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.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

October 31st

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Well . . . how splendid

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

Friday, 29 October 2010

It gets us there . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Praying for people . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Example of the Almost Unknown

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Something we can do . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just a Thought . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just a thought.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Maybe answering a question . . .

One of my facebook friends admitted to not having a lot of experience of the Quarant ’Ore, and asked for some information about it . . .

The exact date of its origination appears to be uncertain; but it was clearly before 1550, and may well have started in Milan. Thereafter many indulgences were attached to praying at it; but apart from the various liturgical contents there is not much concrete commitment to what people pray for during it . . . it’s appears to be primarily a time during which people pray for what they need, and what they feel deserves prayer . . . which when you think about it is probably a good way of making it effective : except in very limited circumstances there seems to be little need for – or indeed merit in – making everyone pray for the same thing during forty continuous hours of prayer before the Most Holy Sacrament exposed.

That said, and having pointed out that there are certain liturgical formalities to it – although they appear to be rather less demanding now than they used to be – the crucial point is to say that there is no right way of making use of these wonderful Forty Hours.

For some people a long session of perhaps a couple of hours, with some formal prayers and some time of silent contemplation, is perhaps the best way for them to get the most out of it; and that might well be best during the small hours of the morning. Others may find it better just to pop into the Church for five minutes here, ten minutes there, throughout the forty hours; making short petitions, or offering short periods of silence, each time they visit . . . in other words the important thing is that they do visit, and that they do acknowledge the Lord’s presence and love : but beyond that it’s so very much a case of suiting yourself that I can’t personally see any need for any particular formula; although obviously if you sign up to be present for a particular period you must keep to that, if only because otherwise you might end up with the Lord abandoned and alone, which is neither respectful nor secure.

Personally, I like to try and go in the wee small hours, when the Church is largely empty, and to spend at least half of the time simply in silent, empty-minded, contemplation . . . and I also like to say some Office (probably that day’s Office of Readings); but that’s me. Likewise, I can’t bear to sit before the Blessed Sacrament exposed; but others find sitting in an intimate connection with the Lord allows them to address their minds to Him without physical distraction; so it seems to me that as long as their posture isn’t making others feel that it is disrespectful, then there’s nothing wrong with that . . . in other words, at this level of involvement, apart from the general principle of not upsetting or distracting others, there is no particular or formal formula . . . you simply get as (mentally) close to God as you feel able to; and benefit accordingly.

Thus, if all you can manage is a short visit, then simply make it, make the point that the duration is not of your choosing, and offer your love to God and ask Him to accept and inspire your soul, and stop fretting about other things . . . because that way even a single short visit will be of great virtue.

Ultimately, the Quarant ’Ore is a prolonged opportunity for you to get close to Our Blessed Lord; and as He knows everything before you speak, and understand everything about your situation without explanation, although it may be polite to mention these things to Him, it’s not necessary . . . all that is necessary is to offer Him your love, and accept His : what follows from that is a grace, a gift, which proves yet again His immense generosity . . . and inspires you to make even more of a commitment next year !

(And the photo at the top is of the Quarant ’Ore at the London Oratory, simply because I feel that it is such a splendid manifestation of what is intended by the rubrics . . .)

Quarant ’Ore at the Oxford Oratory

As you can see from a photo sent me by a friend and taken on Saturday afternoon, the Oxford Oratory managed to achieve a high standard of beauty and focus on Our Most Holy Lord in its arrangements for the Quarant ’Ore.

It’s the first time I’ve been able to visit it during that magical time, and it seems to me that it must be a particularly effective and splendid way to begin the Academic Year : so as well as congratulating the Fathers of the Oxford Oratory on a generally (and genuinely) appropriate and effective time of prayer to Our Lord, I also want to thank them for providing such a splendid opportunity for everyoneat the University to pray for the ensuing Academic Year . . . and for me to pray for a large number of friends with problems and difficulties of their own.

Let us all keep our friends in our prayers whenever they need them; and particularly our Catholic friends, that we may constantly develop the Catholic community, both in the UK and worldwide, to God’s greater glory, and Our Lady’s praise.

Happy Birthday

Just a very brief post to say 'Happy Birthday' to fr Mark Davoren OP, presently a member of the Dominican Studentate at Blackfriars, Oxford.

He is, as you can see from this photo from a Quiz Evening which he organized, one of the - shall we say - more 'colourful' members of the community . . . but none the worse for that !

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Missionary ? In which direction, exactly ?

Today is – at least at the London Oratory – Missions Sunday; and there was a preacher from the Mill Hill Fathers who preached a spritely homily on the needs of the Missions, and of the merits of supporting them . . . and let me make it quite clear, at once, that I fully support the concept of us supporting the Missions.

However; increasingly I think we have to recognize that many of the Missions are now better positioned, at least in terms of people, than are many Parishes in the UK. This morning’s preacher, for instance, was talking about his time at a University Chaplaincy in Cameroon . . . and happened to mention that they averaged a fairly steady number at the daily (Monday – Saturday) Morning Prayers and Mass at 06:30 . . . and a fairly consistent, and slightly higher, number for Evening Prayers at 18:30.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m sure that there are many UK Chaplains who could make much the same comment . . . except that this University in Cameroon had an average of between 550 – 600 each morning, and perhaps 650 each evening.

Is there any UK University which has that sort of figure attending Mass each day, let alone other services ?

Of course we must support the Missions; but we must also remember that we have an ever-increasing need to act as missionaries to the people of our own country . . . a truth which not only must we not forget, but which we must also ensure that the Church as a whole does not lose sight of : an aim which we must pray for, but also work for.

Is it just me . . ?

I have to say that I am very concerned about Government policy on a number of topics; not the least of which is its apparent uncritical willingness to take an entirely unjustifiable and unfair approach to women – perhaps particularly Indian and Pakistani women – who are in a vulnerable position as a result of the bad conduct of their husbands.

What I’m actually talking about is the problem of foreign women who are married by British men, and brought to the UK – where they often don’t speak the language – on the basis of their marriages.

I’m not suggesting that abuse of them by their husbands – physical and/or mental – is invariable : it’s probably only a very small percentage who suffer this; but the fact is that those who are in this position have little to hope for.

OK; there is a provision that allows them to apply to remain in the UK on the basis of ‘domestic violence’ : the problem is that not only do they have to provide quite a high level of evidence of that abuse, but they also have to be legal when they make the application . . . and if the husband denounces them to the Home Office as soon as they escape from his clutches, the Home Office curtail their leave to remain in the UK on the basis of the husband’s information, and without asking them for their side of the story.

