Tuesday, 31 October 2006


It was busy day at the diocesan archive yesterday, catching up with a week's worth of correspondence and receiving five visitors - including an Australian Bishop, the Most Rev. Geoffrey Jarrett, DD (Bishop of Lismore). Having been present at the Abbatial Blessing at Farnborough, he was spending a few days in London and had expressed a desire to see our collection. It's nice to meet a bishop with such keen interest in the English Martyrs and ecclesiastical architecture.

Anyway, I relaxed in the evening by accompanying Fr Richard Whinder to see Marie-Antoinette at the cinema just round the corner from the Archives. The film has had a mixed reception - the French critics at Cannes are said to have booed - but I loved it! I wasn't expecting a film with a clear beginning-middle-end nor was I looking for strict historical accuracy. But as an impressionistic portrait of a lost age, it was second to none.

Unlike any other film I've seen, you really felt as if you were there - at Versailles (and it helped, of course, that the film was shot 'on location' at the great palace). The film deserves at least Oscar nominations for costume design and photography. There were some impressive shots of the royal carriages trundling along and of the gardens of Versailles, full of courtiers as far as the eye could see. I must say Miss Dunst also cut a fine Marie-Antoinette, despite (or perhaps because of) the relative lack of dialogue. The film, I must add, was comparatively 'priest-friendly' and, with its 12A certificate, did not go down the path (which many other directors would have chosen) of including lots of sex scenes.

There were some minor irritations. Louis XV had a particularly strong, cowboy-like American accent (apologies to readers across the pond). Joseph II didn't resemble the obsessively enlightened despot that he was. The modern rock music (juxtaposed with the odd Baroque aria) didn't always work as a soundtrack. And - as always with big films - there were numerous liturgical errors in the ceremonial scenes, such as cardinals wearing chasubles under their copes (unless it was an ancient Gallican privilege?!). This is particularly tragic because the Versailles area is not short of a few traditionalist clergy who could have advised on such matters.

Worst of all, in my mind, is the fact the film stops at the Revolution, which was the Queen's finest hour. As Elena Maria Vidal (Catholic author of such novels as Trianon) has pointed out:

The Coppola film ends when the Revolution begins, at the moment when Marie-Antoinette came into her own as the daughter of a great empress and as a queen who would not forsake her husband or her duty, even when to do so cost her her life. The new generation of movie goers will be deprived of such an inspiration that would be so powerful on screen. Antoinette's Christian fortitude is ignored and her personal tragedy is trivialized amid a movie of froth. Without the spiritual depths, the depiction is shallow and incomplete.

However, at least Marie-Antoinette is very much the heroine and, in its quiet way, the film is a piece of historical revision and goes against the traditional 'let them eat cake' image of the French Queen (although the 'myth' of her affair with Count Axel von Fersen is repeated). For a historical critique of the film, see Elena Maria Vidal's website (raised biretta to Dappled Things). But, on the whole, the film gets a thumbs up from the Roman Miscellanist.

(All pictures copyright Columbia Pictures)

Labels: , ,

Back to Reality

It always takes a bit of time to get back to normal after a retreat, hence my lack of blogging these last few days. A retreat shouldn't really produce too much blog-worthy material - it's a time for focussing on the 'interior,' for reminding oneself of familiar truths and making resolutions for the future. However, I will post some photos of Farnborough Abbey soon and report a bit on the aftermath of the Abbatial Blessing (see Joee Blogs for the photos).


British Bomb Explodes in Bavaria

Whilst I was on retreat, my German friend, Jan, sent me an e-mail about a story that dominanted German news last week. One of 'our' WWII bombs expoded next to the motorway between Frankfurt and Nuremberg during road works, tragically killing one worker. What makes it so alarming is that the 250kg bomb wasn't detected when the motorway was built in the 1950s and, since then, millions have driven along unaware of the danger. As we wear our poppys in preparation for Remembrance Sunday, this story reminds us of the ever-present scars of war.


Sunday, 22 October 2006

On Retreat

Tonight I'm off to Allen Hall Seminary for a new priests party. I've been ordained three and a half years but, since they haven't had such an event for quite some time, I'm apparently included.

Then tomorrow I go on my annual retreat to St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough in Hampshire. It will be an interesting time for a retreat since today is the Abbatial Blessing of Dom Cuthbert Brogan, who has been Prior for nearly a decade. I wish I could have gone but I had three Masses to say here in Hackney. I'm sure the celebrations will continue this week (including the odd Pontifical ceremony to aid my meditation?) and I believe the guests may include the odd Australian bishop. Anyway, hopefully Joee Blogs will provide some reports of today's grandeur on his blog.

I've been a regular guest at Farnborough since 1996, when I visited as a University student. I was there when my Finals results were announced a few days earlier than expected and the Prior kindly opened a bottle of champagne that just happened to be sitting in the monastic fridge. I stayed at the Abbey for a few days during each of my seminary vacations, co-authored a book which the monastery press produced (The Forty-Four: Martyrs of the Venerable English College, Rome) and most recently took a group of confirmandi there.

