Sunday, January 24, 2010

Mgr Marini and Forest Hall

Today the bishops of England and Wales set off for Rome for their ad limina visit where they submit reports about their dioceses and discuss them with the various Vatican departments. I`m sure our prayers will be with them that the whole process will be helpful in strengthening the Church in England and Wales. The Scottish bishops follow next month.

As bishop Seamus Cunningham goes off he has two saintly predecessors who made the journey before him when travel was not quite so easy: St Wilfrid and St Benet Biscop. These two Northumbrian saints made many visits from this part of the world to the Holy See. St Benet Biscop mainly seems to have gone for the shopping in that he brought back items to enhance the life and worship of the monasteries of Jarrow and Monkwearmouth. His greatest coup was to persuade John the arch-cantor to leave St Peter`s, Rome and come to these Monkwearmouth to teach the monks how to sing chant in the authentic Roman way. This is a recurring obsession of mine and I see I blogged about it just over a year ago.

Well, this weekend at St Mary`s Forest Hall the words of Mgr Marini, the papal MC were heard at Mass. I read out part of the talk we had heard at the conference: the part on active participation. I`ve been keen to share something of that talk with the parish since getting back and the Mass readings at the OF seemed to lend themselves to the topic as we had St Paul`s first letter to the Corinthians on the complementary roles of the members of the Church while the first reading from chapter eight of Nehemiah and the Gospel from Luke chapter four (14-21) laid the ground for talking about the liturgy.

I mentioned in a previous post the whole talk can be found here.

Why I mention this is that I was quite tacken aback by the reaction afterwards. Normally I don`t get much reaction or if I do it is people wanting to disagree with me. This morning it was different, people were queuing up (well not quite) to say how much they enjoyed it. Even one of my regular critics said it was so good to hear something like that from the pulpit. (We don`t have a pulpit but it, like altar rails, seems to have stuck in popular ways of referring to church life.)

I was so glad that there was such a warm response to Mgr Marini`s words. I`m now thinking of sharing what he said about music and adoration and may get on to his section on orientation and liturgical prayer.

New Priest Blogger

As others have commented, in this year`s message for World Communications Day, the Holy Father has encouraged priests to use blogs and other modern means of communication to promote `dialogue, evangelization and catechesis`.  I am glad to say that another priest of Hexham and Newcastle, who has always kept up with new technology, has started a blog. Fr Elkin is parish priest of Barnard Castle in Co Durham. His blog is called Let the Welkin Ring.

Fr Elkin started saying the Extraordinary Form again in about 1994 if my memory serves me right, helping with Masses at St Dominic`s in Newcastle where the `indult Mass` had been established on a Sunday in 1992. I`m glad to see that his latest post is a reminisence about his time in the priesthood. It must have been in about 1995 I had the privilege of celebrating a Missa Cantata at St Patrick`s, Consett. The large church was packed and the Missa de Angelis sung lustily by a full congregation raised the roof: I`ve never heard anything like it since. Unfortunately there was never another EF Mass again at St Patrick`s. However Fr Elkin preached and he spoke about an issue that always fascinates me: what were the hopes of young priests for the liturgy in the 1950`s and 1960`s? Basically Fr Elkin described how he had been full of hope for a great revival of the faith through the introduction of the vernacular and other reforms but how disillusionment set in and how he has happy to come back to the Latin Mass. I hope I`ve got the drift of this right and hope Father will maybe blog on this topic now he is reminiscing.

I hope to be finishing of my account of the talks at the Rome conference very soon.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rome Conference Day 3: the talks, Day 3

This is all taking me longer to get round to writing up than I imagined. On the third day we had two talks. However the day had to be re-arranged in that we were supposed to be having EF Vespers in the church of St Stephan of the Abyssinians in the Vatican but since it was discovered that the Abyssinian church was closed with the Epiphany being a holiday in the Vatican, Vespers were re-scheduled to be in the FSSP church of Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini which I had wanted to see any way. This meant that Fr Lang`s talk on the new translation of the OF missal had to be moved to after dinner. Fr Lang works for the Congregation for Divine Worship.