Is that fair ?

No, I don’t think it is either; because it more or less ensures that they then have no chance of being able to remain in the UK; and, of course, they therefore have little or no chance of being able to secure any realistic – fair, if you prefer – financial compensation from their husbands during the divorce process . . . because they won’t be here to state their case : which is probably exactly why the husbands want to get rid of them in the first place.

I’d have thought that this was not only flagrantly unfair, but that any reasonable person could recognize that fact . . . and yet it appears that the Home Office can’t see it.

Is it me that’s wrong, or is it that the Government just can’t see that the current system is unfair to people who are already suffering more than they deserve ?

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Oh, Whoops !

Oh well, despite my best intentions I failed to achieve my ambition nto attend at least part of all three of this weekend’s events . . . I didn’t escape from work until rather too late last evening to get to Blackfen for Mass; and whilst I suppose I could have gone over to pay a visit to Our Blessed Lord during the Quarant ’Ore, I could only have achieved that at the expense of getting home at some unearthly late hour . . . so I’m afraid I chickened out of even doing that.

However : today’s visit to Oxford allowed me to participate in all three bits of the Latin Mass Society’s Oxford Pilgrimage . . . well, all four, actually, as I found myself invited to the rather splendid luncheon buffet that had been organized for invited guests, which not only fed me, but also gave me the chance to meet a good many old friends, and make a few new ones . . .

The Mass was splendid, Archbishop Bernard’s sermon was very appealing, and the Music – from the local choir, featuring the LMS Chairman – was excellent; and after luncheon we got a good number who took part in the Procession from Carfax to the Castle for the Blessing of the new Memorial Plaque there, and then back to Blackfriars (singing some good old-fashioned Catholic hymns and litanies) for Benediction, which brought the Pilgrimage to a satisfactory, and devout, end.

I then poodled along to the Oratory to visit Our Blessed Lord in their Quarant ’Ore . . . and met Archbishop Bernard on his way back to Blackfriars from the Oratory; just proving that all the best people visit Our Lord when they have a chance !

So . . . even if I didn’t manage Blackfen (sadly), I can at least confirm that the Faith was fit and well in Oxford today . . . Deo Gratias. Do please keep an eye open for next year’s dates for all these events, and put them into your diary as soon as they come out.

Being Reverent Outwardly as well as Inwardly

Don’t get me wrong . . . this is not a criticism of anyone who is unable to adopt any particular posture of reverence : but I do want to encourage those who can to adopt as stringent a posture of reverence as they are able to.

The reason I suggest this is because nowadays there seems to be so little in the way of reverence for the Most Holy Sacrament . . . it’s by no means uncommon to see people who have been apparently reverential during the Canon of the Mass go and receive Holy Communion, and then return to their seats and just sit straight down . . . sit down, often casually and comfortably, just at the moment that they are, for a short while, the home of Our Blessed Lord Himself in His sacramental form.

It’s not uncommon for people, nowadays, not to pay any attention to a priest who is carrying the Most Holy Sacrament from the Church : not to kneel in reverence and respect as a priest carrying the Pyx to the sick goes by them.

I’m prepared to accept that these people may be reverential enough internally; but, with respect, that’s hardly a good example to others : to the outsiders who urgently need that example.

You may remember that the Holy Father caused Archbishop Nicholls to suggest that, for instance, the making of the Sign of the Cross in public would be a good thing to do; a good example to others . . . well, I venture to suggest that kneeling, or adopting some other obviously reverential posture, to the Most Holy Sacrament, slightly bowing to any priest you pass in the street, and (for gentlemen) removing your hat if you pass a Church, or a Crucifix, or someone with the Most Holy Sacrament, is a truly valuable witness to outsiders of the importance of these things . . . and challenges them to consider their own position.

During the Quarant ‘Ore, do try and beg God to be a good example to others in whatever way is open to you, that slowly we may return to a way of life in which God is treated with the reverence and respect he deserves . . . and life becomes better for everyone as a result of this deepening holiness.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Now HERE’S a Suggestion . . .

As far as I can understand it, Parish Priests get sent quantities of papers like the Catholic Times, the Universe (and The Suppository ?) without asking; the ones that are sold they pay for, and the rest they neither pay for nor send back, but simply have – in due course – to arrange for the disposal of . . . often at a cost to them.

Now; this may result in a number of things, some of which (the issue of recycling, for instance) do not seem to be of tremendous importance . . . but it does seem to me to be very important to ensure that, as Fr Ray commented recently, the real reader figures are known, so that those who are considering advertising in them (which is presumably the bulk of the funding for them) know exactly what the real audience for their adverts is.

I’m not suggesting, let me make it clear, that anyone is deliberately – or even culpably – misleading anyone about this; because for all sorts of reasons I can see that this could be a legitimate problem.

However : I think that there is one very simple thing that, at the cost of a very modest amount of effort and money, Parish Priests could do to secure general knowledge of realistic figures . . . with whatever knock-on effect that knowledge has.

Simply return the unsold copies to the publisher each week, together with a clear request for them to reduce the number of copies they send you to a realistic figure – suggesting, for instance, that you are not prepared to dispose of more than 10% of those received.

Further, record how many copies you receive, sell, and return . . . and display that information near the papers, as well as notifying the publishers of these figures.

Finally, simply eliminate from your racks any paper which sells less than (say) 10 copies a week : the space can be better used for other things, and people who really want those papers can always subscribe to them directly . . .

If every Parish Priest did that . . . even if only every traditionally-minded Parish Priest did that . . . within say three months, six at most, the reality would be widely known, and any papers which weren’t seen as valuable would have gone where they probably belong : into oblivion . . . but in any event, the advertisers wouldn’t be supporting them on the basis of a misapprehension.

May I say, incidentally, that this idea came into my head from reading a post on Linen on the Hedgerow, a fairly new blog to which my attention was drawn by Mac of Mulier Fortis in her post last night about her new kittens . . . so an appreciative nod to both of them.

A Gentle Reminder . . .

. . . that the Quarant ‘Ore has already begun (last evening) at Our Lady of the Rosary, Balckfen; that it will begin this evening at the Oxford Oratory; and that tomorrow is the LMS Oxford Pilgrimage.

OK, I realize you probably can’t go to all three of them . . . but do try and got and support at least one of them, and if you can’t do that – living in America, for instance – then please at least include them all in your prayers : asking God and our Lady that they may have a real and significant effect on the Faith in this country.

