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Showing posts from May, 2006

International Mass

Let us try to be positive. Over 10,000 people from England, Italy, Austria, Korea and France - to name only some of the larger groups - all gathered for Mass, makes for an experience of the Catholicity of the Church. The actual organisation of the ceremony, including the distribution of Holy Communion, is reverent and very competent. My people always come back very impressed and moved by the occasion. It was a bonus for them that Archbishop Vincent Nichols (Archbishop of Birmingham) was the principal celebrant

There were some odd elements, looking rather like the Cardinal Mahoney Masses featured across the US Catholic blogo-hemisphere. To link with the theme of "Keep your lamps lit", representatives from the larger groups carried candles for the penitential rite. Bizzarely, these were housed in china ducks. There was a bit of coloured cloth-waving at the Gloria, and the Gospel was read 4 times by Deacons dressed in dalmatics with different coloured orphreys.

This gets to the …

Basilique S Pie X

It is difficult to disagree with Mac (Mulier Fortis) who insists on describing this Basilica as an underground car park. Built in the 50s when pre-stressed concrete was the latest thing, it accommodates over 10,000 people and is full this morning for the International Mass.

The Stations of the Cross are in a modern design but the interior is really brightened up by massive banners of various saints. These are either photographs or representational art and do much to relieve the interior.

Removing wax

Carrying a lighted candle in procession wearing a black suit has predictable results. One of the things that most clerics learn at sime time in the seminary is that wax can be removed by applying a warm iron over brown paper. The wax melts and soaks into the brown paper.

I have neither an iron nor brown paper with me so it is time for some lateral thinking. I do have a small penknife, a cigarette lighter and some of the paper from the candle protector. Heat the blade and apply it to the paper over the wax. Unlike a lot of these bright ideas it works.

Mass, procession, baths

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Our first Pilgrimage Mass was in the chapel of St Michel. Afterwards, I gave the basic orientation talk and we had just time for a quick visit to the Grotto before dinner. The torchlight procession begins at 9pm and Alicia, the youngest of our pilgrims,(recently made her first Holy Communion) carried the parish flag.

This morning's Mass was in the Crypt Chapel. We had the votive Mass of St Bernadette in the chapel where her relics are kept. The rest of her remains are at Nevers and, famously, incorrupt.

After Mass, the group went to see the Information Bureau's introductory film. I went to the Baths. There was no queue at all and I was able to go straight in. What happens is that you say a prayer, step down into the stone bath filled with (cold) Lourdes water, then allow yourself to be dunked backwards by two assistants. Kiss the statue, drink some water, say another prayer and away you go, refreshed, renewed and joyful.

The "terrible commercialism" of Lourdes

One of those standard, almost obligatory attitudes that you are supposed to strike up in Lourdes is to look down your nose at the "terrible commercialism". I don't go for this. People need to work in order to live and support their family; one way of earning a living is to run a shop. You could sell immodest clothing, useless artefacts to encourage vanity, or you could sell rosaries and statues.

The real biggie is the Palais du Rosaire with rows of rosaries, pictures, statues, medals and prayer cards. Everything is quite cheap and there is no sense that they are exploiting the tourists and pilgrims. All your rosary case needs can be comprehensively met here. I do admit that some of it is over the top - the pastilles made with genuine Lourdes water or the Lourdes flicknife, for example.

I go to the caisse with a large multi-coloured rosary (just couldn't pass it by), a small crucifix (so I can have the western iconostasis at Mass here), a Lourdes key-case (why not?) and…

Problems of blogging in France

It's quite fun reading the instructions on blogger in French - "Republier la totalité du blog" and suchlike. The difficulty is that French keyboards are different. There are all sorts of tweaks to accommodate accents, the numbers are uppercase and the q, m, a and w keys are in different places. The full stop is in the uppercase register.

I went to the Tourist Information Office to see if they might know of "un cafe internet". They gave me a printed list! In France, shops still close for lunch so I have had to transfer to the Cafe Le Carrefour which has a computer so I can blog over a gin and tonic. Annoynigly, this one has some kind of proprietary settings that make the styles of all the pages change. There is also one of those toolbar things; This one offers you the chance to "sauver dons Mon Web". Good thing is that the internet connection is much faster. Now, let's "publier le message".

"Keep your lamps lit"

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The Pastoral Theme this year at Lourdes is "Keep your lamps lit". On our parish pilgrimage we make use of the high quality materials provided by the Shrine authorities. The official booklet on the theme has scriptural and patristic quotations to illustrate the theme and a helpful reflection by Bishop Perrier.

Sadly, for the English edition, they have obviously asked a liturgical expert to supply them with the texts of some hymns that would go with the theme. Turn away now if you know what is coming and just can't bear it. These are the hymns:Colours of Day
I watch the sunrise
Shine Jesus Shine
Walk in the lightClearly somebody has to be shot. I'm off to the Palais du Rosaire to see if they can sell me a Lourdes gun.

