Saturday, December 31, 2011

US Anglican Ordinariate to be established tomorrow

As announced by the USCCB on Nov. 15th. We await the announcement tomorrow. Reluctant Sinner writes about a prediction and gives further background. It will be a historic day for the Church in the USA.

Pope Benedict places his hopes in the youth

Educating Young People in Justice and Peace: the theme of the 2012 World Day of Prayer for Peace, January 1st.

Now, this isn't a message about an end to wars. In fact, the Pope states that "Peace is not merely the absence of war, and it is not limited to maintaining a balance of powers between adversaries." The Pope's message is about fraternity, solidarity, the nature of man.

Pope Benedict asks us to help young people to acquire an "integral formation of the person including the moral and spiritual dimension focused upon man's final end." In other words, to understand the truth about man, it would be helpful to know why he exists or to answer the question: who is man?

The message is deeply philosophical. While he says that the "Church looks to young people with hope and confidence," he does not admit that they have all the answers. Rather, while there must certainly be a willingness to listen to young people:
Attentiveness to young people and their concerns, the ability to listen to them and appreciate them, is not merely something expedient; it represents a primary duty for society as a whole, for the sake of building a future of justice and peace
the older generation must educate young people:
It is a matter of communicating to young people an appreciation for the positive value of life and awakening in them a desire to spend their lives in the service of the Good.
The Holy Father continues:
Educating ... means leading young people to move beyond themselves and introducing them to reality... This process is fostered by the encounter of two freedoms, that of adults and that of the young. It calls for responsibility on the part of the learners, who must be open to being led to the knowledge of reality, and on the part of educators, who must be ready to give of themselves. For this reason ... we need authentic witnesses [I presume the Holy Father refers to adults here witnessing to the young], and not simply people who parcel out rules and facts; we need witnesses capable of seeing farther than others because their life is so much broader [because of acquire wisdom perhaps?]. A witness is someone who first lives the life that he proposes to others.
Pope Benedict's complete message may be found here.

New Year Blessing

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace.”

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It isn’t possible to be Christocentric if we are not solidly Marian. Mary: destroyer of all heresies.

Photo from eclectic imaging. Lady altar of the Church of San Carlo in Corso with
a variation on the antiphon quoted in this post. "You only have destroyed
all heresies."
This might seem a rather extreme notion and yet it is referred to in a letter from the Congregation for the Clergy on the occasion of the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God.

The letter quotes the antiphon from the old Roman Breviary and the Tract in the Mass Salve sancte parens from the 1962 Roman Missal:
Gaude, Maria Virgo, cunctas haereses tu sola interemisti in universo mundo – Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, thou only hast killed all heresies in the universal world’.
But here is the letter in full (with some addedcemphases):

The connection between the Lord’s birth and Mary’s Divine maternity is clearly expressed in one of St Cyril of Alexandria’s (444) twelve anathemas, which was accepted by the Council of Ephesus (431) and defined the dogma of the faith that Mary of Nazareth is the Mother of God: ‘If anyone does not confess that Emmanuel is God in truth, and therefore that the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God, for she bore in a fleshly way the Word of God made flesh, let him be anathema’. (Denz-Schonm, 252 - ) Only a few days ago we adored the presence of the Word Incarnate in the humble manager at Bethlehem.   Now, the Church invites us to turn our gaze towards that other magnificent figure in the crib, the Mother of God, God made flesh.

In recent times the devotion to the Mother of God has weakened in some sectors of the Church.  There were concerns, by some, that honouring Mary too much may turn our attention from the adoration of Christ.  It was therefore deemed appropriate the radicalise the Christo centricity, highlighting only the uniqueness of Christ’s salvific mediation to the detriment of the participative mediation of the angels, saints and the Mother of God.  In doing so they have forgotten the ancient adage:  ad Jesum per Mariam – ‘to Jesus through Mary’.  The Mother always leads us towards her Son, and never further away from Him.  The II Vatican Council expressed this teaching through the following words:  :  For all the salvific influence of the Blessed Virgin on men originates, not from some inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it. In no way does it impede, but rather does it foster the immediate union of the faithful with Christ.(Lumen Gentium, n.60 ).

In reality we must recognise that Mary’s role does not constitute an obstacle, but rather is an efficacious aid the admission of faith in Christ.  The Mother of God, with her virginal purity also represents and defends the purity of Christian doctrine.  The following beautiful Marian antiphon is found in the breviary: ‘Gaude, Maria Virgo, cunctas haereses tu sola interemisti in universo mundo – Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, thou only hast killed all heresies in the universal world’.  The renowned biblical scholar, Ignatius de la Potterie, commented on this antiphon as follows: ‘It is not that Mary had done something in her life against heresies, but the recognition of Mary in the Marian dogmas, that is a sign and bulwark of the steadfastness of the faith’. 

Cardinal Ratzinger, in his book-interview with Vittorio Messori, (Report on the faith) highlighted that ‘Mary triumphed over every heresy’.  If we grant Mary the place that is suggested in Tradition and dogma, we find her already truly central to the Christology of the Church.  The first dogmas, regarding her perpetual virginity and divine maternity, and also the ultimate dogmas (the Immaculate Conception and her bodily Assumption into heavenly glory), are the secure basis for the Christian faith in the incarnation of the Son of God. The Marian Dogmas implicitly confess both faith in the living God, who can intervene in the material world, and also, the faith regarding the ultimate realities (resurrection of the flesh and therefore the transfiguration of the same material world).  Also, one hopes for the realisation of the project to re-introduce, preferably on the feast of Mary’s bodily Assumption to heaven on the 15th August, the beautiful antiphon put aside for the liturgical reform.’  (in 30 Giorni, 12 [October 1995], p.71).

