Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pope urges priests to use the communications media

Fr Owl has drawn attention to this in his post Pope to Priests: "Get blogging!"

I doubt that the Pope means we should all watch TV - I don't watch any.

Zenit reports that the communique from the Pontifical Council of Social Communications says:
The Holy Father urges priests to "consider the new media as a powerful resource for their ministry in the service of the Word and wishes to express a word of encouragement in order to address the challenges stemming from the new digital culture," the communiqué explained. "If the new media is adequately known and appreciated, it can offer priests and all pastoral agents a wealth of data and content that previously was difficult to access, and it facilitates ways of collaboration and growth of communion that were unthinkable in the past."

Now, I hope the said Pontifical Council will learn the lesson itself. After all, the Holy Father himself was the victim of ignorance of the effectiveness of the internet in the aftermath of the lifting of the excommunication of Bishop Williamson. Pope Benedict had to admit in a letter to bishops:
I have been told that consulting the information available on the internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on. I have learned the lesson that in the future in the Holy See we will have to pay greater attention to that source of news.

Priests must be joyful

Zat is und order! Sorry. But seriously, Pope Benedict has said that priests must be joyful in a video message to priests attending an internation retreat for priests at Ars for the international year of priests.

Zenit reports:

"The priest, man of the divine Word and of sacred things, must be today, more than ever, a man of joy and hope," the Holy Father affirmed. "To men who can no longer conceive that God is pure Love, he will always affirm that life is worth living, and that Christ gives it all its meaning because he loves men, all men."

The Pontiff said the patron of parish priests had a "religion of joy," not a "morbid seeking of mortification, as sometimes has been believed."

In that regard, he cited one of St. John Vianney's sayings: "Our happiness is too great, no, no, we will never be able to understand it."

I'll try and smile tomorrow! Translation of the Pope's message here.

The Funeral of Ted Kennedy

Up to now I haven't commented on this, except obliquely here. I was in the US at the time and found the whole funeral Mass a scandal. It was not so much that Ted Kennedy was provided a funeral Mass, but the fact that it was, effectively, a canonisation.

Liturgically, it was all that a funeral should not be. A funeral is not a celebration of or thanksgiving for a life, but a humble petition to God for mercy and forgiveness. I don't think President Obama should have spoken - there was a wake the previous evening and he could have spoken then. The liturgy is the liturgy - what place did President Obama have in giving his views on his political friend in a funeral Mass?

I also regret the use of white vestments. Although this is allowed, I feel it neither adequately expresses the penitential/suffragial nature of the Requiem Mass (and purple/violet is the colour of penance as in Lent) nor the spirit of expectation of the resurrection of the dead and the second coming of Christ which is proper of Advent (during which season, again, purple is worn.) I don't see why black shouldn't be used. We use white to celebrate saints who are not martyrs and the Resurrection of Christ, which has already happened. All of us mere mortals still await the resurrection of the dead. Death takes us to Advent, not Easter.

Pro-life groups who expressed their sense of scandal that a politician who had supported abortion should be accorded such a public funeral ceremony received a great deal of criticism. But recently Archbishop Burke, the President of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, has weighed in behind them, condemning the political correctness that is part of the 'tyranny of relativism'. More details, links, etc at

Congratulations to Bishop Richard Moth

Yesterday I was one of some 200 Southwark priests who attended and concelebrated at the episcopal ordination of Mgr Richard Moth, formerly Vicar General of the Southwark Archdiocese, now Bishop Ordinary of the British Forces. The ceremony took place at Westminster Cathedral with Archbishop Nichols presiding from his Chair. Archbishop McDonald of Southwark was the principal celebrant and consecrator, with Archibshop emeritus Michael Bowen and Bishop Tom Burns as co-consecrators.

It was a thoroughly beautiful Mass with the de Angelis Mass setting together with the Kyrie from William Byrd's Mass for four voices, the "Laudate Dominum" for Mozart's Vesperae Solemnes de Confessore, the "O Sacrum convivium" by Hans Leo Hassler.

I found it quite moving to be reminded of the sacrifices made by our service personnel in the various zones of conflict around the world and the pastoral care provided by the chaplains. Wherever service personnel are, the Church must be there too. Let us assure Bishop Moth of our prayers so that his ministry to the members of our armed forces may be greatly blessed.

There is a dedicated web page with photographs and links to Archbishop McDonald's homily and Bishop Moth's address here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Thirty years before Summorum Pontificum

On my way home from St John's Seminary, Wonersh, today I listened to an enlightening talk given by Hamish Fraser in 1977 to The Roman Forum in New York. The Roman Forum is an
organization dedicated to the broad defense of Catholic doctrine and Catholic culture. It was founded in 1968 in the wake of Humanae vitae by the great philosopher, Professor Dietrich von Hildebrand (1889-1977), whom Pope Pius XII called “the twentieth century Doctor of the Church”.
Hamish Fraser was a presbyterian protestant, then a Communist active in the Spanish Civil War, and then a convert to Catholicism. You can find more about him at The Fatima Network.

He speaks about how the Church was in 1967, the years just after the Second Vatican Council: how there were great signs of hope.

In his Apostolic Exhortation Petrum et Paulum Apostolos of 22nd February 1967, feast of the Chair of St Peter, the Holy Father, Pope Paul VI, had condemned
new exegitical and theological opinions which, insinuating themselves into the field of catholic doctrine, cast doubt upon or deformed the objective sense of the faith authoritatively taught by the Church and, under the pretext of adapting religious thinking to the mentality of the modern world, prescinded from the guidance of the ecclesiastical magisterum, despoiling the testimony of Sacred Scripture of its historical and sacred character, attempting to introduce among the People of God a so-called post-conciliar mentality which replaces the spirit of traditional faithfulness with a new arbitrary and sterile interpretation. What would remain, the Pope asked, of our faith if these attempts at emancipation from the ecclesiastical magisterium, were to prevail? [Rough translation from Italian.]
So good Catholics were reassured that the Pope was defending the authentic teaching of the Faith and defending the Second Vatican Council from the neo-modernists, i.e. defending tradition.

