Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New Gregorian Chant Schola in Edinburgh

Continuing the slight Scottish tinge to this blog, I have been sent this exciting piece of news about Edinburgh.

Plans have been made for a schola to sing and promote Gregorian chant within the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh. This will be a male choir which will meet on a Thursday evening in St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh, for sung Latin Vespers and rehearsal with half a dozen chanted Masses spread among the deaneries each year. Anyone who is interested in joining the schola or supporting this increasingly popular music of the Church should visit or telephone 07786 146 456 for more details.
Apparently the weekly Vespers in the Cathedral will be according to the 1962 Breviarium Romanum. This is great news. I wonder if any such thing could ever happen in Hexham and Newcastle?

LMS Training Week at Ushaw: April 2009

I have mentioned this conference before but here is the formal press release from the LMS.

LMS Residential Training Conference for Priests Wishing to Learn the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (Traditional Latin Mass) at Ushaw College, Durham.

The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales (LMS) is organising a residential training conference for priests wishing to learn the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (Traditional Latin Mass) at Ushaw College, Durham, one of England’s most prestigious seminaries.

The conference will run from Monday 20 April to Thursday 23 April 2009 (i.e. Low Week) and will feature Traditional liturgies in Ushaw’s magnificent neo-Gothic St Cuthbert’s Chapel together with a Gregorian Chant schola and polyphonic choir.

Expert tuition in the celebration of Mass in the Usus Antiquior will be provided on a small group basis. There will be guest lecturers and all participants will receive 1962 Missals and altar cards.

Daily devotions will include Lauds, Vespers, Benediction and Rosary.

The subsidised fee to participants is only £85.00 which includes full board and accommodation. Priests are asked to register by Monday 2 March.

Further details and registration forms can be obtained from the LMS office (Tel: 020 7404 7284) or downloaded from the LMS website,

Paul Waddington, one of the organisers, said, “This is the first time the LMS has organised such a training conference in the north of England. I hope the laity will tell their priests about this wonderful opportunity to learn the Usus Antiquior in the setting of one of England’s finest Catholic seminaries.”

The LMS hopes to make a further announcement about a training conference in the south of England in the near future.

Latin Mass Society, 11-13 Macklin Street, London WC2B 5NH
Tel: 020 7404 7284
E mail:

. . . . ENDS . . . .

For further information, please contact John Medlin, General Manager, or James Murphy, LMS Office Manager, on (T) 020 7404 7284;
(F) 020 7831 5585; (E mail)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bishop Hugh Lindsay

This blog has been quiet as I`ve been away for a week. However on my first night away I learnt by text that bishop Lindsay, the tenth bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, had died.
Whenever bishop Lindsay`s name was mentioned, over the years, among Catholics who were attached to the Extraordinary Form, it`s fair to say that he was not popular. He was bishop of this diocese between 1974 and 1992. I wouldn`t envy anyone the job of bishop either then or now. However, while I respected bishop Lindsay for seeking to be faithful to the directives of the Holy See, his readiness to write letters to the Catholic press arguing against those who were attached to the Extraordinary Form grated on many. Why couldn`t he be more like bishop Wheeler of Leeds, we wondered, who clearly had sympathy with those who were attached to the `Tridentine` Mass?

So it was with some trepidation that I applied to study for this diocese, especially as the Discalced Carmelites, where I had been a novice, wrote a letter to the bishop which mentioned my enthusiasm for the `Tridentine` Mass. However I was admitted to seminary and ordained by bishop Hugh. By the time I came back from further studies in Rome in 1992 he had retired and Bishop Ambrose had authorised a weekly Sunday EF Mass in Newcastle with which I got involved, saying the Mass there every fortnight.