I find it a handy place for retreats and recollections, especially since it's such an easy journey from London and because it makes no difference to the community whether you concelebrate or say Mass quietly at a side altar.

So, folks, I won't be blogging this coming week. Oremus pro invicem!


The Horrors of Hackney?

So far, I've enjoyed getting to know the area around my new parish, much of which is in the London Borough of Hackney (the arms can be seen above). It's a very mixed place - rundown estates alongside smart squares - but I was surprised to see the following on BBC news:
Hackney has accused television producers of "middle class snobbery" as it hit back at a survey branding it the worst place to live in the UK. The London borough came bottom in the Channel 4 survey of the UK's 434 local council areas.

But the area's directly-elected mayor, Jules Pipe, rubbished the survey, which is based on crime, environment, lifestyle, education and employment. Past shows had said Hackney was a great place to invest in property, he said. The borough replaced Hull, which was ranked the worst place to live in last year's survey.

"Of course Hackney has problems, as do all inner city boroughs, but it is an amazing place to live. It is diverse and exciting with fantastic architecture, a vibrant arts and cultural scene, and a bright future as an Olympic borough.It's got a great atmosphere, a bohemian feel, fantastic markets and nightlife. Schools are improving and, all in all, it's a great place to live."

Well, I haven't yet discovered the 'Bohemian lifestyle' or plunged the hidden depths of the 'vibrant arts and cultural scene,' but I'd certainly be keen to defend Hackney. With its considerable history, community spirit and warm-heartedness, I'd certainly much rather be here as a priest than many other places, which might seem superficially more attractive.

Labels: ,

Saturday, 21 October 2006

The Queen

Last night I met a priest friend and went to see The Queen (starring the wonderful Helen Mirren) at a cinema which, appropriately enough, is a short walk away from Kensington Palace.

Based on the events following Diana's death, I wasn't quite sure that I would enjoy the movie but the acting certainly kept my attention and there were some interesting details of palace life. Her Majesty came across fairly well, even if her stiff resolve to 'do nothing' after Diana's death proves to be the wrong decision - but I don't think any of the audience in Kensington would have left with radical republican sentiments. In fact, the only opponent of the Monarchy in the film is Mrs Blair. All in all, it's an interesting study of power and the British Establishment.

According to the today's Telegraph, the film is proving quite a hit in New York and everyone wants to imitate Her Majesty's dress sense. As a regular wearer of a black barbour jacket (it goes nicely with a Roman collar), I was pleased to read that the latest must-have item across the pond is the Beauford - 'a zip-up "classic country" waxed number with a corduroy collar and optional hood.' Another great English export!

Labels: , ,

Thursday, 19 October 2006

A Pilgrimage to Rochester

Forgive my absence these past few days, but I haven't had the chance to spend long at the computer! On Monday night I said Mass for the Good Counsel Network at their London HQ. Their small but very respectable chapel can be seen below. Clare and Stuart always offer a warm welcome to visiting priests and they do such good work - in case you're not aware, their 'mission statement' reads: 'through and with Mary, the Mediatrix of All Graces, to mediate the Mission of Motherhood in order to save as many babies as possible from abortion, using the most effective, morally acceptable means; to reach, inform and help women.'

Then on Tuesday I made a gita to Rochester, a charming Cathedral city to the south of London. In terms of foundation, it's one of our oldest Cathedrals, dating back to 604 when St Augustine sent St Justus to be the first bishop.

Of course, the last but one Catholic bishop of Rochester was St John Fisher - who refused any further promotion, despite Rochester being the poorest see in the country. Up until the Reformation the Cathedral boasted the shrines of St Paulinus, St Ithamar (the first Saxon to be made bishop in England) and St William of Rochester (a pilgrim murdered on his way to Canterbury by his adopted son). But there are few traces of these shrines or of Cardinal Fisher in the Cathedral. Still, it's a pleasant enough place to wander round.

My intrepid travelling companion for this excursion was Fr Richard Whinder. He is an already well-known face on St Blog's UK but let me add another picture to the gallery. Here, the good Father is meditating on the ruins of the Cathedral's cloisters and thinking of bygone, happier days:

But, I must confess, the Cathedral was not the main priority of our visit, mainly because we have been there many times. On arrival our first stop was the rather impressive Elizabeth's of Eastgate Restaurant, where I had half a poissin and breast of guinea fowl, washed down with a bottle of Montepulciano and finished off with coffee and (non-pc) Lepanto brandy.

Fortified by such delights, it was time to make a pilgrimage to Baggins Book Bazaar, which claims to be the largest secondhand bookshop in England. I'm not sure if this is correct but it's certainly big and we spent a very happy hour or two browsing and making some select purchases (including a few old travel journals about Rome). Then it was back to London Victoria and a quick pizza. Thus I was ready to face the challenges of another week in parish and archive!