Thank you in advance for your support.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Good out of evil

Today has been Trafalgar Day : the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, and of the death of Nelson . . . so very definitely both (in one sense) a good and a bad day in British history. And yet there is a question which could be asked, but tends to get forgotten . . . was Nelson’s death really bad news ?

‘Of course it was !’ I hear you say . . . but the reason I asked is because Nelson himself, although much loved by his sailors, was in fact not all that popular with a lot of other people : his personal life, for instance, was considered to be not altogether splendid . . .wasn’t he involved in a dubious relationship with Lady Hamilton, for instance – and whilst both of them were married to other people ?

To be honest, the fact that he is widely regarded as wonderful is probably due to his death, at the critical moment of the completion of a splendid achievement . . . the defeat of the French. Had he lived, who knows what might have happened . . . he might have been involved in a divorce, or died in a defeat, or a disgrace, or even a duel . . . and rapidly been hushed up.

Of course his death was evil in the sense that Britain lost a great sailor, and a great commander : but as it happened at a high point of his career, he is remembered as a giant . . . had he not died, who knows what we would remember of him ?

The fact is that, sometimes, it’s when things happen, and not just what happens, that is important . . . a point for us to remember : because sometimes our lives are shaped not by what we do, but the circumstances in which we do it. . . something we always need to bear in mind; and also to use in assessing whether what we think of is really good or bad, or merely appears to be so as a result of the circumstances srrounding it.

Thinking about things going wrong . . .

Every evening, said the S. Curé d’Ars, think over what you have done during the day, and each month over the month and each year over the year. Thus you cannot fail to correct yourself and when death comes you will be ready and happy to go to Heaven.

Of course, such an assessment of one’s conscience does depend on being serious and objective about it; but it has to be a self-evidently good thing for us all to do.

I do try – although I think I don’t succeed particularly well – to do it; and to recognize my failings and shortcomings : and I hope and pray that, as a result, I do slowly improve myself and move a (very) little closer to God’s will for me.

The trouble is that it tends to make me notice what appear to be shortcomings in other people’s conduct as well . . . and whilst I accept that this is itself a shortcoming in me, I do try to learn from what I perceive as their shortcomings too.

What saddens me is when they appear not to care about them . . . but at the same time it also worries me, because it makes me wonder whether my perception of their conduct as wrong is itself wrong, which must call my own assessment of my own conduct into question.

It’s difficult . . . especially when they’re people who I ought to be able to rely on as providing a good example.

Oh dear . . . how difficult.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Recognizing the devil at work . . .

There are times when one regrets the feelings one has had, but was genuinely unable to control them at the time; and then one has to accept that sometimes one is bedevilled in the most literal sense of the word . . . when a devilish instinct – which clearly is not a gift of God – affects one, usually at a critical moment, and interferes with one’s ability to maintain a spiritual equilibrium : a thing which is perhaps particularly relevant in the context of the ‘lukewarmness’ I refered to earlier.

Let me tell you a story.

Last Saturday evening, after the Rosary Crusade, because I wanted to say Vespers anyway, I made the decision to stay at the Oratory, say Vespers, and then stay on also for the 6:00 pm First Mass of Sunday . . . if only because F. Ronald had reminded us of the potential Plenary Indulgence, and ensured that we had said prayers for the Holy Father’s intentions . . . and as I’d been to confession that morning, and rather obviously said the Rosary publicly, I thought that making a decent Communion would just possibly qualify me for that Indulgence . . . which must be of some use to the Holy Souls, or someone who needs it.

Just before Mass began someone came and wanted to get past me, and sit a couple of seats along from me. Fine; perfectly proper.

However : when it came to time for Holy Communion, and well before the Priests had even finished giving Holy Communion to the (enormous) choir (from the Oratory School, I think), and whilst I was still kneeling and waiting until it was realistically practical to get up and go to the altar rail, that person very abruptly demanded that I move . . . ‘I want to receive Holy Communion !’

Well, yes, of course; so did we all : but the determination to make a mad dash for the altar rail seemed slightly unseemly, and the determination to force someone to move instanter to permit this, rather than wait until that person moved to do the same thing, seemed to me (shall we say) less than entirely seemly as well . . .

I can’t comment on the effect on that person’s spirituality : but I do know that it took me a little time to recover my composure after what I perceived as such an aggressive approach from my left . . . I tried, not very successfully, to accept that it was probably mainly my fault, for not getting up and creating a free way the moment Holy Communion began : but because I felt upset myself, it obviously affected my thoughts at the time of Holy Communion . . . which was, of course, exactly what Satan wanted.

I’ve tried to bring myself to realize sincerely that I was in the wrong, and that I had no right to complain or react adversely in any way to what must have been an entirely proper observation . . . and to recognize the need to feel sorrow for creating a moment of distress for my neighbour : but it wasn’t deliberate in one way, because it all happened so quickly that I didn’t actually have time to make a conscious decision . . . which leads one to recognize that this sort of devilish antics needs one to work at recognizing the possibility of it when there isn’t a problem, in the hope that one will perhaps be able to develop a resistance to falling for it when it does arise.

Meanwhile, if the person whom I offended is reading this, please accept my sincere apologies for failing to perceive the need to be out of your way immediately you decided to go forward for Holy Communion – and also for feeling aggrieved when you expressed your desire to do so.

Mea culpa !

A little bit rash . . ?

I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it.

One of my friends on facebook put up that quote from Blessed John Henry Newman yesterday; and I have to be honest and say that when I read it I thought to myself that it was not without relevance to a certain priest who seems to believe that he knows everything about the Faith, and can tell us all where we’ve got it wrong . . . by explaining what’s wrong with the Faith for which many thousands have, over the years, given their lives; by pointing out that the principles which led the English Martyrs to their deaths were in fact basically misunderstandings; by seeing as virtuous so many things that, for almost two thousand years had led others to believe that they were beset by evil when they perceived them.

I understand that he is determined to defend his own position, his own superior knowledge and understanding, by exercising the privilege of seeking legal redress against those who disagree with him.

Well, so be it : but if does, he can hardly complain if others exercise the same privilege . . . and it must be pointed out that the laity, as well as the clergy, have the right to refer matters to the Apostolic Signatura : and that tribunal is not reluctant to consider and adjudge on points of theology.

One might be forgiven for wondering whether a priest is perhaps just a little bit rash to behave in a way which might lead him there ?

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Contemptible . . . what else can you call it ?

