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.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The Church according to MY needs . . .

This post could easily become a Directory of sound Catholic Blogs, and their recent postings on recent attempts by certain people who allege that they are Catholics to drive the Church away from the Faith, and into line with their own opinions . . . but I’m not going to make it one, if only because (a) there are already several others who have done that extremely well, and (b) because posts over 250,000 words long become inconvenient !

So : I shall confine myself to directing your attention to three recent posts on this subject, by Mac, His Hermeneuticalness, and Fr Ray of Brighton – all of which I feel are (as is always the case with their posts) excellent and informative reading, and themselves have plenty of links to other posts - and a brilliant one on Sunday by Mary O'Regan which I had missed until Mac drew my attention to it on facebook.

What I want to add to the debate is simply an observation on the problem as seen by someone who has chosen to become a Catholic.

I became a Catholic a little while ago now : and the excellent priest and theologian who prepared me pointedly observed that my problem was not primarily in needing to learn about the Catholic Faith . . . it was about needing to learn about acceptance of the Catholic Faith. In other words, I didn’t need to believe the Faith because I was satisfied that it was right, but to believe it because I accepted it unquestioningly to be the revealed truth of God . . . and after suitable investigation, he was satisfied that that was what I did, which was why I was received into the Church : a grace for which I shall ever continue to give thanks.

What worries me, though, is that I have now discovered that the Catholic Church seems to be full of people who want to make up their own minds about the Faith : are they satisfied with the Magisterium; do they unquestioningly accept the Church’s right to state the Faith as the truth of God and beyond question; or do they hold – as so many of them seem to – what is (as far as I can see) ultimately a Protestant belief that they have to be personally satisfied of the truth of a truth before they have to believe it ? *

I found myself recognizing that my own understanding of the Catholic Faith was that I had an innate belief in it; but that doing this inherently excluded any consideration of whether or not I happened to agree on rational grounds with any particular point . . . if I did not, the question was only whether or not I was prepared to submit to Petrine Authority and remain Catholic, or whether I wanted to hold up my own decision-making process as superior to that of the Pope . . . and remain outside the Church.

For me, it was easy : I wanted – craved, if you like – authority, and was very much more than happy to recognize the authority of the Holy See . . . and to accept that if I disagree with it on any point, well then that is somewhere where I am wrong, and that I must accept that – actually, if not necessarily gladly.

As regular readers may have realized before, I do happen to believe that it might very well be both judicious and expedient for the Holy See to clarify the reasoning behind certain pronouncements, if only to avoid contention with, or misrepresentation by, an increasingly antipathetic world . . . but that’s a suggestion I make, diffidently, with the interests of the Church at heart. I make absolutely no suggestion that there is any obligation on the Holy Father, or the Church generally, to do so.

On the question of how my position affects me, let me – without going into details – give a fairly generalized example.

There is a case where I happen, on the basis of my own historical thinking, to be uncomfortable with the precise teaching of the Church on a point of moral theology . . . a discomfort which I know is shared by a number of entirely reputable – indeed distinguished – Catholic moralists. By my reasoning, I am satisfied that the matter in question is not (at least certainly) morally wrong, and thus inherently sinful; and, as I say, I know that I could advance a very good case for that being a probabilist, if not a probabiliorist case on good authority.

However, I also know that it is a point on which the Church’s traditional teaching at least appears to suggest that there is no scope for discussion.

Accordingly, I invariably and scrupulously confess any occasion on which I breach that teaching : because I would rather set forth my fault, in obedience to Holy Mother Church, than avoid doing so on the basis of what amounts to recourse to my own judgement . . . because it was precisely because I wanted to avoid that – as being in my own opinion a very dangerous way of trying to live my faith – that I became a Catholic in the first place.

As Ann Widdecombe observed, we converts have had – as a condition of joining the Church – to stand up and profess our belief in exactly what it believes, without reservation : which includes our belief in the Holy See’s absolute (and sole) right, and ability, to define and clarify the ‘Deposit of Faith’.

I suspect she’d agree with me that it might be no bad thing to require any and every person in the Catholic Church to profess that belief publicly at some point : and to point out that losing that belief implied that you were no longer a genuine Catholic.

Painful for them, perhaps; but there it is.

* Let me make it clear that I do not reprehend all other forms of Christianity, nor wish to appear to do so. The only point at issue here is whether these people can legitimately claim to be Catholics : not whether or not they may, even with their heterodox opinions, nonetheless still be perfectly good and sincere Christians. That is a wholly different question, and one which this post is not in any way about.

Oremus . . .

Today, as I have previously mentioned, the General Chapter of the Order of Preachers begins : which will amongst other things elect, on Sunday, a new Master, to be the 86th successor to S. Dominic.

For the use of any who are generous enough of spirit to want to pray for the Chapter, here is the :

Oratio pro Capituli Generali

Ad te levavi oculos meos,
* qui habitas in caelis.
Ecce sicut oculi servorum,
* in manibus dominorum suorum.
Sicut oculi ancillæ in manibus dominæ suæ :
* ita oculi nostri ad Dominum Deum nostrum donec misereatur nostril.
Miserere nostril, Domine, miserere nostril :
* quia multum repleti sumus despectione.
Quia multum repleta est anima nostra :
* opprobrium abundantibus et despectio superbis.
Gloria Patris, &c.

Ant. Veni, Sancte Spiritus, reple Tuorum corda fidelium,
et Tui amoris in eis ignem accende;
qui per diversitatem linguarum multarum gentes in unitate fidei congregasti.

Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison. Kyrie eleison.
Pater noster.
R. Sed libera nos a malo.

V. Emitte Spiritum Tuum.
R. Et renovabis.
V. Salvos fac servos Tuos.
R. Deus meus.
V. Dominus Vobiscum (vel Domine exaudi orationem meam).
R. Et cum spiritu tuo (vel Et clamor meus ad Te veniat).

Deus, Qui cordam fidelium Sancti Spiritus illustratione docuisti : da nobis in eodem Spiritu recta sapere, et de ejus semper consolatione gaudere.

Adesto, Domine, supplicationibus nostris, et viam famulorum Tuorum in salutis Tuæ prosperitate dispone; ut inter omnes viæ et vitæ hujus varietates Tuo semper protegantur auxilio. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.

Monday, 30 August 2010

B. Juvenal Ancina

I had completely forgotten that today is the feast day of B. Juvenal Ancina, Bishop, of the Congregation of the Oratory.

However, as I went to the London Oratory this morning for Mass I was nevertheless able to attend Mass of his Feast (which was said, as befits that of an Oratorian, at S. Philip’s altar) and afterwards to venerate a relic of him.

I took the opportunity to pray for my Followers and Readers both during the Mass, and afterwards at his picture which hangs in the Church; and to light a candle for you all there.

I hope that you all have a happy and blessed day.

Keeping one's mind on what one's doing

Talking about saying one's Office (in whatever form), one particular point springs into the minds of those who have said it regularly for any length of time : the danger of it becoming mechanical, and repetitious, so that devotion – and thus (at least spiritual) benefit – is more or less lost.

S. Francis de Sales commented that ‘Haste is the destroyer of devotion. If we allow ourselves to get into this habit, the interior spirit, which is the source of all merit, becomes dried up, and instead of the highest use of our intellect there is only a lip-worship, and holy thoughts and noble feelings are replaced by a blind and mechanical repetition. Once a slave to this habit, it is vain to multiply our words of prayer . . . The words that rise to our lips mean nothing to our hearts, and leave no impression on our souls. They are nothing but a useless set of words, like those for which Our Lord blamed the heathen : “In your prayers, do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard”.

M. l’Abbe Bacquez, however, noted in his book ‘The Divine Office Considered from a Devotional Point of View’ (1885) that many of the greatest – and often the busiest – saints had made a deliberate practice of protecting against this to at least some extent by never saying any part of the Office by heart, but rather deliberately reading every single word of it from the book : for in this way the words, striking the eye and ear at the same time, have less chance of going unnoticed; and the care we take to ensure that we give proper notice to every word we speak is yet another safeguard against the likelihood of it becoming mere routine.

