Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mixed Reactions

A while back I noticed on Fr Blake`s blog  that this blog had been listed on an American site `Peter`s List` in a list of seven blogs by traditional Catholic priests (although this title was disputed in the comments presumably by those who think anyone who is in communion with the Holy See cannot be described as traditional). I was amazed to be mentioned among these  priest bloggers as I can think of a good number of priestly blogs which have more substance than this effort. However Peter`s List had this to say about FM:

Forest Murmurs is another blog often cited on traditionalist Catholic blog-rolls and appears to be primarily categorized by news clippings of traditional interests. A good example would be the happy news of the Institute of Christ the King purchasing a historically Jesuit – and unused – Church in Ireland.

Thanks for the plug Peter`s List!

However murmurs have reached the Forest that not everyone is as happy with this blog. Some people apparently think this blog is `against Vatican II`!!! Further enquiry as to how this could be produced little of substance except something about promoting Mass ad orientem. If you are someone who visits this  blog and seriously thinks this blog is at odds with that council then I ask you to please enlighten me as to where I have contradicted it. I don`t think anyone who has read Vatican II will find anything here that goes against its decrees.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Lecture Series Promotes Ushaw’s National Importance

Here`s a press release from yesterday about the lecture series on the former seminary of Ushaw. These look quite interesting although I doubt I`ll be able to get to them. 
Durham University's Centre for Catholic Studies is launching a series of events to highlight the significance of Ushaw College.

In an effort to raise awareness of the nationally-important holdings at the former seminary - including documents from the period of Catholic persecution and rare first edition books - the Centre is arranging a series of lectures at the former seminary.

Before Christmas, the lectures will consider the reaction of English Catholics to Enlightenment Arts and Sciences. The series will be opened by the well-known historian, Eamon Duffy, on 17 October who will talk about the eighteenth century Ushaw-trained historian John Lingard. On 31 October, Durham's Stefano Cracolici and Giovanna Capitelli will explore Ushaw's art and the heritage of faith. The final lecture of 2012 will be given by Ushaw's Michael Sharratt, who will talk about Catholicism, modernity and science at Ushaw in the nineteenth century, in particular approaches to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

The lecture series will continue in 2013, with topics including the Pugin architecture of Ushaw and its silver, before a major conference on Early Modern Catholicism is held at the college next summer. The events will also lead towards the publication of a book about the treasures of Ushaw.

Speaking of the upcoming events, Dr James Kelly, a fellow at the Centre for Catholic Studies who will be working on the Ushaw material, said:
"These events are aimed at showing just how important Ushaw and its holdings are not just to the Catholic community, but to the history of the North-East and England more generally. By looking at Ushaw in this way, it becomes clear that its history - and that of Catholicism - is not a mere footnote to the national story but of lasting importance."

The Ushaw lectures will start with refreshments at 5:30pm. Each event will be accompanied by a small exhibition of items held at Ushaw relevant to the topic.


The overall theme is: 'English Catholic reactions to Enlightenment Arts and Sciences'.
17 October
Eamon Duffy
John Lingard and the Reformation
31 October
Stefano Cracolici and Giovanna Capitelli
Ushaw Art and the Heritage of Faith
28 November
Michael Sharatt
Catholicism, Modernity and Science:
Teaching at Ushaw on the eve of Vatican I

Friday, September 28, 2012

St Michael`s, Newcastle upon Tyne

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit St Michael`s church in Newcastle. The last time I was there was about ten years ago or so when I was asked by the then bishop, Ambrose Griffiths, to go along in response to a request from a film company making a Catherine Cookson film, who wanted an adviser for the filming of a convalidation as it would have been performed in 1903.

This is my favourite church in the diocese: I`ve not seen every church in the diocese but it would have to be good to beat St Michael`s. Bryan Little`s Catholic Churches since 1623 [in England and Wales], has this to say about St Michael`s: 

St Michael`s is far more pleasing than Pugin`s church which had become the Catholic cathedral in Newcastle; it was probably the best of many Dunn and Hansom churches in Roman Catholic Northumbria.

This church was built between 1889 and 1891 by Dunn and Hansom for a cost of almost £20,000. The Elswick area in which it is situated is near the famous Scotswood Road ( of `Blaydon Races` fame) and was where many who worked in the factories along the Tyne lived. I grew up in Elswick until the age of five and was baptised at St Michael`s.

As you can see this church has been spared the destruction that has afflicted many sanctuaries and is ideal for the Extraordinary Form. Fr Bellamy, the parish priest for the last forty years has just recently retired and the future of this grade 2 listed building is under discussion. Much work needs to be done and the cost will be in the hundreds of thousands of pounds which the present small congregation will never be able to raise. Let`s hope an imaginative solution is found which respects this wonderful building.

