Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Midnight Mass photos

Thanks to Frank for the following photos from Midnight Mass. Mass went very well thanks to the the Jarrow schola and the altar team. There were sixty-three in the congregation. Mass was followed by mulled wine and mince pies. The 5.30pm Vigil Mass was as usual the best attended Mass of the year with not a spare seat to be had and an overflow of the congregation into the hall.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Masses

The phone never stops at this time of year with people asking what time the Christmas Masses are so here they are!

Christmas Mass Times:

St Mary`s, Forest Hall: Christmas Eve 5.30 and Midnight (Missa Cantata, Extraordinary Form) ( carols before both) and Christmas Day 10.30am.

SS Peter and Paul`s, Longbenton Christmas Eve 7.30pm and Christmas Day 9.15am

I have been fortunate in being able to celebrate a sung Midnight Mass in the Extraordinary Form since every year since 1997. I`m glad we once again have the musicians and servers available to make it possible.

UPDATE 24.12.11 ok so it didn`t make much difference. The phone is ringing every five minutes. I have left a message on the answerphone with Mass times but the last caller rang three times so i answered. Some callers refuse to believe me when I tell them the Mass times!

Cathedral Sermon

I have been meaning to put my sermon from the EF Mass at the cathedral, held on November 5th on the log for a while. It`s not really very festive but I`d better not leave it any longer. I`ve tried to tidy up my notes into real English but there may still be parts I`ve missed.

Many thanks to first of all to the cathedral dean, Fr Leighton for his permission for this Mass today. Thanks to singers and servers. Mass celebrated under the legislation Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesiae. Please note the word universae: this is for the whole CHurch and not just a small group of disaffected Catholics who struggle with `the changes`. These have been major initiatives of our Holy Father who wants the Church to rediscover the beauty of her traditional worship. In many places in the world Catholics are becoming familiar again with these ancients forms of worship which sustained the church for so many centuries and which were the inspiration of the lives of so many saints.

Yet in quite a lot of the Catholic world Summorum Pontificum remains a bit of a dead letter with little provision being made on a diocesan level. In some places you can read the diocesan newspaper and never know that SP exists and what does happen remains the initiative of individual priests who never receive any encouragement from their diocesan superiors. Yet time is surely on the side of Summorum Pontificum. Universae Ecclesiae says:

Ordinaries are asked to offer their clergy the possibility of acquiring adequate preparation for celebrations in the forma extraordinaria. This applies also to Seminaries, where future priests should be given proper formation, including study of Latin and, where pastoral needs suggest it, the opportunity to learn the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite.

Ridiculous that men should spend 6 years in seminary and only learn half of the Roman Rite. Are there not more important things? Not really. It is the Mass that matters and a priest`s whole life is bound up with knowing and loving the Mass so it is important that he is well-grounded in its tradition. One day….

You may not have heard of it before of today`s feast. Nov 5th? Isn`t that Guy Fawkes night? Well in England & Wales, in the Extraordinary Form, in many dioceses it is Feast of Holy Relics of the diocese. What are they? If bishop Ambrose`s projection is correct then by 2028 all we will have is a few holy relics of the diocese! No, the idea is that all the relics of the saints kept in the diocese are honoured this day. Relics of saints? You mean bits of bones and things?

Subject can`t be raised nowadays especially among many Catholics without a shaking of the head and then stories of how there are three heads of St John the Baptist and enough fragments of the true cross to build a battleship and what about the empty bottle claming to contain the breath of the Holy Spirit or the feather that is meant to be from the wing of the angel Gabriel? Isn`t it all just fraudulent nonsense and nothing to do with our living the faith (same people often say same thing about Summorum Pontificum).

Yet if we look at Christian and especially our Catholic history we can see it was not always so. To an outside observer in the early church it often seemed that Christians were people whose only interest was bones. Julian the Apostate `You have filled the whole world with tombs and sepulchres`

The Romans like many Mediterranean societies, regarded the bodies of the dead as polluting. During Rome's classical period, the body was most often cremated, and the ashes placed in a tomb outside the city walls. Much of the month of February was devoted to purifications, propitiation, and veneration of the dead, especially at the nine-day festival of the Parentilia during which a family honoured its ancestors. The family visited the cemetery and shared cake and wine, both in the form of offerings to the dead and as a meal among themselves.

4th century pagan writer Eunapius:

For they collected the bones and skulls of criminals who had been put to death for numerous crimes…. Made them out to be gods and thought that they became better by defiling themselves at their graves. `Martyrs` the dead men were called and ministers of a sort and ambassadors with the gods to carry men`s prayers`

Christians changed the landscape with their feasting at tombs of martyrs. Shrines were constructed which became large churches and to keep on top of things bishops moved to live there. The most famous example is the Vatican: a cemetery where Peter was buried and now the centre of the Catholic world.

Julian pointed out that none of this is mentioned in Gospels. But tombs of prophets were holy places in Judaism and reflected belief in the resurrection of the dead. The martyr`s body remained on earth awaiting the last day when it would be reunited with his or her soul. A place of the presence of the saint and of his or her power. Saints work miracles at their tombs and mirackes are still a requirement for canonisation.