Thus such saints as Ss. Charles Borromeo, Philip Neri, and Vincent de Paul apparently treated the saying of their Office; and my own experience suggests that it is a most valuable custom to follow. I admit I say the Paternoster from memory; but that is all, and I do find that it does help ensure that one’s mind stays on the content of one’s Office – and thus focuses its attention upon it – the more fully.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Better Late than Never !

As you will probably know by now, courtesy of the wonderful Mac of Mulier Fortis, who was able to get home and post something whilst I was still en route across London via a ‘work of charity’, I spent this morning enjoying the numerous pleasures – liturgical and social – of Holy Rosary, Blackfen, and quite a number of its extensive galaxy of bloggers and web figures – not least the famous Via Romea cyclists – but with the added joy, as she mentions, of Jamie & Ella Preece (and their gorgeous girls) from Catholic & Loving It.

All I can say is that it was, as ever, a great pleasure to visit Blackfen : to be made to feel warmly welcome and totally at home : and to see that Mac is very definitely ‘on the mend’ from the disaster with her knee at the start of the summer holidays.

Thank you all for a splendid day. I look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Making Our Choices

In the comments which followed on from a recent post – the post mainly about temptation, the comments rather more about the Divine Office – the splendid Mac happened to mention that she used the Monastic Diurnal published (and very beautifully, too) by Farnborough Abbey . . . which led my mind to wander through the ‘official’ habits of various friends.

Clergy must, obviously, use the standard books : which essentially means either the Latin or Vernacular Liturgy of the Hours (Ordinary Form) or the appropriate Breviary (Extraordinary Form). For the rest . . . which as Mac quite rightly points out includes all lay people, even if they take vows to say some or all of an Office . . . there is no particular obligation. One other friend and blogger, for instance, uses the English translation of the 1962 Breviary which was published by the Liturgical Press of S. John’s, Collegeville; and indeed I used to use it myself in days gone by.

I did wonder, though, whether there wasn’t an argument for us all adhering as closely as we could to the ‘clergy’ line ?

There is, after all, always the possibility – which Mac herself adopts, at least at times, with the full knowledge and consent of her Spiritual Director – of not saying all of the Office; and indeed there are single-volume versions available in both forms which exclude the Office of Readings / Matins, thus making it all much more practical and portable.

Let me make it clear : I’m not in any way criticising the use of other versions of the Office – I’m merely pondering the question of whether it might, in the context of the still greater unity of those saying the Office, be better for us all to focus on the smallest possible number of options.

As I mentioned, I used to use the Collegeville Breviary, simply for reasons of practicality : but when ‘The Divine Office’ came out whilst I was at University, I obtained a set, and used it thereafter – in other words, whilst an Anglican. This wasn’t primarily because I preferred it, but because – which may seem an odd remark from one who was Anglican – it seemed to keep me as close as I then could to the norms of the Catholic faith and life.

Much more recently, but still before I became a Catholic, I stepped back one more pace, so to speak, from the use of the vernacular version of the Ordinary Form to the use of the editio typica . . . and therefore, I suppose, at least conceptually, to the definitive Office of the Church.

That’s me, and I’m not suggesting that anyone else ought to feel obliged – or even, necessarily, persuaded – to do the same : I’m just pondering the general question of whether there is any such line of reasoning which applies to those of us who choose to say Office; and if so what it is.

I’ll be very glad to hear your thoughts.

In the silence of the tomb . . .

Deep, deep in the Chilean earth these thirty-three miners are waiting : waiting for the rescue which it appears they – now – can be almost completely certain will reach them . . . eventually.

Until it does, however, they not only have to do the practical things involved in staying alive in what, we understand, is still a comparatively dangerous situation, and horribly difficult conditions . . . they have to cope mentally with what may well be the most stressful and demanding situation in which a group of men have ever been.

When they come out, they will be changed men. Risen, as it were, from the dead : and hopefully supported throughout their ordeal by the Christian (and probably Catholic) Faith which most (if not all) of them possess . . . but nothing can have prepared them for this.

Let us pray for them throughout their time in the tomb. We don’t know how long it will be : but if every Catholic Christian gives them just one prayer a day, it will help.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

More about Grace

I muttered yesterday about the De Profundis after dinner . . . and it occurred to me that there might be those who would share my view that there is merit to praying for the Holy Father each day as a regular part of one’s morning Grace . . . with the added bonus that if you include the Paternoster and the Ave Maria for his intentions, you have automatically complied with the requirements of the Enchiridion for gaining any indulgences which might just happen to be going your way during the day (providing, of course, you also make regular confession and Communion !).

So, here is my morning dose :

Gratiarum Actio Post Prandium

V. In nomine Patris, et Filii, + et Spiritus Sancti.

R. Amen.

V. Confiteantur Tibi, Domine, omnia opera Tua

R. et Sanctis Tuis benedicant Tibi.

V. Gloria Patri, &c R. Sicut erat, &c

V. Oremus :
Agimus Tibi gratias, omnipotens Deus, pro universis beneficiis Tuis :
Qui vivis & regnas in Sæcula Sæculorum
R. Amen.

V. Oremus pro Pontifice nostro N

R. Dominus conservet eum, et vivificet eum, et beatum faciat eum in terra, et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius.

Pater Noster. Ave Maria.

Deus, omnium fidelium pastor et rector, famulum tuum N, quem pastorem Ecclesiæ tuæ præesse voluisti, propitius respice: da ei, quæsumus, verbo et exemplo, quibus præest, proficere: ut ad vitam, una cum grege sibi credito, perveniat sempiternam. Per Christum, Dominum nostrum. Amen.

V. Fidelium animæ, + per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace.

R. Et resurgant in gloriam. Amen

Again . . . feel free to use it.

A Very Slight Humoresque for the Day

Coincidence . . . genuinely unsolicited coincidence, that is . . . is a fascinating phenomenon.

S. Augustine of Hippo, whose feast day it is today, has never had any particular fascination for me; indeed there are aspects of his theology which I do not find greatly appealing . . . and yet there are two fondnesses of mine which might rationally suggest otherwise : a fondness for rowing, and my passion for pears.

OK; the passion for pears is an obvious link with S. Augustine : the rowing one may not be so apparent – but the world’s, let alone England’s, oldest and most distinguished rowing club is Leander Club . . . the emblem of which is, and has always been, a hippo : so surely the connection must be apparent ?

Friday, 27 August 2010

Doing things without thinking . . .

If you go and eat in a Dominican House, after Dinner you will say the De Profundis for the benefit of the Departed of the Order, and indeed the whole Dominican family; and in England, at least, the list of those whose anniversary it is will be read . . . a practice which I understand exists, in various modifications, in many other religious houses.

I do it too : for the very simple reason that it takes so little time, but it not only benefits those for whom I pray – I don’t have a list of names, apart from my own private Requiem List; so my prayers are directed generally at that section of the Holy Souls which is before it at that moment – but also myself . . . and yet it involves so little effort, for so much reward.

This practice of developing habits of fitting in little prayers is one which has always seemed to me a valuable one. It costs us so little, and gives so many graces to so many souls who need them . . .

If you’re interested, my Grace after Dinner is as follows :

Gratiarum Actio Post Cenam

V. In nomine Patris, et Filii, + et Spiritus Sancti.

R. Amen.

V. Confiteantur Tibi, Domine, omnia opera Tua

R. et Sanctis Tuis benedicant Tibi.

V. Gloria Patri, &c R. Sicut erat, &c

V. Oremus :

Agimus Tibi gratias, omnipotens Deus, pro universis beneficiis Tuis :
Qui vivis & regnas in Sæcula Sæculorum
R. Amen.

De profundis + clamavi, ad te Domine; *
Domine, exaudi vocem meam.
Fiant aures tuæ intendentes *
in vocem deprecationis meae.
Si iniquitates observaveris, Domine, *
Domine, quis sustinebit?
Quia apud te propitiatio est; *
et propter legem tuam sustinui te, Domine
Sustinuit anima mea in verbo eius; *
speravit anima mea in Domino. *
A custodia matutina usque ad noctem : *
speret Israel in Domino;
Quia apud Dominum misericordia, *
et copiosa apud eum redemptio.
Et ipse redimet Israel *
ex omnibus iniquitatibus eius.
Gloria Patri, &c

V. Oremus :
Fidelium, Deus, omnium conditor & redemptor, animabus famulorum famularumque tuarum remissionem cunctorum tribue peccatorum; ut indulgentiam quam semper optaverunt, piis supplicationibus consequantur : Qui vivis & regnas per omnia sæcula sæculorum.
R. Amen.

