Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Help save Lanherne

LANHERNE_CONVENT_44 by Joseph Shaw1

LANHERNE_CONVENT_44, a photo by Joseph Shaw1 on Flickr.

LANHERNE_CONVENT_46[1] by Joseph Shaw1

LANHERNE_CONVENT_46[1], a photo by Joseph Shaw1 on Flickr.

Father Sean Finnegan has received a letter from the Mother Superior of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, Lanherne Convent, Cornwall.

As Father Ray Blake points out this is a thriving community. As the Mother Superior says in her letter they are unable to own or purchase any property, including the one they now occupy, on account of their Franciscan vow of poverty.

I hope and pray a donor will come to their rescue.

With Irene in Vermont

I have been in Vermont since last Tuesday on vacation at Blessed Sacrament Church, Stowe and so have been in one of the states most affected by Hurricane Irene. Here in Stowe we were very lucky: rain all day, but the high winds that were forecast did not materialise and there was no flooding, although much of the land round about was and is water logged. Yet towns nearby were severely affected.

We were to travel south to spend a day or two with another priest friend. His phone line was down. He managed to contact us using a neighbour's cell phone to tell us not to come. His church basement was inundated, roads were destroyed, etc. etc.

Yesterday I took a drive into New Hampshire to see the beautiful White Mountains but my journey was considerably longer than anticipated due to the road closures I encountered.

Please pray for all affected by the hurricane: those who have died (three confirmed in Vermont), those who have lost homes and livelihoods, and generally for all who are going through a hard time just now.

Bishop Matano of Burlington Vermont has expressed his prayerful support for suffering Vermonters and Vermont Catholic Charities is involved in providing aid where it is needed.

See CNS report.

Pope asks forgiveness for 'cradle Catholics' who did not evangelize

“We who have known God since we were young, must ask forgiveness,” said Pope Benedict to a gathering of his former students at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, on Aug. 28.

The Pope said an apology is due because “we bring people so little of the light of His face, because from us comes so little certainty that He exists, that He is there, and that He is the Great One that everyone is waiting for.” (CNA)
The Holy Father's brief address may be found here in Italian.

I know of many parents (and grandparents) who grieve over the fact that their children and grandchildren are not practising catholics. Some would confess: "I failed!" Others agonize: "I did all the right things, I sent them to catholic school, they went to CCD..." I never encourage parents to beat themselves up (figuratively) over the lapse of their children for I know the pressures that young people face, and perhaps the parents just found themselves ill-equipped and poorly prepared for passing on the faith in a modern age.

Father Z mentions that amongst those who did not evangelize were some priests who failed to pass on the faith in its fullness. At the same time I am privileged to have known priests who were faithful and who profoundly influenced me as a young boy and young man. As Father Z also suggests, the liturgical chaos that reigned in many places served to destroy the faith of many and the restoration of Sacred Liturgy is key to effective re-evangelisation.

There are many fine catholic schools and fine catholic teachers who strive with a passion to pass on the catholic faith. But I personally know many parents who consider that the catholic schools to whom they entrusted their children failed them. I have expressed elsewhere my concerns about catholic education.

I went to one of the best catholic schools in London - Cardinal Vaughan  but it is primarily thanks to my parents who schooled us in right conduct and family prayer and protected us from some of the strange teachings that were doing the rounds in the 60's and 70's that I am a catholic. Of their six children, two are priests, three are practising catholics, one has departed from the fold of the Church. Why did he depart? He received the same upbringing as the rest of us. He even frequented the Opus Dei centres that my brothers attended. The mystery of human freedom! My parents grieved over this, as any good catholic parent would/should. Hopefully their prayers from heaven will assist their son's return to the Church.

Secondarily I thank the fine formation I received through Opus Dei at the local Kelston Boys Club in Wandsworth Common, London, as a youth and at other OD locations and through the Faith movement later in my life. Only later did I go to the Seminary for final preparation for the priesthood.

There are great signs today (e.g. World Youth Day) that the young are responding to an integral presentation of the faith that will enable them, as Pope Benedict puts it, to bring people the light of Christ's face, to communicate to them with certainty that God exists, that He is there, and that He is the Great One that everyone is waiting for.

Monday, August 29, 2011

"Do not be afraid to be Catholic" - Pope Benedict tells young people at World Youth Day

This is my "Desktop" article from yesterday's parish bulletin:

Do not be afraid to be Catholic,” Pope Benedict said to the two million - yes, TWO MILLION! - young people attending Mass last Sunday in Madrid’s Cuatro Vientos air base. He called upon the youth of all nations of the world to “share with others the joy of your faith.”
I have attended three World Youth Days - Rome, Toronto, Cologne - and joy-filled faith has been the common denominator. Although I was not able to watch all of the televised events of the Madrid World Youth Day, I saw enough to witness the profound faith with which the youth were participating in the events, a faith manifested in different ways according to the particular circumstances, sometimes thoughtful and more obviously prayerful, at other times with exuberance.
It was profoundly moving to see images of young people recollected in prayer during the Stations of the Cross, during adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and at Mass. One of the major successes of World Youth Day was the huge number of confessions. The Pope himself heard some confessions, but priests were extremely generous in continuing to hear confessions way beyond the allotted times as young people sought the healing grace of forgiveness through this beautiful sacrament without which it is impossible to progress in the spiritual life.

