Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

On Christmas Eve, we will place ourselves once again before the Crib to contemplate, astonished, the "Word made flesh." Sentiments of joy and gratitude, like in every year, are renewed in our hearts as we hear the melodies of Christmas carols, which sing of, in so many languages, the same, extraordinary miracle. The Creator of the universe, out of love, came to make his dwelling among men. In the Letter to the Philippians, St. Paul affirms that Christ, "though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men" (2:6). He appeared in human form, adds the Apostle, humbling himself. At holy Christmas we will relive the realization of this sublime mystery of grace and mercy.

Pope Benedict XVI 21.12.06

Monday, December 18, 2006

Full active participation

Today I came across this video of a Missa Cantata from the church of St Nicholas du Chardonet in Paris which is run by the Society of St Pius X. It is one of the most beautifuly produced films of the traditional Mass I have seen (and I`ve seen a lot!). I`m not too keen on the reader for the epistle or the vernacular hymns but it is a wonderful example of what a parish Sunday Mass can be. However the interior of St Mary`s Forest Hall might need a bit of work to come up to this standard! Let`s hope there is some reconciliation with the Society and the Holy See before too long.

Creating a stir

This week on the bulletin I included this item:

Mass Confusion

Father writes: It seems that some people have the idea that attendance at Mass on the morning of December 24th also fulfils the obligation for Christmas. Unfortunately this is not the case. It is also worth mentioning that Catholics are obliged to attend Sunday Mass every week. The Catechism of the Catholic church has this to say: “The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin” thus Catholics who miss Mass through their own fault should not receive Holy Communion until they have confessed this in the Sacrament of Confession.

I`m told this has caused a bit of a stir. Three parishioners have spoken to me about it so far and said they didn`t realise there was an obligation to go Mass on a Sunday.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


You may well have seen on Rorate Caeli, the petitions from French and Italian intellectuals and artists calling for freedom for the traditional Mass. Quite remarkable. They make reference to the 1971 English petition to Paul VI asking for the same thing. It is hard to think today of a similar petition being put forward by British intellectuals and artists. Who would sign it? I can`t think of many: it shows how much British society has changed.

I particularly liked this part from the Italian petition:

........the cultural and spiritual value of the ancient Latin liturgy is a legacy of all, as is the Sistine Chapel, as is the Gregorian [chant], as the great cathedrals, Gothic sculpture, the Basilica of Saint Peter also are. Even more so today, when our entire European Civilization risks to cut off and deny its own roots.

Curiously, even "progressive Catholics", who made the dialogue with the world and with modern culture their banner, did not give any regard and fought for forty years to keep this incredible prohibition.

The `incredible prohibition` is still largely in force. Let`s hope it is lifted after Christmas!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Even more good news

This report from Il Giornale regarding the meeting of the Ecclesia Dei commision yesterday can be found today on the Rorate Caeli blog.

In the order of the day for the meeting was also a discussion on the
juridical framework in which to place the Lefebvrists after their readmission
into full communion with the Holy See.The debated questions were, thus, two.
...Benedict XVI intends to extend the indult of his predecessor, in fact
withdrawing from the bishops discretionary power on the matter: the Missal of
Saint Pius V is no longer abolished, and even if the ordinary Roman Rite is that
originated from the post-conciliar liturgical reform, the old one -- used by
centuries in the Church -- can subsist as an "extraordinary rite".The bishops,
therefore, will not be able to deny the ancient mass anymore, but only regulate
its eventual celebration, together with the parish priests, harmonising it with
the need of the community. The corrections included would have reduced from 50
to 30 the minimal number of faithful who ask for the celebration according to
the old rite. As for the readmission of the Lefebvrists, once the rite of Saint
Pius V is liberalized, the deal should be easier.

I wonder how this will work. At present I have a private Mass on a Saturday morning which attracts about 15 people. If I manage to get 30 there one week can I then start to advertise it as a public Mass? Will it only be a public Mass if the numbers stay above 30? I`m having a private midnight Mass at Christmas. Last year we had about 80 people there. Since I can expect 80 again this year can I then advertise it as a public Mass in advance? Well at least this will be some kind of progress as it will no longer require the permission of the bishop which can be hard to get. I hope the Motu Proprio will actually recommend the traditional Mass as a good thing in itself and that it will be presented as something more than a concession for the liturgically-challenged. As I have three churches in which to say Mass, I hope I can look forward to at least three traditional Masses a week!