I note that Fr Mildew has felt it necessary to close down his blog.

Why ? Because he has apparently been threatened by Mgr Loftus.

Such conduct is contemptible : not least because Mgr Loftus has been criticised – as far as I can establish with at least some justification – for several years for his writings, and yet has apparently done llittle or nothing absolutely nothing to bring himself back into line with the Magisterium teachings of the Church from which he has derived his living and his status.

Worse still : in September 2008 he wrote a critique of certain other people’s opinions, and finished it ‘From the time of the apostles Peter and Paul there has always been disagreement in the Church, and it is often vigorously expressed – but, “in all things charity”’ . . . and yet appears to have completely forgotten that last, most precious, dictum when he is the person who feels that he has been offended . . . what ‘charity’ is there in threatening to sue priestly brethren for disagreeing with him ?

I have written about this before; and I repeat it now.

There is , simply, no reasonable likelihood of any such civil claim succeeding; and it must surely be apparent that to threaten such an action when there is no realistic likelihood of it ever achieving anything amounts to nothing more than bullying . . . which is surely not an act of charity.

Just what shall we meditate on ?

It is an excellent and holy practice to call to mind and meditate on our Lord’s passion, since it is by this path that we shall arrive at a sanctifying union with God.

Thus says S. Paul of the Cross in this morning’s Office of Readings : and I think it is a valuable thought on which to ponder . . . that it is by meditating on Our Lord’s Passion that we come to share in His unity with the Trinity; come to be united totally with that ineffable and infinite eternal majesty.

I know that I contemplate the Passion by no means as often as I ought; largely because I don’t relate it sufficiently clearly to the many good and joyful things which God gives us : but I ought to. I ought to recognize that even in the very best of things, there are links to the Passion, and then I ought – in my meditations, at least – to follow those links to whatever point they lead, in order to gain that insight into His love for us.

Of course His generosity in giving us good and joyful things to enjoy is warming; of course it reassures and fulfils us : but the good things are, ultimately, less generous than the Passion . . . because it’s very easy to give something nice; it’s so much harder, and thus more loving, to give something which hurts, which deprives one, which takes from one permanently.

So, whilst it is right and proper to rejoice in God’s generosity in all the good and pleasant things which He gives us so lavishly, it is better still to rejoice in the things which He gave us simply, and once . . . His Passion and Cross; His sufferings . . . for from those came something that need never be repeated. Unlike the warm sun, the sparkling sea, the fragrance of flowers, which need to be repeated infinitely to retain their attraction for mankind, Christ’s ultimate gift, horrendous as it was, need never be repeated . . . not only because it was utterly sufficient in itself, but because we can never lose sight of it, never cease to give us its eternal message . . . that through His infinite love and generosity, we are saved for ever.

So, to quote S. Paul once more, bury yourselves therefore in the heart of Jesus crucified, desiring nothing else but to lead all men to follow His will in all things : for by doing that, by recognizing – and leading others to recognize – this saving generosity and to follow it whatever the cost, we not only save ourselves, but them as well . . . a joy which truly lasts for ever.

Monday, 18 October 2010

I once had a whim and I had to obey it . . .

As I have already mentioned, one of the nice moments of the Rosary Crusade was seeing, and finally having the chance to talk to, the charming leutgeb : and thinking about it since has reminded me of a song . . . inevitably, perhaps, as she is a French Horn player - something I tried, but failed miserably, to become - and the title of this post is, of course, the first line of the appropriate song !

More to the point, though, pondering that line, for no particularly good reason, made me recognize that there is so much truth in it . . . that for many of us, it is fugitive whims which lead us to do things : and whilst the odd whim about something trivial is undoubtedly not a bad thing per se, we must always give proper thought to significant things before we go off and do them, lest we be led by a whim to do something which is not right for us. (I hasten to add, for the sake of clarity, that meeting and chatting to leutgeb is not in that category !).

In an odd way, you see, it seems to me that doing that is another sort of lukewarmness : being prepared to do significant things without proper thought just shows that we don't really care about the effect of what we do; are indifferent to the long-term consequences . . . which is clearly both stupid and, potentially, disastrous.

So : let us consider our whims seriously before we act on them . . . and whilst I am sure that this will be popular with Almighty God, if it prevents rash purchases in second-hand shops then such prudence may also be popular with our neighbours !

The devil in disguise . . ?

I don’t know if you’ve ever come across a book called ‘Lukewarmness : The Devil in Disguise’ ? I picked up a copy a fair while ago now; and whilst I don’t necessarily endorse the way in which it says everything, I do think that the overall message is a valuable one, and that the bulk of the content is effective.

Lukewarmness (at least in the context of Catholicism) is so common nowadays : think about the congregation around you at Sunday Mass; think about the lack of obvious, open, physical reverence towards Our Blessed Lord in the Most Holy Sacrament; think about the lack of devotion, the inattention, the ‘peremptoriness’ of such a large percentage of the congregation – fulfil the obligation, and then get going for another week.

I spend quite a lot of time regretting my own inattention and lack of devotion, my own deficiencies in reverence, towards Our Lord – particularly towards the Most Holy Sacrament . . . and I don’t think the fact that a large percentage of those I see about me don’t seem to even meet my inadequate standards makes me any better; it just distresses – perhaps even depresses – me further.

Can I just give one little quote from the book for your consideration ? I think you may find it informative, perhaps even challenging; and I’d therefore really love to hear your thoughts on it. It is discussing what it describes as ‘mental torpor’.

Little by little, the interior life appears ever more unattainable until that moment when it is denied. This attitude of pragmatism is the product of our secularized times wherein God has been relegated to the sidelines. We see many Christians today who appear to have been won over by the spirit of the age. They have put aside the fact of their Baptism and their religious education. They have allowed their piety to be corrupted by paganism in our environment. Whatever remains of their faith is not strong enough to have a decisive influence on their lives and their surroundings. These people appear to have lost their ability to pray.

When I look at myself in the past, I have to admit that there is so much truth in that comment : I am infinitely grateful to my friends, particularly the Saints who have befriended me, and by whose prayers I was saved from sliding too far away from God; but I recognize that that slippery slope is there, and that it’s not even something one necessarily deliberately starts upon . . . it can all-too-easily creep up upon you hidden in what you believe are trivial failings and omissions . . . but they’re not; because the effect of them is not trivial, but (at least potentially) catastrophic.