Humanly speaking, the prayer vigil last Saturday was a disaster: torrential rains and powerful winds disrupted the Holy Father’s address and caused damage to some of the tents containing the Blessed Sacrament which was reserved for adoration during the night and for the distribution of Holy Communion during the following day’s Mass. As a result a good number of faithful could not receive Holy Communion during Sunday’s Mass. Yet their joy could not be dampened. Here is what one young person, a blogger called “Catholic with Attitude” wrote as a comment on my blog:
I have just arrived back from Madrid after a 24hr coach journey back to London. The storm which hit the vigil ... was truly symbolic of the storms the Church faces and with which young people often have to deal. The gales were very strong indeed! I was trying to take cover in my sleeping bag (and also from the lightning which was truly terrifying!) but I couldn't zip the top part and wind was making me slide down my sleeping mat! Absolutely incredible but I can see the funny side of it now; at the time, I was saddened that the vigil was interrupted. It was also sad that the faithful were not able to receive Communion on the Sunday because the tent reserving the sacrament was destroyed... It was an incredible experience, however, and the Church is truly young and alive and in love with the Successor of Peter, our beloved Holy Father, Benedict XVI. VIVA IL PAPA! VIVA!

Like Pope Benedict, we need to be very realistic about the world in which our young people are living. “You will be swimming against the tide in a society with a relativistic culture which wishes neither to seek nor hold on to the truth.” But see how the Holy Father portrays the high calling to which he is convinced the youth of today are called: “It was for this moment in history, with its great challenges and opportunities, that the Lord sent you, so that, through your faith, the Good News of Jesus might continue to resound throughout the earth.”

The Pope sets high expectations for the youth: “Do not keep Christ to yourselves! Share with others the joy of your faith. The world needs the witness of your faith, it surely needs God… You too have been given the extraordinary task of being disciples and missionaries of Christ in other lands and countries filled with young people who are looking for something greater [than] the empty promises of a lifestyle which has no room for God.” May the Mother of God accompany us and our young people in this missionary vocation. Fr John.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Excellent series on Tradition and the Missals of Pius V and Paul VI

John Hunwicke (Fr Hunwicke's Liturgical Notes), a former anglican clergyman now hoping for ordination as a priest in the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and a liturgical scholar has written a great series of posts on "Ratzinger and Liturgical Law." He explainst that the Pope is the servant of Tradition, that a form of Liturgy that has had centuries of usage simply cannot be abrogated by the Pope, and so he explains how Pope Benedict XVI was able to say that the Missal of Pius V (as modified by Pope John XXIII in 1962) was not abrogated by Pope Paul VI.

Even if you are not a liturgical scholar yourself, I urge you to read carefully these excellent articles (and don't worry about the Latin):

Ratzinger on Liturgical Law (1)
Ratzinger on Liturgical Law (2)
Ratzinger on Liturgical Law (3)
Ratzinger on Liturgical Law (4)
Ratzinger on Liturgical Law (5)

And do keep John in your prayers.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Friday Penance and the English & Welsh bishops: in reparation for the sins agains life, and other questions.

With effect from September 16th the law of abstaining from meat on Fridays becomes binding upon all Catholics in England and Wales. In particular the bishops have suggested that English and Welsh Catholics offer their penance in reparation for sins against life.

The Bishops Conference of England and Wales has issued a very helpful Question and Answer format information leaflet.

Here are some of the Questions and Answers:

Q3. Why are we obliged to practice penitence on Fridays?
From the earliest centuries of the Church’s history, Friday was dedicated to the memory of the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, as a day on which we should make a special effort to practice penitence. The seasons and days of penitence in the course of the Liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday) are therefore intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice.

For this reason, the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church specifies the obligations of Latin Rite Catholics: “All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church.” (Canon 1250)

Q5. Eating meat is not that important to me and therefore not much of a penance or sacrifice on my part. What then is the value of my abstaining from meat on a Friday?
For some people abstinence from meat will not necessarily be much of a ‘personal’ penance or sacrifice. Indeed, many people do not eat meat. Giving up going out with friends on a Friday night, for example, would be for some much more of a penance or personal sacrifice. However, to say that we do not eat meat or we dislike meat, or that we ‘prefer fish’, is to miss the point!

What the Bishops are asking us to do, first and foremost, is to make abstaining from meat a common act of penitence; a common witness and sacrifice. This act unites us and reminds us of our personal duty, each Friday, to sacrifice something which is precious to us out of love for Almighty God and out of love for others. Moreover, it is not just as an individual act of witness that we are asked to undertake Friday penance but as a weekly prophetic witness of the whole Catholic community. It witnesses that being a Catholic requires us, as a community, through our prayer, abstaining and almsgiving/works of charity, to stand alongside those who are in need.

If abstaining from meat is not really a sacrifice for us then we should consider doing something in addition to abstaining from meat. This will keep us united in this common sign of witness and enable us to make our act of penitence a real personal sacrifice and help us to stand in solidarity with those in real need.

