Friday, December 31, 2010

Dominus mihi adjutor

Last night I stumbled across the blog of Fr Hugh of Douai Abbey. His most recent post offers some useful thoughts on the meaning of the Sign of Peace during Mass. I`m working my way through earlier posts and have found much of interest. I was at Douai for the first time a couple of years ago for a priests` retreat led by Fr de Malleray FSSP and we were made very welcome. The blog can be found here.

1610: another forgotten Catholic anniversary

This year there were many performances of the Monteverdi Vespers to mark their four hundredth anniversary of publication: I went to Durham cathedral to hear the Monteverdi choir and John Eliot Gardiner perform them. Next year we are promised much coverage of the four hundredth anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible.
This year however saw an important anniversary for English Catholics which appears to have gone almost entirely unmarked in this country. ( The Rorate Caeli blog did mention it in June for the actual anniversary). 1610 saw the publication of the Douai-Rheims Bible. The New Testament had been published in 1582. I don`t understand why we haven`t heard anything about it. However at the AGM of the North East Catholic History Society in September Fr Milburn gave a short talk about it and its importance. It is sad to think that the anniversary fell in the year that the closure of Douai`s northern foundation at Ushaw was announced.
Last year it was the 1300th anniversary of the death of St Wilfrid which went almost entirely unnoticed, this year it is the Douai Bible. Does this come from a lack of confidence in our Catholic identity or just an overdose on the Hermeneutic of Rupture?

Southwell Books

I was very sorry to hear by email today that Southwell Books is closing. It is sad to hear this so soon after Family Publications closed recently too. I presume Carmel of Plymouth is still going and may even have a website by now. It is sad as I often found that some books I was after were not available from Amazon and the ret but could be found at Southwell books. Many thanks to Mike and Mary Lord for all their hard work over the past five years.

News from Wales

A few days ago I received an email from Richard Colins who has the Linen on the Hedgerow blog with a link to Chris Gillibrand`s blog for an article from the Diocese of Menevia Yearbook for 2011. I enjoy Chris Gillbrand`s blog but don`t go there very often as for some reason of all the webpages I know it is by far the slowest to load. However there I found the following extract from a sermon given by the bishop of Menevia in June to conclude the Year of the Priest.
For priests who offended, I'm not sure that their abuses grew out of the rule of celibacy; abuse happens within otherwise good families too. I'm more convinced that it grew out of the clericalism of the past. That clericalism risks raising its head today among those who again are looking for identity in status, not service. They want to be treated differently. There are those who set high standards of morality for lay people, while they blatantly violate those same standards themselves. There are those who go to extremes to express the Mass in a particular way, whether it is in the Ordinary Form or Extraordinary Form, in a so-called VAT II rite or Tridentine Rile, through the "People's Mass" or the . "Priest's Mass". Some want to put the priest on a pedestal, whilst the people are consigned to be privileged spectators outside the rails. Flamboyant modes of liturgical vestments and rubrical gestures abound. Women are denied all ministries at Mass: doing the Readings, the serving, the Bidding Prayers, and taking Communion to the Sick. To many in our Church and beyond, this comes across as triumphalism and male domination. This clericalism conceals the fact that the Church as an institution has often acted in collusion with what I can only regard as structural sinfulness. It has paid dearly for it and is untrue to its humble Founder, Jesus Christ.

I see Fr Blake has given a very thoughtful commentary on this passage today on his blog. What he has to say is well worth reading. I only wanted to make a couple of points which occurred to me as Bishop Burns appears to be linking the child abuse scandal to what he says is clericalism. Fr Blake makes the useful point that:
He does not quite identify what he means by "clericalism". He certainly does not identify it as that gross distortion by his brother Bishops who covered up sins against God and crimes against children. Nor does he see it as that distortion of faith by individual priests or bishops under that cover all of abuse of the faith, the Spirit of Vatican II, nor is it the absence of transparency of the Episcopal Conference.
This touches on what I was going to say: that it is more likely that a willingness to break taboos comes when there is scant regard for the sacred. When a priest can treat the Blessed Sacrament as if it was nothing special or think so little of Scripture that he replaces Biblical readings with secular ones during liturgies or any of the other abuses which mean that the Sacred Liturgy becomes a play thing of the celebrant, then I think there is danger.
Another point that interests me is that the bishop appears to be attacking liturgical abuse in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Form but then it becomes confused. We read:
Women are denied all ministries at Mass: doing the Readings, the serving, the Bidding Prayers, and taking Communion to the Sick.
This can only refer to the Ordinary Form as no-one is allowed to be a reader or distribute Holy Communion at the Extraordinary Form unless they are in at least minor orders for reading or major for distributing the Eucharist. Are there really priests in Menevia who celebrate the Ordinary Form in this way? Fr Blake reminds us that a priest has the right to restrict serving to males as Rome has pointed out but in practice it takes a very strong-willed parish priest to do this and I don`t know of any who does.
That`s all I wanted to say: do read Fr Blake`s comments.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year and Epiphany

