Saturday, 29 September 2007


I remember one of my professors in Rome discussing the possibility of life on other planets and he said: of course, the Church does believe in extra-terrestrial intelligent beings and we call them the angels.

Today we celebrate the feast of the angels, especially the three great Archangels of the Bible: Michael, the leader of the Heavenly army and our protector against evil; Gabriel, who brought good tidings to Zechariah and Mary; Raphael, who healed the older Tobias of blindness and protected the younger Tobias on his journey.

Some Christians are embarrassed about belief in angels but, as one writer put it: to deny the angels amounts to tearing every second page out of the Bible. They can indeed be found throughout Sacred Scripture – from the angel of Paradise to the angel of the Apocalypse, from the angels descending and ascending Jacob’s ladder to the angel who sets St Peter free. Angels really exist. They’re not cute or cuddly, like the cherubs on Christmas cards, but awesome and powerful. Throughout Scripture, the appearance of angels results in fear and respect.

There are good angels and bad angels. Each of us experiences a constant struggle against temptation and sin. This is part of a great cosmic battle between good and evil, fought not only in the battleground of our souls but between the two invisible armies of angels and devils. We can’t fully understand it. But we can be assured that the good angels are much the stronger and that they constantly protect and enlighten us. All we need to do is to be aware of this great battle and to use the spiritual armour that God has given us – especially that of prayer and the sacraments.

Holy Michael, the Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God cast into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.


Thursday, 27 September 2007

Cardinal in the House

Parish life is full of the unexpected - and especially when the parish priest is away, as he is at present (leading a pilgrimage in Spain).
Last night, for example, I was called to give the sacraments to a dying parishioner - always a great privilege but not a very common event here since the local hospital has a full-time priest chaplain.

Then this evening, on returning to my room after Mass, who should I find wandering around the presbytery but a member of the Sacred College! No, not the Archbishop of Westminster but his opposite number in Lagos, Nigeria: H.E. Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie. He is visiting the Nigerian Chaplain, who is my next-door neighbour, and it now appears that he will celebrate Mass here on Sunday. I was actually thinking about getting a supply priest to help me with the parish's six Masses, but I wasn't expecting a Prince of the Church to help out!

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Monday, 24 September 2007

Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham

O blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Walsingham, Mother of God and our most gentle Queen and Mother, look down in mercy upon us, our parish, our country, our homes, and our families, and upon all who greatly hope and trust in your prayers, (especially...) By you it was that Jesus, our Savior and hope, was given to the world; and he has given you to us that we may hope still more. Plead for us your children, whom you did receive and accept at the foot of the Cross, O sorrowful Mother. Intercede for our separated brethren, that with us in the one true fold they may be united to the Chief Shepherd, the Vicar of your Son. Pray for us all, dear Mother, that by faith fruitful in good works we all may be made worthy to see and praise God, together with you in our heavenly home. Amen.

Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us!

For a post concerning the traditional feast of Our Lady of Ransom, click here.


H/T to Roman Christendom for this picture of the galero or cardinal's hat, held by the parish priest of Warminster, Fr Bede Rowe, who made it. It was placed on the catafalque at Saturday's Requiem. Perhaps Fr Rowe should start a business providing hats to be suspended above the tombs of cardinals. The old tradition is that when the hat finally falls down, it is a sign that the cardinal's soul has been released from purgatory - in which case, most of the deceased Cardinal Archbishops of Westminster still need our prayers!


Sunday, 23 September 2007

Yesterday's Pontifical Requiem

Vernon Quaintance has posted a magnificent gallery of pictures from yesterday's Pontifical Requiem ('extraordinary form' of the Roman Rite), celebrated by one of the Westminster Auxiliaries, Bishop Bernard Longley. Here's a small selection (all copyright Vernon):

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Panegyric for the Cardinal Duke of York

A few people asked me to post the text of the panegyric for the Cardinal Duke of York from yesterday's Pontifical Requiem. Pictures are copyright of Vernon Quaintance:

We come together this afternoon to commemorate one of the most intriguing figures in our history, the Cardinal Duke of York, and to pray for the repose of his soul according to the traditional rites of the Church.

It might seem at first rather strange that this Requiem is being held in London, for the Cardinal Duke spent almost all his life in the Papal States. Indeed, the closest he got to setting foot on British territory was his evacuation to Sicily in 1798 aboard Nelson’s flagship, HMS Vanguard. In this country he is largely forgotten; but his memory is still kept alive in and around the Eternal City. His monument stands proudly at the back of St Peter’s Basilica. His coat of arms can be found in Santa Maria in Trastevere and elsewhere. The prayers for the Conversion of England which he and his father introduced to the church of Santa Maria in Campitelli, were still in use until recently. Throughout the Castelli region, just outside Rome, there are numerous plaques in churches and on streets witnessing to his patronage – a church he dedicated here, a school or orphanage he opened there.