Q7. What should I do if I am invited out for a meal on a Friday?
If our friends and colleagues value us they will not be offended or upset if we tell them, ahead of time, that we do not eat meat on Fridays. Our choice to observe abstaining from meat in this social setting does permit us though to witness ‐ in an indirect way ‐ that our Catholic faith is important, that we are not ashamed of it. It may also provide us with an opportunity, particularly if we are asked, to explain to our friends and colleagues what the significance of our faith is for us and our lives.

Q8. Why is prayer important to our Friday penance?
Next to Sunday, the Lord’s Day, Friday has always been a special day in the Catholic Church for prayer. On a Sunday our prayer is in thanksgiving to God for the new and eternal life brought to us by Christ’s resurrection from the dead. On a Friday our prayer is in thanksgiving for the gift of the mortal life that we have been given; a life which Christ willingly sacrificed on the cross for our sake. A fitting prayer then, as part of our Friday penance, would be to ask Almighty God to turn away all threats to mortal life.

The act of abstinence itself can be offered consciously as a prayer for life and in reparation for sins against life.

Friday has always remained a day of penance, the observance of which binds gravely. As Pope Paul VI wrote in his Apostolic Constitution Paenitemini in 1966:

The time of Lent preserves its penitential character. The days of penitence to be observed under obligation throughout the Church are all Fridays and Ash Wednesday, that is to say the first days of "Grande Quaresima" (Great Lent), according to the diversity of the rites. Their substantial observance binds gravely.

The Code of Canon Law allows the bishops of each episcopal conference to determine the manner of the observance of Friday penance:

Can. 1250 The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.

Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Can. 1252 The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.

Can. 1253 The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.

So, is it a sin not to abstain from meat on a Friday in England and Wales?

The obligation to do penance every Friday (except on Solemnities) is binding, and Pope Paul VI said that the "substantial observance" binds gravely. This is in accord with traditional moral theology. Although the obligation may be binding, there are degrees of failure to observe the obligation. To fail to observe it in its substance, i.e. to deliberately omit the penitential practice enjoined upon us without good reason is grave matter, what we traditionally call "mortal sin". To omit it for good reason, e.g. poor health, doctor's orders, there is simply no other food available, or if we have been dispensed from its practice, is not a sin. To omit it out of carelessness, or because we didn't have the courage of our convictions to give the required witness before our friends, might be a venial or a mortal sin according to the circumstances. But it is a sin.

The above applies simply to the practice of Friday penance. Now that the Bishops of England and Wales have stated that this penance is to be observed by abstaining from meat, it would seem to me that to deliberately omit the observance of this penance would be sinful.

According to an authoritative statement form the Sacred Congregation of the Council in 1967 (see footnote 20 of this article),

this grave obligation does not refer to the individual days of penance, but to “the whole complexus of penitential days to be observed . . . that is, one sins gravely against the law, who, without an excusable cause, omits a notable part, quantitative or qualitative, of the penitential observance which is prescribed as a whole (February 24, 1967; reprinted in Canon Law Digest, vol. 6, pp. 684–85).

So, if one simply ignores the laws on penance, one is committing a grave sin. If one, through negligence or without some excusable cause eats meat on a given Friday, one would not be guilty of grave sin, but it would still be a sin.

As my learned friend Father Dylan James points out, the advice issued by Father Marcus Stock, General Secretary of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales, comes to a different conclusion in stating that
"The failure to abstain from meat on a particular Friday would not constitute a sin."
I would agree with Father James that, while failure to abstain on a particular Friday might not constitute a mortal or grave sin, it would still be a sin, the gravity of which would depend on the circumstances.

However, one should not be unnecessarily caught up with whether it is a sin or not to fail to abstain from meat on a Friday but rather embrace with gratitude this directive from the Engish and Welsh bishops that all Catholics in England and Wales be united in this common act of penitence and to joyfully - but penitentially - bear witness to this in our families and amongst our social contacts. As the bishops point out, no one should be offended if we respectfully point out to friends who might invite us out for a meal on a Friday that we do not eat meat on Friday.

I notice here in the US (at least in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan) that many restuarants advertise Friday fish menus.

But what about the discipline to be observed by Catholics in the USA?

In a 1983 pastoral letter, they wrote (my emphases added):

As a tangible sign of our need and desire to do penance we, for the cause of peace, commit ourselves to fast and abstinence on each Friday of the year. We call upon our people voluntarily to do penance on Friday by eating less food and by abstaining from meat. This return to a traditional practice of penance, once well observed in the U.S. Church, should be accompanied by works of charity and service toward our neighbors. Every Friday should be a day significantly devoted to prayer, penance, and almsgiving for peace.

But they did

warn those who decide to keep the Friday abstinence for reasons of personal piety and special love that they must not pass judgment on those who elect to substitute other penitential observances.
Above quotations taken from previously referred to article.
Presumably those who do elect to observe the traditional practice can expect a similar non-judgemental and respectful attitude from those who do not.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Receptions into the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham

At 1:30pm on Saturday September 3rd at St James', Spanish Place, London, three members of the congregation of St Mary's Bourne St will be received into the Catholic Church by the Ordinary Mgr Keith Newton during a Sung Mass.

