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.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

A Discerning Son . . .

. . . is he who keeps the law.

‘This’, says the Responsory from the Second Reading in the Office of Readings this morning, S. Jerome’s Day, ‘is how the man who is dedicated to God becomes fully equipped and ready for any god work’.

S. Jerome was very clear : ‘ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ’ . . . and yet so many of us are still willing not to read the Scriptures, except what is put before us in the lessons at Mass : and even if we insist on reading them from our Missals, rather than listening to the Lector, we probably do not get a great deal from them simply because we move through them steadily, and on to the Psalm, or the Alleluia, or the Homily, or whatever, without having much time to ponder them.

At least those of us who say the Office of Readings not only read them, but also get a little time to consider them . . . and even if it is only one short passage each day, at least in the course of a year we get quite a lot of bits of Scripture which do not appear in the Mass.

Is this enough, though ? Well, probably not; but at least if we try to follow and understand the lessons at Mass, by reading them at home (or before or after Mass in Church), and also give some real time to the First Reading (the Scriptural one) from the Office of Readings, we can be sure that we are getting at least a reasonable minimum.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not all that good at this . . . what I’m really doing, I suppose, is identifying to myself the need to spend more time reading and contemplating the Scriptures . . . because, as S. Jerome says, ‘ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ’ . . . and that is clearly not something we want to be.

So Sadly Missed, Sylvester !

I’m not even going to begin to list the bloggers and facebook friends who have sympathised with Mac – the inimitable Mulier Fortis – about the death on Tuesday afternoon of her beloved cat Sylvester : if only because I’m sure someone else already has done . . .

I’ve already sent my own condolences and sympathies directly to Mac – and encourage any friends of hers who have not yet done so to do so – so that’s not really what this post is about . . . and funnily enough, it’s not even really about Sylvester : handsome, personable, stylish, delightful, and loving as he undoubtedly was.

It’s actually about Mac, and all the other Catholic blogs, and bloggers, and facebook people . . . because Sylvester’s death has not only shown how much Mac is loved, but has also made it abundantly clear that we Catholic bloggers obviously are a real community, even if we don’t really realize it . . .

So ‘thank you’, Sylvester, not only for all the affection and delight which you gave Mac (and, at a greater distance, so many of us), but for the lesson which you’ve taught us all . . . that God’s family on the Internet really does have loving, caring, humanity in common, and not just a bunch of ‘virtual’ characteristics.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

October approaches . . .

. . . and with it one of my favourite months, not for the weather – which is frequently vile – but because it is the month which contains the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary.

There will be quite a lot about the Rosary on this blog during October, not least because as an avid member of the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary I am always keen to encourage others to join, and to benefit from the innumerable advantages which it offers them . . . as well, of course, as contributing to the wonderful work which it does for the world.

In the meantime, if you haven’t already read it, do let me direct your attention to this splendid post of His Hermeneuticalness, Fr Tim, about The Family Rosary. Not so easy for those of us who live alone, of course – although there’s nothing to stop several single people who live close to one another for setting up some sort of ‘virtual family’ for the Rosary, especially if their Parochus will make the Church accessible to them – but it’s still a wonderful thing, and one which I believe we should not only encourage, but also be quite open with our non-Catholic friends about doing . . . another part of the ‘Witness to the World’ which the Holy Father was so keen for us to promote.

Seeking the Good

Going back for one last time to the comments made about me in respect of that post about abortion, it seems to me, on reflection, that I was in effect being accused of being more interested in the book of rules than in the well-being – and ultimately the eternal well-being – of the women who are involved in seeking abortions : and I hope that my subsequent remarks have gone at least some way to showing that this isn’t the case.

Why not ? Well, I think it’s because I seem – on consideration – to have grasped (albeit probably implicitly, rather than explicitly) at quite an early age a premise put forward by a certain Master of the Order of Preachers* : that Seeking the good is not primarily about rules and commandments.

I’m not suggesting, of course, that this means that the rules and commandments are unimportant, or that they are of no significance in determining how someone has behaved . . . after all, God would hardly have provided them if He had not decided that they were fundamental.

However, what I think I grasped early in my study of Moral Theology is that whilst on one level one can determine the effect of someone’s conduct, or decisions, on another level one has to accept that only God can truly know how good or evil they are : and that this applies to us, too . . . which is why developing a genuine sense of contrition is a fundamental necessity for each and every one of us !

That way, as we try to seek the good in our love of God, and try to remember and shape our lives by His rules and commandments, we may hope that ultimately we may succeed in achieving what He wants for us, and thus gaining what He holds out to us.

* fr Timothy Radcliffe, in case you hadn’t guessed !

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Continuing Thoughts on Continuing Witness

I just had another thought on something which we can – and should – all do by way of standing up for the Faith – indeed, for Christianity generally : stand up for Jesus !

I suppose I have to admit that what I am proposing is one of my own obsessions : but I’m not sure that makes it any less appropriate as an act of witness.

Simply : ensure that the only images you make use of on the Christmass cards you buy and send are those of the Nativity of Our Lord.

No robins, or stagecoaches, or churches covered in snow . . . no Christmass trees, or improbably angelic choirboys, or Doves of Peace . . . just Our Lord, and Our Lady, and probably S. Joseph . . . possibly with a Shepherd or two, and various animals about the place; possibly some angels . . . but no Kings, because it’s not appropriate to anticipate the Epiphany.

I’ve bought my Christmass cards on this principle this for years now; and although I have to admit to sending some ‘Virgin & Child’ cards last year which had a couple of other saints on them (alright : S. Dominic and S. Thomas Aquinas), even that’s an image which is at least fairly obviously related to the Incarnation.

- and that’s my point. Christmass is about the Incarnation; the moment when Our Blessed Lord started on the pathway which was destined to lead to our Redemption . . . and yet for so many people there seems to be to very little about Him in any part of their celebrations. At least, if Catholics (and hopefully other Christians too) made a determined effort to boycott any Christmass cards which did not show the Incarnation, we would be doing a little something to remind people just what it’s really all about . . . which would, in its own little way, be another act of witness.

(And yes, I know that I’ve spelt Christmass in the antique way : but I’m just trying to remind you that it’s Christ’s Mass that we’re talking about, and not just any old occasion . . . because to listen to people nowadays, you’d think that there was a significant spelling mistake in the Bible, and that what was actually written about it was ‘And out of the people shall come forth a great profit’ !)

Further Musings about my Dilemma

I’ve been thinking further about the implications of the Dilemma to which I referred yesterday.

When His late Holiness John Paul II pronounced that there was no scope for debate about the ordination of women, he was not in fact debating the question as such : what he was doing was saying that there wasn’t any question open to debate.

Now : it may be that it would have been more helpful for him to have said that ex cathedra, as an infallible pronouncement, so that the Catholic Church was saved from any further discussions about what is clearly, at least in the minds of some, an important question despite his statement . . . and that is a separate question which is, I have to admit, a little unclear, simply because to say that there can be no scope for debate on a topic, whilst not making that statement in a way which is not open to debate, seems to be inviting controversy – which one might have thought was something the Church could always do without.

However : the more significant point, it seems to me, is the obverse of the same issue – which is that the Holy Fathers have, throughout the history of the Church, made it patently clear that certain aspects of the Church can – and arguably should – develop in order to allow the Church forward its mission in a changing world : and that to argue the contrary is, in effect, to argue that the Holy Father has no power at all, as if tradition must always be preferred to the current power of the papacy, then the same argument must apply in every other context – which means that, in effect, the papacy has no power as it can never overrule tradition.

(It also scouts the fact that, as ever since the second Council, tradition has been subject to development, and sometimes active modification, by the Councils : which must question how tradition can be considered to be perfect and irreformable in the context of Papal decision-making, and yet be open to development by Councils summoned by the Popes.)