Just a quick note for anyone from outside the parish thinking of coming to Extraordinary Form Masses at St Mary`s on these two dates. Masses on New Year`s Day will be an Ordinary Form Mass at 10am and the Extraordinary Form at 11am. This will be a Low Mass.
For the Epiphany, there will be an Extraordinary Form Mass at 7.30 pm. I hope this will be a Sung Mass and that there will be the usual Twelfth Night social afterwards with blessing of chalk etc. However I`ve not heard anything about the social ( or indeed sung) side of things. Please note whereas in past years this Mass has taken place at SS Peter and Paul`s it will now be at St Mary`s.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

`Out of love for us, he took upon himself our human condition, our fragility, our vulnerability and he opened up for us the path that leads to the fullness of life to a share in the life of God himself.
As we ponder this great mystery in our hearts this Christmas, let us give thanks to God for his goodness to us and let us joyfully proclaim to those around us the good news that God offers us freedom from whatever weighs us down: he gives us hope, he brings us life.`
Pope Benedict XVI on Thought for the Day 24.12.10

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Turn towards the Lord!

On the first Sunday of Advent I devoted the sermon to explaining the history of the position of the celebrant at Mass, talking about the ancient Christian tradition of facing East to pray and then how that influenced the construction of churches and how even when a church was not constructed on an east-west axis then there was still value in priests and people facing the same way at Mass for the times prayers are addressed to God. I relied on the works of Mgr Gamber, Fr Lang and the Pope and quoted the passage in Spirit of the Liturgy which speaks of the disadvantage of creating an inward-looking circle at Mass and the advantage of having a attitude of looking out together to what lies ahead and above. (p.80 in Spirit of the Liturgy). I also quoted from Fr. Richard Simon, Pastor of St. Lambert Parish, Skokie, IL. USA, who said that he had had some angry responses to trying it. I read out part of his account of trying it for the first time. And then I carried on the Mass as usual. I had thought of introducing it at that Mass but at that moment it felt better to let people think it over.
The following Sunday I decided I would have to give it a go if I was to ever do it at all. I have been in this parish five years and it has always been in my mind to give it a try even though the church re-ordering was quite drastic and we don`t really have a sanctuary any more just a small raised platform with an unfixed wooden table for an altar. Afterwards I said that this was just an experiment and not to be alarmed if people found it strange. No-one said anything apart from in the sacristy afterwards when a couple of extraordinary ministers of the Holy Communion said they didn`t like it.
When I say Mass facing the people in this church I am facing east. I had mentioned St Peter`s in Rome and Gamber`s suggestion that the people faced east too. I had also mentioned that looking at the altar, and the celebrant, wouldn`t have been that interesting as there was a curtain drawn around the altar during the canon. From the disagreement I got after Mass it seems that my acknowledgement that I was facing east when facing the people but that there was still value in us all turning the same way to look towards the Lord especially in Advent hadn`t made much of an impression.

No-one said that they thought it helped them pray better but I suppose it was all rather new and these things take time. I know of two other priests in this diocese who do this for the Ordinary Form on a Sunday in their parishes although one has now reverted to facing the people. I have used it at school Masses with St Stephen`s school at Longbenton after explaining it to the children and staff and they seem quite happy about it. The Holy Father himself in Spirit of the Liturgy acknowledges that it will be difficult to re-introduce this practice since people have been through so many liturgical changes but he has given a lead of sorts in the Mass he says in the Sistine chapel on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord when he uses the original altar. ( See the picture above.) However with the new translation coming out next year change is in the air and so I thought the time might be ripe for this.
I had quite a number of supportive comments when I mentioned this on Facebook and one priest took the time to ring me up which was very kind. I recognise that people get angry about this because they feel excluded in a way but I think there are important issues at stake and I probably will have another try sometime next year and I`m thinking Ash Wednesday may be an appropriate time.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ushaw Petition

I have some doubts about the efficacy of on-line petitions but when people have no other way of expressing their concern it is understandable that they arise. There is now an on-line petition regarding the future of Ushaw College. There are some quite interesting comments too. You will find it here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Questions raised in parliament over the future of Ushaw College

The Northern Echo reported on Friday that Pat Glass, MP for northwest Durham, `tabled an early day motion in the House of Commons, expressing fears about the uncertain future of Ushaw College, near Durham`.