A few of us bloggers have been asked to spread the word so, presumably, all are welcome to attend. Another important step in the work of restoring the unity of Christians.

Let us pray for the remaining members of St Mary's. They clearly want to be Catholic, and probably are in faith. May they soon be in communion with the Successor of St Peter.

New blogger - discerning his vocation

Bloggin as "CatholicDiscern" this young 20 year old is discerning whether or not he has a vocation to the priesthood and aims
  1. To encourage the open discussion of Christian Vocation.
  2. To provide people with information that may help them to discern their Christian Vocation.
  3. To provide information of Vocation events that are going on throughout the UK.
He can also be followed on Twitter.

He writes a thoughtful reflection on his experience of World Youth Day, particularly the prayer vigil and Mass on the last day: In a Field with the Body of Christ.

He can surely be assured of my prayers.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cremation - not in keeping with the Christian vision of the goodness of matter

The Church permits cremation. The Catechism states tersely:

The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body. (n. 2301)

The above quotation is footnoted with a reference to Canon 1176 #3 which states:

The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the deceased be observed; nevertheless, the Church does not prohibit cremation unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine.

Given this grudging permission ("does not prohibit") how is it that cremation has become so common amongst Catholics? It has always seemed to me unworthy of the dignity of the body of a baptised person - being a Temple of God - to consign it to the flames of a cremator. As Christ himself descended into the tomb after His death in anticipation of His Resurrection, so burial is a more perfect imitation of Christ the Lord as our bodies rest in the tomb awaiting the resurrection of the dead at the Last Day.

I have just finished reading John Henry Newman's "Development of Christian Doctrine". He quotes an early witness of the Christians who testifies that "They execrate the funeral-pile." That is to say: they do not burn the bodies of their deceased but rather bury them piously. Pagans, on the other hand, "hold corpses and sepulchres in aversion." For pagans, because matter, and therefore the human body, is essentially bad, it can be burned. Yet for Christians, the body is a holy thing having been united to the Divine Person of the Son of God.

And of course Catholic venerate the relics of the saints, their very bodies.

Here is the relevant section of Newman's work about this matter which you can read in its full context here:

"Perish the thought," says Manes, "that our Lord Jesus Christ should have descended through the womb of a woman." "He descended," says Marcion, "but without touching her or taking aught from her." "Through her, not of her," said another. "It is absurd to assert," says a disciple of Bardesanes, "that this flesh in which we are imprisoned shall rise again, for it is well called a burden, a tomb, and a chain." "They execrate the funeral-pile," says Cæcilius, speaking of Christians, "as if bodies, though withdrawn from the flames, did not all resolve into dust by years, whether beasts tear, or sea swallows, or earth covers, or flame wastes." According to the old Paganism, both the educated and vulgar held corpses and sepulchres in aversion. They quickly rid themselves of the remains even of their friends, thinking their presence a pollution, and felt the same terror even of burying-places which assails the ignorant and superstitious now. It is recorded of Hannibal that, on his return to the African coast from Italy, he changed his landing-place to avoid a ruined sepulchre. "May the god who passes between heaven and hell," says Apuleius in his Apology, "present to thy eyes, O Emilian, all that haunts the night, all that alarms in burying-places, all that terrifies in tombs." George of Cappadocia could not direct a more bitter taunt against the Alexandrian Pagans than to call the temple of Serapis a sepulchre. The case had been the same even among the Jews; the Rabbins taught, that even the corpses of holy men "did but serve to diffuse infection and defilement." "When deaths were Judaical," says the writer who goes under the name of St. Basil, "corpses were an abomination; when death is for Christ, the relics of Saints are precious. It was anciently said to the Priests and the Nazarites, 'If any one shall touch a corpse, he shall be unclean till evening, and he shall wash his garment;' now, on the contrary, if any one shall touch a Martyr's bones, by reason of the grace dwelling in the body, he receives some participation of his sanctity." Nay, Christianity taught a reverence for the bodies even of heathen. The care of the dead is one of the praises which, as we have seen above, is extorted in their favour from the Emperor Julian; and it was exemplified during the mortality which spread through the Roman world in the time of St. Cyprian. "They did good," says Pontius of the Christians of Carthage, "in the profusion of exuberant works to all, and not only to the household of faith. They did somewhat more than is recorded of the incomparable benevolence of Tobias. The slain of the king and the outcasts, whom Tobias gathered together, were of his own kin only."

Firm in the Faith - World Youth Day 2011

Given the time difference between the US and Spain it has been difficult to keep up with events at World Youth Day. But without a doubt it has been an momentous event for the Church. I really feel the World Youth Day has come of age thanks to our very Holy Father Pope Benedict. Blessed Pope John Paul II left a marvellous legacy, but would it be presumptuous to assert that Pope Benedict has really presided over the most mature celebration of World Youth Day ever.

