Saturday, June 30, 2007

Back again

Apologies for the lack of posting recently but I`ve been away to California for 12 days where I went with my mother who wanted to see friends in San Diego so I offered to accompany her. It was my first trip to the USA ( apart from an afternoon in Buffalo many years ago when staying in Toronto). After Monday-Friday in San Diego we went on an eight day coach tour with the excellent Caravan Tours. Quite a number of people on the tour turned out to be Catholics so we had some interesting discussions. I could have guessed that something significant would happen in Rome about the Motu Proprio when I was away and not near the Internet but I got the drift of what was going on via text message. However I`m going to have to spend some time digesting the accounts on Rorate Caeli to catch up!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Bishops` response

The Daily Telegraph has an article today entitled Catholic bishops resist advance of Latin Mass. The thrust of it is that the English bishops claim that provision for the Tridentine Mass in this country is already adequate and that the Motu Proprio will be of little consequence here. Requests for the celebration of the Mass are rarely refused, the article says. However as the article says some dioceses are still very reluctant to give permission. The Motu Proprio will aid especially priests for whom this Mass is an important part of their spiritual life and will also confirm them in the knowledge that their desire to celebrate this Mass does not make them some kind of pariah. Recently two priests who at present do not celebrate the Tridentine Mass have told me that they will start when the Motu Proprio is issued.

A Dame at last

Following on a previous post where I expressed surprise that she has not yet been honoured in this way, I was delighted this morning to see that Emma Kirkby has finally become Dame Emma in the queen`s birthday honours list! Given her huge contribution to music-making in this country it seems long overdue. Let`s hope that other long overdue event, the Motu Proprio will follow soon. Congratulations to Dame Emma!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A matter of days

News from the excellent Rorate Caeli blog. I was very impressed by Monsignor Bux at the CIEL conference in Oxford last year. The original story is on the Petrus website (as revealed by Fr Zuhlsdorf).
For the Record - URGENT - Italian Papal News website:
Motu proprio "signed and imminent"
Quotes from the Accompanying Letter

Exclusive: "Motu Proprio" signed by the Pope, liberalization of Latin Mass imminent
by Bruno Volpe.
The Papal "Motu Proprio" for the liberalization of the Latin Mass according to the Tridentine rite of Saint Pius V is ready, is about to be translated into several languages and will be published right before the departure of Benedict XVI for the summer vacation. [Rorate note: The Pope's vacation this summer will take place in a small villa of the property of the Diocese of Treviso, in the tiny hamlet of Lorenzago di Cadore, Province of Belluno, in the Veneto region, in the July 9-27 period.]
The text has already been signed by the Pontiff, who has even written a long explanatory letter, of a theological character, "addressed to all the Bishops of the world", as it can be read in its introduction, "so that they may receive this document with serenity and patience".
The Pope thus asks to the Bishops, to the clergy, and to the faithful a serene mood in the acceptance of the "Motu Proprio", which will be presented in a Press Conference by Cardinals Francis Arinze, Dario Castrillon Hoyos, and Julian Herranz.
The delay in the publication of the document seems to be related to strong oppositions from some sectors of the clergy (especially from the French Episcopal Conference).
Monsignor Nicola Bux (a personal friend of the Pope), a theologian and collaborator of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, declares: "You may write calmly [that] Pope Benedict XVI loves agreement and collaboration, and does not wish to decide everything on his own, which is why he has heard several and repeated opinions, but the Motu Proprio for the liberalization of the Latin Mass has been signed and its publication is imminent, I would say it is a matter of days."
The Tridentine Mass is completely celebrated in Latin, with the exception of a few words and sentences in Ancient Greek and in Hebrew; it is interspersed with long periods of silence, to allow the faithful to adequately meditate on the greatness of the Eucharistic mystery which they are called to assist. The faithful follow the liturgy reading the bilingual handmissal or leaflet, which carry, side by side with the Latin text, the integral translation of the actions in Italian or in the other national languages.

Amnesty International

It is a great pity that the work of Amnesty has become impossible for Catholics to support by its new stance on abortion. This is from Zenit today.

