Sunday, 30 November 2008

Seasonal Music

Advent and Christmas are richly musical seasons and there are many recordings available of carols and noels, cantatas and oratorios. Each year I look with interest at the many new CDs produced for the festive Season, although it is always a great temptation to put on recordings of carols as soon as we light the first candle on the Advent Wreath.

Here are two particularly fine new CDs, though rather different from the usual ‘Ultimate Carol Collection’ or ‘Best Christmas CD Ever.’

Hieronymus Praetorius, Magnificats and motets
(The Cardinall’s Musick, Andrew Carwood)
Hieronymus Praetorius (1560-1629) – not to be confused with the slightly more famous Michael Praetorius (curiously not related) – worked in Hamburg and produced some ravishing and lively polyphonic music. This CD includes his masterpiece, the Magnificat quinti toni to which is attached two popular Christmas carols: Joseph, liber Joseph mein and In dulci jubilo (my favourite carol). The booklet notes that the former piece was ‘associated with the cradle-rocking ceremony at Christmas vespers – a priest would sit next to a cradle containing an effigy of the baby Jesus and would rock the cradle gently in time to the lilting rhythm of the music.’ The Cardinall’s Musick is one of our best choirs and its director, Andrew Carwood, was formerly Director of Music at the Brompton Oratory and is now in charge of the choir at St Paul’s Cathedral. For more information and samples, click here.

Natalis Cordat and Nicolas Saboly, Noel Baroque en Pays D’Oc
(La Camera delle Lacrime, Bruno Bonhoure)
This rather obscure CD contains C17 settings of French Noels by Natalis Cordat (c.1610-63), parish priest of Cussac-sur-Loire, and Nicolas Saboly, an organist in Avignon. It includes some familiar tunes, such as Li a pron de gens (allegedly written by Saboly to make fun of a lame priest he knew). The pieces are excitingly performed on period instruments and have a rustic charm, which makes you think back to C17 Provence. For more information and samples, click here.

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Monday, 24 November 2008

A Glimpse of Heaven DVD

Many of you will have a copy of Christopher Martin's A Glimpse of Heaven on your shelves, a handsome coffee table book about the most beautiful Catholic churches in England and Wales. This historical and architectural survey starts with the handful of pre-Reformation chapels in Catholic hands (East Hendred, Stonor, Ely Place, Slipper Chapel at Walsingham, Fitzalan Chapel at Arundel, Rotherwas) and finishes with the new Brentwood Cathedral, which is presented as a 'return to the past.'

Now there is a companion DVD, which has just arrived in the post and looks excellent, with good photography and commentaries from Christopher Martin and a host of special guests, including the bishop of Brentwood, the Abbot of Douai and Lord Camoys. I think I might show this to a parish group.
I was particularly interested in the chapters regarding C20 architecture, about which I know very little. There is a fairly balanced section on the 'liturgical and architectural revolution' of the 1960s and 70s, speaking of the tragic 'iconoclasm' of church buildings perpetuated by 'ignorant priests' and 'greedy architects.'

The double-DVD retails at £12.99 - but there's current a special offer in which you get both the book (worth £25) and DVD for only £25. A good idea for Christmas? Visit the Gracewing webpage and scroll down to A Glimpse of Heaven.


Wednesday, 19 November 2008


Continuing the Cardinal Pole theme - today I popped over to Lambeth Palace, at the invitation of a friend who works in the Library and has been very helpful in advising the diocesan archive. They have displayed some 'Pole memorabilia' to commemorate the 450th anniversary of his death and to show the English and Welsh bishops, who were over there on Monday. Particularly impressive was the Cardinal's register, with a magnificent depiction of his coat of arms (with more tassels than I have ever seen on a cardinaltial arms). There is a picture here (go to 'Image of the Month: November').

The Times has a report of the Requiem Mass held on Monday at Magdalen College, Oxford.


