Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Where I Said Mass This Morning...

This is the magnificent shrine of St Hyacinth (in Polish, Jacek) in Krakow's Dominican church. Nota bene: the kindly friar in the sacristy is very welcoming to visiting priests and speaks some English.

St Hyacinth was one of the first Dominicans and opened a priory at Krakow as early as 1228 (remember, the Order was only approved in 1216). He is best remembered for his widespread missionary labours. According to one tradition, he reached as far as China and Tibet, though we can be surer about his travels around Scandinavia and towards Russia and the Balkans. Some identify another great Dominican missionary, the Blessed Ceslaus, as his brother.

Paintings of St Hyacinth often depict the saint holding a monstrance and a statue of the Blessed Virgin. This is because of an incident during his stay at Kiev. After Mass one day he was told that the Tartars had attacked the town. The friar instantly took the Blessed Sacrament from the church and as he was leaving heard a voice: 'Hyacinth, you have taken my Son but are you leaving me?' So, he also took the venerated statue of Our Lady from the church and took the two treasures to a safe place.

I had no idea that this saint was buried in Krakow until I walked into the church. However, I'd always wanted to celebrate Mass in his honour because on his traditional feast day (17 August) four years ago I was involved in a minor car accident during a holiday in Provence that could have been more serious. I always felt that somebody was looking after the car load of three priests and I'm sure St Hyacinth played his part that day.


Caption, please?!

Just back from a few days in beautiful Krakow, the city of St Stanislaus, St Hedwig, St Hyacinth, St Faustina and, yes, John Paul II. I was somewhat surprised to find the above portrait proudly displayed in the Archdiocesan Museum. I suppose Polish hand gestures differ from Anglo-Saxon ones. However, I don't advise the postulator of the cause to use this image! Any ideas for an appropriate (and reasonably respectful) caption?

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Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Back and Forth

Just back from the Catholic Record Society Conference at Liverpool Hope University. As with most conferences, the most valuable thing was meeting with the other members. Yesterday I escaped together with a Benedictine Abbot and a School Master and, after lunch, explored the Anglican Cathedral Church of Christ in the city centre.

In terms of architecture, this is certainly more impressive than the Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral at the other end of Hope Street. Indeed, some claim it to be the third largest church in the world and it refers to itself as 'the great space'. And that's exactly what it is - a great space that hardly 'feels' like a place of worship. As you enter, the first thing you see is an exhibition area. One side of the building is taken up by a swish shop and cafe. I saw no-one praying anywhere - not even in the beautiful Lady Chapel, which is the size of a parish church and has its own organ! The place was full of tourists walking around with their audio guides.

Interestingly, the architect was Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, a Catholic, who chose to be buried in his 'great space' (presumably with ecclesiastical permission). His Requiem, meanwhile, was celebrated at St James', Spanish Place in London.

I'm now back in London and, in a few minutes time, will be heading off to Gatwick Airport to fly to Krakow for a few days. So - see you next week!

Picture - copyright Andrew Dunn.


Sunday, 22 July 2007

Little Italy

Look who I saw on the streets of London this afternoon:

The occasion was the annual procession in honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which has been organised by St Peter's Italian Church in Clerkenwell since 1883. The floats were arranged by parish groups and confraternities, as well as Italian associations from Manchester, Birmingham and elsewhere. Here you can see the clergy and (I think) members of the Confratelli del SS Sacramento waiting in the porch:

The main floats depicted Biblical scenes, such as Our Lord standing before Pontius Pilate:

These two angels, announcing the Assumption, are obviously wearing parts of a rather fine High Mass set belonging to the church:

The First Communion children were led by Jesus, holding a ciborium:

There were many statues in evidence, including Our Lady of Mount Carmel herself. In true continental fashion, each statue was greeting with the crowd's applause:

There were lesser known saints, like Santa Franca (a patron of Piacenza) and, as seen below, San Calogero (who seems to be a Greek hermit who evangelized the isles of Lipari and ended his days in Sicily):

I often wondered what England would be like if it was Catholic - and a glimpse of the answer was provided this afternoon!

I hadn't been before to London's Italian church, cared for by the Pallotine Fathers. It is a fine building, opened in 1863 and modelled on San Crisogano in Trastevere, Rome. It's hard to believe that you're in the midst of London, especially on a day like today. In the surrounding streets, which were closed to traffic, there were stalls selling Italian specialities. In honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel I treated myself to a bottle of grappa from the Valle d'Aosta!

The next procession is on 20 July 2008, starting at 3.30pm - so make a note of it in your diary!

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Saturday, 21 July 2007

La Vie En Rose

Tonight I accompanied the parish's new Young Adult Group (18-35) to see La Vie en Rose at a packed cinema in Islington. Marion Cotillard gives a superb portrayal of Edith Piaf, the French singer and national icon - in fact, it's hard to believe that she is lip-synching to Piaf's unique voice.

The heroine, Piaf, is not the most attractive of characters - proud, obstinate and leading a life that caused the Archbishop of Paris to refuse her a Catholic funeral. However, her childlike piety also comes across very strongly. She refuses to go on stage at the Paris Olympia without wearing her crucifix and she is often shown praying before a performance.

