Monday, 30 April 2012

If Latin were a barrier...

Thanks to a link from The New Liturgical Movement, I have been reading Pope Paul Vl's comments on the introduction of the Vernacular and the end of Latin as the principle language of Catholic Worship.

It is all worth reading of course, but I was particularly struck by this:
12. If the divine Latin language kept us apart from the children, from youth, from the world of labor and of affairs, if it were a dark screen, not a clear window, would it be right for us fishers of souls to maintain it as the exclusive language of prayer and religious intercourse? What did St. Paul have to say about that? Read chapter 14 of the first letter to the Corinthians: "In Church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue" (I Corinthians 14:19).
Who could argue with that? If Latin were having that effect, clearly it should not be retained as the exclusive language.

Actually, I could argue with that.

I think that Liturgy should not be designed to attract children, youth, the world of labor and affairs, to be a clear window and not a dark screen...

It's principle purpose is to enable us to approach the throne of Grace, to be taken up into the very life of Christ, and to live with Him His Passion, Death and Resurrection, and be filled with His grace; to unite with Him in offering the supreme Sacrifice to the Father, in thanksgiving, adoration, contrition and in supplication for the living and the dead.

To me that quotation expresses how the zeitgeist which had ben admitted into the Church at the Council, caused a secondary consideration to be mistaken for the primary one.

And even on their terms,  I maintain that the 'if' was not proven (and indeed subsequent experience suggests the reverse); and further that we shifted from Latin as 'exclusive' to de facto excluding Latin (for several decades at least: thankfully that is now shifting.)

There is much else one could comment on in this address, and I may return to it...

Credit where it's due

I have in the past been critical of the CES in general (passim), and of the appointment of Greg Pope in particular.

It is only fair to acknowledge that it was Greg Pope who sent out the email which has got the Grauniad, Pink News and the Secular Society so upset, so all kudos to him.

I wonder if the more Catholic approach taken by the CES could have anything to do with the departure of Oona Stannard and the leadership of Fr Marcus Stock?

I still believe that for Greg Pope to be credible in his role, he should recant and repent of his previous voting record.  Good deeds are an excellent start, but public bad example and scandal need to be addressed.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Is Latin a holy language?

Recently, someone called Phil Smith, whom I hadn’t previously known, asked ‘But one question: why is Latin "holy"? I thought JC and his boys (and his under-rated girls) spoke Aramaic?’  It was all Mark Lambert (@sitsio on twitter)'s fault, as he’d pointed Phil at my Introduction to Liturgical Latin.

Actually, it is a really good question, so I thought I’d blog on it. (I'll pass over the 'under-rated girls' comment at this stage, other than noting that the Church has always held Our Lady and St Mary Magdalene, for example, in high esteem.)

So the question is about Latin’s holiness.

There are a hundred other arguments in favour of Latin in the Liturgy (and I may rehearse them sooner or later), but Phil asks about holiness, specifically.

Is Latin a holy language? And if so, why?  What do we mean by a holy language anyway?

I think there are a few reasons we can call Latin a holy language.

My understanding is that most serious religions have a hieratic language for use in formal worship.

Certainly Judaism, at the time of Our Lord, did so.  The vernacular of the time was Aramaic, but formal worship was conducted in Hebrew.  This responds to a deep human need to express, in some way, the fact that in worshipping God formally, we are stepping aside from the day-to-day mundane world, and attempting to approach the numinous.  In personal, private prayer, of course, we can speak to God in very familiar terms: but formal public prayer needs something different.  One of the other advantages of hieratic language is that its meaning doesn't change over time, unlike vernacular languages; so we do not run the risk of meaning being confused, or face the necessity of updating our texts regularly.

In the Roman Church, until very recently, and for centuries, Latin was the hieratic language: a language set aside for formal worship, different from the vernacular.  Indeed, even when Latin was still widely used as the universal language of scholars in Europe, Liturgical Latin (I understand) was different from Classical and Scholarly Latin; in ways analagous to the differences between the old-fashioned language of the Anglican’s traditional services and modern English.  (It is interesting that many Anglicans still see the value of their hieratic patrimony.)

So Latin could be considered holy precisely because it was the language set aside for formal worship.

Another reason is similar but different.  Because Latin has, in fact, been the language of worship of the Western Church for so many centuries, it has been time-hallowed. Just as we might feel that Harvington Hall, or Tyburn, are in some sense holy because of their history, so Latin is holy because - well because St Thomas More, St Francis of Assisi, St Clare of Assisi, and indeed all the saints of the Western Church for several centuries, prayed in it.