Animal Blessing

A few weeks ago I was asked by St Stephen`s primary school, which is the school for SS Peter and Paul`s parish at Longbenton which is also in my care, to go with them for their annual service at the cat and dog shelter which adjoins their playing fields. I didn`t know really what to expect but found the top two classes there and a whole para-liturgy worked out. The service took place in what had been a barn when the site was a farm. Much to my surprise the first animals I came across were sheep and cows in the barn. Apparently they were retired: I didn`t know they got the opportunity to retire! The service included the story of St John Bosco and the dog Grigio, St Francis and the wolf of Gubbio and a dog by the name of Princess who obeyed orders to sit and stay during the floods in New Orleans.. The local press were there to take photos of me blessing a dog. After the service I went around the whole place blessing cats and dogs. I also blessed four retired pit ponies which had worked at Ellington Colliery in Northumberland until it closed in 1995. I was tempted by a couple of the cats but the two I have are enough to be getting on with. Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera and so have no pictures of this event. I am also looking for my full edition of the ritual to see what blessings there were for this kind of event.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Getting Nearer

I was sent this today via Una Voce regarding today`s meeting of the Ecclesia Dei commission:

ANSA) - CITTA' DEL VATICANO, 12 dic - ''La pubblicazione del Motu Proprio da parte del Papa che liberalizzera' la celebrazione della messa in latino secondo il messale di San Pio V e' prossima''. Lo ha affermato il cardinale Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez, membro della Commissione Ecclesia Dei che stamattina si e' riunita per discutere della liberalizzazione della messa in latino. ''Noi abbiamo studiato il documento con calma'' ha affermato il cardinale. ''Abbiamo discusso assieme per piu' di 4 ore ed effettuato alcune correzioni sul testo del Motu Proprio''. La prossima mossa spetta al cardinale Dario Castrillon Hoyos (presidente della commissione) che presentera' a Benedetto XVI il testo. Forse, ha aggiunto Medina, occorrera' un'altra riunione da parte della Commissione Ecclesia Dei. Un altro membro dell'organismo, il cardinale di Lione, Jean Pierre Ricard non ha voluto fare nessun commento, sottolineando che ''e' tenuto al segreto pontificio''. (ANSA).
Which I translate as

`The publication of the Motu Proprio on the part of the Pope which will liberalise the celebration of the Mass in Latin according to the missal of Saint Pius V is close` Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez, member of the Commission Ecclesia Dei which this morning met to discuss the liberalisation of the Mass in Latin confirmed this. " We have studied the document calmly" the cardinal affirmed. " We have discussed together for more than four hours and have made some corrections to the text of the Motu Proprio" The next move belongs to Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos ( president of the commission) who will present the text to Benedict XVI. Perhaps, added Medina, there will be another meeting of the Ecclesia Dei commission. Another member of the body, the Cardinal of Lyon, Jean Pierre Ricard did not want to make any comment, emphasising that he is bound by the pontifical secret"

Friday, December 08, 2006

Bishop Hendricks

I smiled to see this picture of bishop Paul Hendricks, an auxiliary in Southwark, on the Southwark Vocations and Hermeneutic of Continuity blogs. It shows the bishop vested for the Mass to celebrate the centenary of the parish of St Mary Magdalen in Wandsworth East Hill. The parish priest is Fr Martin Edwards. If you can tear your gaze away from the bishop`s splendid vestments and look over his left shoulder, there is a painting of Fr Edwards, vested for Mass, with his dog at his feet.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A clarification

Shortly after posting the last item, I see there has been a rapid clarification by Cardinal Hummes on his arrival in Rome! Here it is on Rorate Caeli.