The article continues:
Mrs Glass, who lives in Lanchester, said: “Ushaw College is a Roman Catholic college, home to St Cuthbert’s Seminary, which has been forming young men for the priesthood since its foundation and which holds a library that is priceless to the heritage of Catholicism in England and the North-East and consists of grade I and grade II-listed buildings.

“At a time when the Coalition Government’s cuts to the arts are hitting the North-East disproportionately, it is my opinion that we have a duty to protect our historic buildings and heritage here in the region.

“Ushaw College is greatly important to my constituents and the local community.”

Mrs Glass urged colleagues to note the importance of Ushaw College in the area, the concerns that local people have at the closure announcement and to support calls for the decision to be reconsidered.

The motion regarding Ushaw College has been supported by eight other MPs, including fellow regional representatives, Roberta Blackman Woods, Kevan Jones, Mary Glindon and Ian Mearns.

I`m glad to see Mary Glindon, MP for North Tyneside, our local MP, in this list. In fact the parliamentary website linked to above lists thirteen MPs behind this motion, twelve from Labour and one Conservative.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Thanks to the Catholic Herald

I opened the Catholic Herald today and was very pleased to see a report on their Catholic Life centre page feature on the recent Extraordinary Form Mass at Newcastle cathedral under the title `Fr Swales celebrates High Mass in Newcastle`. The article mentions that this was the second time the EF Mass had been celebrated at the cathedral since `the changes`.
I thought this was an event that deserved a bit more coverage than a certain local Catholic paper gave it and am glad it has reached a national paper. The cathedral is a new venue for the EF Mass in this diocese and gives the signal that those attached to the EF have a place in the life of the diocese too.
Thanks to Mike Forbester for the photo.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ushaw College again

Today it was announced that the conference centre side of Ushaw will close on December 31st. The seminary will stay open until June 2011. I wonder what happened to the business proposals to take over the running of the conference centre among which was one organised by Paul Waddington, the LMS treasurer (although this was not an initiative of the LMS itself)? So what fate awaits the buildings at Ushaw? I hope it is a happier one than that of the former seminary at Upholland which seems to be falling into ruin.
Further thoughts on the matter can be found on Joseph Shaw`s LMS chairman`s blog. Ironically the lead story of this month`s Northern Cross is the rise in the number of seminarians in England and Wales. (The last story, tucked away on the very last page, is that of the Extraordinary Form Mass at the cathedral and of all the photos they were sent they (extraordinarily) chose not to print one of the Mass itself but a group photo of the altar servers instead. Maybe a picture of the Mass would be more than NC readers could bear.)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Bishop MacMahon`s Mass at Leicester

Readers may by now have seen the photos, by Mike Forbester, from the Pontifical High Mass at the Dominican Priory in Leicester for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. It appears to have been a terrific event. According to the reports there was a congregation of over 200. How annoying for the organisers that some of the altar candles appear to have gone out for key moments like the consecration. The bishop preached but I`ve not seen a copy of what he said as yet. After Mass there was the consecration of a new shrine to the English Martyrs. A reflection by the Prior of Leicester has been released for the occasion. It is well worth a read. I can only hope Fr Leon Pereira OP one day makes it to Newcastle`s Dominican house! Here it is.

The Martyrs of England and Wales are sometimes treated as an embarrassment. What they stood for is a reminder of less ‘ecumenical’ times. The temptation is to downplay their commemorations, and instead lump together all victims of religious persecution of the time, Catholic and Protestant, as the so-called ‘martyrs of the Reformation’, simultaneously congratulating ourselves that we have moved beyond such prejudice.

We can call such victims ‘martyrs’ only in an extended sense of the word. Properly speaking, the essence of martyrdom is not dying, but confessing the Truth. The Martyrs realised exactly where they stood. They saw what was at stake, and knew that friendship with God should not be lost at any price, even the price of a painful and gory death; even if conforming to the new state religion would spare their lives, and in some of their cases, earn them the honours and comforts of the world. The point of martyrdom is not death, but witnessing to or confessing the Catholic Faith. That is the meaning of the word ‘martyr’: a witness, a confessor.

This, the heart of martyrdom, is crucially important in our own time, when the Faith needs to be confessed with courage; when the shepherds of the Church must prize the care of their flock over the temptations they face: to be popular, to be loved, to be part of the established set, not to rock the boat. In this light we see what really matters about our Faith, and what is worth dying for. Not campaigns or agendas, but Christ Jesus and the Faith which is His gift, within the unity of the Church established by Him.