Then, the following year, the good Pope defended the Church's traditional teaching on Birth Control with his encylical letter Humanae Vitae on 25th July 1968. (Was it Archbishop Fulton Sheen who remarked that the poor Pope suffered so much as a result of the hostile reception of this encyclical, that he never wrote another encycical letter?) So faithful Catholics were once again assured that the Pope was orthodox in that he was defending traditional Church teaching.

So faithful Catholics were grateful to their Pope and anxious to show their loyalty and obedience to him. When the Novus Ordo Missae was introduced, many were distressed at the radical shift in theology and apparent break with tradition that the new Mass appeared to them to represent. But, as it was not heretical, not invalid, and could be celebrated reverently and devoutly, even if it was ambiguous, devised as it was by a concilium, some of whose members were protestants, loyal faithful catholics wanted to accept the new Mass in obedience to the Pope, even if it was a Mass that protestants, too, could accept. And many faithful catholics suffered greatly as they witnessed - as I did as a young lad and my parents did too - scandalous abuses in the celebration of the New Mass, even as they knew that it could be celebrated reverently.

While some orthodox or traditionalist catholics did reject the new Mass, others wanted to remain faithful to the Pope who had spoken against the so-called post-conciliar spirit and who had defended the traditional teaching on Birth Control and so they said the New Mass must be accepted.

An interesting observation that Fraser makes - thirty years ago! - is that, while everywhere the old Mass was suppressed, it was never actually abrogated. This is what Pope Benedict himself declared in Summorum Pontificum. So there was this vaguenss of interpretation that gave traditionalist groups justification in maintaining the celebration of the old Mass.

Another interesting point made by Fraser is that, once the New Mass had been promulgated, already faithful catholics were petitioning the Holy Father, not for the rejection of the New Mass, but for the freedom of every priest to celebrate the older Mass without let or hindrance and that of the faithful to attend it, in other words that both forms should co-exist. Which is what Pope Benedict legislated for in his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum in 2007.

So, altogether, I found the talk fascinating. It can be downloaded from by clicking here: The Challenge to Traditionalists: The Fight Against Neo-Modernism. In MP3 format it costs just $1.50 unless you are a priest or seminarian in which case you can register for free downloads. Just a wee advisory: this talk contains references to Freemasonry in the Church. If such talk disturbs you, don't listen.

The point is made very clearly at the end of the talk that Dietrich von Hildebrand was always inspired by fidelity to the Church and the Pope. He was a daily communicant up to the end of his life. Although he much preferred the older Mass, he would attend the new if the old were not available. "The Mass is the Mass" as my good mother would insist.

Church painting

We are having the church ceiling repainted this week so the church is out of action. A temporary chapel has been set up in the house for weekday Mass.

Tragic deaths on Beaver Road, South Ashford

At midnight Saturday night I was feeling sorry for myself as the Church Hall alarm went off and I had to get up and sort it out. Little did I know that 15 minutes later two people would lose their lives as a car mounted the pavement just a couple of minutes' walk from here. The names of the two who died are confirmed as a 49 year old mother of three, Denise Head, and 67 year old Brian Moon. A 12 year old girl was critically injured. A 24 year old man has been charged with driving after consuming excess alcohol and failing to stop after the incident.

News of the accident is carried by the following, amongst others:
Kentish Express
Daily Mail

A floral memorial has built up outside the nearby Marino's Fish Bar. I have left a card offering sympathy and a Mass for the repose of the souls of those who have died, the injured and their families.

Excellent letter from one of my parishioners on the reilics of St Therese

In yesterday's Sunday Times. She's also Fr Owl's mum!
RELICS of the saints have been venerated by the faithful in the Catholic church since time immemorial (“Saints alive, all this religious tolerance has gone too far”, Comment, last week), as have the places where, in their belief, miracles have occurred (Lourdes, Santiago, Fatima, Lisieux, Avila, and so on).

The Anglican church also finds solace in and designates special places for veneration and worship — the Martyrdom in Canterbury Cathedral and the shrine at Walsingham, for example. The case of St Thérèse of Lisieux is far from being the “bamboozling of frightened, suffering, suggestible people”: Catholics are free to choose whether they visit and pray before her sacred relics.

As to Minette Marrin’s point that relics should not be taken into Wormwood Scrubs, why not? Christ was the first to forgive sinners. Why should prisoners be denied some hope because of misguided political correctness about the laws on equality or the view that “beliefs [that] are not merely irrational but sometimes dangerous and unacceptable”.

If personal belief directs the faithful towards veneration, then it is to be respected and accepted. The adulation of celebrity is tolerated by a far greater number than the “thousands of the faithful” who queued “patiently in Portsmouth”.

Bernadette Kiely Faversham, Kent

Well done!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pope Benedict to visit Britain next year

So says Damian Thompson.

Some reports say January, others September. Surely it must be September.

And reports are also carried at the following places:

The Sun

We must begin our spiritual preparation now.

UPDATE: Comment by Archbishop Nichols on the Catholic Media Office website (H/T to Catholic with Attitude who comments at Mulier Fortis):
Archbishop Vincent Nichols, President of the Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales, said:

‘We are encouraged and pleased at the news which has emerged about the possible official visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the UK next year.

‘We are glad the Holy Father is giving such consideration to the invitations he has received from Her Majesty’s Government, which accord closely to the wishes and requests also expressed by the Bishops of England & Wales.