It`s a funny old world

On November 16th, there was an inter-dicasterial meeting in the Vatican with the Pope to discuss celibacy in the light of the recent actions, and subsequent excommunication, of archbishop Milingo and his championing of the cause of optional celibacy for Latin rite priests. I was surprised that the topic was up for discussion at this top level given that any discussion seemed to have been completely forbidden in previous years. After a whole day`s discussion, a message was released to say that the value of celibacy was re-affirmed and there would be no change in the current discipline. That`s fine, but presumably having the meeting meant that someone somewhere thought there might be a need for some change. Then today there is a report on Whispers in the Loggia, that the new head of the Congregation for Clergy, Cardinal Hummes, has stated that celibacy is a discipline and not a dogma and the discipline could change. It seems curious for him to say this in the light of the recent Vatican statement.

Apart from this there are the never ending rumours about a general permission for the traditional Roman rite. The latest suggestion, reported by Fr Zuhldorf is that the permission will be made public on December 8th. The only evidence that something may be going to happen is the reports of French bishops making clear their opposition to any such move. Meanwhile in this country we are assured that it is all hype and that there is no substance to the stories.

Elsewhere today, Rorate Caeli reports that the Patriarch of Constantinople hints that some kind of re-union might be on the cards, while the `continuing Anglicans` are hopeful of an agreement to give them a kind of uniate status in the Catholic church as reported by Ruth Gledhill.

Meanwhile almost nothing actually seems to happen apart from the recent instruction that pro multis is to be translated as for many in the Mass. The post-Synodal document on last year`s Synod on the Eucharist has still to see the light of day. I wonder if this is a record for the longest time between a synod and its follow-up document?

These are certainly very interesting times.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Episcopal Meme

Fr Sean Finnegan has an entry on his blog inviting a number of priest bloggers to reflect on what they would do if they became bishops. I really don`t envy anyone the job of a Catholic bishop nowadays. His suggestions are:

1) Seminaries. To establish an initial 'spiritual' year in which students would pray a great deal and, study a) the doctrine of the Church (overview) b) 'Great Books'; á la USA, perhaps one of the greatest civilizing tools in the West and c) Latin. In subsequent years to make sure that all students got a thorough, orthodox, formation in which the bishop was closely involved with every student at every level.
2) Schools. To re-establish schools inspections for orthodox catechesis. To provide financial incentives for (practising!) Catholic teachers to teach in Catholic schools (perhaps by regular collections in the diocese).
3) To regularly, often, visit every parish in the diocese. To make friends with the clergy and make them a major concern; their spiritual, ascetic life as well as their well-being.
4) To minimize involvement in the Episcopal Conference and its ramifications; a huge and, really, unnecessary drain on time and energy.
5) To make the liturgy in the Cathedral a worthy model for the whole diocese.
6) To make the traditional liturgy available for all who want it, and simply not to make an issue of it.

I agree with all of this although I might take them in reverse order of priority. I think it a good thing that a bishop actually visits the parishes of his diocese and has a one-to-one with each priest about their well-being every five years or whenever the visitation occurs. I would also add that I am not too convinced that it is a good thing for the bishop to farm out confirmations to the Vicar General or episcopal vicars as it loses the sense of occasion that a visit from the bishop brings. I`m glad to say that for our confirmations next autumn we are having the bishop.
On further reflection I would add:

1) Make a study of those parts of the `Western` world where there is an upsurge in vocations to the diocesan priesthood. These mainly occur in places where there is a bishop who is noted for his orthodoxy and who believes that the priesthood is important. In the light of suggestion 6 above, it is worth noting that the Ecclesia Dei communities don`t seem to have a problem with vocations.
2) Invite into the diocese religious congregations that are on the up, such as the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, the Community of St John, the Missionaries of Charity (we do already have them), the Fathers of Mercy etc. Also try to establish a Benedictine house with the classical Roman liturgy.
3) Put money into liturgical music. Our part of the world does not have the pool of professional singers such as can be drawn upon in the London area but I`m sure something could be done to improve standards and repertoire. It would be nice to see courses on plainchant for parishes.
4) Each parish to have instructors for Natural Family Planning.

