Thursday, 22 January 2015

St Gregory and the Angles

Gregory (school)

The Catholic primary school in my parish is called St Gregory's. In the reception area there is the above fine picture of their patron saint (also one of the principal patrons of the parish.)

Here is a close-up of the scroll which the saintly Pope is holding.


The scroll reads:
Angelicum habent faciem et tales angelorum in caelis decet esse consortes

They have an angelic face and it is fitting for such to be co-heirs of the angels in heaven.
The text is a quotation from St Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Book II, chapter I. This is often abbreviated into a simplified account in which St Gregory is supposed to have said "Not Angles but Angels." Here is the fulller version of the episode as related by St Bede:
Nor must we pass by in silence the story of the blessed Gregory, handed down to us by the tradition of our ancestors, which explains his earnest care for the salvation of our nation. It is said that one day, when some merchants had lately arrived at Rome, many things were exposed for sale in the market place, and much people resorted thither to buy: Gregory himself went with the rest, and saw among other wares some boys put up for sale, of fair complexion, with pleasing countenances, and very beautiful hair. When he beheld them, he asked, it is said, from what region or country they were brought? and was told, from the island of Britain, and that the inhabitants were like that in appearance. He again inquired whether those islanders were Christians, or still involved in the errors of paganism, and was informed that they were pagans. Then fetching a deep sigh from the bottom of his heart, “Alas! what pity,” said he, “that the author of darkness should own men of such fair countenances; and that with such grace of outward form, their minds should be void of inward grace.” He therefore again asked, what was the name of that nation? and was answered, that they were called Angles. “Right,” said he, “for they have an angelic face, and it is meet that such should be co-heirs with the Angels in heaven. What is the name of the province from which they are brought?” It was replied, that the natives of that province were called Deiri. “Truly are they De ira,” said he, “saved from wrath, and called to the mercy of Christ. How is the king of that province called?” They told him his name was Aelli and he, playing upon the name, said, “Allelujah, the praise of God the Creator must be sung in those parts.”

Then he went to the bishop of the Roman Apostolic see (for he was not himself then made pope), and entreated him to send some ministers of the Word into Britain to the nation of the English, that it might be converted to Christ by them; declaring himself ready to carry out that work with the help of God, if the Apostolic Pope should think fit to have it done. But not being then able to perform this task, because, though the Pope was willing to grant his request, yet the citizens of Rome could not be brought to consent that he should depart so far from the city, as soon as he was himself made Pope, he carried out the long-desired work, sending, indeed, other preachers, but himself by his exhortations and prayers helping the preaching to bear fruit. This account, which we have received from a past generation, we have thought fit to insert in our Ecclesiastical History.
In a whimsical touch, the scroll is presented as a palimpsest with musical notation on the reverse: Gregorian Chant, naturally.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Epiphany Mass at St Augustine's, Ramsgate

This Tuesday at 6.30pm at the Shrine of St Augustine in Ramsgate, the Victoria Consort will be singing Palestrina's Missa O Rex Gloriae at an old rite Missa Cantata at which I have the good fortune to be the celebrant.

I have not heard this Mass setting before (Palestrina did write 105) so I just listened to the Kyrie via YouTube. Having heard the Victoria Consort a couple of times now, I am very much looking forward to their rendition for the greater glory of God.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Last Margate sunset of 2014

sands enhanced

After a late lunch today, I took the opportunity for a walk up to Fort Hill and then down along the beach at low tide. Because I can.

The better biretta

As it is still very much holiday time, it is only right that we should focus on the more important things in life. Fr Hunwicke has helped us in this respect with a thoughtful and erudite post on Birettas. I must say that although the various birettas that I possess all have pom-poms, I entirely agree with my learned colleague that they are a superfluous piece of frenchification and that the biretta is better without one.

Not only that, but Father makes a solid case for the unpompommed hat being the will of our Holy Father. And as he says
We owe it to him to get our headwear right, whatever the cost, come what may. 
I bought a pack of craft knives from the pound shop recently ...

High Mass in 1944

At one time, the portrayal of Catholic ceremonies in films was generally well researched and accurate. Nowadays, more or less anything goes: perhaps a reflection of the - let us say - creativity in the observance of ceremonial and indeed the latitude allowed in the rules themselves.

Seeing film clips which include parts of the older form of the Roman Rite is fascinating because the ceremonies are exactly the same celebrated today after painstaking study of Fortescue and O'Connell, except that they were usually carried out with greater smoothness and less fuss.

Thanks to Charles Cole at NLM for this beautiful clip of Christmas Midnight High Mass, and for the details supplied as follows:
It is an extract from the 1944 film Christmas Holiday starring Deanna Durbin and shows part of a Christmas Mass. It was filmed at St Vibiana’s, the former Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which was damaged in the Northridge earthquake of 1994 and sold to the city. St Vibiana’s has since been replaced by the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. The music in the clip includes Puer natus in Bethlehem, the Kyrie from Licinio Refice’s Missa Choralis and Adeste fideles.
(See: Was Your Christmas Mass Anything Like This?)

The Melodrama Research Group of the University of Kent has an informative summary of their discussion of the film.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Christmas at Margate

Praise the Lord, my holy predecessor left midnight Mass at midnight. A superb young organist put our electronic instrument through its paces and the sung Mass (mostly English but with Mass VIII de angelis for the ordinary) was suitably moving with a full Church and plenty of enthusiastic carol singing.