Lack of commitment, in other words – lukewarmness – is capable of bringing about destruction; not because you choose that, or even knowingly accept it . . . but because it will creep up on you unawares; and you’ll probably never even realize it. The only way of preventing it, is to ensure that you keep your eyes and ears open, and your mind on God and His love . . . and keep praying.

That’s how I see it : tell me what you think.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Decisions, decisions . . .

Now : as you already know, both from me and from others, this Thursday to Saturday is the Quarant ’Ore at Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen : and I obviously enthusiastically commend it (particularly in the small hours, if you can conveniently manage to be there then) not only because the ability to have a prolonged quiet time with Our Blessed Lord is such a precious and valuable thing, but also because your prayers will undoubtedly benefit whoever or whatever you are praying for, and you, and that splendid Church . . . so do your best to be there at some point.

At the same time, next weekend is also the Latin Mass Society’s annual Oxford Pilgrimage, with a Solemn Mass at Blackfriars, and then a Procession in the afternoon . . . during which, I understand, the Archbishop will bless a new Memorial to some of the Martyrs of Oxford : and I obviously encourage all who can to attend this as well.

Sadly, it won’t be possible to do all of both . . . but I believe it will be possible to be part of both, thereby not only showing your support for them both, but also making it clear to others that they deserve support . . . and I hope and trust that it will win you a Brownie point or two from the Holy Saints and Angels !

. . . and as I am hoping to be present at at least some of both events, I do hope to see at least some of you at one or both of them.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

A wonderful day like today !

Well, as you may have guessed from the recent posts, I spent this afternoon at the Rosary Crusade . . . and despite the weather not being (shall we say) as good as it often is, the numbers were good, the praying was enthusiastic, and it was an excellent 25th Anniversary celebration : so one trusts that Mother will be joyful at the love which was unmistakably shown her.

What really struck me today, though, was not the event : but the fact that, as I commented about the love and support for Mac after the death of her cat Sylvester recently, there is a real family out there . . . because today emphasized it again to me in different, but very valuable, ways.

When I got to the Cathedral I was talking to an Anglican who was there to take attend the event – an Anglican, I must say, who is currently working out the practicalities of finding her way into the Church, which was what we were discussing – when I was approached by a certain mad young cyclist : young Gregory, now recovered from his unfortunate accident en route to Rome, and saying ‘Hi’ at finding me cluttering up the Cathedral Plaza (I might say that his dedication as a server really showed : he ended up carrying the Processional Crucifix at the front of the Crusade; and whilst it may not, perhaps, be quite the heaviest one about, I think it must be close to the longest procession . . . it takes a little over an hour of steady, if not brisk, walking between the Cathedral and the Oratory . . . so he deserves much praise for his fortitude and stamina !)

I actually walked with an Anglican facebook friend who is currently being prepared for Reception; but when we got to the Oratory I realised that perched on a kneeler at the end of my row was the delightful leutgeb, so I was able to chat to her after Benediction (and briefly meet a number of other people from Blackfen); and there were also quite a number of other bloggers and facebook friends about to whom I was also able to chat at least briefly – which was great fun . . . but what it emphasized, simply, was the fact that we do have a real, solid, family of straightforward (if fairly traditional) Catholics out there who simply want to support and care for each other, and for God’s world and its people.

What a lovely day it’s been : and ‘Thank You’ to all my readers who took part, whether I knew you were there or not.

Which ones work for you . . ?

I got involved in a discussion the other evening with some (real) friends on facebook about S. Teresa – or rather,, S. Teresa and S. Therése; and whilst the general feeling was that they were both ‘special’, one said that she liked S. Teresa, but really wasn’t all that wild about S. Therése : which upon consideration was a viewpoint I realized I share . . . I know that S. Therése is a lovely and holy Saint; the problem is that she just doesn’t really ‘grab’ me; although I have to admit that I don’t really know why.

Thinking about it a bit more, though, I realized that I do have ‘preferred’ Saints, and also those who simply don’t do much for me; which led me to recognize the accuracy of the friend who pointed out that it’s probably inevitable that we don’t all go for the same saints . . . and to consider my own ‘hit list’.

I suppose it’s inevitable that S. Dominic is one of mine : it’s why I chose him for one of my Confirmation Names when I was received, because he was a dynamic person who wanted to convey the love and mercy of God to all, always, and everywhere . . . and whilst I certainly can’t claim to meet his incredible standard of speaking always ‘either of God or to God’, I can at least accept him as a standard to aspire to – and feel loved by him as a very humble wanna-be follower in a small way.

Equally, I love S. Philip Neri because he managed to guide so many people to a near-perfect standard in balancing religious and secular life : in living in the world, and doing things of the world, and yet remaining constantly focussed upon, and effective in, their worldly activities . . . and thus providing a good example to those about them. I’m sure I’m nothing like good enough to justify my fondness for him : but I’m very privileged to feel able even to speak directly to him from time to time during Oratory prayers, and I find him such a valuable exemplar to so many nowadays.

Number three ? Well, I have to say that – perhaps somewhat bizarrely – I have a soft spot for S. Ælred of Rievaulx : something which stems from my discovery, a few years ago, that he had a very great belief in the merits of deep friendships as a meritorious and valuable way for people to approach Christ and Christian life generally . . . reading De Spiritali Amicitia is a fascinating exercise, and gives one a very valuable grasp on how to benefit from, rather than be corrupted by, ones friendships, and how to develop them to the enduring benefit of both.

Now . . . I could obviously carry on with a lengthy list : and I think I may from time to time put up a short post about other Saints whom I cherish : but it seems to me that it might also be fun to know what other people think about this.

At the same time I don’t like the idea of putting a burden onto people willy-nilly : so all I am going to say is that it would be lovely to hear from you, either in the Comments section or – for those who have their own blogs – in your blog, with a link in the Comments section . . . so that we can all share with, and learn from, one another.

I wait with interest . . .

Friday, 15 October 2010

One last reminder . . .

When you're thinking what to do with yourself tomorrow, do remember the Rosary Crusade, which leaves Westminster Cathedral (alright, it leaves the street beside the Cathedral !) at 13:45 (or thereabouts).

It then proceeds in a slow and stately fashion to the London Oratory, saying the Rosary en route, as well as singing some good old-fashioned Catholic hymns.

There you will get an excellent Sermon, some good Hymns and Prayers, and Pontifical Benediction . . . and of course a First Mass of Sunday at 18:00.

Do come, if you possibly can : the more not only make it the merrier, but a greater and more effective witness to the love and care of Our Blessed Lady.

