Monday, 30 April 2007

New Auxiliaries for Melbourne

Perhaps to mark the Feast (in the New Calendar) of that great liturgical pope, St Pius V, the Holy See announced today the creation of two new Melbourne auxiliaries: the Salesian Timothy Costelloe and Mgr Peter Elliott. The latter will be known to many readers - especially priests and MCs - as the author of Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite and Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year, a sort of novus ordo Fortescue published by Ignatius Press.

His elevation means that the Australian Bishops' Conference not only has a good liturgist amongst its number but also, in addition to Cardinal Pell and Bishop Anthony Fisher, O.P., another Oxford graduate. Elliott studied theology amidst the 'dreaming spires,' during which time he was received into the Church.

Ad multos annos to the new titular bishop-elect of Manaccenser (a titular see which became vacant just a few weeks ago with the death of the Westminster Auxiliary, James O'Brien)!


Free Ascension Day Recital

The world-renowned vocal group, The Tallis Scholars, are giving a FREE recital in the Front Hall of the British Library on Thursday 17 May at 1pm, with music by Gombert (In illo tempore) and Monteverdi (Missa In Illo Tempore). This has been organised, rather amazingly, to mark the traditional Feast of the Ascension, although in this country we will for the first time be keeping the transferred feast the following Sunday, 43 days after Easter. If you're in the London area, put the date in your diary!

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Sunday, 29 April 2007

Great St George

I was away from blogging on the Solemnity of St George, but as we come to the end of the Octave (!) I thought I'd better pay tribute to our glorious patron. I can think of no better way of doing this than by posting some photos that I took last week in the church of St George in Amberg.

I particularly liked the early eighteenth century frescoes on the walls of the nave showing examples of St George's powerful intercession - the usual stuff (sickness, fire, death, etc) but also various military situations involving the great enemy of Christian Europe at the time: the Ottoman Turks. The first fresco, with the inscription Ecclesiae Tropoeophorus Tuetur - in Duello, shows a 'duel' between a Christian knight and a Turk:

This fresco, in pugna navali, shows St George using what looks like thunderbolts against the Turks at Lepanto (1571):

Finally, this one, in obsidione, refers to the Siege of Vienna (1683), again showing St George's assistance:
Great St George, our patron, help us,
In the conflict be thou nigh;
Help us in that daily battle,
Where each one must win or die.

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Good Shepherd Sunday

Today we especially pray for vocations to the Priesthood and the Religious Life - that young men and women will respond confidently and that the voice of God is not drowned out by the secular, materialistic noise of our society. Please pray especially for three of our parishioners: one of whom is entering seminary in the autumn and the other two are joining convents later in the year.

The Archdiocese of Westminster has some new on-line vocational resources, including four excellent articles by Fr Stephen Wang, a member of staff at Allen Hall. You might also be interested in the new diocesan vocation video, It is Time (published on YouTube in three parts):

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Bishop Adwok in London

Our main Mass today was celebrated by Bishop Daniel Adwok, Auxiliary Bishop of Khartoum in the Sudan, who has been visiting Great Britain thanks to that excellent charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). His presence amongst us made today's Global Day for Darfur particularly pertinent. It was interesting to hear of his experiences over lunch: many of the Christians in the country (making up about 16% of the population) are persecuted by the Government's Shari'a law or are affected by the war in Darfur. According to ACN literature, the Vicar General of Khartoum was arrested two years ago under the pretext of paying for a car with an unsecured cheque, though he was released. Such harassment is common. There is a shortage of priests and religious (in contrast to other parts of Africa) and the parishes cover vast areas that are more like dioceses. What I hadn't realised before was the antiquity of the Sudanese Church, going back to at least the sixth century and forming for many centuries an effective Christian barrier to the spread of Islam. We remember our persecuted brothers and sisters in our prayers.


Saturday, 28 April 2007

The Pope's Private German Address

Bergstraße 6 in Pentling, on the outskirts of Regensburg, isn't mentioned in the guidebooks but this very normal looking suburban house belongs to none other than Pope Benedict. Indeed, although his visits here will now be, at best, highly infrequent, he once said that 'Pentling is my home in the deepest sense.' He bought the site in 1970 and oversaw the building of the house, into which he moved with his late sister (and housekeeper), Maria. He lived here until 1977, when he became Archbishop of Munich and Freising, but still regarded it as his true home, even as a Roman Cardinal, and during his pilgrimage to Germany last September he visited the house. Back in the 1970s Georg, of course, was busy directing the Cathedral choir down in Regensburg and, to bring the family together in one place, they moved their parents' remains to a nearby cemetery, the Ziegtsdorfer Friedhof (where we said prayers for the Pope's family).