Rather unexpectedly, St Therese of Lisieux has a constant and unseen presence in the film. As a child Piaf suffered from blindness (a result, it seems,of keratitis). The kindly prostitutes who cared for her arranged for Piaf to visit the saint's tomb to pray for a recovery. Shortly afterwards she could see again. The saint's influence continued in Piaf's life until the very end, making La Vie en Rose a powerful essay on the efficacy of prayer.

I recommend readers to see the film - and in the meantime, here is the 'Little Sparrow' herself performing her most celebrated song:

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The Doctor of Brindisi

St Lawrence of Brindisi (1559-1619), whose feast it is today, is perhaps the least well-known Doctor of the Church. In fact, unless you're from the Italian town of Brindisi, he isn't exactly an household name.

If he hadn’t joined the Capuchins and taken the name of Lawrence, we would know him by his rather striking baptismal name – Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar). It would be rather good to have a St Julius Caesar. As a friar, he was known for his linguistic ability (he is said to have known the whole Bible by heart – in its original languages of Hebrew and Greek) and for his apostolate as a preacher. In fact, 804 of his sermons have survived, and these include those preached during the war against the Turks, who were attacking Hungary. At the battle of Stulweissenburg in 1601, he led the Christian army into the fray with no other weapon than a large crucifix. He was also a noted theologian (helped by his linguistic skill), with a particular penchant for Mariology, and held many important positions in his Order.
St Lawrence of Brindisi, pray for us!


Wednesday, 18 July 2007

In Action at the Cathedral

I've just been sent this by the CTS (courtesy of their photographer), taken during my homily on Saturday. At the end of Mass we processed to the Vaughan Chantry and said prayers for the repose of the Cardinal's soul. His body was moved there from Mill Hill two years ago:

More details on the CTS site.


Sunday, 15 July 2007

This Weekend

My first cousin, who now lives in Finland, has been staying the last week, together with his Finnish wife and one-year old daughter, Suvi. As you can see, my study has been turned into a playroom. It's been a delight having a baby around the place - and after a journey on the bus with her earlier in the week, I've become more sympathetic towards mothers who come to Mass late, looking hot and bothered!

Yesterday I preached at Westminster Cathedral for the first time. The occasion was the Catholic Truth Society (CTS) Conference. Mass was celebrated by Bishop Paul Hendricks, Auxiliary of Southwark, concluding with prayers at the tomb of Herbert Cardinal Vaughan, founder of the Society. Then we went to the Cathedral Hall for an excellent talk by John Haldane, Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews. He talked about the position of Christianity in contemporary Britain, comparing the Catholic Church in Scotland and in England and Wales. He warned about the dangers of Gallicanism - a local Church vaguely in communion with Rome but devising national policies and working too closely with the Establishment (at the expense of freely criticising the Government, etc, when this is necessary). There was a good turn-out, with such luminaries as Aidan Nichols, OP in attendance.


Friday, 13 July 2007

'Henry IX' 1807-2007

Today is the bicentenary of the death of Cardinal Henry Stuart, brother of 'Bonnie Prince Charlie', Stuart claimnant to the British Throne (1788-1807) and popular Bishop of Frascati. In fact, the day of his death, 13 July 1807, was the 46th anniversary of his enthronement as Cardinal Bishop of that See. In the revised calendar, of course, it is the feast of St Henry the Emperor (though this was originally 15 July).

The Cardinal has left his mark in and around the Eternal City more than any of the other English Cardinals. His coat of arms can be found in Santa Maria in Trastevere and his monument stands proudly at the back of St Peter’s. There is a Largo Duca di York in Frascati and a Via di Cardinal di York near a villa that still bears his name in the Riserva Naturale della Valle dei Casali, to the west of Rome. Throughout the Castelli area there are numerous plaques in churches and on streets witnessing to his munificent patronage. In the little town of Monte Porzio, for example, there is a tablet on the Via Giuseppe Verdi recording the school he established in 1773 for ‘the education of young girls in piety and the useful arts’. A stone’s throw away in the duomo of San Gregorio Magno inscriptions recall the dedication ceremonies at which he pontificated in 1766 and the translation of the relics of the martyr, St Laconilla, which he organised in 1783. The Cardinal is indeed remembered as the benemerito Cardinale Tuscolano (‘well-loved cardinal of Frascati’).

With his death, the House of Stuart came to an end. The de jure Crown passed to his second cousin twice removed, Charles Emmanuel IV of Savoy, who was noted for his piety and ended his days in a Jesuit novitiate. After lying in state at the Palazzo Cancelleria, ‘Henry IX’ was buried at St Peter's together with his father ('James III') and brother. A monument by Antonio Canova was later placed near the entrance of the basilica, which was paid for partly by the Prince Regent. The bodies were placed in the crypt and moved slightly to the east in 1938 to make way for the eventual tomb of Pius XI. This time the new tomb was financed by George VI.

May he rest in peace!

