LIBERA ME, Domine, Iesu Christe, ab omnibus iniquitatis meis et universis malis,
fac me tuis semper inhærere mandatis et a te numquam separari permittas. Amen.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Judge Not . . .

The Crescat recently had a post discussing the tendency of some Catholic bloggers to be judgemental about the attitudes, tastes, or opinions of others (and yes, it’s something I recognize in myself, at least sometimes) : and it raised the question of what happens if by one’s judgemental attitude one is responsible for driving a soul away from God ?

Well, at first sight the answer is obvious : no sincere Catholic blogger wants to be responsible for driving even one soul away from God. What, I’m sure, we are all hoping to do is to bring souls to God . . . to stimulate, inform, challenge, or whatever . . . but to attract souls to the glory of our Faith, that they may be saved thereby.

On that level, then, it’s a good point : and we should all be very careful never to say anything which might drive a soul away from God.

At the same time, it does seem to me that there is another angle to it; which is the question of how one approaches matters where people hold opinions on which there is simply no possibility of giving way . . . the absolute sanctity of the unborn child, for instance, and the absolute sinfulness of abortion.

Are we to say that we must not say this plainly and unmistakably because we might, by doing, so, drive someone away from the Church ? I don’t think so, I’m afraid.

Of course, we must make it quite clear that what we are condemning is the sin, not – and never – the sinner; that we sympathize with the problems which lead women to do this dreadful thing, and that the Church (if not we personally) both can and will do whatever support is necessary to ensure that they are spared the guilt of murdering their unborn children . . . but that doesn’t mean that we can even suggest that abortion is ever an acceptable solution in God’s eyes; even if there are times when human beings may find it so.

We have God’s authority for judging the sin, and finding it atrocious : as for the sinner, that is in God’s hands, and can safely be left to a good and holy Confessor, who will know how to bring the confidence of God’s love to someone who has done something – anything – which the Church condemns because God condemns it.

So, it seems to me that whilst driving a soul away from God would be a great tragedy, and the possibility certainly requires us to ensure that we are quite definite in our comments about such issues so that our readers understand very clearly that it is the sin which we condemn, not the sinner (and, as a corollary, that we do not condemn as sinful something which is merely a matter of personal opinion) . . . but we have no authority to suggest that something which we know to be a sin is not, simply to avoid upsetting anyone . . .


Tuesday, 29 June 2010

What’s it all about . . ?

Some of you may be old enough to remember the song ‘What's it all about, Alfie ?’

Well, today is, for me, a day to ask myself exactly that question : what is the feast of Ss Peter & Paul all about for me ?

The answer, for me, is this : I became a Catholic because I came to realize that it’s very easy to believe in something; but without a touchstone, how can you be sure that what you believe is what Our Lord wants you to believe ? Of course there are many churches; and most of them are extremely vociferous about that is right and what is wrong : but the problem is that none of them is able to justify its position. As I once said about a leading figure in the creation of a new bible-based local community church ‘I am quite sure from my own experience that he is both devout and thoughtful; and I have no doubt that he seeks to follow the teachings of Christ faithfully and scrupulously according to his lights. What I cannot believe is that, having apparently wholly failed to do so for well-nigh two thousand years, Almighty God should now suddenly feel inclined to give the fullness of His revelation solely to my former PE teacher !’

So how do you know what you're meant to believe ? Well, the answer is ultimately a simple one : ‘Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia’ – God’s Church is the one which is in the hands of S. Peter; which means, of course, in communion with the Apostolic See.

Just how I came to the full realization of that vital truth isn’t particularly important; but get there I did, so that for me today is a very important day, as I hear the Mass of Saints Peter & Paul, and contemplate the security one gains from knowing that one is indisputably part of the Church which Christ founded . . . the ark of salvation which He offers to us all.

May all my followers and readers be much blessed today; and may Almighty God also richly bless His Church, and our Holy Father Pope Benedict the successor of Peter.

Udata Hathi

Monday, 28 June 2010

Doing what I can . . .

On Saturday I was in Westminster Cathedral for the annual Pontifical High Mass of the Latin Mass Society, when Bishop Alan Hopes celebrated the Feast of Ss. John & Paul : and the splendid Mulier Fortis has put up a very good post, with her usual lovely photos, here (and thanks to her, of course, for the one which I have borrowed !).

The reason I mention it, though, is because my intention for the Mass was quite specifically all my friends, and the followers and readers of this blog.

Why ? Well, because it seems to me that if Catholic blogging is to mean anything, we must be trying to achieve something for God : and that must, ultimately, be to bring souls to Him . . . and to achieve that, it is not sufficient for me simply to share my thoughts with you; I must also offer my prayers for you, both in gratitude for your support, but also in support of you in your journey to God, hoping that at least something that I say may be of help to you.

So : as well as a regular share in my prayers, I decided to start offering a share of the Masses I attend for you all, that God may richly bless you, and bring some fruit from my little attempt ‘contemplata aliis tradere’.

Happy Birthday !

And another Birthday to celebrate today - the inimitable Mac McLernon of Mulier Fortis.

May Our Lady of the Rosary keep her always in her prayers, especially at what has not been the very best of times (well, think car problems for a start !) : and I am sure that many, many people in the Catholic blogosphere will join me in wishing Super-Mac a rousing ‘Happy Birthday’ !

Travels On My Elephant

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Knowing Our Bible

Fr Sean Finnegan, over at Valle Adurni, has a post today about the apparent disinclination of Catholics to know their Bible – and it reminded me of a comment of Ronnie Knox’s that when he asked, in a Presbytery, for a Bible from which to verify the text for his sermon, it usually took twenty minutes to produce one, with the dust being blown off it as it was brought into the room !

In his post, Father discusses the crucial fact that Catholic Truth is at the very heart of the Scriptures – a fact of which, it has to be said, many Catholics appear to be unaware : and which harks back to a comment which I have myself made more than once, namely that in recent years it would appear that catechetics in the Catholic Church, at least in Great Britain, has been superficial, and has largely ignored the fontes of the faith.

When I found myself, as a young teenager, in the Catholic end of the Church of England, I was provided with a splendid small volume entitled ‘The King’s Highway’, which was originally issued in 1924 (and apparently translated into Japanese and Swahili !), and which has recently been reissued.

‘The King’s Highway’ describes itself on the title page as ‘A Simple Statement of Catholic Belief and Duty’; and whilst it is Catholicism from an Anglican viewpoint, my belief is that there is little or nothing about it with which a Catholic theologian would quibble, except for the (few) things which it leaves out.

What distinguishes it, though, is the fact that it makes the fullest possible use of Holy Scripture to prove the statements it contains : to give a single example, the first two (short) pages on Baptism & Confirmation contain ten references to Scripture, as well as one to the Nicene Creed.