Where I will be tomorrow

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Flying off tomorrow to Lourdes with 20 parishioners for our annual five-day pilgrimage. We make all our own travel and accommodation arrangements, keeping the cost well below that of the organised tour companies. Our programme includes Mass each day: we arrange the chapels by email with the most helpful shrine authorities. We will be joining the International Mass on Wednesday and the English Mass at the Grotto on Friday. This year, our Pilgrims Book includes the texts of the Hail Mary in various languages and the various Latin chants that are used during the torchlight procession. We stay at the Hotel d'Angleterre, near the St Joseph's gate. As well as being conveniently just across the road from the Domaine, it has great character and the proprietors and staff are helpful and friendly.

Don't know if there will be much posting this week but if there is a convenient Internet Cafe, I'll try and let you know any news from there. I hope to post some good photos when I get…

"Celebrating the Mass" - Review

I thought it would be of interest to readers to publish here my review of the document of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales "Celebrating the Mass. A Pastoral Introduction."

Celebrating the Mass (CTM) is “recommended reading for all liturgical ministers – clergy, liturgy preparation teams, musicians…” The intention is that it should serve as a pastoral guide to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) simultaneously published in the edition for England and Wales. Coming from the Bishops’ Conference, it carries a certain weight but its authority is uncertain. It is not, for example, an official interpretation with a recognitio from the Congregation for Divine Worship. It therefore seems legitimate to examine the document critically.

It is to be welcomed that attention is paid to the liturgy of the Mass so that it can be celebrated “more faithfully, reverently and fruitfully.” (CTM Foreword) It is good to see that CTM gives “pride of place” to Gregorian c…

Petition against World Cup prostitution

The Catholic fmaily and human rights institute has organised a petition to the German Government and the organisers of the World Cup to protest against the trafficking of women for the purposes of prostitution. The site gives the necessary information if you have not seen it already. Thanks to Gerald Augustinus and Fr Stephanos OSB for the information.

Sign the petition here.

Secretary of State prediction

Philip Lawlor of CWN is predicting that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa will be appointed in early June to replace Cardinal Sodano as Secretary of State. (That certainly counts as falsifiable!) It would be good if he is right.

Faith Magazine May-June 2006

The articles from the Faith Magazine for May-June 2006 are available online. I did the editorial article this time on the DVC. There's also a good piece by Fr Joe Carola SJ called Irenaeus Versus The Da Vinci Code. Over lunch today, I read Fr Nicholas Schofield's excellent piece on the Crusades.

UNAIDS report: 10% failure rate for condoms

This is old news (from 2003) but it is always useful to collect statistics like this from official agencies. The UNAIDS estimate that condoms are ineffective against AIDS approximately 10% of the time is probably very optimistic. Nevertheless, choose your risk example (e.g. would you fly in an airline that boasted that 90% of its take-offs were followed by successful landings?)

Thanks to Lifesite for the information.

Trite Worship Song

Fr Nicholas Schofield has posted a sort of musical rant written to be sung to the tune of Shine Jesus Shine. It's good fun.

(He has lots of other more important posts too at The Roman Miscellany.)

Pope Benedict on the priesthood

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Yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI met with the clergy in Warsaw Cathedral. His meditation on the priestly life should be read by every priest and seminarian. A short extract:You have been chosen from among the people, appointed to act in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. Believe in the power of your priesthood! By virtue of the sacrament, you have received all that you are. When you utter the words "I" and "my" ("I absolve you ... This is my body ..."), you do it not in your own name, but in the name of Christ, "in persona Christi", who wants to use your lips and your hands, your spirit of sacrifice and your talent.

“Turning towards the Lord” - address by Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith

I am very pleased to be able to post the address given by Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, the Secretary of the Congretation for Divine Worship, on the occasion of the launch of the Italian edition of the book by Fr Michael Lang "Turning Towards the Lord". (Thanks to Sandro Magister.)

Fr. Michael Lang’s book “Turning towards the Lord” – which is now being published in Italy – traces the Church’s reasons and practices, since the first centuries, relating to the direction of liturgical prayer.

The book’s objective and lucid approach will certainly make it a helpful tool for those who want to deepen their understanding on the subject. It demonstrates how the orientation of liturgical prayer as established by postconciliar reforms does not reflect the Council documents, a surprising fact.

In fact, in the preface to the book Benedict XVI, writing when he was still the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, asserts:

“To the ordinary churchgoer, the two most obvious effe…

Roman Miscellany: 'This is the Saint of Cheerfulness and Kindness'

An excellent sermon by Fr Nicholas Schofield on that most attracive of saints, Philip Neri.

Best news I've heard yet on the DVC

I was due to give a talk at Fr Chris Findlay-Wilson's parish in Cornwall on the DVC. He phoned me today and suggested it was all a bit old hat now. I'm speaking instead on AIDS, Condoms and the Catholic Church.

The DVC will probably still trouble a few well-meaning youngsters but it looks as though the coverage of the film and the obvious trashing of it in the secular press has begun to finish it off.

Critiquing Diarmuid O'Murchu's 'New World Order' - Catholic Online

I just found Catholic Online's translation of the Spanish Bishops' Doctrinal Note on Critiquing a review of Diarmuid O'Murchu's 'Reframing Religious Life. The English edition of this came out in 1998. My question then: Why does it have to take the Spanish Bishops to issue a doctrinal note about such an obviously dodgy book 8 years after it has been circulating the English-speaking world?