V. Fidelium animæ, + per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace.

R. Et resurgant in gloriam. Amen.

Do feel free to make use of it if you want to !

All I ask . . .

. . . is that you remember me at the Altar of God.

These, apparently, were among S. Monica’s last words to S. Augustine as they looked out over the sea together before she died; and I have little doubt that they are words we would all echo; had we the intuition that we were on our way home for the last time, and had we the opportunity to do so.

For many of us, there is no such chance : we can only pray that those whom we have loved, and who have loved us, will remember us, from that day on, ‘at the Altar of God’.

In our turn, though, we should remember those we have known and loved – and indeed those we have known but have not loved as we ought – at the Altar of God : and the purpose of this brief post, on S. Monica’s feast day, is to remind us to do so, that in our turn we may merit the same generosity of others.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

A Simple Blue-and-White Sari

Well, today is the centenary of Mother Teresa’s birth . . . and the occasion, it appears, for a bust-up in New York, after the proprietors of the Empire State Building declined to mark the occasion with simple blue and white lighting (to symbolise her sari/habit . . . presumably with a crucifix projected onto the ‘shoulder’ !)

Instead – and apparently it’s a decision only taken after they refused Mother Teresa the lighting for her centenary – it’s going to go red, white, and blue . . . to commemorate the enormously important ninetieth anniversary of the legislation which gave women the vote in the US.

I don’t know : the story on America’s ‘Politics Daily’ website is interesting, and does make it clear that there are all sorts of aspects of this which most of us probably don’t get . . . but it does seem to me that there’s one which perhaps the proprietors of the Empire State Building don’t get : namely that there was someone who gave every moment of her life for others . . . and more, for those who had no way of persuading her to give them anything at all. Her ability to persuade others has proved to be in directly inverse ratio to the importance of those to whom she gave everything she had.

Are you paying attention, Mr Malkin ? You might just win a lot more friends by honouring those who ‘don’t matter’ . . . and if Mother Teresa doesn’t convince you, then it might be worth a trip to the bookstore to buy a copy of the Martyrology : because that very well might, if you can be bothered to read it.

The Dominican Family

Next Tuesday, 31st August 2010, the next General Chapter of the Order of Preachers will begin in Rome : and the following Sunday, 5th September, the new Master of the Order will be elected.

This being a General Chapter for the election of a Master, it is composed of Priors Provincial and Diffinitors for the Provinces – the next two triennial Chapters consisting of only one or the other – and I have to say that not only will the English Province be particularly well represented; but that subset of it which consists of friends of mine will also be well represented in Rome on this occasion, because quite apart from fr John Farrell OP the Prior Provincial and fr Allan White OP, who serves the Order as Socius pro Provincia in Europa septentrioccidentali et Canada – both of whom I, sadly, hardly know – not only is fr John O’Connor OP, Prior of Blackfriars Oxford, the Diffinitor for the English Province on this occasion, but there will also be two other members of the House there.

fr Timothy Radcliffe OP, former Master of the Order, will obviously be there as a ‘vocal’ participant . . . and then, listed right down at the bottom of the ‘Other Participants’ – below even the other members of the Dominican Family – is the ‘Chronicler’, whom it may not surprise you to know is to be my cherished friend fr Lawrence Lew OP, of whose ordination to the Diaconate I wrote recently.

He tells me that his principal job is to chronicle the Chapter – which is to take place in the Salesianum, rather than on Dominican premises – in photos, at least largely for use on the Chapter’s own website, which you can find here; and knowing Lawrence’s exceptional talents in this direction I think we can safely expect to see some splendid photos.

I urge you to have a look at the website from time to time during the Chapter, and particularly on 5th September, to find out who the new Master of the Order – and thus the global head of the whole Dominican Family – is.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

More About Newman Events

I'm deeply grateful to my commenters for their help . . . but I have to say that it wasn't quite what I had in mind.

What I was really trying to get details of was of liturgy that people who couldn't attend the Holy Father's events could go to at that time . . . not afterwards.

I did know that there was TV coverage; and also available online . . . but I'd heard more than idle rumours of some large-scale Masses to support the Papal events; and it was those that I was hoping to get more information about.

Joining In with the Holy Father

Well, things are clearly moving forward towards the Holy Father’s visit; and the web is increasingly full of information about it all.

However, there is one area of great silence : one on which I eagerly solicit information . . . the alternative arrangements available to those who, for whatever reason, are not going to be at any given function.

One has heard suggestions of venues with giant screens; Churches offering Masses in conjunction with the Holy Father’s; special ‘Newman’ events after the Beatification . . . but I seem to find that the harder I try to get detailed information, the more fugitive it gets to obtain.

So . . . if you do know anything, can you please make sure that it gets out there sooner, rather than later ? After all, there are a great many people who, for all sorts of reasons, will simply not be able to attend the Papal events, but who want to support them as practically as they can . . . and they need information too, often with plenty of time to make practical arrangements : so please . . . let us all know what you know.

Many Thanks, in advance.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

What a Wonderful Week !

Sadly, the events of last weekend have – at least pro tem – prevented me from driving; so the one thing I cannot do today or at any other time this week is make my annual pilgrimage to Mells . . . to lay at least a spiritual bouquet on the tomb of Ronnie Knox, whose anniversary it is.

It hasn’t, however, prevented me from starting a suitable bouquet already, having due regard to what Ronnie said to the girls of The Assumption School when it was at Aldenham during the war : that he trusted that any ‘spiritual bouquets’ which they gave him would consist not only of prayers and penances, but also enjoyable things such as trips to the cinema, and the enjoyment of music !

This is a special week for me, because it was largely the writings of two people which – under the grace of God – helped me find my way home to the Catholic Church : and those two people were fr Timothy Radcliffe OP, whose dies natalis was on Sunday, and Mgr Ronnie Knox, whose dies natalis in cælo was today . . . so I have much to rejoice in this week.

Incidentally, last year I took fr Lawrence Lew OP to Somerset on a day out taking photos, and we not only had a splendid wander round the Anglican Church and graveyard, but then got to meet Lord Oxford and his daughter, who live in The Manor House, and who invited us to visit the Chapel in which Ronnie said his last Mass . . . and which is dedicated to S. Dominic, so we had the enormous privilege of singing the Dominican Salve Regina in there ! Truly something to remember.

Serving a Server

Things sometimes just drift into place . . . and show, in a quiet way, the will and intentions of God, without even seeming to have any definite pattern : simply by revealing, when you stand back and open your eyes, a complete picture that just wasn't visible before.

Yesterday, as I left the Oratory after Vespers & Benediction, I noticed someone I knew from the Anglican Church I used to go to, where he has served for many years . . . and a very brief chat revealed that he is now preparing for Reception into the Church later this year : so I have something else to thank God for, and rejoice in; a feeling which I have no doubt a good many of his old, and new, friends share.

I am delighted that he has found a place of comfort and welcome at the Oratory; and I am sure that he will, over the years, make a valuable contribution to its life : and I do, please, even though I cannot at this stage give you his name, ask your prayerful support for him, and for all those who are on their way home.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Considering Cofton

I was reading Fr Ray Blake’s post about the security measures for the Holy Father’s Mass of Beatification (which have apparently been described as ‘draconian’ !); and he raises the question of whether the Government’s involvement in the security issues of the Holy Father’s visit might have anything to do with the costs of attending the Mass . . . and, he might have added, the grave (and wholly unnecessary) inconveniences to all those attending of the arrangements being imposed.

I think I have made it clear in the past that I am a passionate supporter of the Holy Father; but that I am unconvinced of the merits of the arrangements which are being made for the public events of His visit . . . and Fr Ray has started a train of thought in my mind.