I appreciate that the Catechism of the Catholic Church provides a huge selection of citations, both of Scripture and of the Fathers; but CCC is not exactly ‘reading’ – more a work of reference. ‘The King’s Highway’ is specifically designed to be read; and if you read it, and check the citations as you go, you end up not only with a reasonable knowledge of the Faith, but also with a better-than-average knowledge of its scriptural basis.

Is it time, I wonder, for some sound Catholic write to update this book to meet the needs of Catholics in today’s world ?

Happy Birthday !

It is a great pleasure to be able to wish ‘Happy Birthday’ to one of my followers, Oliver, author of the ‘Qui Curat Surgere’ blog, a Brother of the Little Oratory in London, and a well-known face in the Catholic blogosphere.

May Our Lady and S. Philip pray for him.

Rajasthan Royals

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Oh Dear . . .

‘A convert, and a fairly recent one’ : that’s me, and it means that there are still things which I come across which I find anything from confusing to downright impossible to understand : and one of these latter I encountered recently in a post on another blog.

I’ve always realized that there are some Catholics who have a ‘thing’ about liturgy and tradition; what I’ve discovered, however, is that there are some Catholics who appear to believe that liturgy and tradition are so important that they take precedence of everything else, including papal authority . . . and that I find extraordinarily difficult to get my head around.

Of course I understand that tradition is crucial to the Church, and to the perpetuation of the Deposit of Faith : but my understanding was that one of the reasons why Our Lord gave power to Peter was to ensure that the Church would always have one person who could, inerrantly, interpret tradition to – and in the light of – the world so that the teachings of Christ could be seen afresh in every generation.

It appears, however, that this is not the case – at least in the minds of some Catholics – and that if the Pope comes into conflict with tradition then tradition must win because it’s been there longer. As the blogger I referred to earlier said, ‘The Catholic Tradition is more solid than the arbitrary decisions of self-important Popes’ !

I’m sorry; but if tradition must always relate only to the oldest authority, then nothing can ever change. English Common Law relies on tradition; but it does not automatically assume that the oldest authority must be right – it considers all the relevant authorities in light of the circumstances, and determines what the correct decision is – and I’d always assumed that this was, in effect, what the Pope did; collate and consider the authoritative traditions and teachings of the Church, seek the advice of competent experts, and then determine the Church’s position on that case at that time.

One of the reasons I became a Catholic was because I came to recognize that – however sincere and right-minded they were – reliance on my own opinions was not a safe path to Heaven : but that the Catholic Church offers the security of reliance on the teachings of the Church, as expressed by the Pope. If I follow those teachings, I cannot sin; and though he may have to answer for them on the Day of Judgement, I shall not.

I respect those who, in conscience, feel unable to subscribe to this position; but I’d value the opinion of a competent theologian as to whether they’re really Catholic.


Friday, 25 June 2010

Barking ? No, Rome, actually !

I'm a bit past the age of going on long cycle rides, even if I did do a lot of it as a schoolboy and student : but I do remember that, although it’s great fun, it’s also very hard work – and the idea of volunteering to do 1,200 miles in under a month is, at first sight, barking mad . . . in fact probably well beyond Barking : Dagenham, perhaps !

However, sometimes seemingly mad things are done for a reason which makes them incurably sane : such as making a pilgrimage. The Camino del Santiago, for instance, or walking the Pilgrim’s Way from Winchester to Canterbury . . . but in these days of planes, trains, and coaches, perhaps most of us have lost sight of the concept that making a pilgrimage is really meant to involve some hard work in getting there, as well as the religious aspects of the place of pilgrimage : so it’s truly wonderful to hear of the splendid Treloar family, who have decided that just going to Rome is not enough . . . they’re going to spend July cycling there from Sidcup.

They have set up a blog, Via Romea, as a way of keeping their friends and supporters informed about their journey; so I encourage you to follow their progress, and offer them your prayers, and also to show your support for them by donating to the two charities for which they are hoping to raise money by their trip.


Thursday, 24 June 2010

Life's more than Cricket

So . . . what would you expect a cricket fanatic to be doing on Saturday 24 July 2010 ? (There’s ‘Australia Cricket’ at Leeds, a Clydesdale 40 Match at Old Trafford, and then apparently a whole raft of Clydesdale 40 matches – including Glamorgan – to look forward to the following day.)

Well, if you happen to be fr Robert Gay OP, the answer is ‘entirely ignoring it all’ . . . because you will be lying prostrate before the altar of Blackfriars, Oxford, in the process of being ordained a Priest forever (though, knowing fr Robert, I doubt that it will prevent him wanting to know the scores next day !).

One way and another, fr Robert’s journey to 24 July has been an interesting one; and it hasn’t only led him to the priesthood, but also to the role of Promoter of Vocations for the English Province of the Order of Preachers.

You can read at least part of the story in yesterday’s post on Godzdogz, and I believe it will not only answer some questions about why people become priests – and Dominicans – but also why I believe fr Robert is going to be a good Promoter of Vocations.

Please pray for him as he prepares for his Ordination; and, if you remember to do so, spare him a prayer on 24 July that he may be a good and holy priest, and a worthy follower of S. Dominic.

Happy Birthday

Today is the Solemnity of the Nativity of S. John the Baptist : not, to be quite honest, a Saint with whom I feel I’d have a great deal in common – fond as I am of honey, I’ve never managed to develop a taste for locusts, for a start; and I generally prefer to have my clothes made of conventional fabrics rather than being snatched off the back of some wild beast who may not yet have finished with them !

There is one point, however, where I do feel an affinity with him, although no doubt for a very different reason : and that is his focus on Our Blessed Lord, when he said ‘Behold the Lamb of God’.

One of the reasons I prefer the Extraordinary Form is because I can follow the Mass in my own way, and with my own prayers, rather than it being expected that I will get the most benefit from following along with someone else’s idea of what is most appropriate : and for me, one of the focal points of the Mass, at least on a good percentage of occasions, one of the things at which my devotion aims, is that moment when the priest hold up the Host and says ‘Ecce Agnus Dei; ecce Qui tollit peccata mundi’.

Pious ejaculations are largely out of fashion nowadays; although such things as the ‘Jesus Prayer’ do seem to have made something of a comeback in recent years : but that single sentence seems to me to concentrate within itself much of the mystery of the Mass . . . and thus much of the mystery of our Redemption.

He may not have been our first choice of guest for an enjoyable party : but S. John the Baptist gave us a great gift for his birthday – a recognition of exactly what Our Lord offers us; salvation, through His sacrifice; the birthday of a new vision of redemption . . . and for that, if nothing else, it seems to me we must be grateful to him.

Woolly Mammoth

(And yes, the choice of this splendid beast for today was entirely deliberate !)

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

I didn't find it so . . .