Labels: ,

Tuesday, 17 October 2006


Some light relief for Tuesday morning: an Anglophile German friend of mine sent me the following, which made me chuckle as I was sipping my morning coffee:

The European Commission on Languages has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility. As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5- year phase-in plan that would become known as "Euro-English".

In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c". Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favour of "k". This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter. There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with "f". This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.

In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent "e" in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.

By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z" and "w"with "v". During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensi bl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru.

Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.


Monday, 16 October 2006

The Wit of Adrian Fortescue

Greetings from the Diocesan Archives! As I speak we have four people looking at the papers of Adrian Fortescue (1874-1923), the great polymath priest, writer and liturgist. They're hoping to organise a local exhibition in Letchworth. His letters are written in beautiful script and are full of wit. Some time ago I started transcribing them - I didn't get too far but here's one example (blog exclusive!):

To Canon Edwin H. Burton at St Edmund's College, Ware (20 September 1902)

I have been missing you horridly at breakfast, though the salutary vision of you fully vested & waiting with lacerating meekness in my sacristy when I rolled out of bed has not yet lost its effect. The nuns (little pink daughters of the penitent thief) are here now; so I get up at 7am, like an early Christian martyr. Sister Joanna Baptista of the Pinnacle of the Temple L.P.D. of P.T. (the she-superior) is a Tartar & won’t stand no fooling, nor can I imagine her waiting meekly as you did, though she would wear vestments like a shot if I let her. This order is an entirely new idea of my Rector at the German Church (a Bohemian monomaniac): its originality consists in the fact that the members go to the Sacraments several times during the year, abstain from fleshmeat on all Fridays, & endeavour generally to cultivate a spirit of Christian virtue & untarnished morality. These proceedings are rightly supposed to be very gratifying to the better nature of the penitent thief – hence the order’s name.

Also they have 15 little boys, so that when you come at Christmas you shall have no lack of servers. They sing Vespers in the evening in what purports to be the Latin tongue, Sister Philipina Canaria (of the way to Jericho) wearing a cope & a Roman missal, from which she tells me that she always sings Vespers.

They have given me a picture of a gentleman whom I recognise as that illustrious prelate the present incumbent of the Roman bishoprick: I am informed that if I look at it in the proper spirit it will give the pontifical blessing – a striking sight which I am naturally anxious to enjoy. Hitherto I have not succeeded in convincing it of my spiritual propriety. I have told it all the things that I think it would like to hear – that I am dead nuts on Encyclicals, that ubi Petrus ibi the whole show, that Roma locuta est (she never stops) nulla salus est (I hope I haven’t got this mixed); I have even said polite things about its fel. Rec. predecessors of the X & XV centuries; alas, in vain! It hasn’t once burst into: Sit nome Domini benedittumme [sic]. When you come I hope you will start it: it can’t doubt your propriety of spirit!

Note: Fortescue was a loyal Roman Catholic but he was proud to be English and certainly was not unduly Ultramontane, hence his tongue-in-cheek humour regarding the Holy Father.

Labels: ,

Sunday, 15 October 2006

Farewell Bash

Last night I formally bade farewell to the Shrine of Our Lady of Willesden at a special leaving Mass and reception. Of course, as regular readers of this blog will know, I took up residence in Kingsland at the beginning of September and already feel very much at home. Although I've 'moved on,' I was glad to have the opportunity to say goodbye and thank you to my former parish.

It was my first experience of a farewell party and the whole thing was quite overwhelming. The choir had very kindly selected my favourite hymns, which had been sung at my diaconal and priestly ordinations, both of which took place at Willesden – Christ is made the sure foundation, All my hope on God is founded, Draw nigh and take and Jerusalem the Golden.

The reception afterwards, at which I was presented with a cheque and gave a short speech, was a very joyful affair. The party finished at 9pm and I then retired to the presbytery for drinks with Fr Stephen Willis (Rector of the Shrine) and the organist, Simon. I finally collapsed into bed about 1am!

Last night was above all a celebration of the Sacred Priesthood and the privileged role that priests get to play in the lives of their flock. It was humbling to listen to people’s kind comments or read their messages. A priest is often not aware how his ministry affects people. A sermon which the priest himself has long forgotten or discarded, a Funeral Mass, a quick word of encouragement or a home visit can all touch people in ways that you don’t expect at the time. Last night was a timely reminder that Priesthood is not just a job or a function but a wonderful vocation and gift from God.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, 14 October 2006

James II and Ian Paisley

Today is the 373rd birthday of King James II, our last Catholic King - and, for the benefit of American readers, the guy who gave 'New York' its name because he was Governor of that colonial settlement as Duke of York.

This time last year I led a service and gave an address for the Royal Stuart Society, in which I was asked to focus on James' policy of toleration. It was quite an amazing experience since it took place on Trafalgar Square, just outside the National Gallery where there is statue of the King by Grinling Gibbons. At the end of the De Profundis roses were laid beside the image.