I have come to the conclusion that, wonderful as it is that His Holiness was invited (at least ostensibly) by Her Majesty The Queen to make a State Visit to the UK, it would have been better had the invitation been declined : or, had it been accepted, that it had not been linked with any significant ecclesiastical events.

Why ? Well because it seems to me undesirable that anyone outside the ecclesiastical hierarchy should have any say whatever in – or influence on – the arrangements for such events; and one has only to look at the tissue of offensive nonsense which was suggested by the official of the FCO originally in charge of their wing of the arrangements to realize the truth of that statement.

When Pope John Paul II came to the UK in 1982 there were several major events; the greatest of them being the Mass of Pentecost at Coventry Airport which was attended by (to the best of my recollection) some 250,000 people . . . the vast majority of them at no very great personal inconvenience. This time rather less than a third as many people will attend the Beatification in Cofton Park, and almost all of them after some expense, and quite considerable difficulty . . . expense and difficulty which, it would appear, is the more or less direct result of the involvement of Her Majesty’s Government.

His Holiness’ status as a Head of State seems to me, to be quite honest, to be irrelevant; if only because I keep in my mind the formula which was used at the Papal Coronation in the old days . . . ‘Father of Princes and Kings’; and I have to be honest and say that I increasingly see, in this forthcoming ‘State Visit’, actually a diminution of his potency and authority, as his spiritual realm is interfered with by the practical – but irrelevant – constraints imposed by Her Majesty’s Government.

Request for Prayers

At the 12:30 Mass yesterday at the London Oratory the celebrant, F. Patrick Doyle Cong.Orat., announced that he would be away for some weeks as he was going to the Moorfields Eye Hospital today to have major eye surgery.

Obviously extensive eye surgery is a cause for considerable concern anyway; and when one couples that fact with F. Doyle's considerable importance to the running of the Parish and a number of its organisations, I do ask you to keep him in your prayers.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Of your Charity . . .

please pray for the repose of the soul of F. Michael Napier Cong.Orat., of the London Oratory who died fourteen years ago today - the Feast of the Coronation of Our Lady, Queen of Heaven - during the celebration of his Mass.

And carrying on . . .

Returning to last evening’s post about yesterday’s confession, my thoughts were taken further by this morning’s meditation from S. Thomas Aquinas – I have a splendid volume entitled ‘Meditations for Every Day’ originally extracted from his works by fr Mezard OP, and translated by fr McEniry OP.

In fact I suppose I should say yesterday’s and today’s meditations : I finally got back to the book today after the hiatus of the last week, only to discover that I was in effect in the middle of a two-part meditation, and so went back and undertook yesterday’s as well . . . a double meditation about Faith.

In it, Aquinas points out that ‘faith enables us to believe in another life superior to this, and teaches us to believe that better things are awaiting us. Hence, by faith, we conquer the vanities of this world and fear not its adversities’; and then goes on to consider the relationship between Faith and Fear; in which he observes that ‘lifeless faith is the cause of slavish fear, while living faith is the cause of filial fear, because it makes man adhere to God and to be subject to Him by charity’.

Finally, he observes that the pleasures of the present life : ‘which pleasures, at most, are fast fleeting and perishable’ – an observation which my own experiences of last weekend amply proved.

Aquinas is, of course, absolutely right; but he is also right in the inverse way, inasmuch as not only does faith enable us to believe in another life, superior to this : but that painful experience of the ‘fast fleeting and perishable’ character of the present world highlights the superiority of the eternal life on offer in Heaven, which must in turn assist us to develop the faith which will, we pray, help us eventually to get there.

And a Happy Birthday . . .

. . . to the inimitable fr Timothy Radcliffe OP, whose delightful personality and character is, I think, wonderfully captured in this splendid informal photo by my dear friend fr Lawrence Lew OP.

When I arrived at S. Sabina and walked past the portraits of the 83 previous successors of St Dominic, I suddenly felt overwhelmed, incapable, and that I ought not to have accepted. Finally I consoled myself with the thought that many of my predecessors had probably been mediocre and soon forgotten. I would do my best, and probably be forgotten too. *

I’m sure he did . . . and I’m quite sure he hasn’t been !

* from I Call You Friends : Continuum, 2001

Shaant Haathi

I don't know what 'Shaant Haathi' means in Hindi : and for all I know it's entirely inappropriate . . . I just thought the rather elegant elephant was a very seemly one to show you on the feast of Our Lady, Queen of Heaven

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Recognizing One's Fragility

I went to confession this morning. Perhaps not entirely surprisingly, I didn’t exactly have a great deal on my conscience in one way; simply because there’s been rather restricted scope in the last week for the commission of many major sins . . . but equally, the events of last weekend have left me very conscious of my own general sinfulness; not only recently, but over many years – a fact which I endeavoured to convey to my confessor.

His response was a very valuable one : he directed my attention to the Gospel comment about John the Baptist diminishing himself in order to magnify God, and suggested that the way that my sudden and unexpected illness had forced my own frailty to my attention was a good way of reminding myself that I should seek only to magnify God, because I had no real significance . . . I could have slipped away so very easily last Saturday night; and that I should recognize in this fact the truth that my only purpose should really be God’s greater glory, because nothing of mine would ever be more than entirely transitory.

I pondered on his words; and thought also about the post I prepared last Saturday for Sunday – Arise O Ark of Christ the Lord – in which I made the point that most of us cannot fully conform ourselves to God’s will during our lives; and that we need His grace to assist us to die in a state which will allow us eventually to join Him in heaven . . . and when I took that truth in conjunction with the point my confessor made this morning, I began to realize that considering one’s mortality was actually a valuable step in one’s spiritual growth.

It is something I shall certainly try and do more regularly now than I used; and it is a consideration which I offer you all.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

A Very Happy Birthday . . .

. . . to my dear friend fr Richard Ounsworth OP, who has me to blame for two of the more extraordinary moments of his life : being the first Dominican (Catholic priest, even) since the Reformation to sing a High Mass of Requiem in the Lady Chapel of S. Alban’s Abbey, and being stopped by a bewildered security guard at the entrance to Henley Royal Regatta, and asked ‘Are you real ?’

Ad multos annos, Ricarde !

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Well, what fun . . .

I spent some time on Saturday afternoon doing at least the main posts for Sunday, and then went off to spend the evening with friends . . . intending to take my laptop with me to Blackfen on Sunday morning, in the hope that I could then post some photos from there after the Missa Cantata, before driving to Oxford to be with my friends at Blackfriars for the evening Mass & Vespers.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out like that : because I was rushed to hospital on Saturday night, spent several hours in A & E, and was then unconscious for about twelve hours before coming round in a specialist Stroke Unit ! However yesterday, after I was subjected to a whole round of scans and diagnostics, no explanation could be found for my condition on Saturday . . . so I can’t tell you what had happened to me : all I know is that I lost the whole of the Assumption, and have obviously got to accept that something went severely wrong with my system.

I am deeply grateful to all the many people who have held me in their prayers for the last few days; unworthy of them as I may have been, I am very conscious of their enormously beneficial effects, and heartily thank God for them all.

I shall try and get back to postings in the next few days.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Arise, O Ark of Christ the Lord !

Ionesco suggested in his Journal that, if no-one died, then there would be no more hate; because there would always be enough time to try again . . . and that hatred is the expression of our anguish that there isn’t enough time.

Is this a Christian viewpoint ? Well, I don’t know; but it’s certainly true that most of us feel that life is not long enough to fully develop the faith and love which we need to achieve God’s will for us : so that death represents, as it were a transformation; an opportunity by which, through judgement, we either confirm our rejection of Him – and thus slip straight down the snake to Hell, from which we will never again emerge – or are forced to recognize and confront our failings and shortcomings, and wipe them out in the endurance of purgatory so that we can, in due time, enter Heaven.

The Old Testament suggested that some saintly people – Elijah, for instance – would transcend this progress, and be carried directly into the presence of God : and this idea was, if you like, confirmed by God’s decision to give our Blessed Lady strikingly direct access to Himself, by taking her straightway into Heaven.