‘The prospect of a visit by Pope Benedict fills us with joy.’
The latest BBC report I have just heard on the radio says the Pope's visit will be a State Visit.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rosary Crusade of Reparation, 10th October

The 25th Annual National Rosary Crusade of Reparation takes place on Saturday 10th October. This year it will be led by Mgr Emmanuel-Marie de St Jean, Abbot of Sainte-Marie de Lagrasse, France.

Assemble by 1.45pm outside Westminster Cathedral. Procession to Brompton Oratory. Ends about 5.00pm. (There is an anticipated Mass of Sunday at Brompton Oratory at 6.00pm.)

See some great postings on previous years' Crusades at Fr Timothy Finigan's blog.

Mgr Lagrasse's visit has been organised by a newly-founded English Charity, The Friends of the Canonical Abbey of Lagrasse.

I have been reminded by John Eidinow, chairman of the Trustees of the Friends, that I posted some photos on flickr of Father Abbot's Solemn Pontifical Mass at Merton in 2008.

The Abbot will be accompanied by the Sub-prior, Père Augustin-Marie de la Trinité, and his programme is as follows:

Saturday, 10th October, 2009
- 11.45am: Celebrates Mass in the usus antiquior in the Crypt Chapel of Westminster Cathedral, by kind permission of the Canon Administrator.

- 1.45pm: Leads the Rosary Crusade of Reparation through the streets of London from Westminster Cathedral to the London Oratory, by kind invitation of the organisers. At the London Oratory he will give Pontifical Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Sunday, 11th October, 2009,
- 9.00am: Celebrates the regular usus antiquior Mass at the London Oratory, by kind invitation of the Fathers, and hopes to be able to meet members of the congregation after Mass.

St Therese and the Priesthood

It is so highly appropriate for us in the UK that the relics of St Therese should be visiting here during the year dedicated to prayer for priests. St Therese had a great veneration for priests and she prayed for them.

We read in her autobiography (all quotations from Story of a Soul 3rd edition translated by John Clarke OCD, ICS Publications, Washington DC, 1996)that in the examination preceding her Profession, she declared at the feet of Jesus-Victim what she had come to Carmel for:
I came to save souls and especially to pray for priests.
In her Story of a Soul we read about her experience of priests when she visited Rome. It was not altogether edifying but it moved her to prayer.
Having never lived close to them (priests), I was not able to understand the principal aim of the Reform of Carmel. To pray for sinners attracted me, but to pray for the souls of priests whom I believed to be as pure as crystal seemed puzzling to me.

I understood my vocation in Italy... I lived in the company of many saintly priests for a month and I learned that, though their dignity raises them above the angels, they are nevertheless weak and fragile men. If holy priests, whom Jesus in His Gospel calls the "salt of the earth", show in their conduct their extreme need for prayers, what is to be said of those who are tepid? Didn't Jesus say too: "If the salt loses its savour, wherewith will it be salted?"

How beautiful is the vocation ... which has as its aim the preservation of the salt destined for souls! This is Carmel's vocation since the sole purpose of our prayers and sacrifices is to be the apostle of the apostles. We are to pray for them while they are preaching to souls through their words and especially their example.
St Therese also speaks of a desire
which appeared totally unrealisable to me, that of having a brother as a priest. I often thought that had my little brothers [who had died in early childhood] not flown away to heaven, I would have had the happiness of seeing them mount the altar.
On the feast of St Teresa of Avila in 1895, Mother Agnes of Jesus read to Therese a letter from a young seminarian.
He was asking for a Sister who would devote herself especially to the salvation of his soul and aid him through her prayers and sacrifies when he was a missionary so that he could save many souls. He promised to remember the one who would become his sister at the Holy Sacrifice each day after he was ordained. Mother Agnes of Jesus told me she wanted me to become the sister of this future missionary.
St Therese says she found it impossible to describe her joy at acquiring this new little brother.

In May 1896, she was called again and asked to "take charge of the spiritual interests of a missionary who is to be ordained and leave very soon." Afraid that she could not pray as well for two priests as for one, she recalled that "the zeal of a Carmelite embraces the whole world" and accepted the honour of having two brothers.
I hope with the grace of God to be useful to more than two missionaries and I could not forget to pray for all without casting aside simple priests whose mission at times is as difficult to carry out as that of apostles preaching to the infidels.
So her heart expanded to pray for all priests, "missionary" and "simple", in addition to her two "brothers".

What of her well-known desire to be a priest?

In last weekend's Tablet letters section, a correspondent, Katharine Salmon, writes:
What sustained Therese was her absolute confidence in the love of God, and this confidence was reflected in the certainty that God had called her to Carmel, and to the ordained priesthood, something she could not live out in earthly life, but would in heaven. It seems surprising that since Thérèse was declared Doctor of the Church in 1997, only one of her biographers, Claude Langlois, has linked her vocation to love and her vocation to priesthood. In this year of the priest, it may be helpful for those reflecting on the renewal of ordained ministry to look anew at the priesthood Thérèse speaks about – a priesthood where there is room for women and men in all states of life. She has been known as the patron saint of women’s ordination for several decades. On the occasion of her relics’ visit to Britain, let those who believe in a renewed ordained priesthood for women and men ask Thérèse for a shower of heavenly roses.
The appropriation of St Therese for the cause of the ordination of women is not news to me but it is not justified. It is an exageration to suggest that the certainty of a vocation to the priesthood is what sustained Therese. It was love that sustained her, and she found all the "vocations" she felt summed up in love, to be love at the heart of the Church.