Ultimately, it seems to me that if we are Catholics, we are obliged to accept that the Holy Father is head of the Church, and fully empowered by God to develop the way in which the Deposit of Faith is expressed and manifested in order to relate itself most effectively to the needs of humanity : and that whilst this may involve him consulting a Council, or theologians, as channels by which he may become more fully aware of the will of God, it certainly does not mean that this either should, or even properly can, be influenced by the opinions of others . . . particularly others who decline to accept that their personal tastes may not be seen as important.

I personally would hate the Holy Father to announce that he was satisfied that it was God’s Will that – for instance – all the worst liturgical excesses demonstrated by the proponents of ‘the Spirit of Vatican II’ should be not just tolerated, but actually be mandatory, and non-negotiable : but I would have to accept that, if I wanted to remain a member of the Catholic Church, then that was so, and I would have to adopt those excesses . . . accepting them, if you like, as a cross; but accepting them as the will of God, and praying that doing so would be attributed to me as righteousness.

What worries me is all those who find themselves facing things which they dislike maintain that they are Catholic, even whilst they disobey (or at least openly argue with) the Holy Father and the Church . . . I’m not saying that it’s easy to fall in with the Holy Father’s decisions, least of all unflinchingly; but it does seem to me that that is the price-tag for membership of the Catholic Church. It’s a price that I pray – and have prayed since my Reception – that I shall always be willing and able to meet : but at the least I recognize that unless I am, I am not entitled to call myself Catholic . . . and I do find it hard to understand why there appear to be so many Catholics who simply do not appear to recognize this.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Further thoughts on the Continuing Witness

Continuing my comments yesterday evening, it does seem to me that there are a variety of other things which most of us can do at least some of the time to incite other people to ask us questions which offer us an opportunity to witness to God’s love, and to our Faith.

Surprisingly enough, though, I’m not going to suggest wearing a crucifix around the neck; simply because so many people seem to wear them to whom they are of no significance beyond that of jewellery . . . as a result of which few people seem to ask questions about them anyway.

Lapel badges, on the other hand, tend to attract attention, and provoke questions . . . I almost invariably wear a small Dominican shield, and the number of people, both inside and outside the Church, who have asked what it represents is considerable : and of course every question offers the opportunity to give some short but appropriately interesting response which will, with luck, excite continuing interest in the questioner.

I know that there are also badges bearing the Sacred Heart, the Monstrance, Our Lady, and many other self-evidently religious symbols; and I’m sure that they must attract the same sort of interest, if not more so (Indeed, my Blackfriars cufflinks have even worked as a trigger for interest - and thus explanation !).

Similarly – although I appreciate that this only applies to men – if you wear a hat, do always remember to take it off whenever you pass a Church – or even a Crucifix or other overtly religious symbol; and of course passing a priest or religious in the street also justifies it – because removing one’s hat in those circumstances excites remark ... if only because your willingness to do this demonstrates how important your Faith is to you; which is, in turn, a matter of interest to many. (I have noticed in recent years, incidentally, that the number of men who remove their hats as an hearse passes them has dropped; which if nothing else seems a matter of good manners, but which is also, of course, a symbol of religious conviction.)

I appreciate that none of this is major; but I believe that it all helps a little, if only because it slowly – very slowly – encourages people to recognize that the Faith is still alive and well, and meaningful . . . all of which encourages people to take an interest in it, and hopefully eventually to find their way towards it : which is exactly what the Holy Father had in mind, as far as I can see.

Curses . . . but Prayers too !

The curses are, I must make it quite clear, merely metaphorical; they are simply because I was invited to attend a Mass at Blackfiriars at noon today at which, as it turns out, I simply cannot be present : but the prayers are entirely genuine.

They are for fr Richard Conrad OP, the Vice-Regent of Blackfriars Hall of Studies, who is celebrating the Silver Jubilee of his Ordination at the Mass which I am unable to attend : and I sincerely invite you to add your prayers to mine on this joyful occasion, asking God, Our Lady, and S. Dominic to give fr Richard the benefit of their loving care and support in his preaching, teaching, and the other aspects of his ministry . . . not least of which is his guidance and support of the Lay Dominicans.

Is this a Dilemma ?

As time passes, I am increasingly bewildered by what a large number of people within the Catholic Church seem to think the adjective ‘Catholic’ means. I try to contemplate the ‘options’ which appear to be available, and find that they’re largely contrary to what I was given to understand ‘being Catholic’ implied; which leads me to a dilemma : as I wonder how people who apparently hold these beliefs continue maintain that they’re ‘Catholic’ when what they seem to think is important is plainly contrary to what the Church teaches . . ?
Let me try and explain.

The lady in Ireland in Saturday evening’s post, who was trying to persuade other women in Ireland to ‘boycott’ Mass yesterday, apparently not only believed that this was a right and acceptable way to persuade the Church to do something; but also, that something which has already been clearly stated to be beyond the Church’s power is something which should be done.

Now; whether or not such a ‘boycott’ is a right – or even right-minded – approach, I just find it hard to understand how one can claim to be Catholic and yet be determined to achieve something which the Church has already said, irrevocably, that it cannot do : especially when someone who believes that what she wants is readily available in other Churches.

Another example : if you go looking round the blogs – and I give no particular examples of this because I am not trying to stir up trouble – you may well come across some of those people for whom the form of the liturgy is more important than its content : and if that seems a curious observation, let me clarify . . . they prefer the ‘traditional’ Mass (that is to say, that which was used pre-1962; preferably even pre-1955) said by an Anglican priest to (say) the ‘Ordinary Form’ celebrated by a Catholic one : because the form is so important. Indeed, you can even find examples of those who believe that the Holy Father has done something actively wrong by issuing Summorum Pontifium, and thus allowing the use of the 1962 Mass which they believe is positively obnoxious.

Again, I just find it hard to understand why – if form is so much more important than content – they want to remain Catholic, when they could (as far as I can establish) have everything they want elsewhere.

Do you see why I’m bewildered ?

As part of my preparation for Reception, I was told that the fundamental issue was that I had to accept that, if my opinions and those of the Church came into conflict, then I simply had to believe that the Church, inspired by God, was right, which meant that I was wrong . . . and if I was wrong, and the Church was right, then I had no possible legitimate ground for contesting the Church’s teaching . . . and if I did contest the Church’s teaching, then I was simply showing that I wasn’t a Catholic.

Now; to this bear of very little brain that seemed - and seems - a perfectly simple position to understand . . . what I find so difficult is that there appear to be so many Catholics who don’t agree with it, and yet are perfectly certain that they are Catholics.

I’d love to understand . . . but at the moment it is a dilemma to which I can see no obvious solution.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

A Continuing Witness to God's Love

In the Pastoral Letter read in the Archdiocese of Westminster today, Archbishop Nichols picks up on one of the Holy Father’s comments, and makes the entirely valid point that the use of such greetings as ‘God Bless you’, and the more frequent – and visible – use of the sign of the cross are a valuable way of emphasising the Catholic Faith in an increasingly secular society.

It goes without saying that presumptuous as it is of me to say so, I entirely agree : because I actually have a passionate belief that the more any and all Catholics can do to direct the attention of others to their Catholic Faith, the greater the chance – in the long term – that we shall have of drawing the world back to the Church.

Let me, however, make a number of other comments.

First, it is one of my delights that the young Dominicans in particular make a point of fulfilling all their religious obligations properly habited; which includes doing their duties to their Priories fully clad . . . and indeed in general they undertake such social activities as are appropriate in the habit as well.

I have always regretted it when I meet clergy about their clerical business but not wearing their cassocks . . . indeed I have to say that the only person I know who is never seen in his parish other than in a cassock is an Anglican . . . because I believe that wearing the cassock (and appropriate headgear : galero or biretta) in public is a valuable act of witness.

So, I would hope and pray that this simple witness to the Faith might expand; and I do hope that any of my readers who are priests, or who are otherwise entitled to wear the cassock or a habit, may try to do so as often as possible, rather than ‘only when it’s unavoidable’ !

