Thursday, July 24, 2014

Job with SPUC?

I have been asked to run this ad:

Want to work for a leading charity in the UK Pro-Life Movement?
Personal Secretary to the Chief Executive
A key role in building grassroots support for the pro-life movement in the UK
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) is looking to recruit a Personal Secretary to the Chief Executive based at its London HQ. The post is part-time (15-25 hours per week, negotiable). The deadline for applications is Friday 15th August. Salary details available on request.
The role
Applicants must have an absolute commitment to the pro-life cause, experience working at director/board level and the ability to cope with a wide range of secretarial responsibilities.
Duties will include drafting letters, taking dictation, maintaining a filing system, assisting in making travel arrangements, photocopying and printing.
Candidates must have a good level of word-processing skill and possess the ability to take dictation. Shorthand skills are highly desirable.
You must also have excellent communication and organisational skills and enjoy working under pressure.
For more information or to receive an application form please contact Patrick Kingman.
Tel: 020 7091 7091

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Magdalen Vestments

I love this set of vestments, they date from about 1910, I think. There is something about them that says, 'Magdalen'.
They are made up of embroidery, appliqué and gold thread, on the chasuble there are a few descreet pearls. The cope is completely perished, the silk has gone, the chasuble is almost unwearable and the decoration has become a little muted, the dalmatics aren't too bad.

Despite all that we were man enough to wear them last night at the High Mass for Magdalen Day.

As the choir are on holiday, it was a rather homely High Mass; De Angelis and a couple of motets sung by those lovely sisters.

One year, maybe, kettledrums, cornetti, citterone.  Call me an old liberal if you must, but I am not one of those fussy priests who object to the guitar in church, I have heard a quite adequate figured bass continuo played on an extended necked baroque guitar substituting for a bass vihuela.

There are more photographs here

p.s. say a prayer for Tom who is getting married to Vergine at an old rite Pontifical Mass in Paray-le-Monial on Friday, Tom is on the Gospel side.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Join us for St Mary Magdalen's Day

Tomorrow we celebrate our Holy and Glorious Patroness St Mary Magdalen, the chosen messenger to the Apostles.

The great problem is half our servers and most of the choir are away.

Actually we began our celebration on Sunday, anticipating her feast.
To help us out my friends those wonderful sisters have kindly agreed to come down to sing at our EF High Mass at 6.30pm.


Our Western tradition is that all of those women at the Lord's feet, the one who pours out costly ointment, the one who covers his feet with kisses and tears are the Magdalen, even Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, the one who chose the better part who sits at his feet.

I am tempted to see the woman caught in adultery is her too; what crueller thing to do than to get Jesus to condemn a woman who was once notorious but is now a disciple of Jesus.

She becomes a symbol of the Church and the faithful remnant of Israel, despised and rejected like Jesus himself, and yet delighting in his presence.

To be a follower of Jesus means to be a Magdalen, to weep over one's sins, to choose the better part and recognise Him and be united, with him.
I don't know if I am being over imaginative but there seem to be three stages to the Magdalen's relationship: weeping she shows us purgation, sitting and listening is about illumination and finally in the garden in her encounter with the Risen Lord she is united to him.
She is 'every disciple', we are all called to weep over our sins, then we are able to indeed choose the better part, to truly listen to Jesus, only then do we recognise him and are able to announce his Triumphant Rising.

Only then perhaps may we have the grace to suffer with him, for the legend is that after the Resurrection she lived the life of a penitent and contemplative, all was to prepare for that and was to prepare her for the day when she would see Jesus' Father and her Father, Jesus' God and her God.

The Smile of a Martyr, well no...

I found this on Facebook
This young Iranian has been sentenced to death by a judgment immediately executed by hanging because guilty of a heinous crime: being a Christian and do not abjure the faith by accepting the supreme sacrifice. The smile on his face is that of the first Christian martyrs in front of the mouth of the Lions. Don't know the name, but we know for a fact that is already listed in the Canon of Saints.
And I think with sadness to our lukewarmness in being followers (more often than not unworthy) of Christ (always ready with distinction and always ready for mediation of worldliness).
It has gone 'viral' under such a heading,
but apparently not, he is murderer ....
 Two men have been hanged in a Tehran square for the murder of a prominent judge, thought to be the first public execution in Iran's capital since 2002.
Majid and Hossein Kavousifar's deaths come a day after nine public hangings in other parts the country.
The government says it is part of a major effort to tackle violent crime and the illegal drug trade in Iran. .......