Grief which leads to Joy

There are many kinds of grief. Some of them come upon us suddenly, in natural ways, just as pleasures do; they may even arise from charity, which makes us pity our neighbours, as Our Lord did when he raised Lazarus; and these do not prevent union with the will of God, nor do they cause a restless and unquiet passion which disturbs the soul and lasts for a long time. They are griefs which pass quickly for, as I said of joys in prayer, they seem not to penetrate to the depths of the soul but only reach the senses and faculties.

Thus said S. Teresa of Avila in ‘The Interior Castle’ when considering the love of our neighbour : recognizing that pitying our neighbour – being willing to endure grief for their sufferings – is, or at least can be, a virtue; an alliance with God’s will that we should care, and be willing to suffer for those about us.

Obviously, helping those who suffer is a virtue; trying to relieve pain or distress, alleviate poverty, cure sickness . . . all these are obvious, and are things for which it is easy to find Christian (and indeed other God-fearing) bodies : but a willingness to suffer, not physically, or by deprivation, but by emotional distress, the endurance of grief ? That’s a different matter.

Obviously it would be difficult to establish a body which published its willingness to do this; if only because it must be very difficult to accept that type of suffering for people with whom one has little in common . . . because it must be difficult to relate to them sufficiently closely to understand what causes the grief; and without such comprehension it seems unlikely that one could really experience – and thus share – the grief.

For friends, on the other hand – and even for people one knows well – it is far from hard : a willingness to share in their sufferings will, almost inevitably, mean that one does . . . and whilst it may well not be as deeply, or as long, it is none the less a genuine sharing . . . and in my experience, at least, often has a genuinely beneficial effect on them by helping them rise above their grief, and think themselves back into an appreciation of God’s overwhelming love.

So : it’s not, I think, a ministry that one can deliberately set out to fulfil on any given day . . . but that, perhaps, makes it even move important to be willing to accept its necessity when one does meet a grieving friend who needs one’s loving care : and then one can, as time passes, recognize the truth of what S .Teresa said a little later on :

We cannot be sure if we are loving God, although we may have good reasons for believing that we are, but we can know quite well if we are loving our neighbour. And be certain that, the farther advanced you are in this, the greater the love you will have for God; for so dearly does His Majesty love us that He will reward our love for our neighbour by increasing the love which we bear to Himself; and that in a thousand ways.

Saint of the day . . .

Just because I like this ikon . . . the thoughts come a little later.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

A mildly amusing memory . . .

My comment about the Bishop of Arundel & Brighton last evening has raised an interesting new train of thought amongst some of the Commentors, about Latin and the like, which has led me to a mildly naughty recollection.

Some years ago now I was at an ‘ecumenical’ event at which – perhaps not entirely unreasonably – the ‘centrepiece’ was the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer . . . which would probably have been completely without comment, had not one of the leaders suddenly said words to the effect of ‘And let everyone say it together in their own native tongue’ . . . so I did : in Latin.

I believe that to be the ‘native tongue’ of Heaven; and I obviously hope that that will be my Native Land in due course, so it did seem to be the right thing to do . . . but my viewpoint seemed to rather distress the leader in question. I do hope I wasn’t being unreasonable . . . <wry smile>

Horses for Courses

Any of my Followers or Readers who have been reading this blog for a while will know that I sometimes seem to irritate – no, seem to offend the liturgical sensibilities – of a number of other people; and I am sure that many others will find the apparent ‘disputes’ extremely unclear . . . which is why I’m going to try and clarify things a little in this post, and perhaps also clarify my own position to those who sometimes seem to feel that I’m not reasonable.

The point at issue is, generally speaking, ‘liturgical taste’ : because whilst I’m not denying that there are those for whom there are serious theological questions involved in the decisions of various Popes on liturgical points, those tend to be very much more complex and recondite – and much more open to debate as to validity and relevance – than the discussions on the more general question.

This may be seen as the fact that there are those who seriously dislike what is generally known as ‘ultramontane’ liturgical taste : ‘Roman’ vestments, birettas, lace on albs and cottas, and things like that . . . such people probably prefer full Gothic vestments, plain or embroidered linens, and bare heads.

What may surprise them is that I have no problems with any of those things . . . in the right place.

My problem is that to force the London Oratory, for instance, to introduce Gothic vestments, and to eliminate lace cottas for servers in favour of either full surplices or apparelled albs, all in pursuit of the ‘Gothic style’, would simply be ridiculous, because the Gothic image is one which relates to an appropriate architectural style as well . . . but I’m perfectly happy to accept that, in a setting that is ‘Gothic’ in style, this would certainly look as good as, and very probably better than, the ‘Roman’ taste : and I’m also quite happy to accept that for a Pope to insist that one should never use Gothic vestments, but only ever Roman ones, probably is an inappropriate application of papal authority.

I suppose, to be honest, my position is that I want liturgy to have a visual and audible integrity.

I’m really not happy about Masses which include all sorts of liturgical odds and ends . . . I mention no names, but I can remember a priest who used to be in a C13 church with very find Gothic architecture, and a fine collection of Gothic vestments, who decided that he preferred lace albs : and nothing has ever looked so ridiculous; especially when he also decided that he preferred an electronic keyboard to the decent pipe organ, and the hymns of C20 to either plainsong or The English Hymnal.

The resulting dog’s dinner of a Eucharist looked silly, sounded silly, and discouraged a great many members of a long-standing congregation. Fortunately it wasn’t long before he moved on, and things went back to ‘normal’ : but it just hadn’t been a wise or helpful thing to have done.

My position is that if you have a true Gothic church then you may well be best to stick to Gothic vestments – and appropriate linen; and the liturgical style should reflect the surroundings. ‘Modern liturgy’ simply doesn’t work well in medieval architecture . . . and more than medieval liturgy is necessarily appropriate in modern surroundings (although I accept that much ‘modern architecture’ is actually so neutral that you could get away with anything !).

What this means, of course, is that I love the liturgy of the London Oratory because it is so clearly what the Church was designed for : and the fact that what happens at Blackfriars, Oxford, is very much simpler and severer is entirely right, because that is what the surroundings are . . . and they are just as appropriate for the Dominican ethos as those of the London Oratory for the Oratorian one. Similarly, the illustration above - which was taken for an Alcuin Club publication very many years ago in S. Cyprian’s, Clarence Gate, show how absolutely right a completely Gothic integrity is . . .