Their conclusion is Diarmuid O'Murchu's manifesto is based on a simple fact: namely, that "religious life is in crisis," to the extent that its very future, at least in its present form, is in doubt (cf. pp. 12-13). In response to this stark reality he attempts to present a solution for the future. What he offers, however, is an efficient formula for the progressive distortion and destruction of religious and consecrated life, separating it little by little from the Church, divorcing it from the service of mankind and dissolving it in a world that does not know Ch…

The Protection of Conscience Project

Dilexit Prior of Letters from a Young Catholic has commented The Protection of Conscience Project, an excellent website to advocate for protection of conscience legislation.

Elton John attacks Catholic Church

Elton John "has attacked the Catholic Church and its position on condom use as a reason for the demise of 60 of his friends to the sexually-transmitted disease, AIDS." (Article on LifeSite.)

It is a pity that Elton John should use his friends' deaths to attack the Church. Are we expected to believe that they did not use condoms because they were subservient to the teaching of the Catholic Church? In any case, the teaching of the Church regarding homosexual acts is that "they are contrary to the natural law" and "under no circumstances can they be approved". (Catechism 2257) If Elton John is saying that his friends died because they contracted AIDS through homosexual practice, then following the teaching of the Catholic Church would have saved their lives.

May I suggest that anyone reading this post offer a prayer for the repose of the souls of these 60 people.

Eternal Rest give unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in…

Jimmy Akin lets rip on DVC

Enjoyable hatchet-job by Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers, titled Who are these people and why do I care? It is well worth following his blog.

DVC gets Private Eye treatment

Private Eye issue 1159 arrived yesterday with some amusing items on the Da Vinci Code.

I-Spy has a photo of a sign put up opposite the Rosslyn Chapel, offering "Da Vinci" horse manure at 50p a bag.

There is a spoof advert (New from Gnome!) for "The Da Vinci Trouser Press", The Trouser Press that Christ's descendants would have used if he had fathered a child and gone to live in Boulogne. Enjoy the biggest mystery of the last 2000 years while steaming your favourite trousers.There is also a code to solve - "A Mad Nine Wait" (made in Taiwan).

Underneath this item is a cartoon with the caption "Hollywood Movies You Won't See". The film billed is "The Mohammed Code".

Then in "Books and Bookmen", Snipcock and Tweed are walking home after the film."The film's certainly faithful to the book"
(next frame)
"It's absolutely terrible"
"Silly, preposterous and unbelievable - and that's just Tom Hank…

Mayor's Chaplain

The limo turned up on time at 18.35 to take me to the first meeting of the new Bexley Borough Council, via the home of Councillor Brian Beckwith who was the Mayor-Elect. With due ceremony and some amusing speeches, he was elected Mayor and I joined the procession into the Council Chamber.

Bexley Council has a special cross to be worn by the Chaplain. I judged that cassock and sash would be appropriate for such a formal occasion and this was appreciated by the Council members.

The Council has had a major political change after the recent elections. From being a Labour Council with a majority of one, it is now a Conservative Council with a majority of 45. It was very good to be at the proceedings which were marked by a gentlemanly reserve on the part of the new majority and magnanimous goodwill from the new minority. This is something that we can still do well in England and I pray that such civil proceedings bode well for the municipal affairs that will affect the lives of the residents…

A Day at SPUC

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) is the oldest pro-life campaigning organisation in the world, founded to combat the Abortion Bill in 1967. I cleared some time in the diary today to go up and spend some time discussing various pro-life strategies with the wonderful team there.

I founded the Association of Priests for the Gospel of Life (APGL) to help priests to proclaim the Gospel of Life and we are just sending out our latest newsletter. I'll post it here tomorrow when it has gone out to members.

One of the important issues in the UK at the moment is to fight for the right of conscientious objection for doctors and other health professionals. In the UK right now, there is a real risk that pro-life doctors will be legally obliged to refer patients to other doctors who will arrange abortions. Of course, there will be some who will refuse and accept the consequences.

This is an important battle because there is no telling where this kind of "obligation"…

New Pentecost at Clapham Park

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Annoyingly, I forgot to take my camera today, so I was left with just mobile phone pictures. However, it is clear that the Holy Spirit was working. If you examine the picture on the left, you will see that Fr Basden and Fr Crean OP are being visited by tongues of fire. As with many paintings of the disciples, you can see that some of the brethren are gazing heavenward while others are focussed on the immediate visible effects. (click it for a larger version) Speaking in tongues was limited to Latin and Polish but I do think that there was some evidence of the gift of prophecy.

Biblical interpretation at Clapham Park

Fr Chris Basden, the indefatigably hospitable parish priest of Clapham Park, arranges regular gatherings for clergy at which we listen to a paper, pray together at Benediction and then enjoy lunch together.