This is what St Therese writes about her feelings of vocation to the priesthood:
To be Your Spouse, to be a Carmelite, and by my union with You to be the Mother of souls, should not this suffice me? And yet it is not so. No doubt, these three privileges sum up my true vocation: Carmelite, Spouse, Mother, and yet I feel within me other vocations. I feel the vocation of the WARRIOR, THE PRIEST, THE APOSTLE, THE DOCTOR, THE MARTYR. Finally, I feel the need and the desire of carrying out the most heroic deeds for You, O Jesus. I feel within my soul the courage of the Crusader, the Papal Guard, and I would want to die on the field of battle in defence of the Church.

I feel in me the vocation of the PRIEST. With what love, O Jesus, I would carry You in my hands when, at my voice, You would come down from heaven. And with what love would I give You to souls! But alas! while desiring to be a Priest, I admire and envy the humiliy of St Francis of Assisi and I feel the vocation of imitating him in refusing the sublime dignity of the Priesthood.
St Therese's use of the word "vocation" is one of analogy and expresses desire rather than an objective calling from God. She is very clear that her true vocation is to be a Carmelite, a Spouse, a Mother. All the other "vocations" are things that she desires but is certain that are not the will of God for her. Her heart is huge and has great desires, as every Christian heart should. But we cannot all be head, hands, feet, ear, mouth as St Paul reminds us. And St Therese finally says that her vocation, as regards the priesthood, is that of St Franics: to refuse it.

In this year of the Priesthood, in addition to praying to St Therese for all priests, "missionary" and "simple", we could ask her to intercede for all women, particularly those who are confused about the reasons why they cannot be priests, that they also may find their true vocations in love at the heart of the Church. This indeed would be "a shower of heavenly roses" as Katherine Salmon hopes will be granted through St Therese's prayers.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Can it be true?

That a town hall honours an abortion mill on its 30th anniversary?

Can it be true that a Cardinal forbids a fellow bishop from being present with peaceful pro-lifers protesting the honour?

Can it be true that so many do nothing to stop the killing?

John Smeaton reports.

I don't do enough myself. But if you want to join a group of pro-lifers outside the abortion facility at Maidstone in Kent this Tuesday, I'll be leading prayers. All are welcome to the normal parish Mass at St Francis' Church at 12.30pm followed by peaceful procession to the Marie Stopes abortion centre and prayers till 2.30pm, followed by refreshments.

The Killing of pro-lifer James Pouillon

Many other bloggers have covered the tragic death of this peaceful man, Fr Finigan amongst them and, of course, Lifesite News.

The silence of the mainstream media has been deafening, as Fr Finigan so eloquently illustrates:

According to Zenit on 14th September, Father Frank Pavone, Founder of Priests for Life, said:
This is a time to console one another, and to renew our determination to organize peaceful protests. It is no time for fear. And I am waiting to hear the abortion advocates condemn this killing.

A correspondent has written to the editor of Zenit as follows:
With all due respect to Father Pavone, we'll be waiting a very long time for the media, at least, to pick up this story. While I do not condone the murder of Doctor Tiller, the utter corruption of the media is proven by this case, because when he was killed, there was wall-to-wall coverage, and they tried to use the incident to marginalize us pro-lifers as the lunatic fringe. Their silence speaks volumes.

Joseph Melchor
Woodmont Academy

I think Mr Melchor has hit the nail on the head, or have there been any condemnations from the pro-abortion side?

You can see Fr Pavone's initial comments on the death or Dr Tiller here:

Further examples of media corruption at Fr Ray Blake. Matthew Paris is apparently "angry" about the publicity given to the relics of St Therese.

Prayers on Radio 3 for the former Bishop of London - now a Catholic!

As I was reviewing and revising/updating tomorrow's Canon Law lecture, I had the sublime Choral Evensong from St Paul's Cathedral playing through the computer. It was a 1982 archive broadcast. When they came to the intercessions, they prayed for 'Graham our bishop.' Graham is now Mgr Graham Leonard. I hope Anglicans listening will have seen the funny side of this. Say a prayer for them.

Listen again if you want to hear a beautiful service.

UPDATE: See sad news about Mgr Leonard's health in the combox. Pray for him and his family.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Why they came to see St Therese

Why they came to see St Therese... from Catholic Church (England/Wales) on Vimeo.

Vera’s story must be a warning to us all

This is the title of a feature article in this week's Catholic Herald. The writer, Felicity Smart, relates how she and her husband were left very concerned at the application of the Liverpool Care Pathway to their elderly friend.

She writes:
I ask about intravenous hydration and almost hope to be told that there would be no benefit, because then withholding it would be justified and I could stop asking questions. But the nurse says that in a case such as this, hydration is only given if the relatives request it because it just prolongs a life that would otherwise end sooner rather than later. So Vera could benefit from it.
"It just prolongs life!" So denying it shortens life!

Dehydration also causes distress, so:
A tube is inserted in her arm, which must be for pain relief - not only for the inflammation, but probably to allay the pain of dehydration. Pain relief is also a sedative. Dehydration, and the additional painkillers for it, could shorten her life.

During the course of discussions, Felicity Smart was told that her elderly friend, who was conscious at the time of admission, was informed by a doctor that
no further treatment (my emphasis) was possible, surgery being too risky for someone so frail.

Quite rightly, Felicity asks
if Vera know that "treatment" now includes nutrition and hydration. Did she really want to be dehydrated to death?

To which there was no answer.

The conversation with the palliative care specialist is also worrying:
She tries to tell me that very ill people don't want fluids anyway, so withholding them is not unkind. But did Vera know that dehydration is painful? Ah, but pain relief can make her "comfortable" (a word used several times as a euphemism for this kind of death).

This patient was treated according to the Liverpool Care Pathway, described as "the gold standard of care for the dying" and which "is being rolled out across the NHS.