That`s all I can think of for now.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Return to the Alma Mater by the Tyne

Last Friday night I went to the Mass to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the opening of my old school, St Cuthbert`s Grammar. ( It is, alas, no longer a grammar school and doesn`t even appear to teach Latin anymore.) I enjoyed my time at St Cuthbert`s as a boy. I would often get to school early to serve Mass in the chapel in the priests` house. This Mass was always celebrated ad orientem. Once, in sixth form, we were asked whether we wanted to have a class Mass in the modern, facing the people, chapel or the chapel in the priests` house and the vote was overwhelmingly in favour of the latter. Vox populi, vox Dei! The old central block of classrooms is about to be demolished so this was a last opportunity to see them. I hadn`t been back since I left in 1978 so it was strange to be there again. I feared the worst for the liturgy but was delighted to see that the wooden reredos from the chapel in the priests` house, with its pictures of northern saints had been transferred to the chapel in the main hall. I`m sure that not so long ago it would have been chopped up and thrown out. The new small daily chapel in the former library is also quite tasteful by modern standards and even has a decent altar and centrally placed tabernacle. I took pictures of the reredos on my mobile phone but can`t get the software to work at the minute to transfer them as yet. All in all I was quite encouraged by the whole event. Who knows, one day the school might even get around to updating the list of old boys who have become priests ( which seems to have stopped in 1964) to include the six who concelebrated the Mass together with the bishop and eight other priests.

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.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Liturgical Adventures in Rome

I was delighted to find that the FSSP church was about 5 minutes walk from the Casa del Clero and went to the evening low Mass one night. Fr Devillers was the celebrant. I hadn`t packed a missal and could make out very few words of the Mass, which was surprising given that it is such a tiny church, but I found the whole thing very moving. I rarely have the opportunity to just attend a low Mass and because I don`t think the `dialogue Mass` is a good idea I worry what people must make of the lack of congregation vocal participation, but I was pleased to say I found it very prayerful and I suppose I was just glad to be in a place where people felt the same about the liturgy. I went back on Sunday morning for the Missa Cantata which was attended by about 30 people in all including a good number of seminarians. I was pleasantly surprised when a four part choir started to sing the ordinary although I forgot to ask anyone which Mass setting it was. I had a chat with Fr Kramer after Mass who had no news about the forthcoming liberalisation of the traditional Mass although I had met a seminarian during my stay who knew someone who knew someone who had seen a signed copy of the new indult! Fr Kramer had also been at the CIEL conference but somehow we hadn`t met each other there.

On Sunday afternoon I went for a walk around the churches of Trastevere with Fr John Cooper. He is keen on the new movements and wanted to find the San Egidio community. We noticed that they were celebrating a Mass in Santa Maria in Trastevere at 5pm so we went in for it. I had heard of the Sant` Egidio community in the context of inter-faith dialogue and Fr Greg Price said they had stopped some wars in Africa but I wasn`t expecting anything interesting from a liturgical point of view. My memory of Italian Masses was that the music mainly consisted of hymns to tunes such as the Old Hundredth. However I was quite impressed. There were no hymns at Mass. The music was provided by a choir which sang rather in the style of the Russian Orthodox and from their Mass books they have a certain number of set pieces to be sung as the introit or offertory etc. There wasn`t an instrumental group which I had rather expected. The Mass was concelebrated by about 7 priests. I wondered if they might have some special practices like the Neo-Catechumenate but there were only a couple. During the Gloria a priest brought the lectionary from the back of church and a very large candle, like a paschal candle, accompanied it which was then placed on the epistle side. The Gospel itself was read from the pulpit halfway down the aisle and halfway up a pillar, so it wasn`t possible to incense the book but the acolytes and thurifer stood in the nave facing the priest reading the Gospel. Holy Communion was given by intinction which I also thought was interesting. Overall I was rather encouraged.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Spotted in St Peter`s