Similarly – and this applies to all of us – if we eat in public (and many of us do quite frequently), although I’m not suggesting that we should declaim lengthy Graces, it must be apparent that it is not only useful, but also appropriate, for us to mutter a brief thanksgiving to God, and make the sign of the Cross at least before we begin to eat; if not also when we finish . . . which are valuable and informative acts of witness to our Faith, and to God’s love for His people.

Might I also encourage the saying of the Angelus – this by everyone, of course, not just by the clergy and religious ?

Obviously it would be nice if all churches with bells could arrange for the Angelus to be rung; but it’s not hard for any of us to arrange to say the Angelus at the appointed times (06:00, 12:00, and 18:00 – and, I suppose, midnight if you are awake !), and although I’m not suggesting proclaiming it aloud, the brief pause from other activities, just for a moment or so, and the three signs of the cross which naturally accompany it, are a small but effective witness to the Faith which we proclaim.

Because, as the Holy Father rightly commended, and Archbishop Nichols more precisely defines, every clear and visible example of the Faith in practice is a precious reminder to the secular world . . . and a small missionary act which is not beyond any of us.

Another Aspect for Consideration

The things that we pray for, good Lord, give us grace to labour for.
S. Thomas More

It was interesting to me to consider the various comments which were made about the recent posts relating to abortion; not least because some of them made a number of comments about me which were fascinatingly inaccurate . . . which in turn led me to wonder whether or not I have at some point in the past given just cause for them : such as the assumption that I am preparing for ordination to the Sacred Priesthood . . . a suggestion which could scarcely be farther from the truth !

I admit to some theological study; but that is motivated by the quote from S. Thomas More at the head of this pose; because it seems to me that there is little point me praying to God for development both in spirituality and – given that my spiritual inclination is primarily Dominican – the ability to assist others if I do not put some effort into achieving it . . . which means that, especially as a convert, I have to study, and to contemplate, as well as to pray.

Equally, whilst I am quite ready to admit that I may not always make myself entirely clear – expression in discussions about provocative topics is frequently a minefield – my personal inclination is always to avoid being judgemental; hence whilst I am quite ready to be unequivocal about my convictions about abstract topics, I actually try to avoid making what are, or might even appear to be, personal remarks . . . and on consideration I realize that whilst I was not necessarily wrong to relate the content of the comment on which I based that post, I should have edited it to remove the slightest identification . . . because I wasn’t seeking to judge an individual’s position, rather to consider a topic.

You may feel that I give the lie to this observation by last evening’s post about the lady in Ireland : but there I think I am entitled to become slightly personal, simply because the lady has deliberately ‘gone public’ about this precise issue, and made her position absolutely clear . . . which I freely accept was not absolutely the case in the comment to which I referred previously, and which brought me into such opprobrium !

So : I’ve learnt my lesson, and shall try not to cause upset again, whilst at the same time trying very hard to continue to muse in ways which may be of at least some slight interest, and possibly even use, to my followers and readers . . . who are, of course, always the subject of my prayers.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Well did you ever . . ?

There are times when you seriously wonder whether you have completely lost the plot, and begun to hallucinate . . . and when I read this remarkable blog post I truly wondered whether I had taken leave of my senses : it is just so stupid.
In fact, if it hadn’t been the lovely Mary Regan’s blog, I think I’d have come to the conclusion that it couldn’t be completely believed : but because Mary wrote it, I know that it can . . . so I do.

An Irishwoman, the mother of a monk, is trying to persuade Irishwomen to boycott the Mass tomorrow as a way of persuading the Church to recognize that it must ordain women . . . in other words, her commitment to Catholicism is to encourage her sisters to commit the wholly pointless mortal sin of missing Mass, in order to try to achieve something which the Church has already said is not within its power to provide.

My only comment is that encouraging others to ignore the commandment to hear Mass on Sundays suggests – indeed at least arguably proves – that the lady in question simply has no grasp of the fundamentals of Catholicism . . . in which case the rest of her arguments are inherently unreliable.

There are other Churches which already subscribe to the principles which she – and those like her – promote. Why don’t they just go to those – failing as many of them are – rather than seek to create strife and dissension in the Catholic Church ? It would be so much easier – for them, and for everyone else.

One aspect of my thinking . . .

Alright : I said something yesterday, perhaps a bit en passant, which may have caused some confusion . . . namely, that I don’t ever feel inclined to criticise or condemn women who have abortions; although I quite obviously do have a problem with abortion per se.

So perhaps an explanation is called for . . .

A Mortal Sin has three distinct – but unmistakable – characteristics : it is serious in character, and it requires full recognition that what one is doing is sinful, and full consent to doing it.

Now, clearly abortion is serious in character, inasmuch as it involves the destruction of a living being; so that characteristic is clearly satisfied. It is the other two requirements which I, for one, would never be prepared to say were satisfied by the decision of any woman to have an abortion : recognition, and consent.

Fr Davis SJ, the writer of one of the traditional standard texts on Moral Theology points out that ‘If one was disturbed by vehement passion or distraction’ then one’s ‘advertence’ (to use the technical term for recognition) was insufficient for the sin to be mortal . . . and he then goes on to point out that there are a wide range of things which can disturb the person's judgement sufficiently to preserve them from mortal sin.

Now : precisely because I accept that a great many women ultimately decide to have an abortion as the (often unsolicited) result of considerable emotional pressure, mental stress and distress, and even (effectively) mental disturbance, I accept that it is at least probable that their recognition of what they are doing is likely to be sufficiently disturbed for the sin to be mortal : not least because if they recognize it as a sin, they don’t want to be committing it . . . so it’s certainly not for me to decide that it’s a sin.

Equally, it is quite common for them not to want to have an abortion, but to feel themselves pressured into it; so that the consent must be at least impaired . . . so that, again, the sinfulness of it is uncertain.

As a result of this - which is hardly advanced Moral Theology - although I am quite certain of the sinfulness of abortion as an act, that doesn’t mean that a particular woman is actually committing a sin in doing it : and if she is, I am certainly not competent to determine that fact.

Likewise, although I find the idea of abortion as a deliberate choice motivated by (eg) convenience even more grievously undesirable, I have to accept that a woman who thinks that this is an acceptable line of reasoning is very probably not committing a mortal sin, if only because she clearly does not recognize that what she is doing falls into that category . . .

As a result of all of this, whilst I feel myself entirely entitled to say with certainty that abortion is a mortal sin, I feel myself equally incapable of saying with even comparative certainty that any given woman has actually committed it . . . simply because as I realize that the vast majority of women are not themselves absolutely clear about all the relevant aspects of their decision, I am certainly not capable of being clear about whether what they have done satisfies the three essential characteristics of being mortally sinful.

I therefore simply try and approach each and every woman I ever meet who has had an abortion - and there have been quite a number - with care, sympathy, and understanding; and leave deciding the exact nature of what they have done to Almighty God . . . I just try and show them the compassion that I believe that - all things being equal - God would wish they had felt able to show to their babies.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Salve, Regina !

Salve, Regina,
Mater misericordiae,
vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve.
ad te clamamus
exsules filii Evae,
ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes
in hac lacrimarum valle.
Eia, ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos
misericordes oculos ad nos converte;
et Jesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui,
nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.
O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria.

This is a very old postcard photo of the image of Our Lady of Walsingham in the Holy House of the Anglican Shrine in October 1931, which seems an appropriate 'farewell' to today.

Our Lady of Walsingham ~ Pray for England

O Blessed Virgin Mary,
Mother of God,
and our most gentle queen and mother,
look down in mercy upon England,
your dowry,
and upon us all
who greatly hope and trust in you.

By you it was that Jesus,
our Saviour and our hope,
was given to the world;
and he has given you to us
that we may hope still more.

Plead for us your children,
whom you received and accepted
at the foot of the cross,
O mother of sorrows.

Pray for our separated brethren,
that in the one true fold of Christ,
we may all be united
under the care of Pope Benedict,
the chief shepherd of Christ's flock.

Pray for us all, dear mother,
that, by faith
and fruitful in good works,
we may all deserve to see and praise God,
together with you
in our heavenly home.