It isn’t possible to be Christocentric if we are not solidly Marian.  In these days the Church prays in a particular way for peace.  It is appropriate that the faithful turn to the ever Virgin Mother of God, to obtain from the Lord, through her intersession, the gift of peace for every one of us, for the Church, and the world.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A bloody Christmas Day in Nigeria

Two Catholic churces attacked, almost forty dead, many more wounded. Militant Islamist group Boko Haram claims responsibilityl

See BBC News.

See Fox News.

The candy cane, as I have recently learned, illustrates that the Christmas feast is a prelude the shedding of His blood by Our Lord Jesus. The three thin red stripes represent the scourges inflicted upon Christ in His Sacred Passion, and the thick red stripe represents His Sacred Blood shed upon the Cross. The cane is in the shape of a shepherd's crook - the shepherds sought their Good Shepherd in the Babe in the manger.

Christian brothers and sisters of ours shed their blood and died today, as did St Stephen whose martyrdom we celebrate tomorrow and the Holy Innocents whose sacrifice we celebrate on Wednesday.

Let us pray for the security of our Christian brothers and sisters in Nigeria, and for PEACE!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas - not so peaceful for the Christians of Iraq

 This was the scene in a Baghdad church October 31st last year.

At that time the US Bishops said the US has a moral obligation to help Iraq. Now the troops have come home. What will happen?
Vatican Radio: Chaldean Catholic officials have cancelled traditional Christmas Eve midnight Masses in Iraq because of security risks. They said Iraqi Christians will spend Christmas in "great fear" because of the risk of new attacks.

“We have many difficulties because of the situation that there is no peace and no security, permanent security,” said Bishop Mar Shlemon Warduni, Auxiliary Bishop of the Patriarchate of Babylon, Iraq, of the Chaldean Catholic Church. “So for these days of Christmas and the New Year, we hope to celebrate the feast, but not Midnight [Mass], because there are too many difficulties.”

Bishop Warduni said that, despite many difficulties, for Christians in Iraq, “Our duty is to pray for peace.” He spoke of his prayer during this holy season: “And so we ask the Child of Bethlehem to give us this security and peace, to give us joy and peace, and we cry with angels ‘Glory be to the Lord in the highest heaven, and peace on the earth. We ask him this only, and not only for the Iraqi people, for Christians in Iraq, but for everybody in the Middle East.”

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thanks to 9A at De La Salle College, Belfast

Thank you 9A for your kind Christmas card. Be assured of my prayers for you and for your teacher. May you have a Happy and Holy Christmas, and every blessing in the New Year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Wonder of Life at Christmas

This video by Youth Defence

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha to be canonised - the first Native American Saint!

I was delighted to hear this news on local Public Radio this morning. I have blogged before about Blessed Kateri.

Barbara Bradley Hagerty/NPR. Jake Finkbonner, shown with his
father, Donny, and mother, Elsa, nearly died after contracting
a flesh-eating bacterium. His family and friends prayed for a
miracle, and now the Vatican has declared that his recovery
was considered a miracle by the church.
The canonisation can take place thanks to a miracle attributed to Blessed Kateri's intercession by which a young American boy of Native American descent Jake Finkbonner recovered from a flesh-eating bacteria that nearly killed him. Further details can be read at The Bellingham Herald (h/t to The Deacon's Bench).

Here is the Vatican's Press Release:
VATICAN CITY, 20 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father yesterday signed decrees acknowledging miracles attributed to the intervention of seven blesseds (four women and three men) who will shortly be canonised. One of the new blesseds is Kateri Tekakwitha, the first native North American to be raised to the glory of the altars.

Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1656 in Ossernenon (present-day Auriesville, U.S.A.). Her father was a Mohawk chief and her mother a Roman Catholic Algonquian who had been educated by French missionaries. At the age of four she lost her family in a smallpox epidemic which also left her disfigured and with poor eyesight. Adopted by a relative, the chief of neighbouring clan, she continued to nurture an interest in Christianity and was baptised at the age of 20.

The members of her tribe did not understand her new religious affiliation and she was marginalised, practising physical mortification as a path of sanctity and praying for the conversion of her relatives. Having suffered persecutions which put her life at risk, she was forced to flee to a native American Christian community in Kahnawake, Quebec where she made a vow of chastity and lived a life dedicated to prayer, penance, and care for the sick and elderly. She died in 1680 at the age of 24. Her last words were: "Jesus, I love you". According to tradition, Kateri's scars disappeared after her death to reveal a woman of great beauty, and numerous sick people who participated in her funeral were miraculously healed.

The process of canonisation began in 1884. She was declared venerable by Pius XII in 1943 and beatified by John Paul II in 1980. As the first native North American to be beatified she occupies a special place in the devotion of her people. Her feast day falls on 14 July.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bishop Mark Davies to restore central position of Tabernacle?