The 'congregation' was pretty small but slightly to my embarrasment a reporter from the Catholic Herald was present and a large article appeared the following week, with a colour photo of me. The amusing thing is that this was discovered by Ian Paisley's website, The European Institute of Protestant Studies. I won't provide a link but this is what appears on the website. It's taken from the Herald report but I love the headline Ian Paisley provides - it takes you back 100 years to the controversies of Edwardian Britain!:

Rome’s Attempt to Whitewash the Perjurer James II

Article taken from:- The Catholic Herald – 21 October 2005

THE LAST CATHOLIC king ever to rule over the British people has seldom been treated kindly by the historians who chronicled his fate. King James II is generally depicted as an autocratic bigot, a religious zealot with contempt for freedom and a man whose arrogance and recklessness led to his own downfall in the so called “Glorious Revolution” of 1688.

But historians attached to the Royal Stuart Society, an organisation set up to promote interest in the Royal House of Stuart, believe nothing could be further from the truth.

Last week, the Society commemorated the birthday of the Stuart king in a ceremony held in Trafalgar Square, London. The event formed part of a wider campaign by the Society for the “rehab” of James as an “enlightened ruler” who championed religious toleration not only for Catholics but also for Jews, Quakers and Nonconformists.

Fr Nicholas Schofield, the archivist of the Archdiocese of Westminster; addressed the group as it gathered around Grinling Gibbons’s 17th century statue of James as a Roman Caesar. “This noble square has been the focus of many celebrations this year, ranging from the bicentenary celebrations of the Battle of Trafalgar to the announcement of the winning Olympic bid,” said Fr Schofield, a priest at Our Lady of Willesden Church, north London.

"Today we add to this list of commemorations as we recall an event that took place at St James’s Palace 372 years ago. On that day, a third son was born to King Charles I and Henrietta Maria: Prince James, Duke of York and Albany."

Fr Schofield said that James, during his lifetime, would go through such incarnations as "the rosycheeked infant surrounded by siblings and spaniels in the paintings of Van Dyck; the successful admiral; the unlucky king; the devout, saintly exile."

But he said: "We think of him as an heroic figure. We come here not only to remember the king and pray for the repose of his soul, but also to resurrect his reputation." He added: "We particularly think of King James today not as a bigot but as a champion of liberty."

Fr Schofield also described the friendship between James and the younger William Penn. He told how James, a Catholic convert, resigned as Lord High Admiral in 1673 as a result of the anti-Catholic Test Act, and how Penn had been expelled from Oxford and imprisoned because of his Quaker beliefs. James granted Penn territories in the American colonies where Quakers would be free from persecution. The two men also later formed a political alliance to introduce toleration and to abolish the Test Acts, he said. In 1686, James released 1,200 Quaker prisoners and the following year Penn helped to draft the first Declaration of Indulgence suspending the Test Acts and other penal laws. The result was that toleration was extended to Protestant Dissenters, Catholics, Quakers and non Christians.

"Even more surprising to the generations brought up under the old Whig history is King James’s treatment of the Jewish community," said Fr Schofield. "James had an early positive encounter with them in the persons of David da Costa and Augustine Coronel-Chacon, Jews who had given financial aid to the Royal Family during their exile. In his colony of New York, James, as Duke of York, granted toleration to the Jews and, as recent research has shown, gave them their first synagogue. Jews had previously been barred from settling in English colonies and, indeed, all English lands since the Expulsion of 1290." He said that such a policy was especially progressive given that Jewish emancipation was not finally granted in Britain until 1830.

"So let us remember the king as a champion of toleration," Fr Schofield concluded. "His ambitious and far-reaching policy was thwarted by prejudice and given the most sinister of interpretations, especially since it threatened the Anglican establishment and was seen to leave the door wide open ‘Popish’ domination."

"James was devout in his Catholic faith and hoped for the conversion of his kingdoms, but throughout his life he showed an impressive openness to those who held different religious beliefs. Even in exile, as hopes of restoration declined, he continued to employ Dissenters in his household. On James’s 468th birthday, let us give thanks rather than apologise for this beleaguered King."

David Sox paid tribute to James on behalf of the Quakers, saying the King and Penn had laid the cornerstone of religious freedom and tolerance, "so important in our own day." Mr Sox, an executive member of the Friends’ Historical Society, told the group that by honouring James they were celebrating one of the cornerstones of what it meant "to be British."

After a series of short prayers, a bouquet of flowers was laid at the foot of the statue by Roger Dave, the secretary of the Society. Afterwards, Society chairman Dr Eveline Cruikshanks, a distinguished historian of the Jacobite period, told The Catholic Herald that inquiries were being made with the Vatican to find out why James’s cause for sainthood, opened in 1702, a year after his death, was suspended in 1740. "Not everyone in the Society would support taking the time to push the cause of beatification for James II but others would," she said.

James II became the last British monarch to be overthrown by foreign invasion when he was driven out of England by a large Dutch army under William of Orange. The invasion force was brought to England by a fleet even larger than the Spanish Armada 100 years earlier and comprised twice as many soldiers as the Royal army.

