Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Catholic Dilemma 286: Difficulties in praying the Rosary

My friend is urging me to say the Rosary but I find it very difficult to concentrate. Aren’t these devotions optional? Should I persevere with it?

It is true that outside the sacred Liturgy, we are left free to pray in different ways. However the Rosary does have the recommendation of Our Lady herself at Lourdes, Fatima and on many other occasions, and has been encouraged by the saints and most of the Popes of the past 500 years. Therefore I would encourage you to persevere.

The Rosary combines both vocal and mental prayer. At times, we might focus on the words of the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be, repeated lovingly as to a dear friend. We are also invited to ponder the great events of Our Lord’s life, death and resurrection, raising our minds and hearts to God in praise and thanksgiving, and drawing new resolve for our Christian lives. Both the vocal prayers and the mysteries on which we meditate, draw us directly to Christ. Our Lady does not ask for attention for her own sake but for the sake of her Son. In any kind of prayer we are prone to distractions. The Rosary can make these more obvious, leading us to try (though always in tranquillity of soul) to resist them, to bring our cares to Jesus, and to turn our attention gently away from ourselves and back to Him.

In 1959, Blessed John XXIII wrote an encyclical letter (Grata Recordatio) to the Bishops of the world. He began by speaking of the Rosary, and in the context of this call to prayer, spoke of his hope for the future, his prayer for rulers, and the danger of secularism and materialism. He closed by asking the Bishops of the world to recite the Rosary during October with particular devotion and to ask Our Lady to pray that the “forthcoming Ecumenical Council” would add “wondrous growth to the universal Church.” On the 50th anniversary of the Council, we could recall this intention of Blessed John XXIII, and ask that the Church might experience such a wondrous growth. [Note: this column was first published in 2012]

Catholic Dilemmas column published in the Catholic Herald
Suggestions for Catholic Dilemmas are always welcome by email or via Twitter @FatherTF

Filial Appeal to His Holiness Pope Francis

May I recommend to you the Filial Appeal to our Holy Father Pope Francis, requesting him to reaffirm the chaste and fecund family model taught by the Gospel and in accordance with natural law.

Signatories include Cardinal Burke and Bishop Schneider.

A long journey to Margate

People travel to visit Margate, but not usually over a distance of 9,000 miles. To be fair, Fr Michael Rowe has been in Europe for other reasons, notably the international conference in Rome of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy which I was so sorry to miss in January. Nevertheless, he took the train down from St Pancras today to visit one of the oldest missions in the Archdiocese of Southwark and it was great to catch up on news from Australia and many friends there.

I was mortified to discover, after hearing confessions in the school, that it was actually snowing when I went down to the town centre to meet him. I thought that a good lunch was in order after such a journey and we were well looked after by the excellent bastion of good honest British restaurant tradition, Bentley's Lounge and Grill, at the bottom of the High Street.

Father Rowe is Rector of the Traditional Latin Mass Centre at St Anne's in Belmont. I promised to post a photo for his people as he told me that some are kind enough to read this blog. Greetings from Margate! Father is standing in our beautiful Lady Chapel at St Austin and St Gregory, designed by Edward Pugin, the son of Augustus Welby Pugin.


Sunday, 1 February 2015

Glasgow Faith Forum

For young adults in Scotland (aged 16-25), the Faith Movement offers a series of Thursday evening talks on the theme of "Friendship with Christ."

These talks take place at 7.30pm in Turnbull Hall, University of Glasgow Chaplaincy, 13 –15
Southpark Terrace, Glasgow, G12 8LG and are followed by refreshments and Night Prayer. The nearest subway is at Hillhead or Kelvinbridge.

5th Feb
‘Seek the things that are above’ (Col 3:1) – Prayer at the Centre of our lives
Fr Stephen Brown

19th Feb
‘Lord, Teach us how to pray’ (Lk 11:1) – The Our Father
Fr Michael Kane

5th March
‘Things both Old and New’ (Mt 13:52) – Finding Christ in Scripture
Canon Luiz Ruscillo

19th March
‘The seed that fell on good soil’ (Mt 13:8) – Christ and Culture
David Kerr

16th April
‘Planted in Love & Built on Love’ (Eph 3:17) – The Family: school of prayer
John Deighan

Evenings of Faith - London

The Faith Movement is running a series of talks on The Church and other beliefs. They offer a great opportunity to deepen our faith and to connect with other Catholics. The talks are folllowed by wine and pizza. All are welcome.