And yet, despite his apparent foreignness, the Cardinal clearly belongs to our nation’s story, as grandson of James II and, for nearly twenty years, the senior member of the Royal House of Stuart, known to his supporters as King Henry IX. If he had emerged victorious from the Venetian Conclave of 1800 – and as a senior cardinal he was considered in some quarters to be papabile – then he could have uniquely claimed to be Supreme Pontiff and King of Great Britain.

One of the most impressive aspects of Henry’s character was his dedication as Cardinal Bishop of Frascati for over forty years. He lived a lifestyle according to his high rank, as he was expected to, with an especial fondness for music, feasting and fast horses, but this clearly did not distract him from his Episcopal duties. He re-founded the Frascati seminary, established a magnificent library, organised two diocesan synods and became known as the ‘Protector of the Poor’. The only work of his to be published in English, thanks to the Catholic Truth Society many years after his death, was a pamphlet entitled The Sins of the Drunkard.

When Nicholas Wiseman, the future Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, was a student in Rome shortly after the fall of Napoleon, he found many fond memories in Frascati of the Cardinal King. He later wrote:

Of that prettily-situated city, successor of Tusculum, from which the bishop yet derives his title, the Cardinal is still considered the great benefactor. Whatever else may have been wanting for his title, to a royal heart he was no pretender. His charities were without bounds; poverty and distress were unknown in his see…The diocese of Frascati was full, when the author first knew it, of recollections of that Cardinal Duke, all demonstrative of his singular goodness and simplicity of character.

During this Bicentenary Year of his death, we especially remember the ‘simplicity of character’ that marked his final years. He celebrated his own accession after his brother’s death in 1788 by striking medals with the famous words ‘not accepted by men but chosen by the will of God’. He continued the royal custom of touching for the ‘King’s Evil’ and was addressed as ‘Majesty’ by his household. And yet he promoted his claims with discretion and a touch of realism. His biographer, Herbert Vaughan (not to be confused with the Cardinal of the same name) suggested that ‘in his own eyes he became, after his brother’s death, King of Britain in Rome, and no further recognition did he desire or demand’, being content to pray for the Conversion of England and ‘place himself and his cause in the hands of the Almighty to deal with as He thought fit’. Not accepted by men but chosen by - and obedient to - the will of God, whatever that might involve.

Already at his accession, the storm-clouds of revolution loomed. During the wars of the 1790s the Cardinal lost most of his revenues and was forced to flee his beloved Frascati. It was at this moment that he received an annual pension from his third cousin twice removed, King George III – a sign of the cooling of old resentments in the face of a new radicalism. The venerable Cardinal was seen no longer as a threat but rather an object of compassion and a symbol, perhaps, of a nobler era. Despite the close proximity of the Napoloeonic Wars, the Cardinal’s final years were relatively peaceful. The new Pope had returned to Rome and the Cardinal Duke was now Dean of the Sacred College and, therefore, Bishop of Ostia and Velletri. However, he was allowed to continue residing at Frascati, enjoying the companionship of his loyal supporters and even a King Charles Spaniel, who had attached itself to the Cardinal at St Peter’s – a sure sign, in the old man’s eyes, of the dignity of his Stuart blood. The venerable Cardinal finally died on 13 July 1807, the forty-sixth anniversary of his translation as bishop to Frascati, and his royal claims were passed on to his second cousin, Charles Emmanuel of Savoy – another religious man, who ended his days in a Jesuit novitiate in Rome.

So, we pray today for the repose of the soul of the Cardinal Duke of York – not merely a historical might-have-been but a conscientious pastor and, in the words of the somewhat florid homilist at his original Requiem, the ‘last and sublimest glory of the House of Stuart’. We remember also the other members of his family – in particular his father, brother and saintly mother, all of whom are buried in St Peter’s, waiting for the last trumpet to sound. Through the offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Prayers of Absolution which we are about to say, we ask the Lord of consolation that, though the last Stuarts did not inherit their Kingdom in this world, they will receive the crown of the blessed in the Kingdom of Heaven – a Kingdom to which we all aspire and to which we are true heirs.

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Saturday, 22 September 2007

Requiem for the Cardinal Duke of York

This year is the bicentenary of the death of the Cardinal Duke of York - the grandson of James II and brother of 'Bonnie Prince Charlie'. A Solemn Requiem was celebrated this afternoon by Bishop Bernard Longley at the Conventual Church of the Soveriegn Military Order of Malta, which is hidden away in London's SS John and Elizabeth Hospital. As you can see from the pictures, the church was superbly decorated and the catafalque had a cappa magna and precious mitre (lent by various prominent London churches), ducal robes, decorations and even a very fine galero, expertly made for the occasion by one of the priests who sat in choir.

