Thursday, 30 November 2006

Blogging A-Z

The dúnadan has started an A-Z of British Catholic blogs - a useful resource, especially with the growing number of bloggers.

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Episcopal Meme


Valle Adurni has tagged me with the question: 'if the Holy Father were to nominate you bishop tomorrow (and anyone can play this one, lay, clerical, guy, gal,—this is about ecclesial priorities not ontology) what are (in order) the five (or more) really important issues that you would address first?'

Well, I thought of more than five and here they are, in no particular order:

An early and essential task would be to get to know your clergy and parishes – through a schedule of visitation and interviews with priests (perhaps deanery by deanery). That way, appointments could be based on personal knowledge. Once a week there would be an open slot so that priests could freely see the bishop and discuss problems, issues, etc.

If there was a seminary in the diocese, then that would be the apple of the new bishop’s eye. He would frequently visit, carefully appoint the staff (so that the right students reached Ordination) and not be afraid to make it a centre of spiritual and academic excellence.

The promotion of vocations would also be a priority and based on a pro-active approach, unashamedly setting forth the splendour of the Sacred Priesthood (including its many crosses – we are supposed to be ‘priest victims’ after all). Potential seminarians would not be rejected just because they were ‘too young’ or ‘too inexperienced’ or because their face didn’t fit – what’s the point of the six years of seminary if it can’t form men to be ‘other Christs’ in spite of their limitations?

The Cathedral and other key urban churches would be encouraged to become liturgical and musical centres. Guidelines would be produced so that parishes could correctly implement the new General Instruction. The Historic Churches Commission would make sure no needless architectural vandalism took place. The use of other rites and older editions of the Missale would, of course, be generously allowed.

A diocesan programme of catechetics would be drawn up, the emphasis being substance as well as style. A good catechists training centre would be established. The bishop would also visit his schools and make sure the Faith was being taught and lived there.

Bureaucracy would be cut back, where possible; the bishop would try to be more a shepherd than an administrator and committee meetings would be minimised!

Given the level of Catholic immigration, special attention would be given to ethnic chaplaincies and the integration of these groups into diocesan life. After all, most Catholics in this country are not English in origin and we owe to them the growth of the Church!

If a new Order or movement wanted to move into the diocese, the application would be encouraged and carefully considered.

To renew parochial life, such things as parish missions, novenas, processions, adoration and festal celebrations would be encouraged.

That should keep a new bishop pretty busy for the first few years!

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Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Arinze in London

Cardinal Arinze was in town recently to inaugurate the Nigerian Catholic Chaplaincy (the national chaplain lives on the same floor as me) and to celebrate the Academic Mass at Westminster Cathedral (see the splendid photo above). In his homily he meditated on the meaning of faith:

My Catholic faith gives unity and meaning to my life. Otherwise the various things I do, or bear, or receive or hope for in life would be like scattered mosaics without a unified meaning. My daily duties would be one monotonous and dull detail after another, without connected meaning. I would be facing heat, cold, traffic jam, insistent telephone calls and endless office meetings which make every new day saluted with lack of enthusiasm, if not with a sense of boredom, meaninglessness and growing tiredness.

On the contrary, my Catholic faith is a dynamic and bright lantern for my path in life. It shows me Jesus as the way, the truth and the life (cf. Jn 14:6). It harmonizes my duties as a citizen and as a Christian (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 43). It excludes all divorce between my Sunday Mass and my duties on Monday to Saturday. My plans and hopes, my achievements and failures, my pains and aches as one grows older, and my joys and celebrations of milestones in life are all given a vital synthesis and sense of direction. I do not live with a pessimistic melancholy outlook on life. I have no temptations to suicide because such are often based on seeing no meaning in life. With St Paul I can humbly say that I know in whom I have believed and I have every reason to put my trust in Christ Jesus (cf. II Tim 1:12).


The Cardinal went on to talk about the position of a Catholic in a pluralistic academic institution:
It is a risk to try to meet people of other religions if one does not have a clear idea of one’s Catholic identity and a calm insertion in it. A country does not send as its ambassador a citizen who cannot distinguish the flag of his country from two other flags, who has forgotten the name of the President or King/Queen of his country and of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and who cannot sing the National Anthem!

A Catholic who is not well inserted in our Catholic faith and community is threatened by many dangers in the academic community. There is the error of secularism which lives or wants to conduct society as if God did not exist, as if religion were a private property which must not be allowed to show its face in public. There is religious or theological relativism which denies objective truth in any religion, which assumes the attitude that one religion is as good as another, and which is practically saying that your religion is true for you and my religion is true for me, as if sincerity were the only virtue and were the objective criterion of truth! Every teacher knows that sincerity is not enough, otherwise all students would pass the mathematics examination. Practical materialism can become equivalent to implicit or practical atheism when only material things are taken seriously and the existence of God is denied or ignored. The error of liberalism, which can sometimes approach indifferentism, is that of people who regard themselves as superior to all considerations of adherence to a definite religion or set of beliefs and who look on all religions with indifferent and benign compassion.

The full text of the homily can be accessed here.

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Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Oratorian Cabaret



H/T to Devout Life for this footage of the 'Men in Black' fundraising concert at the Toronto Oratory - featuring an Oratorian on a tuba and, forming a backdrop, the harpischord belonging to the distinguished Fr Jonathan Robinson - which can be seen more clearly in the picture below:


Very much in the spirit of St Philip Neri!

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Catholic London

Yesterday was a busy day that took me to two of London's most beautiful and interesting churches.


First of all I went to St Etheldreda's, Ely Place - a Rosminian church that was founded from my current parish (Kingsland). It is one of the oldest Catholic churches in this country for the chapel dates from the late thirteenth century and was used by the bishops of Ely as their London base. This connection ended at the Reformation but it returned to Catholic hands briefly in the seventeenth century, when it was used by the Spanish Ambassador, and again in 1873, when Fr William Lockhart purchased the property for the Institute of Charity. American readers might be interested to know that the Catholic chapel at West Point Military Academy is modelled on St Etheldreda's.

I went to this venerable church to meet the archivist of the Rosminians, who is an Englishman and was passing through London on his way to Africa. We retired to Ye Old Mitre Tavern, hidden in a nearby alley and originally dating from Elizabeth I's reign. I'm trying to find out more about my new parish's history and, although the Institute's archive contains a file of documentation (including plans of the original church), one would need to go all the way to the Mother House at Stresa in northern Italy. The archivist has kindly invited me to visit at the end of May - an offer I intend to take up (and this has nothing to do with the fact that the place is on the western shore of Lake Maggiore!).