Of course, my position also means that my commentators who dislike a particular style as such, and feel that I am encouraging it as such have got me wrong : because I’d be just as horrified at an ‘Oratory-style’ High Mass at Blackfriars as I would at a Blackfriars-style celebration at the Oratory.

Horses for courses, I suppose, is what it boils down to.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Oh Lord . . !

An Anglican friend of mine directed my attention to Damian Thompson’s recent blog post about Bishop Kieran Conry (of Arundel & Brighton) who has apparently lamented – indeed condemned – the decision to have both the Kyries and the Gloria in their proper tongues at the Papal Mass in Westminster Cathedral.

I know little or nothing about the Bishop : and I have to accept that he has been raised to the Episcopacy, and so must be presumed to be superior to me in every aspect of the Faith . . . but I have to say that I find it not so much tragic as alarming that a Bishop apparently finds it odious that a Papal Mass is actually, unmistakeably, and unarguably a Mass, and not merely something which could well be confused with a Protestant Communion Service.

Is this just me, or is it the Bishop who is in a minority in this ?

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Protest ? . . . or stupidity ?

Most Rev. John Nienstedt, Archbishop of S. Paul – Minneapolis in the US has raised his public profile recently by his refusal to give Holy Communion to a group of Catholic (?) protestors who sought to receive from him whilst engaged in a public protest against the teaching of the Church : in this case, its teaching about Marriage.

Apparently this started because the Archbishop was able – at no cost to the Church – to send out DVDs to the faithful of his Diocese explaining the Church’s orthodox teaching on marriage; which of course enraged a group who were opposed to it, who thereupon decided to demonstrate their disagreement with the Church – and therefore, of course, their disunity with it, which implies that they are no longer faithful members of it.

To identify themselves they attended the Mass wearing Rainbow sashes – which probably made people think they were simply Gay – but which were clearly an emblem of a political standpoint . . . which was why the Archbishop declined to offer them Holy Communion : he said that it was not appropriate to try and ‘make a statement’ about a political issue at that holiest of times.

The Archbishop was right, of course : and the protestors were not only wrong in what they were trying to do; they were also calling their membership of the Church into question.

Why exactly do people keep on doing this ? Surely it’s obvious : if you want to belong, then stick to the rules; if you don’t want to keep the rules, then just join a different church which agrees with you . . . but don't make yourself look stupid by claiming to know better than the Church you are challenging.

And yet more advertising . . .

I've mentioned this before : but do let me, once again, encourage you to go and take part in the Rosary Crusade if you possibly can.

Be at the Cathedral in good time, and be prepared to walk to the Oratory - not too fast, admittedly - saying the Rosary and singing the occasional hymn and generally witnessing to the Catholic Faith as well as offering Reparation to God and Our Lady for sins against her.

And DON'T forget your Rosary !

Mmm . . .

Well, I spent much of yesterday afternoon in Hospital, seeing the Doctors in the hope that they could tell me what did happen to me in August . . . but they can’t, so I’m none the wiser, except that because they can’t they are unable to say that it wasn’t some sort of epileptic seizure – apparently you can have those even if you don’t suffer from epilepsy – so I’m now not able to drive for at least a year . . . which must, of course, mean a number of changes to all sorts of bits of life.

It also, I’m afraid, meant that there wasn’t much written and posted yesterday : which is why I’m wasting space telling you all of this, by way of apology – but I’m sure you can imagine that apart from not being free for quite a lot of the day, once I got back I had to tell various people what the situation was, and make various practical decisions and arrangements.

Normal service (at least on this blog) will, however, now be resumed . . . and I shall meanwhile try and work out how I can get to at least some part of the Quarant ‘Ore at Blackfen next week : not least because I want that splendid chance to pray for my Followers and Readers, and indeed all my wildly assorted (facebook and other) friends from all over the world - particularly those who have so generously kept me in their prayers, and supported me with their concern, throughout this time of uncertainty.

Monday, 11 October 2010

The ‘Spirit of Vatican II’

One of my Commentors asked – in respect of yesterday’s Post about a recent Reading which seemed to me to be a useful observation to direct at those who are irritated with the Holy Father’s failure to promote ‘the Spirit of Vatican II’ – to give some examples of what ‘the Spirit of Vatican II’ actually implies : and I suppose I have to be honest and say that, in one way, I have no idea simply because to me it implies something in accordance with the teachings of that Council - which is exactly what it doesn’t mean to those people !

However; having looked at the sort of things that those people seem to have raised in the fairly recent past (either explicitly or implicitly), as a first glance at the subject – which I propose to consider in rather more detail in a little while, when I have had time to research it more carefully – I would suggest that the following ideas are presented as allegedly forming part of ‘the Spirit of Vatican II’, and thus are things which should not only be tolerated, but actually be enforced as (now) essential elements of Catholic life.

– the abolition of Latin and plainsong in the liturgy and the use of modern English and popular music; and, of course, it is essential that Priests have the right to make whatever modifications they please, regardless of whether or not they are in the Missal. Mass should include a ‘commentary’ if appropriate, which does not need to come from the Priest;

– the absolute necessity of using laity in the Sanctuary for as much as possible; so although you prefer concelebrations on every possible occasion rather than individual Masses, it is still better to have the concelebrants sit back during Holy Communion, and let lay Extraordinary Ministers administer Holy Communion, and also the ablutions afterwards – and also replacing the Sacrament in the Tabernacle;

– the abolition of Holy Communion onto the tongue, and insistence that it is received standing, and into the hand;

– the reduction in the use of vestments as far as possible; alb and stole is fine, and don’t bother about amices, or chasubles for concelebrants, if it is at all possible to avoid them; and use roomy polyester albs for servers, rather than proper cassock & cotta.
And the silly thing is that these are only a very few points, and only liturgical ones; and yet one has only to consider them for a moment to realize that their effect on the Church must have been to change what the people in the pews saw Sunday by Sunday; and thus must have changed how they understood the Church . . . and whilst I’m not denying that Vatican II did want to bring about some changes in people’s understanding of the Church and its role in the world, I’m very far from certain that these changes achieve any of those.

More in due course . . . but in the meantime, may I suggest that my readers may care to tell me what their favourite documents of Vatican II are, and why ? Be warned; you have to have read them !

Sunday, 10 October 2010

All about a Rosary

The remarkable American blogger The Crescat has just posted a really lovely post about the Most Holy Rosary : in her case with a photo of her own rosary, because – as she says – you ask someone about their rosary, and you usually get a story.

So, following her suggestion, here’s a photo of one of my rosaries : not, I hasten to add, the one I use all the time, simply because of how precious it is to me . . .