William occupied London and insisted that Parliament accepted him as the new king on the grounds that he would reassert the Protestant ascendancy in Britain. It is widely accepted today, however, that William’s truer motive was to bring England into his war with Louis XIV of France. After 1689, the new regime passed the Toleration Act which merely exempted Trinitarian Dissenters from penalties of the law without confer¬ring equal rights. For Jews, Catholics, Quakers and Unitarian Dissenters there was no toleration but renewed persecution.

I took comfort from its inclusion on the site because you must be doing something right if Ian Paisley attacks you!

On the home page, by the way, they give five reasons 'why Catholic is not Christian,' spelling 'tiara':


Labels: ,

Friday, 13 October 2006

'Good King Edward'

Today is the festa of St Edward the Confessor, a feast extended to the Universal Church by Blessed Innocent XI at the recommendation of Philip Cardinal Howard OP, but now sadly only in our local Calendar (grrrr). I should wish my dad a buona festa, since it's his name day.

Most people have heard of St Edward because he built Westminster Abbey and died in the most famous year of English history, 1066. In fact the succession crisis that followed his death led to the battle of Hastings and the death of King Harold.

But there’s more to St Edward than ‘1066 and all that.’ Last year Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor preached a rather good sermon at Westminster Abbey on the occasion of the saint's one thousandth birthday. It's worth reading in full. He pointed out:
Kings in the Middle Ages knew what was expected of them. They had to defeat their enemies in war, and they had to beget sons to ensure the succession of the crown and provide political stability. Edward the Confessor did neither: he fought no battles, and he fathered no children. And partly because of that, after him English rule gave way to foreign conquest. But for more than twenty years Edward ruled as an effective and peaceable king. He took the taxes raised for war and gave some of them at least to the poor, he defused international aggression by negotiation, he tempered harsh laws to human frailty, he made himself available to his subjects, and he built on this site a great monastery dedicated to St Peter.
When Edward built the first minster here in the West, London already had a great minster in the East, its cathedral church of St Paul’s. By dedicating the new West Minster to St Peter, Edward poised his capital and its people between the two great founding Apostles of the Church, and placed the life of London, and of England, under the light of that church’s teaching and witness and wisdom. This was to be no secular city, but a community shaped by Christian faith and hope and love; and the Abbey’s continued presence at the heart of our city is a twitch upon London’s thread, tugging it always back to its heart.
We remember St Edward as a man of faith, who faced adversity with a strong trust in providence, exercised an extraordinary piety and was generous to the poor. According to legend, he gave a ring to a beggar one day at Westminster. Two years later a group of English pilgrims in the Holy Land met an old man, who identified himself to be St John the Beloved Disciple and gave them a ring, saying 'for the love of Edward I will not fail you, and you shall arrive safe and sound in England. Then go to Edward, and say you have brought a ring which he gave to me when I besought him in poor array. And tell him that in six months he shall come to me in Paradise.'

St Edward was buried in his Abbey at Westminster and, because of his royal birth, his shrine survived the Reformation. We celebrate him today not as a great King but as a great Christian. Mgr Ronald Knox hits the nail on the head in the second reading in today’s Office of Readings: we might say rather harshly that ‘when we venerate St Edward, we venerate a failure.’ However,

ask yourself which you would rather have been, in life, of all those great dead who lie in Westminster Abbey, and you will find it a difficult question to answer: there is so much that dazzles, so much that captures the imagination…but ask yourself which of those great dead you would rather be now, your body there, your soul far away – is there any Christian who would not ask to change places with the Confessor, who would not choose his resting-place, there to wait for the opening of the great Doomsday Book?

Labels: ,

Si Si No No?

Fr Uwe Michael Lang sent me a link to the website of the Corriere della Sera which has a poll on the Old Mass. Since this is a widely-read newspaper, the result of the poll may have quite an effect one way or another.

The question is Siete favorevoli al ritorno della messa in latino? (Are you in favour of the return of the [classical] Mass in Latin?); all you have to do is click Si or No. At the time of writing just under 60% of 21,690 voters are in favour of the Universal Indult.

By the way, I enjoyed this thought on the subject from Dominicanus:
The document will speak, if the sources are to be believed, of one Roman Rite with two expressions. (This reminds me strangely of Communist China's "One Country Two Systems" doctrine about Hong Kong.) The Pauline Rite will be the ordinary Rite, the Pian Rite will be the extraordinary Rite. (One hopes that the extraordinary rite will become as common as extraordinary ministers in the new rite).


Thursday, 12 October 2006

SPUC and the United Nations

The UN has just issued a study on violence against children. A good thing, you might think, until you realise that there is one not so little omission - the fact that millions of children are denied the right to life every year through abortion.

SPUC is urging the UN to represent the rights of unborn children and to introduce a global ban on abortion. You might like to visit the Amnesty for Babies campaign site and sign the petition.


Best Blogs

It's meme time again, courtesy of Mulier Fortis. I'm supposed to identify my favourite post from

1. My own blog. Tricky. There's nothing particularly amazing or original. I always enjoy sharing my holiday highlights and emphasising the historical and hagiographical aspects - eg The Irish Saint of Melk, On Rochets, Saroziums and Almutiums, Rule Britannia and even this week's A Pilgrimage to St Albans.