But isn`t this all vulgar superstition? Surely this was for the uneducated masses and the serious Christian theologians had none of it. Not so. One of the books that had a major influence on me was Peter Brown`s Cult of the Saints published in 1981. He shows how the cult of the saints permeated all levels of the church. For example Augustine`s great work The City of God explained how God had not abandoned his people after the sack of Rome in 410 and yet the last book was a long catalogue of the miracles worked at he shrines of St Stephen at Hippo and Uzalis.

Some see this as the decline of the times. AHM Jones in later Roman Empire `a sign of the times that man of the intellectual eminence of Augustine should attach importance to them`

Not just Augustine. Ambrose in 385 discovery of the relics of SS Gervasius and Protasius. Huge excitement an placed in Ambrose`s new basilica under the altar where his own tomb was to be.

And so on. Body of Cuthbert carried around. Durham cathedral built as shrine which became a magnet for pilgrims.

As Christians we say we believe in resurrection of the body. Our bodies are ours forever whatever their final destination. We achieve holiness or we reject God in the body. Our bodies have an eternal significance. The bodies of the canonised saint is a window into heaven. St Therese on tour in his country drew large crowds. Bishop of Shrewsbury has just announced that the heart of the Cure of Ars will be on loan to his diocese soon. Here is something that will live forever in God`s presence. As Catholics the relics of the saints are a pledge of eternal glory. Today we honour their presence in the diocese as pledges of eternal life and so feel closer to the things of heaven and the life of God`s saints

More on silence

Since my last few posts I have had an email from Nancy Parker who recommends this link on why silence is good for children. You can find it here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Thanks for the comments

I`ve decided to re-instate the ringing of a bell five minutes before the start of Mass again to indicate the start of silent preparation for Mass. I suppose we can`t do anything about the end of Mass. We used to ring this bell but sometimes people thought it was the bell for the start of Mass and even the hymns would start on occasion. It is so hard to try to make a difference in a parish and this isn`t about Latin or ad orientem but simply giving space to let people pray before and after Mass.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I read the pastoral letter on silence and .......

talking continued at full throttle in church as usual after Mass. I might as well have just done some juggling or stood on my head.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

This weekend we will have a pastoral letter

The bishop of Aberdeeen`s Advent pastoral letter has already been mentioned on the blogosphere. If you`ve not read it I reproduce it below. I liked it so much that I have decided to read it out at Mass this weekend instead of a sermon. Thank God for bishop Hugh Gilbert!

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We live in a noisy world. Our towns and cities are full of noise. There is noise in the skies and on the roads. There is noise in our homes, and even in our churches. And most of all there is noise in our minds and hearts.

The Danish philosopher Kierkegaard once wrote: ‘The present state of the world and the whole of life is diseased. If I were a doctor and I were asked for my advice, I should reply: “Create silence! Bring people to silence!” The Word of God cannot be heard in the noisy world of today. And even if it were trumpeted forth with all the panoply of noise so that it could be heard in the midst of all the other noise, then it would no longer be the Word of God. Therefore, create silence!’

‘Create silence!’ There’s a challenge here. Surely speaking is a good and healthy thing? Yes indeed. Surely there are bad kinds of silence? Yes again. But still Kierkegaard is on to something.

There is a simple truth at stake. There can be no real relationship with God, there can be no real meeting with God, without silence. Silence prepares for that meeting and silence follows it. An early Christian wrote, ‘To someone who has experienced Christ himself, silence is more precious than anything else.’ For us God has the first word, and our silence opens our hearts to hear him. Only then will our own words really be words, echoes of God’s, and not just more litter on the rubbish dump of noise.

‘How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given.’ So the carol goes. For all the noise, rush and rowdiness of contemporary Christmasses, we all know there is a link between Advent and silence, Christmas and silence. Our cribs are silent places. Who can imagine Mary as a noisy person? In the Gospels, St Joseph never says a word; he simply obeys the words brought him by angels. And when John the Baptist later comes out with words of fire, it is after years of silence in the desert. Add to this the silence of our long northern nights, and the silence that follows the snow. Isn’t all this asking us to still ourselves?

A passage from the Old Testament Book of Wisdom describes the night of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt as a night full of silence. It is used by the liturgy of the night of Jesus’ birth:

‘When a deep silence covered all things and night was in the middle of its course, your all-powerful Word, O Lord, leapt from heaven’s royal throne’ (Wis 18:14-15).

‘Holy night, silent night!’ So we sing. The outward silence of Christmas night invites us to make silence within us. Then the Word can leap into us as well, as a wise man wrote: ‘If deep silence has a hold on what is inside us, then into us too the all-powerful Word will slip quietly from the Father’s throne.’

This is the Word who proceeds from the silence of the Father. He became an infant, and ‘infant’ means literally ‘one who doesn’t speak.’ The child Jesus would have cried – for air and drink and food – but he didn’t speak. ‘Let him who has ears to hear, hear what this loving and mysterious silence of the eternal Word says to us.’ We need to listen to this quietness of Jesus, and allow it to make its home in our minds and hearts.

‘Create silence!’ How much we need this! The world needs places, oases, sanctuaries, of silence.