Now I understand that care in these situations is an immensely complicated matter. If the patient's body is rejecting or not processing food and hydration, I daresay its administration can be ceased. But if the patient can use liquid, its administration is no more extraordinary than the pain relieving substances that are administered intraveniously.

I think we all need to ensure that we are registered with the Patients First Network that advised Felicity about the questions to raise with the medical professional.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Pro-Life Message to President Obama

Saw this on Damian Thompson's blog. Notice NBC and CNN (America's premier tv networks) would not show it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Daily Telegraph and St Therese

A friend tipped me off about excellent coverage in today's Telegraph. I have yet to read it - dashing off to prayer and then choir practice - but here are the links:

St Therese of Lisieux: who was she? by Anita Singh (includes links to the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate in Cornwall)

St Therese of Lisieux relics: itinerary

Relics of Carmelite nun St Therese on tour By Anita Singh and Aislinn Laing

The relics and bones that bring us closer to God by Christopher Howse

Society of St Justin, Martyr

When visiting medieval parish churches which used to be Catholic but are now no longer, or ruins of priories/monasteries etc, as well as mourning the destruction of culture and the separation of Christians that occurred at the Reformation, one can always take the opportunity to pray for the souls of those who worshipped in those churches or who are buried there, make reparation for past wrongs and pray for the unity of Christ's people around the See of Peter.

These are, in fact, among the duties that members of the Societas Sancti Iustini Martyris undertake. The picture to the right is the shrine of St Alban, protomartyr, taken from the Society's website.

A thriving Dominican Order of Sisters in Michigan

Whilst on holiday I picked up a card about the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. The card has the following Fast Facts:

  • Order founded in 1997 with four sisters.
  • Community has grown to over 80 sisters in just 11 years.
  • Average age of the sisters is 28.
  • Average age of women who enter is 21.
  • Sisters come from over half the States across America, various Provinces in Canada, as well as Europe and the Caribbean.
"We are consecrated women first, and so our foremost model is Mary, the Mother of God. Inspired by the charism of St Dominic, our prayer life comes frist so that our apostlate overflows from a contemplation nourished before the Eucharist." Mother Mary Assumpta Long, OP

Young ladies, go check.

UPDATE: See updated statistics in the Combox.

Address: 4597 Warren Road, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105
Phone: 1 734 994 7437
Fax: 1 734 994 7438

St Thomas Aquinas on Radio 4

Melvyn Bragg and his weekly philosophy programme on Radio 4 looks at St Thomas Aquinas today.

From the BBC website:
Melvyn Bragg discusses the life, works and enduring influence of the medieval philosopher and theologian St Thomas Aquinas with Martin Palmer, John Haldane and Annabel Brett.

St Thomas Aquinas' ideas remain at the heart of the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church today and inform philosophical debates on human rights, natural law and what constitutes a 'just war'.

Martin Palmer is Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education and Culture; John Haldane is Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews; Annabel Brett is Lecturer in History at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.

I hope to listen again later or hear the edited version on Radio 4 this evening.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

L'Ossequiosso Romano

Thanks to Father Finigan and John Smeaton for highlighting the problems with L'Osservatore Romano at the present time. I emailed them when it came time for me to renew my subscribtion a couple of weeks ago. I voiced my profound disquiet with the equivocal nature of their reporting at the present time but said I would still renew the subscription. If this interview with Blair appears in the English edition I'll be emailing them. In fact I'm going to email them with a link to Fr Finigan's and John Smeaton's blogs voicing my agreement. You can do the same by emailing

UPDATE: See also Lifesite News:

With its publication today of a glowing centre-spread interview with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, pro-life leaders are asking whether L'Osservatore Romano, the quasi-official newspaper of the Vatican, is engaging in a deliberate campaign to "appease" some of the world's most extreme anti-life and anti-family politicians.

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

"Young man, I say to thee, Arise."

Here's the homily I preached last Sunday. People commented positively upon it after Mass so I thought I'd put it up. (Perhaps they were just being kind...)

In the prayers of today's Mass there is a great note of humility on the part of the Church. She comes before God pleading for pity and mercy:
"Let Thy continual pity cleanse and defend Thy Church, we beseech Thee, O Lord; and because it cannot continue in safety without Thee, govern it evermore by Thy help." (Collect)
We are not a people celebrating ourselves, but rather conscious of our need of continual guidance and help from God. We are not a self-governing body where things are decided by a majority vote, political expediency, etc. "Govern it evermore by Thy help." The Church looks to God for its governance.

Man always searches for autonomy, but when he finds the kind of autonomy he seeks he is lost. He is like a man taken into space without oxygen and without a suit. It is only when we allow ourselves to be "governed" by God that we find true life and freedom.

This "governance" God carries out - in our souls and in the Church - by the work of the Holy Spirit: living in the Spirit, walking in the Spirit as St Paul puts it. (Epistle, Gal. 5:25,26; 6:1-10)

The humility with which the Church comes before God beseeching His guidance, knowing that She "cannot continue in safety without" Him, must characterise our own personal lives too:
- we should have a spirit of meekness
- we must consider ourselves lest we also be tempted
particularly when carrying out the sacred duty of fraternal correction.

We each know how proud we can be, how easily we can deceive ourselves. Every big fall begins with a little compromise here, a self-deception there.

A friend told me recently how, as a young priest, he had delayed his return to the parish where he was due to hear confessions. When he left, he put his speed-radar detector on the dashboard so that he would know when he was approaching a police radar check. He noticed, too late, that he had passed such a check and saw the police car coming behind him. He hurriedly hid the radar detector in the glove compartment and pulled over. "In a hurry Father?" asked the policeman. "Yes, sir, I'm running late for confessions" replied the young priest. "Where's the radar detector?" "It's stowed away." "Well, Father, I could overlook this, but you set out this afternoon with the intention of breaking the law and so I have no alternative but to book you."