That leads to a third related reason: due to that period of time, great prayers have been written in Latin, that are now part of our heritage: one thinks of the Pange Lingua, by Thomas Aquinas, or the older Pange Lingua by Venantius Fortunatus; of the Veni Creator Spritus by Rabanus Maurus, and the Veni Sancte Spiritus, by Pope Innocent lll (possibly).  And so on...

Moreover, Latin is the language of the Church because of St Peter going to Rome, and establishing Rome as the centre of our Faith.  This, surely, was not outside the Providence of God (any more than was Our Lord’s being born at a time when the Roman Empire enabled the promulgation of His Church rapidly through the western world).  Latin is thus a link with our roots  (as also is Greek, and I would make a similar case for the importance of retaining the little Greek that remains in our Liturgy: the Kyrie eleison and the Good Friday Reproaches).

I am sure I had thought of other things to say, when I started this post, but they have gone... if they come back to me, I will update it.

And I may well blog further about the many other arguments in favour of Liturgical Latin, apart from its holiness.  You have been warned!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Sung Latin Grace Before Meals

A few days ago Clare asked on twitter if there was a sung Latin Grace.  A quick search turned up this, which is the traditional Latin Grace set to a simple psalm tone.

I thought it OK, but a bit basic and searched some more.  I couldn't find anything else.

So I gave it some thought and came up with this.

The melody of the grace itself (Benedic Domine etc) is taken from the first line of the chant for the Ubi Caritas.  I chose that for a number of reasons. One is that I love the tune; a second that it is a chant for Maundy Thursday, and I liked the link between grace and the Last Supper; and the third is that it quickly became apparent that the structure of the melody would need little adaptation to fit the words - apart from the Signum Crucis (In nomine Patris) and the concluding Per Christum Dominum Nostrum.

For these, I turned to the Gloria Patri for the Introit of the Mass, in Mode 6 (as the Ubi Caritas melody is in mode 6) and adapted them.

I think the whole thing works ok: not super smooth, but singable and recognisably Gregorian in feel.

If anyone can do better, by all means do!

Here is the Grace and chant written out.  If you would like a .pdf of it, simply email me  (Benny.trovato [at] or leave your email address in the Comms Box.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Introduction to Liturgical Latin

In a fit of enthusiasm, I rashly suggested on Twitter that I could post some kind of introduction to Liturgical Latin, and to my dismay a number of people expressed an interest.

I always think it helpful to establish one’s credentials early on, in this kind of endeavour, and in this instance that is quite simple: I have none.

I did pass O level Latin (sat 1st & 4th July, 1977) with a grade C (and that was a travesty of justice: I shouldn’t have got more than a D at best....).  But I have sung Latin for many years, and have a passing knowledge of French and Spanish, so may be able to cobble something together.

Moreover, I have reason to believe that at least one distinguished Latinist occasionally visits this blog, so if I commit anything too heinous, I am sure he will let me know.

So here is my proposed modus operandi (get that: Latin already - it means way of working).

I suggest that for the next few weeks I post a prayer that you should know and take it apart word by word.  I will also post a link to a sung version of the prayer in Latin, and strongly recommend that you learn to sing it by heart (by far the easiest way to learn texts in my experience).  That will enable you to start to build a vocabulary, and also to reflect on the words and their relationship to English words (which I will try to point out in passing).  As you advance, you will be able to re-visit these learned prayers to find examples of grammatical points we come to later.

Initially, we will mainly look at vocabulary - what the words mean.  I will also introduce a few elements of grammar.  At any stage you can post questions in the Comms box and I will endeavour to answer them.  If nobody posts anything at all in the comms box, and if I get no other feedback that people think this worthwhile, I will desist.

This programme comes with a unique 100% money back guarantee.  If at any stage you are dissatisfied with the programme, I will refund you precisely nothing - that’s a full refund, with no deductions for admin. postage or anything else.

So let’s go:

Pater Noster - Our Father

Pater noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum. Adveniat regnum tuum. Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie, et dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo. Amen.