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Prayers: Mosul

Isis fighters hold their flag aloft after taking control of an army checkpoint in the north of the country - 11 June 2014
Brothers and sisters, pray for our brothers and sister under threat in Mosul, pray for those who have been forced to leave their ancient homeland.
Pray for those who murder, abduct, rape, mutilate, destroy and threaten.
We are at the beginning of a Christian Holocaust, will the world leaders act or be as silent ans as hard hearted as they were 70 years ago?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Breaking Cricket Bats

Archbishop Welby recently backed away from addressing 'gay' issues because he said he feared that in places like Nigeria pushing that particular agenda in the CofE would cause problems for the Anglican Communion and Christians in general.

A priest who works in an Islamic environment tells me that the paedophile crisis is often exploited by Islamic evangelists: Islam sees men as strong valiant defenders of their religion, of the families, of fellow Muslims, whilst Christians see men as weak and effeminate, meek and mild; not surprising as their priests are either paedophiles and homosexuals and any man involved with Christians was probably likely to be drawn into that lifestyle.

Geoffrey Howe spoke of his relationship with Margaret Thatcher, in his resignation speech as Foreign Secretary,  "It is ... that their bats have been broken before the game by the team captain". La Repubblica's interview and the claim that one in fifty, two per cent of the clergy are paedophiles, seems very much like the sound of breaking cricket bats, yet again.

Now what was it Jesus said about Peter strengthening the brethren?

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Francis against 'orthodoxy'?

For those who have a little theological insight or understanding of the history of theology in the last 150 years it is pretty obvious that what is commonly described as orthodoxy has been struggling for existence against a pragmatic approach to belief. Really, the big difficulty many of us have with Pope Francis' theology is that he seems to be an advocate of pragmatism and disfavours orthodoxy. In the previous papacy orthodoxy seemed to be triumphing over the theological approach Congar, Rhanner and the greatest of all proponent of this new approach to Catholic theology Hans Kung. Now, under Francis, orthodoxy is becoming a dirty word. the 'formlessness' of Kung seems to be on the rise.

My Italian is pretty poor, with 'google translate' I can with a bit of difficulty begin to make sense of something. Have a look at this article, which tries to understand Francis' theology The significant paragraph is this - my translation.
....the formulas and dogmas cannot be understood in terms of historical evolution, but every problem must be placed in its historical and socio-political context. The concept of orthodoxy must be overcome, or at least reduced, because it is used as a "reference point to stifle freedom of thought and as a weapon to police and punish" ... They define orthodoxy as "a metaphysical violence."The primacy of doctrine should be replaced by that of pastoral practice ... " (Concilium, 2/2014, p. 11).
Is this why the Franciscan Friars are being dealt with apparent harshness - because they were seen as the thriving proponents of 'orthodoxy'? Is this the reason why we seem to be into a 'hermeneutic of incoherence' - because those who equate being Catholic with being 'orthodox' suddenly find themselves in a Church where they are no longer at home or even belong?

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Where have all the bloggers gone?

It is four months since Protect the Pope went into 'a period of prayer and reflection' at the direction of Bishop Campbell, someone recently asked me why tend not to post so often as I did, and I must say I have been asking the same question about other bloggers.

The reign of Benedict produced a real flourish of 'citizen journalists', the net was alive with discussion on what the Pope was saying or doing and how it affected the life of our own local Church. Looking at some of my old posts they invariably began with quote or picture followed by a comment, Benedict stimulated thought, reflection and dialogue, an open and free intellectual environment. There was a solidity and certainty in Benedict's teaching which made discussion possible and stimulated intellectual honesty, one knew where the Church and the Pope stood. Today we are in less certain times, the intellectual life of the Church is thwart with uncertainty.