I have been struck by the beauty of Catholic Culture at the various events: the beautiful music which has been of a polyphonic nature; the use of Latin at key liturgical points. The Pope gave his greeting "Pax vobis" (Peace be with you) in Latin. The Our Father was prayed in Latin. In the final Mass the Creed was sung in Latin. Each of the Prayers of the Faithful was introduced in Latin before being read in the different languages of the world. The music was both modern and classical in nature. The beautiful Spanish art on display at the Way of the Cross and the stupendous monstrance used at the Prayer Vigil show to the world and to the youth all that is best about our Catholic heritage.

Humanly speaking, the Prayer Vigil on Saturday night was utterly ruined by the torrential rain and high winds that disrupted the ceremony, yet the enthusiasm of the youth was not to be dampened. They were rejoicing at being in the presence of their Holy Father Pope Benedict. "Esa es la juventud del Papa" they proclaimed: "We are the youth of the Pope." The Papacy is in a very strong position judging by the esteem in which the two million young people present at the Madrid air base hold it.

I have not found many video clips of the event but see:

All the Pope's homilies can be found at the Vatican's World Youth Day 2011 website.

My personal favourite quotations come from the first address he made on Thursday:

If you build on solid rock ... your life will be solid and stable (and) it will also help project the light of Christ shining upon those of your own age and upon the whole of humanity, presenting a valid alternative to all those who have fallen short...

(T)here are many who, creating their own gods ... take it upon themselves to decide what is true or not, what is good and evil, what is just and unjust; who should live and who can be sacrificed in the interests of other preferences; leaving each step to chance, with no clear path, letting themselves be led by the whim of each moment....

Dear friends:... build your lives upon the firm foundation which is Christ... Then you will be blessed and happy and your happiness will influence others. They will wonder what the secret of your life is and they will discover that the rock which underpins the entire building and upon which rests your whole existence is the very person of Christ, your friend, brother and Lord, the Son of God incarnate, who gives meaning to all the universe.

We truly have a great Pope. The world media can ignore the fact of 2,000,000 young people gathered for a Mass with an 84 year old head of a Church that - so they report - is losing members, but if these young people are truly rooted in Christ and firm in the faith, the Church is ripe for a great renewal.

Blessed John Henry Newman said that one of the sure signs of a true Development of Christian Doctrine is "Chronic vigour":
WE have arrived at length at the seventh and last test, which was laid down when we started, for distinguishing the true development of an idea from its corruptions and perversions: it is this. A corruption, if vigorous, is of brief duration, runs itself out quickly, and ends in death; on the other hand, if it lasts, it fails in vigour and passes into a decay. This general law gives us additional assistance in determining the character of the developments of Christianity commonly called Catholic.

When we consider the succession of ages during which the Catholic system has endured, the severity of the trials it has undergone, the sudden and wonderful changes without and within which have befallen it, the incessant mental activity and the intellectual gifts of its maintainers, the enthusiasm which it has kindled, the fury of the controversies which have been carried on among its professors, the impetuosity of the assaults made upon it, the ever-increasing responsibilities to which it has been committed by the continuous development of its dogmas, it is quite inconceivable that it should not have been broken up and lost, were it a corruption of Christianity. Yet it is still living, if there be a living religion or philosophy in the world; vigorous, energetic, persuasive, progressive; vires acquirit eundo; it grows and is not overgrown; it spreads out, yet is not enfeebled; it is ever germinating, yet ever consistent with itself. Corruptions indeed are to be found which sleep and are suspended; and these, as I have said, are usually called "decays:" such is not the ease with Catholicity; it does not sleep, it is not stationary even now; and that its long series of developments should be corruptions would be an instance of sustained error, so novel, so unaccountable, so preternatural, as to be little short of a miracle, and to rival those manifestations of Divine Power which constitute the evidence of Christianity. We sometimes view with surprise and awe the degree of pain and disarrangement which the human frame can undergo without succumbing; yet at length there comes an end. Fevers have their crisis, fatal or favourable; but this corruption of a thousand years, if corruption it be, has ever been growing nearer death, yet never reaching it, and has been strengthened, not debilitated, by its excesses.

Truly the Church is still vigorous. As Our Lord promised when he entrusted the keys to Simon Peter, the gates of the netherworld will never prevail against the Church. It will go through its storms but will always maintain its vigour.


Swirl How, Lake District (UK) near Coniston Water, photo take August 16th 2008

My "Desktop" from this weekend's parish bulletin.

Do you ever experience discouragement? I do hope so!

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I want you all to be discouraged. It's just that I would feel a whole lot better knowing that I am not alone in these feelings. Sometimes things seem to be going really well, often for an extended period of time, but sooner or later one comes face to face with the fact that it is not by one's own efforts that the work gets done. It doesn't matter what the work is: priestly ministry, parenting, professional work of any other kind, particularly that kind of work (and I can't readily think of any work that does not fall into this category) that involves relating with others and achieving goals.

