Holy Father is being treated (perhaps I would have said ‘viewed’) with contempt, given how little correlation there is between what is being arranged for the Visit, and His Holiness’ clear – and carefully explained – views on liturgy.

It seems to me that, yet again, the Hierarchy is believes that themost important aspect of this visit it to use it as an opportunity to promote the ‘Spirit of Vatican II’, regardless of the present opinions and tastes of the people of God; and at first sight I would reprehend that.

On the other hand, after much thought I have come to the conclusion that it is my duty to support the Hierarchy in this endeavour; and I propose to do so, and want to encourage all my Followers and Readers in Great Britain to contact their Bishops now, and urge them to ensure that the Papal Liturgies are strictly in accordance with the clear vision of Vatican II.

For your convenience in framing your letters, here are what I believe to be two of the most significant provisions of Sacrosanctum Concilium in the context of ensuring that the Spirit of Vatican II is properly maintained :

36.1 : Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.

116 : The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.

Do, please, join me in my effort to ensure that the vision of that great Council is fully and properly applied to the liturgies of the Holy Father’s visit.

Friday, 9 July 2010

For Your Consideration

You may remember the prayer, often said at Benediction, that spoke of those who were trapped ‘in the darkness of idolatry and Islam’.

Now I don’t want to get into a discussion about Islam per se; it is a monotheist religion in which, as in Judaism, it is not unrealistic to consider that they worship – albeit through a diminished and imperfect revelation – Almighty God; and I certainly know many Moslems whose conduct and whose humanity is at least as meritorious as that of the average Christian.

However, there is one unarguable point, which is that there can be no claim to true religion in any so-called religion which actively promotes injustice and bloodshed in the name of that religion.

Iran, today, is a place of injustice, fear, and oppression . . . and all in the name of Islam. The ‘Supreme Leader’ announced after the travesty of last year’s presidential elections that questioning the results was not only illegal, but also sinful; and authorized the use of appalling violence to prevent any challenge to the legitimacy of the re-elected president. I personally know one young woman who, having supported the opposition candidate in the election, was forced to flee Iran to protect herself and her baby son. Her sister has been jailed for six years, and received sixty lashes; and yet the British Government say that this young woman is not at risk, and should return to Iran.

She is lucky, though; she at least managed to get out of Iran, and may still hope to persuade the Government that she truly is unsafe and deserves protection. For others, there is no such hope : they are still in Iran, and in the power of its devilish regime.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is an Iranian woman who has been in jail in Iran since being found guilty of adultery – for which she has already received 99 lashes – and has now been sentenced to be stoned to death : a punishment which is, under the Sharia law of Iran, entirely legitimate.

It may be legitimate under the Sharia law of Iran : it is not legitimate under the law of God, and it is still possible that something may be done to prevent this abomination taking place.

I invite you to visit the website which has been set up to inform the world of this disgrace to Islam’s claims to be a religion of humanity, and to give this poor woman – and those who may be at risk of a similar fate – such support as you feel you can.

The Iranian Government has now announced, in response to international protest, that Sakineh will not be executed by stoning. What it has NOT said is whether or not she will be reprieved, or simply executed by hanging or in some other way.

Ultimately, this is still a barbaric regime applying an evil law . . . so let us continue to pray that God will bring His peace and justice to the poor people who suffer from it.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

A Prayer rejected is still a Prayer

I understand that Christopher Hitchens is suffering from cancer of the throat : the same cancer from which my wife died.

I propose to pray for him, as I did for her : not, in other words, that he be cured regardless, but that God’s will be done.

I’m sure he would see this as a cop-out. I don’t.

I’m sure he would emphatically reject my prayers. God won’t.

I dislike Mr Hitchens, and the damage he has quite intentionally, deliberately, and knowingly done to the Church, and to the Catholic Faith; but he, like me, and like my late wife, is a child of God, who will eventually have to answer to God for his life; so I pray that God’s will be done . . . remembering that God’s will is always that the sinner comes to recognize his sins and repent of them; even if that be in the very last instants of life.

I don’t think anyone’s view from Heaven would be improved by the sight of Christopher Hitchens in Hell : so I pray that – through the grace of God – he comes to a recognition that God’s mercy is his only hope, and relies on it to save his soul.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Whose decision . . ?

I think it was G. K. Chesterton who – talking about ‘population control’ – said that the solution to growing a second was not to call on the headsman, but on the hatter.