Although retired, bishop Lindsay continued to be well-known for his letters to the Catholic press. As I often agreed with the people he was arguing against, I kept a low-profile if I was at any event where bishop Lindsay was present!
Then I started blogging. In July 2007 I received an email from bishop Lindsay regarding the publication of a book, Catholic Social Justice – Theological and Practical Explorations, which Damian Thompson had drawn attention to for its unorthodox views. Bishop Lindsay was concerned to make clear that the book was not a publication of the bishops` conference nor a teaching document of any kind. From that point on I knew bishop Lindsay was a reader of Forest Murmurs. From then until his death, I got to know him well and found him ready to give help and advice with this blog, sending me articles he thought I might be interested in. Bishop Lindsay prided himself on keeping up with technology too: he told me he was featured in the Sunday Times business supplement in the 1980`s for being the first church leader in Britain to have a computer terminal on his desk.
I can honestly say that in our email correspondence I found bishop Hugh Lindsay to be the most supportive bishop I have ever come across. While he made it clear that he did not necessarily agree with me, he accepted there was room for a diversity of opinion. The last time I saw him was at the cathedral for a silver Jubilee Mass for Fr Leighton. He came up to me afterwards and I was quite overwhelmed by his encouragement and support for my ministry here at Forest Hall.
We had corresponded again at some length in the last few weeks with the result that I arranged to make the journey to his home at Grange-over-Sands this coming Friday to have good talk about everything. I was devastated to get the message about his death last Monday as there were questions I`d wanted to discuss with him for over twenty years or more, to which I`ll now never know the answer, as well as to talk to him about more recent events. I had hoped that he might have agreed to make an appearance at the forthcoming Ushaw LMS training course to heal some old wounds.
The Times obituary can be found here.
In bishop Lindsay we had a bishop who knew and loved this diocese. May he rest in peace.
Versa est in luctum cithara mea (Job 30:31)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Chant Summer Weekend

Thanks to a reader who drew my attention to the following event. The Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge, founded by the famous Mary Berry, is holding a chant weekend at Ushaw College, Durham, on 26-28 June 2009. I wish them every success. They learn chant for both forms of the Roman Rite. Jane Teresa has a post about it with some reflections and a slightly alarming title.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New rules for judging Marian apparitions

Thanks to the Hermeneutic of Continuity for the link to the article about a proposed set of new rules for judging the validity of Marian apparitions of which their seem to be a huge number. I think I have said before I am no fan of Medjugorje as it strikes me as lacking credibility but if the Church judges it to be authentic I`m happy to accept it. I`ve met some impressive people who believe in it and I would rather talk with a follower of Medjugorje than a Tabletista.

What struck me in the article was the following:

The bishops, having set up a commission of psychiatrists, psychologists, theologians and educators, should impose silence on the pseudo-visionaries. This will be a first test: history teaches, from Lourdes to Fatima, from Guadalupe in La Salette, that those who really have the gift of being in direct contact with the Madonna, follow the directives of the local Church, even in the face of enormous sufferings. Therefore, one who will not remain silent but causes the news of these alleged apparitions to circulate freely, attracting around themselves the presence of the curious, journalists and the faithful in search of a particular grace will have already given a sign that shows the falseness of their mysticism. Mary herself, in fact, would never validate an act of disobedience against a bishop, even if they were in error.
I know this has been the tradition of recent centuries in assessing the validity of visions. It`s the kind of criterion St Teresa of Avila would set for visions: that they cannot go against the teaching of the local bishop.
However it was not always thus. One of the things that does appeal to me about Medjugorje is the idea of the Blessed Virgin intervening on the side of the Franciscans against the decrees of the local bishop. It sounds very medieval. As an example here is an extract from that hugely popular thirteenth century book of piety, The Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine.
A certain parish priest, a man of upright life, knew no other Mass than the Mass of the Blessed Virgin, which he constantly chanted in her honour. Being accused thereof to the bishop, he was forthwith arraigned before him. When he avowed that he knew no other Mass, the bishop harshly upbraided him as an imposter, suspended him from his cure and forbade him to chant the said Mass hereafter. The following night the Blessed Mary appeared to the bishop, belaboured him with reproaches and demanded the reason of his ill treatment of her servant; and she further said that the bishop would die within thirty days unless he restored the priest to his office. All atremble, the bishop summoned the priest and begged his forgiveness, commanding him to celebrate no other Mass than that of the Blessed Virgin. (From the chapter on the birth of the Virgin).
It seems to me that this is where Medjugorje falls down: the Blessed Virgin should appear to the bishop and defend the visionaries. Her failure to do this is surely a weak point in the credibility of the whole thing given that she seems so willing to appear to her followers so often. However I do feel sorry for the parishioners of the parish priest in the story who enjoyed less than the fullness of the liturgical cycle!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