Pater - Father.  From which we derive words such as paternal, patriarchal, patrimony.
noster - Our. 
qui - who 
es - art or are (as in ‘you are’, in the singular)
in - in. (I told you this was easy)
caelis - Heaven. From which we get celestial
sanctificetur - may it be made holy.  Saint comes from the root of this word.
nomen - name.  From which (as well as name itself) we get nominal.
tuum - thy, your (singular).
Adveniat - may it come. From which we get advent.
regnum - kingdom. From which we get reign.
Fiat - let it be done. (we find this in the Angelus, too...)
voluntas - will. From which we get voluntary, volunteer.
sicut - as.
caelo - Heaven (again - different ending this time  - we’ll come back to that...)
et - and
terra - earth From which we get terrestrial.
Panem - bread.
nostrum - our (different ending - see below)
quotidianum - daily.
da - give.
nobis - to us.
hodie - today.
dimitte  - forgive.
debita - trespasses. From which we get the word debt.
nostra  - our (again)
nos - we
dimittimus - we forgive
debitoribus - debtors
nostris - our (again)
ne - not (as in ‘do not’ - applies to the following verb)
nos - us
inducas - you lead 
tentationem - temptation
sed - but
libera - free. From which we get liberty, liberal, liberate.
a - from
malo - evil, or the Evil One. From which we get malicious, malefactor etc.

A quick note on grammar (about which more in later posts...). 

In order to talk intelligently about language we need to know some basic technical terms.

Noun - this is a word that names someone or something: ball, dog, Ben, pencil

Adjective  -  a word that modifies a noun: the red ball, the fierce dog, lazy Ben, the blunt pencil.

Verb - a word that describes an action: to kick, to love, to believe, to write, to think and so on...

Adverb - a word which modifies a verb: to kick quickly, to believe wholeheartedly, to write beautifully, to think profoundly...  These often end with -ly in English.

And here is where it gets interesting:

In English, we interpret sentences largely based on the order of the words: consider ‘John kicks Peter’ and ‘Peter kicks John.

We know who does the kicking and who is kicked by the word order.  Latin does not work like that.  In Latin, most of that information is conveyed by changing the ending of the words.  The endings of the words indicate who is the subject of the verb (who is doing the kicking) and who is the object (who is being kicked), and how many (singular or plural) are involved.

So nouns are changed to show which is the subject and which the object of the action (and various other things which we will come to later).  Adjectives are changed to match the noun which they are modifying.

We have some remnants of this in English. ‘I’ denotes the subject, and ‘me’ denotes the object, for example.  ‘Pencil’ denotes one pencil, ‘pencils’ denotes more than one.

In Latin, verbs are changed to show who is doing the action and when (past, present, future etc).  

Again we have some remnants of this (consider kick, kicks, kicked, kicking).

That is why in the Pater noster, we have the same word occurring with different endings in different contexts: caelis and caelo; noster, nostrum, nostra and nostris. We will explore that in more detail in a later post: this feels quite enough to be starting with!

By Special Request

My friend (if I may so presume) the Part Time Pilgrim has suggested that I put the Latin and English texts of the Regina Caeli (prepared in <140 character groups for #twitterangelus)  and the Youtube link on the same page, so that he can sing along as he prays and tweets.

That seems a good idea to me, so here we go.

BTW this weekend I hope to start to post some introductory explanations of Liturgical Latin, so if that may be of interest, keep an eye out for them, too.

Regina Caeli: first the Gregorian Chant, then the arrangement by Gregor Aichinger.

Leader's text in normal, and responses in bold

In nomine Patris et Filii + et Spiritus Sancti  #twitterangelus

Amen  #twitterangelus

Regina caeli, laetare, Alleluia: #twitterangelus

Quia quem meruisti portare, Alleluia,  #twitterangelus

Resurrexit sicut dixit, Alleluia,  #twitterangelus

Ora pro nobis Deum, Alleluia.  #twitterangelus

Gaude et laetare, Virgo Maria, Alleluia, #twitterangelus

Quia surrexit Dominus vere, Alleluia.  #twitterangelus

Oremus:  Deus qui per resurrectionem Filii tui, Domini nostri Iesu Christi,  #twitterangelus

mundum laetificare dignatus es: praesta, quaesumus,  #twitterangelus

ut per eius Genetricem Virginem Mariam, perpetuae capiamus gaudia vitae.  #twitterangelus

Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum.   #twitterangelus

Amen. #twitterangelus


Divinum auxilium maneat semper nobiscum #twitterangelus

Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen. #twitterangelus


English Version:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son,  + and of the Holy Spirit. #twitterangelus

Amen. #twitterangelus

O Queen of Heaven, rejoice, Alleluia:  #twitterangelus

For He whom thou didst merit to bear, Alleluia,  #twitterangelus

Has risen as He said, Alleluia.  #twitterangelus

Pray for us to God, Alleluia.  #twitterangelus

Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, Alleluia.  #twitterangelus

For the Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia. #twitterangelus

Let us pray: O God, who gave joy to the whole world #twitterangelus

by the Resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: grant we beseech Thee,  #twitterangelus

that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may obtain the joys of eternal life.  #twitterangelus

Through the same Christ our Lord.   #twitterangelus

Amen.  #twitterangelus


May the divine assistance remain always with us. #twitterangelus

And may the souls of the faithful departed, by the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen. #twitterangelus

Thursday, 26 April 2012

More on Cardinal Heenan on the New Mass

Part Time Pilgrim raised some interesting and important questions in response to my recent post quoting Cardinal Heenan.