One particular hat has been the subject of some recent discussion, though; the Papal Tiara. There have been suggestions that it should be restored to use, and others who are very concerned that it would create entirely the wrong idea in the minds of the world – ideas which would work against the Church’s ‘credibility’ and image in the minds of non-Catholics (and possibly some Catholics as well !)

I know this may seem a fairly silly issue; but is also seems to me to highlight something which Archbishop Nicholls at least tried to get across in his recent BBC interview : namely, the question of whether the Church should be governed, or even guided, by the perceptions of anyone except God.

In that interview, the questioner was implicitly implying that flexibility was a desirable – one might even say essential – quality in a Church; and that the Catholic Church’s perceived lack of flexibility was a bad thing (whereas, apparently, the flexibility of the Church of England which leads to it not having very much at all in the way of clearly defined doctrine – and that subject to abrupt review by committee – is laudable).

Although it might be argued that ++Vincent might have been a little more definite in his response, it seems to me that he tried hard to clarify the point that, at least to the Catholic Church, fidelity – often at considerable cost – is more valuable than flexibility; and that the Holy Father (at least) recognizes that the cost of this fidelity may well be that the Church of the future (and possibly even the fairly near future) will be much smaller than it is at present.

My own view on the Triple Tiara is that it’s there, and it remains part of the insignia of the papacy, and that – by extension of the principle applied to other such things – it should probably come out if the Holy Father ever celebrates publicly according to the Extraordinary Form, and otherwise be left to the individual decisions of Pontiffs.

What I am quite clear on, however, is that the decision is not one in which the world has, or should have, any say whatever; because it seems to me quite clear that, whatever it says, it will be reasoning in a way which is not relevant to the Church – and that is the current problem; that people, some of them inside the Church, believe that satisfying those outside the Church is a primary objective.

I know that it was once said that ‘the Church is the only Club which exists for the benefit of non-members’; but as soon as you consider that, you realize that this does not extend to complying with the wishes of non-members. Had we done that, there would have been no martyrs in the Coliseum; and the Church would have died out long before Constantine arrived at the Milvian Bridge. Our duty is to comply with the wishes of Almighty God, whatever the cost, and to do so in the best interests of the whole of His creation, regardless of what others think.

Lord, keep us faithful to You usque ad mortem : even if it does happen to be mortem autem crucis !

(And many thanks to Bones for posting the transcript of the Archbishop’s interview.)

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Whatever you say . . .

Well, the answer appears to be that there are some people who actively like the elephants, and no-one who actively dislikes them, so I shall post the occasional elephant for special occasions until I run out . . . which will, I think, be a little while yet !

Meanwhile, here is a photo of a number of them, queuing along Coventry Street to get into Leicester Square, which I think is actually rather fun for the sake of the somewhat unexpected pedestrian . . . this was about 07:30 on a Sunday morning, and (in perfect English) he asked a policeman where Leicester Square was, and on being told set off briskly towards it.

I’d love to know why . . .

Monday, 5 July 2010

The Captains and the Kings depart . . .

Although it may not have been all that obvious, I have in fact been away for a few days, enjoying what turned out to be particularly good weather at Henley Royal Regatta . . . but it’s all over now, and the Captains (and all the other members) of the various Crews have departed for another year.

Did I enjoy myself ? Yes; as well as some splendid rowing, I celebrated the 150th Birthday of a Rowing Club with many old friends, enjoyed the bemused looks of many people at one of my Dominican friends who turned up in his Habit, and finally had the pleasure of seeing Harvard celebrate an excellent win in the Ladies Plate (so called, presumably, because it is for men not ladies, and the trophy is - as you can see - a jug and not a plate !). Their win was a double pleasure for them as it happened on the Fourth of July, when they celebrate the departure of Kings from their Constitution . . . and that’s my (somewhat contrived) excuse for the title of this post !

Anyway : normal service will now be resumed, and I look forward to sharing more thoughts with you throughout the summer . . .

It's over to you . . .

The London Elephant Parade is now over, and the elephants now have new owners, so we shan’t be seeing them again; although we may hope that they have achieved their various aims during the time they have been brightening up the streets of the Capital.

However : I actually ended up doing quite a lot of ‘elephant hunting’, including a last-ditch attempt to see what I could see at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, where all the outdoor elephants had their great gathering over the last weekend in June . . . and the result is that I still have a lot of elephant photos in stock.

I’m not proposing to continue on a daily basis until I’ve used them all up, but would you like me to post the occasional elephant just to brighten dull days, or otherwise liven things up . . ?