Today's paper was given by Fr Marcus Holden, a young priest who is assistant at the Holy Ghost, Balham. The subject was "Pope Benedict XVI and the crisis in biblical interpretation". He drew attention to the question of the hermeneutic that usually underlies the historic-critical method of interpretation, and focussed on the triple spiritual sense of scripture. He gave some excellent illustrations of the use of the spiritual sense of scripture in the words of Christ and of St Paul, looked at some of the Fathers and St Thomas, and examined the problems of post-modernist use of the spiritual sense. I could not do justice to the lecture by summarising it and I am glad to hear that he is intending to edit the paper and publish it in due course.

The most important of the boo…

Examinees - prayers please

My sister Joan texted me this morning to say that Amy (my great niece) is taking her first GCSE exam today. I am taken aback by this but realise that I am getting older and therefore, by the same token, so is she. I was visiting another sister, Mary, yesterday (Happy 7th Birthday Charlie!) and my nephew Patrick was also busy revising for his English Lit exam.

So if you have a moment, a Hail Mary for these two young people would be much appreciated.

No, er, I mean, not that one, em, sorry

A post on AmericanPapist *whoops* Levada gets a scare from this morning's VIS tells of how the Vatican Information Service mistakenly announced that Cardinal Dias was appointed to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Now if they managed not to utter any profanities when they realised that mistake, I'm sure they will go straight to heaven.

Arinze on ICEL and Liturgiam Authenticam

Cardinal Arinze has written a letter to Bishop Skylstad, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, stating that the CDW is "not competent" to grant recognitio to translations that do not follow the norms of Liturgiam Authenticam. Apparently, some of the US Bishops are worried that we will all be so hurt if our cherished ICEL translations are changed.

Faith Magazine has been campaigning for over 30 years on this issue. As a priest and a Latinist, I am appalled that my people have been deprived for so long of the content of the Church's prayers. Here's an example:accipiens et hunc praeclarum calicem in sanctas ac vererabiles manus suasActual meaning:taking also this glorious chalice into his holy and venerable handsCurrent ICEL translation:He took the cupOh, I'm really so attached to that!

(See also Fr Stephanos' great caption to a photo of Pope Benedict.)

Adoremus Bulletin

The mission of Adoremus is [...] to rediscover and restore the beauty, the holiness, the power of the Church's rich liturgical tradition while remaining faithful to an organic, living process of renewal. Adoremus is concerned with the dignified celebration of the post-Vatican II Liturgy. Although they do not seem to have any quibble with the idea of allowing greater freedom to the old Mass, it is not their particular concern.

They have been closely following the debates in the US Conference of Bishops concerning the new ICEL texts. I find that Adoremus is the best source of information on this most important matter. They also publish good articles on Church architecture and music. The latest edition arrived on my mat this morning and it is particularly good. This current May 2006 issue is available to read online. I was amused by this anecdote in the article by Lucy E. Carroll A Choir Director's Lament on Lyrics for Liturgy:Here is an interesting example of ideology masquerad…

The Gospels, Historical and True

The Faith website has put a link on the front page to the pamphlet The Gospels: Historical and True by Domenico Grasso SJ. This is one of the earliest series of Faith Pamphlets, begun in the 1970s. It remains an excellent apologetic presentation of the case for the historicity of the gospels. Of course today it has a new relevance because of that stupid book/film.

The policy of the Faith Movement is to make all our publications available on the internet free of charge. It is possible to subscribe to the print edition of the Faith Magazine or to buy the Faith pamphlets. However, we are interested in spreading the ideas contained in them and therefore we are happy whether people read them online, download them or pay for printed copies.

United for Life

This morning, I came across a dossier on chastity written by Chris Mason of United for Life. Since I am trying to cut down on the amount of paper piling up in my room, I was pleased to find that the materials are all on the website. It is well worth a browse.

AIDS, Condoms and the Catholic Church

The notes for the lecture I gave this evening at Balham can be downloaded from my parish website's Controversies pages. It looks at the politicisation of HIV/AIDS, examples from the Philipppines and Thailand, Uganda and some other African countries. The example of the rise in STIs in the UK is used to show the effect of condom promotion. The CAFOD policy is critically examined. The lecture finishes by examining the Church's moral teaching and her practical response to help sufferers from HIV/AIDS.

Forum Christi at Holy Ghost, Balham

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The parish of the Holy Ghost, Balham is one of the most thriving parishes in the Archdiocese of Southwark. The parish priest, Fr Stephen Langridge, and the assistant priest, Fr Marcus Holden, work hard, set a good example of the priestly life and actively evangelise in their parish. The make-up of the congregation is mixed in age, ethnic origin and social background. To say that it is mixed in age means that there are lots of young people involved in the parish.

One initiative that they have started is the Forum Christi. A group of young adults meet at the evening Mass, and then stay on afterwards in one of the parish rooms. There is a 15-minute catechesis, followed by tea and biscuits (this is England, you know!) and then a more extensive lecture. The evening is rounded off by a visit to the Nightingale pub.

Fr Marcus Holden began this evening with an illustrated talk on the use of images in catechesis. It was a most enlightening exercise - he concluded by using three works of art in v…

Sermon on being "ready to give an answer"

I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. (Jn 15.15)

There is no secret, esoteric knowledge in Christianity. Our Lord told the disciples all that he had heard from his Father and he gave the Church the mission to proclaim his teaching to all nations.
Sadly, it is a lucrative business to invent a different version of the gospel or to make up some new stories about our Blessed Lord as in The Da Vinci Code.