I have heard from a good priest friend of mine from another continent (not Europe) that he was watching Bishop Davies' recent Advent reflection on EWTN during which he announced that the tabernacle at Shrewsbury Cathedral would be placed in a central position.

Has this been announced anywhere else?

It would certainly be in keeping with what Pope Benedict wrote in his post synodal apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis:
"The correct positioning of the tabernacle contributes to the recognition of Christ's real presence in the Blessed Sacrament. Therefore, the place where the eucharistic species are reserved, marked by a sanctuary lamp, should be readily visible to everyone entering the church. It is therefore necessary to take into account the builiding's architecture: in churches which do not have a Blessed Sacrament chapel, and where the high altar with its tabernacle is still in place, it is appropriate to continue to use this structure for the reservation and adoration of the Eucharist, taking care not to place the celebrant's chair in front of it."
In some cathedrals, there is a very prominent Blessed Sacrament Chapel, but if a Cathedral is no bigger than a large church, it would seem to me far more preferable to have the Tabernacle in a central position. (For liturgical rigour, the Blessed Sacrament could, of course, be removed when the Bishop celebrates. Liturgists would have to advise as to whether this is a possibility, a recommendation, something advisable or something required. I don't have the law on this matter readily available.)

If you visit the Cathedral's website, you will notice that the good Bishop will make himself available for confessions from 11pm to 11:30pm Christmas Eve, prior to the Midnight Mass.

UPDATE: This reflection will be repeated Friday December 23rd on EWTN UK at 09:30 and 19:00 hours GMT and on EWTN in the US on Wednesday December 21st at 11pm PT/Thursday 22nd 2am ET.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bishop Mark Schmitt Funeral Arrangements

The following details were communicated to the diocese by Bishop Sample today:
It is with extreme sadness that I inform you of the death of the Most Reverend Mark Francis Schmitt, Tenth Bishop of Marquette. Bishop Mark Schmitt died December 14, 2011, in DePere, Wisconsin. He was 88 years of age. Requiescat in pace!

The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron, Archbishop of Detroit and Metropolitan of the Province of Detroit, will celebrate the Funeral Mass on Tuesday, December 20, 2011, at 11:00 AM ET, in St. Peter Cathedral, Marquette, Michigan. Bishop Alexander K. Sample, and Bishop James H. Garland, will concelebrate along with other attending bishops and priests. Deacons in attendance are invited to dress in cassock and surplice and participate in the procession.

The schedule is as follows:
Monday, December 19, 2011:
  • The body of Bishop Mark Schmitt will be received in St. Peter Cathedral at 10:00 AM ET by Bishop Alexander Sample, Bishop James Garland and clergy
  • The body of Bishop Schmitt will lie in state in the Cathedral from 10:30 AM until 9:00 PM ET
  • A rosary will be prayed at 3:00 PM ET
  • The Vigil Prayer Service will be celebrated at 7:00 PM ET
Tuesday, December 20, 2011:
  • Bishops, Priests and Deacons are invited to pray the Office for the Dead in the Cathedral at 9:30 AM ET prior to the Funeral Mass
  • Following the Office for the Dead, Bishops are invited to vest for Mass in the Bishops’ Meeting Room in the Cathedral gathering area
  • Priests and Deacons will vest for Mass in the Media Room on the lower level of the cathedral. Priests will vest in diocesan chasubles, but please bring your white diocesan stole in the event that we run short on the number of chasubles
  • Knights of Columbus and the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre will dress in the Pope John Paul II Meeting Room on the lower level of the Cathedral
  • The Rite of Committal will be celebrated in the Cathedral Crypt immediately following Mass
Bishop Mark Schmitt was born on February 14, 1923, in Algoma, Wisconsin. He was the fifth of eight children born to Charles Jerome Schmitt and Anna (Netzer) Schmitt. He is survived by his sister, Marge Schmitt and numerous nieces and nephews.

Bishop Schmitt was ordained to the priesthood on May 22, 1948, in St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Following his ordination Bishop Schmitt served as pastor in several parishes before being consecrated as Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay on June 24, 1970. On May 8, 1978, Bishop Mark Schmitt was installed as the Tenth Bishop of the Diocese of Marquette in St. Peter Cathedral, Marquette, Michigan, where he faithfully served the people for 14 years. He retired on November 11, 1992.

Bishop Schmitt was beloved by his brother priests and deacons, his diocesan staff and the people of the diocese. He was a dedicated and loving priest, friend and bishop.

Please remember him in your prayers and at your Masses.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Alexander K. Sample
Bishop of Marquette

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bishop Mark Schmitt RIP

Bishop Schmitt, bishop of Marquette from 1978 - 1992, died today. May he rest in peace.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Church of the Holy Ghost, Tiverton, Rhode Island

Is this not a beautiful sanctuary? Found it by chance while googling "adoration candles".  Visit the parish.

"Two people talking stop forty people praying"

Thanks to berenike for drawing my attention to Bishop Hugh Gilbert's pastoral letter for yesterday.

Silence in church is vital. There is the Great Silent One in the Tabernacle who cannot be heard if we talk in church.

