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.