After a stint at the diocesan archives I then made my way to Mayfair and the stunning Jesuit church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street, which was opened in 1849 (just before the Restoration of our Hierarchy). The occasion was a Council meeting of the Catholic Records Society - and I urge all readers with an interest in English Catholic history to join. For a very reasonable subscription you get two issues of an internationally respected journal (Recusant History) and a hardback monograph.
There was time, also, to pop into the book launch of the latest offering from Family Publications: a reprint of John Gerard: The Autobiography of an Elizabethan, with a new introduction by Michael Hodgetts. It's a gripping story - as the write up says,

John Gerard was a Lancashire man, educated at Oxford and ordained in Rome. After a ministry in East Anglia he was arrested and tortured in the Tower of London but, miraculously, escaped and continued working as a priest for the next eight years, even gaining access to the courts of Elizabeth I and James I. After the Gunpowder Plot, however, he fled to the continent where he wrote this autobiography, which transports the reader into a world of priest-holes, secret Masses and high intrigue. He died in Rome in 1637 without ever seeing England again.
Finally I rushed back to Kingsland where I was meeting some priest friends for Vespers and Benediction in preparation for the Feast of the Martyrs of the Venerable English College, Rome (1 December). Here is the scene in the sacristy afterwards:

And the evening finished with a jolly meal on Newington Green. A great Catholic London day!

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Sunday, 26 November 2006

Fr Unwin the Secret Agent



Hat tip to parish blogger, Cally's Kitchen, for alerting me to this wonderful trailer for The Secret Service, produced by Gerry Anderson (creator of Thunderbirds). It follows the adventures of Fr Stanley Unwin, a priest (C of E?) who also acts as a secret agent for B.I.S.H.O.P. (British Intelligence Service Headquarters, Operation Priest) and uses the ultimate clerical accessory: the Minimizer. The complete DVD adventures of Fr Unwin might make a nice little stocking filler:

Viva Cristo Rey!

A Parish Sermon for Christ the King


Earlier this week the Church celebrated the feast of Blessed Miguel Pro, a Mexican Jesuit who was executed by firing squad on 23 November 1927. He lived at a time of great persecution of the Church in Mexico; religious services were illegal but this didn’t prevent Fr Pro from secretly celebrating the sacraments and promoting the League for the Defence of Religious Freedom. He was arrested and falsely accused of conspiracy against the Government. As the young priest stood before the firing squad he raised his arms in the form of the cross and cried: Viva Cristo Rey! Long live Christ the King!

Two years before Fr Pro’s martyrdom, Pope Pius XI introduced the Feast of Christ the King, which we celebrate today. It is the culmination and end of the Church’s Year and also an introduction to the coming Season of Advent, when we await the coming of Christ in glory.

The image of Christ the King is a familiar one in Sacred Scripture: the prophets spoke of the coming of a great King, on whom was ‘conferred sovereignty, glory and kingship’; the Angel Gabriel told Mary that her son would ‘reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end’; in today’s Gospel Jesus refers to Himself as a king, though His Kingdom is not of this world; Apocalypse calls Christ the ‘Ruler of the kings of the earth.’

But what does it mean? Is Christ’s Kingship just a metaphorical title? Or is it something real in our lives? Christ is King because He is God and because He has redeemed us through the shedding of His blood. His Kingdom is ‘not of this world’; frequently in the Gospels Jesus shies away from the idea of becoming a political leader and liberating Israel. As Pius XI wrote in Quas Primas (1925), ‘this kingdom is opposed to none other than to that of Satan and to the power of darkness. It demands of its subjects a spirit of detachment from riches and earthly things, and a spirit of gentleness. They must hunger and thirst after justice, and more than this, they must deny themselves and carry the cross.’

However, today’s Feast was introduced 81 years ago in order to emphasise an important truth: that Christ’s Kingship doesn’t just involve individual Christians but the whole of mankind: Catholics and Protestants, Christians and non-Christians, believers and non-believers.
We live in a society where religion is seen as little more than a lifestyle option; where an employee of a well-known airline can be disciplined for wearing a crucifix in case it offends others; where liberty is seen as doing whatever we please rather than seeking the truth. This mentality has led to many Catholics minimalising the Faith and keeping it out of public affairs. Many believe that the Church should stay out of political matters, that a Catholic MP, for example, has no right to ‘impose’ his or her private beliefs on a Parliamentary discussion.

Today’s Feast proclaims that Christ is King in every aspect of human life and that His laws need to be followed. As Pius XI wrote, ‘while nations insult the beloved name of our Redeemer by suppressing all mention of it in their conferences and parliaments, we must all the more loudly proclaim his kingly dignity and power, all the more universally affirm his rights.’ The bishops recently did this by defending Catholic education and defeating the proposal to have a quota of non-Catholics in our already over-subscribed schools. We can also promote the Kingship of Christ by defending the Gospel of Life and fighting attempts to extend abortion, euthanasia and the scientific misuse of human life.

For the most part, it is not Christ who reigns collectively and individually; it is the ‘I,’ the ego that reigns. Yet in Christ is the salvation of the individual and of society. Christ reigns everywhere – in Parliament and in the workplace, in our families and on TV, in the classroom and the hospital, just as much as here in church on Sunday. It’s up to us to make that a reality. If Christ reigns in our lives and if we try to build up His Kingdom around us, we will promote the Kingship of Christ. As we celebrate this final Sunday in the Church’s Year and prepare for the coming of Christ in December, may Christ truly reign in our hearts, minds and will! Viva Cristo Rey!

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Institute of Christ the King

Today's Feast of Christ the King made me think of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, based outside Florence, which has a well illustrated website. The Institute was founded by two French priests, Mgr Gilles Wach and Fr Phillipe Mora - both graduates of the Pontifical Irish College, Rome - and canonically erected in the African Diocese of Mouila (Gabon) in 1990. I hope they won't mind me using a few sample pictures to illustrate their apostolate.