After complaints from people about levels of noise in the church, instead of the recessional hymn I asked everybody after the 11am Mass to kneel for some moments in silent recollection and thanksgiving. After priest and servers had observed their silence on their knees, the people were invited to depart in silence and, if they wanted to socialise/visit with others, to do so either in the narthex or in the room where coffee was provided. The atmosphere was transformed.

Bishop Gilbert's letter will be a very helpful text for my homily next Sunday!

See Prayer - Divine Silence and homesickness for the tabernacle and altar...

Accepting the chant as normative for liturgical celebrations

Glory To God In The Highest And On Earth Peace To People Of Good Will from Church Music Association of Amer on Vimeo.

Here is an excerpt from a presentation by Msgr Andrew Wadsworth.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cardinal Foley dies

Cardinal John Patrick Foley, former Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem died today. He was 76. The Cardinal had been suffering from Leukaemia and had returned to Philadelphia in the US.

In his comments to Vatican Radios Italian service, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi said “everyone who had ever met Cardinal Foley admired and loved him for his kindness and for his spirituality.”
Father Lombardi also recalled the Cardinal’s work in the field of communication as President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications saying, he was always well prepared and very competent.
He added, that he had just received in the last few days a letter from Cardinal Foley thanking him for a copy of the newly published book on the History of Vatican Radio.
May he rest in peace.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Bishop Sample on the Lost Generations - and the need for a renewal in the catholic faith

Bishop Alexander Sample during his January 2006 episcopal ordination at
St. Peter Cathedralin Marquette
. Photo from Catholic World Report
“I was taught the faith in Catholic schools using materials that were weak and insubstantial. I wasn’t being taught my faith. The liturgy suffered from experimentation as well. … My generation raised up the next generation. Since we weren’t taught the faith, we raised children who weren’t either.”

This is how Bishop Alexander Sample of Marquette, Michigan—who, at age 50, is one of the US’ youngest bishops—describes the damage done to the American Church by decades of weak catechesis.

Exclusively at Catholic World Report, Bishop Sample shares how his experiences growing up in the 60s and 70s have given focus to his efforts to offer future generations of Catholics faith formation that is “solid, substantive, [and] systematic.”

He also shares the surprisingly positive fruits of the priestly sex abuse scandals that he has seen spring up in his diocese, as many young men have come forward “to become part of the solution, to rebuild the Church.”

Click here to read Bishop Sample’s interview, exclusively at Catholic World Report.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bishop Sample's Christmas Message to His Priests

Yep, that's it. With his Christmas card to priests, the Bishop enclosed this gift. I think it tells all the clergy very clearly where he wants to lead us and where he wants us to lead our parisioners: right behind our Holy Father, Pope Benedict.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Society of St Pius X rejects a "Preamble"

Pope Benedict with SSPX leader Bishop Bernard Fellay
For some time the Vatican (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) has been in talks with the Society of St Pius X. Here Zenit reports that the SSPX has rejected the "doctrinal preamble" presented to them by the CDF. Well, I suppose they consider it important to get the "preamble" (the before walk) right before proceeding on the walk!

I have to say that they probably have a point about "the sterility of 50 years of openness to the modern world." I am glad the Church is looking in on itself now, concentrating on getting the liturgy right, restoring right teaching, etc.

ROME, NOV. 30, 2011 ( The superior-general of the Society of St. Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay, has declared that his group is not in full agreement with the content of a "Doctrinal Preamble" offered to them by the Vatican.

The preamble is the first part of a document designed to bring the Society of St. Pius X back into communion with Rome. It was sent to the group in September, by Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Bishop Fellay made his opinion known in a Monday interview posted on the organization's Web site. He said that a note accompanying the preamble explained that the text was not definitive, so that is why they are proposing some changes.

He claimed the preamble needed "many modifications" but added that for the moment he was not going to make public the text itself or what changes the group is requesting. He did say that once talks with the Vatican have taken place following the society's proposed amendments, the text of the preamble will be made public.

The interview made clear that the path to reconciliation between the Vatican and the Society of St. Pius X will not be easy. Bishop Fellay spoke openly of his dissatisfaction with some of the documents of the Second Vatican Council and of "the sterility of 50 years of openness to the modern world."

The preamble sent to the society by the Vatican continues a series of conversations begun in 2009. The rupture was formalized when the society's founder and then leader, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, illicitly ordained four bishops in 1988 without the authorization of the Roman Pontiff.

Irish Dominicans Interactive

Another wonderful sign of renewal in the Church in Ireland - an initiative of student Irish Domincans. Their audio series Ears to Hear promises to be a rich source of Catholic tradition - with short audio clips from the Fathers of the Church to inspire us in this season of Advent and always, giving a voice to the Saints in the internet age.

Worth checking out.

Extraordinary Form of the Mass at Gwinn - and a request

Bishop Sample celebrating Mass in the Extraordinary Form
at St Peter Cathedral
I celebrated the Extraordinary Form of the Mass for the first time in the parish this evening. A goodly congregation was present considering some serious snow had fallen - 14 communicants, plus some little children. Two of our young servers did extremely well considering they had only had one hour's practice yesterday. They were assisted by an adult who regularly attends the weekly EF Mass at St Peter Cathedral in Marquette.

My intention is to celebrate this form of the Mass on the evenings of my day off, Thursday, and maybe on other occasions if the faithful request it.