And here comes a difficult question: what has happened to silence in our churches? Many people ask this. When the late Canon Duncan Stone, as a young priest in the 1940s, visited a parish in the Highlands, he was struck to often find thirty or forty people kneeling there in silent prayer. Now often there is talking up to the very beginning of Mass, and it starts again immediately afterwards. But what is a church for, and why do we go there? We go to meet the Lord and the Lord comes to meet us. ‘The Lord is in his holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before him!’ said the prophet Habakkuk. Surely the silent sacramental presence of the Lord in the tabernacle should lead us to silence? We need to focus ourselves and put aside distractions before the Mass begins. We want to prepare to hear the word of the Lord in the readings and homily. Surely we need a quiet mind to connect to the great Eucharistic Prayer? And when we receive Holy Communion, surely we want to listen to what the Lord God has to say, ‘the voice that speaks of peace’? Being together in this way can make us one – the Body of Christ – quite as effectively as words.

A wise elderly priest of the diocese said recently, ‘Two people talking stop forty people praying.’

‘Create silence!’ I don’t want to be misunderstood. We all understand about babies. Nor are we meant to come and go from church as cold isolated individuals, uninterested in one another. We want our parishes to be warm and welcoming places. We want to meet and greet and speak with one another. There are arrangements to be made, items of news to be shared, messages to be passed. A good word is above the best gift, says the Bible. But it is a question of where and when. Better in the porch than at the back of the church. Better after the Mass in a hall or a room. There is a time and place for speaking and a time and place for silence. In the church itself, so far as possible, silence should prevail. It should be the norm before and after Mass, and at other times as well. When there is a real need to say something, let it be done as quietly as can be. At the very least, such silence is a courtesy towards those who want to pray. It signals our reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. It respects the longing of the Holy Spirit to prepare us to celebrate the sacred mysteries. And then the Mass, with its words and music and movement and its own moments of silence, will become more real. It will unite us at a deeper level, and those who visit our churches will sense the Holy One amongst us.

‘Create silence!’ It is an imperative. May the Word coming forth from silence find our silence waiting for him like a crib! ‘The devil’, said St Ambrose, ‘loves noise; Christ looks for silence.’

Yours sincerely in Him,
+ Hugh, O. S. B.
Bishop of Aberdeen

7 December 2011

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Priest, Pastor and Leader?

Last week at a funeral reception I got talking to two rather agitated laymen. They wanted to tell me about what was happening in their parishes. They both had the same complaint. A new parish priest had come in and, they said, closed down everything. Parish councils had been dismissed and many other committees. Not even social events were allowed any more. I found it hard to believe a parish priest would not want parishioners to enjoy social activities. For my part, I have always had a parish council as I find it on the whole a useful sounding board for ideas. I, of course, said that a parish council is optional unless the bishop, having listened to his Council of Priests, considers it opportune to mandate their creation in every parish which to my knowledge, has not happened in this diocese. I also pointed out that a Parish Council is essentially consultative and that while it may offer advice a parish priest is not bound to follow it although one would hope he would be able to give good reasons for not doing so.

However this did little to calm the rage. They had heard of a parish where the new parish priest on his first Sunday had told the congregation that he was in charge and he made the decisions so as to get things clear from the start. They said the Church needs to be brought up to date and that it is still in the nineteenth century. I`d never thought of the modern day Church as having anything remotely nineteenth century about it! I did mention Vatican Two and that bishops seem very keen nowadays to involve the laity at all levels of church life and how at priests` meetings the answer to problems always seems to be to hand things over to the laity. However this did nothing to restore peace. `Why do priests insist on looking after the finances when there are laity in a parish who have professional experience which the clergy lack?` So too with looking after buildings and grounds. Priests should hand all that over to the laity and thus be able to concentrate on being a spiritual leader. I have never looked after the parish book keep keeping so I don`t know if that wins me any gold stars.

While I can appreciate the point of this sometimes it is not unusual to find laity who think they should be allowed to preach as well. No doubt they would also want a liturgy commitee to oversee every aspect of worship. At this point it seems to me, as I mentioned to a senior cleric recently, the only job left for the priest to do is to be the caretaker, making sure the doors are open, unless of course, as often happens, they have keys to the building already.

Of course there are documents. There was the 1997 document, Ecclesiae de mysterio, a rare collaboration between eight Vatican dicasteries, which said that lay people should not have the title chaplain amongst other things. Also relevant is the Congregation for Clergy`s document `The Priest, Pastor and Leader of the Parish Community` which talks among other things about parish councils and erroneous thinking about them. I think it fair to say I never hear these documents referred to much in local discussions on the matter of the role of the laity. My laymen complained that decisions were made by a lot of old men in Rome and therefore were, I presume, self-evidently ridiculous.

However the issue is important as priests are unsure what they are meant to be doing. A priest may feel he is doing the right thing if he hands over the running of his parish to committees of parishioners who then give the pastoral lead. On the other hand a priest is a pastor with a role of guiding the flock and as such has the duty to mould his parish life according to the mind of the Church and have the resources to achieve this. While seeking to avoid a stifling clericalism, which treats the laity like children and which even clergy of a `progressive ` bent can fall into, it seems we have a new problem these days in a certain type of laity who can regard the very existence of the priest as an affront to their participation in the life of the Church.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Whatever happened to the Ordinariate in Hexham and Newcastle?