I mention it today only because there has been so much publicity and some people are worried or confused about it. The book is, of course, a story. It is fiction. But fiction can tell us about real things. For example, Charles Dickens’ wonderful stories helped people to realise the evil of: poverty in London, the anti-Catholic Gordon riots, the debtors prisons, the violence of the French Revolution, the treatment of children in workhouses, and many other social ills. By his fiction, telling the truth about society, Dickens helped spur …

Lunch at Napoleon III's house

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Camden Place was the home of Napoleon III, the Empress Eugenie and Louis Napoleon, the Prince Imperial. It is now the clubhouse for Chislehurst Golf Club. Fr Charles Briggs, the parish priest of St Mary's, Chislehurst, has kindly been made an honorary member of the Club. He does not play golf but it is a great pleasure to be able to use the dining-room for Sunday lunch.

The emperor died in 1873 and his funeral took place at St Mary's. The picture to the right is a photo of an engraving that is hung at Camden House, showing the cortege in the Churchyard of St Mary's. (click the picture to enlarge) Below is the plaque on the wall to the left of the front door of Camden House.

Cardinal Dias promotion

Pope Benedict has appointed Cardinal Dias, Archbishop of Bombay, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. He succeeds Cardinal Sepe who has been appointed to the Diocese of Naples. This is very good. The Guardian described Cardinal Dias as "a staunch conservative close to Pope John Paul II" which, translated, means that he is sound on faith and morals.

His episcopal ring has an image of our Lady, to whom he attributes his vocation "She attracted and seized me". Here is an article from the BBC on his statement about modesty in dress at Mass.

(Nearly a year ago, John Allen reported speculation on the two moves in the Corriere della Sera. That's not bad going - the Corriere is obviously worth monitoring.)

Wisdom from English Heritage

In the post the other day, there was a leaflet from English Heritage. Lots of pictures and snappy text about how to prevent historic Churches (and other places of worship) from going to rack and ruin. Full of "Key Facts" and "Solutions" etc. I hope it will help to preserve some of our heritage.

One point caught my eye. There are four pages What can the Government do?; What can English Heritage do?; What can denominations and faiths do?; and What can the public do? The first bullet point under What can denominations and faiths do? is:See their historic buildings as real assets to their core mission, rather than as expendable burdensNot bad for a Government Statutory Advisor.

Oh Happy Flowers

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What with the first Communions this morning and the Wedding this afternoon, and it being May and all that, we seem to have done well with the flowers today. All credit to Hilda, our sacristan, who arranges flowers herself.

Looking at the altar, I am reminded of a hymn by Fr Faber that is routinely cited as an example of awful Victorian sentimentality. People quote the line "O happy Pyx, O happy Pyx! Where Jesus doth his dwelling fix." and we are all supposed to break into superior sniggers. Have a look at the whole thing, bearing in mind that this is intended for children and Faber puts a subheading "Imitated from St. Alphonso":O happy Flowers! O happy Flowers!
How quietly for hours and hours,
In dead of night in cheerful day,
Close to my own dear Lord you stay,
Until you gently fade away.
O happy Flowers! what would I give
In your sweet place all day to live,
And then to die, my service o'er,
Softly as you do, at His door.

O happy Lights! O happy Lights!
Watching my Jesu…

Congratulations to Sarah and Christopher

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Sarah Illsley and Christopher Lo-Mon were married today at Our Lady of the Rosary. I was rather pleased to get a picture of them being watched over by the Immaculate Heart of Mary. May our Blessed Lady always bless their home with her loving intercession.

Father's new motor

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Perhaps we could have this one for summer touring...

Actually, it is a "Beauford". Apparently, it is only 15 years old. They are made up to have the look and character of a classic car but have some mod-cons such as modern braking and suspension.

How to respond to scandal in the Church

St John Fisher was born in 1469. St Thomas More was born in 1478. Both, as you may know, died in 1535.

In 1492, when John Fisher was in his early 20s and Thomas More was in his teens, the new pope elected was Alexander VI (Borgia) who reigned for a little over 11 years during the formative years of both their lives. His papacy was marred by scandalous living, nepotism and venality. After the few weeks of Pius III's brief reign, Pope Julius II was elected. As a Cardinal, he had fathered three daughters. Because of his violence, he was known as Il Terribile. He was succeeded in 1513 by Pope Leo X, a wordly, nepotistic pope whose luxury distracted him from dealing effectively with Luther and the beginnings of the Protestant reformation. After the brief papacy of Hadrian VI, Clement VII was elected. He was, at least, free from reproach in his private life but an irresolute and ineffective leader. Pope Paul III was the last Pope in the lifetime of the two saints. As Cardinal Farnese, he…

Sacramental Theology Exam

The final version of the exam is copyrighted by Surrey University with whom St John's Seminary, Wonersh is associated. Here is my first draft of the exam. It gives you a good idea of what the students were asked.

Answer question 1 and one question from each of sections A, B and C (Time allowed: three hours)

1. Discuss what the faith and moral qualities of the minister contribute – and do not contribute – to the celebration of a sacrament.