Most Catholics but especially clergy want to be loyal to the Pope in order to maintain the unity of the Church, today that loyalty is perhaps best expressed through silence.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The 'real' Francis

One can't but be touched by Pope Francis' spontaneous acts of kindness, in the video above he stops his motorcade to embrace a family group waiting to see him pass, it is moving, it is obviously unplanned, it is spontaneous, the sense of delight on the family actually brings tears to ones eyes.
This is obviously the 'real' Francis, the problem is separating what is real and what is staged. The 'media age' makes us all cynical and sceptical. I couldn't help thinking that possibly Greg Burke or Fr Lombardi had been out with a spray can just before the Pope passed that particular bit of Bethlehem wall. Well maybe not, but it was obviously carefully selected, to present the messages of the Holy Land visit to the English speaking world

Vatican Monday, always an interesting read, discusses: Pope Francis, between spin doctors and the Gospel.
Active, involved Catholics, especially younger ones, are more likely to be sceptical about everything the media offers, especially when it comes to it presentation of the Church. After almost a year and a half of Francis' reign we are all familiar with his 'image' but uncertain about the reality and where he will lead us  as the Vicar of Christ. The problem is the  very 'spin machine' that has presented him as bit of rebel, as a revolutionary, as someone who might make a break with 'Tradition', or even like those American sisters 'move beyond Jesus'.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

If we are not recollected: Corpus Christi Sermon

We had a rather beautiful Missa Cantanta on Thursday evening, the choir sang the Palestrina Missa Brevis, just a few voices it was quite exquisite. 'Engelond', not me but the football team, were playing in the World Cup and as it is no longer a Holy Day there weren't that many at Mass, after Benediction we sang the Salve and in a gesture of patriotic zeal I recited the Prayer for England. and what Our Lady did was plain for all to see. She does approve of Processions but I don't think she approves of footballing on Corpus Christi.
Anyhow, here is the Corpus Christi sermon preached by Fr Gerrard Hatton, who was in choro. He was ordained three years ago and exemplifies so much that is good about our younger clergy. It is short, pithy and challenging, it is one of the better sermons I have heard recently.

I recently meet a lady who is a missionary in China, she is not catholic but knew a lot about the underground church in China, she told me about the patriot church that does not have the pope, neither do they uphold the belief in the second coming or the holy Spirit, as it power and authority that the government cannot control. Later that day I was listening to pod cast on the liturgy, the speaker said many things but he summed up his talk by speaking about Ignatius Cardinal Kung Pin-Mei of China who was put into prison by the communists for 30 years, as he refused to deny his faith and the authority of pope, he was not allowed to offer Holy Mass, he made spiritual communions and prayed the rosary three times a day, he had been made a cardinal in secret. The speaker noted the red of a cardinal is simply more than a noble colour, but the willingness of these men to shed their blood for the faith in union with the successor of St Peter.
 Our age is no stranger to that Blood which has been shed for Christ, the speaker went on to talk about his experience of serving Holy Mass with this Cardinal was who in his 90s and offered it in Latin, he was stuck that even after the deacon who had purified the vessels this man, short of sight cleansed them again. Not because he was scrupulous, but he did out of love. All those years he had waited to hold the Body of Christ for whom he had suffered and he wanted not one crumb to be lost. Are we that careful, do we care that much, are we willing to turn to someone who was starved and denied of Our Lord for 30 years and ask him who we should behave in front of Our Eucharistic Lord? Do we prepare well for the Sacrifice of the King of Martyrs, has our piety become like a remote control, something we switch on when we do Holy things. 
Cardinal Kung teaches us that our whole life should be in imitation of our Blessed Lord, that our work, our homes, our prayer, our talk, even our fun and chill time should be a preparation for the Holy Mass. There is an important mission we all need to be a part off and rightly so to make every Mass Extraordinary, filled with holiness, be it low or high, new rite or old. We can have most devout priest, the finest choir and most meticulous adherence to the rubrics but if we are not recollected, if we are not willing to pray or visit the blessed sacrament, go benediction often, if we do not avail ourselves of frequent confession, or go to daily Mass or as often as we can, or make a spiritual communion when we can’t, if we don’t live a Eucharistic life worthy of Our lord and those martyrs, then it vanity and dressing up.We are the people the Lord has chosen, imperfect, sinful but he wants us and loves us more, in today’s feast we celebrate that enteral bond of his loving presence in Holy Communion and we recommit ourselves to that holy striving, that desire to be his and the need to form our lives in shadow of his passion, death and resurrection that he has left to us in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Actions, Signs and Symbols