For anyone who might be wondering what happened to the Anglican parish of St James in Darlington which was said to be interested in Pope Benedict`s offer of an Ordinariate to Anglicans unable to stay in the Church of England you can now find out directly as they have their own website. You can find it here. They are still on their way into full communion with the Holy See!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

News from the FSSP

Fr de Malleray recently sent me information about forthcoming FSSP events in England which I am happy to pass on here.

Vocation discernment weekend, at St John Fisher House in Reading on 16-17-18 December 2011:

For Catholic men between 18 and 35 years of age (under 18 please contact us).

Starts on Friday 16th December 2011 at 6pm – ends on Sunday 18th December 2011 mid-afternoon. Led by Fr Armand de Malleray, FSSP.

Location: St John Fisher House is the residence of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter in England & Wales.

Address: 17, Eastern Avenue, Reading, RG1 5RU, England.

Access: 27mn from London Paddington by direct trains up to every 10mn, and from London Waterloo. Direct trains from Oxford, Bournemouth, Bristol, Newcastle, York, Birmingham, Gatwick Airport, Southampton Airport, etc. Direct ‘RailAir’ buses from Heathrow to Reading train station every 20mn. Motorway: M4.

Limited overnight accommodation: please book now.

Programme: Spiritual conferences, socials, Holy Mass each of the three days (Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite) including polyphonic Sunday Mass, silent prayer, private talk with Fr de Malleray, FSSP. Fr de Malleray will explain what a vocation is in general and to the priesthood in particular. Read here the Holy Father’s recent Letter to seminarians. Extract: “The proper celebration of the Eucharist involves knowing, understanding and loving the Church’s liturgy in its concrete form. In the liturgy we pray with the faithful of every age – the past, the present and the future are joined in one great chorus of prayer. As I can state from personal experience, it is inspiring to learn how it all developed, what a great experience of faith is reflected in the structure of the Mass, and how it has been shaped by the prayer of many generations.”

Cost: no set price for students or unemployed – any donation welcome; others: £50 suggested.

New: our special Vocations flyer and videos on

Altar servers’ weekend (residential): at St John Fisher House in Reading on 18-19-20 November 2011:

For single Catholic men between 18 and 35 years of age (under 18 please contact us).

Starts on Friday 18th November 2011 at 6pm – ends on Sunday 20th November 2011 mid-afternoon. Led by Fr Armand de Malleray, FSSP.

In a convivial atmosphere, come and learn (or improve) how to set the vestments and sacred items before Mass and to serve Low Mass and Benediction. EF Mass on the Friday evening, Saturday morning and Sunday morning. Fr de Malleray will give explanations on the liturgy.

Limited overnight accommodation: please book now. Non residential participants welcome.

Clergy retreat. Starts Monday 5th March 2012 at 2pm – ends Friday 9th March 2012 at 2pm (4 nights).

Theme: ‘Our priestly identity as shaped by the traditions of Holy Mother Church: from Tonsure and the four Minor Orders to the four Major Orders, a gradual participation to the priesthood of Christ’.

Schedule: Silent retreat; meals with table reading on the theme of the retreat; includes one conference in the morning and another one in the afternoon; possibility of private meeting with the Retreat Master and of confession; Possibility of attending Eucharistic Adoration with the local contemplative religious community. Common recitation of Compline (EF Breviary) and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament will also take place.

Location: Cold Ash pastoral centre, run by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary: The Ridge, Thatcham, RG18 9HU, England. We will have the guests’ wing available for us, with access to the 19th century chapel (with four eastward facing altars); there are also nice grounds and woodlands.

Extras: Possibility of staying one more day at the Centre or at St John Fisher House before or after our retreat for those who wish. Optional convivial meal among clergy at nearby pub at 12 noon, before retreat begins.

Cost per person: £250 (includes: £230 for Cold Ash Centre for single room full board, and £20 for FSSP).

Booking: Please send us the £250 cheque made payable to FSSP ENGLAND (includes a non refundable £50 deposit).

N.B. Private Masses in the Ordinary or Extraordinary Form at each priest’s discretion.

Please kindly book now.

Advent Weekend of silent recollection: 2-4 December 2011. Led by Fr Armand de Malleray, FSSP. From 5pm on Friday to about 5pm on Sunday.

Location: Between Newbury and Reading: Cold Ash Pastoral Centre, The Ridge, Thatcham, RG18 9HU, England.

Cost per person full board single room: £120 (discount rate for full time students: £100).

Theme:The Church, fulfilling the Incarnation.’

Programme: Spiritual conferences, Eucharistic adoration and Holy Mass in the EF each of the three days (i.e. Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday morning).

Booking: Please send us the £120 cheque made payable to FSSP ENGLAND (includes a non refundable £30 deposit).