2. Another UK Catholic blog. All the blogs listed to the right are recommended (many of them are UK-based). Joee Blogs post on the Westminster Cathedral demonstrations deserves a mention for attracting so many thousands of visitors and showing our friends across the Atlantic that UK Catholic blogs mean serious business! And I enjoyed Valle Adurni's multi-posts on the Sarum Usage, simply because it brings back memories of my halycon youth (no, I wasn't born in the fifteenth century but I was involved in the Oxford Masses he talks about!).

3. A favourite UK Catholic website. Limiting it to the UK makes it very difficult. I have a soft spot for the history section of the Venerable English College, Rome website (not because I helped write it but because the College's heritage is very dear to me and there are some nice pictures).

I hereby tag the two blogs in my parish: Cally's Kitchen and Ignatius Paul (who has finally started posting - check out his descriptions of my parish's current pilgrimage to Poland).

Labels: ,

What a Relief!

I am nerdier than 13% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

But then I felt a bit nerdy doing this test in the first place.

(H/T to Mulier Fortis)


The Mass of Ages

Two things of note in todays Daily Telegraph.

Firstly, there's yet another report speculating about the seemingly imminent Universal Indult (I'll only believe this when I see it on the Vatican website). The article contains the inevitable howlers:
  • 'few British Catholics under the age of 50 will have attended a Tridentine Mass' - hmmmmm, a surprising proportion of young Catholics I know either frequent it regularly or have at least some experience of it.
  • 'during most of the service, the priest has his back to the people' - see Fr Lang's book, Turning towards the Lord. Need I say more?.
  • 'in England and Wales, there is not much demand for the Tridentine Mass' - yet the Latin Mass Society and other bodies organise plenty of celebrations around the country, especially in London, which are well attended.
  • 'very few English priests have gone through the long and complicated business of learning to say the old Mass' - again, more than you might think. Many have studied the rubrics simply to inform their celebration of the Novus Ordo, even though they may not say the Old Mass publicly. And anyway, I wouldn't call the process of studying the rubrics unduly 'long and complicated' (though certainly more so than the Novus Ordo).

The Universal Indult would, indeed, be most welcome. Some may dream but I don't think we'll ever go back to an exclusive use of the pre-Conciliar liturgy (at least in my lifetime). Too much has happened over the past forty years and the best we can realistically hope for is a 'reform of the reform' and better liturgical training. However the 'Old Rite' remains a vital reference point and a profound part of the Church's Tradition.

The point is that the matter shouldn't be a big deal. This is the 'Mass of the Ages,' which has been around for centuries, has nurtured the lives of great saints and is a clear demonstration of lex orandi, lex credendi. It shouldn't even be an issue that some people value this Mass - seminarians have even been known to risk expulsion because they have an interest in the ancient rite of Mass. Removing the current constraints would make the 'Old Rite' a normal and natural part of Catholic Life. And that has to be a good thing.

I doubt any priests I know will go berserk once the Universal Indult is promulgated and start abolishing the Novus Ordo in their parishes(even if they might like to!!!). The bishops should not be afraid of an Indult - it would foster ecclesial unity and make the Church's tradition more accessible to the people.

* * * * * *

A letter from Count Nicolai Tolstoy to the Telegraph also caught my attention: 'Sir, Can anyone identify a fashionable vice to which the Church of England is opposed?' Answers on a postcard, please.


Wednesday, 11 October 2006

A Cardinal on the Western Front

I was just playing around with my new scanner and thought I might include these wonderful photos from the diocesan archives. They show Francis Cardinal Bourne, Archbishop of Westminster, visiting the Dublin Fusiliers Brigade on the Western Front during the First World War.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, 10 October 2006

A Pilgrimage to St Albans

The great thing about my new day-off (Tuesday) is that it's shared by several of my priest friends. So, today I made a gita to St Albans, the Cathedral city that lies just a short train ride north of London. My companion was my chum from both university and seminary, and co-author of Evangelium, Fr Marcus Holden. Here he is:

And here is your humble blogger in the same spot, having had a rather fine lunch minutes before:

I tried to take an arty shot of the Cathedral with swan in foreground, but it didn't quite work:

Of course, the real point of the visit (apart from eating and visiting a few secondhand bookshops) was to pray at the shrine of St Alban, our proto-martyr. He was a citizen of the Roman town of Verulamium, which stood near the site of present-day St Albans, and was beheaded after hiding a fugitive priest and converting to the Faith. Such was the scandal of his death that the executioner's eyes are supposed to have fallen out as the saint's head hit the ground. Some scholars suggest that he suffered as early as 209 - making him one of the earliest indigenous Western Christians we know by name.

St Alban's shrine was destroyed at the Reformation, although some think his relics were saved and sent to the former abbey of St Pantaleon's in Cologne, which had had a shrine to the saint since the tenth century. The relics there include a skull with a golden band - and King Offa is recorded as presenting a golden band for the St Alban's skull back in the eighth century. The saint's 'shrine' was restored in 1993 and a few years ago the Cathedral was presented with a shoulder blade from Cologne. Here's a picture of St Alban's chapel - as Anglican shrines go it is quite impressive:

Nearby is the restored shrine of St Amphibalus, the priest hidden by St Alban:

St Amphibalus (whose name possibly derived from the Greek name given to a cloak) appeared in the twelfth century as a martyr in his own right. According to William the Monk’s largely fanciful Alia Acta SS Albani et Amphibali et Sociorum (‘Other Doings of SS Alban and Amphibalus and their Companions’) St Amphibalus fled to Wales together with a thousand converts he had made at Verulamium. Eventually they were discovered by the pagans and massacred. Two members of this multitude of early British martyrs were given the names of SS Socrates and Stephanos (Feast: 17 September). I must confess I had never heard of them until today. St Amphibalus was eventually taken back to Verulamium in chains and disembowelled, scourged, stabbed and finally stoned to death.

In 1178, shortly after the Alia Acta was written, the body of St Amphibalus was conveniently discovered (or ‘invented’) in a small mound at Redbourne, three miles outside St Albans. According to the chronicler Matthew Paris, St Amphibalus was found with a large iron spear head and nine other bodies – the monks had almost certainly stumbled across an early Anglo-Saxon burial, although it remains questionable whether any of these bones were those of a Romano-British martyr. Nevertheless the relics were placed in a shrine at first next to that of St Alban; then, around 1222, to the east end of the nave, before being finally translated to a more worthy place in the retrochoir, where the fragments of the shrine can still be seen.

All in all, a most refreshing and fascinating gita - crowned by a visit to a small shop specialising in classical CDs. They were having a clearance with very good CDs selling at just £2. I'm currently listening to one of these as I blog - an oratorio written by Francesco Provenzale (1624-1704) and based on the life of Santa Rosalia. How cool is that?!

Labels: ,

Sunday, 8 October 2006

Strictly Come Dancing at the Latin Mass

Another curious detail from parish life. This morning, as I was preparing to celebrate our weekly sung 'Latin' Mass (well, all the bits we sing are Gregorian Chant and the rest is in the vernacular), two cars pulled up in our car park. They contained Mark Ramprakash (Surrey cricketing captain) and Karen Hardy, two of the contestants for the popular BBC series Strictly Come Dancing. They rehearse in the studios across the road and regularly use our premises for parking.

I must confess I was mildly disappointed that it wasn't Emma Bunton, formerly Baby Spice (Spice Girls), who was using our car park - at least I've heard of her! Anyway, fortunately the couple didn't waltz down the nave during the Kyrie.


Saturday, 7 October 2006

Festal Drink


Feast of the Holy Rosary: A Sermon

What comes to our minds when we think of the Rosary? We think of the parishioners who recite the Rosary after our weekday Masses, we think of the Rosary processions or vigils that we have participated in, we think of the times we have fumbled with our beads at home or in church. We don’t tend to think of battles. And yet it is a series of military victories that led to the creation of today’s Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

On 7 October 1571 the forces of Christendom, under the command of Don Juan, defeated the Turks at Lepanto. The famous sea victory was attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin because the Rosary had been recited both by the soldiers before battle and by many of the faithful in Rome. St Pius V instituted the Feast of Our Lady of Victories and, shortly afterwards, Gregory XIII changed this to Our Lady of the Rosary. In the early eighteenth century, following some further victories against the Turks, the Feast was extended throughout the Church. And so October became known as the month of the Holy Rosary.

These historical events remind us of the importance and power of the Rosary. Numerous popes and saints have recommended the prayer as an effective weapon in the Church’s spiritual armoury; indeed Padre Pio called it ‘the weapon.’ At Fatima the Blessed Virgin, who identified herself as ‘the Lady of the Rosary,’ told the three young visionaries: Pray the Rosary every day… to obtain peace in the world.

Let us have trust in Our Lady and, especially in this month of October, pray the Holy Rosary. It’s a wonderfully flexible prayer. It doesn’t depend on spending long hours kneeling in church. We can fit it into the spare moments of the busiest day – I often say a decade or two while I walk along the street or wait for the bus. If Mary can help win great battles then she can also help us with our own battles, our worries and problems.
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen

PS Buona festa to Fr Tim (Hermeneutic of Continuity) at Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen.

Labels: ,

Friday, 6 October 2006

Archepiscopal False Teeth

They're not a very attractive sight but they're a link to an important episode in our ecclesiastical history. These porcelain teeth belonged to Arthur Richard Dillon, Archbishop of Toulouse (1721-1806), one of the hundreds of Catholic clergy who sought sanctuary in Protestant England during the French Revolution. The arrival of the emigre clergy led to the opening of a number of missions around England and was an important step on the road to Catholic Emancipation.

Archbishop Dillon was the son of an Irish officer who was 'exiled' on account of his Jacobite sympathies and found service in the French army. According to one report:

Archaeologists discovered the teeth, still snugly in his mouth, when they opened his coffin in London's St Pancras graveyard during excavations for a terminus for a rail link to the undersea Channel Tunnel. Made of porcelain with gold springs, and individually crafted for a perfect fit, dentures like these were
invented in France in the 1770s.

It is believed Dillon may have bought them from the celebrated Parisian dentist, Nicholas De Chemant, before fleeing to England at the time of the 1789 Revolution."These unique artifacts reflect a pivotal time in dental history, with the adoption of new materials and methods of manufacture," said Natasha Powers, a Museum of London archaeologist who has written a paper about the teeth for the latest issue of the British Dental Journal."They also represent a period of significant social and economic change for the upper echelons of French society."

Phil Emery, an archaeologist with Gifford, the engineers working on the rail link, said the teeth, "are in remarkably good condition - they have seen considerable use." The dentures are slightly cracked, he said, and worn down on the left, suggesting the archbishop chewed more on that side.

When Archbishop Dillon died in London he was buried in Old St Pancras graveyard, which was particularly favoured by English Catholics because it was said that the adjoining church was the last to hold celebrations of Mass at the Reformation. These amazing teeth went on display today at the Museum of London, apparently because it's World Smile Day.

PS I'm just back from my Day of Recollection, so I've given myself permission to turn on the computer!

Labels: ,

Thursday, 5 October 2006

Parish Visiting

Made two house visits this afternoon to discuss forthcoming baptisms. One was to a large Congolese family in a Council flat, where I was handed a can of Pepsi by the pater familias. The other to a large house in the elegant De Beauvoir Town (a masterpiece of early nineteenth century town planning). As I was sipping my cup of tea in the comfortable lounge the doorbell rang and a friend of the family came in, delivering three boxes of wine for the post-baptism party. It turned out to be the actor Aidan Gillen, the star of Queer as Folk and the 2004 Broadway production of Pinter's The Caretaker. Two very different experiences that neatly sum up the diversity of my new parish!

Tomorrow I take my first day of recollection, which my parish priest has advised so that I can regularly recharge my spiritual batteries. So I'll try to avoid the temptation of blogging.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, 4 October 2006

The Westminster Succession

Hat-tip to Brendan Allen for alerting the blogosphere to the article in the Racing Post (that great Catholic publication, at least in terms of readership) concerning the next Archbishop of Westminster. Of course, despite the ever-present 'speculation,' it's rather premature to consider such a topic since Cardinal Cormac won't reach 75 until 24 August 2007 and who knows what Rome will decide.

However, it's interesting to see who are thought to be the favourites:

7-2 Kevin McDonald (Southwark)
9-2 Alan Hopes (Aux, Westminster)
9-2 Aidan Nichols OP
5-1 Vincent Nichols (Birmingham)
7-1 Michael Fitzgerald
8-1 Patrick Kelly (Liverpool)
8-1 Arthur Roche (Leeds)
10-1 Peter Smith (Cardiff)
12-1 Bernard Longley (Aux, Westminster)
14-1 Michael Evans (East Anglia)
14-1 Timothy Radcliffe OP
16-1 Patrick O'Donoghue (Lancaster)
20-1 John Rawsthorne (Hallam)
25-1 John Crowley (Middlesborough)

Well, there's a good chance that at least one of these names is a future Archbishop of Westminster. My hunch would be with Roche, V Nichols or Smith. But then the present incumbent at Archbishop's House was given odds of 25-1 at the death of Cardinal Hume...

Labels: ,

Talk on the Church in Pakistan

The next London Faith Forum talk sounds interesting given the present time - it's by John Pontifex of that excellent Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need, and is entitled 'Pakistan: Can the Church survive the threat of Fundamentalist Islam?' It takes place at St Vincent's Centre, Carlisle Place, near Westminster Cathedral, on Tuesday 10th October at 7pm.


Tuesday, 3 October 2006

Style and Substance

Today I attended the annual meeting of diocesan archivists, held this year at Brentwood Cathedral in Essex. This is our newest cathedral. Although part of it constitutes the original 1861 structure, the main area is provided by the neo-classical extension built fifteen years ago:

The neo-classical architecture is undoubtedly tasteful but it seems strange that the most prominent decorative feature of the church interior are the massive golden chandeliers - prominent because there is hardly any other decoration. It took me some time to notice the presence of the cross; there are very few images and the stations (the roundels above the arches) are in a modern style and very hard to make out.

The Blessed Sacrament is reserved in a beautiful baroque Neapolitan tabernacle in the apse of the old church, hidden round the back of the bishop's throne and choir stalls and therefore easy to miss. You can't see any sign of the Blessed Sacrament chapel on entering the Cathedral. There is a strong musical tradition - with a fine boys and men choir - but outside of liturgical services the church seems very empty.

The interior may be light, spacious and elegant, but to my mind a nice building doesn't necessarily make a satisfactory church.

Labels: , ,

<< # St. Blog's Parish ? >>