So, in today’s celebration of her Glorious Assumption, we not only celebrate her particular role in our Redemption, and acknowledge her position at God’s right hand where she is particularly placed to intercede for us : we also recognize her unique end as proof of the destiny which is to be ours, providing we do not wilfully separate ourselves from God – the promise of joining her, one day, in Heaven after we have purged ourselves of the sins and sinfulness of which she was utterly devoid.

Let us rejoice today in Mother’s Assumption; let us rejoice for her that she sits with her Son, and let us also rejoice for ourselves, because she gives us the certainty that her experience is open to us if we will follow her example, and accept her prayers.

Making an Assumption . . .

I think this has to be the appropriate elephant for today !

In Loving Memory

Today isn’t the Anniversary of my dear friend Paulo’s death; but it would have been his 70th birthday, and – although he was unaware of the fact until I told him – it was also one of his onomastici, as his (unused) first name was Stanley, and today is (amongst, of course, other and far more important things) the feast of S. Stanislaus.

To me and his friends, however, he was Paul, or more commonly Paulo; and although (Deo Gratias) he swam the Tiber, and died in the Faith, he had for many years contributed to the Catholic end of the Church of England by his work on the elegant publications of the Church Literature Association . . . indeed I still occasionally see his Ordinary Form Altar Cards in use (they even have one or two at the London Oratory !) . . . and the adjusting of the Ordinary Chants of the Mass to fit the ICEL translations.

He was much loved and highly valued by me amongst many; and I ask your prayers for him today, as I offer you all to God, and to our Blessed Lady in the glory of her Assumption.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Where does it all come from ?

I love the way that things fall into unexpected patterns. Last night, I read a thought of S. Francis de Sales, who, of course, was largely responsible for the spiritual development of S. Jane-Frances de Chantal, whose Feast we kept two days ago, which read :

How often does it happen that we say good things because some good soul gets us the grace to do so ? We are like organs, where he who gives the wind really does the whole work and gets no praise for it.

My first, thought, of course, was that the organ reference fitted in very well with the Messiaen post which I had just written for this morning : but then I thought that it was also very appropriate to Catholic blogging in general.

Most of us – myself, certainly – do little, and originate less; but rather, we accept the thoughts and circumstances which God puts before us, and try and interpret them in accordance with the teaching of Holy Mother Church for our own benefit and – we hope and pray – that of our readers.

Olivier Messiaen would, I think, have been the first to agree that the provision of wind for the organ was fundamental; and that without that ‘inspiration’ the organist could create no sounds, which were only, ultimately, commentary.

Similarly, for bloggers, I think that the original creation obviously comes from God; and the Holy Ghost ‘inspires’ us in our postings. I am quite certain that any merit in this blog, for instance, comes from the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, as a result of the prayerful support of those who read it and of the Holy Saints : and not from any virtue of mine. So I ask you, as I ask the Saints, to keep me in your prayers, that through Our Lord’s gift of grace I may continue to do some little thing for God, and for his Church, despite my own countless failings.

Even unto Death

S. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, whose feast day it is today, willingly gave up his life for his fellow man, surrendering himself to death by starvation in Auschwitz so that Franciszek Gajowniczek, a father of a family, might live

Would I ? I don’t know; but I fear the answer is probably not . . . but then when I think about I, I am forced to realize that I might not have had the chance, because I might not have got to Auschwitz in the first place.

Would I even have been arrested ? Or would I have yielded, and gone along with the atrocities of the Nazis for the sake of a quiet life ? Might I, even, have said that I should not adhere too strictly to the Faith, for fear of upsetting, and driving away, others in a time of difficulty ?

I just don’t know.

What I do know, though, is that God thought that he did the right thing, and has given proof of that in the miracles which led to his canonization - in the presence of Franciszek Gajowniczek for whom he had died.

Ultimately, we have to make choices; and those choices all have price tags . . . and sometimes we have to be brave enough to pay prices which look impossible : lose friends, even family; lose jobs, money, anything . . . even lose life itself.

What he have to remember, as S. Maximilian obviously did, is that in God’s service, ‘he that endureth to the end shall be saved’.

In these days, when God’s Church is under constant attack, sometimes even from within, may S. Maximilian pray for all of us who want to stand up for God and His Church, that we may have the opportunities to do so, and the strength and integrity not to pass them by.

Messiaen in the Liturgy

Fr Tim recently had a good post about music, which led him to mention Messiaen . . . which in turn led me to suggest that a lot of Messiaen’s organ works are really best heard (or at least considered) in the context of the liturgy for which he wrote them.

I think it is probably a point which many do not realize; that in France it was the custom for the organ to ‘fill in’ around the Propers of the Mass; and even, in certain very specific circumstances, to substitute for them – there was not, for instance, an Offertorium or a Communio in the Mass of the Easter Vigil, so the Organ was traditionally played instead.

As a result, the music had to form an integral part of the liturgy. Messiaen did not, perhaps, approach this aspect of it in quite the same way as Charles Tournemire, who wrote a complete set of ‘improvisations’ to fit every Sunday and major Feast Day of the year (Advent & Lent excluded, of course !) - his improvisations were exactly that, and were largely left unrecorded; so that there is little record of his playing on the hundreds of Sundays on which he occupied the ‘banc des Grands-Orgues’ at the S. Trinité in Paris (he was Titulaire there for some 61 years !).

However, what we do have is many major works which have great spiritual dimensions, and which can even form enormous spiritual experiences of themselves : Apparition de l’Exglise Eternelle, for instance, is his vision of the Heavenly Church; whilst Joie et Clarté des Corps Glorieux represents the joy and limpidity of the glorious bodies of the Resurrected. (I should say it is perhaps my favourite of all his pieces, and I used to delight in it during communion every Easter Vigil for many years as an Anglican).

If you are not familiar with Messiaen’s organ music, I suggest that you consider listening to some . . . I did try to link some in to this post, but failed miserably; so forgive me for that, but you can find a lot of information about him, and some links to his music, on his Wikipedia page.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Chinese Whispers

Ever play Chinese Whispers as a child ? Well, the other day, Mac of Mulier Fortis had an interesting post about a meme that she hit me for a while ago that has now mutated : and the very same day, I got tagged with the mutation . . . amazingly, by one of the people I’d originally tagged with Mac’s meme !

It’s gone from prayers to Devotions; and whilst I don’t feel any particular obligation to help transform the chain of Mac’s original meme into some sort of deranged introverted spiral (which appears to be what’s happening), I am happy to discuss devotions for a bit !

However, I’m going to ignore the Rosary, which is undoubtedly my favourite devotion, simply because it’s so obvious . . . and because I have nothing to add to the countless books which have stolen everything I could possibly say about it !

So : five of my favourite devotions . . . (in no particular order).

1. Litany of Humility
This was written by Rafael, Cardinal Merry del Val, and I use it daily in Lent, and at other times when I feel that I need taking down a peg or two . . . or rather, as that’s probably always the case, when even I feel that I need taking down a peg or two !

2. Prayer to Our Lady & S. Dominic
There’s a lovely little prayer in the Libellus of the Order of Preachers which I do love, and do say often : particularly in the London Oratory, where the Statue of OHF Dominic overlooks the Lady Altar.

3. Benediction
I look at Him, and He looks at me . . .

4. Making the Sign of the Cross
Well, it’s a sacramental as well as a devotion; it has actual practical benefits, and it always helps on remember just why – and how – we’re here.

5. O Lumen Ecclesiæ
This antiphon to S. Dominic is traditional at the end of the day; but I use it much more frequently than that . . .

Caution : Devil at Work

Mulier Fortis had a good post yesterday about the Good Counsel Network, and their urgent need for funds at the moment.

Sadly, she's had a comment on it about an unfortunate episode where someone who made them a generous donation found herself, apparently, the victim of a singular lack of gratitude and concern . . . something which, from all I've ever heard, is utterly not typical of Good Counsel.

Why do I mention it ?

Well, because I have an innate belief that things like this - and a few happen in my own organization, from time to time - are probably the direct work of the devil. Where he sees something good being done, and likely to direct a sensitive soul closer to God, he intervenes in a lot of little ways which combine to result in a fairly major upset . . . which destroys trust, or causes enmity, or in some other way furthers his cause, and damages God's work.