I think that when one experiences discouragement, one is brought face to face with one's true self: with one's limitations, one's weakness, one's pride... It must be awful to face this alone. Thankfully, none of us need be truly alone with these thoughts. There are times when we might feel alone, unable to share our feelings with others, perhaps out of embarrassment, but often out of pride and a sense of shame. It can take time for these feelings of inability to communicate to pass. But we do have Someone Else we can and must communicate with: and that is our loving and merciful Father who looks upon us his children with kindness and understanding. He dwells in the depths of our heart, and we need to seek alone-ness with Him in prayer, perhaps just saying nothing, just being in His presence, whether it's in our private room at home, or going out for a drive, a ride on the bike, sitting by the side of a lake, a walk with the dog…

Or being before His Son in the Blessed Sacrament who knows what it is like to be, humanly speaking, forsaken. "My God, my God, have you forsaken me" He exclaimed from the Cross. These are the first words of Psalm 21. The psalm certainly expresses that experience of alone-ness, but it quickly goes on to sentiments of trust: "Yet you are holy... In you our fathers trusted; they trusted and you delivered them. To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not disappointed."

There is also the beautiful sacrament of Confession. I thank God so much that I have the opportunity of certainty of God’s forgiveness. In Confession one opens one’s heart out to Christ in the person of His minister, the priest. For me, it is also to a brother priest. And as we are absolved from our sins, we are reminded that “God, the Father of mercies … has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins.”

We all know enough about the limitations of St Peter and yet Our Lord entrusted him with the keys to the kingdom of heaven and the ministry of loosing us from our sins. We know that if our sins are “loosed” by the power of the keys on earth, so they shall be loosed in heaven.

Each of us, too, has been entrusted with great treasures - above all our faith. At our baptism, along with faith we received the theological virtues of hope and charity, by which we place all our hope in God - hope in His mercy, His forgiveness, His strength, His promises of eternal life - knowing that His love (charity) dwells within us.

Now, I feel very encouraged! I hope you do too!

I shall be going away for a time of vacation on Tuesday, staying with a priest friend of mine (also an Englishman but now permanently resident in the US) in Vermont. Rest assured of my prayers for you in my daily Mass and times of prayer. Wishing you the peace that comes only from Our Lord Jesus Christ. Fr John.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Canon Law Conference for Canon Lawyers and Civil Attorneys

From left to right: yours truly; Father Ronald Browne (a priest of the archdioese of Detroit currently Moderator of the Curia of the diocese of Marquette, Canon Law classmate - along with me - of Bishop Alexander Sample, bishop of Marquette, at the Angelicum, Rome); His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke (Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, La Crosse, Wisconsin); Father Benedetto Paris (Chancellor of the Diocese of Marquette)

Another excellent Canon Law Conference, hosted by Cardinal Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, has concluded at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Maybe I'll get to write something about it, but for the moment just a photo of the Marquette contingent with His Eminence Cardinal Burke before a painting of Bishop Baraga, first bishop of Marquette, which is to be found in the downstairs of narthex of the shrine church. Cardinal Burke has a great devotion to Bishop Baraga whose cause of beatficiation is underway in Rome, currently awaiting approval of an alleged miracle.

This was only the second annual conference and there was a clear consensus that another should take place next year.

The conference was notable for its scholarly presentations from His Eminence Cardinal Burke, Dr Edward Peters (Professor of Canon Law at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit), Father John Coughlan OFM (Professor of Law and Concurrent Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame) and Dr Charles E. Rice (Professor Emeritus of Law at the University of Notre Dame Law School), and also for the profound sense of love for the Church. It was a wonderful occasion to experience a true communio amongst clergy, religious and laity, all desirous of furthering the project of ensuring that the Church is truly a speculum iustitiae (mirror of justice).

See posts about last year's conference here.

Father Z defends himself

It seems that the National Catholic Reporter is planning an attack on Fr Z, author of the informative blog What does the prayer really say.

Fr Z gives a full account of himself in his post Waiting for Zagano.

I am certainly happy to assure him of my support in prayer. The NCR is a liberal "catholic" journal that takes many an opportunity of questioning the Church's teaching as you will find by reading Fr Z's account.

The Confiteor in the new translation

Continuing my series on the new translation, here is my article in this coming weekend's bulletin.

This week we will take a look at the Confiteor.
Translation currently in use:
I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have sinned through my own fault
They strike their breast.
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do;

and I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the angels and saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.

New (corrected) translation:
I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
And, striking their breast, they say:
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;
Then they continue:
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.
The new translation restores the order of various phrases and the gesture of striking the breast to the original order as given in the Latin.

You will notice the addition of the word “greatly”. In order to receive Holy Communion without committing the grave sin of sacrilege, we are obliged to confess any grave (mortal) sins of which we may be conscious to a priest in the Sacrament of Confession. Our public confession at Mass is quite different from sacramental confession. It is presumed that most people present at Mass will not be conscious of unconfessed mortal sins yet we all together confess to have greatly sinned.

Two thoughts come to mind. The first is that we are all sinners. Even if we have confessed to a priest our mortal sins all of us can still say that we have “greatly” sinned in that we have committed mortal or other serious sins in the past and we publicly acknowledge this in a renewed act of repentance and sorrow. The second is that all sin, no matter how light (venial), is actually a serious matter before God. Nothing is of slight importance when it comes to the love, honor and obedience we owe to our Creator. Even our smallest sins were redeemed by the price of Christ’s Blood on the Cross.