Talks take place on alternate Tuesday evenings at 7.30pm in the Crypt of Our Lady of Assumption Catholic Church (entrance via basement steps to 24 Golden Square, London, W1F 9JR).Nearest tube station is Piccadilly Circus.

The list of talks remaining in the series is as follows:
Tuesday 10th February
Are all religions equally valid?
Anna-Marie Treloar

Tuesday 24th February
Can I love Christ but not the Church?
Sr Andrea Fraile

Tuesday 10th March
The cosmic meaning of the Eucharist
Fr Roger Nesbitt

Tuesday 24th March
Should the Church impose lifestyle choices?
Edward Hadas

Friday, 30 January 2015

The Synod On The Family - A Mother's Perspective

The January-February 2015 issue of Faith Magazine has been published. You can read the full articles online at the website or via issuu, or download a pdf of the Magazine. The editorial is on St Joseph, Model of Heroic Fatherhood, Joseph Estorninho has an article about Gregorian Chant in the GIRM, my regular column on the Liturgy tackles the question of The Scylla and Charybdis of Participation and there are many other items of interest including the question of science and religion which is at the heart of the Faith Movement's apostolate.

I particularly recommend The Synod On The Family - A Mother's Perspective by Jacqueline Stewart. It is good to see her confidently billed as "a stay-at-home mum to five children whose ages range from 5 to 16." The article is an intelligent, direct, and critical appraisal of the Synod on the Family from the point of view of a mother trying to bring her children up in the Cathoilic faith. Se asks:
What message was the Church offering my teenage children as they reach such a crucial stage of their formation as young Catholics considering their vocation? The simplicity of “chastity before marriage and fidelity within” almost takes the breath away of parents with teenage children when they realise how easy it can be to explain what the Church teaches to young minds. The mass media never promote such thinking and parents need the Church to shake off any reluctance or bashfulness in proclaiming these very clear teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

British Government to crack down on meetings of intellectuals?

Poland 006

Christian Concern alerts us to a worrying development in the push to enforce the teaching of "British Values" in the wake of the "Trojan Horse" scandal of Muslim infiltration of state schools. An Open Consultation has been published on draft guidance to be issued under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, for "specified authorities to have due regard to the need to prevent people being drawn into terrorism." This is itself a dangerous Trojan Horse.

Christian concern particularly highlights the effect that this guidance would have on Christian Unions in universities and Colleges (See: Protect gospel freedom in universities and colleges)

We share the concern of our non-Catholic brothers and sisters in this matter because the guidance would also effect Catholic Societies at Universities and Colleges. Essentially, such societies would need to provide, at least two weeks in advance, details of speakers and events that they are organising, including an outline of the topics to be discussed and sight of any presentations, footage to be broadcast etc.

This would impose an impossible burden on student societies. It is difficult enough to organise speakers, arrange travel expenses, print a programme and advertise the event around a university. To have to go through a vetting process would kill off initiatives that are part and parcel of a healthy university life. (I well remember the heady days of being President of the Newman Society in Oxford in Hilary Term of 1979, arranging a controversial term card of speakers to present traditional Catholic teaching, and getting the word out.)

A couple of years ago I visited Poland and met with some fine lay people who had taken an active part in opposing the Communist regime. As well as standing guard outside the residence of Blessed Jerzy Popielusko, and taking part in Solidarity demonstrations, they organised clandestine and illegal meetings of intellectuals which were the powerhouse of the struggle for freedom.

Are we soon to be reduced to such measures in England? Let us presume so, and begin to organise house groups, family gatherings and meetings of intellectuals before draconian laws are introduced under the guise of preventing terrorism, measures that will in fact prevent freedom of expression and enforce secularism, anti-life and anti-family policies in the public square.

Saint John Paul. Pray for us.

Confraternity of Catholic Clergy statement on marriage

The British Province of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy has published a statement on Marriage in the teaching of the Catholic Church. Parish priests may wish to download the pdf version for distribution.

