Sunday, 27 May 2007
The 'Baptism' of Bells
In some older books, you will see references to the blessing of church bells as a 'baptism.' Of course, bells were not baptised (that is reserved for human beings), but the rite bore many similarities to the sacrament: the bells were exorcised, washed with holy water, anointed with the holy oil of the sick (outside) and chrism (inside) and given a name. In some places, they even had a sort of godfather. The bishop prayed that 'at their sound let all evil spirits be driven afar; let thunder and lightning, hail and storm be banished; let the power of Thy hand put down the evil powers of the air, causing them to tremble at the sound of these bells, and to flee at the sight of the holy cross engraved thereon' - a rather beautiful sacramental!
I mention this because I recently found a pile of parish newsletters from the mid 1960s. When the church was built in 1964 the bells were ‘baptised’ and given the names of Gabriel (the traditional name for the Angelus bell), William (after the late Cardinal Godfrey and two of our former parish priests), John (after John XXIII), Paul (after Paul VI), Carmel (Cardinal Heenan’s second name), Joseph (our glorious patron), Monica (from our daughter parish at Hoxton, which became the first post-Reformation Augustinian house in England) and Scholastica (after our other daughter parish at Clapton).
I'm not sure what the modern bell blessing rite involves - I suspect a liturgy of the word, intercessions and a general prayer over the bell.
Saturday, 26 May 2007
The Saint of Pentecost
Thursday, 24 May 2007
My Fourth Birthday
I think it's the first time I've been in the parish for my anniversary: last year I was on a conference at Ushaw and the first two years I was on holiday. But what better way is there to spend an ordination anniversary? - celebrating Mass in the parish, visiting the school, dealing with all the requests that come via the door and phone, writing sermons and classes, etc - all the things that fill most days but which I never write about on the blog because (a) it's not appropriate and (b) it would be rather boring!
For my meditation this morning, I turned to Leo Trese's A Man Approved and came across this timely passage:
Sometimes we priests feel that we are very busy men - and, within our own limited environment, quite important persons. We may be in parish work, instructing converts, visiting the sick, catechizing youngsters, administering temporalities....However, regardless of which group may claim me, it is profitable for me to remind myself again and again that there is only one thing I do which pertains essentially to my priesthood. There is only one thing that is of transcendent importance, and that is my offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. By eternal standards, nothing else I do matters much.Looking at my posts last May, I was reminded that today is the first anniversary of the sudden death of Fr Todd Reitmeyer, a fellow priest and blogger. May he rest in peace.
Wednesday, 23 May 2007
Tuesday, 22 May 2007
The Home of Robert Hugh Benson
In the grounds is a charming memorial chapel:
Above the side altar there is a statue of Our Lady, carved by Mgr Benson. She is shown trampling some rather frightening demons - demonstrating his rather macabre interest in the occult (as also seen by his ghost stories). He called it Notre Dame des Diables.
I could easily have spent a few more nights at Hare Street and hope to return in the autumn!
Sunday, 20 May 2007
Viri Galilaei, quid admiramini aspicientes in caelum?
Change of Habit
The film is all about Sister Michelle (Mary Tyler Moore) meeting a doctor (Elvis) whilst on pastoral placement. You'll be pleased to know that in the end she defeats temptation and dumps Elvis in order to go back to the convent.
Saturday, 19 May 2007
Stonyhurst's Royal Relics
This Book of Hours was printed at Lyons in 1558 for Mary Tudor - note the Tudor badges of the rose and pomegranite on the cover. It then passed to another Mary - the Queen of Scots - and she took this book with her to the scaffold in 1586, where she recited the Little Office of Our Lady:
There is a Stuart Room at the College, with some charming Jacobite portraits, including this one of Maria Clementina, the mother of Bonnie Prince Charlie:
Thanks to Jan Graffius, Stonyhurst's dynamic curator, for letting me use the photos I took during my tour.