Section A
2. Discuss how we might understand the theological notion of the character given in the sacrament of Baptism

3. Examine critically the scriptural and historical evidence which might support the practice of baptising infants.

4. Evaluate the theological importance of the development of the idea of baptism of desire.

5. Assess the evidence in the writings of the fathers of the Church for the existence of the sacrament of Confirmation.

Section B
6. Discuss the implications for the celebration of the Eucharist if Jeremias is correct in saying that t…

Oh dear; how sad; never mind

Prayer for married couples

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Lord Jesus Christ, we give you thanks for our marriage and we ask you today to renew in our souls the grace of the sacrament.

Kneeling before you, we repent of our sins, and especially any sins of thought, word or deed that have harmed our spouse or our children. We beg you for the grace to be faithful and loving to one another, and to teach our children by our words and by our good example.

With all our hearts, we renew the commitment that we made before you on our wedding day. Bless and strengthen us as we come before you, aware of our weakness and the power of your grace.

May the angels of God, guard us and defend us from all evil. May Mary our Mother and Saint Joseph remain always in our home to bring peace, joy and happiness.
Amen.

Prayer for engaged couples

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Lord Jesus Christ, we give you thanks for the love we share, and for bringing us together. Teach us to prepare for our wedding by an increase of love towards each other by an increase of generosity to others and by the prayers we make
for a long and happy life together.

Bless all those who are helping us to prepare for our wedding. Keep us good-humoured and joyful as the day draws near.

Mary our Mother and Saint Joseph keep us always in love with each other. Teach us to live as you did and to love Christ with great devotion all the days of our life together.
Amen.

Holy Family, Benediction, Humanae Vitae

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We have just finished our evening for engaged and married couples in the parish. I gave a short ferverino on the Holy Family and how they can help both families and engaged couples. Then we went into Church for Rosary and Benediction, including some special prayers (I'll post these in a sec.) After Benediction, Fr Linus Clovis gave an excellent talk on Humanae Vitae which was followed by an informative discussion.

I asked Fr Linus when he was going to publish his talk on slavery. This was an excellent talk that I listened to on tape in my car one evening driving round to the Seminary. He pointed out that the Popes consistently condemned modern slavery but the message was not preached locally in the pulpit. The same has happened with Humanae Vitae. I look forward to posting it here when it is ready.

England stats on STIs

One problem with our dearth of chastity education in England is that often the statistics that speakers use refer to the USA. So here is some information for England, especially for students who recently heard Barbara McGuigan speak.

The Health Protection Agency statistics make depressing reading. The percentage change from 1995-2004 shows large increases in syphillis (1449%), gonorrhea (111%), chlamydia (223%), herpes (15%) and genital warts (32%). The 2003 report to the select committee on Health summarised it well by saying that "the last decade has witnessed a dramatic rise in diagnoses of all major [sexually transmitted] diseases." The Office of National Statistics did a report showing data on the use of condoms in the previous four weeks. It found that 46% of males and 37% of females with one or more new partners used condoms on every occasion that they had sex.

If you have been given the impression that if you wear a condom, you are safe from STIs, you need to consider…

Comment moderation - on

A number of comments from Mr Anonymous have meant that it is prudent for me to turn on comment moderation. This is a standard service from blogger which enable the author of a blog to check comments before they get posted.

If you are Mr Anonymous and are reading this, I am sorry to deprive you of a platform for your comments about other people. You are free to say whatever you choose - on your own blog.

English survey on DVC - SAD!

Several blogs have referred to a survey in England about the DVc. Here is Amy Wellborn's post: open book: It's just fiction....

It is diffucult to convey to Americans just how bad things are here in blighty. It is no surprise at all to me that two thirds of English people who have read the DVC think that our Blessed Lord fathered a child by Saint Mary Magdalene. We have the BBC constantly pouring scorn on religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular. "Values clarification" is considered a good way to educate children in school in morality. Even in Catholic schools, many teachers think that their students need to hear "the other side". The fact is that the one "point of view" they never hear presented coherently and with conviction is the teaching of the Catholic Church.

The DVC has had, and will continue to have a major effect in England. Yes, we must treat it as an "opportunity" but let's not pretend it is anything but ne…

Da Vinci Code bombs at Cannes

There are various articles all over the blogosphere pointing out the reception that the DVC movie had at Cannes. I am indebted to Fr Nicholas Schofield at the Roman Miscellany for this link to an article from The Age which sums it up: Da Vinci Code is no cracker

And here is a review from Mulier Fortis on BBC Radio 4's disappointed coverage of the film.

Wuerl to Washington

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Here is a post from American Papist on Bishop Wuerl's appointment to Washington.

When I was first teaching the permanent Deacons in the South of England, I used to recomment Wuerl's The Teaching of Christ. This was only superseded by the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I remember that it came out in French long before the English version. I used to translate sections for the students.

Bishop (soon to be Archbishop, and, please God, Cardinal) Wuerl was secretary to the great Cardinal Wright who did so much to support sound catechesis in the 1970s.

