Monday, November 27, 2006

Planning the future

On Friday I was pleased to get a call from Ian Graham suggesting we go for lunch. Ian is the director of the Schola Gregoriana of Northumbria and we have worked together in matters of liturgy since 1993. Ian has just created a blog for the schola. Lunch was happily at the Black Door restaurant just opposite the cathedral. Fr Charles Briggs was coming to stay with me for the weekend and this afforded me the opportunity to get in some practice for the weekend`s meals.

My links with the schola have not been as strong recently since I left Gateshead and have now very limited opportunity to celebrate sung Mass in the traditional rite. However we have had a few `private` sung Masses at Forest Hall and Ian has tried to introduce Gregorian chant at the main Sunday Mass on three occasions. Participation by the congregation steadily increased with each Mass but we have not had a `chant Sunday` for a few months now.

The purpose of the lunch was to discuss our future plans. We hope to revive the chant Sundays at Forest Hall, starting with very simple Mass settings to get people familiar with what is going on. It is unfortunate that the church organ lies in ruins in the choir loft, but we can manage without it for the time being. So I hope that in the New Year we can start with a regular Sunday each month to get this project up and running again. The two ladies of the parish choir have been keen to be involved and I hope that in time others may make their way upstairs to join the group.

Apart from that Ian suggested that we have Mass in the traditional rite every day during the Octave of Christmas, although probably not on Sunday. We hope to have a couple of sung Masses among them. These Masses will be at 11am each day apart from Saturday when it will be at the usual 10am. I don`t know why I`ve never thought of trying this before.
Maybe by then, if the Holy Father gets back safely from Turkey, we will have the new indult and life will be much easier.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Die Grosse Stille

I`m delighted to be able to report that there was a full house at the Tyneside cinema last night for the North East premier of this film. I met two other priests and a nun from the diocese there too. I suppose in the 1950`s it would have been difficult to see the screen for the rows of nuns wimples, assuming they would have been allowed to go to the cinema! The three hours flew by. This is a beautiful film and an interesting insight into the life of the Carthusians of La Grande Chartreuse. The monastery itself, as the headquarters of the order was more austere than I expected when compared to the Charterhouse of Granada for example. I was interested that no reference was made to the Chartreuse liqueur, which I thought was made there, nor to the motto of the order about never being reformed because never deformed.
One of my favourite scenes was in the first recreation sequence when discussion arose over whether to continue the tradition of the monks washing their hands before entering the refectory. Some were in favour of dropping the practice. Indeed it was remarked that in one monastery they hadn`t washed their hands in twenty years! One monk said that rather than questions the symbols of monastic life they should let the symbols question them. I thought that was good and hoped it was a young monk who said it. (It was impossible to see who was talking at that point.) There were some insights into the interior life of the monk, mostly by the repetition of the quotation from Jeremiah 20.7. The reading of the rule in the refectory was a useful way to explain some aspects of the routine.
All in all if you haven`t seen this film it is well worth going to see.

Friday, November 17, 2006

On the liturgy

If anyone hasn`t yet seen this article by Dr Alcuin Reid on the question of liturgical reform as mentioned on the wonderful New Liturgical Movement blog it is well worth reading. It almost inspires me to introduce an ad orientem celebration of the Novus Ordo Mass now but I`m waiting until we eventually get that post synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist which I hope will encourage a `reform of the reform`.

A Signed Funeral

This week has seen nothing out of the ordinary but has had a couple of very busy days. On one of these I had a funeral at the crematorium on the West Road in Newcastle which was different in that it required the services of person able to interpret the service into sign language for the deaf. Before the funeral I had a conversation with Christine, the signer. She asked me to speak slowly so she could interpret what I was going to say for the benefit of the small group of deaf people who were going to be there. A friend remarked that this would be a most unusual event since one of my faults is that I tend to speak too quickly especially when I am at all nervous. He had visions of the signer`s hands becoming a complete blur as she tried to keep up with the my delivery. I`ve no idea whether I managed to speak slowly enough as I didn`t get to talk to Christine afterwards but I did slow down considerably and to such an extent that I found it difficult to remember whether the end of a sentence had anything to with the beginning. While standing in the car park we spoke about signing and I was able to seek the answer to a problem that has concerned me of late. Recently I have been to a few productions by Opera North which have employed the services of a signer to interpret the opera for the deaf. Unfortunately I have usually found this extremely distracting as the signer is on stage for the whole opera and not only uses her hands but also her face to convey what is happening. I began to wonder how many deaf people are opera fans. Christine said that the problem was that if hearing people were going for a night out to the opera , deaf members of their family would feel excluded and that was why there was a signer. I mentioned that recently I was in Rome at a papal audience at which it was announced by a Monsignor who was responsible for the English version of what was going on that there was a group of hearing-impaired people from the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle in the square. I told Christine that I had asked the Monsignor whether it would not have been a good idea to have a signer at papal audiences and she was impressed that I had made the suggestion. I did manage to see the contingent of deaf people after the funeral and they were pleased with the service so I assume I had managed to speak at the required speed after all!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Fr Benedict Groeschel