The grounds of the Pope's wohnhaus in Pentling are clearly visible from the street. Here, for example, is the papal beehive (hmm, I wonder if he's thought of selling pots of honey to raise funds for the Holy See?):

The bees - and the garden - are now cared for by the Holy Father's neighbour, Herr Hofbauer (the owner of Chico the cat and Igor the golden retriever, who were great favourites of the Pope). It was good to see the traditional Epiphany blessing on the back door:

At first I was reluctant to post information on the papal house - until I got there and discovered that everyone knows it belongs to the Papa. A large sign announces to the passer-by who the famous owner is and there's a large papal flag outside. So, I'm not breaking any Vatican secrets!

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Tuesday, 17 April 2007


Just back from a very enjoyable meeting of priests south of the Thames, where I was able to pick up some unwanted linen albs (hard to find and very useful). Tomorrow a priest friend arrives from Sydney, Australia, and we're going to spend a few days driving around the Catholic North (including, I hope, Stonyhurst and a meeting with a northern blogger). Then, to complete my post-Easter break, I'm flying off to Papst-country - Munich and some of the world's most beautiful churches and best beer. So, watch this space for updates - but none for a few days...

To keep you amused in the meantime (H/T to Cally's Kitchen):

Which Twentieth Century Pope Are You?

You are Pope St. Pius X. You'd rather be right than newfangled.
Take this quiz!


Make A Quiz More Quizzes Grab Code


Sunday, 15 April 2007

Send Birthday Greetings to the Holy Father

Go to this link on the Vatican website.


Divine Mercy Sunday

I spent much of the afternoon sitting in the church car park, basking in the warm April sunshine. Given the popularity of the Divine Mercy indulgence, I placed a prie-dieu beside me and heard confessions from those who were attending the Divine Mercy devotions in our small hall. Meanwhile, the monthly Nigerian Mass was being celebrated in the church: the combination of their loud drums in the church and the Divine Mercy hymns in the hall served to cover from preying ears the sins that were being confessed. This pious competition, to see who could sing the loudest, was quite impressive and a vivid expression of the universality of the Church in this part of London.

I must confess to being rather under-read when it comes to St Faustina and the Divine Mercy - after all, the Church offers so many laudable devotions and private revelations. The essential message of today, however, is clear, stressing the infinite depths of God’s mercy, no matter how serious our sins may be.

Today's Gospel reminded us that Confession is an Easter Sacrament; it was the first gift to the Church from the Risen Lord. All the Sacraments continue the Incarnation – and through Confession, we have a share in the Paschal Mystery by dying to sin and rising to the life of sanctifying grace. Our Lord knows us too well. He knows that we blunder along in life and often take the wrong turning. That’s why He gave us the promise of His peace and forgiveness. That's why we are never closer to Jesus than when we sincerely repent of our sins.

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Friday, 13 April 2007


A copy of the long-awaited ICEL translation of the Ordinary of the Mass has appeared on Valle Adurni and various other blogs, via South Africa (where it is now available). Readers who haven't seen it yet should have a look.

It's a vast improvement and I look forward to using it, though it will take some getting used to. The transition between translations will probably be a bit messy - introducing the new responses to the people will be a pastoral challenge (in some cases taking years rather than months) and we priests will probably unthinkingly use the old, more familiar translation at times. After all, I still have to consciously think, during the Eucharistic Prayer, that the Pope's name is now 'Benedict' rather than 'John Paul,' especially when it's my third or fourth Mass on a Sunday!

On a different note, I've added two new blogs to my list: one is called Vive Jesus and is dedicated to the teachings of the great St Francis de Sales; the other, A Sub-Tutor's Diary, is not explicitly religious but it is, apparently, inspired by 'Roman Miscellany' and is written by a friend from Oxford, now a Sub-Tutor at a well-known public school. American readers, in particular, may be interested to find out what daily life is like at such a quintessentially English institution. I've been in touch with this friend through Facebook, which I've just started using. As one person put it to me, Facebook is 'one of the biggest time wasting mechanisms ever invented,' but it's useful in tracking down long-lost friends...

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Thursday, 12 April 2007

Easter in Rome

This shot of the English College schola in action outside St Peter's on Sunday, courtesy of Northampton Seminarian, brought back happy memories of the Easters I was privileged to spend in Rome as a seminarian. Compared to life as a priest in an urban parish, the experience of the Triduum was pretty relaxed, especially since I was never heavily involved with music or organising the liturgy. Maundy Thursday evening was spent happily rushing round the different altars of repose in the centro storico - the atmosphere in the darkened churches was always electric and I think on one occasion I visited well over twenty.