Amnesty International's Identity Lost : Catholics Should No Longer Support Group
VATICAN CITY, JUNE 13, 2007 ( The president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is encouraging Catholics to withdraw support from Amnesty International since the groups no longer defends the right to life. Cardinal Renato Martino told the National Catholic Register that the recent decision by the human rights group to promote abortion "rights" is a betrayal of its identity."By pushing for the decriminalization of abortion as part of their platform, Amnesty International has disqualified itself as a defender of human rights," he said. "If AI is no longer willing to stand up for the most basic human right -- the right to life -- then the very integrity of the organization is called into question."Amnesty International was founded in 1961 by Peter Benson as a defender and promoter of the inalienable rights of the human person.Now it has joined other international organizations, such as the United Nations Children's Fund, in promoting a so-called right to abortion, at least in certain cases.

Culture of death
Cardinal Martino, who served as the Holy See's permanent observer at the United Nations, says that this change of position is part of the "pro-death" agenda in the culture."The pro-death agenda […] is cloaked in human rights language, but in reality it undermines the very human rights it portends to support," Cardinal Martino said. "Its logical conclusion is the destruction of life and all of the life-giving values that we as a human family and as a society should be grateful for. De-sensitizing the culture to the evil of abortion is part and parcel of the pro-abortion lobby."However, the 74-year-old cardinal recognized that pro-choice organizations have not succeeded in establishing an "internationally recognized human right" to abortion."I was head of the Holy See delegation to the Cairo Conference on Population and Development when that issue was settled definitively," Cardinal Martino stated. "Paragraph 8.25 of the Cairo Declaration clearly states, 'In no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning … and every attempt should be made to eliminate the need for abortion."The cardinal said that Amnesty International's decision means Catholics and Catholic organizations should no longer financially support the group."The very promotion of abortion opens the door to the slippery slope of evil and death, where human rights are taken away from the most innocent and vulnerable children of God," he said. "I believe that, if in fact Amnesty International persists in this course of action, individuals and Catholic organizations must withdraw their support."

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

More good news

Following the demolition of Westgate House it seems we can now finally look forward to the demolition of another Tyneside eyesore: the multi-storey car park in Gateshead town centre (as reported today on the BBC website). Gateshead town centre is in real need of development following the success of the Sage concert hall, the Baltic art gallery and the Gateshead Hilton. Woe betide any visitor to the town who decides to explore beyond these new features and wander up Gateshead High Street. Although it includes the chapel of St Edmund, built in 1247 and outside which blessed John Ingram was martyred, the overall impression is not good. Now it seems things will begin to change in the autumn. Perhaps only the fans of the film Get Carter will be unhappy.
Hitherto when asked about the state of Gateshead town centre, councillors have generally drawn attention to the Metro Centre by the A1, Europe`s largest shopping mall, but it is good to see something is going to be done for the actual town centre. Co-incidentally yesterday I bought a splendid book, Newcastle and Gateshead Architecture and Heritage which is the best guide I have seen to the outstanding buildings of the area.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Return of the Relics

One of the things that troubled me since I moved here in September 2005 was that I could not find my small collection of relics. I had acquired these at the Augustinian convent off the Via Cavour in Rome after being made aware of its existence by a group of Anglo-Catholic clergy who were staying at the Casa del Clero, near the Pantheon, when I was there, a mere acolyte, on holiday with two deacons back in 1986. I wonder what became of that group of Anglicans and whether they are still with the C of E. They were very knowledgeable about Rome and claimed they liked St Peter`s basilica because it was `so Anglican`! However they did introduce us to the place to acquire relics. There was an old typed catalogue in which some of the saints had been crossed out when they were no longer available. I was particularly intrigued to see St Cuthbert listed but unfortunately he had been crossed out in pencil! A certificate of authenticity for each relic was available but only for saints who lived after the fourth century. I went for St Pius V, St Pius X, St Oswald and St Walfrid. It said Walfrid in the catalogue but also mentioned him as being the bishop of York. I was sure it must be a spelling mistake and be Wilfrid but the good sister insisted that Walfrid was the Latin form of Wilfrid. I went for it anyway as I was sure it is meant to be Wilfrid. The arrangement was that the relics were free but the container had to be bought and a few days later they would let you know it was ready. The relics mostly consist of very small pieces of bone. I remember reading a few years ago that the authorities in Rome had changed the rules so that this kind of relic is no longer available. I have thought of going back to the convent when I`ve been back in Rome as sometime these changes of rules don`t amount to very much but have yet to do so.