There's not necessarily a lot we can do about it, if only because it's usually true to say, at least in my experience, that no-one is actually culpable about things like this : all we can do is pray, and try to ensure that he doesn't have the opportunities to slip in so that he can work his wicked little schemes like that.

Nothing, of course, is likely to make Mac's correspondent feel any better about her experience : but perhaps we should all pray that she does, at least, feel no animosity towards Good Counsel; that they are spared any further Satanic attentions; and that by our prayers, and with the assistance of St Michael and our Blessed Lady, we may interfere constantly with his wicked devices.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

A House of Prayer

S. Jane-Frances de Chantal, whose Feast day it is, founded the Order of the Visitation; a community for women who desired to come close to God, but who for various reasons did not feel able to cope with the extreme austerities which were common in religious orders in those days.

Instead, it stressed prayer; a deep, personal, relationship of the sisters with God; and it is notable that S. Jane-Frances said a number of things about prayer which, perhaps remarkable in her day, have much to teach us today.

In an era when formal methods of prayer were much used, when ‘schools of prayer’ were seen as the ideal way of approaching God, she said ‘Follow your own way of speaking to our Lord sincerely, lovingly, confidently, and simply, as your heart dictates.’ Could anything be simpler than this ? Talk to God as you find most natural, most comfortable.

At the same time, she said that ‘With God there is no need for long speeches’, making the point that He understands the needs of our hearts before we say them; and that we say them only that we may understand what we ask of Him. She also observed that ‘In prayer, more is accomplished by listening than by talking’; reminding us that if we do not listen for the still small voice of calm, we may gain nothing from our prayers : because God tends to answer us far more quietly than we address Him.

However, she is no believer in being a shrinking violet if there is something urgent to pray for : she said ‘In prayer one must hold fast and never let go, because the one who gives up loses all. If it seems that no one is listening to you, then cry out even louder. If you are driven out of one door, go back in by the other.’ In other words, you should stick to it; God can do anything; but it is not always expedient for us that He does it at once, or in a way that strikes us as easiest . . . we must continue to implore Him, even if only to emphasize to ourselves our own inadequacy and dependence as a condition of His answering our prayers.

God always answers our prayers : even if He does not always do so in the way we expected – or wanted; and it is by speaking simply, listening carefully, and praying fervently that we may, through His grace, come to recognize His generous love to us, even when His answer to our prayers is not the one we expected to get. S. Jane-Frances had to overcome much in her life; but with the help of S. Francis de Sales she did so, and helped lead many women to God. Let us ask both of them to guide our prayers so that we, too, may learn those skills of prayer which may truly bring us closer to God in this life, that we may see Him – and them – in heaven at the last.

Go to Mass Tomorrow Evening

The Latin Mass Society organizes a monthly Mass in support of the work of the Good Counsel Network. This is celebrated on the second Friday of each month at 18:30, at Corpus Christi Church, Maiden Lane (in central London).

Anyone who is free tomorrow may like to go, and add their prayerful support to the work of this important pro-Life charity which is, as Mac pointed out earlier, also very stretched financially in its work : so financial contributions will be most welcome too.

Blessed Friendship

Today is (nowadays) the Feast of S. Jane-Frances de Chantal : so instead of the reliquary going away, I merely have to swap S. Clare for S. Jane Frances . . . who actually shares her capsa with S. Francis de Sales, which I suppose is entirely appropriate.

I actually rather like the two of them : not least because of the immense friendship – indeed love – between them. I’ve mentioned recently the question of ‘particular friendships’, and the concerns that some have about them : but S. Jane Frances and S. Francis (as also Bl. Jordan of Saxony and Bl. Diana d’Andalo) show that there can be much merit, much grace, in such deep and particular friendships . . . as long as they never lose sight of the people of God outside them, for whose benefit they exist.

Deep friendships can be dangerous, even destructive . . . if we allow them to consume us, to take us over, and to blind us to God’s will for us and His world. At the same time, if we recognize in them a metaphor of God’s love for us, and see them as a channel by which we can share our love for Him with the rest of His children, then they can be great and precious gifts.

Today, then, let us rejoice in the friendship of S. Jane Frances and S. Francis, and try to ensure that our own friendships, like theirs, become a vehicle by which others are carried to God.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

A Very Present Help in time of trouble . . .

S. Clare, as you no doubt know, once left her convent bearing the Blessed Sacrament in order to repel the attack of Frederick II's Saracens - a tactic which was succesful, no doubt at least partly because of her complete faith in Our Blessed Lord's power.

One thing which I notice today is that there are an awful lot of Catholics who seem to lack that faith : to whom, perhaps, the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar is - well, alright, perhaps they do think that it is, in some way, the 'Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity' of Our Lord; perhaps it's just the significance and power of it which seems to escape them . . . I don't know; but I do know that there seem to be few enough Catholics that I see for whom the Blessed Sacrament is the centre of their lives : and yet if one has complete faith in that mystery, anything is possible - as S. Clare proved on that dreadful day when she and her sisters found themselves threatened by a horde of armed men.

As we get closer to the Holy Father's visit to these shores, should we not seek to deepen our devotion to Our Lord in His Holy Sacrament, and develop a greater trust in Him to protect us through His love, and give us all the graces we need to bring us to share His glory in Heaven, that we may be better Catholics when we welcome our Pope ?

Let us pray for a great increase in faith and trust in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, that it may effect in us a great deepening of all our Catholic Faith : and let us pray S. Clare to help us in this aim.

Just letting you know . . .

Today is the feast of S. Clare; and I shall have (as always) the privilege of praying my Office before her relic - a gift to me from Rome a good many years ago now, in the days when it was still possible to obtain relics from the Custos for private veneration.

My only reservation is that my reliquaries are perhaps a little elaborate for a Franciscan : but unfortunately they're all I have, so I hope she will excuse her surroundings !

Anyway : I shall say Readings and Lauds today for the intentions of all my Followers and other Readers, and hope that you will all have a happy and blessed day, and will offer a prayer for all Franciscan nuns everywhere.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Just wondering

The splendid leutgeb of Bara Brith commented on one of my posts yesterday that Catholicism does not rest with these people (the Tina Beatties of the world), but with the old ladies who go to Mass every day and for all I know probably have done all their lives, and I entirely agree with her : it’s not the thinkers, ultimately, who make the Church (although they may unmake it); but the honest, simple, faithful people of God.

This is why, although in one sense I laud and appreciate the various conferences and seminars which have been going on over the last couple of weeks for young Catholics &c, I also have a slight concern about them : because I know from my own experience that sometimes overmuch thought and learning can cause problems, as well as solve them.

I hope I’m not ungrateful to Our Lord for (what I, at least, see as) His great generosity to me in terms of intellect and mental capacity : but I have to be honest and say that there are times when I almost envy those who do not enjoy my gifts, but who are able to rejoice in simple, unquestioning, faith . . . and who deepen it not by listening to gifted speakers, or reading learned theologians, but simply by saying their prayers, trusting in God, and loving Our Lady.

Hating, or loving ?

The Benedictus for Lauds yesterday was Qui odit animam suam in hoc mundo, in vitam æternam custodit eam‘Anyone who hates his soul in this world, will save it for eternal life’.

Now at first sight that’s a perfectly reasonable statement, with excellent scriptural authority : but on pondering it I did wonder whether there was, perhaps, just a little bit of a problem with it.
After all : if I hate the soul which God has given me, then I am in some way hating Him, by hating His gift to me . . . which can’t be right.

Ah : but how about if what I mean is not that I must hate my soul, but that I must hate its attachments to this world, so that I save it for eternal life ?

That sounds better : except that surely many of the attractions we find in this world, which attach us to it – the beauty of the world, and the joy it gives us – are also gifts from God ?

I’m sorry : but I can’t find it in myself to hate any of the good things which God has given me, or hate myself for appreciating them. He has given me the opportunity to share a very old bottle of Ch. Yquem with friends, and to see dawn break over Mt Everest : I have delighted in the amazing colour of the Red Sea seen from 35,000 feet (it really is almost purple !), and the wonderful laughter of my Godson. Am I really expected to hate all those gifts of His ? I don’t think so.