The Easter Vigil was followed by a party, which meant that seminarians (without the duty of saying two or three parochial Masses in the morning) retired at a very late hour. And then it was up early to walk to the Vatican for the Papal Mass and Urbi et Orbi - one of the few occasions when we were allowed to wear cassocks in the streets. The English College schola traditionally provided some of the music for the Mass and sat at the top of the steps leading into the basilica, just behind the outdoor altar. We normally sang a motet at Communion (such as Casciolini's Panis Angelicus) and a piece before the arrival of the Pope (a sort of 'gathering song'). In my day, at least, schola numbers were boosted by non-singing seminarians and guests (who were lent cassocks for the occasion). The combination of being so near the Pope and wearing choir dress meant that Easter morning was a popular day for taking photos - in fact, about half the photos in my seminary album are of the occasion:

Then we returned to the College for a long festal lunch and digestivi. Even this did not stop the piety of us seminarians, for most of us would dash to sit in choir at St Peter's for Easter Vespers (though on one occasion it was too much for one of my fellow students and he very obviously fell asleep during Cardinal Noe's homily, much to the canons' disgust). But, as you can see, the long procession made it very impressive (I'm one of the white blobs on the far right):

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Bishop O'Brien, R.I.P.

Some of my recent posts have been to do with death, I know, but I feel I should note that two retired English bishops have died in the last week: on Good Friday, James Joseph McGuinness, Bishop Emeritus of Nottingham, and yesterday, James O'Brien, retired Auxiliary of Westminster. Please pray for the repose of their souls. Bishop O'Brien had special responsibility for Hertfordshire (and, since part of my youth was spent in that county, he confirmed me back in 1990). He was one of the 'memories' of the diocese, always lightening up meetings with his collection of witty anecdotes about his early years as a priest or his time as Rector of Allen Hall seminary. When I last saw him in May 2006, at a gathering of young clergy, I recorded one of his stories on this blog. He also had a great love for walking, gardening and bee-keeping (!) and was a familiar figure at London Colney, where he lived in the grounds of our Pastoral Centre.

Bishop 'Jim' carried the cross of ill health for many years, though this did not stop him from an active life as bishop - in fact, he was gravely ill at the time of Cardinal Hume's last illness (1999) and many were surprised that the Bishop out-lived the Cardinal. More recently he wrote to the clergy and people of Hertfordshire:

I am even more grateful to God for the wonderful life with which he has blest me. Fifty two years in the priesthood, over half of which were spent as a bishop in Hertfordshire, have given me great joy. Despite many human weaknesses, you and the parishioners have shown me consistent kindness and love, and not least during my various illnesses. Illness can have many benefits. It gives one a chance to reflect – to realise one’s dependence on God and the love of others and to recognise that God’s Grace is everywhere… Please continue your prayers now that God’s holy will may be done so that He may be glorified in all things. In the end, that is all that really matters.
His funeral is scheduled to take place at Westminster Cathedral on 20 April, at 12 noon. An on-line book of remembrance has been set up here. Requiescat in pace.

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Wednesday, 11 April 2007

The Pallium

A friend of mine, Fr Gerard Skinner, has just published The Pallium: A Brief Guide to its History and Significance, issued by Family Publications. Fully illustrated, it studies this intriguing archepiscopal vestment and I'm sure it will interest many readers, especially in the light of Pope Benedict's reflections on the subject. Indeed, 'the book has numerous discoveries in store for all who are interested in history and in the liturgy, or who want to know more about this simple yet beautiful symbol of divine service.' Click here to buy a copy, priced £9.95.


Tuesday, 10 April 2007

A Fond Farewell to Fr Cormac

Today I concelebrated at the Requiem Mass for the much respected priest and former BBC Radio 3 announcer, Fr Cormac Rigby, who died on 27 March. In requesting the church of the Sacred Heart, Ruislip as a venue, Fr Cormac obviously had no idea of his popularity and the way he touched the lives of many - well over 50 priests were squeezed onto the sanctuary and part of the congregation was pushed out into the April sunshine. The principal celebrant was his friend, Bishop George Stack, Auxiliary of Westminster; the author, Fr John Saward, was one of the main concelebrants, and readers included Canon Roger Royle (formerly of Songs of Praise fame).

Fr Cormac had left careful instructions for the liturgy, including a prayer by John Donne in the Intercessions and, as a recessional, the Salve Regina and an organ piece by Wagner (overture to Die Meistersinger). At one point, at the end of the Bidding Prayers, the order of service read: 'pause for one minute,' which revealed Fr Cormac's great concern for timing and proper presentation, both as a broadcaster and a preacher. At the end of Mass, six concelebrants carried the coffin out of the church - something I had never seen before, but it seemed to be a beautiful symbol of priestly fraternity, which does not end with death.