Little did I know that I would become parish priest of St Wilfrid`s Gateshead in 1995. On his feast I would get his relic out in an empty reliquary I found there and place it on the altar. I grew very fond of St Wilfrid during my time there although he was not an easy saint to love. Sometimes today he is shunned on the grounds of being `too Roman` by those who wish to feel a distance between themselves and the Holy See. We had a parish hymn to St Wilfrid (which the same people would find far too `Roman) which I must try to dig out and share.

I`m pleased to report that when packing my case for Biddlestone there I found my four relics as it is a case I haven`t used much recently. So I must now find a reliquary so as to display them on their feast days.

Changing a church

Thanks to Fr Tim Finigan for pointing out the site of Duncan Stroik who is responsible for this amazing transformation of the church of St Theresa`s in Sugar Land, Texas, which he says has been on the Catholic blogosphere for some time. Not everyone who visits this blog may visit his so I include it here. I was much heartened by this and other examples of his work on the site. I didn`t think such things were possible nowadays.


And after:

UPDATE; another before and after! Quite amazing

Monday, June 11, 2007

Mass at Biddlestone

On Saturday I was celebrant of a traditional Mass at Biddlestone chapel. This is an annual event organised by Jack Harvey the redoubtable `convenor` of the indult Mass at St Dominic`s, Newcastle. I think I have been the celebrant every year since it started as probably not that many clergy are sufficiently fanatical to drive for over an hour to what is a very remote spot in Northumberland on a Saturday lunchtime. The chapel is all that remains of Biddlestone Hall, the home of the recusant Selby family since the fourteenth century until its demolition in the 1950`s. The chapel itself dates from the 1820`s and as the picture shows is built on the base of a medieval pele tower. Mass was said there until the 1970`s.
In the past the chapel has been packed for this Mass but this year, despite the glorious weather, numbers were down somewhat. I forgot my camera and then found the person I`d hoped would have a camera wasn`t there so I have no photos of the Mass. After the Missa Cantata, most of the congregation stayed to have a picnic lunch. There are no facilities at Biddlestone, not even running water, but so far it has never rained and I hope that we will be there again next year. A retiring collection raised £75 for the upkeep of the chapel.
My next foray into Northumberland will be for the twelfth annual traditional Mass at Brinkburn priory in September.

Searching for a Cardinal

Damian Thompson yesterday had an interesting article about the absence of Cardinal Murphy O`Connor from the premier of a new Mass setting by the pianist Stephen Hough which was sung at Westminster Cathedral yesterday. No doubt he`ll be there to hear the controversial performance of the Taverner setting of the 99 names of Allah on June 19th! However Ruth Gledhill in today`s Times has an article about the search for a successor to the Cardinal when he eventually steps down. It is interesting to note that Archbishop Kevin MacDonald is the joint favourite to succeed along with Archishop Vincent Nichols, according to Paddy Power. Well whatever happens I don`t suppose things will change much whoever gets chosen to manage our gentle decline. I can`t see us getting a Pell-like figure who might shake things up. However I did meet a priest last year from somewhere in the south who was convinced that we might get Pell himself in Westminster! That might be interesting.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


I am glad to report that our Evangelium course( produced by the CTS) has finally got off the ground. I had hoped to start in January but the need to acquire a lap top and a data projector slowed things down somewhat. So far we have had three meetings at SS Peter and Paul`s, Longbenton and have looked at the first two sessions in the course ( after an introductory meeting). I had worried that the material was not enough to last an hour but the first session lasted 90 minutes! I`m not sure how many people are following the course as numbers have varied between eight and twelve. We have two people who are seeking to become Catholics but as they can`t make all the sessions I will have to supplement the ones they miss with the more traditional converts` meetings. However the material is great to use and the art work is a joy. The discussions have been interesting and even life-long Catholics have said they have learnt something new. It would have been great to have had thirty or forty people attending but we live in hope. If anyone is thinking of using Evangelium I can thoroughly recommend it.
On another note I was interested to read in the Pope`s book on Jesus that evangelium was the term used by Roman emperors for their public decrees (p. 46-7). I`d never come across this before and can find no reference to it in the Oxford Latin dictionary or Lewis and Short.