There was a certain barmey bishop appointed in the early 1980s who spent most of his early years as a bishop wandering around his diocese demanding that the Blessed Sacrament be removed from the apex of the churches in his diocese to a side chapel. It meant a great deal of destruction was done to the architectural integrity of many a fine pre-concilliar church, not just to the sanctuary from where the tabernacle was removed but also to the chapel where the Blessed Sacrament was placed, normally that meant the destruction of a Sacred Heart or Lady Chapel.

The bishop thought he was implementing the post-Concilliar documents which said the Blessed Sacrament 'should' be placed in a fitting chapel. Foolishly he interpreted 'should' as 'must', even more foolishly he did not read the the context of the suggestion, which was about promoting Eucharistic devotion. It was only after much  hurt, destruction and expense that Rome clarified its ambiguous instruction, saying that the Eucharist should normally be placed in the centre of the sanctuary.

The architectural damage was disconcerting, but more so the deeper damage this bishop did to the faith of those who had one Sunday honoured and  genuflected to the Blessed Sacrament and a week later found themselves doing the same to a vase of flowers or the priests chair that had replaced the now ignored Sacrament in the side chapel, after a short time even those who did so mechanically or out of habit had quickly given up genuflecting to anything.

I am sure this Bishop did what he did truly believing he was implementing 'the mind of the Church', doing it with fanatical zeal. In reality what he did was to undermine the faith of his people.

Very easily faith in the absolute reality of the Eucharist is easily pared away. I am sure for this particular bishop, his faith the Real Presence remained the same but for most of us outward signs and symbols are important to both affirm and stimulate faith. A change in outward actions, signs and symbols brings about an inward change in our attitudes.

I blame the Jesuits and the Spirit of the Council of Trent for the cerebralization of prayer and the Spiritual Life.  The Pre-Tridentine life of Christians was rich in actions, signs and symbol, prayer was more than just silent contemplation, it involved bodies too, corporal penance, fasting, prostrations or genuflections, pilgrimage, processions, almsgiving, caring for the needy; these things formed the environment of prayer.
The Norbertines and Cluny soon after Trent abandoned the practice of seven deacons circling the altar with golden thuribles during High Mass, along with the practice of Corpus Christi Mass before the exposed Blessed Sacrament with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament taking place three times during Mass. The consequence is perhaps reflected in the experience of friend who celebrate Mass for some ancient veil-less nuns who remained seated throughout in an an anodyne 'prayer room'.

The other side of the coin: I have a priest friend who is preparing a former soldier for reception into the Church, he served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he saw and did things that deeply wounded him and bears the scars of guilt. We spoke about how to deal with his guilt. Like many ex-soldiers, I suspect he has tried drink, drugs or even psychotherapy, most priests, myself included, might give a penance of a few Rosaries but really rely on allowing him to talk, in my experience this rarely works. Pre-Trent, and possibly in Orthodoxy he would have given a penance that involved a prayer of exorcism of some sort followed by some kind of real penance, public humiliation, an arduous pilgrimage or time in monastery, vigils or fasting. Outward actions, signs and symbols bring about an inward change in our attitudes, our minds and hearts often follow our bodies.

I remember being told of the Compostella Camino after the WWII being revived by former soldiers, sometimes sometimes barefoot, sometimes carrying rucksacks filled with rocks doing penance for wartime sins.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Mystery of the Trinity

In some parishes Trinity Sunday was the time to give a financial report, anything rather than preach on the Most Holy Trinity. The problem is of course that too many Catholics think of the Trinity in terms of algebra or geometry rather than in terms of relationships.