I attempted an answer to the first here, so I am now turning my attention to the second: 
2. How exactly does the OF throw doubt on the doctrine of the Real Presence?
Here I think the source of my original quotation becomes very relevant.  In his three volume work on the Liturgical Changes, Michael Davies essentially makes the case for this proposition.

The first volume is 'Cranmer's Godly Order.'  It looks at the Protestant Reformation, and at how the Mass was repeatedly re-written in order to express a theology which denied the orthodox Catholic understanding of it as the Sacrifice of Calvary, in which Our Lord's body and blood are made truly present as the same victim, being offered by the same priest, to the Heavenly Father.

What is disconcerting is that the changes which Cranmer and others initiated find uncanny echoes in the changes made by the Consilium and subsequent initiatives.

One of these, clearly is the removal of the Offertory, about which I have already blogged here.

There is also the change from regarding the altar as primarily a place of sacrifice to treating it as a table, about which I have blogged here and here.

We have also witnessed the destruction of the notion of the sanctuary as a holy place, set apart for sacrifice, about which I have blogged here and passim.

Then in the actual language of the Mass (and in particular in the emasculated translation which, thanks to our Holy Father, has finally been replaced) we found that almost all references to sacrifice and oblation have been bowdlerised.

The ritual, too, has been stripped of those signs of reverence that acknowledged the Real Presence: the genuflections, signs of the Cross, the priest's holding his fingers together lest a crumb be dropped, kneeling for communion, receiving on a tongue, the use of pattens, the use of a hieratic language...

Then there was also the introduction of innovations that served as a rupture with the pre-existing sensus fidelium, often scandalising the faithful, and ultimately (in my view) numbing them: the use of EMHCs when not absolutely necessary, the deliberate destruction of the pervasive silence that was once a characteristic of any Catholic Church (particularly before and after Mass), the practical prohibition of kneeling for communion, the admittance of women to the sanctuary and to service at the altar,and so on and so on.

Also, there was the replacement of the fundamentally vertical orientation of the Mass, focused intensely on God, as Father, Sanctifier, Priest, Victim, and Spiritual Food,  with a much more horizontal orientation, with the people attending, at least in part, to themselves as a community: the new approach placed a new emphasis on the people, typified by Mass facing the people, and an emphasis on the Mass as a time of instruction. (Don't get me wrong: I think instruction in the Faith, and knowledge of Scripture are essential: but the Mass is not the place for them.  At Mass we are learning a yet more profound lesson). 

For me, one of the changes I think really unhelpful  - and emblematic of the thinking of the 'reformers' is in the Kyrie.

We used to have a three fold  - Trinitarian -  structure:

Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison,
Christe eleisonChriste eleisonChriste eleison
Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison.

That was replaced with the dialogue form:

Priest: Kyrie eleison
People: Kyrie eleison

Priest: Christe eleison
People: Christe eleison

Priest: Kyrie eleison
People: Kyrie eleison

(Though if you get it in Greek, you are very lucky. Yet this is a link with the very early Church...)

Thus the  whole feel of the Mass changes: the priest and the people are talking to each other, rather than united in the worship of God (and that's why orientation is so important...)

It is quite true that much of this was changed after Cardinal Heenan's remarks: he was prescient, I think, and spotted very early on the direction of travel - what followed later was implicit from the start, from the philosophy, theology, ecclesiology and sociology of the Concilium.

It is also quite true that few, if any, of these changes were mandated by the Council Fathers.

Perhaps what is hard to see from the perspective of those of us who grew up after the changes is the massive impact of change at all.

The iconic example of this is the Canon of the Mass.  The very word Canon means that which is unchanging.  Suddenly it was changed: the Canon itself was both edited, to become Eucharistic Prayer No. 1, and made optional, with three other regular options and, eventually, countless others.