Surfing through the age range

Today was one of those days that makes me glad to be a priest. After morning Mass, I prepared a class for the Religious Studies Ad-Level group at our Sixth Form College, St Luke's. They are taking their exam on 14 June so we were revising a couple of topics and looking at how to write the best exam answer. These were students just about to leave College so 17-18, I guess. They are great people and I pray that they will all get A grades in their exam.

Then over to Our Lady of the Rosary School for Mass with Year 4 - these children are 8-9 years old. A while back, I got fed up with the themes from All That I Am (Building Bridges, Special Places etc.) and undertook to produce Mass texts myself. So today, being not too far from the feast day, we had a Votive Mass of the English Martyrs. Lots of parents turned up for the Mass so I hope they also got a sense of our great Catholic history in England.

A short stop at home where I could do some work at the desk, then back to the same school …

Liturgical express

Musings from a Catholic Bookstore � When You Care Enough To Bring The Very Best… presents the mobile Liturgical Express complete with Air Trac Suspension, Wireless Internet Access, Full Vestment Sets, Polyphonic Choir, Jamming system (to disable electric guitars etc.) and Crack Altar Server Squad.

Cambridge Faith Forum

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The Cambridge Faith Forum meets in the Hall next to the magnificent Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs in the centre of Cambridge. The series of talks has been open to the parish but the attendance has mainly been from students who are at the University. If you are interested, you can get a download a copy of my talk on Dawkins, Evolution and Atheism.

The questions were most interesting and thought-provoking. It was encouraging to meet such a good group of students who love their faith. I was sorry not to be able to stay longer with them afterwards but I had to face the drive back to Blackfen. The photo shows a few of the group at the pub afterwards. I hope to be able to meet up again with some of them at the Faith Summer Session in August.

Bloggers meet

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The visit to Cambridge was also an opportunity to meet Fra Lawrence OP, the author of Contemplata aliis Tradere".

It ended up being quite a journey from Parkminster. Before I even got off the M23, the matrix signs were warning of "Long Delays" from Junction 2 to Junction 30 of the M25. By the time I got to Sevenoaks, the signs had changed to indicate that the jam was from Junction 3. So I had to detour via the M20, Kidbrooke and the Blackwall Tunnel. Fortunately I got there in time but had to grab a quick bite at the service station rather than being able to eat with Edmund and Fiorella in Cambridge.

Fra Lawrence told me some other news (well "news" to me out in the sticks). My old friend Fr Richard Conrad is the Prior at Blackfriars in Cambridge.

Baby Hugh and Aunty Joanna's Quilt

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The picture shows Hugh Ambrose Nash, born on the 20th of April 2006, son of Edmund and Fiorella Nash. Baby Hugh came along to my talk last night at Cambridge to learn about Richard Dawkins, Evolution and Atheism. This could be noted down now as an edifying story to include in a version of his life for children after his eventual canonisation.

Fiorella tells me that the quilt in which he is ensconced was made by Great-Aunty Joanna. (Alas, Joanna, you have to join me now in the ranks of the "Great".) There was some speculation that some of the material may have seen previous service on the back of a certain barrister of the Middle Temple, his Great-Uncle Jamie.

Parkminster - entrance

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This is the view on passing through the main entrance at Parkminster. The doors that you can see ahead are the entrance to the Great Cloister which is, I think, a third of a mile long. The Church is straight ahead and is divided into two choirs. Here is a site with some good pictures of Parkminster.

From St Hugh's to baby Hugh

A mini road trip today. I will be at St Hugh's Charterhouse, Parkminster for 2pm to lecture and stay on for Vespers. Then on to Cambridge to give a talk on "Richard Dawkins, Evolution and Atheism" at the Catholic Parish of Our Lady and the English Martyrs in the centre of Cambridge. The talks there are arranged by Edmund and Fiorella Nash whose first child, Hugh Ambrose Nash, was born 20 April 2006. If I remember to bring my camera, I may be able to post a photo tomorrow.

I realise that evolution is much more controversial in the USA than it is here. Basically I have no problem accepting the scientific account of evolution in accord with the limits set by Pope Pius XII in Humani Generis. Far from proving atheism, as Dawkins alleges, evolution can be used as part of the proof for the existence of God. Just have to revise a few things before I leave and I'll post a link to the talk tomorrow.

Helpers of God's Precious Infants - forthcoming vigils

The Helpers of God's Precious Infants have two forthcoming vigils:

24 May 2006 led by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, beginning at St Francis' Church, Week Street, Maidstone. Mass at 10am followed by procession to Marie Stopes abortion facility. Return to Church at 12 followed by tea and get-together (please bring packed lunch.)

27 May 2006 led by Fr John Seddon OSB, beginning at St Margaret's Church, 130 St Margaret's Road, East Twickenham. Mass at 9am followed by exposition, procession to BPAS abortion facility, Benediction at noon followed by tea and get-together (please bring packed lunch.)

As ever, these are prayerful and peaceful processions, undertaken with full police co-operation. Do go along if you are in either of these areas or if you have the opportunity to travel.