John the Arch-cantor

Yesterday, in this diocese, we celebrated the feast of St Benet Biscop. (We have a new set of prayers for the propers of the diocesan calendar. It is ad experimentum. I hope that yesterday`s collect doesn`t survive a revision as it seemed to go on forever.) However what always fascinates me about this feast is St Benet Biscop`s scoop in persuading Abbot John, Arch-cantor of St Peter`s in Rome, to come to Northumbria to teach the monks chant according to the Roman method. What on earth did he make of the seventh century kingdom of Northumbria after living amongst the decaying splendours of Rome?
Bede talks about his stay in chapter eighteen of book four of the Ecclesiastical History but according to the account there all went very well: his visit was greeted with enthusiasm by the monks. No mention of what the laity thought who may have attended Mass at these monasteries. I don`t imagine that familiarity wth the Latin language was at least any greater than among the laity today but it seemed to stick. The only hint of revolt by the laity, in this Golden Age of Northumbria, which I remember, occurs in chapter three of Bede`s Life of Cuthbert when a group of rustics reject Cuthbert`s plea to pray for a number of monks caught in a storm at sea. Bede writes:

But the rustics turning on him with angry minds and angry mouths, exclaimed, " Nobody shall pray for them: may God spare none of them ! for they have taken away from men the ancient rites and customs, and how the new ones are to be attended to, nobody knows".
Cuthbert`s prayers save the monks, the rustics are converted and never misbehave again.

It is fair to say that not since the death of Bede in 735 has this part of the world been a place of significance for the universal Church. That`s not a situation I see being likely to change in the near future either. However I`m always inspired by St Benet Biscop`s succession of trips to Rome to bring back the best he could find in art and music for the Church in Northumbria.

These are a few of my favourite things

I was tagged quite a while back by the former blogger Madame Evangelista whose blogging is much missed. From what I recall the object was to list your five favourite things. I have been thinking about this for a very long time. Where to start? Does life count? However here are a few of my favourite things but this is not in any real order of preference nor complete.

1) Being a priest, although it has its ups and downs.

2) The traditional Roman Rite now known as the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Yes there are problems. I can see what the liturgical reformers of the 1960`s were trying to do but I`m not sure it works. And as for the breviary I am with Fr Hunwicke on this one. I say the modern breviary in Latin. The 1962 version seems unsatisfactory for the reason the good father outlines. On the other hand the pre-Pius X breviary would be difficult nowadays. Rather than oblige secular clergy to say the whole of the Roman breviary I think it would have been more useful if someone had decreed that secular clergy did not need to say the whole thing but only salient parts.
However all this is rather off the point. I meant to talk about the Mass. I love Low Mass and Sung Mass. I enjoy attending Mass almost as much as saying it and am more than happy to be subdeacon or deacon rather than celebrant if it means a Mass will be said with full ceremony. However while the EF Mass is an important reason I remain a Catholic and resist any urge to move East, I am firmly committed to visible and unambiguous unity with the Holy See and am not attracted to other bodies which have bishops of varying degrees of validity.
3) Music. Ok that is rather broad but I have quite broad tastes. If I was only allowed one composer out of all of them I`d have to say Mozart but there`s quite a lot of his earlier music which is not so exciting: from about the age of fifteen it becomes interesting. However my recent forays have been into the music of Landi and Pizzetti although one can`t walk into HMV and hope to find their stuff on the shelves. I also love Purcell and Monteverdi and wish there was more of it. I keep hoping someone will find the rest of Monteverdi`s L`Arriana or some of his lost operas. (Cavalli I have tried extensively as a Monteverdi substitute but he`s just not the same.) I wish James II had employed Purcell and Blow for his Catholic chapel. French baroque also appeals. Debussy and Delius too. I like twentieth century English composers especially. Britten is high on my list but also Walton`s Facade and Warlock`s The Curlew are long-time favourites.
Apart from that pop music especially from about 1977-82 is important as it formed the background of my youth. I particularly enjoy the fairly early Elvis Costello although Brutal Youth I thought was oustanding. While not within this time-frame I have also enjoyed Bob Dylan`s stuff up to Blood on the Tracks. Dance band music of about 1925-1935 I`ve always enjoyed and I am revisiting it at the minute.
There`s lots of other things too but generally I`m not that excited by the 19th century and least of all by its operas although I watched and enjoyed half of the 2004 production of Offenbach`s Grand Duchess of Gerolstein last night with Sandrine Piau and Felicity Lott.