Much to my surprise Fr Benedict Groeschel was in our diocese on Wednesday to talk about Developments in Pastoral Counselling. His visit had been announced in the Ad Clerum as a private initiative of one of our priests. It was disappointing that he was not giving an official talk to the priests of the diocese in the ongoing formation programme. About fourteen priests were present although only about half from our diocese while others came from Middlesborough, Leeds, Birmingham and even Arundel and Brighton. Most were quite young.

I set off for Stockton although I had some difficulty finding it, not having been to this part of the diocese very often, and so I arrived about fifteen minutes late. The first talk was about recent developments in psychology, a subject about which I know nothing. It appears that there has been something of a revolution in the study of pyschology. Freud is out and many of the leading pyschologists are discovering the concept of virtue and the writings of Plato, Aristotle, St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas! Father gave us some photocopies of writings by the secular and mainly Jewish writers who are advocating these ideas. He was very entertaining on the subject of New York and the crazebetween the 60`s and 80`s for seeing an analyst . Apparently the goal of analysis was to move the patient from misery to unhappiness! Happiness was out of the question and regarded as a form of illness since how could anyone be happy given the mortal condition. His explanations at this point explained a lot about Woody Allan I thought!

In the afternoon Father spoke about types of neurosis and new approaches to counselling. Father seemed to be full of hope about the situation in the Church now. He came with three members of the community of the Franciscan friars of the Renewal, which he founded, from their new friary in Bradford. Father was full of praise for Pope Benedict whom he called a genius and one of the key figures of Vatican II. He didn`t allude to the hypothesis that Ratzinger became somewhat disillusioned after 1968 and the student revolts and changed his mind about things somewhat. At one point Father spoke about how the five greatest figures of the second half of the twentieth century were all religious figures bar one. He named them as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, John Paul II and Einstein. Even Einstein had a fascination with the Blessed Sacrament and loved to talk about it at length if he met a Catholic. I`m never that sure why John Paul II features in this kind of list and wonder whether posterity will still see him as such a colossal figure. One of the Fathers was heard to wonder (in jest) how Diana, Princess of Wales, had been missed out of the list!

All in all this was a very encouraging day and gave the feeling that things are getting back on track. He took pains to say that he did not want to turn the clock back and gave as an example how much better it was to have the office sung in the vernacular rather than as in his day when the `Deus in adjutorium` was sung three times a day in a grim mechanical way. Given that it is still possible to hear the office sung in Latin in the new rite, and that it was recommended that religious houses keep the sung Latin office, after the Council, it seemed the Council simply came down to singing things in a less grim fashion. I`m all in favour of that. I then wondered what he thought about the proposed Motu Proprio to free the classical liturgy. Altogether it was an excellent and most encouraging day.

Monday, November 06, 2006


On Friday at a priest`s funeral, I bumped into Fr Adrian Dixon, our diocesan liturgist. Fr Dixon is my successor at St Joseph`s and St Wilfrid`s in Gateshead. The Latin Mass continues on a Sunday at St Joseph`s: recently Fr Dixon has learnt how to say it and seems to be the celebrant most Sundays now. While disappointed not to be involved any more myself, I must say that it is a great breakthrough to have the diocesan liturgist celebrating the traditional Mass in his own parish. I have always had respect for Fr Dixon and have consulted him on liturgical matters and he asked me canonical questions at times. A couple of years ago I was concerned as to how I would bless two paschal candles with only one Easter vigil. Unfortunately I can`t remember the answer now but may need to look it up again for next year.