This statement is a good summary of Catholic doctrine concerning marriage. Ordinarily, it might be considered simply a workmanlike pastoral document for sharing, to avoid different priests having to compose their own text. In the present circumstances, it has the character of a courageous statement of what we have always believed and continue to believe, despite the efforts of some to undermine Catholic teaching or compromise with the values of the world.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

A patron saint for rejecting the occult

Sadly it is common in England today, to see advertisements for psychic fairs, shops selling occult paraphernalia, and booksellers displaying books of spells for young people. I recently called into a shop I thought might be interesting but walked out again smartly when I saw that there was a tarot card reading session taking place.

Christians were blamed by superstitious Romans for natural misfortunes. Tertullian pokes fun at this. I quote him first in Latin, because lovers of his barrister's tour de force style will enjoy it.
Si Tiberis ascendit in moenia, si Nilus non ascendit in arva, si caelum stetit, si terra movit, si fames, si lues, statim Christianos ad leonem! adclamatur. Tantos ad unum? (Liber Apologeticus 40.1)
The translation gets the meaning, but not the accelerating punch of the original:
If the Tiber rises too high for the walls, or the Nile too low for the fields, if the heavens do not open, or the earth does, if there is famine, if there is plague, instantly the howl is, "The Christians to the lion!" So many to one?
The venerable Tshimangadzo Samuel Benedict Daswa of South Africa experienced a similarly savage expression of superstitious ignorance. He was a convert to Catholicism, a married man with eight children, a Catholic school headmaster, and an upstanding and socially responsible member of the community conspicuous for his charitable work. You can read more about him at the Benedict Daswa website.

In 1990, after heavy rain and lightning in the Venda area, and while Benedict was away, a traditional healer was brought in to find out who was the witch that was responsible. On his return, Benedict refused to pay a share of the healer's fee and insisted that lightning happened because of natural causes. For his stand against the occult, Benedict was ambushed on the road a couple of weeks later by a mob who stoned and beat him to death. Before his death, he said "God into your hands receive my spirit."

Just the other day, Benedict was officially recognised as a martyr, so the way is open for his beatification.

Pray to him for all those involved in the occult, for young people tempted to dabble, for those who sell occult items or promote occult events. When you pass a shop selling crystals, tarot cards, withcraft accessories and suchlike, quietly pray the prayer to St Michael and the prayer to your Guardian Angel. If you don't know those prayers, it would be a very good idea to learn them. In the meantime, say three Hail Marys.
Prayer to St Michael
Holy Michael Archangel, defend us in the day of battle, be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray, and do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the wicked spirits, who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

Prayer to your Guardian Angel
O Angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom God's love commits me here,
ever this day, be at my side
to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.
Lovers of Latin may like to know that the Guardian Angel prayer is translated from a Latin prayer that rhymes. Not classical of course, but easy to remember:
Angele Dei
qui custos es mei,
me tibi commissum pietate superna;
illumina, custodi, rege, et guberna. Amen.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Pegwell Bay, Vespers and the new Schola Augustini


The number of fast trains from St Pancras to Margate was doubled shortly after Christmas to two each hour, each taking only an hour and a half. This will help to increase the number of visitors as well as those who realise that it is possible to commute to London and work on the train.

Quite a few priests find their way down here on days off, and the attraction of the Shrine of St Augustine at Ramsgate brings many lay Catholics. Of course the senior Catholic parish here at Margate needs to be better known as well ;-)

Last weekend was one of those on which many things and people came together. The new Schola Sancti Augustini, directed by Tom Neal is formed of local volunteers who wish to learn and sing Gregorian Chant. They plan to sing Vespers once a month at the Shrine of St Augustine and yesterday was the first occasion. Above you can see Fr Holden, the Rector of the Shrine, incensing the altar during the Magnificat. The Church, if you don't already know, was AW Pugin's own "ideal Church" and is being restored in pristinam formam with help from the Friends of St Augustine and a grant from English Heritage for this gem of Christian art and architecture.

Vespers was followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.


After the morning Masses at the (also extremely beautiful and historically significant and architecturally spendid) Church of St Austin and Gregory in Margate, there was time for a little trip to a part of Thanet I had not yet visited: Cliffsend overlooking Pegwell Bay. The Belle Vue Tavern dates back to 1720 and has a glorious view over the Bay. Yesterday I'm afraid the photos captured a leaden grey sky, and coats and scarves were needed for venturing onto the terrace. But it is easy to imagine how delightful it would be on a warm and sunny day. The incumbents Tony and Shirley Pearson are welcoming and friendly, the food is excellent, and real beer is on tap.

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