While in St Peter`s on Monday night for the Mass for the opening of the academic year, I spotted the illustrious priest blogger Fr Tim Finigan of the Hermeneutic of Continuity. ( Seen here standing higher than the rest.) I took my picture first but I see he has posted the picture he took of me before I got round to posting. He has thus achieved more than I have managed as I haven`t got my own picture on this blog as yet! We have a mutual friend in Fr Charles Briggs of Chislehurst whose lunch appointments with Fr Tim are a regular feature of his blog. Fr Charles was meant to be coming to stay at Forest Hall this weekend but has had to postpone his trip until November.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I returned yesterday afternoon from a week in Rome with three priests of our diocese. Here they are enjoying a drink on the roof of the Casa del Clero with St Peter`s dome in the background. They are Fr John Cooper, episcopal vicar for religious and parish priest at Morpeth. I had my last year as a curate with him in 1994-95 at Morpeth and go back once a month to celebrate a traditional Latin Mass there. Also present were Fr Ian Jackson, parish priest of Ashington with whom I`d been to Rome in 1987 and Fr Martin Morris, parish priest of Hebburn. It was a very relaxing trip as there was nothing I was particularly desperate to see. I had thought that I should go somewhere I`d not been before and planned to get to Tivoli but in the event settled for heading off for Santa Costanza on the Via Nomentana as I`d never been to see its 4th century mosaics. I also just had time to pop into the adjacent Sant Agnese. An interesting feature of that church is the gallery called the matroneum which I assume was the place for women to attend Mass: not an arrangement I can remember seeing before.We saw the Pope at the Wednesday General Audience and again on Monday night at the Mass in St Peter`s for the opening of the academic year. Sitting beside me in St Peter`s were a group of young American religious in grey habits. I asked them who there were and they said they were from the Society of our Lady of the Trinity. As we have a parishioner, Br Martin McGough trainging with that order I asked if they knew him and a couple of them had actually been novices with him!There were 9 priests of our diocese out in Rome when we were there. Easy Jet is doing well out of the clergy of Hexham and Newcastle! Also staying the Casa and flying back with us were Fr Michael Weymes who comes from Longbenton parish which I also look after and Fr Greg Price, who spent a number of years with the Camillians before becoming a priest of the diocese. Here is Fr Price with two of our group by the `tank` at the English college where we were invited for lunch by the new spiritual director, Mgr Phil Carroll, who is also from our diocese. Three others were out with pilgrim groups.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

New Parishioner

This morning after Mass I was delighted that Dr Nico Forraz introduced himself as a new parishioner. The name did not ring a bell immediately but when he said that he worked at the Newcastle Centre for Life on stem cell research and had been invited to see the Pope in the summer. I remembered reading about that encounter earlier this year. Nico works on stem cell research which avoids using embyros. I look forward to talking to him at greater length and hope he can give a talk to the parish some time about his work and the issues involved.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Opus Dei

On Wednesday I went to the afternoon of recollection for priests that we have twice a year in this diocese given by Fr Andrew Byrne of Opus Dei. He has been coming here for about ten years if I remember correctly. There was some raised expectation this time because for only the second time ever it had been mentioned in the Ad Clerum. The last time this happened, about eight years ago, we attracted ten priests. Unfortunately this time it omitted to say that Fr Byrne is from Opus Dei and only three of us turned up. Instead of meeting in a parish, as we usually do, we went to the convent of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Sunderland where we attracted three of the retired priests who live there too. The sisters were very welcoming despite having a golden jubilee of profession that day. However as we had about six non-retired priests last time it looks as if it is not now enough to rely on the Ad Clerum and I`ll have to go back to ringing up the priests who`ve expressed an interest to invite them for the next recollection in Lent.

By a coincidence at the parish reading group this week there had been talk of Opus Dei. We met to discuss the book `The Path to Rome` which is a collection of accounts of recent conversions. We had two new people at the meeting and one seemed to regard Opus Dei with suspicion. As Fr Byrne had given a talk to the parish in the Lent talk series with the title `What is Opus Dei` which many of the reading group had attended, our new member was immediately told how impressed they were by Fr Byrne and his talk about Opus Dei. With all the interest in the Da Vinci Code the Opus Dei topic had been the most popular of the lenten talks. I was hoping to have a series of talks in the autumn too but fear that it is too late now and we may have to wait until Lent next year.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Spot the difference