So the first talk of the day was given by Mgr Guido Marini, the Pope`s Master of Ceremonies. Monsignor does not speak English well enough to give talks in it so he spoke in Italian. However he spoke so clearly and calmly that this listener whose Italian is rather rusty was able to understand almost everything. An English translation of the talk had been prepared the day before and copies were available for people to follow. Much has already been written on the internet about this talk which was entitled Introduction to the Spirit of the Liturgy. It is available here. This talk was the highlight of the conference for me and I`m sure for many others. It was wonderful to hear about the ideas for the `reform of the reform` from one so close to the Holy Father. Many of the conference members had commented how the morning`s Mass with the Pope in St Peter`s had shown how far things had come in quite a short time in improving the qualilty of papal Masses. At the end of the session the conference gave Mgr Marini a standing ovation. I`m hoping to share some of the ideas from his talk with the parish to introduce some of the principles governing modern liturgical thought.

After dinner we had Fr Lang`s rescheduled talk. This was the most intellectually demanding talk of the week and as it did not start until after 9pm some of the Fathers were beginning to wilt after a long day. Fr Lang`s talk was entitled Liturgy and language: The "Sacral Vernacular" (Liturgiam authenticam 47) of the new English Translation of the Roman Missal. Father began by demonstrating the nature of sacral language in the Roman Rite, referring to the work of Christine Mohrmann. In the second part of the talk, Father took us through the new translation of the first half of the Roman canon explaining each section. The text has been available on the internet for quite a while now. It will be wonderful to use a translation which is close to the original instead of the current version. Talking to many priests there is some reluctance to embrace the new translation but then religions tend to be conservative. At seminary I lost count of the number of times we were quoted Newman`s saying about to live is to change! Any liturgical change always arouses opposition but surely it is better to have a translation of the Mass which is accurate and captures the spirit of the original rather than our current version which used the now discarded notion of `dynamic equivalence`

Father Lang was unable to say exactly when the new translation will come into use. It was hoped that it would be ready by 2010 but it looks as if it will now be Advent 2011. That at least gives time for preparations to be made to introduce it to the clergy and faithful. In the question session one priest voiced my thoughts when he said how much training does there need to be for someone to read a text? It is hard to see what the training for using the new missal will involve: not all priests will have the linguistic background to enable them to appreciate what has happened and there is no question of the new translation being the subject of debate as it is definitely going to happen. However it will be useful to have an opportunity for things to be explained as far as they can given the level of anxiety there appears to be about it all.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Rome Conference 2: the talks, Day 2

When looking at the conference programme before setting off I saw that the first morning was due due to begin at 8.30am with a lecture on Three Patristic Texts on the Priesthood. This looked like a daunting topic for an early morning start. However Fr Carola`s talk brought to life the teaching of Ss Gregory Nazianzus, John Chrysostom and Gregory the Great and made them relevant to our age and situations. Fr Joseph Carola SJ has been Professor of Patristic Theology at the Gregorian University (in Rome) since 2002. When the opportunity for questions came after the talk the topic of priests facing a crisis in their vocation and leaving active ministry came up. Fr Carola spoke of how quite a number of his former pupils at the Greg have left active ministry. It is a question of knowing that a priest will eventually face a crisis and for there to be support systems to help a priest at that stage to help him get over this and remain faithful to his vocation. Unfortunately this is still not well provided for and priests are left to sink or swim. I`m glad I was one of the many who bought a copy of Fr Carola`s new book ( just published this month) entitled Conformed to Christ Crucified: Meditations on Priestly Life and Ministry which consists of Father`s sermons and reflections on this theme. The book is published by the Gregorian and Biblical Press.

Next we heard from Fr Dodaro OSA the director of the Patristic Institute Augustinianum in Rome. His talk was entitled The Priest as sinner in the thought of St Augustine and dealt with the Donatist view of the clergy as spiritual superstars such that if a priest was found to be less than perfect it greatly troubled the Donatist laity as for them the efficacy of the sacraments if not their validity depended on the sanctity of the minister. While it is easy to fall back on the theory of ex opere operato, Fr Dodaro spoke of Augustine`s awareness of the priest as sinner and the need to avoid putting the priest on a pedastal in today`s Church. There must be a way for the priest to convey that he too needs forgiveness from God and needs the prayers rather than praise of his congregation.
The third talk of the morning was by Mgr Feichtinger of the CDF who spoke on The Hermeneutics of the Inquisition which was not as might be deduced from the title a look at the work of the CDF but an exploration of the philosophical background to the `Hermeneutic of Continuity`.