We acknowledge the four ways in which we can commit sins: thoughts, words, deeds and omissions. We could each do a profound examination of conscience on these four areas: uncharitable or impure thoughts, uncharitable words or bad language, immoral or uncharitable activity alone or with others, omitting to fulfill our duties.

In the new translation, we acknowledge three times that our sins were committed through our fault, the third time emphasizing that our fault was “most grievous.” We make no excuses for the sins, mortal or venial, that we have committed. Our admission in this regard should move us to a sincere repentance and intention to amend our lives. We conclude the confession of our sins to God and to those present by asking for the prayers of Mary, the angels and saints and of one another, thus bearing testimony to the communion of saints and the power of intercession.

Gestures: please remember that we are directed to strike our breasts during the Confiteor as a further external manifestation of our repentance. Have a blessed week. Fr John.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mutual Enrichment of the Ordinary Form at Father Charles Briggs' Silver Jubilee

From the Southwark Archdiocese website (reproduced here in full since it is not possible to link to individual posts):
Father Charles with Archbishop Kevin, clergy and servers after his
Jubilee Mass
Father Charles Briggs, Parish Priest of Saint Mary's, Chislehurst, and the diocesan Archivist, celebrated twenty-five years as a priest on Tuesday, 2nd August 2011, with a High Mass of Thanksgiving at St Mary's.

Father Charles was assisted by Father Timothy Finigan as deacon and Deacon John Harrison as subdeacon. Archbishop Kevn, who gave the homily, was among the large number of clergy from the diocese and beyond who were present. Eight servers competently served the High Mass, which was in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. At the end of Mass a Solemn Te Deum was sung in thanksgiving.

Note: Ordinary Form Mass with deacons and concelebrating priest, deacons raising the chasuble as the celebrant elevates the Host. Mass ad orientem. (My comment.)

Father Charles offered a further Mass on Saturday, 6th August, when he was joined, among others, by Provost Joseph Collins and Father Philip Glandfield
And from the Archivist's personal archive:
Father Charles is ordained by Bishop John Jukes in August 1986

Friday, August 5, 2011

Commendation after absolution should always be said

I usually follow the formula of absolution with the following:

May the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary
and of all the saints,
whatever good you do
or suffering you endure,
heal your sins,
help you to grow in holiness
and reward you with eternal life.

Many have commented on what a beautiful prayer it is and that they never hear it used by other priests.

I have just read in no. 54 of the Congregation for the Clergy's Aid for Confessors and Spiritual DirectorsThe Priest, Minister of Divine Mercy, that this "commendation" contains a great wealth of spiritual treasure. It should always be said given that it directs the heart of the penitent towards the passion of Christ, the merits of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the Saints, and towards cooperation through subsequent good works.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"And with your spirit."

My "Desktop offering for this weekend's parish bulletin.

“And with your spirit.” This will be the first change that people will notice when the new English translation of the Mass comes into effect in Advent. Why the change?
First of all, because the new text is the correct translation of the Latin: “Et cum spiritu tuo.” The Latin for “And also with you” would be something like: “Et etiam tecum.” But that is not what it says. Why not?
For some time there was a movement to diminish in the minds of the faithful the distinction between the common priesthood of all the faithful and the ministerial priesthood of the priest. When he is ordained, the priest receives an indelible “seal” upon his soul which makes him “a priest forever” (cf. Psalm 109 [110]). We call this an “ontological change”, i.e. a change at the heart of one’s being. He becomes something he was not before. As the Second Vatican Council teaches, the priesthood of the ordained differs not just in degree but in essence from the common priesthood of the faithful. This means that the priest is not simply more of a priest than the lay person. He is a different kind of priest. Whereas we are all members of Christ’s mystical body (and if we are members of Christ, we all share in the priesthood of Christ), the ordained priest is identified with Christ the Head of the Church at once serving (sanctifying) and directing (teaching and shepherding) the operations of the members of the body. The ordained priest’s priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood of all the faithful. Their (your) priesthood depends on the ministry of the ordained priest.
You will notice that, even in the revised translation, the priest will never refer to your spirit. He will never say: “The Lord be with your spirit.” He will continue to say: “The Lord be with you.” But you will respond: “And with your spirit.” So there must be a difference between you the lay person (or indeed the priest who may be attending or concelebrating at Mass) and the one who is celebrating the Mass. When you return the greeting “And with your spirit”, you are expressing a prayer that the Lord will be with the celebrant in his priestly spirit as he carries out his triple function of sanctifying, teaching and shepherding the flock: that he be able to offer the Holy Sacrifice in a manner that contributes to the sanctification of the people present and that of the whole Church; that he be able to exercise his prophetic ministry in proclaiming and breaking open God’s Word (which is why the priest or deacon also says “The Lord be with you” and all respond “And with your spirit” before the Gospel is proclaimed); and that he be truly identified with Christ the Good Shepherd in whose Name he gathers the flock together around the altar of sacrifice.
A little word about gestures: when the celebrant says “The Lord be with you” he is directed to extend his hands. He is not extending his hands towards the faithful but rather extending them in the priestly fashion of raising a priestly prayer to God the Father. There is no direction given to the faithful to extend or do anything at all with their hands. So there is no need for the faithful to extend their hands towards the priest as they return the greeting. I shall address the question of gestures and postures in another edition of “Desktop.” There are gestures and postures which unite us as one people, but there are also those that distinguish the priest/celebrant from the rest, and it is important that, at Mass, we make only those gestures that the Church directs and avoid the introduction of gestures that confuse our distinctive identities in the People of God.
May the Lord God be truly with you and all your loved ones this coming week. May we all be aware of His never-failing presence among us.
Fr John

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Why a New Translation?