There was a post on the New Liturgical Movement yesterday, drawing attention to the propers for the Office of (the soon-to-be) Blessed John Henry Newman : and I read the propers with interest, not least to see what had been chosen for the Office of Readings.

Rather to my delight it was one of my favourite passages from the Apologia Pro Vita Sua; one which I have always rather liked because of something which Newman says in it : ‘People say that the doctrine of Transubstantiation is difficult to believe; I did not believe the doctrine till I was a Catholic.’

I have to say that I rather enjoy that passage because I know how very greatly Newman’s intellect, and faith, exceed mine; and yet I can truthfully say that from the very first time it was explained to me – as it happens, solely as a theological concept, by a Methodist – it has seemed to me to be almost the easiest of doctrines to believe . . . far more so, certainly, than many of the complexities of the Blessed Trinity, or Limbo, or things like that.

Indeed, I think it would be truthful to say that it was the doctrine of Transubstantiation which drew me to the Catholic Faith; and if it did so initially via the Church of England, well c’est la vie; but I came home in the end, and in the meantime was, perhaps, spared some of the liturgical nonsenses which many other Catholics have had to endure in England in the last forty years.

To me Transubstantiation is the defining doctrine of the Catholic Faith; because almost everything else in it is believed by at least some, if not many, other Christians : the Real Presence of Our Blessed Lord, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, on our altars, in our tabernacles, and greatest of all, in Holy Communion, is one of the two unique gifts of Catholicism . . . the other is what Newman identified as his way to believing in Transubstantiation : ‘that the Catholic Roman Church was the oracle of God.’

One of the problems nowadays, as I see it as a newcomer, is that many Catholics seem to have lost touch with these two fundamental truths of the Faith. Let us pray that, especially with the Holy Father visiting Great Britain later this year, we may all be brought to a clearer realization of them, and a deeper faith in, them.

Colourful Hope

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Seeking 'Wiggle Room'

Their Graces of Canterbury & York have proposed a scheme which they seem to think may allow the proposed legislation enabling the consecration of women bishops within the Church of England to go ahead smoothly and with minimal opposition.

From where I stand, they are wrong.

First, because their solution ignores the theological problem of intention. It might work for a time, whilst there are male bishops out there whose succession and consecration has not been touched (I nearly said ‘tainted’) by women bishops, or those who have been involved with ordaining women bishops. However, the time will inevitably come when all surviving bishops will have been involved, at least at some level, with one or both of these; at which point the ‘nominated bishops’ will themselves, although male, be theologically unacceptable to the parishes they are in theory there to serve because the integrity of their intention in the consecration process will have been irretreivably compromised.

Secondly because the problem seems to me to skip too lightly over the legal issues. It’s all very well saying that the diocesan bishops will ‘in practice refrain from exercising certain of his or her functions in such a parish’; but that is only to be a matter of a ‘Code of Practice’ : which in turn has no legal force, and could therefore be ignored by such a diocesan at any time, with no hope of recourse by the parish – which, given how strongly views have been expressed by certain leading figures in the movement supporting the consecration of women, must be a real concern.

Ultimately, these proposals appear to me to be little more than a fudge, intended to find some ‘wiggle room’, and persuade at least some people to ‘hang on in there’, rather than leaving now : but I think that most of those who are seriously opposed to the proposal have rather too much theological - and probably legal - savvy to fall for the Archbishops’ plan.

I can sympathise with the Archbishops for wanting to avoid the complete collapse of the Church of England : but then they have only themselves (and, to be fair, their predecessors and the General Synod) to blame for the position in which it finds itself.

After the Ordination of Women Measure was passed, Revd Paul Williamson sought to have it overturned on the grounds that it was contrary to the passage in the Coronation Oath where the Monarch swears to protect the Doctrines of the Church of England. Sadly, what he had failed to appreciate was that, over the years, the position has become that the Doctrines of the Church of England are whatever General Synod says they are this week, so his attempt failed. No doubt he, or someone else, will try and do the same thing again this time : and it will fail just as surely.

Sadly, the Church of England’s only unchangeable doctrine is now that there are no unchangeable doctrines . . . not a position over which I, for one, would care to preside. Who can blame the Archbishops for trying to find a way out of doing so ?


Monday, 21 June 2010

The Right Rite

If you read many ‘traditional’ blogs, I think you will rapidly come to agree that many of those who write them, although grateful in principle for Summorum Pontificum, are not really enthusiastic about it, because for all sorts of reasons they simply don’t want the 1962 Mass : although further research will show that, although they almost all maintain that some other specific Rite is the only ‘genuine’ one, they’re not exactly united in their opinion of which one that is.

Further, and perhaps more importantly, they all seem to ignore the point which the Holy Father implicitly makes in Summorum Pontificum; namely that prior to Vatican II, the development of the Roman Rite was essentially an organic one – that there was, to use Fr Tim’s favour phrase, a ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ – and that the real problem with the Novus Ordo was not that it changed things, but that there was at the same time a ‘hermeneutic of discontinuity’ which led to the unnecessary ejection of many babies and much bathwater simultaneously; and that it was really that, and not just the new Rite, which so damaged the liturgy.

If you want to persuade me that the 1955 Roman Rite is the best of all possible options, I’m entirely open to conviction on that point; but I’m equally open to being convinced that the original Missal of Pius V is best, or the Sarum Use, or even the Rite as used by Tertullian . . . but at the end of the day, whatever I finally decide, my choice is only a ‘snapshot’ of one point in the (essentially) organic development of the liturgy which happens to appeal to me, and to my particular viewpoint : and it has no more inherent logic or authority than that.

As I think I’ve said before, organic development is – I believe – part of God’s will for the world; it is how His Church retains its relevance to a world which He created with the ability to develop, and to which He gave ‘self-determination’, however much we (and He ?) may regret those generous gifts. It might well be very nice for us to have the liturgy go back lock, stock, and smouldering thurible to Pius V, or the Use of Sarum; but whether that would achieve much in terms of persuading today’s world that the Church had anything to offer is a very different question.

The Holy Father has very generously made it clear that those of us who prefer the Traditional Form of the Mass not only may have it, but indeed must have it if we want it, because our right to it never disappeared. At the same time, he is the Pastor of the Universal Church, and as such – it seems to me – he also has both the right and the duty to ensure that every part of the Church retains in contact with God’s world; and it ill behoves any of us to dismiss his generous concern by suggesting that the way in which he relates it to the needs of the Church as a whole is misguided – still less actively wrong.


Sunday, 20 June 2010

Muddled Thinking

In the Homily at Mass this morning, the point was made that the Holy Father’s visit to the UK is primarily is his role as a ‘fisher of men’ : not necessarily to buoy up the faithful, but to promote the Faith to an increasingly secular world.

Is it me, or does that viewpoint suggest a spokesman of the Bishop’s Conference trying to justify its abject failure to make proper arrangements for the maximum possible number of the faithful to attend the Holy Father’s Masses ? It's certainly muddled thinking, anyway.