This evening I celebrated with my small travel edition of the Missale Romanum which I brought with me from England and which you can find reviewed by Fr Z.

Whilst I don't mind celebrating with this Missal privately - it is a very worthy  publication - for a public Mass it has its drawbacks. I did not notice any damage to the tabs as Fr Z did but the glue binding the tabs to the page also binds pages to pages, so that one has to use two hands to carefully separate the pages during the celebration of Mass. This evening I slightly tore one of the pages of the Canon. Also, I now notice my age: my sight is not as good as it was and I found myself struggling with the smaller print.

So, I need to buy a new Missal.

I could get the 1962 Missal published with the approval of the late Cardinal O'Connor. The lowest price I have found it available for is $110.00 (s/h included) from Roman Catholic Books or $99.99 plus $12.25 s/h from Fraternity Publications i.e. the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP). This is the Missal I bought for (and donated to) my previous parish in South Ashford, England. My verdict on this Missal is that is quite adequate - it does the job and would be fine.

However, there is a much nicer one: a 2008 reprint of the well-known and beautiful Benziger Brothers Missal approved by the late Cardinal Spelman, with ad libitum prefaces that were approved in July 1962, including a restored Advent preface, and Masses approved for use in the dioceses of the USA.
Fr Z reviews it here.

The lowest price I have found it available for is $320.00 plus $17.00 s/h from Preserving Christian Publications. The website of Biretta Books gives further details, including examples of the beautful type setting and artwork (far superior to the O'Connor Missal above) shown below:

My question: would anyone like to help me get either of these Missals for the parish? See About Me if you would like to email me.

Keys of the Kingdom on Fox UP Premieres Sunday Dec. 11th 11:30am

KinGdomLOWERHarbor from Gchild Productionz on Vimeo.

The above is a trailer. Kevin Branson is founder of "Claves Regni Ministries" and Father Ryan Ford is Associate Pastor at St Peter Cathedral, Marquette.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

St Andrew's Day pro-marriage rally in Edinburgh

BBC News carries this report on a rally protesting against same-sex marriage held today outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Cardinal O'Brien's stance seems to be somewhat different than that of a prelate in a neighbouring episcopal conference. Let's not kid ourselves about civil partnerships being different from same-sex marriages. They amount to the same thing and those promoting civil partnerships clearly want to move in the direction of "marriage."

The cardinal said: "As an institution, marriage long predates the existence of any state or government.

"It was not created by government and should not be changed by them. Instead, recognising the innumerable benefits which marriage brings to society, they should act to protect and uphold it, not attack or dismantle it."

Archbishop of Westminster backs civil partnerships

“We would want to emphasise that civil partnerships actually provide a structure in which people of the same sex who want a lifelong relationship [and] a lifelong partnership can find their place and protection and legal provision,” Archbishop Vincent Nichols said at a press conference after the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales’ meeting last week.
“As a Church we are very committed to the notion of equality so that people are treated the same across all the activities of life … The Church holds great store by the value of commitment in relationships and undertakings that people give. Stability in society depends upon the reliability of commitments that people give. That might be in offering to do a job but especially in their relationships with one another. Equality and commitment are both very important and we fully support them.”
As quoted in The Tablet, London, UK.

He's wrong. Civil partnerships are deeply discriminatory. A brother may not enter into a civil partnership with a brother, or a sister with a sister. Or a man may not enter into one with a woman. The impediments of consanguinity to entering into a partnership are analogous to, if not exactly the same as, those of marriage.

Let us keep the question of chastity out of it for a moment. Let us not even enquire into the nature of the relationship between the parties to a (potential) civil partnership. Why do these need the protection of the law? One can be in a committed and stable relationship of friendship which, it could be argued, is good for society. But these neither need nor merit any legal recognition.

As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith pointed out in its 2003 document Considerations regarding Proposals to give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons:
By putting homosexual unions on a legal plane analogous to that of marriage and the family, the State acts arbitrarily and in contradiction with its duties. The principles of respect and non-discrimination cannot be invoked to support legal recognition of homosexual unions. Differentiating between persons or refusing social recognition or benefits is unacceptable only when it is contrary to justice. The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to forms of cohabitation that are not and cannot be marital is not opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice requires it. (No. 8)

If it is true that all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are obliged to do so in a particular way, in keeping with their responsibility as politicians. Faced with legislative proposals in favour of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are to take account of the following ethical indications.
When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral.
When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is already in force, the Catholic politician must oppose it in the ways that are possible for him and make his opposition known; it is his duty to witness to the truth. If it is not possible to repeal such a law completely, the Catholic politician, recalling the indications contained in the Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, “could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality”, on condition that his “absolute personal opposition” to such laws was clear and well known and that the danger of scandal was avoided.(18) This does not mean that a more restrictive law in this area could be considered just or even acceptable; rather, it is a question of the legitimate and dutiful attempt to obtain at least the partial repeal of an unjust law when its total abrogation is not possible at the moment. (No. 10)

See comment by William Oddie of the Catholic Herald, and Father Ray Blake, and His Grace's interventions in the following interview:

No holding hands during the "Our Father" - Bishop decrees.

I am grateful to a correspondent who has drawn my attention to The Deacon's Bench blog reporting the letter and decree of the Bishop of Covington, the Most Reverend Roger J Foys, issued on the occasion of the implementation of the new English translation of the Roman Missal.

