Sunday, 25 January 2009

Burns Night and Haggis

Since publishing on 2009 anniversaries earlier this month, I keep coming across more. Today, for example, is not only the Conversion of St Paul but Burns Night - and, indeed, the 250th anniversary of the poet's birth. To mark this we had some delicious haggis at Sunday lunch in the presbytery.

Eating haggis reminded me of the small part it played in the conversion of our first parish priest here at Kingsland, Fr William Lockhart (a disciple of Newman and Rosmini) while he was a student at Exeter College, Oxford. In the early 1840s he attended the annual Scotch dinner for St Andrew’s Day, held in the Union rooms. It was a happy evening of whisky, Jacobite songs, toasts to Archbishop Laud and ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’, and a menu of oyster soup, haggis and ‘cockie-leeky.’ Afterwards, Lockhart walked round the Parks with a friend to sober up and declared: ‘I am in a state now in which I might be drawn into any wickedness.’ The following morning he went to see Dr Sewell at Exeter and asked to confess the previous night’s excesses. Sewell refused and offered him a dose of Epsom salts instead of absolution, Lockhart later commenting ‘I came away from that ass at once. I asked my father for bread, and he gave me a stone. I asked for fish, - he gave me a scorpion.' Not long afterwards he joined Newman at Littlemore and soon converted to Rome, one of the main issues being the forgiveness of post-baptismal sins.

To celebrate today's anniversary, here is what I consider to be one of the finest sights and sounds in these fair isles:


New Books

Alumni of the Venerable English College, Rome in recent years have been rather prolific in publishing books. In the last week or so two of my classmates have produced interesting titles.

Fr Gerard Skinner, parish priest of Northolt and South Harrow and co-author of The English Cardinals, has arranged an anthology of Benedict XVI's teachings on the Sacred Priesthood. Entitled Priests of Jesus Christ, it is published by the ever-excellent Family Publications and will be essential reading for priests, seminarians and anyone considering a priestly vocation, as well as those who want to learn more about the role of the Priesthood in the Church.

Fr Richard Whinder, a Southwark priest who occasionally appears on the blogosphere, has written a useful CTS pamphlet, The Extraordinary Form of the Mass Explained, containing a short commentary on 'the Mass of the Ages', a history of its development across the centuries and an explanation of Summorum Pontificum. Priced at only £1.95, I'm sure it will help those who are either discovering the Usus Antiquior or are confused by recent events.


Saturday, 24 January 2009

Ecumenical Fruits

Good news about the SSPX excommunications being remitted at the end of Christian Unity Week. There is still a long way to go and I'm sure that members of the Society will be divided over the path that lies ahead. As it happens, I spotted the cassocked figure of Bishop Fellay in the newsagents at Fiumicino airport on Monday as I was waiting for the plane (and struggling to carry the bottles of digestivi I had just bought from 'duty free'), so I thought something might be in the air!

Let us continue to pray for the unity of the Church.


Friday, 23 January 2009

A Day in the Castelli

This time last week I was in the Castelli, the little towns in the Alban Hills just outside Rome. After a sublime lunch at Monte Porzio (where the English College had a villa up until 1918 - above you can see a view looking down to Rome), I popped into Frascati. The exterior of the Cathedral (below) had been restored since my last visit:

Respects were paid at the site of the original tomb of 'Bonne Prince Charlie' - his young brother, the Cardinal Duke of York, was of course bishop of Frascati between 1761 and 1803. Although the body of 'Charles III' was moved to St Peter's in 1807, his praecordia is still near this monument :

There was also an amazing crib, based on a Piranesi print of the Porto di Ripetta on the Tiber, featuring the Croatian church (San Girolamo degli Schiavoni) and to its right the little chapel of San Gregorio dei Muratori (up until recently the HQ of the Fraternity of St Peter in Rome). This view can no longer be seen due to subsequent town-planning. The actual Nativity Scene was tucked away in the corner, in true Roman style:

It was good to see Cardinal Henry Stuart remembered in a special exhibition at the Scuderie Aldobrandini per l'Arte, rather unimaginatively called La Biblioteca del Cardinale (though the Cardinal's library was only part of the exhibition's focus). It's on until 15 February, in case you're passing through Rome. There were many familiar portraits, many of which I had only seen as illustrations in books, and I was particularly pleased to buy a large, well-illustrated catalogue (anyone interested in the 'Cardinal King' should get a copy).

Before leaving Frascati, I popped over to Cardinal Stuart's former residence of La Rocca. It was here that the last of the Stuarts died on 13 July 1807:

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Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Newman's Cause

I've been asked to draw your attention to the new 'Official Website for the Cause for the Canonisation of JohnHenry Cardinal Newman.' This includes a Thought for the Day from Newman's writings, biography, history of the Cause, and regular news and features. Hopefully there will be some definitive good news soon.


Tuesday, 20 January 2009

An Ostrich at the Vatican

Saturday was the feast of St Anthony of Egypt, the desert Father whose story was so memorably told by St Athanasius. In Italy he is known as San Antonio Abate and is often depicted with animals (especially a pig) in more an Italian than an Egyptian setting. Here is a little shrine that was set up in the duomo of Monte Porzio:

He is (amongst other things) the protector of animals and patron of breeders [allevatori], which is why a whole menagerie of beasts gathered on the Piazza San Pietro to celebrate the festa, organised by the AIA (Associazione Italiana Allevatori). Here is the tent containing the animals, with San Pietro in the background. Can you spot the friendly face posing for my camera on the extreme right?