Deanery Clergy Social

The "Deanery Clergy Social" is one of those institutions unique to the Catholic priesthood. In Bexley Deanery, ours is quite well supported. We meet on a Sunday night in one of the presbyteries from 8pm and finish at 10pm. The host provides drinks and a simple buffet. It's a very simple way for priests to get together and sound off to one another. The combination of strong personalities, varied theological views and over two centuries of parish experience between us makes for a lively and entertaining evening.

Clergy are always avid for news of what is happening in the Diocese. The nugget of gold in this respect is usually Fr John O'Donoghue's latest from the Golf Club. Fr John was a curate at St Mary's in West Croydon when I made my first communion there. We were also able to catch up on news of some of the families that I knew when I was a boy.

It is odd for me as the Dean being the youngest parish priest in the Deanery. As well as Fr O'Donoghue, there is…

First communions and today's generation of parents

We have over 50 first communions in the parish each year so we divide the group into three and have Mass on three consecutive Saturdays. The Church is full for each but not too uncomfortably full. One problem for parish priests is that many people come for the occasion who do not come to Church regularly. Here is the set of "Monitions" in this year's revised version:The parish of Our Lady of the Rosary offers a warm welcome to all our visitors and guests for the celebration of the first Holy Communion Mass.

The children have been working very hard to prepare for this great day. Please help them to receive this Most Holy Sacrament in a spirit of prayer and recollection by preserving the dignity and solemnity of this sacred occasion. In particular, you are kindly asked to observe the following:

Please switch off your mobile phone
Do “double check” just before Mass just in case you have forgotten.

Please do not talk during the Mass
The Church is a “sacred space”. We believe that…

How to woo Eccleston Square officials

The Herald has a rather daring article today by Luke Coppen, the Editor, on the Comment page. It advocates that the bishops reform the bureaucracy of Eccleston Square; attacks the multi-million pound campaign to persuade rich Catholics to fund the offices; and draws attention to the problems with Caritas which needs £170,000, apparently, to continue its work which has included strong support for the idea that parents should not be allowed to smack their children when they are naughty.

The article begins with a cosy insight into the Editor's way of obtaining information. He talks of knowing when an Eccleston Square official, lunching at the Herald's expense, is about to reveal something interesting. I'm a little skeptical about this because some of those people are not inexperienced in spin-doctoring and it is a fair bet that they have decided some time before lunch exactly which bean they are going to spill and when.

I wonder, though, if my friend Ron who works "on the…

This week's spin

Not sure if this is spin or just incompetence. The Herald has a piece on the recent attack on SPUC which they rightly headline as a "poison letter campaign". Basically some anonymous nutter and his/her friend have formed "The 1967 Committee for Godly Governance" and sent round a letter slandering SPUC, saying that it spends most of its money on administration.

Paul Tully from SPUC is quoted as sayingThe letter contains a number of misleading and false assertions. We refute these. The point is clearly to mislead pelple and damage SPUC and the pro-life movement as a whole. but the article then goes on to quote several of the misleading and false assertions without further comment.

As a long-time supporter of SPUC, I have to say that I consider any money I have donated to their high quality work to be very well spent.

Mac has a blog!

Mac McLernon has now started her own blog Mulier Fortis. There is a fine opening rant on inclusive language.

Interview with Archbishop Burke

The Archbishop of St Louis in the USA, interviewed by Brian Mershon has some very sensible things to say about the old rite of Mass and the sacraments.

Sickest Mother's Day idea ever

The so-called "Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice" is suggesting that for Mother's Day you donate to their pro-abortion cause. (Make this a pro-choice Mother's Day) I wonder what Sigmund Freud would have made of that.

DVC and Hollywood double standards

Opus Dei requested that Sony Pictures include a disclaimer in the film to state that it is a work of fiction. The director, Ron Howard, has refused to include one.

The post No Da Vinci Disclaimer at Gerald Augustinus' blog lists fictional films which included a disclaimer to limit offence to particular groups - Asians, Blacks, Gays, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Native Americans, Nearsighted and Wolves. (Yes, wolves!)

Gerald's post quotes from the article It's show time for Ron Howard from the excellent "Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights" in the USA. Bill Donohue ends the piece by saying:Apparently, Ron Howard is more of a gambler than I thought. Had he done what other directors have done before him and put in a disclaimer, the risks to his reputation would have been minimal. Now it’s show time for Mr. Howard, and not just his movie.(Meanwhile, here in England, the gung-ho approach of the "Da Vinci Code Response Group" is to say it is harmless fu…

Parents' Faith Club

As a parish priest, you have to try various things out to teach people the faith and to encourage them to a deeper spiritual life. The best ideas are often those that arise spontaneously from parishioners. One such was the "Parents' Faith Club".

One of the mothers at my Junior School said "Father, you're always talking to young people about the Catholic faith but we didn't learn much about it when we were young. Can you do a group for us?" The only possible answer to that sort of request is, of course, "Yes!"

We arranged to meet in the Junior School chapel. This is half of a converted classroom and has an altar designed by the children (quite simple but rather better than some of the horrors exposed on The Cafeteria is Closed), some good pictures on the wall and some coloured glass decorations for the window. The Blessed Sacrament is not reserved and the chapel is used for the Rosary, for confessions and for classes to pray together sometimes.

We…

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