Some of these, such as EP 2, when compared line be line with the Roman Canon, are clearly less explicit about the Sacrificial Action and the Real Presence.

So my thesis is that it is the cumulative effect of these changes which has undermined a clear Catholic sense of what the Mass is, and therefore belief in the Real Presence.

It is not the sole cause - the crisis in education and the apostasy of some priests and nuns are clearly contributory factors.  But Cardinal Heenan said what he said when he said it, and what he predicted came to pass - so I think it is not unreasonable to suggest that he may have been onto something.

In terms of protestantisation, if Davies' analysis is correct - and it certainly seems cogent to me - then that case is made: the New Mass is far more acceptable to many protestants than the Old could ever have been - and was designed to be.  Protestant advisors were consultors to the Concilium.

As for feminisation, I am less clear. I think the Cardinal was suggesting that the more community-focussed 'inclusive' approach to liturgy may appeal more to women than to men, but I am wary of generalisations about the sexes.  I think our own time is one in which it is hard to see these issues clearly (every age has its own blindspots!).

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Mass 1 Agnus Dei

As predicted, we had Mass 1 and Credo 1 at today's EF Mass at Lancaster Cathedral (and the Schola are gradually getting to sound as though they know what they are doing...)

Anyway, I love Mass 1.  Here is the Agnus Dei, with the fabulous melodic phrase for the miserere...

More on Cardinal Heenan and the Mass

In his thoughtful (as always) comments on my previous post, Part Time Pilgrim raises two questions:
1. I accept the OF gives more prominence to scripture than the EF (I think this is a Good Thing) but does it give more prominence to scripture than to the Eucharistic prayer?

2. How exactly does the OF throw doubt on the doctrine of the Real Presence?
He then adds:
Now it may be that I need to experience more EF masses to understand what he is getting at (although I am uneasy about the idea of liturgical tourism). Having attended OF masses for the last 40 years and still having a firm faith in the real presence I still don't "get it".
I propose to answer these, in a somewhat circuitous way, over this post and one or two more.
I am not attempting to convince PTP or anyone else, but to explain how I see it.

So before addressing these questions directly (this is not evasion: I will get around to them) I want to put them, and my response to them, into a context.

At the time of the unprecedented liturgical changes (never before had the Mass been re-written by a committee of experts) there were dichotomous views expressed about the probable consequences. 

On the one hand, advocates of the changes declared that they would reinvigorate the Church’s worship and thus faith, and also increase the likelihood of full-scale reunion with our separated brethren in various denominations.

On the other hand, there were those, including Cardinal Heenan, who thought they would have an adverse effect on the practice of the faith, and ultimately on the faith itself of many people.

It seems clear to me that what Cardinal Heenan feared is much closer to what we have experienced since the changes than what the liturgical experts expected.  

It is also interesting to note that where we are experiencing some reunion with separated brethren en masse, in the Ordinariate, the newer form of liturgy of the Church is not something they find appealing...

I am not claiming post hoc, propter hoc, with regard to the changes in the liturgy and the collapse of Catholic understanding and practice in the intervening decades, but I think the issue at least worthy of exploration.

So turning to PTP’s questions, I will have a go at No.1 here and return to No. 2 and his additional comments in a subsequent post.

It is hard to do a precise comparison of the time given to scripture, and the time given to the Eucharistic Prayer, because both are variable.  When the readings are long, and the EP2 is used, for example, then it seems likely that the readings may take considerably longer than the Eucharistic Prayer.  Certainly on the most solemn feasts, (consider the Easter Vigil...) Scripture is given far more time.

But prominence isn’t just about length of time; I think the impression which the Cardinal gained needs to be understood in the context of the change he had just experienced.

Formerly, the reading of Scripture at Mass had been done at the altar (the lesson or epistle being read on the right hand side, the Gospel being read on the left hand side).  Thus the readings were primarily addressed to God as part of the preparation for the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Calvary.

The Lesson or Epistle was by way of saying: remember what You did for us, or promised us, of old; and the Gospel: remember what Your Son did and said...

That was why it didn’t matter, in a sense, whether the people could understand the Latin (though of course, in practice, people had missals with translations, and frequently the readings were subsequently read out in the vernacular for the edification of the people - but that was secondary.)

In the New Mass, the readings were suddenly proclaimed to the people from the ambo in a more didactic (and thus less prayerful) mode.

That shifted the whole balance of the Mass, it seems to me, from being all about the build-up to the Sacrifice, to being a Mass in two halves: the Word, then the Eucharist.  In that way, the Scripture readings had far more prominence than heretofore, and one can easily see why the Cardinal thought they were more prominent than the Eucharistic Prayer.