In his letter the Bishop points out that
The rituals of the Roman Church, of which we are a part, call for specific words to be used as well as particular actions and gestures, both on the part of the priest and the faithful who join their hearts with his in their worship of God.

He reminds his people:
As we continually give ourselves to the Lord, to His Word and to His Church, as your bishop I ask for your cooperation with the implementation process and to take to heart the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, in the decree Sacrosanctum Concilium (The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), that no one on their own authority, for any reason, may add to, remove or change anything in the Sacred Liturgy (emphasis added).

In a recent memo to priests in his diocese, Bishop Alexander K Sample of Marquette also reminded us of this very point. Bishop Sample is currently preparing a pastoral letter on the liturgy.

Amongst some of the points in Bishop Foys' decree that I was glad to read:

The music used in the Sacred Liturgy be theologically sound and properly composed in accord with the teaching of the Church on Sacred Music.
Would this seem to imply that not all hymns in our hymnals fulfill this condition? I have already given my parish music director a list of hymns from our hymnal that I do not consider appropriate.
Music for the Ordinary Parts of the Mass (also known as Service Music – e.g. Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei) must have the approval from the Diocesan Office of Worship and Liturgy.
i. From November 27, 2011, until June 30, 2012, only the following three English settings are permitted for use:
1. The Chant Mass of the 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal (mandatory)
a. This one setting is mandatory so as to foster a unified participation of the faithful at Mass throughout the Diocese.
2. The Heritage Mass (optional)
3. The Mass of Renewal (optional)
ii. Other Mass Settings will be approved for use on July 1, 2012.
iii. Please note: Hymns that are theologically sound and properly composed are not restricted.
Note that the bishop is only speaking about the English settings. All the Latin Gregorian Chant settings are permitted, nay encouraged, by the universal law of the Church and have been repeatedly proposed for use by the Supreme Pontiffs before and after Vatican II.

In Marquette, Bishop Sample has asked all parishes to learn the Mass of Resurrection, in addition to the chant settings.

Bishop Foys reminds the faithful that
“Songs or hymns may not be used in place of the responsorial Psalm.”(GIRM 61)
(How often has one heard hymns in stead of the psalm, or paraphrasing of the psalms - Because the Lord is my shepherd...)

He reminds people that the people should kneel from the end of the Sanctus through to the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, that deacons are to kneel from the epiclesis through to the showing of the Chalice, that priests (presumably concelebrants - for it is normally the case that priests and other clergy attending in choir kneel when the people kneel) should remain standing, and that the people should kneel after the Agnus Dei.

Concerning the Our Father, the bishop writes:
Special note should also be made concerning the gesture for the Our Father. Only the priest is given the instruction to “extend” his hands. Neither the deacon nor the lay faithful are instructed to do this. No gesture is prescribed for the lay faithful in the Roman Missal; nor the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, therefore the extending or holding of hands by the faithful should not be performed.

The bishop makes these important observations about silence:

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal reminds us: “Sacred silence also, as part of the celebration, is to be observed at the designated times…. Even before the celebration itself, it is commendable that silence is observed in the church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred action in a devout and fitting manner.” (GIRM 45) Silence following the Mass is also encouraged for those who might want to remain in the church to pray.

I am very pleased to say that in this parish there is always a reverent silence before Mass. However, since I have arrived a number of people have brought my attention to the rather noisy atmosphere afterwards, hoping that I will "do something about it". A group of parishioners has organized coffee in an adjacent room to encourage visiting there rather than in the church. I haven't yet preached on this matter but the time is coming soon when I shall do so. The fact that a bishop has mentioned this point obviously adds some strength to my position.

Other things I have drawn attention to here in this parish are:

  • the striking of the breast during the I confess
  • the bowing during the words referring to the incarnation in the Creed
  • the sign of peace to be made in a sober fashion and only with persons next to you, the words "The peace of the Lord be with you always" being permitted with the reply "Amen"
  • that communicants receive on the tongue or, in those places where it is permitted, on the hand, and how communion on the hand is to be received.
It is most encouraging to hear news from so many places that the liturgy is being restored to what was really intended by the Second Vatican Council.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Great story about a Downs Syndrome child and her parents

Gemma decided against having any tests that would disclose whether her baby had Down’s. She knew they could increase the risk of miscarriage; besides, she and Robbie had resolved to love whatever child they were blessed with.

A good attitude to have, surely? But not everything turned out as hoped. This is a very touching account of the disappointment that the parents felt but of the acceptance of their child and their determination to do all they could for her.

Read it at the Daily Mail.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

How did the new English Mass go today?

The Regal Edition of the Roman Missal available from Midwest Theological Forum.
Here, there were a few stumbles - but by and large it went well. For me as a priest, it was like learning the Mass once again. The Missal - we have the MTF Regal Edition pictured above - is beautifully bound and illustrated. It will take a little while to become familiar with both the layout and the new words, and to discover the richness of what is on offer. Check the appendices for music for the presidential prayers and dialogues, sample prayers of the faithful, etc.

The language is uplifting and - as sacred language should - veils the mystery that we must penetrate with the eyes of faith through prayer and contemplation.

For me, the Mass will never be the same again.