First of all the new dress of the Chapter of the Institute, complete with blue pom-poms:

The Institute now has a female branch, the Sisters Adorers of the Royal Heart of Jesus Christ Sovereign Priest. Here is a picture of five young ladies receiving the habit from the hands of the Bishop of Fiesole on 30 October this year:


The seminary at Gricigliano has many visiting dignitaries. Here the subdeacon sings the Epistle in the presence of the Abbot of Fontgombault:

And Cardinal Antonelli of Florence arriving in deep snow to celebrate the Feast of St Francis de Sales a few years ago:

Finally, a photo from a recent ski camp - showing that a cassock is not an obstacle on the ski slopes (I must get a pair of goggles like that):

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John Paul's Cappa


Now here's a little something for this wet and windy weekend to gladden your Catholic senses. Biretta tip to 'Leo' at Far Sight for discovering this rare picture of 'John Paul the Great' shortly after being made a Cardinal and wearing a cappa magna!

Wojtyla was never a creature of the sacristy and in later years he was quite content to leave all liturgical and sartorial matters in the hands of Marini. But judging from his expression, I think the good Cardinal is rather enjoying being wrapped up in watered silk!

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Saturday, 25 November 2006

Papal Coronation


Valle Adurni has just finished a mammoth fully illustrated thirty part post on the Coronation of Blessed John XXIII - check it out if you haven't already. I have a copy of the video somewhere which I keep meaning to transfer on to DVD.
The above picture gives a little taster: the deacon processes with the fistula, the golden straw through which the Pope consumed the Precious Blood at Holy Communion.

We wish 'the tired parish priest of the Adur Valley' every blessing on his patronal feast.

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Friday, 24 November 2006

On-going Formation

On-going formation is an important aspect of priestly life because formation does not end with seminary. The last few days I have had a few doses of such ecclesial 'in-service training.'

First of all, on Wednesday morning, I attended the start of the APGL conference, organised by the good Fr Tim of Hermeneutic of Continuity. Among the priests present were three bloggers and we each took a picture of the group on our respective cameras - seasoned readers will recognise (from left to right) Fr John Boyle (South Ashford Priest), Fr Tim Finigan (Hermeneutic of Continuity) and your faithful Roman Miscellanist:

I was only able to stay for the inspiring address given by Mgr Ignacio Barreiro of Human Life International. Inspiring not because it contained anything new but because it was such a 'neat' synthesis of Catholicism and the problems facing it today. He stressed that in order to preach the 'Gospel of Life,' priests must make sure the totality of the Faith is preached. He recommended a systematic presentation of doctrine in our Sunday sermons rather than mere Scriptural exegesis, especially in Ordinary Time (or, as he put it, the 'Sundays after Pentecost'). I have often thought this although I wish someone more learned than I could put together such a doctrinal system for our three year cycle.

Here is a picture of Mgr Barreiro, courtesy of Fr Tim's blog. The grey haired head to the right of the foreground, by the way, is Aidan Nichols OP, whose many theological books got me through my seminary studies and is often mentioned as a potential 'B16 bishop.'

Mgr Barreiro's talk will be made available soon - but in the meantime, as a sample of his writing, check out the sermon on the Blessed Karl of Austria here.

Then I went to All Saints, London Colney, our diocesan centre on the outskirts of London. It's an impressive building - a former Anglican convent, boasting a chapel designed by Sir Ninian Comper:

The occasion of my visit was the twice yearly 'Under 5s' meeting - for young clergy ordained within the last five years. Like most 'in-service' events I always slightly dread these conferences but normally end up enjoying them. The young priests of Westminster are a good bunch and we all get on well and have a largely similar outlook on the Church. As well as spending an enjoyable evening at the bar, we had a Holy Hour, a talk by Bishop George Stack (the Auxiliary who ordained me) and a session on time management and the things that obstruct us from being truly effective. Covering my hands in permanent marker ink, writing words on post-it labels and sticking them onto a board brought back very vividly the pastoral classes we sat through in seminary. In March the 'Under 5s' will spend some days at the Royal English College of St Alban in Valladolid, in the company of Cardinal Cormac and Bishop Alan Hopes, which should be fun...

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Thursday, 23 November 2006

Pope on the Patio

My German friend, Jan, sent me the above photo from a German newspaper - though I'm not sure which one. I decided to scan it after a few unsuccessful google image searches. It shows the Holy Father enjoying a drink on the patio of his brother's house at Regensburg. It must be one of the first shots of a pope in a suburban domestic setting - and I think it's great!

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Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Birthday Meme

Anne of Denmark

Before leaving for the start of the APGL Conference and then going on for an overnight stay at London Colney for some in-service training, let me just complete a meme suggested by the dúnadan. Here are the instructions:

1) Go to Wikipedia

2) In the search box, type your birth month and day but not the year.

3) List three events that happened on your birthday

4) List two important birthdays and one death

5) One holiday or observance (if any)

Right - my birthday (12 December) is the day of:

  • the Battle of Nineveh in 627, when a Byzantine army under the Emperor Heraclius defeated the Persian forces, commanded by General Rhahzadh.

  • the Massacre of Ma'arrat al-Numan (1098) during the First Crusade

  • most importantly, the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St Juan Diego - and this great Marian feast is kept on 12 December
I share my birthday with Anne of Denmark (b.1574 - Catholic wife of James I) and St Madeline Sophie Barat (b.1779) (as well as Frank Sinatra) and it is the anniversary of the death of Keiko, the killer whale who starred in the first three Free Willy films!

I hereby tag Fr Tim, Fr Sean and Joee Blogs.

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Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Manning and Harrow

It's been a rather mad day - stayed Monday night with a recently married University friend who lives in Guildford and has just qualified as a British Airways pilot. Then I met friends for lunch in Leatherhead.

My final destination was Harrow School, where a new exhibition was opened outlining the life and work of the school's two most eminent nineteenth century churchmen: Charles Gore (sometime Anglican bishop of Worcester, Birmingham and Oxford) and our very own Cardinal Manning. I was invited to the launch since there were items from our archive on display and I was welcomed by the School's excellent Catholic chaplain, Fr Andrew Wadsworth:

Harrow is one of our finest public schools - founded in 1572 and boasting Churchill, Peel, Palmerston, Byron, Trollope and nineteen winners of the Victoria Cross as old boys. It has an impressive exhibition area, the Old Speech Room Gallery, and part of the Manning display can be seen in the picture above, including the mitre the Archbishop wore at Vatican I.

Dinner followed in the Senior Common Room, where our table had an ecumenical flavour - I had a very pleasant conversation with the Anglican chaplain and a representative of the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield (founded by Bishop Gore).

We toasted Cardinal Manning, despite his celebrated teetotalism. His years at Harrow formed in him a regular prayer life, but there was little indication of Manning's future career. His greatest distinction at school was playing in the criclet eleven. During one inter-house match around 1823 two future archbishops (Manning and Trenchard of Dublin) and three bishops (Wordsworth, Oxenden and Terry) all played. Manning, we are told, also liked wearing tasselled Hessian top-boots!