Here is a close up:

Now I've seen many things at the Vatican but I never thought I'd bump into a struzzo or ostrich. I wonder if its presence means that the Holy See has commissioned a new set of flabelli (ceremonial fans made from ostrich feathers)? There were also some chaps on horses, making a rather charming sight (a touch of the 'Wild West' on the Via Conciliazione).

You'll be pleased to know that all the animals were blessed by the Archpriest of the Basilica, Cardinal Comastri, after he had celebrated a Mass for the Feast.
NB Why St Anthony and the pig? Some suggest that the pig symbolised the devil, which the saint defeated through his prayer, penances and perseverance; others that it reminds us of the hermit's simplicity and harmony with creation. Moreover the medieval Hospital Brothers of St Anthony (later incorporated into the Knights of Malta) kept pigs, quickly becoming the symbol of their patron.

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Papal Angelus

I received two e-mails today, from readers in Germany and Texas, encouraging me to post after an absence of a few weeks. I have indeed been rather apathetic in my blogging duties but in recent days it has been made difficult by my customary Christmas holiday in Rome. At least my holiday snaps will provide a few posts in coming days.

It was good, of course, to see the papa at his weekly Angelus.

I hadn't noticed before that the Latin texts appear on the large TV screens in Piazza San Pietro, 'facilitating' an actuosa participatio.


It was good to see a packed square despite it being a fairly quiet time for tourism in Rome.

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Sunday, 4 January 2009

A Defender of the Faith - RIP

Fr Tim has noted on his blog the sad news of the death, at the age of 75, of David Foster, a tireless champion and teacher of the Faith. I feel I should pay tribute to him here. I counted him as a friend and when we met I was never aware of the age gap between us. He was young at heart and wore his learning lightly; despite having quite firm views about the Church and the world, he never rammed them down your throat and loved to expand his knowledge. He had a great love for Chesterton and Belloc (sharing their appreciation of good old English pubs) and passionately followed cricket and Burnley FC (he had offered to take me to a match, which I regret not taking up).

I first met David in 1992, when I attended the 'International Summer School for Catholic Youth' that he founded. This was (and is) held each July and comprised a series of lessons and talks on a wide range of subjects, everything from Thomistic theology to music, from literature to Greek, all taught from the perspective of a 'Catholic world view.' When I first went along at the age of 16 I wondered whether I would really enjoy it but I returned the subsequent two years and made many friends. David's vision was a key influence in rekindling my interest in the Church - as a result my faith was strengthened and, with it, my sense of a priestly vocation. There were about 30 or 40 students 'in my day' and out of these two became secular priests and one a Dominican nun in Australia. I owe David a lot and feel very privileged to have been asked to be the chief celebrant at his funeral on 13 January (Brentwood Cathedral, 1pm).


Thursday, 1 January 2009

Catholic Anniversaries in 2009

Two big Catholic anniversaries with Hertfordshire connections - the martyrdom of St Alban and the death of Pope Adrian IV (formerly Nicholas Breakspear).

As usual Roman Miscellany begins the new year by noting some important anniversaries in 2009 that may be of interest to readers:

9 January – 1300th Anniversary of the death of St Adrian, the only African Archbishop of Canterbury (so far), and Centenary of the birth of Fr Patrick Peyton, the 'Rosary Priest.'
15 January – Centenary of the death of St Arnold Janssen, founder of Divine Word Missionaries
20 January – 300th Anniversary of the death of François de la Chaise SJ, confessor to Louis XIV
3 February – 100th birthday of Simone Weil, philosopher and religious writer
21 April - 900th Anniversary of the death of St Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury and Doctor of the Church
24 April – 1300th Anniversary of the death of St Wilfrid, bishop of York
17 March - 200th birthday of Ambrose Phillipps de Lisle, convert and patron of Pugin
31 May – 200th Anniversary of the death of Josef Haydn, composer – for many the anniversary of 2009. Expect some interesting CD releases
11 June – 500th Anniversary of the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon
22 June – possibly the 1800th Anniversary of the martyrdom of England’s proto-martyr, St Alban (different scholars give different dates)
29 June – 500th Anniversary of the death of Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, patron of the arts and learning and spiritual client of St John Fisher
4 August – 150th Anniversary of the death of St John Mary Vianney, patron of parish priests – a jubilee in Ars! Fifty years ago Blessed John XXIII issued Sacredotii Nostri Primordii for the Centenary.
18 August – 450th Anniversary of the death of Pope Paul IV (Carafa), who had earlier been first General of the Theatines
1 September – 850th Anniversary of the death of Pope Adrian IV (Breakspear), the first (and only) English Pope
18 October – Millennium of the destruction of the church of the Holy Sepulchre by Caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, an event which contributed to the mounting of the Crusades later in the century
25 November – 400th birthday of Henrietta Maria, Catholic consort of Charles I
25 December – 450th Anniversary of the election of Pope Pius IV (Medici), uncle of St Charles Borromeo
I'm sure there are many more. Happy New Year!


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