Of course the Holy Father is coming as a ‘fisher of men’; and we are all delighted that he is, and are praying that this aspect of his visit is successful..

At the same time, not only are those he is fishing for not particularly interested in attending his Masses at this stage, but sparse attendance at them will only provide ammunition for those who claim that the Faith is in decline : it will not be of any great benefit to the ‘fishing trip’ – whereas the presence of great numbers would provide clear evidence that the Catholic Faith is alive and active in Britain today; and that is what will influence the uncertain.

Let us all keep praying hard that it will be rapidly realized that what is needed is the maximum possible involvement of the faithful in all aspects of the Holy Father’s visit; and in particular the greatest possible number of people attending all the liturgies and giving a positive demonstration of their commitment to the Faith.

Support the Pope

There is a website – small as yet – where you can pledge your support and prayers for the Holy Father.

All you are doing is signing up to say that you support him and will pray for him; but as the site says, if enough people sign up, there’s a chance he will hear of it, and be heartened by it.

Visit Support the Pope here.

The Reality of Reverence

I’ve said more than a few things, both on this blog and in comments on others, about respect for the Most Holy Sacrament : and I stand firmly by what I’ve said, that we can never show Our Blessed Lord too much respect and reverence in the Sacrament of the Altar.

At the same time I must admit that some of my comments have been somewhat judgemental; and I was reading recently ‘Diary of a City Priest’ by ‘Pastor Iuventus’ which had a passage in it which I found very helpful in thinking about this subject.

When something is small and infinitely precious it is easy, if you are not used to it, to be frightened of its preciousness, or rather of one’s own clumsiness or unfamiliarity with something so vulnerable. This in turn can make one more clumsy, more lacking in dexterity. Babies need the sure grip of love, not the reverent touch of the connoisseur. Jesus makes Himself vulnerable in the Blessed Sacrament not so that we can be all uptight and precious about It, but so that we can love Him. The fear of making a mistake, of not being able to cope with His preciousness, can actually create a block to loving Him – which is a crude definition of scrupulosity.

When taking the Blessed Sacrament in my hands I need to guard against any casual approach but also against what I might call idealism. True reverence can only come from toughing the reality of holiness, not from being frightened to touch it lest one’s clumsiness and unfamiliarity betray one.

It seems to me that this offers a valuable insight. It is not suggesting – of course – that we should ever do other than offer the greatest possible respect to Our Blessed Lord : but what it seems to me to be emphasizing is that that respect needs to come from the heart, and that our reverence needs to be the outward and visible sign of a genuine inward and spiritual devotion.

Lord, grant me the grace to find such depths of love for You that my devotion may be made manifest in my external reverence, not formed by it.

Lawrence is at it again . . .

At least; I assume from the style that it is the work of the inimitable fr Lawrence Lew OP : the banner on the Godzdogz blog has now changed from 'The Year for Priests' to look forward to the Papal Visit, and includes another finely crafted selection of appropriate images.

See it here.

Quite apart from always enjoying Godzdogz for the information - and the pictures - it contains, I am always delighted by it because it is such a splendid manifestation of the 'Holy Preaching' to which Dominicans are called . . . so if you don't visit it already, you may want to add it to your list of favourites.

Delhi Daredevils

Saturday, 19 June 2010

In the End is the Beginning

Today sees the end of the ‘Year for Priests’; and at the Oratory this morning a number of children from the Oratory Primary School made their first Holy Communion with a large congregation of families and friends . . . and, quite accidentally, me.

Quite a number of thoughts crossed my mind both before and during the Mass; but one in particular occurred to me during F. John’s sermon . . . that in one way it was a very appropriate day for these children to come to the altar for the first time to receive Our Blessed Lord in Holy Communion.

F. John spoke to the children about the possibility – indeed the desirability – of their now receiving Holy Communion often, and well; and he pointed out that in most churches there is a daily Mass, so that they can even make a daily Communion . . . but, of course, they can only do this because the priest is there to make this possible.

As the S. Curé d’Ars said, ‘Who has the key ? Who lays in the provisions ? Who makes ready the feast, and who serves the table ?’ ‘The priest.’

We have for a year prayed for our priests; but we have not prayed for them for themselves alone, but through them for the people of God whom they are there to sanctify, and to serve. Those children this morning brought their innocence to meet the Innocent One in the Most Holy Sacrament : but it was F. John who brought It to the altar to meet them.

Let us tonight, as the Year for Priests draws to its close, thank God for those children at the Oratory who made their first Holy Communion today (and others whom, I know, are doing so in many other churches this weekend), and pray that they will always remain faithful members of His Holy Church : but let us also thank God for our priests, and remember that although the Year for Priests may be over, the need for us to pray for our priests is never over, because our need for them is never over either.

Resistance Campaign Petition

Fr Tim has a good post on this campaign, an important step in the fight against 'euthanasia' and 'assisted suicide' : you can read it here.

Do read it, and then sign the Petition here.

Coming to the end . . .

As we come to the end of the Year for Priests, I can think of nothing better than to repeat the ‘Catechism on the Priesthood’ of the S. Curé d’Ars : and to beg you to continue to pray for our priests, and that the Church may continue to be blessed by devoted and holy priests.

My children, we have come to the Sacrament of Orders. It is a Sacrament which seems to relate to no one among you, and which yet relates to everyone. This Sacrament raises man up to God. What is a priest ! A man who holds the place of God – a man who is invested with all the powers of God. ‘Go,’ said Our Lord to the priest; ‘as My Father sent Me, I send you. All power has been given Me in Heaven and on earth. Go then, teach all nations . . . He who listens to you, listens to Me; he who despises you despises Me.’ When the priest remits sins, he does not say, ‘God pardons you’; he says, ‘I absolve you.’ At the Consecration, he does not say, ‘This is the Body of Our Lord;’ he says, ‘This is My Body.’

Saint Bernard tells us that everything has come to us through Mary; and we may also say that everything has come to us through the priest; yes, all happiness, all graces, all heavenly gifts. If we had not the Sacrament of Orders, we should not have Our Lord. Who placed Him there, in that tabernacle ? It was the priest. Who was it that received your soul, on its entrance into life ? The priest. Who nourishes it, to give it strength to make its pilgrimage ? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, by washing that soul, for the last time, in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest – always the priest. And if that soul comes to the point of death, who will raise it up, who will restore it to calmness and peace ? Again the priest. You cannot recall one single blessing from God without finding, side by side with this recollection, the image of the priest.