Monday, 17 November 2008

Cardinal Pole and Mary I - 1558-2008

Today is the 450th anniversary of the deaths of both Cardinal Pole, last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, and Mary Tudor. The English and Welsh bishops met today and visited Lambeth Palace to honour the memory of Cardinal Pole; meanwhile, a number of Requiem Masses were held in Oxford, Cambridge, Birmingham and London. I had the privilege of preaching at one of these:

We gather here this evening to remember a series of deaths that occurred exactly 450 years ago. At about six in the morning of 17 November 1558, Mary Tudor died at St James’ Palace, as Mass was being celebrated in her chamber and the priest was elevating the Sacred Host. Twelve hours later her cousin, Reginald Pole, Cardinal Priest of Santa Maria in Cosmedin and Archbishop of Canterbury, died across the river at Lambeth Palace. With them died hopes for an English Catholic restoration and the subsequent long reign of Elizabeth did much to consolidate the newly-founded Church of England.

The two cousins had much in common. Both had saintly mothers – in the Queen’s case, Catherine of Aragon (the discarded wife of Henry VIII, who remained loyal to the Catholic Faith and to the bonds of marriage); in the Cardinal’s case, Blessed Margaret Pole, the last of the Plantagenets and martyr. When Pole heard of her execution in May 1541, he declared that ‘until now I had thought God had given me the grace of being the son of the one of the best and most honoured ladies in England...but now he has vouchsafed to honour me still more by making me the son of a martyr.’ Both the Queen and the Cardinal also tried to heal the English schism but their efforts were cut short by premature death. Both have been largely vilified by posterity – the Queen remembered as ‘Bloody Mary’ and the Cardinal as her henchman.

At this Mass, we particularly pray for the repose of the soul of Cardinal Pole and we pay tribute to his legacy, even though when he died all his efforts seemed to have failed. Mgr Robert Hugh Benson once wrote that ‘it is hardly possible to imagine a character less suited, in popular estimation, to the needs of his time, than was that of Reginald Pole to the period of the English schism. They were days of fierceness, brutality and literally Machiavellian diplomacy; and the nature of the Cardinal who played so great a part in them was one of gentleness, kindness and simple transparence...It is no wonder then that the Cardinal, a lover of peace and study, sensitive in conscience and passionately zealous for souls, should, as the world reckons success, have failed in nearly every task to which he set his hand.’

In the eyes of the world, Pole was a failure. He failed in his various diplomatic missions or legations aimed against King Henry. He famously failed to be elected Pope by just a handful of votes in the Conclave of 1549 – so certain was his election thought to be that pontifical vestments were even made for him. He failed in his desire for the Church to reach reconciliation with the schismatics and, in fact, at the time of his death he was suspected by Rome of having Protestant sympathies - only the protection of Queen Mary prevented him from facing the Roman Inquisition. Moreover, his plans for Catholic restoration in England ultimately came to nothing.

Pole was perhaps a failure in temporal terms, and yet his failure can be seen also as a victory from the perspective of Divine grace. Though, unlike his mother, he was not called to shed his blood for the Faith, he risked much in defending the Papal primacy.

We remember him today as a great scholar and the friend of the likes of Michelangelo. We recall his central role in the opening sessions of the Council of Trent. Above all, we celebrate his achievements in England, even though they were left unfinished. On 30 November 1554 he reconciled the realm to the Holy See during an emotionally-charged service at Whitehall Palace. ‘If the angels in Heaven,’ the Cardinal said, ‘rejoice over the conversion of a single sinner, what must be their joy to-day at the sight of a whole kingdom which repenteth?’ Pole set aside St Andrew’s Day as an annual celebration of ‘the return this kingdom to the unity of the Church.’ The following Sunday Pole was at St Paul’s and the Lord Chancellor, Bishop Gardiner, preached on the theme, ‘Now it is high time to awake out of sleep.’

Pole told Parliament that he aimed ‘not to pull down but to build; to reconcile not to censure; to invite but without compulsion.’ He took a gradual and realist approach to the Catholic restoration, confirming property rights and refusing help from St Ignatius and the newly-founded Jesuits - not because he opposed them but because he thought England was not yet ready and because they had too close a connection to Spain. Pole organised a Legatine Synod, perhaps his greatest legacy.. He stressed the importance of the residence of clergy and of preaching and catechesis in each parish. Most notably, he decreed ‘that in Cathedrals a certain number of initiated persons be brought up, whence as from a Seminary, men may be chosen who may be worthily set over Churches...We especially wish,’ he added, ‘the children of the poor to be chosen into these seminaries.’ The Cardinal was one of the first to speak of seminaries and anticipated the Tridentine decrees, though his vision would not be actualised in his own country for another 250 years.