I think that the answer is that whilst appreciation is good, indeed virtuous, allowing that appreciation to become an attachment is not, because it distracts us from our ultimate aim. It’s a bit, I suppose, like going to the theatre : it’s a wonderful evening, but we have to remember, always, that however wonderful it is, it’s only an illusion, and that at the end of the show we have homes to go to.

So, the gifts of God we enjoy here are intended, in an odd way, not to attract us to the earth where we find them, but rather to focus our minds on our home in Heaven where, when we get there, instead of seeing God’s love and generosity ‘through a glass darkly’ as we do in His earthly gifts, we shall see it clearly, ‘face to face’, in joys which now we cannot even imagine, but which He will then reveal to us . . . a revelation which, in due course, I wish you all.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Making sense of it . . .

Various people have been commenting both on the blogs and on facebook on the curious situation whereby S. Dominic and S. Jean-Marie Vianney ‘swopped’ their celebrations when the Kalendar was revised : but when I think about it, I'm not sure it does seem all that silly really.

S. Dominic actually died on 6th August : but clearly there was no way in which the Church was going to move the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Blessed Lord, so it was decided to commemorate his Feast two days earlier, on 4th August.

However, S. Jean-Marie Vianney actually died on 4th August – but because of S. Dominic’s feast, his feast day was put on 8th : which meant that both of them were being celebrated on the ‘wrong’ day.

All that the change did was to move S. Dominic to 8th August – so he’s still two days away from the day of his death, but now two days later, not two days earlier – whilst S. Jean-Marie is celebrated on the actual day : which seems to me to make rather more sense than the previous situation.

Tina is at it again . . .

‘Fr Mildew’ had a post on Saturday about an article in last week’s issue of The Bitter Pill by Professor Tina Beattie.

As I won’t so much as touch a copy of the rag in question, let alone buy it (or subscribe to it online) I have not read it myself, but I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the good Father’s reportage.

Professor Beattie apparently says that the Holy Father’s teaching in Caritas in Veritate ‘takes little account of life today’; and that ‘we stand in need of a realistic theology of marriage sexuality and parenthood’. (She also, apparently, goes on to suggest that the Church needs to recognize that ‘reliable contraception’ is a fundamental element in ‘sexual self-giving and responsible parenthood’, and that the Church needs to try to ‘accommodate homosexual love within the Churchs vision of human sexuality’.)

It seems to me, with all due respect, that if this reporting is correct (and in light of her previous remarks it seems highly likely that it is), then it is Professor Beattie who needs a realistic theology. She seems to believe that it is the duty of the Chuch to adjust itself to the opinions of the age; and to accept that so-called ‘scientific’ teaching arising from the thinking of man trumps the revealed truth of God.

Now; Professor Beattie, and all those who agree with her, may very well be fully in accord with modern thinking. More. They may very well be popular with a large number of people. However – and I say this with no hesitation – I am very much less convinced that they are popular with God.

The revealed truth of God, as taught by the Catholic Church, is not susceptible to modification simply in order to retain its popularity. It may be susceptible to development in light of a developing world; and it may well be that it will, from time to time, require a rethinking of how it is presented and explained to mankind as the world moves on : but it cannot change . . . because if it could, it would not be the will of God.

Can we please see the presentation of this truth as a fundamental of modern Catechesis ? - because it seems to me that the reason for much of the muddle and stress in the Church today is that people seem to believe that the doctrines of the Faith are ‘up for grabs’ according to whether they are popular – or convenient – or not.

That is not the case; and the sooner people recognize it, and accept it, the better : and if they are reluctant to do so, then they may perhaps want to consider finding another spiritual home, somewhere where they are welcome to believe what they like.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Gratiarum Actio

I was privileged to enter the Church at the hands of – and indeed with the loving support of – the Dominicans of Blackfriars, Oxford; and since then I have been lucky enough to get to know a large number of the Dominicans – and other members of the Dominican Family – of the English Province : and this post is just a little ‘Thank You’, on S. Dominic’s day, for everything; and a promise to continue to support them with my prayers, and in any other way I can, for as long as God deigns to allow me.

May Our Blessed Lady of Walsingham, and Our Holy Father S. Dominic, have you always in their prayers.

(The photo above is, of course, one of fr Lawrence Lew's : to whom I am perennially obligated for his enormous contribution not only to this blog, but to the internet in general !)

Salve, Sancte Pater !

Today is the Feast of Our Holy Father S. Dominic; and although it is not kept as his principal Feast in the Dominican Family in the UK (the Feast of his Translation on 24 May is kept instead, because today, falling in the midst of the holiday season, is less convenient for many people) it is still a day on which minds are turned towards that great spirit who sought only to preach God’s word, and of whom it was said that he only spoke ‘of God, or to God’.

Next month will see the Holy Father in Great Britain to beatify Cardinal Newman; and it is interesting to note that Cardinal Newman, even before he became a Catholic (let alone an Oratorian) wrote that ‘My present feeling is that what the world, or at least England, wants as much as anything, is Dominicans’.

He was, admittedly, concerned that the Dominicans of his day had, in fact, lost their tradition; but he said that ‘even if it was a great idea extinct’ he could still say that ‘the idea I like exceedingly’.

Of course the idea was not extinct; and since Newman’s day the Dominicans have given the Church some of its greatest theologians and preachers; and certainly in England even a cursory glance will reveal such much-loved Catholic Preachers as Vincent McNabb, Bede Jarrett, and Timothy Radcliffe following in S. Dominic’s footsteps and preaching God’s word to His world . . . and one has only to look at Godzdogz to recognize that the younger members of the Order continue to aim high, and achieve great things; whilst in other parts of the Dominican Family the blogosphere will prove that S. Dominic’s influence and example remains alive and active.

At the end of this month, on 31 August the General Chapter of the Order of Preachers will meet in Rome to elect (on 05 Septmber) a new Master of the Order, who will be responsible for it, and in a more general way for the whole Dominican Family for the next nine years; and on this Feast of S. Dominic I do ask you to pray for the Order, and its new Master, whomever he may be, that the Order - and the DOminicam Family in general - may continue ‘To Praise, to Bless, and to Preach’.


Flowers for Our Holy Father S. Dominic, whose Feast Day is today !

Saturday, 7 August 2010

The Moulder's Hand

‘Sapper’ (otherwise H. C. McNeile) was a popular author in the years between the two World Wars, mainly writing ‘thrillers’ many of which featured his famous hero ‘Bulldog Drummond’.

However, during the Great War, and whilst he was still a fighting soldier, he wrote No Man’s Land, a book of ‘trench stories’ which ended thus :

Winnowed by the fan of suffering and death, the wheat of the harvest will shed its tares of discord and suspicion. The duke and the labourer will have stood side by side, and will have found one another – men. No longer self the only thing; no longer a ceaseless grouse against everybody and everything; no longer an instinctive suspicion of the man one rung higher up the ladder. But more self-reliant and cheery; stronger in character and bigger in outlook; with a newly acquired sense of self-control and understanding; in short, grown a little nearer to its maximum development, the manhood of the nation will be ripe for the moulder’s hand. It has tasted of discipline; it has realized that only by discipline can there be true freedom for the community; and that without that discipline, chaos is inevitable. Pray heavens there be a moulder – a moulder worthy of the task.

Now that was written primarily, of course, with an eye to the social situation; it was, after all, written just before the October Revolution plunged Russia into just over seventy years of turmoil, murder, and desolation; and at a time when – largely as a result of a developing liberalism of political and social thought – there were those in England whose eyes were on communism, which they believed to be a panacea for all ills.

However, when I came across it the other day, it occurred to me that it could stand true, also, in the context of the Catholic Church. A Church once strong in belief, ready for its sons and daughters to accept horrible deaths in the interest of preserving and promoting the Faith, has been riven by liberal opinions, and torn by self-interest and dangerous theology just as British Society was damaged by socialism and self-interest.