Today we veiled the Tabernacle with a new purple veil made by our parishioner Bonnie Hurkmans. Bonnie is also going to make veils in the other liturgical colours: white, green and red. We are blest to have people like her - and many others in the parish - who put their talents at the service of the Lord. Rosie King has made linen cloths to go under the top altar cloth and on the credence table, and she is working on one for the shelf on which the tabernacle rests. As I mentioned in my homily this morning, the veil over the Tabernacle indicates that there is Mystery beyond the veil that we are called to meditate upon, a Mystery that the Lord will reveal to those who keep silence before it in reverence and awe.

It is a beautiful Tabernacle in itself, as you can see from this previous photograph:

The new purple vestments got their first proper outing today.

Although they look a bit blue in this picture, this is the effect of night lighting
and flash. See the tabernacle above for a better idea of the colour.

The tabernacle veil is made from the same material. The vestments were purchased from House of Hansen with money donated by parishioners and include all the five parts: chasuble, stole, maniple, chalice veil and burse (these last three are not included in the price shown at the House of Hansen website). I shall use them in the Extraordinary Form for the first time this coming Thursday evening at 7pm. Parishioners have generously funded the purchase of new rose vestments which have been purchased from Luzar Vestments and red vestments which are now on order from House of Hansen. We have also received donations towards a new white set and these are now also on order from House of Hansen. Thank you to all our generous parishioners.

During this time of Advent, we consider the Mystery concealed within Mary and await - in silent conemplation - Its revelation.

I was struck by - and preached on - the orations (Collect, Prayer of the Offerings, Prayer after Communion) of today's Mass.

Prayer after Communion:
May these mysteries, O Lord,
in which we have participated,
profit us, we pray,
for even now, as we walk amid passing things,
you teach us by them to love the things of heaven
and hold fast to what endures.
Through Christ our Lord.
By what does the Lord teach us "to love the things of heaven"? By "these mysteries" or by our "walk amid passing things"? Probably the former, but the passing things of this world are also created by God and should lead us beyond them to the appreciation of the beauty of their Creator and Lord.

Indeed, the sacraments, too, are "passing things". A time will come when there is no time and no sacraments. We will no longer see Christ veiled in the Eucharistic "vestments" of the appearances of bread and wine but we shall see Him "immediately", without the mediation of sense, sign or symbol. As ecstatic as our union with the Lord in Holy Communion can be, it is a mere foretaste of the heavenly union.

The new, more sacral language, also veils a mystery. If we now find some words of the Mass a little more difficult to "get" at first, this might indicate that perhaps the previous translation was not up to the mark in showing forth the mysterious nature of the Mass. If, now, we must exert ourselves in thinking and - preferably - contemplating in prayer, this is a grace given us by the Lord. As we prayed in the Collect today:
Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,
the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ
with righteous deeds at his coming...
 We are called to "run forth" out of our comfort zone, out of our worldly way of seeing things, into the realm of mystery through prayer and contemplation. There are many "righteous deeds" that we can accumulate in readiness for the coming of the Father's Christ, but perhaps prayer and contemplation are the more important.

Wishing everyone a blessed Advent.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I'm not ashamed to publish this email regarding Tesco and Gay Pride

But I'm not going to watch the videos. Even if children are being exposed to this sort of evil (and I know they are) I don't want to watch it myself - I saw a bit of one from another website and found it offensive and disturbing - spiritually! But if you are not aware that this sort of thing happens, then maybe you should take a look. Ensure, however, you pray before, during, and after to Our Lady conceived without sin that she might keep your body pure and your soul holy, to St Michael the Archangel to safeguard you against evil, and to your Guardian Angel.

Since making the Conscecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary last Lent and since being in this remote part of the world, I have found it a great grace to have been protected from this sort of stuff for so long. There are those called to fight the battles, and this part of the world is not without them, but there is great wisdom - if I may venture to suggest - in keeping a wall around one's mind, one's heart, one's will, one's passions, and have Our Lady keep you as an enclosed garden. I think I have reached the stage in life where I do not need to see the evil to be able to know it exists.

Parents need all the support they can get to keep their children protected also.

(Since publishing and after a comment from Damask Rose, I took a look at the three videos. I had to stop the reading of the poem: not only blasphemous but pornographic. And the others just made me think: what has London come to? There is nothing benign in this at all: it is in-your-face exhibitionism.)