Of course, one could argue that the new approach is better.  But that is not the issue I wish to highlight at this stage (though I do have a view, as you would imagine). But I think that the first thing it to try to understand what Cardinal Heenan was getting at, and I hope that I may have cast some light on that.

(Incidentally, the rest of the EF Mass is saturated in Scripture, in a way the OF is not - but that is another issue for another day...)


Simon Platt makes a very important contribution in the comment below: I think I have been arguing from a misunderstanding, though my points remain sound, I think, in the light of his explanation.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Cardinal Heenan on the New Mass

I had occasion today to look up Cardinal Heenan's comments after seeing the first celebration of the New Normative Mass, in the Sistine Chapel, during the October 1967 Synod of Bishops in Rome.

This was some time after the introduction of the vernacular Mass: initially that was a fairly straightforward translation of the Traditional Mass, the one we now refer to as the Extraordinary Form.  (Indeed, that is the first Mass I can remember from my childhood, with the priest entering and starting the Mass with the words (in English) I will go up to the altar of God' and the servers responding: 'The God who gives joy to my youth.')

So by 1967 the Mass had been celebrated in English (at least sometimes) for a while.  This, however, was the first sight of the wholesale revision of the Mass, and the Cardinal's words strike me as prophetic and worthy of reflection. He said:

Like all the bishops I offer my sincere thanks to the Consilium. Its members have worked well and have done their best. I cannot help wondering, however, if the Consilium as at present constituted can meet the needs of our times. For the liturgy is not primarily an academic or cultural question. It is above all a pastoral matter for it concerns the spiritual lives of our faithful. I do not know the names of the members of the Consilium or, even more important, the names of their consultors. But after studying the so called Normative Mass it was clear to me that few of them can have been parish priests.  I cannot think that anyone with pastoral experience would have regarded the sung Mass as being of first importance.

At home it is not only women and children but also fathers of families and young men who come regularly to Mass. If we were to offer them the kind of ceremony we saw yesterday in the Sistine Chapel (a demonstration of the Normative Mass) we would soon he left with a congregation mostly of women and children. Our people love the Mass but it is Low Mass without psalm-singing and other musical embellishments to which they are chiefly attached. I humbly suggest that the Consilium look at its members and advisers to make sure that the number of those who live in seminaries and religious communities does not exceed the numbers of those with pastoral experience among the people in ordinary parishes.

 Here are a few points which solely for the sake of time - since only five minutes are allowed for comments - must be put so shortly as to sound brusque.

 1. The rule of prayer is the rule of faith. If there is to be more emphasis in the Mass on Bible readings than on Eucharistic prayer the faith of both clergy and people will be weakened.

 2. There is more need than ever today to stress the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. No change in the Mass should he made which might seem to throw doubt on this doctrine.

 3. Many bishops in this Synod have spoken of the need of coming to the rescue of the faithful grown restless and disturbed on account of too frequent changes in the Mass.  I must therefore ask what attitude the Consilium will take to these warnings from the pastors of the Church? I confess in all seriousness that I am uneasy lest the liturgists say: "These bishops know nothing about liturgy." It would be tragic if after the bishops have gone home, no notice were to be taken of their opinions.

 4. In my diocese of Westminster - and in several other English dioceses - the rule is that at least one Mass each Sunday must be celebrated in Latin.  It would be a great help if the Consilium were to tell the whole Church how the Latin tongue can be preserved.  If the Church is to remain truly the Catholic Church it is essential to keep a universal tongue.

(Quoted in Michael Davies: Pope Paul's New Mass).

It seems to me that the four points he raised were indeed prophetic - and prophecies which were ignored.  We are still paying the price, and our Holy Father has his work cut out to turn the tide.

Remember him - and the late Cardinal Heenan - in your prayers.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Another Catholic Chestnut

My kids love this one - or love to hate it, anyway.  They regularly demand it when we are out on a long walk.  One can, of course, stretch it out to cover several miles of rough terrain...

The Trappist Joke

A young man joined a Trappist monastery.  It was a place of silence and prayer; but this particular monastery had a dispensation, whereby once every ten years, the monks were allowed to speak.
On the 10th anniversary of his admittance to the community, therefore, the young monk had an audience with Father Abbot.  

‘Well, and how is it going?’

‘It is wonderful Fr Abbot: just what I needed.  I am just starting to slow down and to begin to enter into the habit of prayer...  There’s just one thing, though...’