I mentioned in previous posts that my move last year was rather stressful. I can`t find any pictures at the minute of the interior of St Joseph`s Gateshead but it is a mid-nineteenth century Gothic church built to impress. The picture opposite shows the new sanctuary at Forest Hall. The old sanctuary has been closed off to make a much needed church hall and a new one built on the side of the nave as shown here. I have been able to make some changes to the sanctuary with the consent of the bishop and the parishioners. Now it looks like this. Not hugely different but a few significant changes such as moving the tabernacle, the introduction of a `big six` and an altar frontal. However there are still other difficulties such as the lack of a central aisle which makes funerals and weddings difficult and the lack of a pipe organ. (The remains of the original lie in the choir loft while we have a small electronic keyboard downstairs which is hardly used as we have no-one to play it.)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Latin Mass Murmurs

Yesterday in the Times there was an article which claims that the Pope is about to make access to the traditional Latin Mass in its 1962 form far more accessible in the Church than has been the case hitherto. The article traces the claim to Fr Martin Edwards who told him that Cardinal Zen had recently told him this is going to happen. I rang Fr Edwards who I`ve known for many years at about lunchtime and he had no idea that the article was in the Times and was somewhat surprised.

I have long been involved with celebrating the traditional Latin Mass. When I was at St Wilfrid`s in Gateshead bishop Ambrose kindly gave me permission for a weekly Sunday Mass in 1996. On taking over St Joseph`s I moved the Mass there as it was a more central location. After I left St Joseph`s the new bishop decided that the Latin Mass should continue there on a Sunday. Unfortunately I now find myself in the strange position of being unable to celebrate that form of the Roman Rite on a Sunday although bishop Dunn has said I can say a private Mass which I do on a Saturday morning. It`s probably not that private now I`ve mentioned it here! However I am thrilled by this news about a liberalisation of the traditional Mass and look forward to being able to celebrate it more often again. I rely on the excellent Rorate Caeli blog for news on this matter. If it is true that the traditional Mass is to be known as the `extraordinary` form of the Roman rite we should be seeing a lot more of it if the term is used in the same way as `extraordinary minister of Holy Communion` seems to be used!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Poles have arrived

I have heard stories about parishes in other parts of the country where the congregation has increased dramatically because of Polish immigrants. This has not happened as yet in this part of the world. However on Sunday after Mass I was told by the person who wanted to shut the church hall door that there were men who wanted to speak with me. They didn`t have a word of English apart from `Poland`. Strangely, while they had not been to Mass they had spotted that we had a table tennis table in the hall. One of them opened his bag and produced a table tennis racket and a box of table tennis balls. The other had a few words of German. I tried my German and established that I was going to lock the hall now and they could not stay to play table tennis. I couldn`t understand how they had come prepared for table tennis on the off chance we had a table. Not quite the Polish invasion I was hoping for.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

New Ormston Singers

On Saturday night to celebrate our patronal feast we had a concert by the New Ormston Singers. I had thought of having some kind of parish celebration quite a while ago. My first idea had been to involve the parish youth group which while thriving does not have an explicitly Catholic focus. I suggested to the chairman of the parish council that the youth group present a dramatisation of the battle of Lepanto ( cf. previous post), with vague images of childhood visits to Peasholme Park in Scarborough and its naval battle going through my head and also a thought that we could include the Chesterton poem `Lepanto`. However this all began to look rather difficult despite the agreement of our parish council chair (who also runs the youth group). So we decided to have a concert. I rang a contact in the New Ormston Singers without knowing anything about them. What a wonderful night they gave us. They are a band of keen singers who performed a selection of light classics and songs from the shows. The music ranged from West Side Story to La ci darem la mano from Don Giovanni and Laudamus Te from Mozart`s Mass in C to a favourite of mine, John Ireland`s Sea Fever, and Vilja from the Merry Widow. The accompanist struggled manfully with our small electric keyboard. Everyone seemed to enjoy the music and the food ( organised by the social committee). I hope we will invite the New Ormston Singers back again before too long. They explained that I had asked for a programme of light music but that they can do more serious stuff. Maybe I should ask for some Wagner next time!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Feast of the Holy Rosary

Today is the Patronal Feast of the parish. At the Latin Mass this morning I spoke of the origin of the feast and its connection with the appeal by St Pius V to Catholic Europe to pray the Rosary to save Europe from Turkish invasion. The victory at Lepanto on October 7th 1571 was taken to be an answer to prayer and this day became the feast of the Holy Rosary. Tonight we have a concert in the parish hall by the New Ormston Singers as part of the celebrations.