Friday, November 11, 2011

Conference of Catholic Clergy: Northern chapter

Readers ( if I still have any) will no doubt have seen reports elsewhere of the first national Colloquium organised by the Conference of Catholic Clergy in Reading on October 28th. I was sorry that I could not attend. However I am delighted to see that the first meeting of the northern chapter has been organised and is taking place on Friday 9th December at St. Austin’s Wakefield starting at 11.30am and ending by 4pm.

Any priests who are interested who may not yet be members are encouraged to go to the CCC website to download an application form.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Success at the cathedral! Fr Brown cheers up a bit.

Yesterday morning as mentioned here in the last post, we had what has become an annual extraordinary form Solemn High Mass at the cathedral. It is impossible to know how many people will attend. I was somewhat anxious about the Mass being as early as 10am for people who may have been travelling a distance. Brinkburn had been disappointing this year and the Low Mass on November 1st had been attended by a congregation of eight. ( I really thought there were more Extraordinary Form devotees on Tyneside than that who would have wanted to go to what was the only EF Mass in the area for the Holy Day.)

In the event the cathedral Mass was very well attended with a congregation estimated at being between 150-200 strong. Certainly the central aisles were respectably full. Most of the congregation were not people I knew and after Mass I was asked one or two questions about the Mass from people for whom this was clearly a new experience. So hurrah! I preached and may put the sermon up here.

Many thanks to Fr Leighton, the cathedral dean for his permission for the Mass. Many thanks to all who helped make it possible. The schola were on fine form and the choir led by Shaun Turnbull gave us Viadana`s L`Hora Passa Mass and the Bruckner motet Locus iste and it all sounded very good. Thanks to Frank for the pictures above. More can be seen on Mike Forbester`s Flickr account.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Cathedral Mass

Just a reminder that there will be a Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form at St Mary`s cathedral this Saturday morning at 10am. Many thanks to the dean, Fr Leighton, for giving his permission. The feast is that of the Holy Relics of the diocese. All welcome.

Monday, October 31, 2011

All Saints

Apologies for the lack of posting here in the last few weeks. I hope things will pick up again soon. Just a quick note to say that Mass times for All Saints are as follows: at St Mary`s, Forest Hall, 11am and 7pm and at SS Peter and Paul`s, Longbenton, 9.30am and 7pm (Extraordinary Form, Low Mass)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sermon from the Golden Jubilee Mass

I`ve never posted a sermon on the blog before but here is what I said at the jubilee Mass on October 4th: the Feast of St Francis with the readings of the day.

In tonight`s first reading we come across Jonah. God is offering a new start for the people of Nineveh. Jonah was afraid: he didn`t want to go. However eventually he got there, preached and it worked. I always take comfort from that as a preacher: that God`s word does its work. Jonah was indignant about it and God taught him a lesson with the castor-oil plant which grows and then withers. God wants to show that even the well-being of the non-Israelites of Nineveh is crucial to Him. What he wants is for them to know him and the new start he offers.

A new start is what St Francis brought. What do we think of when we think of him? Maybe we have been to Assisi and seen the places he lived. Maybe we`ve seen the film, Brother Sun and Sister Moon and get our ideas from there. Francis acceptance of the Gospel was so captivating he showed his world a new way to live which immediately spoke to the people of his day and continues to inspire men and women to follow his way to Christ. He enjoyed freedom, the freedom that comes in living only for God. He spoke of beauty and love of communion with all creation as we`ll sing at the offertory hymn: a freedom from material obsession in the journey to God. And a radical and joyful way of life. A man who didn`t set out to start a movement, let alone one which would change the society of his day and even change western art as he preached about the real humanity of Christ and that was taken up by artists such as Giotto.

Francis` conversion was first tested when he reached out to kiss a leper and give him money. But he first got an idea of his mission when praying in the dilapidated church of San Damiano. Lying prostrate in front of the crucifix ( which you can still see in Assisi today) he heard a voice coming from the cross, telling him three times `Francis, go and repair my house, which as you see, is falling completely into ruin`. So he sold his horse and some of his father`s cloth and presented the money to the parish priest for repairs. The parish priest wouldn`t take the money because he knew it came from sale of father`s cloth. Eventually set too repairing the church begging for the materials. Once he`d finished San Damiano he started repairing the nearby church of St Peter.

It was St Francis and the repairing of churches which led to him gaining papal approval for the friars. Pope Innocent III, one of the most prestigious of popes, had a vision of the Lateran basilica, the cathedral of Rome, appearing to fall down. However in the dream the church was saved by the little poor man from Assisi who he saw holding up the structure. A guide in Assisi one time when I was there was drew our attention to the way St Francis was painted holding up the church from the inside. He saw this as important as there were this in Francis time who claimed to want to save the church but were doing it from the outside. Francis always worked from the inside because of his love of the Church. He urged people not to abandon their parishes because their priests were not up to par, because they still administered Christ`s sacraments.

So for Francis church buildings played an important role in his life. He wasn`t always running around the fields praising Brother Sun but also knew the importance of the sacraments and the importance of their worthy celebration in a dignified setting.

So we are celebrating tonight 50 years of this church building of St Mary of the Rosary. An unusual dedication but I like it. Many churches dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary but St Mary is an older dedication and not sure how the parish got it but I`m very happy with it.