I think the policeman gave that young priest, who is now a bishop, a very salutary lesson in the art of hearing confessions!

Another great bishop who as a youngster went off the rails was St Augustine whose feast we kept last 28th August. In his "Confessions" we learn that, as Pope Benedict said recently in a Wednesday audience, he "drank in the name of Jesus with his mother's milk and that his mother brought him up in the Christian religion whose principles remained impressed upon him even in his years of spiritual and moral dissipation."

In those years of dissipation, he sought happiness in things that could not satisfy the human heart, whether in the sinful desires of the flesh on the one hand, or the other manicheistic extreme of considering all things of the world to be despised, to be treated with contempt.

All the while there was a woman, a widow, praying for him: his mother St Monica. Like the widow in today's Gospel (Lk 7:11-16) she was grieving over her son's soul, as the widow was mourning the death of her adolescent only son as she took him to be buried.

That widow had no idea that Jesus would pass by and restore him to her. St Monica's grief was markedly different for she never ceased to pray to God that her son would return to the fold of the Christian faith.

Many families experience the total lapsation of their children. They might themselves have failed to pass on their faith to their children; perhaps they didn't realise how different the world in which their children were growing up was from the one they grew up in; they didn't reliase there would be a battle to be fought; they thought they could leave it to the schools, the Church...

What is sad, sometimes, is when parents simply shrug the lapsation of their children off: "They've got to make up their own minds." And they give up.

Is this what St Monica did? No, she prayed, ceaselessly, for her wayward son. She saw the whole purpose of her life in terms of winning him back, and once he had converted and, further, consecrated his life to the service of God, she considered her life's purpose fulfilled and that there was nothing left for her but to die. And she did so happily on 27th August 387 at the age of 56, asking her son not to trouble about her burial but to remember her, wherever he was, at the altar of God.

So, mothers, fathers, never cease to pray for your children who may have wandered from the faith, and pray with real faith and hope. Forgive me for referring to the example of my own mother, who spent one hour each day in the church praying for each of her six children, a different one on each day. Thankfully, five of those six children practise the faith. The other still needs winning back, hopefully by the prayers of our mother from heaven.

You don't know whether your prayers will be answered in this life or the next, but the Lord surely can't fail to have compassion on you as she had compassion on the widow in today's Gospel.

That widow could also be considered as imaging the Church that prays for her wayward children too. Recently I witnessed a young man laugh mockingly has he remembered his first Holy Communion, showing such lack of regard for the great gift that had been given him but which he now rejects. The Church mourns and prays for people like that. The Church constantly prays for the return of the lost sheep, and she has so many experiences of joy as the Lord restores to her those who may have wandered.

The Offertory antiphon sums up well the experience of the Church and of us as we place our trust in God:
"With expectation I have waited for the Lord, and He had regard for me; and He heard my prayer, and He put a new canticle into my mouth, a song to our God." (Ps. 39, 2-4)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Elton John to adopt?

Elton John's heart was 'stolen' by 14-month old Lev in the Ukraine. Although he said that he had made a decision against adoption because of his age (62) and his lifestyle (i.e. the amount of travelling he does) he now wants to adopt little Lev after visiting an orphanage where the parents of some of the children had died of HIV/AIDS.

According to a report on the BBC website:

Sir Elton said he and partner David Furnish, 46, were asked whether they thought of adopting.

He said: "David and I have always talked about adoption, David always wanted to adopt a child and I always said 'no' because I am 62 and I think because of the travelling I do and the life I have, maybe it wouldn't be fair for the child.

"But having seen Lev today, I would love to adopt him. I don't know how we do that but he has stolen my heart. And he has stolen David's heart and it would be wonderful if we can have a home. I've changed my mind today."

The singer added that the death of his long-term keyboardist, Guy Babylon, had also influenced his decision.

"Last week I lost one of my best friends; my keyboard player died of a heart attack at 52.

"It broke my heart because he was such a genius and so young and has two wonderful children.

"What better opportunity to replace someone I lost than to replace him with someone I can give a future to."
According to the Press Association, John's plan has given EveryChild, and international children's charity, cause for concern.
The organisation said that while it praised John's help in raising awareness of the plight of children affected by HIV in Ukraine, it said the answer to the country's deepening HIV and Aids crisis does not lie in international adoption, arguing that more children may be abandoned in children's homes as a result of another high-profile, celebrity adoption.

EveryChild argues that 95% of the children in Ukraine's institutions are not orphans and children born to HIV-positive mothers face particular discrimination. They are separated from their mothers and often end up in children's homes and institutions segregated from children not affected by HIV, it said.

Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of EveryChild, said: "High-profile adoption stories involving celebrities send out the wrong message.

"Research conducted in Ukraine by Liverpool University found that vulnerable mothers were encouraged by news of wealthy foreigners adopting from children's homes to place their own children in care in the hope that they would get a better life. Most children placed in children's homes are not adopted internationally; the majority face a bleak future.

"Children who grow up in a children's home are much more likely to end up in prison, involved with drugs and prostitution and go on to abandon their own children. The actions of celebrities like Madonna, and now possibly Elton John, could be actually increasing the number of children in children's homes in countries like Ukraine."
There are of course lots of reasons for concern about this. One is Elton John's reasoning: to replace a friend he has lost with a 14-month old child; his age; his (travelling) lifestyle; the issue of celebrity-adoptions; not to mention the fact of the same-sex nature of his partnership which is an unnatural environment for a child to grow up in.