The sanctuary

Closer view
The Lady chapel

Sacred Heart chapel


The crossing

The nave

The font

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

LMS Pilgrimage to Lourdes

I got back late on Friday night from the LMS pilgrimage to Lourdes, thanks to a lift from Stansted provided by our LMS reps David and Theresa. David has already blogged about the pilgrimage here. Paul Waddington has given an account here.  I`d been a few years ago with the LMS to Lourdes and had been thinking it would be good to have another pilgrimage with the EF Mass so was very pleased when asked to be chaplain. The group was quite small, consisting of twenty-two people five of whom were not Catholics. We had a broad age range from Timothy in his twenties up to Fergus who is eighty-seven. 

Celebrating the EF was no problem in that no-one objected to us doing so although as David points out some of the venues had their own hazards. The Mass in St Gabriel`s chapel on the first night was difficult in that the altar was very small and when I lent down for the consecration of the host the whole altar threatened to tumble over. Mass at Bartres was lovely as we had the original high altar to use. The last three Masses were sung but onlly because David, the MC also doubled as cantor for the propers! Somewhat unorthodox I suppose but the only way it would work. 

I enjoyed preaching on the life of St Joseph of Cupertino and the story of how he found a flock of sheep making the responses with well-placed `baa`s` when he recited a litany. The whole story is here.

So thank you LMS for asking me to be chaplain and thanks to the group for your support.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Is it any wonder?

Recently I took my copy of O`Connell`s Church Building and Furnishing (Burns &; Oates 1955) off my shelf to see if I could find if he had an explanation as to why there are always an odd number of lamps before the high altar or Blessed Sacrament. He does say that there are to be an uneven number but offers no explanation. But then I began browsing the rest of the book and came across his chapter on the altar with a section on Mass facing the people.

It reads as follows:

From the 4th century to the 6th century it was the practice in all greater churches to celebrate Mass facing the congregation. The choir (the clergy) was at the east end; the subdeacon stood behind the altar facing the celebrant. Even in private houses, or in chapels, or even in the catacombs, the celebrant faced the people, when this was physically possible ( sometimes e.g. in the catacombs the celebrant necessarily faced the arcosolium). It is certain that Mass was celebrated facing the people in a church where the Bishop`s throne was in the apse, or where there was a confessio ( the approach of this was from the the nave, at the back of the altar) or where the people were at the east end of the church, facnig West. The practice of celebrating with the celebrant`s back turned to the congregation gradually arose with the change in position of the people, desiring to face East at prayer, with the growth of the number of priests for missions and in monasteries and with the multiplication of Masses " for a private intention" and private Masses for the dead (these Masses were said in small chapels, not at the high altar). The practice of saying Mass back to the people, at side altars, gradually spread to the high altar. Yes both systems of orientation and both ways of facing at Mass existed together from the 6th to the 9th or 10th century; and then the eastern apse, and the celebrant facing it, became the prevailing usage. But the practice of celebrating Mass at the high altar facing the congregation has continued to this day (e.g. in the great Roman basilicas and in some of the catacomb chapels) and is now being restored in certain great churches (e.g. in the cathedral at Lisbon).

I wonder what was going on in Lisbon? Another book I`ve started is The Elusive Father Brown which is a life of Mgr John O`Connor (1870-1952, the inspiration for Chesterton`s Fr Brown. I found the following paragraph on p.145.

During the course of one of his Sunday sermons, Father O`Connor gave his view on the position of the altar, stating that to have it pushed to the far end of a long building with the priest turning his back on the people was an abuse which was 1,000 years old/ `Fancy, if all representations of the Last Supper made Our Lord turn his back to the Apostles!` e thought it unlikely that any reform would happen in his lifetime. He was right in that it was not until the reforms of the Second Vatican Council wre generally adopted that the priest no longer turned his back on the congregation. In Why Revive the Liturgy and How? which was probably written about 1928, his suggestions included many of the changes regarding vestments, language, the times and manner of communion, that would have to wait almost forty years to be implemented`

This is in the context of his building of First Martyrs` church in Bradford which opened in 1935. The church is circular with a free-standing altar.

Many of us who are keen on the Extraordinary Form have heard responses like Mgr O`Connor`s regarding orientation. At seminary we were given accounts like that of Fr O`Connell. It just struck me that there must have been a widespread expectation that Mass `facing the people` was the way to go to revive the liturgy and how this helped the transformation take place so quickly. Nowadays thanks to the writings of Mgr Gamber, Cardinal Ratzinger and Fr Uwe Lang we are more knowledgeable about the whole issue and how the intention to face East for prayer was much more important to early Christians than liturgy `facing the people`.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Brinkburn Success!

I`m glad to say a respectable-sized congregation of about 40 came to Brinkburn yesterday so thanks to those who sugetsed we hold the Mass agani this year. The weather was glorious and the Mass went very well. Thanks to all involved, the singers and servers.

Thanks to Leo for these photos.


Friday, September 07, 2012


I`d forgotten to mention that there is a Solemn High Mass at Brinkburn in Northmberland tomorrow at 12 noon. The weather should be good so I hope there will be a good turn-out. Last year`s Mass was very poorly attended and I had second thoughts about having another Mass but we are going to give it a (last?) try.