I am writing a series of articles in the parish bulletin on the New Translation. I offer these for a wider audience for review, comment, criticism etc. Here is the one I wrote for the July 24th edition of the bulletin.

          As I hope everybody now knows, from First Sunday of Advent (November 27) a new translation will be used in the English Mass. I want to start introducing some of the changes to you. The "typical edition" of the Mass is in Latin. The Mass is written and celebrated in the Latin language. It may, of course, be celebrated in the vernacular, in which case it must be faithfully translated. So why is a new English translation needed? There is a long answer and a short answer. The short answer is that the current English translation is unsatisfactory. In fact, in many respects, it is not a translation but an interpretation. There are even important parts of the Latin that have simply been omitted. Here are two examples of some of the unfortunate re-interpretations of the original Latin in the institution narrative of Eucharistic Prayer I at the heart of the Mass, with key differences/omissions highlighted:

Original Latin at the consecration of the bread:
Qui, prídie quam paterétur, accépit panem in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas, et elevatis óculis in cælum ad te Deum Patrem suum omnipoténtem, tibi grátias agens benedíxit, fregit, dedítque discípulis suis, dicens:...

Translation currently in use:
The day before he suffered
he took bread in his sacred hands and looking up to heaven,
to you, his almighty Father,
he gave you thanks and praise.
He broke the bread,
gave it to his disciples, and said:...

New (corrected) translation:
On the day before he was to suffer
he took bread in his holy and venerable hands,
and with eyes raised to heaven
to you, O God, his almighty Father,
giving you thanks he said the blessing,
broke the bread
and gave it to his disciples, saying:...

Original Latin at the consecration of the wine:
Símili modo, postquam cenátum est, accípiens et hunc præclárum cálicem in sanctas ac venerábiles manus suas, item tibi grátias agens benedíxit, dedítque discípulis suis, dicens:…

Translation currently in use:
When supper was ended,
he took the cup.
Again he gave you thanks and praise,
gave the cup to his disciples, and said:...

New (corrected) translation:
In a similar way, when supper was ended,
he took this precious chalice
in his holy and venerable hands,
and once more giving you thanks, he said the blessing
and gave the chalice to his disciples, saying:...

          It is important to have a correct translation since, according to an old adage, the law of prayer is the law of faith. In other words, what we express in our prayers expresses our faith. If the official prayer of the Church is deficient, this causes an erosion of our faith. A great fruit of the new translation of the Mass will be a deepening in faith and a greater sense of the sacred. It will also be a more elegant English. Doesn’t “with eyes raised to heaven” sound so much more uplifting than “looking up to heaven”?

          I hope to discuss some of the other changes, particularly in the people’s parts of the Mass, in future “Desktop” offerings. May you have a blessed week. Fr John.

Monday, August 1, 2011

iGJPII App for World Youth Day Participants

I'm not sure what GJPII means but this seems a cool app for all young people going to World Youth Day.

CNS - VATICAN CITY — If your parents are paying your way to World Youth Day in Madrid and you want them to know where you are, then the Vatican has an iPhone and iPad app you both might want. On the other hand, you can use it just with your friends.

The iGPII application, coming to the Apple Store Aug. 1, features a “Friend Finder” so that when you are in Madrid you can find anyone you have befriended with the device. The service is part of the application’s GPS function, which also lets you figure out where you are, where WYD events are and where there is a restaurant open nearby that will accept the WYD pilgrim meal tickets.

The app, developed for the John Paul II Foundation for Youth and carrying the Pontifical Council for the Laity seal of approval, will cost $4.99 from the Apple Store in North America and €3.99 in Europe. Although journalists got a preview peek at the Italian version today, it also will be available in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Polish.

Proceeds from app sales will be used by the foundation to help young people from developing countries get to Madrid and to future celebrations of World Youth Day, said Marcello Bedeschi, president of the foundation.

Iacopo Barberini, who works for Futurtech — the techie brains behind the app — said the program comes with a password that will give users free access to wi-fi hotspots in Madrid so they can update the app without paying roaming charges.

In addition to the “Friend Finder,” the app has a detailed WYD program, prayers and papal messages, a city guide, information about the foundation, a ton of info about past WYDs, photo albums featuring Blessed John Paul and Pope Benedict XVI and a varied collection of YouTube videos featuring prayers set to music. One is Bobby McFerrin leading a crowd in singing “Ave Maria.”


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