4) Parish Pilgrimages especially if abroad. In my last parish I tried to have one of these about every two years. I particularly enjoy taking groups to Rome. The English College villa at Palazzola is a very special place. Pilgrimages, as well as broadening and deepening an understanding of the faith bring people together socially and help build up the community in the parish. We went last year to Rome from St Mary`s. Previous to that I had taken a group to Santiago de Compostella in about 2004 which was a great success. I`m planning a pilgrimage to Santiago again for this year.

5) My two cats are two of my favourite things.
Will this do Madame E? I have missed out quite a lot such as Latin and books but I was tagged somewhere ages back about books everyone should read.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Back due to popular demand

Sorry, it all got rather complicated on many levels but just to acknowledge that we do have a bishop-elect, Canon Seamus Cunningham. Read about it here.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

And now for something completely different

This morning the Holy Father again celebrated Mass in the Sistine chapel using the original altar. Let`s hope we see more of the Pope leading by example in 2009. Let`s hope we see him attend or celebrate Mass in the Extraordinary form. For a full report see the NLM blog.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Pope Paul VI on music

While out on my walk today I caught up on a BBC Radio 3 podcast of the programme `Music Matters`. This one was broadcast on December 6th and had a feature on Nicholas Clapton`s new edition of his book on Moreschi, the Angel of Rome: the only castrato of whom, somewhat alarming, recordings survive. I have the 2004 edition and a fascinating read it is as much for an insight into the battles over changing musical styles at the Vatican under St Pius X as for what it says about the castrato phenomenon.

The interview was introduced by an anecdote which I`d not heard before and which isn`t in the 2004 edition. Stravinsky was decorated by Pope Paul VI at a concert in the Vatican in 1965. Nicholas Clapton said that at that meeting the pope, who, perhaps unwittingly, was to bring about the greatest upheaval in church music ever known, asked Stravinsky: " What can I do for music?" to which he received the reply: "Bring back the castrato"!

Catholic Press and the Extraordinary Form

I have received this press release from the Latin Mass Socciety which I am happy to post here.

British Catholic Newspapers Recognise the Extraordinary Form (Traditional Latin Rite) Calendar

After prompting from the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, two leading British Catholic journals now publish weekly information on the Liturgical Calendar for the Extraordinary Form.

The Catholic Herald, the main ‘conservative’ Catholic paper, publishes the full weekly calendar for the Extraordinary Form alongside that for the Ordinary Form. This is provided for them each week by Gordon Dimon, the LMS’s Senior MC, who also compiles the LMS’s annual Ordo which is used by priests worldwide.

More surprisingly, The Tablet – the main British journal of ‘liberal’ Catholicism – also runs a weekly link to the Latin Mass Society’s website ( where the full Ordo can be consulted (along with much else of interest to enquiring Catholics).

John Medlin, LMS General Manager, said: “I was pleased at how responsive both The Catholic Herald and The Tablet were to my suggestion that they acknowledge the calendar for the Extraordinary Form. It shows that the Extraordinary Form is becoming accepted for what it is – a rite of equal standing with the Ordinary Form. The other two main British Catholic newspapers – The Universe and The Catholic Times – have yet to catch up with the Herald and Tablet. I will keep prodding them!”

For further information, please contact John Medlin, General Manager, or James Murphy, LMS Office Manager, on (T) 020 7404 7284;
(F) 020 7831 5585; (E mail)