It was a historic occasion - a solemn commemoration of the 'Cardinal King', one of the most intriguing and yet forgotten figures in our history, and also the first Pontifical Mass in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite in this country since the motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum. The Mass was organised on behalf of the Royal Stuart Society (of which I am Honorary RC Chaplain) and with the permission of the Order of Malta.

I acted as subdeacon and also preached the panegyric before the Final Absolutions. A reception followed in the Order of Malta's Chancery, next to the Hospital, where we enjoyed Kir Royale in the September sunshine. I even met a former blogger (Hilary White of The Devout Life). A good time was had by all - I think the Cardinal Duke would have approved.

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Thursday, 20 September 2007

Vocations Evening

This evening I attended a Vocations Evening in the neighbouring parish of St John the Baptist, Hackney, for the young men of the deaneries of Hackney and Tower Hamlets (east London). This was organised by the eminent parish priest of Hackney, Fr David Evans, who does excellent work with the local young people and is a regular and welcome visitor to my presbytery.

The formula was simple but effective: Vespers and Benediction, followed by a brief talk from Bishop Bernard Longley and the diocesan Vocations Director, Fr Chris Vipers. Then we had a buffet supper, at which point Bosco and Tomas, Fr Evans' boxer dogs, appeared.

There were about 20 young men present (including 3 from my parish). Who knows how many will proceed further - that is in God's hands - but such occasions, I am sure, help nurture the seeds of priestly vocations. I remember from my own time as a potential applicant how encouraging it was to meet like-minded people. If only every deanery or parish occasionally organised such an event and to actively pray and promote vocations!


Wednesday, 19 September 2007

English Saints

Yesterday, I visited my aunt and uncle who live in the little Sussex town of Steyning. The splendid medieval church formerly housed the shrine of St Cuthman (see my previous post). Steyning lies in the Adur Valley, so my trip also gave me the chance to have dinner with the parish priest, Fr Sean Finnegan (formerly of Valle Adurni).

Today sees the feast of a very interesting English saint: Theodore of Canterbury, one of the most important of our Primates. He was born at Tarsus (Cilicia), educated at Athens, captured by Persians as a youth and lived as a monk in Rome (probably at Sant' Anastasio, having been driven westwards by the Arab conquests). Pope Vitalian recognised his holiness and ability and so appointed him as Archbishop of Canterbury in 666 (an ominous year!), replacing Wighard, who had died as he made his way to Rome to receive the pallium.

This Greek archbishop remained in England until his death in 690, visiting his Province, setting up a school at Canterbury (including a song school) and organising the Synod of Hertford (672), which helped unify the Roman, Celtic and British elements in the Church and consolidate the jurisdiction of Canterbury. Another synod was held at Hatfield in c.680, resulting in a declaration of orthodoxy in the monothelite controversy (ie the heresy that Jesus had two natures but one will).

It's amazing that one of our greatest Archbishops came all the way from Cilicia to Canterbury in the seventh century, at the bidding of the Pope, demonstrating that England was very much part of the Universal Church.

St Theodore, pray for us!


Saturday, 15 September 2007

Solemn Mass at Blackfen

A fine gallery of photos from yesterday's High Mass is now available at this website, run by the photographer, Vernon Quaintance (who owns the copyright). He also has pictures of the splendid High Mass held at the Oratory.

I was asked to deacon at Blackfen and, despite feeling a bit nervy in the sacristy beforehand (given the historic importance of the occasion), the ceremonial flowed very nicely and there were only a few very minor hitches. Anyway, these pictures capture the flavour of the occasion:

Fr Tim Finigan was celebrant and Fr Richard Whinder subdeacon.

The Gospel.

Fr Zuhlsdorf preaching on the mystery of the Cross and the Sacred Liturgy. There were about 40 people present - not bad for a small parish on a Friday lunchtime - but, being typical Catholics, they didn't sit in the front. Hence the empty space around the pulpit!

Ite missa est (after which the deacon can begin to relax)

Last Gospel - Et Verbum caro factum est

Te Deum. We then had a buffet lunch in the hall and wished the Holy Father Ad multos annos.

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Above is a group of bloggers who met at Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen yesterday - from left to right: Cally's Kitchen, Fr Z, Roman Miscellany, Hermeneutic of Continuity, Jamie Bogle and South Ashford Priest. Mulier Fortis was there earlier but had to dash back to school.

There isn't much point posting about the Solemn Mass and Te Deum until the photos are made available. Suffice to say that it was an extraordinary occasion.

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Sunday, 9 September 2007

God's Architect

I've been reading Rosemary Hill's wonderful new biography of the Catholic architect, Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, who was single-handedly responsible for much of the nineteenth century Gothic Revival. The first two paragraphs of the book sum up his importance:

Travelling through England on a train, or flying into London, low along the Thames and over the suburbs, the landscape is still, to a great extent, made up of little pitch-roofed houses and gardens. Sprinkled among them are the towers and spires of Gothic churches, while here and there are small village schools and big Victorian town halls. The architectural texture of our towns and of the countryside is still largely nineteenth-century and none of it would look, quite, as it does had A.W.N.Pugin never lived.