In the evening, after dinner (where we were joined by the Australian ambassador to the Holy See) we were treated to a talk by Blackfen`s Fr Tim Finigan ( pictured above in mid-speech). Fr Finigan`s experiences as a seminarian seemed familiar to the conference. (`Take a stone out of a bag and pretend you are that stone and what do you want to say` etc) He recounted a visit by Mother Teresa to the English College where she caught sight of what was the must-have book of the time, `I`m OK. You`re OK` which moved her to say `Well I`m not OK and you`re not OK. That`s why we need Jesus.`! Fr Finigan echoed the thought I often have ( and the last words I ever said to bishop Kevin Dunn before his death) which is that I wake up every morning and no matter how bad the weather or whatever problems there are, I thank God that Ratzinger is Pope. Father also asked us to thank God for Pope John Paul II who started the fight back against the collapse of the Church. Father`s speech was very warmly received.
And after that I retired for the night.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rome Conference 1: the Talks, Day 1

Sorry to have been so slow to getting down to writing about the conference for English-speaking priests in Rome last week. I think it was only on Tuesday that I recovered from the 3am start we had to make on Monday 3rd January to get the 6am flight from Newcastle to Amsterdam and from there to Rome. (I went with another priest of this diocese who prefers not to be named.) There is only a direct flight from Newcastle in the summer nowadays. Although I slept most of the flight it never seems to make up for getting up in the middle of the night and once we got to the conference the pace was quite intense so I was mainly operating on adrenalin. However there was a lot going on to keep the adrenalin flowing.

After an introduction to the conference by Frs John Trigillio and John Walsh (chairmen of the CCC and ACCC respectively) we had Vespers in the Domus chapel at 5.30pm. I`ll be doing another post about the liturgies. This was OF Vespers in English celebrated with the Blessed Sacrament exposed. It was our first encounter with the Lassus Scholars who provided the music during the week and from the start we knew that we were in for a musical treat. They sang a Lassus Magnificat. However I`m trying to stay away from talking about the liturgy. The sermon was given by Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett of Lismore, Australia. What I enjoyed about this was that bishop Jarrett soon made it clear that he had suffered what we had suffered. It was encouraging to hear a bishop talk like this and I think it is the first time I`ve heard a diocesan bishop talk like this. Bishop Jarrett is a member of the ACCC so it should have come as no surprise but I`m so used to hearing how wonderful everything is from bishops that it was at the very least refreshing to hear a different point of view and one which reflected much of my and I`m sure most of the other particpiants` experience of life in the church as regards problems over catechesis and all the rest.

After dinner there was a talk by Mgr McDaid of the Congregation of Clergy which was probably the most stirring talk of the conference. He clearly had faced the same obstacles as many of us. He sounded the theme which was to be taken up by many talks during the week: that the priest is to be conformed to Christ. For couples who wanted to know how to be good parents his advice was that they love one another. For the priest his advice was to love God. I didn`t take notes but I think I remember him talking about a lady in a position of responsibility in the Church who made it known that she did not believe in the divinity of Christ. If anyone challenged this they were accused of having problems with relating to women! (I hope I have this right: if anyone can tell me if I`ve not, then do let me know.)
There was an oppprtunity to enjoy the first convivium of the conference after this but after such a long day I couldn`t wait to get to my bed.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Habemus Papam

I spent New Year`s Eve with two friends, one of whom kindly cooked an Indian meal for us. I should have taken some pictures à la Fr Z. After this we played the board game Vatican ( `Unlock the secrets of how men become pope`). I`d bought this quite some time ago but had never had an opportunity to play. As it was all new to us our understanding of the rules took a bit of time to settle down. Players get cards as they pass the corner squares which are either challenges to take a stand on the issues facing the Church today or incidents affecting their career. Many of the latter seem to involve the players being kidnapped by guerrilla groups although that only involves getting or losing a few points and doesn`t delay progress around the board. However it took a while to realise that the purpose of going around the board is to collect sufficient jobs in either the local episcopal conference or in Vatican congregations to move on to the next stage which is the nine day interregnum between the death of the pope and the opening of the conclave. The conclave when it happened was over after one day and I am happy to announce that I became pope although I`m still mystified as to how it happened as it all seemed rather quick compared to the first stage. However the game kept us entertained and I look forward to having another try.
The picture above is a recreation of the scene in the dinning room as I forgot to take pictures last night.
Oh and a Happy New Year to everyone. 2010 should be a special year for English Catholics with the visit of the Holy Father in September and the beatification of Cardinal Newman as well as the setting up of the Anglican Ordinariate and the preparations for use of the new translation of the OF Roman Missal.