Sorry to say that I haven`t been alerted to recent comments by the customary email. This means that if you comment on an article that is slightly older I may not find it. I`ll have a look at the set up to see that all is as it should be.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Blair may seek to become deacon

The Daily Mail had the following story today!

Blair 'may become a Catholic deacon'
Visit to Vatican to see the Pope as last trip before quitting No10 'is highly significant'By JONATHAN OLIVER and MARTIN DELGADO -
Tony Blair has discussed becoming a Roman Catholic deacon when he quits office.
The revelation comes as he prepares to meet the Pope amid speculation that he will use the audience in the Vatican to announce his conversion.
In his last foreign engagement, just days before he leaves Downing Street for the final time, the Prime Minister will visit Pope Benedict XVI in what officials say will be a "highly significant" personal mission.

It is thought that Tony Blair will announce his conversion to Catholicism when he meets the Pope. Reports that he will convert from the Church of England to the Catholic faith of his wife Cherie have often surfaced during Mr Blair's decade in office.
The claims were supported by revelations that he has already discussed not only converting to Rome, but also taking a formal lay position within the Church.
Deacons are just below priests in the Catholic hierarchy and have the right to administer certain sacraments and wear a special white robe known as a dalmatic.
Mr Blair discussed the idea of his taking such a role with Canon Timothy Russ, priest at the Immaculate Heart of Mary near the Prime Minister’s official country residence, Chequers.
The revelation is contained in a new book soon to be serialised by The Mail on Sunday – The Darlings Of Downing Street by Garry O’Connor.
The book states: "Tony expressed his strong desire when he stepped down to become a deacon – and a Roman Catholic deacon at that, confirming the often-speculated belief that he would convert to Roman Catholicism sometime in the future."
Mr Blair is reported as asking his confidant Father Timothy: "Would this be possible?" He was told: "It usually takes two or three years", to which he replied: "The fact that I'm PM, could this make a difference?"
The deacon idea emerged in a conversation a few years ago about Mr Blair's plans after he leaves office. Father Timothy suggested that taking on a formal role in the Church could give him fresh moral clout when he campaigns on climate change and Africa. The priest added: "He has a lot of potentiality for good. He is still looking for the meaning in his life."
The Blairs stopped attending Mass at the Immaculate Heart of Mary last year for "security reasons". The relationship with the priest became strained after he spoke out against the Iraq War, accusing the Prime Minister of moral surrender.
It is understood that Mr Blair will be accompanied by Cherie at the audience with the Pope in the papal apartments a week on Saturday. The couple are expected to spend the weekend in Rome before returning for their last 72 hours in Downing Street.
It will be Mr Blair's third visit to the Vatican in four years and a source said: "The fact that he will meet the Holy Father for his last official overseas engagement is highly significant and must raise speculation over his conversion to Catholicism."
The latest revelations follow recent comments by Father Michael Seed, who provides private Masses for the Blairs in their Downing Street flat.
The priest, known for bringing high-profile politicians and aristocrats into the Catholic fold, believes Mr Blair is poised to join the Church of Rome.
Converts are usually welcomed into the Church at the Easter Vigil Mass, held the night before Easter Sunday, but these arrangements are considered flexible.
Admittance to the Church is normally a two-year process. But Mr Blair, because he is already a regular attender, is likely to be fast- tracked.
As a deacon, he could help priests administer Mass, preside over baptisms and read the gospel in Church services. Unlike priests, deacons are not required to take a vow of chastity.
Mr Blair, whose children have been brought up as Catholics, regularly attends Mass at Westminster Cathedral and has become close to the leader of Catholics in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.
The Prime Minister's first meeting with the present Pope took place last June, but he had an audience with Pope John Paul II in February 2003, shortly before the US and British-led invasion of Iraq.
It later emerged that the Prime Minister had received Holy Communion from the Polish-born pontiff at a private service for the Blair family in the Vatican.
Mrs Blair, who is a devout Catholic, had an unexpected meeting with Pope Benedict last year when she was on a speaking engagement in Rome.
In 1996 Cardinal Basil Hume, the late Archbishop of Westminster, asked that the Prime Minister – a member of the Church of England – cease taking Communion at his wife’s London church in Islington.
Mr Blair is not believed to have received the sacrament in British Catholic churches since then. However, he is understood to have taken the Eucharist during holidays in Italy where an Anglican church was not easily available.
Mr Blair has always been reluctant to discuss his religious beliefs. Alastair Campbell, his former Downing Street communications chief, famously told one interviewer: "We don't do God."
A Downing Street spokesman said: "It is true that the Prime Minister will visit the Vatican. But I am not going to confirm the date. He will discuss various issues with the Pope including inter-faith issues, the Middle East peace process and international development and aid."
President Bush proved himself less than familiar with Catholic etiquette when, on his way home from the G8 summit in Germany, he stopped for an audience with the Pope in the Vatican.
First he failed to bow before shaking hands, saying: "It's great to be here."
Then officials cringed as he repeatedly called the Pontiff 'sir'. Later, a Vatican spokesman said: "I don't think President Bush meant anything by his use of words. The expression "sir" is widely used in English and especially by Americans – but of course the correct term is "Your Holiness"."