Go to confession to the Blessed Virgin, or to an angel; will they absolve you ? No. Will they give you the Body and Blood of Our Lord ? No. The Holy Virgin cannot make her Divine Son descend into the Host. You might have two hundred angels there, but they could not absolve you. A priest, however simple he may be, can do it; he can say to you, ‘Go in peace; I pardon you.’ Oh, how great is a priest ! The priest will not understand the greatness of his office till he is in Heaven. If he understood it on earth, he would die, not of fear, but of love. The other benefits of God would be of no avail to us without the priest. What would be the use of a house full of gold, if you had nobody to open you the door ! The priest has the key of the heavenly treasures; it is he who opens the door; he is the steward of the good God, the distributor of His wealth. Without the priest, the Death and Passion of Our Lord would be of no avail. Look at the heathens : what has it availed them that Our Lord has died ? Alas ! they can have no share in the blessings of Redemption, while they have no priests to apply His Blood to their souls !

The priest is not a priest for himself; he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments to himself. He is not for himself, he is for you. After God, the priest is everything. Leave a parish twenty years without priests; they will worship beasts. If the missionary Father and I were to go away, you would say, ‘What can we do in this church ? there is no Mass; Our Lord is no longer there: we may as well pray at home.’ When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest, because where there is no longer any priest there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice there is no religion.

When the bell calls you to church, if you were asked, ‘Where are you going ?’ you might answer, ‘I am going to feed my soul.’ If someone were to ask you, pointing to the tabernacle, ‘What is that golden door ?’ ‘That is our storehouse, where the true Food of our souls is kept.’ ‘Who has the key ? Who lays in the provisions ? Who makes ready the feast, and who serves the table ?’ ‘The priest.’ ‘And what is the Food ?’ ‘The precious Body and Blood of Our Lord.’ O God ! O God ! how Thou hast loved us ! See the power of the priest; out of a piece of bread the word of a priest makes a God. It is more than creating the world . . . Someone said, ‘Does St. Philomena, then, obey the Cure of Ars ?’ Indeed, she may well obey him, since God obeys him.

If I were to meet a priest and an angel, I should salute the priest before I saluted the angel. The latter is the friend of God; but the priest holds His place. S. Teresa kissed the ground where a priest had passed. When you see a priest, you should say, ‘There is he who made me a child of God, and opened Heaven to me by holy Baptism; he who purified me after I had sinned; who gives nourishment to my soul.’ At the sight of a church tower, you may say, ‘What is there in that place ?’ ‘The Body of Our Lord.’ ‘Why is He there ?’ ‘Because a priest has been there, and has said holy Mass.’

What joy did the Apostles feel after the Resurrection of Our Lord, at seeing the Master whom they had loved so much ! The priest must feel the same joy, at seeing Our Lord whom he holds in his hands. Great value is attached to objects which have been laid in the drinking cup of the Blessed Virgin and of the Child Jesus, at Loreto. But the fingers of the priest, that have touched the adorable Flesh of Jesus Christ, that have been plunged into the chalice which contained His Blood, into the pyx where His Body has lain, are they not still more precious ? The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus. When you see the priest, think of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, give us priests.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, give us priests.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, give us holy priests.

21st Century Ganesh

Friday, 18 June 2010

Frustrated ? No, Horrified !

Fr Tim has posted today about the Holy Father’s forthcoming visit, and has referred to Anna Arco’s interview with Archbishop Vincent Nichols on the topic : but I’m afraid that Fr Tim’s comments on the Archbishop’s (IMHO) rather turgid and non-committal remarks are much more temperate than I feel able to be.

He says ‘There is still considerable frustration about many aspects of the visit, and particularly the failure to organise a major event which people can attend en masse . . . Apparently there will at least be the possibility of lining the streets: it is important for Catholics to do so in large numbers, cheering, singing and waving flags.’

I have to say that I’m not frustrated by the abject failure of the hierarchy to organise the liturgical functions so that the faithful can attend them in large numbers : I’m utterly horrified at it.

There would have been absolutely no rational difficulty in making arrangements for the Beatification Mass which would have allowed (say) 250,000 people to attend; and I suspect that an even higher number could have been achieved. Similarly, the other events could easily have been planned to allow significant numbers of people to have worshipped with His Holiness . . . watching him drive past is NOT an acceptable substitute for this, and I am simply horrified that the Hierarchy even (apparently) begins to think that it is.

From where I’m standing the arrangements are as they are either because – for whatever reason – there is pressure on the Hierarchy from the Government to handle things this way, or because – as some people have suggested – the Hierarchy does not really want the Holy Father here.

If it’s down to government pressure, then the Hierarchy should arrange for His Holiness to celebrate Mass with small and select congregations and good TV coverage, and to conduct the Beatification in (eg) the Birmingham Oratory on the same basis, and then tell the Catholics of Great Britain why they are doing so, so that they can bear it in mind at the next election !

If, on the other hand, it is all down to the Bishops, then they should, quite simply, be ashamed of themselves, and consider their positions very carefully. As Fr Tim rightly points out, ‘People want to be able to say "I was there" not "I watched it on the telly"’; and failing to make this possible – when it so easily could be – is utterly unacceptable.

My belief is that the situation could still be turned round, if the Hierarchy have the will to do so . . . the question is, do they ?

More from S. Cyprian

Yesterday I commented on S. Cyprian’s observations about the need for regular Holy Communion, and the consequent need for regular confession to ensure that our souls were always prepared to receive so great a Sacrament.

The passage I was referring to actually went on beyond that; but because it raised another issue, I thought I’d consider it separately. It continued :

After this we entreat for our sins, saying Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. After the supply of food, pardon of sin is also asked for.

How necessary, how provident, how salutary are we reminded that we are sinners, since we have to beg for forgiveness, and while we ask for God’s pardon, we are reminded of our own consciousness of guilt ! Just in case anyone should think himself innocent and, by thus exalting himself, should more utterly perish, he is taught and instructed that he sins every day, since he is commanded to pray daily for forgiveness.

This is what John warns us in his epistle:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us; but if we confess our sins, the Lord is faithful and just and will forgive us. In his epistle he combines two things, both that we ought to beg for mercy because of our sins and that we will receive forgiveness when we ask for it. This is why he says that the Lord is faithful to forgive sins, keeping faith with what he promised; because he who taught us to pray for our debts and sins has promised that his fatherly mercy and pardon will follow.

As S. Philip Neri points out, when we say ‘Forgive us . . . as we forgive’ we may well be bringing down horrible vengeance upon ourselves : because which of us really forgives, truly, properly, and completely - and if we get what we pray for, what hope is there for any of us ?

S. Cyprian continues, in today's Second Reading :

Christ has clearly added a law here, binding us to a definite condition, that we should ask for our debts to be forgiven us only as much as we ourselves forgive our debtors, knowing that we cannot obtain what we seek in respect of our own sins unless we ourselves have acted in exactly the same way to those who have sinned against us. This is why he says in another place: By whatever standard you measure, by that standard will you too be measured. And the servant who had all his debt forgiven him by his master but would not forgive his fellow-servant was cast into prison: because he would not forgive his fellow-servant, he lost the indulgence that his master had granted him.