Thursday, 17 May 2007
The Inquisition Myth Perpetuated
On Monday night (the beginning of my day-off) I went to the cinema - the only film which looked mildly interesting was Goya's Ghosts, which I hadn't heard of before. Set in 1790s/1800s Spain, it is a lavish costume drama with some impressive set-pieces but weak characterisation. Weakest of all is the perpetuation of the myth of the Inquisition:
- torture is used indiscriminately and with the slighest excuse (in actual fact there was a strict code regarding its use and it was heavily restricted, especially by the late eighteenth century)
- torture (or being 'put to the question') is presented as part of the Church's teaching: if the accused is innocent God will give surely him the strength to stick to the truth; therefore a person who confesses is infallibly guilty. This is, of course, complete rubbish
- the dungeons are dire - in actual fact Inquisition prisons compared favourably to secular ones
- all the clergy and religious in the film are corrupt and tyrannical
As well as basing its depiction of the Inquisition on post-enlightenment anti-Catholic literature, the film also attacks the tyranny of rationalism and the French Revolutionary forces, which at least restores some balance!
Sunday, 13 May 2007
Our Lady of Fatima
Today is the ninetieth anniversary of the first of the apparitions at Fatima. It's also (a providential coincidence) the ninetieth anniversary of the episcopal ordination of Eugenio Pacelli, who as Pius XII was a great promoter of the Fatima message, and the twenty-sixth anniversary of the assassination attempt on John Paul II (the fact the bullet avoided all major organs was a result, he believed, of Our Lady's protection).
At Kingsland today we welcomed Br Aldo and Br Michael of the Heralds of the Gospel, together with members of their Third Order. They are a private association of pontifical right, originating in Brazil and with a house in London - in Hampton Wick (near Hampton Court Palace). At three of the morning Masses we started with a procession of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima and a prayer of consecration. Most impressive of all was the long queue of people after each Mass, waiting to venerate the image and receive from the Heralds a prayer card. Thanks to Br Michael, I thought I might post a few pictures to give you some of the 'flavour' of the morning. Popular piety is such an important part of the Church's life and much more accessible to the people than some other attempts at making the faith 'meaningful.' As one of the Heralds said, Our Lady is the 'key' that leads people so effectively to her Son.
P.S. The Heralds joined us for lunch (before going onto an Anglican church to preach the message of Fatima!). Also present were the two presbytery dogs, Oscar and Bruno, who were joined by their friend, Titus. Here are the three of them waiting on the stairs to see what was going on in the kitchen.
Saturday, 12 May 2007
Catholic England's Top Five
Here are five of my favourite places:
- Oxford - the city has so many Catholic connections (saints, martyrs and modern apostles like Newman and Ronald Knox) and many impressive Catholic centres within a short distance, including the Oratory, the Old Palace (University Chaplaincy), Blackfriars, Greyfriars, St Benet's Hall (OSB), Campion Hall (SJ) and Grandpoint House (Opus Dei).
- Farnborough Abbey - a little piece of France in the heart of Hampshire. Despite being a Bonapartist shrine, the architecture is stunning, the liturgy dignified and the printing press prolific. Best of all, it's within easy reach of London.
- National Shrine of Our Lady of Willesden - not in the most beautiful part of London but it's a stunning and unspoilt 1931 church, complete with High Altar and baldacchino, with a shrine to Our Lady that restores a medieval devotion and was visited by St Thomas More. Plus it was the church of my Ordination!
- St James', Spanish Place - another beautiful London church with a fine musical and liturgical tradition.
- Stonyhurst - the Jesuit school in Lancashire that has England's greatest treasure-trove of Catholic relics. Talking of Lancashire, I could also add St Peter's Cathedral, Lancaster, and St Walburge's, Preston, to my 'Top Five.'
Friday, 11 May 2007
A Somerset Retreat
The last thing you expect to see whilst on a retreat is a military parade. Tuesday evening saw the school training corps 'beat retreat,' complete (much to my delight) with some Scottish pipers. It was very impressive! In the background you can see the original monastic church and the main school buildings:
Monday, 7 May 2007
Saturday, 5 May 2007
The bell revealed whose house it is:
The Holy Father's elder brother, Georg, lives here, cared for by his trusty housekeeper, Agnes Heindl. For a split second I was tempted to ring the bell for a photo opportunity before pulling myself together! Mgr Georg must get his fair share of nuisance calls: the plaque placed on the house by the Chapter of the Johanneskirche publicly says that it was here that Pope Benedict met his brother on 13 September 2006: