Thursday, December 24, 2009

Lost Antiphons

I have given up trying to find the antiphons for the vigil of the Nativity for the minor hours in my lovely new 1962 breviary and have had to use the wonderful Divinum Officium site. Any clues would be appreciated. While I`m here can anyone tell me where the invitatory antiphon for the common of a virgin, non-martyr is to be found? There seems to be no option but to say that all virgins are martyrs.
UPDATE: Thanks to Gregor and Mark for the information on the antiphons. All is clear now. Thanks for your swift responses.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

St Wilfrid: not entirely forgotten.

I didn`t post anything about St Wilfrid on his feast day (October 12th) as it seemed the general policy was to ignore this saint even in the year of the 1300th anniversary of his death. People I`ve mentioned it to say `Well he`s more of a Yorkshire person`. It`s true he was bishop of York but he was also bishop of Hexham and was bishop of Hexham when he died in 709. Of all the Northumbrian saints he was the one who most exemplifies unity with Rome. Maybe this is why he is unpopular.
Yet not everyone forgot. In this month`s Northern Cross there is an article (p.9) about the choir of Hexham abbey making a trip to Rome to commemorate the 1300th anniversary of the saint`s death. They sang a Mass in St Peter`s. So at least the Anglicans think he is worth remembering.
On the subject of Anglicans and English bishops, in a recent interview , Mgr Faley, the assistant general secretary of the episcopal conference of England and Wales spoke to the BBC about the new ordinariate for former Anglicans. While the complementary norms for Anglicanorum Coetibus say the bishops of the Ordinariate are to be chosen from a terna presented by the Governing Council of the Ordinariate and thus would be expected to be a member of the Ordinariate, Mgr Faley thinks it is unlikely that this will be the case.
"I really don't know," says Mgr Faley. "There is the possibility that he would be - but within the culture of the bishops' conference I think that's highly unlikely."
I keep thinking about the phrase `the culture of the bishops` conference`. There is no mention of it in canon law as regards the suitability of a candidate for episcopal consecration. The code asks that a candidate be `outstanding for his solid faith, good morals, piety, zeal for souls, wisdom, prudence and human virtues and endowed with other talents` as well as having a good reputation, be at least thirty-five years old and have a doctorate or at least a licence in theology, canon law or scripture or be at least `truly expert` in these disciplines.
I can`t help wonder whether St Wilfrid would have fitted into the culture of the episcopal conference?
PS I`m delighted to see Mgr Mark Davies of Salford has today been appointed as coadjutor bishop for the diocese of Shrewsbury. That`s cheered me up.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Breakthrough at St Peter`s, Rome.

I`ve been sent news that things are improving at St Peter`s with regards to priests being able to say Mass in the Extraordinary Form. My information says:

Cardinal Comastri, Arch-Priest of St. Peter, has ordered the sacristy of the Vatican Basilica to have four 1962 Missals available for priests wishing to celebrate the Holy Mass according to the usus antiquior. The whole story is in this Italian link.
More of the background to this and the recent FIUV conference in Rome can be read on Joseph Shaw`s blog here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The background to the icons at St Mary`s

I thought the notes Sr Petra Clare sent explaining the symbolism used in the icons may be of interest.
The icon draws on the account of the childhood of Mary of the Protoevengelion of James. Although from time to time there are questions about the historical veracity of the events, the tradition has been maintained in the icons because it underlines certain important mysteries in the life of the Mother of God.

The protoevangelion tells us that Joachim and Anna were left childless and the elderly Anna conceived, in a similar miracle to the conception of Isaac. The parents made a vow to give the child to the temple. I found from another source that there was a place for women - old women like the prophetess Anna and virgins given into their care to be brought up piously, serving the needs of the temple, including sewing.

After Mary is espoused to Joseph, the temple needs a new veil, and the tradition is for the undefiled virgins of the house of David to spin the veil. The priests cast lots to choose who was to spin gold, white, linen, silk, blue, scarlet and purple. Mary was drawn for the scarlet and purple spinning. In the protoevangelion, Mary is actually sitting and spinning the scarlet and purple when the angel visits her.

Whatever the material truth of the story, later exegesis takes it as a symbol that the flesh of Christ - the veil both revealing and concealing the godhead - is woven from Mary's body. I have followed an icon pattern which indicates the mountain of Sinai topped with cloud on the case of the spindle.

In the icon Mary, as a daughter of David, sits on the throne of the house of David, who will bear the new Godking of David's line. This is why her seat is always so thronelike. The MP OV is Mary Theotokon ( Mother of God). The letters are kept in Greek because the gospels were written in Greek. They are always in red and shortened, which links then to the similarly shortened name of Christ IC XC, and derives from the way of indicating the name of God in the Hebrew Bible.