And Christ makes this point even more strongly in his teaching: When you stand up to pray, he says, if you have anything against anyone, forgive it, so that your Father who is in heaven may forgive your sins. But if you do not forgive, nor will your Father in heaven forgive you. On the day of judgement there are no possible excuses: you will be judged according to your own sentence, and whatever you have inflicted, that is what you will suffer.

We need to remember always that Our Blessed Lord offers us complete forgiveness; but that if we are to receive that, we must also offer it to others : and the best way of doing that is to ensure that we always remember our own sinfulness - and there is no better way of doing that than by regular examination of conscience, and frequent use of the sacrament of Penance.

At the same time, let us pray frequently not only that we may be allowed to judge others in accordance with the way in which God, in His love, judges us; but also for those others, that their sins may be forgiven, so that ours may be also, that we may all be united with God in Heaven at the last.


Thursday, 17 June 2010

The Martyrdom of Love

There is an excellent post today at Living in the Shadowlands taken from the memoirs of S. Jane Francies de Chantal's Secretary, which recounts the Saint's comments on 'the Martyrdom of Love', which I recommend you to read.

A Timely Reminder from S. Cyprian

I was reading the Second Reading from the Office of Readings today, and it struck me that it says a lot which we ought to think about.

The passage comes from S. Cyprian’s Homily on The Lord’s Prayer :

As the prayer continues, we ask Give us this day our daily bread. This can be understood both spiritually and literally, because either way of understanding is rich in divine usefulness to our salvation. For Christ is the bread of life, and this bread does not belong to anyone at all, but to us. And so, just as we say Our Father, because he is the father of those who understand and believe, so also we call it our bread, because Christ is the bread of us who come into contact with his body.

We ask that this bread should be given to us daily, that we who are in Christ and daily receive the Eucharist as the food of salvation may not be prevented, by the interposition of some heinous sin, from partaking of the heavenly bread and be separated from Christ’s body, for as he says: I am the bread of life which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of my bread, he will live for ever; and the bread I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.

So when he says that whoever eats of his bread will live for ever; and as it is clear that those are indeed living who partake of his body and, having the right of communion, receive the Eucharist, so, on the other hand, we must fear and pray lest anyone should be kept at a distance from salvation who, being withheld from communion, remains separate from Christ’s body. For he has given us this warning: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you will have no life in you. And therefore we ask that our bread – that is, Christ – may be given to us daily, so that we who live in Christ may not depart from his sanctification and his body.

Apart from the interesting fact that we have S. Cyprian suggesting that daily reception of Holy Communion was normal at that time, it seems to me that it is also reminding us that as we are dependent upon the Body of Christ to sustain us in our journey through this life, and to give us the nourishment we need to gain us entry to heaven, we must not only ensure that we receive that Most Holy Sacrament frequently, but also that we ensure, by frequent confession (as well, of course, as by a devoted attempt to avoid all occasions of sin), that our souls are always worthy to receive it.

Obviously none of this is new; but in an age where frequent confession seems to be very much a thing of the past, I am grateful to S. Cyprian for reminding us all of the fundamental need for it as an essential step to a worthy reception of that Sacrament without which we cannot hope for salvations.

Chennai Super Kings

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Toppers & Tails

I always enjoy reading ‘My Way, God’s Way’; the blog of two Dominican brothers, frs Peter & Isidore Clarke OP, who live, respectively, in Grenada and Leicester, but who run a joint blog to share with us their own fascinating insights into life, and how they find God in it, and understand more of Him through the minutiæ of everyday life.

Recently there was a post titled ‘In Old People’ in which fr Isidore considered the question of ageing, and also commented on the speed with which life has changed in recent years; and that post came back to me today, which is the first day of the Royal Ascot meeting.

To look at the photo above, you could be forgiven for thinking that nothing has changed at Royal Ascot in a century; and yet a tremendous amount has changed even in the last five years.

‘Fascinating’, I hear you say; ‘but precisely what has this got to do with the Catholic Faith’ ?

Well, one of the points which fr Isidore makes is that the elderly are a link with our past; and that their memories are the repositories of our cultural histories – which means, of course, that unless we are to find ourselves trying to ‘re-invent the wheel’ in each generation, we need to learn from them.

fr Isidore tells of his mother, who lived to be 93, and saw a tremendous amount in her long life : my own grandfather, though not so long-lived, was at Dover Castle when Bleriot landed there after becoming the first man to fly across the English Channel, and lived to watch Neil Armstrong land on the moon.

The Catholic Faith is, in one sense, utterly unchanging; the Deposit of Faith cannot change because it is the truth of God . . . yet it has to relate to the God’s world afresh in every generation. How it does that is, necessarily, by developing : but the development must be based on history, and relates only to how the Faith is proclaimed – never to what is proclaimed.

The Holy Father has spoken of ‘the hermeneutic of continuity’; but this is not, as some seem to think, a new thing – it’s a very old one; it's just that until recently no-one ever even thought of it, because it was so much part of the Church's mindset. It was only recognition of the effects of the idea (which arose in the minds of some people in the mid-Twentieth Century) that development necessarily required abandonment of tradition that made people realize that such an approach is inimical to the good order and life of the Church.

So; in an odd way, as we see the anachronistic toppers on TV this week as they talk about Royal Ascot, let us recognize that in a tiny way this is a reminder of something important; the principal of building on tradition, not abandoning it on the basis of ‘change for the sake of change’. Of course change can be fun; but when the stability of people’s lives is involved, let us acknowledge that there is also merit in the principle of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ !

My Gorgeous Jungle

Monday, 14 June 2010

A Sermon I missed . . .

Having had a lengthy day yesterday, with a lot of travelling, and having already been to Mass twice, I rather naughtily ‘bottled out’ of staying at Blackfriars for the 18:15 Conventual Mass & Vespers . . . and as a result missed a splendid sermon (which facebook members can find on his wall) by fr Robert Gay OP, the Priory’s Deacon, who is to be ordained priest on Saturday 24 July.

His sermon, somewhat surprisingly, began with ‘Big Brother’, and used that to make the point that he felt that modern society has lost its sense of sin – and its sense of redemption : and he then moved onto the events in yesterday’s Gospel; the episode in the house of Simon the Pharisee where a lady of a certain type becomes rather over-emotional, and starts washing the feet of Jesus with her tears, drying them with her hair, covering them with kisses, and anointing them with ointment.

fr Robert picks up on this in the following passage which I think you may like to read from his homily :

This takes me back to my two points about a loss of a sense of sin, and a loss of the sense of redemption. Simon the Pharisee is perhaps right that he isn’t as serious a sinner as the woman who gatecrashes his party. But in some way, his sense of sin is so narrow that he has forgotten that he too is far from perfect. He hasn’t realised that he shares in this woman’s predicament.