Many of you will remember the church as it opened in 1961. We have pictures to help you in the display in the hall if you don`t known what it was like then. I think it`s fair to say St Mary`s has never been considered an architectural masterpiece but it has served its purpose well as the heart of the parish. I`m told it was known as `the Hangar because… well it looked like a hangar! Ideas styles and fashions in church architecture change. Ideas in terms of what a church should be that dominated the large part of the 20th century are coming up for review.

In an article by Fr Aidan Nichols in New Blackfriars in 2008 about church architecture quotes the early 20th century church architect Ninian Comper:

The note of a church should be, not that of novelty, but of eternity. Like the Liturgy celebrated within it, the measure of its greatness will be the measure in which it succeeds in eliminating time and producing the atmosphere of heavenly worship. This is the characteristic of the earliest art of the Church, in liturgy, in architecture and in plastic decoration, and it is the tradition of all subsequent ages.

The Church is made of the living stones of the people of God. The church building has traditionally been cared for by its community and made beautiful. Great ascetics such as the Cure of Ars have lavished attention on making the church building beautiful. Why? The trend in recent decades has been towards utility and a distrust of beauty: the building only as a meeting place for the People of God but the beauty of the church and the sense of the sacred that it should engender is meant to help us in our quest to seek holiness of life. It is a place where like Mary in the Gospel we should stop worrying and fretting over so many things like Martha and instead concentrate on meeting Christ who takes all our worries and cares and offers them to the Father in his perfect sacrifice offered on the altar

So tonight we give thanks to God for 50 years of worship in this building. In the bidding prayers we will remember all those who have worshipped here and celebrated key events in their lives here. We pray for God`s blessing on this parish over the next 50 years and that it will be a place where we may always find a new start, like the people of Nineveh and be fired with love of God like St Francis, a love that is stronger than death, a love which brings new life and opens the gates to eternity.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Golden Jubilee of St Mary`s church, Forest Hall

This is a very busy week here in St Mary`s as we prepare this week to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the opening of the church. We have a Mass tonight with clergy who have served in the parish, clergy ordained from the parish and clergy from the deanery. On Friday night the bishop will come to confirm twenty young people from this parish and from SS Peter and Paul`s, Longbenton and on Saturday night we round off the celebrations with a Ceilidh in the Forest Hall club.

I`m delighted to say that the new icons arrived from Sr Petra Clare on Friday and today our joiner Davy and his son, using some ingenuity, managed to get them in position for tonight`s Mass. So now we have the first and last mysteries of the Rosary depicted behind the altar.

Work has been going on the last two days with a small and dedicated group of parishioners preparing the hall for the buffet and a display of photographs from the last fifty years. Our music group were still rehearsing at 10pm last night too.

So let`s hope all goes well. I`ve spent yesterday producing a booklet and this morning putting a homily together. Everything is ready now so I`m going for a rest.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dilston demise denied

The Hexham Courant had a story on September 12th saying that following government cutbacks the North Pennines Heritage Trust has had to go into administration. As this is the body which looks after the upkeeep of Dilston Castle visitor centre, the centre had been forced to close.

However a letter from the Friends of Historic Dilston says that members of the Friend`s Commitee have been acting as volunteer custodians and will do so until the end of the season on September 30th. The volunteers still kept things going so that over 200 people were able to visit the site on the English Heritage Open Days (8-11 September).

The Friends` Committee is looking into ways of securing the future for the Dilston site. Let`s hope they find one so that this site of such importance for Catholic history in the North East can remain open.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Brinkburn Flop

Well we had the annual Brinkburn Mass on Saturday. This event has been going for sixteen years now. I was always intrigued by the large congregation we used to get on a regular basis. In the early years over a hundred people was the norm. More recently this has become about sixty but that was still a good number. Maybe it was the mixed weather forecast but for whatever reason we only drew a congregation of about twenty on Saturday In the past this was always a good family event but this time we saw no young people.

This can`t be put down to a lack of publicity because our LMS reps sent out posters far and wide and informed members of the date.

So while I ponder whether it is worth continuing with this Mass here are some pictures from this year thanks to Frank.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Brinkburn Mass

This Saturday at 12 noon the annual Extraordinary Form Mass will be held at Brinkburn Priory, in Northumberland with kind permission of English Heritage. The Rudgate Singers will be singing Hassler`s Mass no.2 and the schola Sancti Bedae will sing the proper. The celebrant will be Fr Swales, with Fr Phillips as deacon and me as subdeacon. The above picture is from 2009 when the sacred ministers were all members of the FSSP.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Telegraph Obituary for bishop Ambrose Griffiths

This was forwarded to me today from Thursday`s Telegraph and I share it here. There are some interesting points.

Ambrose Griffiths

Ambrose Griffiths, who died on June 14 aged 82, was Abbot of Ampleforth and later named the Roman Catholic bishop of Hexham and Newcastle.

The nomination so surprised him that the day after being interviewed for the post in 1992, he called Archbishop Worlock in Liverpool to check that the offer was not just a dream. The efficient archbishop, who had occasionally encountered vagueness among monks before, assured him that his memory was correct and the Pope did indeed want him to accept the appointment.