Elton John is a very wealthy man. If he were to calculate the cost to him during his lifetime of adopting little Lev, and then think about what kind of legacy he might leave his adopted son, could he then consider donating all that money to parents who find themselves unable to keep their children because of poverty, sickness or other reasons? If he put all that money in a Trust fund for Lev's father and/or mother or Ukrainian foster parents to administer on behalf of Lev, would that not be a wonderful act of philanthropy and help alleviate a real problem in the Ukraine while ensuring that children grow up in their own proper nation with its particular cultural heritage and even in their own religion?

How some young Americans spent Labor Day Weekend

On our recent vacation, my brother and I stayed at the New Yorker Hotel on 8th Avenue W. 34th Street. As we returned from concelebrating morning Mass at the nearby Franciscan Church, we were greeted with a bright 'Good morning, Fathers' by a young man with an i.d. badge round his neck identifying himself as Paul from (The picture above shows how the website looks as I write.) A large number of young people were attending a conference in the hotel over the weekend. What the tourists thought about the banners in the hotel foyer is anybody's guess:

Here's the published program (I think you'll agree it is everything you would want a program for young Catholics to consist of):

Saturday, September 5 - New Yorker Hotel
8:00 am Registration Opens
9:00 am Mass - Homily: Fr. Luke Sweeney
10:00 am Fr Stan Fortuna CFR - Keynote, icebreaker
11:30 am Lunch
1:00 pm

Breakout Sessions:
1. Dave Sloan - Dating & Courtship Principles
2. Fr. Luke Sweeney & Sr. Anne Elizabeth Fiore- Called to be a Priest or a Sister?
2:30 pm Mary Beth Bonacci - Keynote, icebreaker
4:00 pm Lino Rulli -- Catholic Dating Game
5:30 pm Dinner Break
8:00 pm

Dance & Benefit for
plus a presentation by Catholic Ballroom NYC
11:00 pm Night prayer
Sunday September 6 - New Yorker Hotel
8:00 am Registration
9:00 am Rosary
10:00 am Dr Phillip Mango - Keynote, icebreaker
11:00 am

Breakout Sessions:
3. Jessica Rey - Fashionable virtue (Women Only)
4. Dr. Phil Mango - Calling all Warrior Brothers (Men Only)
12:00 pm Lunch / adoration / confessions
2:30 pm

Breakout Sessions:
5. Fr Agustino Torres CFR: The Catholic Underground - Building better communities.
6. Michele and Dan Fleming – Thriving Catholic Couples - (For couples and those discerning marriage)
3:30 pm Matthew Kelly - Keynote
5:00 pm Closing Mass - Homily: Fr. Agustino Torres CFR
6:15 pm Closing remarks
6:30 pm Dinner Break
8:30 pm
(2-3 hours)

Concert - scheduled to appear: Gentlmen at Arms, Dan Schreck & L'Angelus - emceed by Lino Rulli

*schedule subject to change
Monday September 7 - St Patrick's Cathedral
12:00 noon Thrive NYC Mass at St Patrick's Cathedral (Archbishop Timothy Dolan)
2:00 pm Picnic in the Park (details TBA)

Confession: Saturday 11:45 AM-1:30 PM, 5:30 PM - 7:30 PM. Sunday 12:30 PM - 2:00 PM.

Adoration: Throughout each day.

Service: Option to prepare care packages for the homeless Saturday 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM (box meals available).

Activities: Check back for any additional pre and post conference activity announcements.

I know my friend Fr Ben thinks I see the USA through rose tinted glasses, but I am once again impressed by the confident and in-your-face style of catholicism that is lived by the young people of America, and how the movements address the important issues of the day that matter to young people: prayer (with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and recitation of the Holy Rosary), the Mass, vocation, chastity in relationships, finding a good husband/wife, etc. It was nice to see groups of them walking through the streets of New York happy in each other's company, many visibly wearing miraculous medals, etc.

There are many excellent movements in this country too, such as Faith, Youth 2000.

Two weddings in one day

Congratulations to two couples who were married here at St Simon's yesterday:

Joanne George and John Frazier were married at a ceremony that commenced at 2pm:

The wedding of Annelize Dawkins and Able Seaman Barry Kersley took place at 3.30pm:

Congratulations to both couples. May God bless them with happy and fruitful marriages.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

New Look Southwark Vocations Website

The Southwark diocesan website carries news about the new Southwark Vocations Website.

You can also read about our new Southwark Seminarians at Wonersh

and all the Southwark Seminarians currently there.

I look forward to seeing them all when I return to Wonersh for lectures on Monday. Please keep them all in your prayers.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Back in the parish

Returned home this morning and, after a couple of hours sleep to mitigate the effects of jetlag and no sleep on a very cramped aircraft, pastoral work recommences, meeting a parishioner picking up her daughter from school in the church car park, and then a phone call from a couple asking for a passport to be signed. They then communicated the news that they are expecting their third child so the Book of Blessings was sought and a blessing duly given. There will be other more challenging pastoral matters ahead but it was good to be once again with the people of the parish.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Father Rutler on Eulogies in the Liturgy

Before my brother and I concelebrated Mass with Father Rutler this morning in New York he said that our mutual friend Father Kiely had put a post up about an article of his entitled Speaking Well of the Dead which had been first published in November 1997 but which is now featured at the blog.

It could have been written with the recent funeral of Senator Edward Kennedy in mind. Here is how it begins:

On July 29, 1997, a representative philosophe of our abortion culture, retired Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, was lavishly eulogized in St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington, D.C., where the Requiem Mass for President Kennedy had been sung in 1963. Richard Cardinal Cushing was relatively constrained back then, because liturgical depredations had not yet switched into high gear. It was not thus when President Clinton, who vetoed the ban on partial-birth abortions, was permitted to announce to all corners of the cathedral for consumption in all corners of the world: "Brennan's America is America at its best." That is, internecine America is at its best with 39 million fewer children than would have been born were it not for Brennan's eisegesis of the Constitution. Attorney General Janet Reno later said in a speech to the American Bar Association that the honors paid to Brennan in St. Matthew's Cathedral inspired her to go on.