The above photo was taken on the Tuesday before Christmas, but is not an entirely honest portrait of our current weather. I am regretting a missed photo opportunity since today (a very busy day) I did not get a chance to snap Marine Drive covered in sand after high winds overnight. Perhaps another time before winter is out. One of my parishioners who comes over from the Westbrook side of the parish said that there seemed to be more sand on the road than on the beach.

On St Stephen's day the altar servers turned out in good numbers for the investiture of a new member, and the renewal of their own promises. The Mass was celebrated as an English sung Mass with full ceremonies and a hearty rendition of Good King Wenceslaus as an enthusiastic devotional piece after Mass. Then some eager volunteers peeled several sacks of potatoes in record time to be taken up to Cliftonville for the Open Christmas lunch today.

Fr Holden is my genial neighbour at the gothic (pointy architecture) parish of Ramsgate. I have decided to make the most of the fact that Margate is the oldest Church in Thanet, dating back to the beginning of the end of penal times. Therefore I think that in the respectable north side of Thanet we must hold onto the English baroque tradition, perhaps synthesised appropriately with the early movement towards the pointy stones.

Over the Christmas period, Fr Holden is host to two visiting Dominican priests from the United States Eastern Province, Fathers Aquinas and Austin. Father Austin's visit was a chance for him to visit sites associated with his holy patron.

Foolishly, over an informal supper, I let slip that I was "a bit of a Scotist", forgetting that with young Dominicans, I might as well have said I was a bit of a serial killer. I spent the rest of the evening protesting that Scotist tendencies did not necessarily lead to nominalism. Fr Holden rescued things by taking out a box of Balderdash cards so that we could pit Oxford English deception against Ivy League subtlety (which I pointed out was not exactly Thomist in ethos.) To be fair, honours were equal by the time we had to face the fact that pastoral work must begin again in the morning.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Discovering Sandwich

When your car battery has gone flat and the man comes over with his starter pack, you need to be ready to drive the thing for 20 minutes or so to get the battery properly charged up. I breezily set off for Broadstairs and after five minutes realised that Thanet is quite small and I was almost there. So having been told what a lovely place Sandwich was, I diverted for a pleasant drive with views of Pegwell Bay to the charming Cinq Port. There is parking just by the Quay (above) and it is a short walk to the Guildhall at the centre of town.

The name of the town and the proximity of Ham are obviously tempting for silly humour but those who make a living from visitors need to play it up a bit. So there is the Sandwich shop selling sandwiches:

and a No Name Street with a No Name shop.

So far, I have confined myself largely to Margate with occasional ventures around Thanet because I want to get to know my own parish first of all. The unexpectedly needed trip to travel a little further was most rewarding. And yes, I did have a sandwich.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Since you asked nicely...


Another Margate sunset photo. Yesterday (24 Nov) at 4.30pm.

Christ, lawgiver in his own right


The Holy Father made clear his desire to hear opinion on the subject discussed in the recent Synod, and five cardinals, along with several other scholars, responded to that invitation by writing articles for a collection: "Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church" edited by Robert Dodaro OSA.

The other day I decided that it was high time I read this book. On downloading it to my Kindle, I realised that the article on the biblical data was written by Fr Paul Mankowski SJ, and having enjoyed several pieces by Mankowski before, I turned to his article first. I was not disappointed: he draws on his extensive knowledge of biblical languages and culture to offer a masterly guide to the teaching of Our Lord on divorce.

In addition, I highlighted one passage for its concise and forceful statement of the significance of the "but I say to you" passages in the sermon on the mount:
The sermon (Mt 5-7) presents Jesus as a new Moses or, better, a Moses to end Moses, for he is not merely a transmitter of the law but a lawgiver in his own right—not standing in obedient alertness on Sinai but seated on the mountain and declaiming his commandments in the first person, saying, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. . . . I say to you” (5:17-18; RSV-2CE), announcing paradoxically that the Mosaic laws still have force, but that their force henceforth resides in his person, that their original function—namely, of connecting God’s chosen people to the God who did the choosing—has been accomplished and replaced by his own activity.
Here is a link for "Remaining in the Truth of Christ" at the UK Amazon:

If you want to see another article by Mankowski on an important topic of current debate, see his "Old Testament Iconology and the Nature of God" which was included in Helen Hull Hitchcock's "The Politics of Prayer" published by Ignatius in 1992 (page 151ff.) When I tried just now, the following link got me the article in Google Books. It is erudite, witty and devastating.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Big skies

SSAG 002

My Lady Chapel is photogenic. Following the example of a tweeting visitor, I took the above photo which also features one of the fine votive candle stands.

I was actually asked for some more seaside photos by a kind reader, so I am happy to oblige. At this time of year, the "big skies" can be full of interest, not only on account of the varied colours, but also because of their rapid changes. A completely overcast sky can change to bright blue and back again in an hour, something that seems to be happening most days at the moment. Here is the harbour at low tide under an uncertain sky in mid-change:


And viewed here on a calm late afternoon while I was walking back from the station:

Harbour sky

I suppose there could be some Church-related metaphor there, but that really wasn't the point.

In the past week, I have been formally inducted as parish priest by the Episcopal Vicar, and informally inducted by enjoying my first Christmas Fair. I hope I manage to get to grips with what needs to be done for Advent and Christmas - I am looking forward to that in my new parish.

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