Some speculated that he owed his preferment in part to the fact that Worlock, Cardinal Basil Hume and Archbishop Couve de Murville of Birmingham were determined to prevent the post going to an Opus Dei priest or a conservative old Ushaw seminarian.

Griffiths arrived in his diocese like a gust of fresh air, aware that statistics suggested the diocese might not exist by 2038 if the rate of decline continued. He urged parishioners to be more friendly and non-judgmental with outsiders, and established a “youth village” near Consett from which volunteers would give missions in schools and parishes. In his playful way he liked to urge young people seeking suitable spouses to pray to the Archangel Raphael, the saint of happy meetings.

While remaining within the bounds of Church discipline, Griffiths wondered out loud whether the dwindling number of priests might eventually force a relaxation of the rule on clerical celibacy, and he apologised to divorcees for the Church’s failure to integrate them more into parish life.

Much loved, he encountered widespread grumbling only once, when he proposed that a piece of land in his grounds (which he regarded as an eyesore, though his neighbours claimed it was ancient woodland) should be sold to become a pub and restaurant. The project was dropped because the sum offered for it was too small.

: John Michael Martin Griffiths was born on December 4 1928 and went to Ampleforth before going up to Balliol, Oxford, where he obtained a First in Natural Sciences. He planned to become a research fellow in Chemistry, but changed direction when a chemist in the college had a mental breakdown and destroyed all Griffiths’s notes. Taking the name Ambrose on entering the Ampleforth novitiate, he was sent to the Benedictine house of Sant’ Anselmo in Rome to study Theology, then was summoned home after ordination although on course to win a double First.

For the next 14 years Griffiths taught science in the school, coping with occasional explosions in the laboratory and helping with woodwork. He rose to head of science and also taught dogmatic theology to novices.

As the procurator responsible for building the sports hall and new houses, his safe pair of hands made him a suitable choice to become abbot when Hume was appointed Archbishop of Westminster in 1976. But while Griffiths’s brethren appreciated his spiritual and practical qualities, not all shared his enthusiasm for charismatic prayer, and the pace of change which he set eventually led to his being refused a second term.

Although without pastoral experience he happily became parish priest of St Mary’s at Leyland in Lancashire. There was some concern that his lisp and Ampleforth accent might not be easily comprehensible, but he talked to everyone, always answered letters and threw himself into every aspect of parochial life from 6am to 11pm. He was so shaken at first by the poverty in the area that he declined to take a holiday in the Holy Land, when such a trip was clearly beyond the means of so many of his parishioners. Instead he delighted in doing anything to help locals, including shopping and washing up, though he was sometimes a little too keen for Lancastrian tastes.

Griffiths retired at 75. He then returned to Leyland as a curate.

May he rest in peace.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Prie Dieu Continued

I have mentioned that the new altar missals will contain a rubric requested by the bishops of England and Wales which says that standing in a queue is the normal way here to receive Communion but that some individuals may wish to kneel and if people don`t kneel they should bow before receiving. We`ve not made much progress with the bowing but I have provided a prie dieu for the benefit of individuals who may wish to kneel. This has been placed by my side when distributing the host. So far at the Saturday vigil only one or two have availed themselves of the opportunity of using it but about five people use it at the Sunday Mass. Last week one of these people suggested it might be easier to use if I stood behind it. So we tried this today and I`m happy to say about another four people availed themselves of the prieu dieu.

At the parish council tonight I heard that there are others who would like to kneel but feel conspicuous using the prie dieu. The parish council is looking into ways to accommodate them and yes some of the commentators here will be pleased to hear we are going to look into some form of rail.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Reports reach the Forest now and again about bishops and vocations directors quizzing seminarians about their interest in the Extraordinary Form. This could be a good thing: they might be ensuring that seminarians are at one with the mind of the Church about the Extraordinary Form regarding which Universae Ecclesiae told us a few months ago:

6. The Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI and the last edition prepared under Pope John XXIII, are two forms of the Roman Liturgy, defined respectively as ordinaria and extraordinaria: they are two usages of the one Roman Rite, one alongside the other. Both are the expression of the same lex orandi of the Church. On account of its venerable and ancient use, the forma extraordinaria is to be maintained with appropriate honour.

Thus if bishops and vocations directors are expressing any concern regarding the Extraordinary Form and seminarians it would, one would think, be to ensure that all seminarians are at home in both forms of the Roman Rite and most importantly are taught how to celebrate and to love the EF.

Sadly this is not what one hears. Instead seminarians are quizzed about their interest in the Extraordinary Form in such a way as to make clear to them that any interest would be considered a problem and as they used to say in my time, `a formation issue`. This is outrageous given developments in recent years. Eventually this will change but until then it is sad that people who are only following the directives of the Holy See are made to suffer.