Father Rutler preached at some length - the people expect this - about St Gregory the Great, the Apostle of the English, kindly referring to us as Angels joining him on the sanctuary with reference to St Gregory's comment that the fair haired slaves he had seen in the Roman market place were not Angles but Angels (non angli sed angeli). Father Rutler has in his church a fine copy of Holbein's portrait of St Thomas More, the original of which is a few blocks up the road at the Frick Collection.

He is the patron saint of all those in public office. His intercession is very much needed.

Kiss of peace too friendly?

A certain priest I met today said that, when his bishop queried the lack of the kiss of peace at Mass, he explained that in his parish, if you become too friendly, the people go away!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Aid to the Church in Need welcome the Patriarch of Jerusalem

Michael Cowie of Aid to the Church in Need sends this information.

Aid to the Church in Need is very honoured that Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem has accepted our invitation to come to London next week to taker part in activities aimed at raising the profile of the Suffering Church in the Holy Land. This has added significance coming four months after Pope Benedict XVI made a pilgrimage there. The key information is as follows.

Tuesday, 8th September 1009

His Beatitude, Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem will be celebrating and preaching at the 5:30pm Mass at Westminster Cathedral. Afterwards he will give a speech in Westminster Cathedral Hall. Drinks, canapés and other light refreshments available. Entry to the hall is free.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fit For Mission Marriage to be used in Rome Seminar

The Pontifical Council for the Family is to present the Diocese of Lancaster’s Marriage Preparation Course, Fit for Mission? Marriage, to participants at an International Seminar to be held in Rome (10th-11th September 2009) on the theme, ‘The Family as the subject of Evangelisation’.

For more information, go here.

A day for reflection on 9/11

Let me begin at the beginning.

This morning we concelebrated at different Masses at the nearby St Francis Franciscan Church, as we have been doing every morning since arriving in New York. The friars have made us very welcome.

This "National Shrine of Saint Anthony" is situated at 135 West 31st Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues. There is also an entrance on 32nd Street but if you enter by the 31st Street entrance in the morning you will find a large number of men being fed and provided with tea/coffee. I learnt that this provision of food and drink has been going on every day since 1929 without a break.

There is a very devotional atmposphere amongst the faithful. The morning Masses are well attended. On Monday and Tuesday mornings the Friars bless the people with the relics of St Anthony and St Jude respectively and all the people line up to have the relics placed on their forheads.

There is all-day exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in the crypt chapel and many people pop in and kneel before Our Eucharistic Lord, some raising their hands, others praying more modestly.

This shrine is also the place where Father Mychal Judge, the friar chaplain to the NY Fire Department who lost his life on 9/11, lived. One of the Friars, Fr Tom, told me that he knew Fr Mychal when he (Fr Tom) was still a teenager. West 31st Street has been named after Fr Mychal:

There is also a memorial to him in the church:

The above plaque reads:
Three pieces of steel from the tangled debris of the World Trade Center were entrusted to the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi following the horrific terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, which killed 2,751 people. This memorial to all the victims, including Fr Mychal Judge OFM, a New York Fire Department Chaplain, and Carol LaPlante, a Secular Francisan and parishioner, summons the grief and unspeakable sadness of that tragic morning. A single golden rose rises gently from the mass of contorted steel and transends the senseless brutality with an enduring promise of hope.
After breakfast we caught the E subway line to World Trade Centre to visit Ground Zero.

There is an observation point within the World Financial Centre.

The Fire Department's nearby office has become a memorial to all the Fire Department members who died in the rescue operation.

The above picture shows a poster with the photos and names of all the fire fighters who lost their lives. Along the wall is a huge bronge frieze with the names recorded in rank order below a representation of the events of 9/11.

Among the firefighters I noticed one called Michael Boyle. We are probably not related but I offered a particular prayer for him. The host of Irish and Italian names was quite remarkable.

And of course Father Mychal Judge was included.
Whilst standing in front of the memorial, I noticed a man who removed the baseball cap from the head of one of his two sons. After a brief moment, he made the sign of the Cross.

Next door is the Tribute WTC Visitor Center. This is an extremely moving and simply put together memorial consisting of a multi-media presentation of personal testimonies from survivors, articles found in the debris, a host of 'missing' notices etc. In one of the videos people describe the community atmosphere within the WTC. Many people met their future wives/husbands there.

Here's what one plane passenger said to his loved one before the impact:

and a collection of photos of those who perished:

A video displaying all the names takes four and a half hours to get through the list.

In this Centre I wept. Something about the patriotism of the American people was very touching. I think America is also at heart a religious nation. The video presentation on the rescue operation was extremely sensitive about the recovery of bodies, or parts of bodies, from the smouldering ruins. Every time a body or part of one was recovered, silence was observed and prayer offered as the body was removed with dignity on a Fire Department stretcher draped with the American flag. The Visitor Center is a permanent record of great heroism and stoicism.

One thing which is noticeable is that not a mention is made of the perpetrators of this terrible act. Everything focuses on the people directly involved. No doubt some will dismiss it as an attempt at propaganda. For my own part, I know that America is not a perfect nation or a nation of saints. But it is a great nation. It is also a hugely influential nation in the world, with the possibility of being a force for good or a force for evil. I would urge prayer for this nation that it may be a force for good.

(And had President Bush not declared a war on terror, nor gone into Iraq, perhaps he would be remembered as a great president.)

If you visit New York, do not fail to visit Ground Zero.


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