Pugin gave Britain's capital cities two of their greatest landmarks, the clock tower of the Palace of Westminster, generally, if inaccurately, known as Big Ben, and, in Edinburgh, the spire of Tolbooth St John's. He built the first English cathedral since Wren's St Paul's and he reinvented the family house. But his influence depended not only, not even primarily, on his buildings, it was both wider and more elusive. He gave the nineteenth century a new idea about what architecture could be and mean. He saw it as a moral force in society and as a romantic art.
I have always been fascinated by the eccentric genius of Pugin. My mother's late cousin was Prior of Ramsgate Abbey and I occasionally went to stay with him, convinced at the age of eight that I would one day be a monk. The atmospheric abbey church, where the architect is buried, captured my imagination, as did the vague stories that Pugin haunted the abbey precincts. I was interested to read that there is a local connection here in Islington - Pugin's mother, Catherine Welby, grew up at what is now 88 Islington High Street (formerly 3 Pullins Row), near the Angel. She also began her married life there with Auguste Pugin. Next time I'm down there, I must look it up.

Hill's definitive new biography is highly readable and brings the age of Pugin vividly to life. Highly recommended.


Saturday, 8 September 2007

'That' Blue Chasuble

It's always interesting to look at the referrals page on sitemeter to see how readers discover this blog. I was tickled to find that one person found Roman Miscellany (I don't know why) by typing the following words into google:


I assume this refers to what the Holy Father was wearing at Mariazell today:

I must confess that, when I saw the pictures of Pope Benedict processing into Mass on EWTN, I assumed that the wet weather had made the colours run. Beneath his calm exterior he must have been cringing with embarrassment. The vestments do raise the interesting question - unless Mariazell has special permission as a major shrine, does this mean that blue vestments for Masses of Our Lady are fully above-board? I am always happy to follow the Holy Father on such matters!

Another question: I wonder what our beloved Pontiff will be wearing this coming Friday?!

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A Decade Ago

Ten years ago today, the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, I flew out to Rome to start at the Venerable English College. I well remember meeting the other five students who were flying from Gatwick - out of those, one left in the first year and all the others were ordained. We got to know each other fairly well there and then because the plane was delayed five hours.

The first year was a whirlwind of an experience. I quickly made some good friends - who I still see regularly and thankfully live in or near London - but the three weeks of Italian lessons hardly prepared us for philosophy lectures at the Pontifical Gregorian University. I could order a pizza but couldn't understand much about Plato! The twice-yearly exams were also very challenging; having spent 21 years mastering the art of essay writing in examinations, it was quite a shock to be faced with ten minute oral exams with a professor who spoke poor English (which was, thank God, a recognised exam language).

Looking back, some of the issues that occupied us at seminary seem rather trivial. The Rector once called some of us in because we were seen wearing cassocks in the streets - we were allowed to wear them to serve Benediction at the neighbouring Bridgettine convent but not elsewhere in the Eternal City. I think we had taken a minor detour on returning from Benediction one day. This, of course, caused much debate within the seminary community.

However, I survived (just about!) and, generally speaking, really enjoyed my seminary years and recommend it to anyone. Whatever was lacking was well made up by being able to explore Rome, meet students from all over the world and regularly take the 15 minute walk to St Peter's for the Papal Angelus on Sunday. I also particularly enjoyed frequent trips to 'our' beautiful villa at Palazzola and acting as the College's archivist for two years. I came out a complete Italophile!

And one can't complain. If we are supposed to be 'priest-victims', so closely identified with Jesus Christ Crucified, then we can expect that the process of formation also involves the carrying of many little crosses.


Thursday, 6 September 2007

O Lux Beatissima

I was recently sent a free sample of a CD called O Lux Beatissima, performed by the Oregon-based choir, Cantores in Ecclesia. It contains 35 of 'the most useful and accessible' Gregorian chants: not only obvious pieces such as the complete Missa Simplex and Missa de Angelis, but also chants from the Requiem Mass, the Asperges, Hosanna Filio David (for Palm Sunday), Pange lingua, several Office hymns (eg Lucis Creator Optime and Te Lucis) and many others - all on one disc.

Not only are the pieces well sung, with full use of adult and children's voices, but the recording is most useful for all those wishing to learn the basic Gregorian repertoire - for either the ordinary or extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite.The pieces were chosen not only for their importance but also their simplicity.

The CD can be bought here or, for UK readers, priced £14.35 from Viewpoint Resources Direct Ltd, 21 Point Hill, Greenwich SE10 8QW (02086921138).


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