You tell me.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

And as the trunks are finally packed . . .

To mark the end of The Elephant Parade, here is The Pearly Prince. Covered in pearls, and Swarovski crystals, he has spent the Parade sitting safely behind the armoured glass of Coutts & Co's headquarters in the Strand.

All the Elephants have now been auctioned off for charity; and I imagine he has made a very sizable contribution to the total haul . . . presumably as a nice ornament for a rather large house ?

Pink Elephant

Saturday, 3 July 2010

What do you mean – ‘Three Hail Marys’ ?

Should priests try to emulate Ko-Ko, and ‘make the punishment fit the crime’, or is the use of token penances appropriate and sufficient. After all, in the early Church we know that penances were substantial, and often lengthy : nowadays (as The Crescat remarked recently) it seems that you have to kill someone to get more than three Hail Marys !

Well, it seems to me that there are several points here.

The first is that the Sacrament of Penance works by your open admission of your sins, and your sinfulness. Nothing you can do can actually undo what you have done wrong – unless, of course, restitution is possible – so both the confession, and the penance, are merely ‘outward and visible signs’ of the effect of it all on your soul. Consequently, what matters is your contrition, and your willingness to accept whatever penance you are given in expiation for your sins.

At the same time, giving someone a ‘clever’ penance may be counterproductive. If, for example, the penance given is one which will go on for some time, it may be that circumstances prevent its completion, which can in turn lead to scruples . . . or the penance itself may, in an attempt to make it ‘appropriate’, be so mysterious as to make it un-performable. (I remember one Anglo-Catholic at Oxford who was more than a little bewildered to be told to ‘make himself a living sacrifice’ for his penance. Fortunately, when he referred the matter to another priest, he was promptly told ‘nonsense; say three Hail Marys’, which solved his problem . . . but it does lead one to ponder the question of what exactly ‘making oneself a living sacrifice’ might possibly involve !

One priest I know basically uses two penances in alternation, changing them week by week : both are sensible, and involve the saying of a important (but not overlong) form of words . . . and both are followed by the direction ‘and then stay just a few minutes very quietly in the presence of Our Blessed Lord on the altar’. It’s not for me to say what the experts on Moral Theology would say about these penances; but I do know that the direction to spend a little time quietly before Our Lord is, for me, usually the most important part of the penance; because instead of just exchanging the repetition of a few words for the calming of my conscience, I have to have a few minutes of actual thought about what I have just done . . . and that, I think, is a valuable tool in moving forward with dealing, however slowly, with my sins.

May I suggest that, even if it is just ‘three Hail Marys’ this Saturday, you also add that ‘few minutes very quietly in the presence of Our Blessed Lord on the altar’ as a matter of devotion, and during it, express your gratitude for the absolution which you don’t deserve, but which Our Blessed Lord has so freely given you through His priest ?


Thursday, 1 July 2010

Christ our Light !

I’m really annoyed that I can’t be where I’d like to be this Saturday; but long-standing previous commitments mean that I just can’t be at S. Dominic’s Church in London, where one of their Deacons – fr David Rocks OP, a friend of mine – is being ordained to the Sacred Priesthood.

fr David was the deacon who, at my first Easter Vigil as a Catholic, sang those words ‘Christ our Light’: although in fact it was the Light of Christ which nearly prevented David from ever receiving the grace of priesthood.

One day at Blackfriars he was pulling down the very substantial sanctuary lamp to change the light before the Tabernacle, and the whole lamp – chains and all – detached itself from the ceiling and fell on his head before smashing the middle of one of the altar steps ! The altar step was quite seriously damaged, and it was necessary to replace a whole section of it.

David was luckier, and made a good recovery, so that on Saturday he will join the many holy priests of the Order of Preachers; and it saddens me that I shall not be able to be there to sharei that very special occasion. However, he will have the benefit of my prayers that day – for whatever good they may be – and I shall look forward to receiving his blessing very shortly afterwards.

Do, please, pray for fr David as he approaches this, the second most important day in his life, and ask Our Blessed Lady and S. Dominic to pray to God that he may always be a good and holy priest, and bring many souls to Him.

Third Time Lucky - Happy Birthday !

And today is the Birthday of His Hermeneuticalness, Fr Tim of Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, and author of 'The Hermeneutic of Continuity' : so a third resounding ‘Happy Birthday’ this week . . . and may S. John Fisher, and Our Lady of the Rosary, always uphold him and his ministries.