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Sunday, 19 November 2006

New Dominican Blog


I've just noticed, courtesy of Fra' Lawrence Lew OP, that the English Dominican Studentate have launched a new 'internet-based project' (essentially a blog), appropriately called Godzdogz. The first post explains the name:
The name 'Dominican', although derived from the name of our holy father and Founder, St Dominic, is also a pun on the Latin phrase "Domini canes" which means 'Dogs of the Lord.'This was itself based on a dream which St Dominic's mother, Blessed Juana de Aza, had in 1170 when she was pregnant: she saw a black and white dog with a torch in its mouth setting the world ablaze. This was interpreted to refer to St Dominic and his spiritual children, the Dominican Order - in their black and white habits - whose preaching brings the light of Gospel truth to shine upon and inflame the world with divine love.And so, this site represents the 'barks' of this pack of 'God's dogs', hopefully gathering all into the flock of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd!
The blog is based around the four essential aspects of Dominican life - prayer (reflections), preaching (written and audio-visual), study ('a virtual Quodlibeta')) and community (news and events). It promises to be a fascinating read and starts in earnest in Advent, although I've already put it on my 'blogroll.' It replaces the pioneering Dominican blog of Fra' Lawrence, Contemplata aliis tradere, which has now been discontinued. I've also added to my list the new(ish) blog of some brave English seminarians, Orthfully Catholic.

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Saturday, 18 November 2006

In Praise of Saki


Today's Telegraph reminded me that last Tuesday (14 November) saw the 90th anniversary of the death of H.H.Munro (better known by his pen name 'Saki'), who rivals Oscar Wilde as one of the wittiest authors produced by this country. He had joined the army during WWI, despite being over age, and was killed by a German sniper as he hid in a shell crater. A comrade had alerted the enemy to their presence by smoking and Saki's last recorded words are said to have been: 'put that bloody cigarette out.'

As a modest commemoration of Saki, I include below a few of my favourite quotes:

'Isn't there a bishop or somebody who believes we shall meet all the animals we have known on earth in another world? How frightfully embarrassing to meet a whole shoal of whitebait you had last known at Prince's! I'm sure in my nervousness I should talk of nothing but lemons. Still, I daresay they would be quite as offended if one hadn't eaten them. I know if I were served up at a cannibal feast I should be dreadfully annoyed if anyone found fault with me for not being tender enough, or having been kept too long.'

'People may say what they like about the decay of Christianity; the religious system that produced green Chartreuse can never really die.'

'Every reformation must have its victims. You can't expect the fatted calf to share the enthusiasm of the angels over the prodigal's return.'

'The young have aspirations that never come to pass, the old have reminiscences of what never happened. It's only the middle-aged who are really conscious of their limitations - that is why one should be so patient with them.'

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A Busy Week

It's been a pretty busy week, especially since my PP has been away the last fortnight, leaving me 'in charge' of one of the largest parishes in this part of London. Luckily no major disasters - last time he went away part of the sacristy ceiling fell down!

I meant to mention that I paid a visit to Westminster Cathedral on Monday. After chatting with the Administrator, Mgr Mark Langham (who reads this blog!), I was shown the Cathedral archive, which is situated in a room once used by the architect, John Francis Bentley, in one of the towers. I spent a happy two hours looking at medieval Books of Hours, Bentley's plans, drawings by Eric Gill, photos of grand functions and a huge model of the Cathedral. Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera!

On Friday evening I had a pleasant drink with the author of Cally's Kitchen, who lives in the parish. My rooms are finally ready for entertaining friends, which is always a pleasure, and over the last fortnight a number of brother priests have popped over for drinks or impromptu meals. Anyway, inspired by the conversation with the Dúnadan , I decided to overcome my reservations and upgrade to Blogger Beta. I think it's worth it and I'm currently putting labels on my old posts.

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Hic Domus Dei Est

Every year we celebrate the dedications of the four major basilicas of Rome. In August we commemorate St Mary Major, one of the most venerable Marian churches of the world. A short time ago we kept the dedication of the Basilica of St John Lateran, which is the Pope’s Cathedral and the mother church of Christendom.

Today we commemorate the dedication of the two other great Roman churches: the basilica of St Peter’s in the Vatican, one of the largest and most famous churches in the world and the scene of grand papal ceremonies; and the slightly less well-known St Paul’s outside the walls, not far from Tre Fontane (the spot where St Paul was beheaded). These two churches were originally built by the Emperor Constantine (though since rebuilt) and contain the mortal remains of the two apostles.

Peter, the rather bumbling fisherman, and Paul, the reformed persecutor of Christians, became the pillars of the Church. Peter was named the rock, despite his personal failures, and Paul became the Apostle to the Gentiles, despite his dark past. Peter and Paul are very different characters – indeed, at times they disagreed with each other over matters of Church policy – but they were both united in love of Christ, they both let grace triumph over their weaknesses and they both made the ultimate sacrifice. Both died a martyr’s death in Rome—Peter on a cross and Paul beneath the sword. Their combined gifts shaped the early Church and pilgrims have flocked to their tombs ever since their martyrdom.

Today we spiritually make a pilgrimage to Rome and honour these two Apostles. We also celebrate our communion with the Holy See and pray especially for the Successor of St Peter, Pope Benedict, who will soon make a risky journey to a hostile Turkey. We pray the Lord will strengthen and protect him, as he follows in the footsteps of the Apostles.

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Thursday, 16 November 2006

Cardinal Heenan on the Vernacular

I recently found this interesting extract from an account of the First Session of Vatican II by John Carmel Heenan, then Archbishop of Liverpool and soon-to-be Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. He states that, in the debate surrounding the vernacular liturgy, many undecided bishops were won over by the testimonies of bishops behind the Iron Curtain, who saw liturgy as a catechetical tool in the absence of Catholic schools, universities, etc:

In general terms it can be said that the English-speaking bishops tend to oppose the use of the vernacular in the liturgy. The probable reason is that we have all around us evidence of the failure of Protestant churches, despite their vernacular and their beautiful choirs, to attract worshippers. It has always been the boast of Catholics that wherever in the world they go they are at home at Mass…But our apprehensions seem to be shared by comparatively few abroad. The Italians, for example, display surprisingly little heat in this controversy. It would, of course, make comparatively small difference to their faithful whether the Mass were in Latin or Italian.