The Walsingham Angelus

Angelvs Domini
V. Angelus Domini Nvntiavit Mariam.
R. Et concepit de Spiritv Sancto.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominvs tecvm;
Benedicta tv in mvlieribvs, et Benedictvm frvctvm ventris tvi Ihefvs.
Sancta Maria, mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribvs,
nvnc, et in hora mortis noftrvm.

V. Ecce ancilla Domini
R. Fiat michi fecvndvm verbvum tvvm.
Ave Maria, &c

V. Et Verbvm caro factvm est..
R. Et habitavit in nobis.
Ave Maria, &c.

V. Oremvs :
Gratiam Tvvm, quaefvmvs Domine, mentibvs noftris infvnde : ut qui, Angelo nvntiante, Chrifti Filii Tvi incarnationem cognovimvs; per paffionem Ejvs et + crvcem, ad refvrrectionis gloriam perdvcamvr.
Per evndem Chriftvm Dominvm noftrvm.
R. Amen.

V. Animarvm omnivm fidelivm defvnctorvm, per mifericordiam Dei, reqviefcant in pace.
R. Et refvrgant in gloriam. Amen

(The text is set in a traditional format, and the picture is a postcard which was common in Walsingham years ago - though I haven't see it around recently - and which shows the Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox images of Our Lady of Walsingham.)

Mary of Walsingham, Mother of England.

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham; and especially at this time, with the effect of Anglicanorum Coetibus rapidly impending, and the prospect of the Ordinariates looming, it seems to me worth remembering that Walsingham is probably the one place where there is least tension between the various different Churches
. . . because everyone is brought there by a love of Mother, and sees that as more significant than the disntinctions between them.

Certainly every Catholic who has visited the Anglican Shrine will know that they are always warmly welcomed, and made to feel fully at home there.

So : today I shall pray for ALL Walsingham Pilgrims, whatever their background, and remember with great love both the Shrines . . . and if you wonder why I use a picture of the Holy House of the Anglican Shrine, well it's because I have too many connections with it not to have it centrally in my mind, and because it's not in any case ultimately 'Anglican', or 'Catholic', or anything except 'Mother's' . . . and Mother's home is, of course, our home too.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

What have I started . . ?

Wow ! I seem to have started something with the last post . . . but I have to be honest and say that I'm not sure I do claim to know God's will on this issue : all I’m trying to do is to say that I know what God’s will has been perceived as being for at least most of the history of the Church, and that as humanity’s perception of what is right and wrong in this particular issue has changed drastically in the comparatively recent past, and as most of Christianity seems to have changed in the wake of that ‘development’, I am now confused, and seeking to make sense of it in the light of the Church’s understanding of God’s purposes and teaching.

At the same time I’m slightly concerned by the criticisms of me, as they appear to be based on various misconceptions - mainly of me, but also to some extent of the Campaign.

Let me make it clear : I am not supporting the Campaign with the intention of inherently criticising the women who go to the abortion depot outside which the Vigil is being held; or even the decisions they have made. which have led to them going there. My criticism – such as it is – is restricted to the way the world’s thinking has ‘developed’ over the last half-century or so, so as to suggest (in effect) that abortion is a trivial issue which hardly need be thought about; that it can almost be viewed as a legitimate option to contraception; and that in any event, it’s entirely the woman's choice.

As a result of that viewpoint - which is a well established one - I have to say that Irim's comment that ‘No woman does it for a good time’ is demonstrably inaccurate.

I freely accept that for some – even many – women seeking abortions, it is the most traumatic, difficult, and even heartbreaking decision they will ever make : but sadly it cannot be denied that many women nowadays use abortion simply as an alternative to contraception, which is ultimately merely the last stage of a laissez-faire attitude to sexual licence . . .

In any case, though, my post was not discussing the issue of abortion per se; rather, the question I was trying to consider - on an academic level, if you like - was whether one can legitimately claim to be both Catholic and ‘pro-choice’ . . . which is sadly not quite what, it appears, my critics have construed my remarks as doing.

As a matter of hard fact - and as many ladies of various ages, including some of my dearest and closest female friends, can confirm - I have infinite compassion and support for those who are considering abortion out of difficulty or fear (those who are not in such circumstances simply do it, and don’t discuss it anyway); and I have given a great deal of support over the years to women who have chosen to have abortions in such circumstances. I may never have encouraged them to follow that path; but I have always offered them both practical and spiritual support and care, and unending sympathy . . . not infrequently a good deal more than they got from the man whose child they felt obliged to destroy . . . and I have certainly never been found guilty of criticising, still less condemning, them – that’s not my job, nor my inclination.

Apart from anything else, I have come to recognize that, if I was female, it’s infinitely possible that - whatever I may believe as a man - I might in certain circumstances come to the conclusion that an abortion was the ‘only way’ for me; and follow it . . . so I don’t actually feel that I can criticize women who do that.

My commitment to the Pro-Life movement is fundamentally a criticism of the changes in thought which have led people to see sexuality as a purely recreational activity, and coping with the physical consequences of that activity as simply a necessary - but unimportant - result : it’s certainly not – ever – a criticism of women who find themselves having to cope with the consequences.

And my interest isn’t in ‘being right’; not least because I have myself been wrong in such matters in the past : it’s in the Church's obligation to try to work out what it’s proper position is, so that it can continue to fulfil its responsibility to God to preach and teach His truth in the world . . . which is why I ultimately have to repeat the question, albeit in slightly modified terms : ‘Is the ‘pro-choice’ position one which is compatible with God’s wishes as held and taught by the Catholic Church ?’

Now . . . am I wrong, or is she ?

I don’t know if you know about the 40 Days for Life initiative, which started yesterday, and will end at 23:30 on October 31 ? It’s a clear Pro-Life Campaign which aims to ‘mark the beginning of the end of abortion throughout the UK’.

The ‘official’ statement reads :

40 Days for Life is a focused pro-life effort that consists of :

- 40 days of prayer and fasting

- 40 days of peaceful vigil

- 40 days of community outreach

We are praying that, with God's help, this groundbreaking effort will mark the beginning of the end of abortion throughout the UK.

While all aspects of 40 Days for Life are crucial in our effort to end abortion, the most visible component is the peaceful prayer vigil outside a London abortion facility.

(To know more, or to sign up for specific hours in the vigil, I suggest you look it up on facebook, or email the organizers for further information : )

You won’t be surprised to know that I support this; and am hoping to be able to fit it a number of hours at the vigil . . . and there are a great many other people who are supporting it in other ways, even people from thousands of miles away who can’t possibly be there, but who are keeping the Campaign in their prayers.

What I found really horrendous was the response of one young lady who was invited to join the Campaign, who responded thus :

‘Thanks for the invite mate, but sorry guys its a no. Despite being Catholic my views are definately in opposition to whats written above’ (verbatim quote)

Now; my understanding of the position is this : that the Catholic Church has a clear and unequivocal teaching on this subject, which is that abortion is simply wrong; it’s sinful, and must be opposed by all Catholics.

So how can one say, in the same sentence, that one is a Catholic, and that one is opposed to a campaign to end abortion . . ?

It seems to me that one of us has misunderstood what our Faith requires of us; which leads to the question, ‘Am I wrong, or is she ?’ . . . and if it’s her that’s wrong, to the secondary question ‘Who’s to blame for the fact that a young lady who has these opinions can also think that she’s a Catholic ?’ – or, if you prefer, ‘Who’s responsible for the fact that a young lady who’s a Catholic thinks she can also hold these opinions ?’

At the very least, it seems to me that there must have been some horrendous shortcomings in catechesis somewhere in the last (I’m guessing) twenty years or so.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Appropriate for Today (ii)

Deus, qui beátum Ioánnem Henrícum, presbýterum, lumen benígnum tuum sequéntem pacem in Ecclésia tua inveníre contulísti, concéde propítius, ut, eius intercessióne et exémplo, ex umbris et imagínibus in plenitúdinem veritátis tuae perducámur. Per Dominum.