Friday, June 08, 2007

Benedict XIV

Since coming across Benedict XIV while studying for a canon law licence, I always thought he sounded like a pope I`d like to know more about. I learnt that he had an interest in the liturgy and had sought to preserve the purity of the oriental rites in communion with Rome. He had also introduced the figure of the Defender of the Bond in marriage cases to make sure the bond itself got a fair hearing. However it was only a couple of years ago while looking through second hand bookshops in York that I found Haynes` `Philosopher king: The humanist pope Benedict XIV` It took me a while to get round to reading it but I did so earlier this year. There was a lot to enjoy in the book. It was his fair-minded and moderate approach that I found appealing. My heart sank somewhat on finding four chapters (out of twelve) dedicated to his famous work on beatification and canonization which I thought would be rather dry but they were anything but as they analysed the criteria for determining when a miracle is really a miracle and how to judge whether an incident is truly supernatural. Haynes book had only a little to say about Benedict`s liturgical interests however.

Some incidents give a flavour of the man. The conclave which elected him in 1740 lasted six months. Lambertini was put forward as a compromise candidate and addressed the conclave saying : "If you wish to elect a saint choose Gotti; a statesman, Aldobrandini; an honest man, elect me". ( Haynes translates what she says is a Bologonese term as `booby` whereas `honest man` is the Catholic encyclopedia`s version). He was renowned for his witty conversation but also could shock visitors by his use of `uncardinalish expletives` which he eventually tried to restrain. It was interesting to see his assessment of Henry Stuart, the Cardinal brother of Bonny Prince Charlie. Haynes records he said `if all the Stuarts were as boring as Cardinal York he did not wonder that the English had driven them out`. As for the Polish bishops he said they were `inclined to drink much and think little`.

He was praised by Horace Walpole and Voltaire. Voltaire on one occasion penned the following lines:

`Lambertinus hic est Romae decus et pater orbis
Qui mundum scriptis docuit, virtutibus ornat`

(Here is Lambertini, the glory of Rome and the father of the earth, who teaches the world by his writings and adorns it with his virtues)

When this was presented to the Pope someone present complained that hic did not scan as it should always be a long syllable. The Pope replied that although he had not read Vergil for fifty years he could remember one line in which the poet scanned it as long and another where it was short!

In response to Walpole`s praise he remarked that he was `like the statues on the facade of St Peter`s which appear better when seen from a distance.`

I`m sure there are many reasons why Cardinal Ratzinger took the name Benedict. I wonder if the character of Benedict XIV, with his love of learning and self-effacing nature, was one of them.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Chant Sunday

Today, being the first Sunday of the month, we had Chant Sunday. For a change from Mass XVIII we introduced the Kyrie from the Missa de Angelis and had the Ite missa est also from the same Mass as well as Mass XVIII for the Sanctus and Agnus Dei. I`m glad to report that the parts from the Missa de Angelis were sung with enthusiasm. Maybe next time we`ll use the Sanctus and Agnus Dei from that Mass too. Maybe after a few months of that Mass we can move on to try some other settings. Thanks again to Ian Graham and the ladies of the choir for leading the singing.