I think today’s society has lost that sense too, and as Christians we can’t allow ourselves to share that attitude. It’s vital that we remember that in various ways and to various degrees all of us fall short in our relationships with others and with God at times. Sin is not something that we should obsess about, but there is a risk that if we don’t admit that we have failings, we will stand aloof from those whose sins are deemed headline-worthy and serious.

Why is it that in society we have lost our sense of sin in all but a select group of things?

Well, I’d like to suggest that it’s a defence mechanism, to help us deal with the fact that there has been a collective loss of a sense of redemption. We’ve lost a sense of the fact that sin isn’t the last word. If we’ve lost a sense of redemption, it isn’t surprising that we’ve tried to diminish our idea of sin. It’s a natural way of protecting ourselves from a future which is narrow and bleak, with no prospect of repairing damage and hurt that we have done to ourselves and others.

Oddly enough, gently recovering our sense of our own sinfulness is a healthy thing. It stops us from standing at a distance from the woman at Jesus feet, and puts us with her at his feet, attending to him – attending to our salvation. And it’s when our tears break through, our sorrow for our sins, that we discover the gift that he is offering us – the Gift of salvation. Then our tears of confession turn to tears of gratitude for what Jesus has done for us, and become the tears means by which we wash away the old, and make way for a new beginning.

Chesterton in his autobiography makes the point in a different way : When a Catholic comes from confession, he does truly, by definition, step out again into that dawn of his own beginning and look with new eyes across the world to a Crystal Palace that is really of crystal. He believes that in that dim corner and in that brief ritual, God has really re-made him in His own image. He is now a new experiment of the Creator. He is as much a new experiment as he was when he was really only five years old. He stands, as I said, in the whit light at the worth beginning of the life of a man. The accumulations of time can no longer terrify. He may be grey and gouty; but he is only five minutes old.

All I can say is, from my own experience, that this is just so true.

After my Reception into Holy Mother Church, I began to do what I suppose I’d always wanted to be able to do : to go to confession more or less every week; and it is doing that which has not only helped me reawaken my own sense of sinfulness but – somewhat unexpectedly – given me a great sense of joyfulness as well.

For much of my life I am probably far more Simon the Pharisee than the penitent woman : but whenever I come out of the confessional, usually in the quiet of a Saturday morning at the Oratory, I am touched with inexpressible joy that I have been allowed to stop being a whited sepulchre, and instead been allowed, even if only for a short time, to share in the almost lunatic outburst of joy of the penitent woman . . . been allowed to experience, yet again, the awareness of being redeemed, and reborn, through Our Lord’s love for us . . . been allowed to see, even more clearly, the gateway to eternal life which His Cross forms; a gateway open to all who will accept it.

The more often I examine my conscience, and go to confession, and the deeper into my soul I dig when I do, the more I am aware of these things, and the greater the joy that results : and I am convinced that this cannot be unique to me . . . that frequent confession is not only a great means to spiritual well-being, but a great source of joy as well.

Almost entirely about dandelions . . .

P. G. Wodehouse once wrote a chapter entitled ‘Almost Entirely About Flower-pots’; and one might be forgiven for suggesting that the last chapter of G. K. Chesterton’s autobiography could be entitled ‘Almost Entirely About Dandelions’ – that apparently insignificant flower forming a sort of leitmotif throughout the greater part of the chapter, as Chesterton discusses his position on Hope : a virtue of which he was always a great advocate.

It’s far too long to quote in toto; but he makes one point which I feel is very apposite today, if only because I’m sure that most of us know people – usually all-too-many people – who think like this : ‘A whole generation has been taught to talk nonsense at the top of its voice about having “a right to life” and “a right to experience” and “a right to happiness”. The lucid thinkers who talk like this generally wind up their assertion of all these extraordinary things by saying that there is no such thing as right and wrong. It is a little difficult, in that case, to speculate on where their rights came from; but I, at least, leaned more and more to the old philosophy which said that their real rights came from where the dandelion came from; and that they will never value either without recognising its source.’

If you haven’t read Chesterton’s Autobiography, do let me encourage you to do so.

The Gift of a Dandelion

This lovely photo is of a little lady giving a great man a small and unimportant flower; but you can see from the way he accepts it that it is not unimportant to him - and indeed, nothing was ever unimportant to him, because all things were God’s gifts.

Today is the sixty-fourth anniversary of the death of that very great man, G. K. Chesterton, and the Ecumenical Diablogger has a post here, which includes a very good prayer that GKC's name may, before too long, be included in the list of those Servants of God on their way towards Canonization.

Can we, today, ‘give him a little flower’ by offering a little prayer that his name - and his example - may come to be acknowledged by Holy Mother Church ? If we do we can be sure, from the evidence of this photo, that it will be gladly accepted and much treasured.

Deccan Chargers

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Untitled (Gajaraja)

Happy Birthday, Ma'am !

Domine, salvam fac Reginam nostram Elizabetham,

Et exáudi nos in die, qua invocavérimus te.

(And yes, I know it's only her official Birthday; but nonetheless . . .)

Friday, 11 June 2010

The Lion King On Stage

Offering Your Mass

Today’s feast of the Sacred Heart led me to meditate slightly upon the outpouring of love which we all, from time to time, feel for people and things : an outpouring which we frequently manifest in prayer; and my thoughts wandered across the means by which our prayers and our intentions coincide.

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the idea of ‘saying a prayer for someone’; and no doubt the layfolk amongst us have also from time to time said that we will ‘offer our Holy Communions’ for some particular intention . . . the understanding being that we cannot offer Mass for an intention, not being priests; so we offer our Holy Communions instead.

However, that apparently perfectly obvious position is not actually right; and although the phrase may be patient of a comprehensible meaning, we would do better to say that we would ‘offer our Masses’ for those intentions – although I realize that this is an expression which some may object to with some vigour.

Such objections are ill-founded, though; because it’s a perfectly legitimate expression of what is actually happening. Here is what Canon McCarthy* says about it :

‘In addition to the priest who, in the person and by the priestly power of Christ, and as the deputed minister of the Church, makes the sacrificial offering, all the faithful, who are present, participate, in a special way, in the offering of the Mass. They are real, though secondary, offerers. They all share, suppositis supponendis, in the ex opere operato fruits of the Mass. Independently of the intention of the celebrant they share in the general benefits which flow from every Mass in the universal Church. Likewise, each of them obtains also, in due measure, a share in what are called the ‘special fruits’ of the Mass at which he assist; and this latter share, for the most part, may be applied, according to the recipient’s intention, for the benefit of others, for the living and for the souls in Purgatory.’

So : layfolk too can quite properly ‘offer their Masses’ for particular intentions – and I hope that, over the next few months, there will be many who will do so for the Holy Father’s intentions in general, and the success of his visit to the UK in particular.