Germans tend to favour the vernacular partly because they have so wonderfully developed popular singing and, generally speaking, the participation of the faithful in the sacred liturgy. The People’s Mass has long been a feature of the Church in Germany and is the envy of like-minded Catholics elsewhere. But it is possibly more difficult than enthusiasts realise to introduce this kind of disciplined participation to English congregations. Community exercises are easily taught in schools and other communities but there are formidable difficulties in attempting to organise English adults.

A second reason why the Germans advocate the vernacular is that a far larger proportion of their priests and people are interested in the ecumenical movement. They believe that Christian Unity will be promoted if the obstacle of Latin is removed. What is true of most (but not all) of the German bishops is also largely true of the French, Belgians and Dutch.

Personally I entered the Council with a fairly open mind. I was determined to oppose the abolition of Latin but prepared for certain vernacular concessions to be made. Others had come with much more pronounced views. Some intended to resist any advances by the vernacularists. Some, on the other hand, were determined to have done with the whole Latin tradition of the Mass…My guess is that if on the first day of the Council a vote on the vernacular had been taken it would have been defeated by about two to one. But our vision was to be extended by what we heard from bishops with whose home circumstances we had been acquainted at third hand from our reading. I refer, especially, to those from Communist countries and from the least developed mission fields. Bishops from the Balkans rose to describe the Catholic educational system that had once been theirs. Parochial and convent schools, grammar schools and Catholic universities. All this was now destroyed…There now remained only one way of teaching and that was through the liturgy. Since informers and secret police were active even sermons were not always a safe method of instruction. But through the liturgy a Catholic teaching could be provided. It would mean, of course, that the shape of the liturgy would have to be altered. The first part of the Mass would obviously be conducted near the people. Much wider selections from the Scripture for the Epistles and Gospels would be required. But here was the chief hope of preserving an instructed Catholic laity. Hundreds of bishops altered their mind after a single such speech as this.

(from Heenan, Private Notes on the Vatican Council)

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Wednesday, 15 November 2006

God Save the Queen!



Above (drumroll please) is the debut You Tube video from Roman Miscellany, taken on my digital camera (apologies for the quality).

On my way to work at the diocesan archives this morning I made a detour at Green Park and walked to The Mall, the ceremonial street linking Buckingham Palace to Whitehall and Trafalgar Square.

Why? Today Her Majesty the Queen solemnly opened Parliament and so I thought I might catch a glimpse of her in the Australian State Coach. Amazingly there were more soldiers around than spectators and I overheard a number of confused tourists asking police officers what on earth was going on! It's rather impressive that such pagentry continues regardless of whether or not there are actually crowds of spectators. The State Opening is not a gimmick but a time-honoured ritual expressing the fact that the Monarch is our Head of State and it is her Government and her Parliament that sits in Westminster. This comes across in the Queen's Speech, even though it is written for her by her Government.

The first part of the procession, whizzing past around 10.40am, were the coaches containing the Imperial Crown (which you can just make out through the window of the carriage in the first photo below) and the other royal insignia. Such is the symbolic importance of these items that the Guards lining the street present their arms.


Very little happened during the next twenty minutes, except a car passing containing lots of excited looking page boys in their red uniforms. Then the royal procession slowly emerged from the Palace at 11am, as the bells of Westminster Abbey wafted over St James' Park. The unfortunate consequence of using digital technology on such occasions is that you're too busy concentrating on the camera to observe all the finer details of the spettacolo. However, I certainly noticed Princess Anne in one carriage.

Despite the 'reforms' of Tony 'Bugnini' Blair in our State Ceremonial, it's good to see such pageantry alive and well in the twenty-first century!

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Fra Angelico in the Spare Room

I love hunting for bargains and trawling the lists on e-bay. I've found a few treasures over the years but nothing quite in the league of the late Miss Preston of Oxford, who had two lost panels of Blessed Guido di Pietro (Fra Angelico) in her spare room. She had bought them for a mere £200 forty years ago and they were only identified shortly before her death. Read the full story here. I'm not sure which Dominican saints the panels show - presumably not St Albert the Great, whose feast we keep today, since he was only beatified in 1622 and canonised in 1931.

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Monday, 13 November 2006

Heresy of Formlessness

I've been asked to advertise the presentation of the English version of Martin Mosebach's book, Heresy of Formlessness, at 6.30pm in St Wilfrid's Hall (London Oratory) on 7 December.

Martin Mosebach, who will be present, is a well-known and award-winning German author who has published novels, stories, and collections of poems; he has also written scripts for several films, opera libretti, theatre, and radio plays. He is a regular contributor to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and also writes on art and literature for other newspapers and journals (like the New York Times). Most recently, Mosebach has been awarded the Großer Literaturpreis der Bayerischen Akademie der Schönen Künste.

Heresy of Formlessness is a collection of essays on the liturgy and its recent reform not from the perspective of a theologian, but from the perspective of a literary writer. The book helped a lot to bring the debate on the liturgy into a wider public in Germany and an extract can be read here.

Like all good book launches it will be preceded by Solemn First Vespers of the Immaculate Conception in the Oratory church. All are welcome.

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Sunday, 12 November 2006

We will remember them

The picture shows a group of WWI officers during training, including my grandfather, Henry Norman Schofield, who is in the middle with a baton under his arm.

From today's homily

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Major John McCrae’s poem, written on a scrap of paper in May 1915, during the Second Battle of Ypres, sums up for many the spirit behind Remembrance Sunday. Today will always be connected in our minds with the Great War of 1914-18, because it was at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 that this devastating conflict came to an end. There are currently only 52 World War One veterans still alive around the world – six of whom live in the United Kingdom. It’s amazing to think that, within a few years, the First World War will no longer be a living memory.

I remember so well listening to the memories of my Grandfather, who had gone ‘over the top’ at the Battle of the Somme with the East Surrey Regiment. Out of several hundred men in his company, there were only two survivors from the German machine-gun fire. My grandfather got fairly near the German trench, but realised that there was little chance of him single-handedly taking the enemy line, armed only with a pistol and a baton. So, he sheltered from the grenades and gunfire in a shell hole, and crawled back to his trench at night. When it was discovered that he had been studying at University before the war, he was given the unenviable task of writing letters of condolence to the families of those who had been killed. Many of us will have similar stories carefully passed down in the family.