But these battles and dreams have long since ended for our Cardinal. We pray that he is now at peace, united with his mother, the Blessed Margaret. Though we live in very different times, the battles that Pole fought so courageously have now passed down to us. The words of Bishop Gardiner, preached on that First Sunday of Advent 1554, echo in our ears: ‘Now it is high time to awake out of sleep.’ Like the Cardinal, it is up to us not so much to pull down but to build; to reconcile rather than simply to censure; to work for the unity of the Church and to re-evangelise our increasingly ‘post-Christian’ culture. As Fr Aidan Nichols showed recently, much of this project has to happen within the Church – the re-enchantment of the Sacred Liturgy, the on-going revival of catechesis and preaching, the rediscovery of the Catholic reading of the Bible, the preaching of the Gospel of Life and, most importantly, the continual striving for holiness on the part of us all. Cardinal Pole would approve of all these targets. As we pray for the repose of his soul (and also that of Mary Tudor), we continue to pray and work for the conversion of England.

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Thursday, 6 November 2008

Credit Crunch

Since everyone is currently talking about politics, especially in the wake of the American election, here is Chicago's Fr Robert Barron on the current financial crisis:


Know Popery 2008

Last year the parish priest of Lewes started an annual lecture with the striking title 'Know Popery,' to counter the infamous pope-burning celebrations held in the Sussex town on 5 November.

This year Fr Richard Whinder is talking on 'Bishop Richard Challoner: From Lewes to London' - in honour of the great writer and Vicar Apostolic of the London District who was born at Chiddingly, seven miles outside Lewes, on 29 September 1691. He was the only son of Richard Challoner, a wine cooper and ‘a rigid Dissenter’, and his wife Grace Willard. The future bishop was baptised as an Anglican and only fully encountered the Catholic Faith after his father’s death, when Mrs Challoner gained employment in the household of a local recusant landowner, Sir John Gage, at Firle.

The 'Know Popery' lecture takes place tonight (6 November) in St Pancras Church, Irelands Lane, Lewes at 8pm (with Benediction at 7.45).


Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Towards Advent

Just to reminder you that the 'Towards Advent' Festival is this Saturday (8th November) at Westminster Cathedral Hall. Doors open from 10am and at 10.30 His Eminence will officially open proceedings, with the help of the choir of La Retraite School, Clapham Park.

There are two speakers: first, at 11 am, is Aidan Nichols, OP, who is talking on the Conversion of England. He is followed at 12.30pm by the Roman Miscellenist and I'll be looking at the Westminster Cardinals (of the past rather than the future!). Tickets for these talks are available on the day, priced (I think) at £3.

At 3pm Jeremy de Satge will lead a Workshop on Gregorian Chant. All day there are displays by Catholic groups and organisations and stalls selling books, DVDs, Christmas gifts, etc. Joanna Bogle will also be leading tours of the Cathedral.

It's a fun and inspiring day - especially since it gives an insight into all the good things happening in the English Catholic Church. So do come along!


Monday, 3 November 2008


It’s been a busy time in the parish – the weekend before last we had an episcopal visitation and this coming week we have a Parish Mission, preached by the wonderful Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, based in Canning Town. They’ll be preaching at all Masses and conducting evening ‘sessions’ from Monday to Thursday. Hopefully they’ll shake us all up a bit.

Tonight, being All Souls Day, the parish had its first scheduled EF Mass (one of two being celebrated in the Deanery). It had only been advertised in two Sunday newsletters but about 60 parishioners eventually turned up. Many seemed familiar with the Usus Antiquior – though not intended to be a dialogue Mass, the congregation made the responses (and did it quite well). They also had no problems in acting accordingly at Holy Communion. Most impressive was the silence – never have I heard our church so quiet. There was no shuffling, no moving around the church and no mobiles going off. Cally’s Kitchen served and his sister took some photos - more can be found on his blog:

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