The English and Welsh Martyrs are a model of how the Church should function. In our day, ‘collaborative ministry’ is frequently a Trojan horse: tending to situations in the Church which simply cannot be, such as women priests; or to blur the distinction in identity and function between the clergy and laity. All of this is, of course, a massive betrayal of the Second Vatican Council. The Martyrs show us the true face of collaborative ministry: the laity died for sheltering priests – the clergy died for ministering to the laity. ‘Collaborative ministry’ which is unwilling to pay this ultimate price is not worthy of the name.

The Martyrs show us the role of conscience and the price of following theirs. Conscience is not about ‘feeling comfortable’ with one’s choices, but as the ‘aboriginal vicar of Christ’ (as Blessed John Henry Newman calls it), it must heed the Magisterium of the Church in order to be formed properly. In our time conscience is frequently invoked to justify dissent, especially on matters such as contraception (as though conscience were not involved in all our rational choices!).

Moreover we should not assume that the possession of an ‘untroubled conscience’ should never trouble us. A clear conscience should not be confused with a properly-formed conscience. Many of the English Martyrs invoked their conscience to account for their refusal to comply with the state’s injunctions. This is conscience as a challenge to self, rather than conscience as a justification of self. Rather than trivialising conscience, the Martyrs show its great dignity and seriousness.

The Martyrs do not simply inspire us; they aid us by their prayers. Their blood is the seed of Christians: of a Second Spring for England and the world. O white-robed army of Martyrs, pray for us!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Bishop Kieran Conry and the Recovery of Tradition

I`m surprised no-one seems to have picked up on a story in the current issue of the Tablet entitled `Bring Back Friday Fasting, says Bishop Conry.`
Apparently the bishop of Arundel and Brighton is keen for Catholics to return to this ancient Catholic practice. I`m so glad to hear it. He is reported as saying that `the practice would strengthen Catholic identity`. I couldn`t agree more. Apparently he was going to bring it up for discussion at the recent meeting of the bishops.
The bishop is quoted as saying: " This was one of the most obvious signs of Catholic identity apart from going to Mass. It determined the diet in places like prison and hospital and was something Catholics were instinctively conscious of: we knew that we couldn`t have meat lie everybody else and it was a source of pride- it marked us out as different"
The Tablet comments that while it was discussed at the bishops` meeting no announcement was made but that an announcement on penance would be made at Lent.
Eamon Duffy was campaigning for this a few years ago. I see this as a very hopeful sign given the reasoning behind the proposal. A strong sense of Catholic identity is something that has been almost completely lost in the years since the Council. Let`s hope we hear more about this.

Immaculate Conception Mass

As Richard Rainbow was anxious to know on behalf of others whether tonight`s Missa Cantata at St Mary`s, Forest Hall, for the Immaculate Conception is going ahead, this is just to say it is. The parish car park is usable thanks to the work of a JCB on Monday. We have singers and servers who say they will be coming. The plan is to have a shared table afterwards. Mass starts at 7.30pm.

Monday, December 06, 2010

News from a faraway place

You may have seen Fr John Boyle`s report on yesterday`s Pontifical Low Mass celebrated by the bishop Sample of Marquette in the USA. In itself this is good news but even better is the news that the bishop intends to offer Mass according to the Extraordinary Form once a month on a Sunday in his cathedral! Although we have bishop MacMahon`s Immaculate Conception Mass coming up it still seems hard to imagine a bishop doing this in this country, especially given the piece in the Tablet a few weeks ago where the bishop`s conference reported little enthusiasm for the Extraordinary Form since Summorum Pontificum in 2007. ( See Joseph Shaw`s blog for a discussion of this). Fr Boyle is a priest of Southwark diocese at present working in the diocese of Marquette.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Immaculate Conception

Assuming the weather improves, there will be a Missa Cantata here at St Mary`s for the Immaculate Conception on Wednesday at 7.30pm. In Leicester at Holy Cross priory there will also be a Mass that day which will be something of a novelty in that it will be a Pontifical High Mass at the throne celebrated by the ordinary, bishop Malcolm MacMahon. As Br Lawrence Lew comments `this will be the first Pontifical High Mass of a bishop in his Diocese [ in this country] for a very long time indeed`. I look forward to reports about the Mass and what the bishop has to say.
Last Sunday our bishop was visiting the Dominican church in Newcastle and preached at all the Masses including the Extraordinary Form Mass at 11.30. However the snow was raging and there were only twelve people in the congregation. Normally I am told by the parish priest, there are about forty. Still not great but better than twelve.