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Sunday, 8 July 2007

The English Cardinals

Can I draw people's attention away from all the exciting documents being issued by the Holy See for a moment? I'm certainly not trying to compete but a book of mine is being published tomorrow (9 July) by Family Publications. It's called The English Cardinals and it is co-written by my friend, Fr Gerard Skinner, who recently published a study of the pallium.

The book has individual chapters on each of the 50 English Cardinals, from Robert Pullen (created c.1144) to Cormac Murphy-O'Connor (created 2001). These include pre-Reformation prelates such as Stephen Langton, Henry Beaufort and Thomas Wolsey; heroes of the Catholic resistance like St John Fisher, Willam Allen and Philip Howard; and the 'big three' of the 'Second Spring' - Wiseman, Manning and Newman. There are many less well-known figures, such as Edward Howard, who led the funeral procession of the Duke of Wellington before entering the clerical state, and English Cardinals who spent most of their lives overseas - such as Pope Adrian IV, the Cardinal Duke of York and Rafael Merry del Val (a priest of Westminster and Secretary of State to St Pius X).

Best of all, the book has loads of pictures, some of which make their first appearance in print - there are four colour sections and black and white illustrations throughout (including coats of arms and pictures of the titular churches). The book is hardback, 304pp, and sells at a modest £19.50. Probably the easiest way of getting the book is from the Family Publications website. Waterstone's has a link here, with free postage. Or a slightly more expensive deal from Amazon:

No pressure!

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Saturday, 7 July 2007

Summorum Pontificum

I can't let 7/7/07 pass without mentioning Summorum Pontificum. The blogosphere is full of interesting reflections on the motu proprio - as well as the obvious sites, like the eminent Fr Z, I recommend Fr John Boyle's post, written from the perspective of a canon lawyer.

I pray that the great fruit of Summorum Pontificum will be a gradual de-politicisation of the 'extraordinary form' of the Roman Rite - leading, as the English and Welsh Bishops hope, to a greater ecclesial unity. Though fixed by Trent and subsequent Pontiffs, the older form is indeed the 'Mass of the Ages' and constitutes an important part of our Tradition, from which every Catholic has a right to benefit. Now that it has come out of the closet, it can join the mainstream of the Church and be an option that can be chosen not so much to score points or follow an aggressive agenda but rather for 'our good and the good of all the Church'.

I imagine that priests will especially need to be prepared for requests to celebrate Funerals according to the 1962 Missal and possibly to hear confessions in the older form (which presumably can be requested by any individual penitent from 14 September).

It will be interesting to see how things develop over the next few months and how many requests will be made by the faithful. There will, of course, be logistical issues. I know many priests who would be happy to follow the new norms, as pastoral circumstances dictate, and yet lack the rubrical 'know-how'. The more zealous may need to exercise some patience! Churches may also lack copies of the 1962 Missal, altar cards, five-piece sets of vestments, trained servers and so on. Groups like the Latin Mass Society will have an important role in assisting the clergy where necessary. Some publishers will make a fortune in re-issuing the Missale and Rituale, and they are undoubtedly drinking chilled Veuve tonight!

All in all, a red letter day in the Pontificate of Pope Benedict!


Tuesday, 3 July 2007

A Humble Priest

This morning I attended the Funeral of the Reverend Sir Hugh Dacre Barrett-Lennard, Bart, Priest of the London Oratory. He died on 21 June, just before his 90th birthday. I remember him well from my childhood (I attended catechism classes at the Oratory), and also as a young student, when he received me into the Brothers of the Little Oratory. Fr Hugh was a humble and utterly unassuming man, who often wore a shabby, stained cassock and shared St Philip Neri's sense of eccentric fun.

During the Second World War he served as a Captain in the Essex Regiment and was mentioned in dispatches. A convert to Catholicism, he was ordained at the Lateran in 1950 (one of the many others ordained that day was my uncle, Richard Stewart) and faithfully served as a priest for 57 years. May he rest in peace!

In 1977 he succeeded as the sixth Baronet Barrett-Lennard (a title dating from 1801), though this did not entail any great inheritance - indeed, the family home of Horsford Manor (Norwich) was sold some years ago and is now the head office of Anglian Windows.

During his last years Fr Hugh had lived away from the Oratory in a nursing home, but there was a sizeable crowd at today's Requiem. It was good to catch up with Fr Sean Finnegan, formerly of Valle Adurni, and to see the writer of Emitte lucem tuam carry Fr Hugh's biretta on a black cushion in the final procession!
I'm proving to be a rather unfaithful blogger as of late. Although things are supposed to calm down in the summer, life is hectic. Amongst other things, I'm preparing a retreat which I'm giving to some Carmelite nuns in August and I've fallen behind in preparing the sixteen hour-long conferences. Much of my spare time is spent doing this, but distractions continue to arise. Tomorrow, for example, I'm joining Year 6 of our primary school for their week's holiday on the Isle of Wight. I'm staying two nights and I doubt I'll be able to catch up on much work! So you probably won't hear from me now until the weekend.

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