(O God, who bestowed on the Priest Blessed John Henry Newman the grace to follow your kindly light and find peace in your Church; graciously grant that, through his intercession and example, we may be led out of shadows and images into the fulness of your truth. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.)

. . . and this is appropriate because this evening, at the London Oratory, the 'Newman Celebrations' conclude with a Solemn Mass celebrated by Archbishop Nichols, at which the new 'Newman Chapel' will be dedicated.

This prayer is the appointed Collect for Blessed John Henry Newman's feast day.

Appropriate for Today (i)

Blessed Jordan,
worthy successor of St Dominic,
in the early days of the Order,
your example and zeal
prompted many men and women
to follow Christ in the white habit
of Our Holy Father.
As patron of Dominican vocations,
continue to stimulate talented
and devoted men and women
to consecrate their lives to God.
Through your intercession,
lead to the Order of Preachers
generous and sacrificing persons,
willing to give themselves fervently
to the apostolate of Truth.
Help them to prepare themselves
to be worthy of the grace of a Dominican vocation.
Inspire their hearts to become learned of God,
that with firm determination they might aspire to be
'champions of the Faith and true lights of the world'.
. . . and I think this is appropriate for today, because today fr Robert Verrill OP makes Solemn Profession at Blackfriars, Oxford; and thus becomes the very latest making an irrevocable commitment to his Dominican Vocation.
May God give him the grace to follow it to the end, and may Our Blessed Lady and S. Dominic always keep him in their hearts and under their protection.
Please pray for him, and all the other members of the Dominican Family.


Not content with too much to do at work, Providence then also sent some computer - or rather Internet - problems : which is why there has been a slight glitch in posting.

Sorry about that; it has (I hope and pray) now been sorted, so that normal service should, I trust, now be resumed.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Do Material Goods help ?

‘Man naturally desires perpetual stability. But this cannot be found in material things, which are subject to corruption and many kinds of change. Therefore the human appetite cannot find the sufficiency it needs in material goods. Accordingly, man’s ultimate happiness cannot consist in such goods.’

S. Thomas Aquinas

I find that a useful reminder for occasional consideration; usually when I’m looking at something in a shop window, or online, and thinking how nice it would be to have . . . I’m pleased to be able to say that I’ve got to the stage where it works at least fifty percent of the time. Well, alright fifty percent of the time except in bookshops . . . but I am trying !

I'm not alone in my thoughts . . .

You may know that there are quite a lot of people nowadays who object to all the changes in the Church over the last X (insert to suit their tastes) hundred years; because, they argue, changes take us away from the fundamentals of the Faith, and reliance on – for instance – the decisions of Popes, who move the Church away from slavish adherence to tradition, aer just wrong : indeed potentially sinful.

Maybe it’s just because I’m a convert that I disagree with this, and feel that the whole point of the Pope is to provide a mechanism by which God ensures that the Church adheres scrupulously to the Faith, whilst interpreting it afresh to meet the changing needs of a changing world . . . but of course that position itself has attracted criticism from such people.

So, I was delighted to discover that it wasn’t exactly a position unique to me.

How about this :

Things go on surviving only because of certain hidden changes which leave the past in the past and proceed into the future by way of harmony with the present. So it is with the Church . . . as it is with all living bodies which preserve an unchanging identity even while, because of the very progress of life, they undergo a process of change which continually renews them. The Church today is identically the same as that of the Middle Ages by its hierarchy, its dogmas, its rituals, its morals .And yet how different it is ! . . . To raise the past as an objection against anyone is to make his cradle an objection to a grown man, to make life an objection to life.

So said fr Henri Dominique Lacordaire OP in 1839 . . . clearly there were people around then with the same ideas as some people still have today : and I would suggest that fr Henri’s observations hold just as good today.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

The State Farewell

Please . . . may I join in the State Farewell to His Holiness . . ?

Well now . . !

For those of you who haven't seen it - which is probably most of you - the London Oratory has rather 'gone to town' on arranging the Church for the Beatification of the man who was, ultimately, responsible for its existence.

Not only are the usual elegant red-and-gold hangings up on the pillars around the Church - presumably at least mainly for the Solemn Mass on Wednesday at which Archbishop Nicholls will dedicate the new Altar in honour of the new Beatus - but they've even managed to obtain some weatherproof ones for the pillars on the frontage of the Church . . . and completed the array with a gigantic pictorial banner in the style of the ones that used to be put on the frontage of S. Peter's for canonizations !

And of course, so that the statue of Blessed John Henry outside the gates of Oratory House doesn't feel left out, they've even put a set of pillar hangings there too !

(I don't know where they got them from, Fr Tim; but I have little doubt that F. Rupert could tell you, and that they manufacturers could provide a nice set of the blue-and-silver ones which the Oratory uses for Feasts of Our Lady in the appropriate sizes for the outside of Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen . . . and for the Presbytery and the Social Club as well, if you fancied it !)

Suitable for Cardinals ?

No cincture or biretta, I accept . . . but surely the right elephant for Cardinals !

Saturday, 18 September 2010

By way of explanation

I’m sure at least some on my followers and readers are wondering why I’ve said almost nothing about the Holy Father since he arrived in the UK, and posted no pictures of him.

Well, simply because I’ve not yet been able to see him, and it seems to me little point in using second-hand pictures, and making comments about what he is doing and saying based on reportage which you have quite probably read before me.

As I think I mentioned the other day : it is a matter of almost infallible reliability that, the moment there’s a good red-hot story going on, the work I do – most of which is directly concerned with Human Rights – suddenly erupts in my face, and makes huge demands upon me.

So yes, I was in central London yesterday . . . in the High Court; and I’m in court again on Monday (in Birmingham), and on Tuesday (more of Friday’s matter, but in a different place) . . . and because of the sudden eruption I’m also having to spend much of today doing paperwork for it as well.

The result of all of this is that I am probably the furthest behind in terms of knowing what’s happening, because I only find out about it when other bloggers inform me . . . which is why I can see little point in boring people by repeating the same things.

Hence, nothing about the Papal Visit – at least, nothing directly about it – but hopefully a few odds and ends which won’t totally bore everyone : and no doubt normal service will be sort of resumed next week. Thank You.

Well would you believe it . . ?

Yesterday I posted a piece about the idiocy of having the most important single Tube line in Central London shut down for what is undoubtedly the busiest weekend – not only of this year, but probably of the last ten years.

This morning, trying to get to Mass – remember that I’m not allowed to drive at present, so rely on public transport – I discovered that there are vast cancellations, postponements, and bus replacements not only on my local railway services into London, but also (so I’m told) on others as well . . . really brilliant planning for the weekend of a State Visit when they must, surely, have foreseen that there would be a lot of people wanting to get into London to take part in things.

Don’t ask me who to blame – it’s clearly not the staff one sees at the Stations, who are doing a very good job of trying to help people resolve their problems with the least possible fuss and inconvenience – but I have to say that the Government’s planning team have to accept some of the responsibility, for not warning the railway companies in quite definite tones right at the very beginning that this was definitely not the weekend to have cancellations.

They didn’t do that ? Not : thought not . . . which suggests that they’re either not very interested, or aren’t very competent.

You decide which.

Hippo Bathday !

Far too difficult to provide lists . . . but today is the Birthday of no less than four friends; two of whom are particularly close, and two others good facebook friends . . . so I just say Hippo Bathday to them all !

Friday, 17 September 2010

Forward Planning !

For the benefit of non-Londoners, this is the map of the central part of the Tube system in London - slightly extended down as far as Wimbledon for His Holiness' benefit ! - which makes it clear, I think, that the Circle line (the yellow, bottle-shaped line) is of great importance to the rapid and easy movement of large numbers of people around Central London . . . and, of course, it makes access to both sides of Hyde Park very easy (Kensington High Street and Notting Hill Gate) - particularly from most of the major mainline stations bringing people in London : very convenient for the many thousands who will be going there tomorrow . . . no ?

No : because the Circle line is, apparently, closed all this weekend.

Now that's what one calls really sensible forward planning !