The angel is always depicted below Mary, and at a distance from her. As the throne of God, she is higher than the angels. Because the angel only indicates that a divine birth will come about and the mystery is concealed from the messenger i.e. 'at a spiritual distance' from him, the space between the two, composed of gold, indicating the presence of God, is vitalling important. It is God who stands between the two. In your church, God literally is enthroned between the two in the tabernacle, and the central pillar forms the decisive division between the messenger and the Mother of God which is a feature of the icon.
Sr Petra Clare

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

North East Catholic History Society

I really should write these notifications rather earlier but this afternoon we have the December talk for the NECHS. The topic today is Mary Ward 1585-1645 Foundress and Educator and the speaker is Sr. Patricia Harriss cj. As always we meet at St Andrews, Worswick St, Newcastle and begin at 2pm. All welcome.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The icons arrive at St Mary`s

I`m delighted to say that the icon of the Annunciation arrived today for St Mary`s and I was able to get it installed straightaway in time for the Immaculate Conception tomorrow. This is the work of Sr Petra Clare who lives in the Sancti Angeli Benedictine Skete in Cannich, Inverness-shire. Many thanks to Davey and Derek who fitted them today: the same team that installed the hanging crucifix in SS Peter and Paul`s Longbenton a couple of weeks ago. Here are a few pictures although my camera doesn`t get the colours exactly right all the time

Many thanks to the parishioners of St Mary`s who have made this possible by their donations over the last few years.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Directory on the Canonical Status of the Clergy

Last week our dean came round with a copy of the new Directory on the Canonical Status of the Clergy. An event in itself as the last statutes on clergy life I can find in this diocese were published in 1962. This is a national publication and serves as a guide for dioceses to produce their own diocesan statutes for clergy life. Most of it consists of canons from the code but other sections in italics are meant to serve as models for diocesan legislation.

I remember reading an article in 2000 in the Catholic Herald by a priest who said he was not going to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the restoration of the hierarchy until the restoration of the canonical status of parish priests had also occurred! It is true that priests promise obedience to their bishops but sometimes this is misunderstood as an absolute obedience of the kind one finds in a monastery whereas the obedience of the secular clergy is as set out in the code of canon law. Thus while a priest will want to be as obedient as he can to his bishop he does nonetheless have rights as well as obligations and these are not to be ignored.

One of the most difficult events in a parish priest`s life can be when he is asked to move parish. The new directory gives a useful reminder of how this is meant to happen. Although I am a canon lawyer, I must admit I had never given sufficient attention to the canon that deals with this. Nor in my experience have bishops, even those with a doctorate in canon law!

The canon (1748) reads:
If the good of souls or the need or advantage of the Church requires that a pastor be transferred from his parish which he is governing usefully to another parish or to another office, the bishop is to propose the transfer to him in writing and persuade him to consent to it for the love of God and of souls.

The next canon reads:
If the pastor does not intend to yield to the counsel and persuasion of the bishop he is to explain his reasons in writing.

From there it goes on to explain what the bishop still wants to move the priest: the bishop is to send two priests round to try to persuade him to accept the move. If the priest still refuses, the bishop is to issue a decree declaring the parish vacant. The priest however is then at liberty to appeal to Rome and the bishop in his decree is to inform him of how this is done. This is not as far-fetched as it sounds as a number of years ago a few priests in Scotland did this and their appeal against transfer was upheld by the Vatican.

All of this is because if a priest is appointed parish priest he has canonical possession of the parish and can only be moved if there is a serious problem or if he consents to a move. Our bishop reminded us recently in the Northern Cross that all the priests he had moved had consented to move. However I look forward to the implementation of the canon regarding the need for a written request to be made to the priest regarding the move with the reasons for it outlined. There have to be real reasons for the move. Also having it on paper gives the priest time to think things through clearly rather than in an interview where the proposal is sprung on him when he knows nothing about the parish which is being offered to him. Of course this all means a slower process but it also means respecting the rights of the priest according to canon law.
The Directory deals with other matters of clergy life as well. Its publication is good thing and I hope will serve to ensure that the secular clergy know their rights and obligations under canon law.

Ushaw Conference 2010

One of the highlights of 2009 was the LMS training conference at Ushaw. I`m delighted to hear that it is happening again in 2010 and will be the LMS`s main training conference of the year. What made it special on a personal level was having spent five years there as a seminarian and never thinking to ever see let alone celebrate Solemn High Mass in St Cuthbert`s chapel. The LMS have sent the following information about next year`s conference. As well as gaining or refreshing knowledge about celebrating the Extraordinary Form it will be a good week in the company of like-minded priests. I was particularly glad to catch up with some people I`d not seen in twenty years.

Here`s the press release:

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 12 April to Friday 16 April 2010 (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 tuition in Low Mass, Missa Cantata and Missa Solemnis and there will be streams for beginners and more advanced students. There will be a keynote lecture and 1962 Missals and altar cards will be available.

There will be opening and closing High Masses, daily Mass and Devotions, and Rosary. There will also be a closing Conference dinner with guest speaker.

The subsidised fee to participants is only £115.00 which includes all accommodation, meals and training materials. There are limited places and priests are asked to register as soon as possible.

Further details and registration forms can be obtained from the LMS office (Tel: 020 7404 7284, e mail: or from the conference organiser, Mr Paul Waddington (Tel: 01757 638027, e mail:

Paul Waddington said, “This is the second time the LMS has organised such a training conference at Ushaw College and we are delighted to be going back. 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.”

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)