28.08.11 UPDATE. I see that the reaction button can be pressed as often as you like. I thought each computer only got one vote. I suspect someone has a problem with Summorum Pontificum and is trying to cause trouble. If I could I would disable the reaction panel for this post but it can`t be done for individual posts as far as I can see. I also suspect supporters are registering multple votes as I`ve never had so many votes for any post before. If this continues I will remove the reaction panel altogether.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Evangelical Catholics and WYD

John Allen has an interesting piece on WYD and what he calls `Evangelical Catholicism`. It may be of interest to those who are puzzled by why younger Catholics and especially seminarians appear to be what they call `conservative`. He defines it thus

Evangelical Catholicism” is a term being used to capture the Catholic version of a 21st century politics of identity, reflecting the long-term historical transition in the West from Christianity as a culture-shaping majority to Christianity as a subculture, albeit a large and influential one. I define Evangelical Catholicism in terms of three pillars:

A strong defense of traditional Catholic identity, meaning attachment to classic markers of Catholic thought (doctrinal orthodoxy) and Catholic practice (liturgical tradition, devotional life, and authority).
Robust public proclamation of Catholic teaching, with the accent on Catholicism’s mission ad extra, transforming the culture in light of the Gospel, rather than ad intra, on internal church reform.
Faith seen as a matter of personal choice rather than cultural inheritance, which among other things implies that in a highly secular culture, Catholic identity can never be taken for granted. It always has to be proven, defended, and made manifest.

On the other hand I don`t see much evidence of the `Evangelical Catholicism` here among the young in Hexham and Newcastle. The older cultural model seems to be what we do. This was what I found dispiriting about the recent Come Home Sunday we had: the emphasis was on getting Catholics to come back to church simply because it was their cultural inheritance without emphasis on having to believe anything in particular. I remember we used to have an active Youth 2000 group but I`ve not heard much about them in recent years. I hope we do have some Evangelical Catholics among our young but this part of the world has not really been at the cutting edge of Catholic life since the death of Bede in 735.

Friday, August 19, 2011


Thanks to Michael Voris for this report from World Youth Day.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Even the Guardian has noticed

I woke this morning to hear a story on the Today programme about a few thousand protestors complaining about the Pope`s visit to Spain. Nothing much was said about the 1.5 milllion young people who had turned up to welcome the Pope.

Andrew Brown on his Guardian blog has this to say:

If I were a Catholic, I would be feeling rather pissed off with the BBC. The news bulletin in this morning's Today programme carried a report of the pope's visit to Madrid that concentrated entirely on the "thousands" of protestors against the visit. It did not once mention World Youth Day, the extraordinary global Catholic gathering that the pope is also visiting. That has brought something like 1.5 million young people from around the world to the Spanish capital to greet him. Whether or not you approve of this, it is important and – above all – newsworthy simply because it is unexpected and goes against the grain of what the media tell us. So why is it not reported?

You can read the rest here.

UPDATE 19.08.11 Today has just had a feature on WYD again. It did mention `hundreds of thousands` of young people being there and interviewed pilgrims as well as the protestors.

UPDATE. Ex Expecto suggests complaints can be left at

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Coronation of the Virgin icons

The next stage of the icons for St Mary`s are nearly ready. Sr Petra Clare has sent me these pictures which show something of the work and stages of preparation. We were hoping that they would be here for the Feast of the Assumption. Sadly that didn`t happen but we are promised that they will be here for the end of the month.

Drawing Christ:
Drawing Our Lady:

Drawing the Seraphim:

Image transfer:

First colour layer


Two weeks ago I travelled down to London. (I`m so glad I didn`t go last week!) This time I was going there to join the celebrations for Fr Charles Briggs` Silver Jubilee of ordination. Seeing that Mac has written a report and even mentioned me I finally stirred myself out my lethargy and have crawled to the computer to write it up.

On Monday night I was glad to be able to meet up with our former schola director and also with Rubricarius for a meal. While Rubricarius and I disagree about a number of things we were able to agree on our favourite pope of recent times: Benedict XIV. (Although in my own case Benedict XVI is a serious rival for the title.)

On Tuesday I made the trip to Chislehurst for Fr Briggs Extraordinary Form celebration. As you will have read elsewhere, there were about twenty priests in choir (and a few others in the congregation) : the sermon was given by the former archbishop of Southwark, archbishop Kevin MacDonald. Fortunately as he is the archbishop emeritus the sacred ministers did not have the additional task of the extra ceremonies that arise when the ordinary is in choir. However Fr Finigan did remark in his speech afterwards at the Golf Club that they were celebrating High Mass before one of the more knowledgeable group of priests in the country and who would be able to spot the mistakes. Fr Finigan put it more succinctly than that

So it was good to see some familiar faces again: Fr Martin Edwards of Wandsworth, Fr Andrew Southwell of Clapham with Fr Basden. Also it was good to met Fr Ray Blake at last as well as Fr Nicholas Schofield who used to have the Roman Miscellany blog. It was a pleasure to meet Mac, the Mulier Fortis and Kathleen from Catholicism Pure and Simple. Here is Fr Finigan making his speech at the Golf Club after the Mass.

I did think more pictures would emerge of the Mass itself but only a few have surfaced so far.

The next day I went to see the altarpieces exhibition at the National Gallery which was very enjoyable. In fact I enjoyed it more than the relics exhibition at the British Museum which is not what I expected. Well worth seeing if you get the chance. My next post will be on the progress of our own altarpiece here at St Marys!