On this occasion I took the opportunity to ask whether we have an indult in England and Wales for lay people to purify the vessels after communion. . This arose because of the indult for lay people to do so in the USA recently not being renewed by the Holy See. He told me we don`t have any such indult. It would be surprising if our bishops were to say anything, I suppose, but maybe it will be raised at the next ad limina. Fr Finigan had an article with a discussion about this matter on his blog which includes a response from the Liturgy office of the English bishops. I am reluctant to make a stand about this in the parish without a lead from the top as they will just think it`s me who has `dragged (them) back in time in the celebration of Mass` ( in the words of the petition I was given a couple of months after arriving in the Forest). Anyway, if the universal indult is coming soon, (here`s the latest rumour) then there will be less to worry about in all kinds of ways!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Mr Luzar comes to town!

On All Souls day Mr Richard Luzar came to Newcastle for his twice yearly visit to Fr Swales at English Martyrs. I was looking forward to this for some time, since taking over at St Aidan`s, Benton, where I felt the need to provide a set of vestments of the kind I am happier with. I bought five of the basic Gothic chasuble sets and a gold one for Christmas and major feasts. I also bought sanctuary gongs for Benton and Longbenton. For St Mary`s, I wanted to get a monstrance stand for benediction as at present I use a chalice box and felt something more designed for the purpose was necessary. The picture shows what I bought and I was surprised to find it also doubles as a missal stand, although for the Novus Ordo, at present, the decorative side is not visible to the congregation. I was very tempted by a black Roman chasuble with a winged coffin and crossed scythes but managed to overcome temptation and settle for a new plain gold Roman vestment which will be useful for many major feasts.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Instead of playing golf

Many priests spend their day off on the golf course and I can see why this is a good way for priests to spend the day but alas despite many opportunities I have never got around to trying it. I was a student at St Andrews where golf was available at student rates. I was a curate at Morpeth where, uniquely in my experience, there was a parish golf club. I expect the nearest I`ll get to golf is if Fr Charles Briggs ever takes me for lunch at the Chislehurst golf club.

Instead of playing golf, I teach Latin at Newcastle university. It`s not a big commitment: only one hour a week in the first semester and two in the second. I do `intermediate` Latin. I used to feature on the department website and may do so again. This year there are nine in the class. In first semester I go through Aeneid book one and in second semester we`ll be doing the second half of Suetonius` life of Nero. I began last week ( I start half way through the term) and was impressed by their grasp of things. About half have come in with A-level ( although this does not always mean they have a firm grasp of the basics nowadays) and half began from scratch last year. I hope I`m doing my bit to keep Latin going in these difficult days. If we get a universal indult for the 1962 missal then maybe Latin studies will revive somewhat. In Gateshead I twice put on a Latin and once a Ancient Greek for beginners course for parishioners using the Peter Jones books which featured in the Daily Telegraph. It aroused a lot of interest with about 14 people beginning the Latin courses although we lost a few along the way.

The Forest is Murmuring

In a few weeks time there will be elections to the parish pastoral council. There are three vacancies and two members of the council will retire after their names are chosen by lot. Shortly nominations for the vacancies will be put forward. Before all this we have a parish open meeting ( a kind of AGM) on November 15th.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Final Profession

On the Paris to Chartres pilgrimage of 2003, I met Sr Hyacinthe of the Dominican Sisters of St Joseph. Sister told me that her community gave parish missions and so in 2004 Sr Hyacinthe came to St Joseph`s, Gateshead, with Sr Jordan, to give a week long mission. I have kept in touch since and a few months ago Sr Hyacinthe invited me to her final profession. So today I caught the plane to Southampton ( a journey of 45 minutes) and then after 30 minutes drive I arrived at the convent (at Shirley Holms in the New Forest) for the Mass. The celebrant was Fr Henry Donneaud O.P. In his sermon he spoke of the Church being like a crowd of people on a march in the dark to God`s holy mountain and said that the role of religious was to be guides for God`s people. During most of the Mass Sr Hyacinthe beamed from ear to ear as she gave her life to God in a moving ceremony. Afterwards there were photos. Here is Sister (in the centre of the front row) with her community.