Remembrance Sunday causes different reactions in different people – for those who have experienced war at first hand, it is a red letter day of the utmost importance; for the younger generation it might seem to be a rather irrelevant day for remembering past heroes.

Remembrance Sunday is about remembering the victims of conflict and praying for the repose of their souls. It is not about glorifying war. For the Christian, war is a result of sin, a consequence of the fallen world. War is never inevitable. Pope John Paul II said that peace always remains possible, especially with all the modern diplomatic resources. And, he added, ‘if peace is possible, it is also a duty!’

Of course, in the past, the Church sometimes actively promoted military aggression. It introduced ceremonies for the blessing of weapons and armours, and instituted military orders of Knighthood (such as the Order of Malta, which still exists today). Most famously (or, some might say, infamously) the Church encouraged the Crusades against the Turks. Many write the Crusades off as a shameful and bloody episode in our history, although it’s worth remembering that they were an essentially defensive reaction against the militant spread of Islam. We forget that for many centuries the Turks were seen as the number one threat and that, as recently as 1683, the Turks tried to capture Vienna. The Church felt duty-bound to help in the defence of Christian civilisation.

The Church teaches that war can sometimes be justified, but only if certain conditions are fulfilled. For example, a ‘just war’ must be fought for a just cause (to protect the innocent or defend basic human rights) and be declared by the competent authority. War must always be the last resort and aim to achieve security and peace, rather than being inspired by hatred or territorial greed. There should be a good chance of success and a proportionate use of means to the end. Moreover, the death of civilians is always to be avoided.

Of course, we can perhaps think of modern wars that don’t fulfil these conditions. Today we pray for peace, we hope that the lessons of history will be learned, and we remember those injured and killed by warfare, especially over the last year. We pray for members of our family and parish who died in the two world wars of the last century.

They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them. We will remember them.

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Friday, 10 November 2006

Fame Across the Pond

I was pleasantly surprised this morning to be directed to a article in the National Catholic Register on priest bloggers by Eric Scheske. He presents his top ten Catholic priest bloggers and very kindly places Roman Miscellany at number four!!! Here's what he says:
4. Roman Miscellany, by Father Nicholas Schofield. This is my effort to be global. Father Schofield writes from London. I’m sure there are some good French and Italian priest bloggers, but the heck if I can read what they’re writing. As for English-speaking bloggers, the vast bulk of them come from the United States, but Schofield represents the other side of the pond well.
Well, I've never had to represent my country before! The top three blogs are (in reverse order) What Does the Prayer Really Say?, Dappled Things and Catholic Ragemonkey.

He goes on to say:
Is it unbecoming for a priest to do something as mundane as blogging? I don’t think so. I think of their posts as printed homilies, just pithier. Besides, if Thomas Merton could take an oath of silence as a Trappist monk, then speak volumes (and volumes) through his books, why shouldn’t a priest be allowed a little platform?
I think we can all say 'Amen' to that!

Thanks, Eric, for your coverage - and if you're reading this, check out the UK's other priestly bloggers, as found in the list of links.

By the way, today the visitor numbers crossed the magic 20,000 mark. When I reluctantly started the blog in April I never thought I'd still be here in November - and I'm still not sure how long it will last - but thanks for your readership. And let's have some more British Catholic blogs - if I can do it, with my limited computer know-how, then anyone can!

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Tuesday, 7 November 2006

Tat and Tolkien

Even though my parish priest is currently away, I still managed to have a day-off today. First of all, I popped into the Wallace Collection to view the 'Pomp and Power: French Drawings from Versailles' exhibition. Then, after visiting a few favourite bookshops (including London's best secondhand Catholic bookshop, Thorntons on the Fulham Road - which, incidentally, may be closing next year), I went to the Oratory to Richard Luzar's annual vestment show.

I wasn't going to buy anything - but couldn't resist an embroidered amice (£7.50) and, most amazingly, a black cope that was reduced to £40! It's not particularly nice but, with copes, the key thing is the shape and this one is classically Roman. For £40 you can't really go wrong and you never know when a black cope will come in handy. Watch out Kingsland!


Then I went to St Vincent's Centre, Carlisle Place to the London Faith Forum talk. I'm not able to attend these regularly but went along tonight to support my friend, Fr Mark Swires of the diocese of Brentwood, who was speaking on '"Light in Dark Places" - The Life of Grace in the Lord of the Rings.' I'm rather under-read when it comes to Tolkien (mea culpa) but the talk was very interesting and Fr Swires handled the questions very well. Here he is looking rather relieved after the talk was finished:

I must make another effort to read the Lord of the Rings - Fr Swires' talk and Peter Kreeft's excellent The Philosophy of Tolkien (Ignatius Press, 2005), which I flicked through over the summer, have certainly wetted my appetite.

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Sunday, 5 November 2006

A Hampshire Retreat

Last weekend I returned from my annual retreat at Farnborough Abbey in Hampshire. It's only today that I've been bothered to transfer some photos onto my computer. For those who aren't familiar with the Abbey, this is the interior of the church (small but very beautiful):


And here's the altar where I celebrated Mass each morning - it originally came from an Anglican convent on Queen's Square, London, who were received into the Catholic Church by the Abbot in 1908.

The grounds aren't huge but there are some fields (with pigs, cows, chickens, etc) and a lovely path which is ideal for a 'rosary walk':


No pictures of newly blessed Abbot Cuthbert, I'm afraid (a pity since he managed to wear a different abbatial cross each day of the week, except Friday) but the Abbey is fully recommended for a convenient 'monastic retreat' on the doorstep of London.

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Saturday, 4 November 2006

'Gregory XVI is Here'

This afternoon I popped over to Westminster Cathedral Hall for the annual 'Towards Advent' festival - which is really a gathering of various Catholic stalls. The best thing about it is bumping into all sorts of friends and acquaintances. I spent an enjoyable hour visiting Southwell Books, Catholic Truth Society, FSSP, Association of Catholic Women, etc.

It was a red letter day for Fr Richard Whinder (Britain's most blogged about priest?) because Fisher Press were launching a new edition of the final part of Cardinal Wiseman's Recollections of the Last Four Popes. Pius VII, Leo XII and Pius VIII have already been produced; now it was the turn of Gregory XVI. This Pontiff has always been something of an obsession for Fr Whinder - he famously began a sermon at the Venerable English College, Rome with the words: 'one of my heroes is Gregory XVI.'

This Pontiff, you will recall, banned railways and street lighting from the Papal States - the former because it would bring bad influences from the Protestant North; the latter because Rome's streets were already lit by the votive lights around the wayside shrines (Madonnelle).