As we look forward to the Holy Father’s visit to Great Britain next month, we should consider what he has already done during his pontificate to restore the Church to its proper state; and perhaps give thank to God that in him we have a ‘moulder worthy of the task’.

Saying the Office

Shawn Tribe of New Liturgical Movement posted a piece a couple of days ago about the Divine Office, which ended with a quote from Fr William Busch which I found interesting :

The Breviary is secondary to the Missal. But though secondary the Breviary is intimately related to and inseparable from the Missal in the ensemble of liturgical prayer. The Breviary prayers encircle those of the Missal; they carry the radiance of the Mass throughout all the hours of the day; and they furnish a guiding norm for all private prayer . . . The growing love of the Missal signifies a trend throughout the Church toward liturgical prayer which may well bring many to use the Breviary, not exactly as the clergy use it, but according to their circumstances and in such way as the Hour Prayers did originally interest the faithful generally . . . We are familiar with the beautiful thought of the Mass as the continual oblation from the rising to the setting of the sun offered up from place to place as the morning light moves around the world. Why not be aware also of the unceasing chorus of the Church's official prayer from hour to hour . . .

I read this with interest, and I agree with almost all of it . . . except for the first sentence : because as far as I can see Fr Busch has this the wrong way round. After all, the Divine Office – as a continuous, daily, activity – came before the Daily Mass; and there are certainly many situations in which the Office continues even where the Mass is simply not practical as a daily exercise.

As a result, I believe that the Divine Office is the primary element of liturgy; even if the Mass is the more important . . . but it is from the Office that the patterns emerge; with the Mass picking them up; if only because the bulk of the Office should have been said by a priest before he says his Mass each day, and provided a thematic basis for it.

This is one of the reasons why I encourage everybody to say some part of the Office; not only because it roots them in the Church’s liturgy even when they can’t manage to get to Mass daily (as I often can’t), but also because it helps (in my humble opinion) to ground the entire Church in the everlasting cycle of prayer that the Divine Office forms . . . exactly the point with which Fr Busch concludes.

S. Dominic, whose Feast day is tomorrow, believed passionately in continuous prayer : it was said of him that he never spoke ‘except of God, or to God’, and I venture to believe that he must have valued the Divine Office as a central plank of prayer. I personally find the Divine Office a great blessing, precisely because it keeps me bedded in the liturgical life of the Church, even when I am (for various reasons) unable to take an active part in it; and I do suggest it enthusiastically to anyone else whose life sometimes keeps them apart from worshipping in Church on a daily basis . . . because then, even when you are alone, perhaps in difficult circumstances, by your participation in the primary element of the Church’s liturgy you can feel certain that you remain very much an active part of God’s ‘Church Militant here in earth’.

Happy Birthday

fr David Rocks OP, whose ordination to the Sacred Priesthood I mentioned early last month, celebrates his 28th Birthday today.

A son of the irish Province, he has studied for the last few years at Blackrfiars, Oxford, and is now on the staff of S. Dominic's in North London.

Happy Birthday, fr David : Ad Multos Annos.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Transfiguring ourselves

Today is the feast of the Transfiguration of Our Blessed Lord : and a good day to consider the transfiguration of our own personalities which is needed before we can reach that union with Him in heaven to which today’s events clearly point.

We are fallible, sinful, and throughly human : but God, through Holy Mother Church, provides us with all the tools that are needed to achieve that transfiguration into shining citizens of heaven – the Sacraments : and most particularly the Most Holy Eucharist, and Penance.

Let us, today, as we celebrate Our Lord showing us so clearly the way he is leading us to heaven, resolve to make better and more frequent use of His Sacraments, and more continually purge our souls by penance, prayer, and reception of Holy Communion, so that we in our turn may be transfigured at our deaths, and follow Him to our heavenly home : an end I wish you all.

Around the World . . .

This is 'Around the World'; the first of the Elephants for special occasions . . . andI think it's appropriate for today, the Feast of the Transfiguration, because when you go round to the other side you find :

for the Transfiguration . . .

Thursday, 5 August 2010

For what it's worth . . .

Not entirely surprisingly, there has been a lot of discussion recently about the Papal Visit : indeed, I have been responsible for more than a few comments myself about the Hierarchy’s handling of it.

Recently, however, there has been a lot of particular discussion about the situation at the Birmingham Oratory, not least on ‘Catholic and Loving It’, the blog of the splendid James & Ella Preece, which can always be relied upon to take bulls firmly by the horns – a trait which I entirely applaud.

What concerns me, however, is that the comments on one of his recent posts have – shall we say – got a little way off topic, and have led to some remarks which might be described as being at least arguably defamatory . . . and some more which have acquired the same character because people with little knowledge of law have sought to attribute defamatory characteristics to observations which don’t actually possess them, but which they clearly dislike.

Several of my readers have contacted me about this . . . and I have said, after consideration, that I don’t think I want to get involved with the comments, simply because the issues being raised have now become so diffuse that I believe that it is probably impossible to drag things back into any sort of coherent discussion.

However, I do think I can make a number of comments; and have therefore replied to my correspondents that I shall do so in a post . . .

I cannot comment on what is happening, and has happened, at the Birmingham Oratory; not, I hasten to say, because I disbelieve what James, or anyone else, has said; but rather because I recognize that I do not know everything, and I rather suspect that they do not either (none of them, I must say, claim to).

Equally, I do not want to get into a discussion about personalities, except to say that from my own fairly restricted knowledge of the Oratorian system of Visitations there does not at first sight appear to be anything gravely worrying about that aspect of Oratorian life in England (although I shall - of course - be happy to be corrected by any of my Oratorian readers on that point); and that some of the remarks therefore seem to be getting unduly personal (and to be quite honest, somewhat offensive as well).

However : I do think that there is one point which does need to be made. Whatever is happening / has happened at the Birmingham Oratory is causing concern and distress to a lot of people : and at probably the worst possible moment in the history of that Church. In six weeks’ time the Holy Father will be coming to Britain, and one of the most significant moments in his visit will be the Beatification of Cardinal Newman, founder of the Birmingham Oratory . . . an event at which, naturally, one would expect all the Fathers and Brothers of that Church (and indeed the Oratory in England generally) to be present.

We live in a world where – as all Catholics must be aware – there is considerable animosity towards the Faith, and where the media are not only largely hostile, but also quite frequently unscrupulous in the ways in which they ‘create’ stories out of little or nothing; and this uncertainty and upset is exactly the sort of food which fuels their fires.

For all I know, there were excellent reasons for the events at the Birmingham Oratory over the last few months : but if that is the case, then this fact should have been made quite clear at the time . . . because whatever is said now, even if it silences the not inconsiderable fuss, unless it is absolutely open and honest will only fuel the belief that there is more going on than meets the eye (and people may well not believe it anyway !).

I said some time ago, in the context of the Equality Bill, that whilst it might be true that the Bishops were in fact handling matters wisely, this was not apparent to the Faithful; and that if the Bishops wanted the support of the Faithful, then they needed to make it clear that they were acting in the best interests of the Church . . . because what was happening did not, as far as the Faithful could see, meet that description.

I say the same thing again now. I do not know the reason for recent events at the Birmingham Oratory : but I think it must be painfully apparent that, however justified they have been, they have caused legitimate concern amongst the Faithful; and that that concern must be quelled . . . now.

Most of the Faithful will cheerfully stand up and support their Bishops unquestioningly when those Bishops can plainly be seen to be stating the Faith clearly and without hesitation; but you cannot expect the faithful to remain silent and unquestioning when things are happening which – however justified they may in fact be – appear to be contrary to everything that Holy Mother Church stands for. Such a course would not only be contrary to their own obligations to the Faith, but would expect them to display a disloyalty which it must be apparent is entirely uncharacteristic of many of those who have been commenting; even if one does, from time to time, wish that some of them were more temperate in their remarks.

I am blaming no-one; because I would not know who to blame if anyone is indeed blameworthy, and I do not in any event know if anyone is blameworthy : but I am quite certain that this needs to be sorted out, and clear answers given, now, so that the Holy Father’s visit is not tainted by scandal . . . especially if there isn't even a scandal there in the first place !