‘Speak, my son.’

‘Fr Abbot, in my cell, the window has a cracked pain, and the rain drips in.  Fr Abbot, for 10 years I have been unable to sleep, lying as I do on a wet straw mattress...’

‘Say no more, my son, it shall be sorted.’

And sure enough, when he got back to his cell, the window had already been re-glazed.

10 years of prayer and contemplation passed and he had his next audience with Fr Abbott.

‘Well, and how is it going?’

‘It is wonderful Fr Abbot: all I had hoped and longed for.  I am beginning to understand how to approach a life of prayer...  There’s just one thing, though...’

‘Speak, my son.’

‘Fr Abbot, you may remember...’

‘The cracked window? Surely we sorted that out?’

‘Indeed, yes, thank you Fr Abbot.  But the wet mattress dried out as hard as a board, and for twenty years now, I have not had a single night’s sleep.’

‘Say no more, my son, it shall be sorted.’

And sure enough, when he got back to his cell, the mattress had already been replaced.
10 more years of prayer and contemplation passed and he had his next audience with Fr Abbott.

‘Well, and how is it going?’

‘Fr Abbot, I can’t take any more!  I’m going to have to leave!’

‘My son, I thought you were finally learning the beginnings of our prayerful life?’

‘Yes, yes, Fr Abbot, and all that is truly wonderful.  But you may remember...’

‘The hard mattress? Surely we sorted that out?’

‘Indeed, yes, thank you Fr Abbot.  But as they removed it from my cell, a corner touched the window and cracked it again.  Fr Abbot, I haven’t had a proper night’s sleep for thirty years and I can’t take any more.  I have to leave!’

‘My son, if I am honest, I shall not be sorry to see you go. We have had nothing but complaints from you since the day you arrived!’


The pedants among you will have realised that Fr Abbot is something of a tautology: abbot being derived from abba (father).

Monday, 16 April 2012

A Catholic University for London

I have just received the first newsletter from Benedictus, the project launched by Clare Hornsby and Franz Forrester to found a Catholic University in London.  The principles appeal to me and they seem to have some good people on board as academic advisors, to help establish a true liberal curriculum.

If you have a spare £5000 (or even £500, 000 which you decided not to send to Laurence, despite James' advice) you could donate it to them, and become one of Fifty Founding Friends. If you do, mention me, and maybe I could be honoured as a friend of a Friend...

Burning, Heresy, Free Speech and Censorship

Yesterday was, apparently, the 400th anniversary of the last time someone in England was burned at the stake for heresy.

He denied Heaven, Hell, the immortality of the soul, and claimed he was the Son of God.

Last week we also saw the banning of some advertisements on the sides of London buses.

All of which set me thinking about censorship.  It’s one of those boo-words.  Most people will say they approve of free speech, and disapprove of censorship (or certainly most who get anywhere near a public platform on the media.)

However, I think that is not true. Most of us would deny the right of a pornographer to tell lewd stories to children, for example. Many would agree, in the circumstances, with Germany’s prohibition of Holocaust denial. 

Then there is speech which aims to incite others to break the law or hate their fellows; verbal abuse of various kinds; and so on.  And there’s the classic example of shouting ‘Fire’ in a crowded theatre.

So in practice, much as we may laud the principle of Free Speech, we know that reality is more complex and we cannot make an absolute out of this principle.  As Elvis Costello observed: ‘There are some words that don’t allow to be spoken!

The Church, in former times, held this view about heresy, and held it strongly.  Given the fall out from heresy since those days, I think it was onto something, even if I may not agree with burning as the right way of censoring heresy.

For me, the really interesting questions are:

  • What principles do we apply to limit free speech?
  • Who decides?

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Bernie's 19th

Because Bernie's birthday usually falls in Eastertide, we are lucky that it is often in the holidays. It was this year, so she was home from University for it, and we had a great time.

The kids all love it when we are all together as a family, and we don't need to do anything special for it to feel like a high holiday.  A family walk, some cake and candles, some cards and presents...

And in the evening we went to the movies to see The Hunger Games, which they all enjoyed too.

As so often, the birthday put me in a reflective mood. Bernie is now halfway through her first year at University, studying Fine Art.  She is having a good time: her first term was time to settle in, make friends and so on - but the work got a bit left behind in all that, which was a bit of a problem.  This term she resolved to put more time into the work, and has been enjoying that more, too, as a result.