Anyway, Fr Whinder has penned the introduction to the new edition of Wiseman's work. Here is the founder of Fisher Press, Antony Tyler OBE, holding the dramatic notice: 'Gregory XVI is here!'


Here is Fr Whinder and Antony proudly displaying the new book:


And, finally, a pastoral moment from Fr Whinder's book-signing session:

Fisher Press don't have a website (I think Gregory XVI would approve) but they can be contacted at PO Box 41, Sevenoaks, Kent TN15 6YN, UK. Wiseman's Gregory XVI is essential reading for the modern Catholic!

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Spiritual Warfare in Glastonbury


Interesting article in the Times today about a clash between Catholics and Pagans in Glastonbury (the wicca HQ), during a Youth 2000 festival (cleverly named 'lightswitch @ glastonbury').

Bad vibes in Glastonbury after Catholics turn against pagans

by Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

BY THE light of the full moon, witches in Glastonbury will tonight be casting a “circle of protection” around Britain’s centre of mysticism after a group of militant Christians cast salt at them in an attempt to “cleanse” the town of paganism.One Roman Catholic was fined and two cautioned by police after the “alternative Hallowe’en” festival in Britain’s centre of magical mysticism turned into a spiritual battle between Christianity and paganism.

Now even the local Catholic priest has told his fellow Christians that they are not welcome in the town. The Christians were visiting for the Lightswitch@glastonbury festival, the eighth such event organised by the Catholic charity Youth 2000. Promotional material tempted them there with slogans such as: “Has the light on your halo gone dark? Have your wings gone a bit grubby? Just want to switch your faith back on?” Organised with the co-operation of the Catholic Parish Church and Shrine of Our Lady St Mary in Glastonbury, it was intended to be the Hallowe’en of choice “for those who have grown tired of tatty fancy dress and the Blair Witch Project”.

But police were called after militants told locals that they wanted to cleanse the town of paganism, cast salt around to exorcise “evil” spirits and called one woman a “whore witch”. Yemaya Pinder, a witch and a member of the Pagan Federation who owns The Magick Box store, said that she believed the Christians should be prosecuted for a religious hate crime. Mrs Pinder, a mother of two and grandmother of four, and whose sister is an Anglican vicar in Basildon, described how a group of Catholics had entered her shop and abused her. She said: “It was as if we had returned to the dark ages. They told me they wanted to cleanse Glastonbury of paganism. They said they had lighters and were going to come back and burn us down. When the police asked them to apologise, they refused.”

She said there were no plans to put a curse on the Christians. “But we are doing protection for ourselves and the shop and the town. We are working magic for the healing and the damage they very nearly did between us and the local Roman Catholic church.” She said that the town’s witches had begun to work their magic, starting the protective circle on Samhein, the Celtic new year, last Tuesday, and planning to finish it using the “high energy” of tonight’s full moon.

Dreow Bennett, the Archdruid of Glastonbury and leader of the pagan movement, said: “To call the behaviour of some of their members medieval would be an understatement. I witnessed a pagan being called a ‘bloody witch’ and being told, ‘You will burn in hell’. “Apparently this man was not a diligent follower of the teachings of Christ. It was my understanding that Christ taught compassion and tolerance rather than
hatred and ignorance.”

Father Kevin Knox-Lecky, the Catholic parish priest at Glastonbury, said: “I was utterly appalled by the disgraceful behaviour, language and threats that were apparently made to members of the local pagan community by a small fringe group that attached itself to the Youth 2000 retreat last weekend in Glastonbury.” He said the militants were “unChristian and unrepresentative” of the majority of the 350 young people at the festival. He had since met Mrs Pinder and Mr Bennett. The conversation ended in “mutual embrace”. He said: “We have agreed to keep in touch with each other and to support each other in the event of negative attention from any extremists from whichever faith. I have frequently found evidence of rites performed on my church steps.”

Youth 2000 is a registered charity which aims to forge links
between young Catholics through retreats and events. Charlie Connor, the managing director of Youth 2000, said that aiming “blessed salt” at pagans was in direct contravention of the spirit of Youth 2000. “For the avoidance of doubt, Youth 2000 does not condone or encourage this kind of behaviour from anyone. We fully agree that differences on matters of faith cannot and should not be resolved by any kind of harassment.” But he added: “Youth 2000 would also like to place on the record that many young people at the retreat were harassed, sworn at and even cursed by people. One incident included the taking of photographs of young people, including children, and numbers plates by people present in the town. They were forced to move on. Regrettably, Youth 2000 will not be running a festival in Glastonbury next year.”

Avon and Somerset police said: “The neighbourhood beat manager was on patrol on Saturday and was alerted that there was an incident at the Magick Box shop. The officer arrested a man for a public order offence. He was later released after being issued with a fixed penalty notice. Two women were also given cautions and words of advice about their future behaviour.”

The article has a picture (sadly not online) of a Blessed Sacrament procession through the hallowed streets of Glastonbury, led by ex-gangster John Pridmore ringing a bell and several members of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. It's unfortunate that tempers were raised and that Catholics behaved so badly. However, I wouldn't dismiss as 'medieval' the attempt to put Christ back into Glastonbury by holding a Youth 2000 festival. After all, Glastonbury has so many associations with the saints - including SS Joseph of Arimathea, Patrick, Columba, David and Blessed Richard Whiting - and yet the town has been 'overtaken' by practitioners of a very alternative belief system. Surely Catholicism has an honoured place in modern Glastonbury?

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St Charles Borromeo


Everything was against Charles Borromeo becoming a saint. He came from one of Italy’s great families and lived in an age when clerics collected Church posts and offices without residing or doing the work but only to enjoy the revenues. At the age of twelve he was given an Abbacy. Then shortly afterwards his uncle was elected Pope (Pius IV). New Popes often made their relatives Cardinals and so, at the age of twenty-two, Charles found himself as the powerful and wealthy Cardinal Nephew.

But this didn’t go to the young man’s head. He lived in an age, also, of Church reform. When he became Archbishop of Milan (aged twenty-five) he applied the decrees of the Council of Trent to his new diocese with great zeal. He called a diocesan synod, founded seminaries, encouraged ‘Sunday Schools’ in the parishes and established a society of priests, called the ‘Oblates.’

His attempts at reforming the Church led to much opposition and even several assassination attempts. On one occasion, while he was at Vespers, a member of a religious Order called the Humiliati came in with a musket and shot St Charles. Luckily he was only injured lightly in the leg.