Friday, October 06, 2006


A friend has mentioned that the title of this blog may attract a certain amount of interest from Wagnerians. If you are a Wagnerian I`m afraid you will find little of interest here: I resolved at the age of 40 to listen to the Ring but now at 47 I have only got half way through and haven`t started Siegfried. However I was sent this from Wikipedia:

Siegfried is the third of the four operas that comprise Der Ring desNibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), by Richard Wagner. It receivedits premiere at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus on 16 August 1876, as part ofthe first complete performance of The Ring.Noted excerptsAs with the rest of the Ring, a few excerpts are heard outside the operahouse. The most common heard excerpt from Siegfried is the ForestMurmurs.

That`s about it for Wagner on this blog.

Parish Mission

Last Sunday the parish mission, given by the redoubtable 77 year old Fr John Edwards S.J. of Farm Street, came to and end. It began on Saturday 23rd September rather dramatically. Because of a misunderstanding, Father did not realise we have a vigil Mass on Saturday at 5.30pm: his train was due in at 5. I was saying the 5pm Mass at Benton and got back to see Father in full flow having arrived by taxi and having made it in time to preach. I was somewhat alarmed not to be able to see Fr Milburn who was meant to be saying the Mass but later discovered that he was sitting in the front row of the congregation.

I first met Fr Edwards at Ushaw at the end of 1983. I had just arrived at seminary and was somewhat surprised by what I found there. Father`s college retreat was a rock of certainity in a sea of confusion. He was the only retreat father I ever went to talk to in all my time at Ushaw. I resolved that whenever I became a parish priest I would invite him to give a mission. He came to St Wilfrid`s in 1998. When I became parish priest at St Mary`s I called him again and arranged another mission. The talks hadn`t changed since 1998 or even not that much since 1983 but as Father says if something is perfect it doesn`t need changing!

I was impressed by Father`s stamina. He gives the same mission service twice a day. It consists of an instruction, an action ( such as coming up to put a few grains of incense in the thurible before the Blessed Sacrament exposed) and a way of prayer followed by Mass. The themes were: " Is our Catholic faith true?"; " Why go to confession"; " The life of grace"; " The problem of evil" and "Our Dead". This last talk was particularly moving as Father spoke of his time as a gunnery officer on board a destroyer in the Korean war and the time he had to shell a village occupied by Chinese troops. He spoke of seeing Korean civilians on the beach watching his ship and how despite his best efforts shells fell on the beach. He told us how he prays every day for those he killed and for two of the crew who were killed by enemy fire. Unfortunately the attendance at the weekday talks was lower than Father would normally expect as a proportion of the Sunday congregation. However there was a good turn out for the children`s service on Saturday morning when Father asked children to bring models of angels or candles or cribs that they had made. This was preceded by the Saturday morning Tridentine Mass which attracted a good crowd.

On Saturday evening and Sunday morning Father had a captive audience and gave a commentary on the Mass. Memorable was his claim that if the Church ever said to you that you don`t need to attend Mass on a Sunday it would be lying. It could never say that there was anything more important for a Catholic than to attend Mass where we come to Calvary and the first day of the Resurrection and where we receive the body of Christ in Holy Communion.

Father does not charge for his mission but instead leaves out envelopes for contributions. I am happy to say that he collected £1070. I look forward to inviting him back at a later date.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

First Post

Today I started this blog more or less by accident as I wanted to comment on someone else`s blog and found that the only way to do so means you have to create your own. So here it is. I have been parish priest of St Mary`s for just over a year. I had ten years at St Wilfrid`s in Gateshead the latter two of which included also looking after St Joseph`s, the mother church of the town. Forest Hall was something of a surprise move. I also look after the parish of St Peter and Paul at Longbenton and as of the beginning of September am the moderator of a cluster of parishes including St Aidan`s, Benton and St Teresa`s Heaton. Fortunately Fr Kellet is still at St Teresa`s at Heaton and between us we run St Aidan`s. I am ably assisted by the ever amazing Fr David Milburn, now 80 years old, and living at St Peter and Paul`s.