The fact that she identified the problem and sought advice to solve it, and then followed that advice, as well as developing her own ideas, really pleased me.  In many ways, that kind of learning is as valuable as any other at university.  She is growing into a mature, sensible and increasingly independent young lady.

And it continues to delight me that the kids love each others' company so much.

Friday, 13 April 2012

ACN Night of Witness

Aid to the Church in Need have asked me to publicise their Night of Witness, which, of course, I am delighted to do.

It will be held at Westminster Cathedral, on Thursday 17th May.

As they point out, 75% of the cases of religious persecution worldwide are against Christians.

In recent weeks they have received the news that almost the entire Christian population of the Syrian city of Homs (50,000 or more people) has fled violence and persecution engulfing their homeland. 

Other high-profile (though not as high profile as they should be) issues include the current detention, awaiting execution, of Asia Bibi on blasphemy charges in Pakistan; and the similar detention of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani on the same ‘charges’ in Iran.

On a more positive note is the recent suggestion by Cardinal O’Brien that murdered Pakistani politician Shahbaz Bhatti might be made a saint for his heroic witness to the faith. 

Other recent news stories can be read on their news page here.  

Here is the flyer for the Night of Witness

They have set up a  Facebook event page  as well as their own dedicated web-page.

If you can, be there!  If, like me, you can't,  support them with prayers, donations and publicity.

My kids' favourite (?) Catholic Joke

Knock knock

Who's there?


John who?

(Splashing other kid with hidden water): John the Baptist!


Yes, I know they're in their teens and twenties, but you can't beat physical humour!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Another Catholic Joke

In a small Parish Church in Ireland, O’Reilly the painter was perched up in the eaves, touching up the last nooks and crannies.

Down below, Mrs O’Shea arrived to say her rosary.

Feeling a little mischievous, O’Reilly called out: ‘Hello, down there; this is Jesus calling!

But Mrs O’Shea simply carried on with her rosary.

Imagining that she hadn’t heard, he called again, a little louder: ‘Hello, down there; this is Jesus calling!’

Still, no response.

So he gave it his all, calling as loud as he dared: ‘Hello, down there; this is Jesus calling!

Mrs O’Shea, pushed beyond endurance, finally replied: ‘Whisht now! And will ye be quiet: I’m talkin’ to your Mother!’


Beware, more jokes follow. I'm in jocund mood.


Tuesday, 10 April 2012

A Catholic Joke

Just before Easter, I promised some Catholic jokes.

Here is one of my favourites:

Some time ago, a priest was asked to cover for a colleague who was the Chaplain at a Catholic boys’ school.

He agreed to do so for the weekend, including hearing confessions and saying Benediction on the Saturday afternoon, and offering the Sunday morning Mass.

He arrived at the school and was impressed by its lovely location: rolling green lawns led down to the river, and bridge over it led to the sports fields.

At that school, it was the tradition that for confession, the boys would go in order of seniority.  The Head Boy would go first, then the deputy head, then the prefects and the rest of the Sixth Form.  Then the upper fifth, lower fifth, and so on, right to the youngest boys.  (I told you it was some time ago!)

So the priest went into the confessional and heard the first confession: the Head Boy’s.  It was nothing sensational, but the visiting priest was somewhat surprised at the final sin the Head Boy confessed: ‘Oh, Father, and also, throwing peanuts in the river.’

He forbore to comment, realising that in such a setting there were bound to be school rules about not littering the river.

He was slightly surprised when the Deputy Head Boy, at the end of his confession, also confessed the same sin.

He was beginning to imagine them on the bridge over the river, playing pooh-sticks with peanuts.

Sure enough the next, and the next, and indeed all of the Sixth Form boys confessed to this same sin.

Beyond wondering where they got such a supply of peanuts, he was beginning to take it in his stride: clearly it was some local pastime which, while not allowed, was hallowed by ancient usage.

And so it went on through the school: the fifth form and the fourth form: to a man confessed to throwing peanuts in the river.

It was therefore with something of a shock that he heard the final confession, from the youngest and smallest boy in the school: the only one, it seemed with the moral fortitude not to join in this reprehensible activity.

So he decided to check:

‘Are you sure there’s nothing else, my son?’

‘No, Father, nothing!’ quavered the boy on the other side of the grille.

‘Not... not throwing peanuts in the river?’ he asked, triumphantly, demonstrating his local knowledge, wisdom and insight.

‘F..Father,’ stammered the boy, ‘I am Peanuts.’


No apologies, no regrets. More Catholic jokes to follow soon.