A Useful Accessory

This elephant would be a useful accessory for the Popemobile, as it is a walking map of London . . . complete with handy illustrations of many major landmarks !

Maybe things are better than we think . . .

I’ve read – and in principle agree with – the points made in the various posts of Lawrence, Fr Ray, and Mac (Mulier Fortis), about the possibility of a suitable response to the letter in The Guardian signed by so many people who are at least vaguely well-known.

The only question which crosses my mind is whether it is worth rising to their bait. After all, their remarks are largely without substance : so one has to wonder why they are making them . . . and the more I think about it, the more I wonder whether the real reason why they make such idiotic remarks is because they are afraid of the Holy Father and the Catholic Church, and therefore feel that they need to be seen to be contesting him.

After all, if they thought there was little in the Church’s and the Holy Father’s position, and that no-one took any notice of them, then surely they’d not waste their time trying to promote an anti-Catholic position ?

In an odd way, I think this sort of conspicuous nonsense is actually rewarding, inasmuch as it makes it clear that these people feel that the Church and the Pope need active opposition . . .

Perhaps things aren’t as bad as we may have feared !

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Welcome, Holy Father . . !

I just thought that this was a suitable elephant with which to welcome His Holiness to Great Britain !

That’s life . . .

The Holy Father arrives in the UK, so obviously I want to have as much time as possible in which to pay attention to just what is happening, and to give the benefit of prayer and devotion to the Holy Father’s activities whilst he is in the UK.

As a result of my illness – or rather of the continuing uncertainty as to exactly what is wrong with me (if indeed anything) – and the practical demands created by attendance at the various events, I have had to conclude that I simply cannot afford to take the risk of going to any of the actual events : but I had come to the conclusion that I would be able to view things on TV (not, admittedly, on my own, TV, simply because I don’t have one; but that was not beyond curing, as most of my friends (a) have one, and (b) were happy to allow me to watch things); and that this was still a good and positive way of supporting him in his visit.

Unfortunately, as is so often the way, as soon as I want time to attend to such things, I find myself surrounded by people who are being abused, or treated unjustly by those who ought to know better : but whose problems cannot be ignored for a few days, because the pressures are so immediate – indeed one of my Clients is facing deportation from the UK over the weekend – on entirely unjustified grounds, admittedly; but in order to prevent anything happening, drastic action needs to be taken to protect the Client . . . so suddenly I have no free time at all, and as far as I can see I have little or no chance of resolving this matter in any way whatever.

So, I shall pray for the Holy Father and his activities and ministry in England, and just hope that things may work out that I may get a chance to witness at least some little bits of what is happening . . . but I suspect that the reality is that all I shall be able to do is to support everyone else – and particularly the Holy Father – with my prayers, and hope to watch some recorded material in due course.

I pray that everyone who is able to attend, or even to view, gains much spiritual benefit, and is instrumental in promoting the Holy Father’s importance to the Church and the world . . . and I shall pray, quietly as I get on with looking after the interests of those with problems, and hope that my prayers may be of some slight use, and that you may all benefit greatly from your attendance at, or attention to, the Papal events.

May God bless you all.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Decisions . . .

One friend looked at me with rather more than a little surprise the other day when I said that I wasn’t going to the Oratory next Wednesday evening when Archbishop Nichols is going to dedicate the new Altar to Blessed John Henry Newman following a High Mass of the said Beatus.

I hasten to add that I should love to be there : it is just that on consideration I recognized that there are some things that are more important even than that . . . not least because the Altar will be there for the rest of my life.

fr Robert Verrill OP, however, will only make Solemn Profession once . . . and he is doing that on Wednesday as well.

The altar – from what I have seen – is a splendid and fitting tribute to the good Cardinal; and I have little doubt that, over the years, I shall hear Mass at it more than a few times : but it is an entirely abstract thing, and has no need of my prayers.

fr Robert, on the other hand, is taking a – perhaps even the – decisive step in his life; and I think it behoves all his friends and supporters to be there with him, to add their prayers to his at this momentous moment . . . not least because he will continue, throughout his life, to fulfil an active ministry in God’s service, and not merely the passive one that the altar will provide.

I suppose that, in years to come, when fr Robert has been ordained a priest, I may gently try and persuade him to celebrate Mass on that altar, if only because of the fortunate coincidence of them sharing a ‘starting point’ : but that’s neither here nor there.

What matters for the present is that I believe that, however valuable the altar is, it is the ministry of one of God’s Order of Preachers that is ultimately more valuable in advancing His cause; and so it is to support that ministry that I shall give myself next Wednesday . . . and whether you think I have made the right choice or not, I do ask all of you to keep fr Robert and his Dominican future in your prayers that day as he makes his solemn vows into the hands of his Prior Provincial – on behalf of the Master – at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Stabat Mater

Stabat Mater dolorosa
Iuxta crucem lacrimosa
Dum pendebat Filius

Cuius animam gementem
Contristatam et dolentem
Pertransivit gladius

O quam tristis et afflicta
Fuit illa benedicta
Mater unigeniti!

Quae moerebat et dolebat,
Pia Mater, dum videbat
Nati poenas incliti

Quis est homo qui non fleret,
Matrem Christi si videret
In tanto supplicio?

Quis non posset contristari,
Christi Matrem contemplari
Dolentem cum Filio?

Pro peccatis suae gentis
Vidit Iesum in tormentis,
Et flagellis subditum.

Vidit suum dulcem natum
Moriendo desolatum
Dum emisit spiritum

Eia Mater, fons amoris
Me sentire vim doloris
Fac, ut tecum lugeam

Fac, ut ardeat cor meum
In amando Christum Deum
Ut sibi complaceam

Sancta Mater, istud agas,
Crucifixi fige plagas
Cordi meo valide.

Tui nati vulnerati,
Tam dignati pro me pati,
Poenas mecum divide.

Fac me tecum, pie, flere,
Crucifixo condolere,
Donec ego vixero.

Iuxta crucem tecum stare,
Et me tibi sociare
In planctu desidero.

Virgo virginum praeclara,
Mihi iam non sis amara
Fac me tecum plangere.

Fac, ut portem Christi mortem
Passionis fac consortem,
Et plagas recolere.

Fac me plagis vulnerari,
Fac me cruce inebriari,
Et cruore Filii.

Flammis ne urar succensus
Per Te, Virgo, sim defensus
In die iudicii.

Christe, cum sit hinc exire,
Da per Matrem me venire
Ad palmam victoriae.

Quando corpus morietur,
Fac, ut animae donetur
Paradisi gloria. Amen

I'm sorry; but this seems to me to be the first and greatest meditation for today . . .

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Signposts to Eternal Life

Talis est tantaque crucis possessio, et qui hanc possidet, possidet thesaurum. Ego vero id quod omnium bonorum pulcherrimum est re ac nomine, thesaure iure appellaverim; in quo, et per quem, et in quem salutis nostrae summa reposita, et pristino statui restituta est. *

There are those who deride relics of the True Cross : those for whom they are nothing; less, indeed, than nothing . . . and yet these are pieces of the wood of the Cross on which Our Blessed Lord gave up His life for our eternal Salvation : pieces of wood, some of them, stained with that Blood which washes us clean of our sins, and gains us entry into eternal life.

They are, therefore, treasures beyond any earthly price : because as S. Andrew of Crete said, they are the treasures in which all the riches of our salvation are stored away, and through which they are given to us.

If we can venerate a relic of the True Cross today, then, let us kneel humbly and do so : let us do so with reverence, and try and focus our minds, even if only for a few minutes, on exactly what Jesus did for us . . . and try and recognize what we should do to show that, even if we do not, and never will, deserve what He did, we would at least wish to; so that we recognize that we must, constantly, seek to reshape our lives to acknowledge His generous love.

By penitence, confession, and service . . . or at any rate our best attempts at those things . . . we may at least indicate in some slight way our desire to conform to His will : so that we may, in the fullness of time, and after a life following Him on earth, and purging ourselves of our earthly failings in Purgatory, come to see Him in the fullness of His majesty in Heaven . . . a road which begins, for us, with a recognition of the endless, boundless, generosity of His love for us expressed on that Cross.

