Friday, 29 February 2008

Leap year Saints

The 2004 Roman Martyrology lists four saints for today, who are thus only commemorated once every four years (although for other years there is an option to celebrate them on 28 February):
  • Pope St Hilary/Hilarus (reigned 461-68), successor to St Leo the Great, who continued the fight against Arianism, made important decisions about the Church in Spain and Gaul, and added three chapels to the baptistery at the Lateran. He is buried at S Lorenzo fuori le Mura (not too far from Blessed Pius IX).
  • St Oswald (d.992), Benedictine of Fleury and Archbishop of York, who is said to have died while washing the feet of the poor (his daily Lenten practice).
  • Blessed Antonia of Florence (d.1472), a mother and widow who became a Poor Clare at Aquila, Italy. She was a disciple of St John Capistran.
  • St Augustine Chapdelaine (1814-54), priest of the Society of the Foreign Missions, Paris, martyred in Guangxi, China.

Let's especially pray to them on their feast.


Thursday, 28 February 2008

Forgotten Shepherds

At the moment I'm studying (in spare moments) the Vicars Apostolic who governed the Church in England and Wales between 1685 and 1850. From 1688 there were four Districts (London, Midlands, Western and Northern) and these were increased to eight by Gregory XVI in 1840. It's a fascinating story but also one that is not generally known. Most people have heard of Bishop Challoner, and possibly of Bishops Giffard, Baines and Milner (called by Newman 'the English Athanasius') but these shepherds remain largely unknown and forgotten.

Their world was very different from that of Newman and Manning. The Vicars Apostolic lived discreetly, frequently changed their lodging, used aliases and travelled long distances on horseback. Many were buried without vestments or signs of their office, with their hands simply lying by their sides. There is a famous story about Bishop Hornyold, VA of the Midlands District (1756-78) finishing Mass just as the house was raided and saving himself 'by substituting a female cap for his flowing periwig and throwing a large woman’s cloak over his vestments, and in this disguise, throwing himself in a corner of the room into the attitude of prayer.'

Challoner was bishop in London for forty years but never once ordained a priest, for there were then no seminaries on English soil and priests were almost always ordained overseas. Douglass (VA of London, 1790-1812 - see picture above) was the first to openly wear a pectoral cross, though only in the privacy of his home and without wearing a cassock. His successor, Poynter (VA 1812-27), normally wore a brown suit and the Rev. Joseph Silveira used to recall the astonishment produced the first time the bishop walked from his room at St Edmund’s, Ware to the chapel in his episcopal cassock in 1817.

Despite their fragile position and limited resources, their jurisdiction was technically vast and included the colonies, though they never visited these distant lands and simply resolved disputes, granted faculties and (whenever they could) sent out priests. Sometimes the colonies proved to be a useful 'dumping ground' for troublesome priests. A striking example was William Simpson, who had held four appointments in the Northern District but ‘made havoc of every one of them’ and, after Bishop Giffard paid off his debts, squandered the money on women and married in an Anglican church. After imprisonment for debt, he seemed to be repentant and was commissioned by Giffard for work in the West Indies. He soon apostasised from the Faith and was presented to an Anglican living on Nevis, although he seems to have been reconciled to the Church at his death in September 1735.

Until 1784 the VA of the London District (Challoner) was in charge of the American colonies. By that time, of course, America had declared its independence but, as the bishop's biographer Burton notes, ‘this feeble old man [Challoner], living his retired life in an obscure London street’ exercised a jurisdiction that ‘remained the only remnant of authority in the hands of an Englishman that was still recognized in America.’

This period of English Catholic history is not only one of heroism but of great division and frequent 'pamphlet wars'. Long before the days of a Bishops' Conference (providing a certain 'unity'), there were fierce rivalries among some of the VAs. In the lead up to Catholic Emancipation, there were passionate arguments between 'Ultramontanes' and 'Cisalpines' over what being English and Catholic meant - to what extent did the Pope have authority over British institutions, for example, and could the Government veto the appointment of bishops? Some of the more liberal 'Cisalpines', like Rev. Joseph Berington, even called for ecumenical schools and a vernacular liturgy, so as to discourage anti-Catholic prejudice.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century there was conflict over a group of sedevacantists - the Blanchardists (mostly French emigre clergy) who did not recognise Pius VII's concordat with Napoleon. And there were on-going tensions that had been present for centuries, such as that between the secular and regular clergy. By the mid nineteenth century there was strife between the older clergy, who looked back to the recusant tradition of penal times, and the new generation, who looked towards the 'Second Spring' and were convinced of the imminent Conversion of England. Writing in 1848, Wiseman praised the younger priests but felt that most of the older clergy were resistant to change and 'Gallican' in their views. Even after 1850 a number of older priests did not adopt the recently-introduced Roman collar and stuck to the venerable tradition of dressing in the sober clothes of the day.