Muslims love to debate with Christians God in terms of  the 1+1+1=1 approach, they are less comfortable with the idea of the God who loves to point of emptying himself of His Divinity to embrace His creation, indeed to dwell within it and suffer with it.

The high point of our prayer is always the doxology, when we address the Father, through the Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Indeed when we look at a crucifix we are supposed to, in a sense look through it to the Father, the high point of the Eucharistic prayer is the priest taking up the Sacred Host and addressing the Father saying, "Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever. Amen."

Although popular devotion might address individual persons of the Trinity, the Church's liturgy, with a few notable exceptions is addressed to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit.

The Son is perfect icon of the Father, in His humanity we see revelation of the Father. Perhaps the worst sermon I ever heard on the Trinity was basically, "The Trinity is a mystery we can't comprehend, so let us get on with the Mass!". It was the worst but yet it was also the best, because the Triune God is always mysterious and unknowable, and yet He is revealed totally in the Mass, through the Son, in the Spirit.

True worship always leads us to contemplate the God who is always beyond us, the God who in the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets fall on their faces and worship.
Practically at every Mass I have celebrated over the thirty years I have been ordained I have felt the need 'to break the bread of the word', to preach, except at the Traditional Mass, where all I want to do is adore the Father through the Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. I am beginning to believe that if the Word of God does not lead us to worship there is something wrong in its presentation, and if the Mass does not lead us to fall on our knees to be fed by God there is something wrong here too.

Contemplating the Mystery of the Trinity should lead us to be lost in the immensity and beauty of God, realising his greatness and our nothingness, desiring only to abandon ourselves to Him and crying out with Christ, "Father into your hands I commend Spirit".
If this realisation is not the result of worship, perhaps we are not worshipping at all!

Per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso, est tibi Deo Patri omnipotenti, in unitate Spiritus Sancti, omnis honor et gloria per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Extraordinary Form of the Mass and the Evangelization of the Culture

There is extraordinary post, in several senses of the word, by Mgr Pope on the Washington Archdiocesan website: The Extraordinary Form of the Mass and the Evangelization of the Culture.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

What is the Church for?

Image:  Italian School - The Great Chain of Being from ''Retorica Christiana'' Didacus Valades, printed in 1579"What is the Church for?" was on a poster that appeared on my Church noticeboard, there was apparently some course going in Westminster.
It is a pretty fundamental question, but rather a modern question,  it seems to betray a modern obsession for function. A better question would have been "What is the Church?" If that was the question then scripture would tell us, it is the Bride of Christ, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the Body of Christ. It is the whole esse versus agere being, doing thing.
My old Spiritual Director used to pose this question, 'Are you a human doing or are you a human being?

Christianity is not about what Christians 'do' but what Christians 'are'. The Great St Athanasius, who comes from the grreat school of African monasticism, which emphasised the encounter of Man with God, is concerned about first what God 'is' but from this -not secondarily to it but part of it-  is, what Man has become in Christ, hence his opposition to the deadly doctrine of Arianism and consequent emphasis on theosis or divinisation.
"The Son of God became man, that we might become god", [the second g is always lowercase since man can never become a God] indicates the concept beautifully. II Peter 1:4 says that we have become " . . . partakers of divine nature." Athanasius amplifies the meaning of this verse when he says theosis is "becoming by grace what God is by nature" (De Incarnatione, I)
Socialism, Communism, Marxism, Nazism even, stresses the function of the human person, the degree of his contribution to society, what he is for, Christianity had stressed the more basic point, what he is, hence Christianity sees value in non-productive human persons.

This touches a great deal on much that is happening in the Church today, including the liturgy, and I think separates the two forms. The New Rite is easily seen as functional: it builds community, it teaches, it catechises, it involves the faithful, it celebrates, it mourns,  it presents the Church of today, it is easily adapted, whereas the Old Rite simply is. It is unchanging, unwieldy, unadaptable; the only function it really has is worship, whereas with the New Rite worship is, or often seems, subsumed by every other concern.

It is worth remembering that God, when asked by Moses who shall I say sent me is told to tell the people it was, "I am who I am". God is ultimately not defined by his function only by what He is.