* How great the Cross; what blessings it holds ! He who possesses it possesses a treasure. More noble, more precious than anything on earth, in fact and in name, it is indeed a treasure, for in it and through it and for it all the riches of our salvation were stored away and restored to us. (Translation from The Divine Office)

In Hoc Signo Vinces

Holy Cross Day . . . a day to rejoice, because the Cross is our symbol, our banner; the sign under which we fight and - hopefully - conquer . . .
and yet at the same time it is also something which is meant to remind us that we should be willing to take up our crosses to follow Him Who died for us.

The problem with doing that, of course, is that it implies suffering; and none of us wishes to suffer . . . but what did S. John Marie-Vianney say ? ‘The cross is the ladder to heaven . . . How consoling it is to suffer under the eyes of God, and to be able to say in the evening, at our examination of conscience : “Come, my soul ! thou hast had today two or three hours of resemblance to Jesus Christ. Thou hast been scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified with Him !” Oh what a treasure for the hour of death ! How sweet it is to die, when we have lived on the cross ! We ought to run after crosses as the miser runs after money . . . Nothing but crosses will reassure us at the Day of Judgment. When that day shall come, we shall be happy in our misfortunes, proud of our humiliations, and rich in our sacrifices.’ *

So, distasteful as we may find it, we should recognize that the sufferings which God sends us are at least partly His way of giving us a way into Heaven : of showing us the ladder which will allow us to climb there . . . and if climbing is a painful process, perhaps the more painful it is here, the less time we shall have to spend in Purgatory before we are allowed through the final gates, to enter into our Heavenly inheritance.

Do you remember those verses of ‘Abide with me’ that speak of the moments of death ?

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

It sounds trite; but for those of us who have been privileged to be with someone as they die, we know that it is true . . . for if they know that God is with them, then they can feel secure; and the sight of Jesus’ Holy Cross is a powerful token of His love, and His presence.

How does it go on ?

‘Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes’ . . . well, for so many of us Catholics, that is one of the graces we are given : to die with the cross (or better still the crucifix) before our eyes . . . something which helps us to remember that not only all the sufferings we have already endured, but this little one which we are enduring now, are so small in God’s grand scheme of things and offer us so much . . . because they offer us the way to Salvation : they
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Today is Holy Cross day; and amongst other things the Feast of Title of the Dominican Priory Church in Leicester, to whom I extend my prayerful Good Wishes . . . but above all, it is a reminder for us all that it is in the Holy Cross that we are shown that ‘ladder to heaven’; that path by which, through suffering and death, we are led to Heaven : a destiny which I earnestly pray God to grant you all.

* from the ‘Catechism on Suffering’

Monday, 13 September 2010

Well, did you ever . . ?

Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles is not my favourite prelate. Come to that, he’s not the favourite prelate of a lot of other decent Catholics . . . although I have to say that when I lived in LA there were quite a number of people who did seem to think he was wonderful; not least the tall blonde lady in tight jeans and a short T-shirt who turned out to be a nun, and something to do with the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission !

However : when you look at this photo, you begin to realize just how much damage people he, and others like him, have done to the Church . . .

I make no further comment, except to suggest that none of the matter looks even remotely like proper Eucharistic matter – indeed the ‘bread’ looks like poppadums, to my eyes, and the ‘wine’ like watered-down Ribena : and as to the vessels, well as far as I can see they’ve been carefully chosen to break every single requirement of the relevant legislative text, Redemptionis Sacramentum.

Cardinal ? Frankly, if he was in the UK, I think that the Faithful could probably bring an succesful action against him under the Misrepresentation Act 1967 . . . because his adherence to the laws of Holy Mother Church is close to zero, which strongly suggests that he cannot properly be described as a ‘hinge’ on which the Church properly hangs.

His fairly imminent departure from LA is, it seems to me, something for which we should all give thanks to God - and to the Holy Father !

. . . and thanks for the photo to Grandma Snark, of ‘Extra-Ordinary Monkey Business’ . . . which describes itself as ‘Devoted to Liturgical Abuse’, but I think (hope ?!) probably means ‘Dedicated to Eliminating Liturgical Abuse’ !

Exactly how NOT to do it . . .

Today’s post on Godzdogz provides an excellent and easy-to-understand explanation of what for many non-Catholics (alright, and for some ill-catechised Catholics as well) is a major conceptual problem – the doctrine of Transubstantiation : the latest in their excellent series of posts generically entitled A-Z of the Mass.

The explanations they provide are sensible, and do not assume that those reading them are stupid; but at the same time do not assume that they have any prior knowledge either - so they solve a genuine problem very effectively.

What else is available today ?

Well, having had a busy weekend, I didn’t get to see much yesterday; so it was thanks to Mac’s post about what the English Bishop’s have done to try and inform the media and the general public that I found Fr Ray’s comments on this subject (entitled ‘English Bishops’ Office Waste Even More Money’) : and I have to say that I entirely agree not only with his title, but also with all he says.

If this is the best they can do, then frankly I think they’d have been better to have left well alone, and given the full responsibility to a competent team of Dominican Students and other bloggers . . . a suggestion which I have made before !

Go and read what Fr Ray and Mac have said . . . and tell them (and me, just for the record) what you think of what they say.

Left-Footer's comment (q.v.) set me thinking; and made me realize that at least two of the ‘interpretations’ are actually actively misleading as a statement of their Catholic usage, inasmuch as the obvious understanding of them (as they stand) would be heretical.

As noted, ‘bread and wine’ is not an accurate - or even approximately accurate - interpretation of ‘Blessed Sacrament, Holy Communion’ : because it suggests that there is nothing special about it, which is, of course, exactly where the Catholic teaching differs from that of the rest of the world. ‘Holy Communion’ of the ‘Blessed Sacrament’ of the Altar is a reception of the Body & Blood, Soul & Divinity, of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; and suggesting that it is anything else is – to put it mildly – not Catholic.

Similarly, to suggest that ‘altar’ is synonymous with ‘table’ is inadequate, because the purpose of an altar is to be a place for sacrifice; a table is a setting for a meal : and one of the theological problems of the last few decades has been a tendency to move away from ‘The Sacrifice of the Mass’, and to focus on ‘The Last Supper’ . . . which is simply not an adequately comprehensive statement of what it’s about.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Is this right ?

Reading the Catholic Voices blog, there was an article yesterday about the BBC’s poll on Catholic opinions, which includes some slight discussion on the statistic that 62% of those polled – with identical scores for men and women - ‘say women should have more authority and status in the Catholic Church’.

Fair enough; that’s a poll result, and most of the comment is sensible and accurate . . . but it then concludes with what one must assume is the opinion of the author, that there ‘could be, should be, many more Vatican departments run by women’.

Why, precisely ? How can one justify that ? Vatican dicasteries are fundamental elements of the Church and whilst I amquite prepared to agree that they can quite properly involve women wherever appropriate, they should – must, indeed – ultimately be under the authority of members of the Hierarchy : and as they must be priests they cannot, by definition, be female.

Sorry : but it’s odd interjections like this which make me wonder about ‘Catholic Voices’ . . . whether there is, perhaps, a slight whisper, even in that comment, of ‘modern thinking’, and the need to bow to public opinion . . . which is what so many Catholics aer fighting against.

Putting it straight . . . at least a bit

In my recent post ‘So . . . start praying ?’, I was trying to make the point that what makes the Catholic Church the Church of God is that it is not a Church in which doctrine is malleable according to the will of humanity : indeed, I would have thought that the slightest consideration would have revealed that a Church which accepts that is possible is at risk, and a Church which declares that to be an inherent part of it can have little claim to be governed and guided by God, simply because it is a received truth that the Devil seeks to pervert man’s understanding of God’s word, so that he can lead mankind to Hell.