In his sermon, Bishop Stack quoted from Edward Thring, the Victorian headmaster who was the subject of Fr Cormac's doctorate:

There is nothing more characteristic of God on earth than the boundless liberality with which he scattered little pleasures in everybody's reach. But if this is so, then man most imitates God when he gives in this Almighty way, when he opens and makes free, and scatters pleasure as God does, and makes it possible for others to be glad.
This passage, he suggested, formed an appropriate epitaph for Fr Cormac, who bought many of his friends and parishioners closer to the God of beauty and truth. May he rest in peace!

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Monday, 9 April 2007

Wet Monday

I always find the Easter Octave a bit of an anti-climax in our secular culture. Yes, liturgically every day is a Solemnity, but I find things otherwise get back to normal far too quickly and the week lacks the festive feel of Christmas Week, when the forthcoming New Year ensures a continuation of the celebrations in the popular mind.

Today, the Easter Bank Holiday, is known in parts of Eastern Europe as 'Wet Monday' on account of the tradition of boys waking up girls by pouring over them a bucket of water! This originated with the custom of blessing houses with Holy Water, blessed at Easter (though some claim it goes back to an ancient fertility rite). In Poland there is supposedly a link to the baptism of King Mieszko I and his court on Easter Monday 966. Śmigus-dyngus, as the day is called in Polish, is consequently still a day for water fights, which seems a jolly good way of spending Easter Monday. Perhaps I should lurk outside the church with a water pistol as the congregation arrive for the midday Mass?


Sunday, 8 April 2007

Christus resurrexit, alleluia!

A happy and blessed Easter to all of you!

I'm about to have a belated siesta, having had a rather fine festal lunch here at the presbytery - including, for the first time since I was 7 years old, some indoor fireworks (now, how Catholic is that?)! However, before I make my horizontal meditation I thought I better add something to the blog. Holy Week is one of my favourite times of year because everything is so focussed on the drama of the Sacred Liturgy. It started with the Chrism Mass at Westminster Cathedral on Holy Tuesday, marked by a lovely Monteverdi Mass setting and a good homily by the Cardinal on Sacramentum Caritatis (indeed all priests were given a complementary copy when they turned up to vest, which was very encouraging).

Here at Kingsland, things went well. Each day of the Triduum had its own flavour and momentum: the Maundy Thursday Mass (at which I 'presided') is, I always think, the most contemplative. Good Friday is edifying, despite the chaos caused by the congregation (numbering at least 850) - I was particularly impressed by the demand for confessions, on which subject Fr Tim has an excellent post. The Easter Vigil was full of beauty - and I just about got through the Exsultet (though I must gargle some port, as the experts recommend, before I do it next time, since my voice got rather dry). The highlight, however, was the Solemn Mass this morning, celebrated by the parish priest, at which I got to exercise my 'eternal diaconate' (Fr Albert, the National Nigerian Chaplain, joined me on the sedilia in a gold tunicle). A special choir sang Haydn's St Nicholas Mass, Mozart's Ave verum and (as a recessional) Handel's Alleluia Chorus, which attracted a spontaneous round of applause from the people. I'm not a great fan of clapping in church but I think an exception can be made for Easter - one thinks of the fifteenth century Bavarian custom of the priest singing comic songs at the end of Mass and causing the people to be convulsed in Risus Paschalis, 'Easter laughter.'

I should add that today is the first 'blogiversary' of Roman Miscellany. Thank you for your kind interest over the past year. Originally I thought I might stop blogging after a year but, with your indulgence, I think I might continue - at least for a little longer.

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Sunday, 1 April 2007

Semana Santa

So, we enter Holy Week once again. It will be a busy week for priests but at least admin and other responsibilities (such as, in my case, the diocesan archives) fade into the background as the focus is firmly on the Sacred Liturgy, hearing confessions, preparing the church, etc.

Of course, in Spain - and most famously in Seville -Holy Week (Semana Santa) is a time for elaborate processions and communal devotion.

Here is a short video showing various floats going through the streets of Seville (including one of Jesus entering Jerusalem). Despite the chaos and screechy music, it's an impressive sight and the crowds obviously see it as more than just a spectacle. Being one of the costaleros (who carry the huge floats) is no joke and is seen as a good Holy Week penance.

The processions are organised by the various hermandades (brotherhoods), in their imposing robes. A fortnight ago, when I was in Valladolid, I passed a shop selling bedclothes, and they had arranged the fabrics in the window to resemble the Nazarenos (members of these confraternities who follow the processions in their pointed hoods, often carrying a cross).

Well, I've decided to 'withdraw' from this blog during the coming week, so that I can concentrate on more important things - so God bless and have a fruitful Semana Santa!

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