(* Canon John McCarthy, DD, DCL, was a Professor at Maynooth and Dublin, and a sort of ‘theological oracle’ who dealt with theological queries from the clergy in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record for many years.)

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Patriotic Pugilistic Pachyderms (3)

High Security

For those who don’t know - which is (at present) presumably most people - this is Coventry Airport.

We’re told that the primary reason why they are restricting numbers at the Beatification Mass, and saying that those attending can only arrive in ‘official coaches’, and why they have to give so much personal information, is security.

After looking at this photo, are you convinced that security is really a core concern ? Alright, I accept that the gates to the site - of which are there are quite a number - could be ‘policed’ by security men; but as the airport has a perimeter of several miles, it’s clearly not going to be realistic to secure all of it - in which case the ‘security’ is only as secure as its weakest point . . . which is pretty weak.

So : is this concern for ‘security’ real . . . or is it just window-dressing for something else : a need to restrict numbers, for instance, to prevent excessive demand on inadequate resources demonstrating all-too-clearly that the whole thing has not been properly managed ?

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Patriotic Pugilistic Pachyderms (1)

Our friendly pachyderm above is one of three elephants in the Victoria Gardens, on the Embankment, who were done as a set for the General Election . . . 'Patriotic Pugilistic Pachyderms' !
The others will follow tomorrow and Thursday . . .

Monday, 7 June 2010

Doing Something Right

As you may know, the Holy Father's outdoor Corpus Christi procession was cancelled due to inclement weather.
I, on the other hand, was privileged to take part in two : one on Thursday evening through the streets of Brighton, courtesy of Fr Ray Blake, and the other yesterday through the centre of Oxford - some splendid photos of which can be found on fr Lawrence Lew's flickr page. (And one, of course, above !)

I doubt if I was alone in being a little worried about the weather yesterday; the sky didn't look entirely friendly, but in fact there was nothing more than a token drop or two - until Our Blessed Lord was enthroned on the altar of the Chaplaincy, when the heavens opened . . . a fact which was all-too-obvious given noise of the rain on the rooflights in the chapel !

As F. Daniel said . . . 'we must have been doing something right' !

Corpus Christi processions seem - I'm glad to say - to be making something of a reappearance; do let us try and ensure that this trend continues, and let us promise ourselves that we will make a point of walking with Our Lord whenever He goes out into the streets of His world : it's a great privilege, and one that we must surely hope that we shall one day share in Heaven.

Mumbai Indians

Am I impressed . . ? Quite frankly - No.

Yesterday I picked up, at the back of a Church, a Form to be completed by those who wish to attend the Holy Father’s Mass for the Beatification of Cardinal Newman.

We all know by now that ‘for reasons of security’ people will only be allowed in to the Coventry Airport site if they arrive with an official Parish Party, by coach; and that individuals will not be able to make their own travel arrangements : and there has been more than a little discussion about this on the blogs.

This form, however, seems to me to be grossly unacceptable.

First, although it mentions the name of a parish, the form actually emanates from a commercial organization; and indeed has to be returned, accompanied by a payment, directly to the firm.

It also confirms explicitly what we had already heard: you will only be able to get in to the Mass on a pre-arranged coach.

When you take it all together, it means that the only way you can attend the Holy Father’s Mass is by contributing to the profits of a commercial organization.

This seems to me disgraceful. Even if there is a genuine imperative need for all those attending to do so by pre-arranged, commercially-operated, coaches – which I seriously doubt – I absolutely cannot understand why parishes cannot make their own arrangements, and retain for themselves any profit they may make. There must also be a question about what steps are to be taken to provide seats for those who deserve them, but perhaps cannot afford the (not insignificant) price being charged by the firm; they may not mind admitting this to the Parish Priest; but they may (quite reasonably) not want to advertise their penury to strangers.

The form also contains a clear note that the information provided (name, address, phone number, and email address) may be passed on to the Birmingham Oratory, and to the (unspecified) security authorities : and says that your booking can only be accepted if you sign to say that you agree to that being done.

Let me make it clear : I am as keen on maintaining the Holy Father’s security as anyone else; but I am unconvinced that this is in any way a useful step towards doing that.

If the form had to be returned to the Parish, so that the Parish Priest could confirm that he knew you before passing the information on to the authorities, then it might be meaningful : but it doesn’t – it is to be returned straight to the firm arranging the coach. Are they going to check every one of the people booking ? Will they verify the names and addresses ? I doubt it; even if only the 80,000 we have been told about are going to be allowed to attend make bookings, I find it unlikely in the extreme that they will all be checked in any meaningful way by the commercial organization – and I’m quite certain that the Birmingham Oratory won’t. Will the ‘security authorities’ ? Well, I suppose it’s not utterly inconceivable; but I’m not altogether convinced that MI5 will think it’s a good use of its resources to check on 80,000 devout Catholics – indeed, I’m not altogether convinced that the ‘security authorities’ referred to are anyone as important as MI5.

From where I’m standing, the arrangements for this Mass look shambolic – disgraceful, in fact – if only because, at a time when the largest possible public display of support for the Holy Father would be of the greatest possible value to the Church, the effect (if not the intention) of the arrangements seems to be to prevent exactly that.

If there really is some reason why all this is genuinely unavoidable, then the Bishops should explain it clearly; and if it is the fault of some officious Government Department, then that should be plainly stated : but I have to say that I do wonder whether the problem is anything like as legitimate as that.

I am, of course, well aware of the question about whether the Coventry Airport Mass will even happen - a matter to which many other bloggers have drawn attention folllowing Damian Thompson's article in The Spectator - but that seems to me not to be directly relevant to the issues about which I am concerned. There will, however, be a lot more about all this in the next few days and weeks !

F. Richard Duffield of the Birmngham Oratory has made a Comment on this Post which clarifies the situation somewhat; do please read it.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Well . . . what excellent news.

You may remember the Lautsi case, in which the European Court decided that Italy should remove crucifixes from the classrooms of its state schools because they could offend the sensibilities of atheists.

The Italian Government, very wisely, decided that this was 'a bridge too far', and decided to appeal the decision : an appeal which is due to be heard shortly.

However, The Apostolate of the Laity has a story today saying that ten European countries (as well as the European Centre for Law & Justice) have been joined to the case - because they want to oppose the position adopted by the Court.

This is excellent news : not least because the list of countries includes Orthodox, as well as Catholic ones, but also because it is putting down a marker to the godless - the Christian Faith will tolerate your 'opinions' so far, and no further.

Read all about it here : and please, pray that this Appeal succeeds, and the original decision is overthrown.

The Society of S. Tarcisius - Update

Just a very short post to let you know that The Society of S. Tarcisius now has a blog : and anyone who is interested in the Society and its work will want to keep up with it here.