An interesting period indeed, despite being treated as the 'Dark Age' between the martyrs and the restoration of the Hierarchy. In fact, it was a time of growth and development that made possible the achievements of the age of Wiseman and Manning.


Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Sarum Memories

I've just noticed that the reconstituted Valle Adurni blog is running an extensive series of videos of Candlemas celebrated according to the Sarum Usage. The Mass was held in the late thirteenth century chapel of Merton College, Oxford back in 1997, with the consent of the late Archishop Maurice Couve de Murville and the College authorities.

The footage brings back many happy memories. I was MC - it was my penultimate term at Oxford and you can see me eagerly wandering around the sanctuary. The previous year's Sarum High Mass for the Translation of St Frideswide had been the highlight of my term as President of the University's Newman Society. A video of this exists somewhere so I hope that that will be Fr Sean's next project. Looking at the clips now, I'm reminded that the majority of the servers later entered either a novitiate or a seminary, and that many of them were ordained - including a Dominican, an Oratorian and a member of the Community of St John. It's amusing to see two English seminarians being bold enough to sit in choir, though I've got a feeling neither were ordained.

The above video shows the Canon, with the curious detail of the deacon and subdeacon being given lit candles for the consecration, and the striking cruciform gesture of the celebrant, which impressed me much at the time (though it's hard to make out on the video). I think I'm right in saying that it was pure coincidence (providence?) that the great bell of Merton started ringing at this supreme moment.

Anyway, thanks to Fr Sean for posting these videos and rekindling our interest once again in England's ancient liturgy.


Friday, 8 February 2008

Death of the Grand Master

Of your charity
please pray for the repose of the soul of
His Most Eminent Highness
Fra' Andrew Bertie
Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta
who died last night in Rome
fortified by the Rites of Holy Mother Church.
+ + +
Fra' Andrew Bertie, a distant relative of the Queen, was the 78th and first British Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order. He was an alumnus of Christ Church, Oxford and formerly an officer with the Scots Guards and a teacher at Worth Abbey School. RIP.



I'm trying not to spend too much time on the computer this Lent and so there won't be very regular posts - though, you might say, there haven't been very regular posts for some months now. Anyhow, here is a video from Chicago's Fr Robert Barron to provide some seasonal reflection until I post again...


Saturday, 2 February 2008

Arabian Pictures

Bloggers have a tendency to assume that the whole world is interested in accounts of their travels, complete with photos. However, the aim of these pictures is not (hopefully) to bore you but to give you some idea of the vibrancy of the Church in Arabia.

St Joseph's Cathedral in Abu Dhabi is not exactly a picture postcard building:

However it is the heart of the Vicariate. In the large compound is a presbytery, parish hall, school, Carmelite convent and Bishop's House. It is here that the Vicar Apostolic of Arabia, Bishop Paul Hinder, is based. On Thursday, my last day there, he celebrated his fourth anniversary as Bishop - and here he is in the Cathedral Hall before the Solemn Mass. He wears a pectoral cross presented to him by Pope Benedict a week or so ago during the ad limina:

There is a constant stream of people coming in and out of the Cathedral all day. Candles are always being lit outside the Lourdes Grotto:

Now for the Christian Formation Conference, at which I spoke. Here I am with two other speakers: Dr Carole Eipers (Vice President of Sadlier Publishing) and Dr Petroc Willey (Deputy Director of Maryvale):

There were over 600 people present:

Here is a rather serious-looking line-up - the Roman Miscellanist with Mgr Francis Jamieson, the English-born Vicar General of Arabia, and the wonderful Director of Christian Formation, Catherine Miles-Flynn:

Finally, no Arabian gallery would be complete without camels. And these are no ordinary camels - but elite racing camels, training in the midst of the desert outside Abu Dhabi:

Update: I have been requested to include a picture of the Young Adults Group discussing the subject of vocation over Moroccan tea and sheesha in downtown Abu Dhabi. This is very much part of Arab life. Any uncharitable comments will not be posted!


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