In fact it’s the Rosary I bought my late wife on the day after our wedding, in Walsingham : and the first Walsingham medal on it, the one with the blue enamel centrepiece, she bought that day to remind her of where it came from. The little round Walsingham medal at the same point I bought on the day after her funeral, when I took the flowers from her coffin to the Holy House . . . remember that I was an Anglican at that point; which is why there is also a large round one at the end of the first decade which was put there to commemorate having been to the 60th Anniversary of the Translation of the image from the Parish Church to the Shrine (in 1991), and the actual ‘statue’ of OLW is one I bought and put there to celebrate having been to the 75th Anniversary in 2006.

The various French medals commemorate various visits; but the two little crosses attached to the Crucifix she wore on our Wedding Day : ‘something old, and something new’ – the old one having been my Great-Grandmother’s as a little girl.

Anything else ? Well, the beads are obviously roses : but the Crucifix . . . yes, that’s incredibly special, because that was what she had to her lips as she died . . . which is why I don’t use the Rosary all the time; but treasure it beyond anything I can ever say; except that I suspect that you can probably imagine why.

Now . . . over to you to see, and hear the stories, of your Rosaries.

Praying for Help on the Journey

Yesterday, of course, was Newman’s day . . . and I’m very glad that so many people felt it was worth celebrating, if only because the more who celebrate him and his life, the more who will consider him, and speak of him; and the more he will become a part of ‘normal thought’
. . . which is always a good thing.

What is important, though, it seems to me, is not actually whether we talk about im; if only because his greatest contribution to God’s work is, in essence, to have set an example : an example which has always been precious, and which is now, in these degenerate days, even more necessary than it was in his own . . . the example of ‘coming home’ to the Catholic Church, and the certainty of God’s love for those who accept the authority which Our Lord gave to Peter : the authority to give certainty to those who accept him as the person to whom Christ gave the keys of the kingdom.

As it happens, I didn’t read Newman’s ‘Apologia pro Vita Sua’ until after I had been received : the ‘conversion story’ which influenced me most was ‘A Spiritual Æneid’ by Ronnie Knox . . . possibly partly because the extreme Catholic end of the Church of England which I had inhabited was very much like his, and not very much like Newman’s – despite the influence Newman had actually had on it in its early days. However, I have now discovered that Newman must have had an effect on Ronnie . . . so his example found its way to me, regardless of the fact that I didn’t find him myself.

What is important now that we know that he is in Heaven, it seems to me, is for us all to pray to Newman that, being in Heaven, he intercedes ceaselessly with God for the conversion of those outside the Church, that they may come home as he did – and as so many of us have done – and find their own joy in God’s love : that his heart will speak to their hearts, whether directly or indirectly, and that through that inspiration they will find their way home . . . and that having come home they will, in their turn, inspire and support others to make the same journey, until we are all, once again, within God’s household, and made certain of His love by the experience of His Heaven : a joy which, in due course, I wish you all.

Read before you Speak

As well all know, in the run-up to the Holy Father’s visit there was a lot of talk by people who are committed to the ‘Spirit of Vatican II’ about their concerns about the Holy Father’s alleged ‘failure’ to promote the doctrines and practices which they support, and want to see not only encouraged, but compelled . . . even when what they want is clearly contrary to the actual teachings of the Council.

Other things have rather interfered with me writing about it until now; but I have to say that I was delighted by the passage which formed the First Reading in the Office of Readings last Friday . . . a passage from the First Letter of S. Paul to Timothy :

Anyone who teaches anything different, and does not keep to the sound teaching which is that of our Lord Jesus Christ, the doctrine which is in accordance with true religion, is simply ignorant and must be full of self-conceit – with a craze of questioning everything and arguing about words. All that can come of this is jealousy, contention, abuse, and wicked mistrust of one another; and unending disputes by people who are neither rational nor informed

Is it just me, or does that sound as though S. Paul had foresight in respect of those who want to promote their own particular (per)version of what Vatican II taught . . . and wouldn’t it serve the people who want to promote the ‘teachings of Vatican II’ well if they read them carefully before they went around promoting this ‘spirit’ of it which has no resemblance to what the Council, and the Fathers of the Council, actually said ?

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Just slightly surprised . . .

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been; but I admit that I was slightly surprised this morning when I got to Westminster Cathedral.

Today is Blessed John Henry Newman’s day – for the very first time – and of course at the Oratories it is kept as a Feast : my understanding being that in the general English Kalendar it is only a Memorial (and apparently only an Optional one at that).

I heard two Masses at the Oratory – the Extraordinary Form at 08:00 and a private Ordinary Form at 09:15; and was present during, although not attending, the 10:00 Ordinary Form, all at the Newman Altar : and in each case the number of worshippers appeared to be noticeably up on an ordinary Saturday. (Incidentally, there was also, of course, Veneration of a Relic of the Beatus at the end of Mass; a delightful addition to the liturgy.)

Wasn’t I surprised, then, when at the Cathedral – I was book-shopping next door, not visiting the Cathedral – I witnessed a vast hoard (including many priests) pouring out; and I was told by friends amongst the throng that the place had been packed . . . for the Archbishop’s Mass for Blessed John Henry Newman.

Given that Newman was an Oratorian – indeed, it was entirely due to him that the Oratory arrived in England in the first place – I have to say I found it odd that there was such a popular preference for Mass at the Cathedral, rather than at the Oratory . . . or am I just being silly, or naïve, or something ?

(Sorry about the quality of the photo; I had only my phone with me, and the light was not wonderful, hence the slightly blurred quality : but I think it is clear that the Feast at the Oratory was as splendid as things there always are.)

Rosary Confraternity

I know I’ve said this before : but the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary is not only beloved by so many Saints and Popes; it is also beneficial to its members, through the enormous blessings one derives from membership.

Membership costs nothing, and all you have to do is say all the original fifteen mysteries at least once a week . . . though if you aren’t able to, or fail to do so in a week, you don’t thereby automatically lose your membership.

The Indulgences and other blessings which accrue to all members are truly phenomenal; and if you are going to say your Rosary anyway, then it is really silly not to join, and start gaining those spiritual benefits right away.

How do you join ? Well, if you look in the left-hand sidebar you will see a ‘Rosary Confraternity’ link you can click on, which will connect you to the Brother of the Order of Preachers who is the Confraternity’s Promoter in the UK : and he will be very happy to hear from you, and to enrol you . . . so what are you waiting for ?