St Charles has several links with England. Many English Catholics had fled to the continent because of the persecutions under Elizabeth I. An English College was founded at Rome to train priests and St Charles was visited by St Edmund Campion and St Ralph Sherwin as they made their way back home to face eventual martyrdom. Another exile, the Welshman Owen Lewis, became his vicar-general. St Charles also had great devotion to a picture in his possession of St John Fisher, whom he regarded as a model bishop.

St Charles was full of pastoral charity – happy to sit by the roadside to teach a poor man the Lord’s Prayer and to tend the dying during a plague epidemic. St Charles is a great example to us all. Despite his privileged background he was focussed not on the temptations of the world but simply on doing his duty and following the will of God. ‘Whoever would go forward in God’s service,’ he said, ‘must begin his life anew each day, must keep himself as much as possible in the presence of God, and in all his actions must have one object, God’s glory.’

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Friday, 3 November 2006

Bonfire Night


Generally speaking I'm not a great supporter of Bonfire Night, especially since its historical origins are obvious in places like Lewes, East Sussex (where they burn an effigy of the Pope every 5 November). However, our parish primary school held a splendid fireworks display this evening (thankfully without a bonfire or a 'Guy') and, especially since the parish priest is away, I decided to go along.

It was actually quite providential: I chatted with some of our parents, met an organist who agreed to play at our Sunday 'Latin Mass' for the next fortnight (we are lacking our regular organist at present) and had some beers with our excellent headmaster.

The kids enjoyed themselves and mulled wine was offered to the grown ups. However, I'm sure our first parish priest, Fr William Lockhart (whose conversion led Newman to preach his 'Parting of Friends' sermon) would have been bemused that an originally anti-Catholic celebration was being organised by a Catholic school, in the presence of a Catholic priest. How times change!

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Thursday, 2 November 2006

High Mass at London's Marian Shrine

I've only been gone two months but look at what they're doing in my old parish of Our Lady of Willesden:


Well, actually we started the tradition of a Latin Mass Society pilgrimage last year, but it's great to see photos of High Mass in the church of my diaconal and priestly ordinations! I think it's one of London's hidden gems, especially since it is completely 'intact.'

A large doff of the biretta to Joee Blogs (check out his post for many more splendid photos) and also to the photographer, Mr Gregory Flash, who I'm sure won't mind me using these photos here.

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Masses on All Souls Day

Today, priests have the privilege (though not the obligation) of celebrating three Masses. The only other day that you can do this is Christmas - although, of course, by way of exception most priests will say three Masses (or even more) on a Sunday.

Traditionally, one of the three Masses said today is for a private intention, one for all the faithful departed and one for the Holy Father's intentions. Benedict XV, who granted this privilege in 1915 (Incruentum altaris) hoped that the three Masses would make up for all the Foundation Masses lost over the centuries.

Last year I said the Masses one after another beside the tombs of Napoleon III and his family in the crypt of Farnborough Abbey (where I was doing my retreat) - I felt very much in union with the dead. Of course the essential solidarity between the Church Militant and the Church Suffering is the whole point of today.

All Souls Day is rather neglected in Protestant (or post-Protestant) England. But when I was a student in Rome I remember watching the stream of families making their way to the Campo Verano cemetery with flowers. Don't forget that a plenary indulgence is offered today for those who visit a cemetery or church to pray for the faithful departed, with the usual conditions!

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A Passion for Archives

Scots Passionist blogger, Laus Crucis, recently had a very interesting post on his Generalate Archives at SS Giovanni e Paolo in Rome. There are some good pictures, which will please all archive geeks - including one of several shelves of theological works by Blessed Dominic Barberi. We all remember him as the humble missionary who received Newman into the Church that it's easy to forget his academic background. Apparently, several Italians have recently completed doctorates on his Mariology and ecumenical spirituality.

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Wednesday, 1 November 2006

In Festo Omnium Sanctorum

(SS Alfio, Filadelfo and Cirino)
Gaudeamus omnes in Domino,
diem festum celebrantes sub honore Sanctorum omnium:
de quorum solemnitate gaudent Angeli,
et collaudant Filium Dei.

A Short Homily for All Saints
Throughout the year we celebrate the feasts of the saints. Some will have universal significance – the first Apostles, the hosts of martyrs, the great Popes and Bishops, the learned Doctors of the Church; others will have a more local significance – England and Wales has a national calendar and Westminster a diocesan one, so we celebrate the likes of St Alban (our first martyr), St Edward (King and founder of Westminster Abbey) and the English Martyrs.

The thing that always strikes me most about the saints is their sheer number and variety. When I go abroad I love to learn about the local saints. I spent a fortnight in Italy this summer and visited the shrine of San Pellegrino (an Irish hermit who lived in the Appenines), which is located in a mountain-top village some 4,000 feet above sea level. I also had the privilege of saying Mass over the tomb of my patron, St Nicholas, which can be found in the southern Italian city of Bari. In the world of the saints, there is something for everybody. That’s why we all have our favourites.

So, today we celebrate all the saints officially recognised by the Church – the famous ones as well as the more obscure ones. But this is only part of the mystery that we celebrate on the Feast of All Saints. We also commemorate - perhaps, it could be said, we especially commemorate – the many saints in Heaven whose names we do not know.

In the first reading, St John describes his vision of ‘a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language’ standing in front of the Lamb, ‘dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands.’ The white robes and palms stand for victory over sin and triumph over death. These are the blessed ones who have lived holy lives – the poor in spirit, the gentle, the merciful, the peacemakers, the persecuted – those who have lived out the Beatitudes in their daily lives and can now rejoice in the glory of Heaven. They include men and women from every age, background and race; they include, please God, members of our own family and people we have known. We honour them today and ask them for their assistance.

There’s a more personal dimension to our Feast as well. One day, we hope to be fellow-citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, to take our place amidst the assembly of apostles, the host of martyrs and the college of confessors. The Church on earth is one of sinners trying, yearning, fighting to become saints. The witness of thousands of our brothers and sisters show us that anything is possible with the grace of God – many of the great saints (like St Augustine or St Mary Magdalene) had been great sinners. Saints are not just dead people with strange names and long beards who populate stained glass windows – they are our friends and our exemplars. They are real people who struggled with the sort of very real problems and temptations that we face, even if they wore funny clothes. Their lives show the transforming power of God’s grace.

Sanctity is within our grasp!


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