Parents: exercise your discretion.
Dear Friends
I am writing again to Tesco about its links with London and World Pride.  Complaint has thus far been futile.
By Tesco leading this year’s London Pride, with Tesco staff carrying the rainbow flag and promising money and resources for next year ---  providing a “safe, relaxed and chilled out place with family-friendly entertainment and activities aimed at younger children” --- it may attract the Pink pound, but badly damages its public image.
The public will soon need to accept not just homosexuality but an increasingly extreme range of sexual orientations. The main resistance to this pressure to conform comes from Christians who, apart from losing their jobs, having their businesses shut down, being dragged through the courts and threatened with physical violence, are being held up for public ridicule.
It seems that Tesco is already experimenting with this tactic. The Head of Research and Development at, Nick Lansely, did a dramatic reading of  James Kirkup’s “The Love That Dares to Speak its Name”, videoed and posted it on Youtube.
It is a description of a necrophilial (an ‘orientation’) soldier having sex with/on the crucified body of Christ. [WARNING EXTREMELY OFFENSIVE; but remember before you avert your eyes, judging by what  our children are already exposed to in schools, this, in time, is what they will be led to accept.]
“The Love That Dares to Speak its Name”
Nick Lansely, Head of R&D
Nick Lansley, reading the Blasphemous poem on Youtube
Nick Lansley is on the team of Out at Tesco that organised Tesco’s leading this year’s London Pride 2011
Nick Lansley is clearly visible at the 2-minute mark on this Youtube
Nick was also on hand to record an event held in June 2008, when the National Secular Society (NSS) gathered in a London restaurant to celebrate the repeal of the Blasphemy Laws. Here Sir Ian McKellen OBE gave a spirited rendition of the above poem and boasted of ripping pages from the Bible – something he proudly confesses to doing whenever he finds one in a hotel room. At the bottom of the NSS web site we read:  “Nick Lansley recorded the event.”
Had McKellen distributed cartoons of the dead body of Mohammed being sodomised, whilst tearing pages out of the Q’ran all hell would have been let loose - globally. 
Why is it that Christian employees and customers don’t have the same human right to feel that they are victims of incitement to religious hatred as are Muslims? Why are Muslims protected from such hatred by Tesco and Sir Trevor Phillips, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and yet the sensibilities of Christians can be openly mocked and trampled on?
Why can Nick be publicly identified with promoting Lesbian Gay Bi-sexual and Transsexual (LGBT) rights whilst  simultaneously encouraging what many people of faith (and others) would consider profoundly blasphemous --- even an incitement to religious hatred?
Other Tesco employees, especially Christians cannot make a critical remark of the LGBT for fear of being sacked. I received this recently from a concerned Tesco employee:
“Let me open by apologizing for my going through the absurd necessity of using a fake email address – my employer (Tesco) has been known to take action against members of staff who are identified as making any remarks online which could be considered derogatory. (This is advice handed out by our union, USDAW – never, ever mention Tesco on Facebook, Twitter, etc). I simply cannot run the risk that my real name would be associated with the comments I am about to make. (which is not meant to question your personal integrity, it is simply a risk I cannot take).”
Tesco should be in the business of providing essential goods and services. Homosexuality is not a state of being like being black; it is an emotional and psychological disorder. When a black woman goes to sleep she is no less black than when she is awake. There is nothing that a black woman can do to make herself either less or more black. On the other hand a homosexual is only homosexual when his imagination leads his emotions, desirers, actions, habits and character to become homosexual.  This orientation can either become stronger or weaker. Movement into and out of homosexuality can and does travel in both directions. But it seems that this travel is only allowed in one direction: from heterosexuality to homosexuality – never the reverse.
In 2 Peter2 it describes how God condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly. It says that “He  rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless, for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard.” Are we prepared to be distressed or do we wish to bury our heads in the sand?
Please write to Tesco letting them know your views and intentions: Chairman of Tesco International and IT Director Commercial and Marketing Director Chief Executive of Retailing Services and Group Strategy

I am
Yours in Jesus Christ
David Skinner

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bishop John Jukes dies

Please remember in your prayers Bishop Jukes who died today aged 88. May he rest in peace.

Bishop Jukes was auxiliary bishop in Southwark (my home diocese) with pastoral responsibility for the Kent area of the diocese from 1980 to 1998.

See the Southwark diocese website for further details.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Christ the King and the Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

In 1925, in his encyclical Quas Primas, Pope Pius XI directed that the Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ the King be made annually on this feast.
Pope Pius XI

It is a great shame that this is not done nowadays. We did it this morning before the Blessed Sacrament exposed after the principal Mass here at St Anthony's. I think the prayer manifests a sorrow for those souls who have departed from the Church and faith in Christ together with a yearning on the part of those making the consecration for their return. In other words, this Consecration promotes apostolic zeal. We have lost so many souls. And we just shrug shoulders. The ditching of such customs - mandated by Papal authority - has not helped.

Here is the text of the Consecration:
Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before your altar. We are yours and yours we wish to be; but to be more surely united with you, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to your most Sacred Heart. Many indeed have never known you; many too, despising your precepts, have rejected you. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them all to your Sacred Heart. Be King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken you, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned you; grant that they may quickly return to their father's house, lest they die of wretchedness and hunger. Be King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbor of truth and unity of faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one Shepherd. Grant O Lord, to your Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give peace and order to all nations, and make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: Praise to the divine heart that wrought our salvation; to it be glory and honor for ever. Amen.

In the above-mentioned encyclical, Pope Pius points to the good effects that will ensue if leaders govern with the consciousness that their authority comes from God (the tyranny that results when they do not can also be inferred from the Pope's remarks):
If princes and magistrates duly elected are filled with the persuasion that they rule, not by their own right, but by the mandate and in the place of the Divine King, they will exercise their authority piously and wisely, and they will make laws and administer them, having in view the common good and also the human dignity of their subjects... Men will see in their king or in their rulers men like themselves, perhaps unworthy or open to criticism, but they will not on that account refuse obedience if they see reflected in them the authority of Christ God and Man.(n.19)

The Pope describes the manner in which Christ should reign over us:

He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls... (n.33)

Regnare Christum volumus!


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