One of my commentors, BJR, said :

Dominic Mary,

Do you ever consider that you might be wrong and that the co-religionists that you treat with so much disdain may be representing a more substantial view of Christianity than your own?

It seems that your swim across the Tiber was motivated by the appearance of a representation of a certain 'brand' of Catholicism that is without any depth and is uncertain to survive beyond the lifetime of the current Pope.

Well, no, yes - but, and definitely not.

No, I don’t consider that I might be wrong; because it wasprecisely becaue I realized that I was wrong before, in belonging to a Church which believed that it had the power to alter its teachings in accordance with the wishes of its members that I joined the Tiber Swimming Club.

Yes, I am quite prepared to believe that those whose views I disagree with – I don’t hold the people in disdain, only their views – ‘represent a more substantial view of Christianity than my own’ : the problem is that, whether they do or don’t, they are wrong. God’s will is not, and cannot be, amended by the wishes of mankind.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll no doubt have to say it again. There are points on which I don’t quite understand why the Church teaches things; and these are things that are not explicitly found in the Scriptures, and which do not necessarily appear to accord with common sense, or even with what appears to be reason . . . but regardless of my views and uncertainties, I accept that if I go against those teachings, I sin – so I must confess my sin, and do penance for it.

My opinion, however thoughtful and pious it may be, is irrelevant, and does not form an excuse. Where something is open to discussion, that’s fine : where it’s already been defined, then I either accept it or not : but if I don’t accept it, then I imperil my soul if I go against it in private, and I obviously and overtly cease to be Catholic if I start fighting against it in public.

As to the last point, ‘definitely not’ is a polite response.

Catholicism is not open to being changed by my convictions; and to suggest that it is without any depth is mere nonsensical verbiage. It will survive beyond the present Holy Father’s reign, because it has already done so for two thousand years, given or take . . . the fact that for about the last forty there has been a substantial minority which has sought to pervert it, largely by ignoring fundamental truths, is irrelevant; that’s a very short-term thing, which is of no great importance.

The fact is that the Catholic Church embraces the eternal – and unchanging – truth of God sent to us for our salvation; and nothing we can do will change it, even if we end up being the only people who adhere to it.

The Holy Father has suggested that the Church may end up smaller : and I think he may be right. I know that there are many who think he is wrong, and misleading people, and that bowing down to the nonsenses being promoted about a whole raft of doctrines would be the right thing for him to do . . . because that way so many more people would join the Church.

Well, they might be right, at that : but Satan would be laughing fit to burst, because they’d be increasing the size of a Church which no longer believed in the truths of God . . . not a good idea.

A final point : I have no disdain for those who disagree with me, and who want to change what the Church believes.

I’m not suggesting they’re not Christians; and quite probably good Christians . . . only that you can’t be a good Catholic if you think that your opinions are more important than the teaching of the Church : so I have no disdain for them, or for their sincere beliefs . . . my disdain is only for those who believe that their opinions are more important than the teaching of the Church, and that the Church should change its teachings to suit them : because that’s simply not Catholic.

I don’t say they can’t be decent Christians and have those beliefs : only that they must accept that they can’t be Catholics and do so, and that they ought to be honest enough to go elsewhere, rather than trying to interfere with the Faith of the rest of us.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Find it within ourselves

‘Many think that sanctity consists in accomplishing things which attract the eyes of men. These things are necessary and oftentimes good for the Church, but this is not sanctity. Sanctity must be within us. How many humble priests there are in distant missions who are considered as inferiors, but who are higher in the sight of God in sanctity than those who seem to be on the pinnacle. God does not measure things from the human standard, and if we have the supernatural point of view we will never be discouraged. If we make sacrifices joyfully, and not in a half-hearted way, even the greatest trial will be a pleasure. This is the supernatural standpoint, and if we take it we will not be crushed by humiliations and mortifications.’

- from a speech by Rafael, Cardinal Merry del Val, to the Seminarians of the North American College, Rome, on the Feast of the Transfiguration (August 6th) 1921.

A Happy Meeting

One of the blogs I read is Domine, da mihi hanc aquam, which is written by a delightful American Dominican by the name of fr Philip Neri Powell OP, who seems to divide his time between the US and Rome, but who - wherever he is - manages to provide an amazing stream of insights into what’s happening in the Catholic Church in America . . . quite apart from excellent preaching, and a certain amount of wry humour !

One of the attractions for me is that he is a Domnican who clearly recognizes the connection between the Order and the Oratory . . . S. Philip was well-known for giving picnics to Dominican students in Rome in his day, and in Oxford today the two communities are close – not least becaue they’re next door neighbours !

I’m spending much of this weekend at Blackfriars, Oxford : and yesterday I found a visiting brother preparing dinner for those few Brethren who are in residence, and we got talking . . . and he mentioned that he was going to be saying one of the Masses at the Oxford Oratory next Sunday, which meant that he couldn’t go to the Beatification . . . but he was saying Mass so that the Fathers of the Oratory all could go; which makes sense.

However; he then said . . . ‘but I’d have liked to go, because my name’s Philip Neri’ : at which point I realized that I was talking to that excellent blogger ! A happy encounter : and one which prompted me to point you specifically in his direction . . . enjoy !

Friday, 10 September 2010

You all need to say the same thing

Fr Tim had a good post on Wednesday about the new translation of the Missal; and – drawing on a post by Fr Z – was suggesting that there was some importance in describing not simply as the ‘New’ translation, but rather as the ‘New and Corrected’ translation.

I agree.

At the same time, I would offer another very slight angle which is not really covered either by him or Fr Z – and this is no criticism, just an additional point for those who are interested.

Not only are the existing translations not really translations but – in all-too-many cases – more paraphrases; but the way they deform the original text is not even close to being the same in different languages.

Now : the primary argument for having one Missal for the whole Church is that, in that way, the whole Church celebrates the Mass – and thus (by implication) understands the Mass – in the same way – which is surely a fundamental requirement of being the Catholic (or ‘Universal’) Church.

However; if the words that we hear in different places aren’t the same, then what we understand by them must be different too.

Let me give you an example :

The response to the Orate Fratres in the editio typica of the Missale Romanum is

Suscipiat Dominus sacrificium
de manibus tuis
ad laudem et gloriam nominis Sui,
ad utilitatem quoque nostram
totiusque Ecclesiæ suæ sanctæ

the current English translation of which is .

May the Lord
accept the sacrifice at your hands
for the praise and glory
of his name, for our good,
and the good of all his Church.

- which isn’t really too bad – only one ‘and’ missing (and for our good), and the ‘holy’ before Church; but otherwise OK.

The French response, however, would be hilarious, if it wasn’t verging on being tragic :

Pour la gloire de Dieu, et le salut du monde.

Yes – that’s IT; nothing more : ‘For the glory of God, and the salvation of the world’.

Translation ? Not even close . . . scarcely even a paraphrase.

So; how can one say that the English and the French (or, to be precise, most of the English-speaking peoples, and all the French-speaking ones) understand the Mass in the same way ?

One can’t; because given such differences, they obviously don’t : in which case, are they worshipping God in the same way ?

No : in which case, how can you call it Catholic – or ‘Universal’– worship ?

You can’t : and that’s why the new, and corrected, translation is coming out in English; and in other languages, too, sooner or later . . . to make us a Catholic Church once more; just as we claim to be, and are meant to be.

So . . . start praying ?

One of the young people in the Radio 4 broadcast yesterday morning said that the great thing about being a Catholic is that you can pick and choose what you want to believe.

That’s not only utterly wrong, but it provides frightening evidence that there has been some terrifyingly bad catechesis somewhere.

The great thing about being a Catholic – and certainly the ultimate reason why I swam the Tiber and came home – is that you know exactly what you believe : in the happy certainty that if you don’t believe it, you aren’t a Catholic.

The horrible truth, though, is that at least in the public eye, the girl’s opinion is more correct – and thus more important – than mine.

Given that she’s wrong, and I’m right, but that so many have the contrary view, I – and those who agree with me – had better start praying; hadn’t we ?