Sunday 26 September 2010

The Legacy of the Holy Father's Visit

One of the great things about the Holy Father's visit was how he preached the Gospel at all times - and only used words when necessary.

The words he did use were very well chosen, and repay careful study. But what I want to focus on is what he taught by his actions.

For example, he celebrated Mass with a crucifix in the centre of the altar. This is a direct refutation of the liturgical mindset that thinks it's all about making eye contact with the people, and the priest as animator...

He used silence: recognising that we are more likely to hear the words of God in our heart if we pause from the busy-ness of doing and talking all through the liturgy. Silence as a most profound active participation...

And of course, he distributed Holy Communion only to people kneeling, and only onto the tongue; surely he is teaching that this is preferable - and certainly legitimate.

People have sometimes questioned my insistence on receiving in this way, as though it is a maverick action, symbolic of disunity. The Holy Father has given the lie to that, and I think he has, by his example, taught that everyone who wishes to receive in that way should feel free to do so.

Perhaps we can persuade our bishops and priests to provide kneelers for the purpose: after all, they did when the Holy Father came to town...

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Still buzzing

Bernie had been in two minds about going to see the Holy Father. Of course she wanted to go, but it was a long way (they left on Friday night and got back on Sunday afternoon - spent two nights on the coach...) and it was a very busy time: she's putting together her applications for University at the moment, including an art portfolio, and so on, so could ill afford a weekend away.

And she is absolutely delighted she went. The Holy Father was 'a legend', she reports, and his repeated call to the young people to become saints really touched a chord. It is not just what she says; she can't talk about the trip without a broad smile taking over her face, and laughter - the type of laughter that is the welling up of happiness - bursting through.

She's still buzzing with it, and I'm sure the whole trip will have a profound long-term effect on her - and on countless others.

Ad multos annos.

Monday 20 September 2010

Liturgical infantilism v. liturgical wisdom

Others have commented on the re-writing of the Litany of the Sacred Heart. I noticed something else.

The Litany was split up with different readers reading a few invocations each.

That struck me as indicative of one of the problems with liturgy in this country, which I call liturgical infantilism, and was in stark contrast to the Holy Father's approach.

When the Holy Father is engaged in a liturgical action, it is all about Christ: hence his insistence on a crucifix on the altar. He switches modes, very deliberately, from his interactions with the faithful, before and after Mass, when the focus is on relating to them, to focus on the serious business of adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, supplication... The person of the celebrant almost disappears; he becomes transparent, so we see Christ through him. It is not all about the front-man.

But liturgists in the UK don't seem to understand this, and the Litany was a glaring example of the problem. By splitting the Litany up - presumably so as to 'include' more people, and possibly with the intention of making something long 'less boring' they distract from the focus on the Sacred Heart and draw attention to the reader: who is it now? who is it next? How well was that read? Why did they choose him? and so on...

But what the Holy Father did brilliantly was to demonstrate by example that worthy and reverent liturgy is hugely attractive and intensely prayerful. Let us hope and pray that our bishops noticed: I look forward to their copying his example, not least in the manner of the distribution of Holy Communion...


It is probably worth noting that this post referred to Pope Benedict's visit to the UK.

Love or hate?

I watched a snippet of Dawkins addressing the Protest the Pope rally yesterday.

How odd. He and the Holy Father were both talking abut the Catholic Church. One of them was inspiring in his vision for humanity, his compassion and his wisdom. The other was full of hate, bile and misrepresentation.

I know who I'll be following.

I was disappointed by The God Delusion - I read it hoping that a serious challenge would prompt a serious response in me - but the challenge wasn't serious: I could have written a better attack on Christianity. Now I know why: it seems to be hatred that motivates his attacks, not intellectual argument, as he maintains.

In fairness, at least Dawkins understands that there is a doctrine of Original Sin (something many Catholic educators either don't know or wish they didn't...) but unfortunately he fails to understand it.

Pray for him; such hatred probably springs from deep hurt.

I've a suspicion God will have the last laugh and Dawkins will convert before the end. I hope so.

Sunday 19 September 2010

She's back

Bernie has just got back from her trip to London to see the Holy Father.

She was in the piazza outside the Cathedral yesterday morning for the Mass and Papal Address, and then marched to Hyde Park for the afternoon entertainment and the Vigil in the evening, with Papal Benediction.

She is absolutely buzzing with how wonderful it all was: the music, the crowds, the liturgies, the nuns, the good humour - and above all the Holy Father himself.

She also had wry observations on the fact that many young people (herself included) sang Praise to the Holiest with far more zest than the stuff youth are supposed to prefer...

And she made some new friends among her fellow pilgrims, as well as meeting some old friends.

The Papal visit has been a huge success and I'm sure will be the cause of countless blessings for years to come.

Friday 17 September 2010

Off to see the Holy Father

Bernie is representing our family at tomorrow's Papal Celebrations in London. So I dropped her off at teh diocesan Youth Centre this evening after school. She and the other youngsters from the diocese will be travelling through the night to be in London early tomorrow. They will spend the day in Hyde Park and see His Holiness late in the day. Then they travel back through the night, to hear Mass at the Youth Centre on Sunday morning, and be collected at noon on Sunday.

A long trip, with two nights on a coach, but I'm sure it will be well worth it. The Holy Father is being tremendously impressive here in the UK.

Remember him, and all the pilgrims who travel to be with him, in your prayers.


One of the classic signs of immaturity, in my experience, is people listening for offence, interpreting what they hear as offensive, and then reacting to what was not, in fact, said.

One should I suppose, expect no more of the children in the Secular Humanist movement, but it still saddens (but no longer surprises) me when the ever-wonderful BBC does the same.

So the Holy Father warns against the dangers of an aggressive atheism that denies the dignity of man, citing the Nazis as an example, and the BBC headline read something like Pope links atheists and Nazis. I say read, as it seems it has now been removed (which is why I can't quote it verbatim - I was too busy with other stuff last night to write this post immediately). They are now (gleefully?) reporting that the Holy Father's atheism and Nazis remark has sparked a row.

I'm not sure it has. All that has happened is that the British Humanist Association's knee has jerked in the predictable spasm.

They said:

The notion that it was the atheism of Nazis that led to their extremist and hateful views or that it somehow fuels intolerance in Britain today is a terrible libel against those who do not believe in God

And I say, if the cap fits wear it.

Clearly the Holy Father was specific in what he was saying, and they are generalising it with the sole intent of taking offence and thus having a righteous position from which to attack the Holy Father.

Note, in passing, how judgemental these non-judgementalists are, how intolerant these proclaimers of tolerance...

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Young People Today...

Two enlightening documents worthy of your consideration.

On the one hand, the Statement of the NGO Global Meeting World Youth Conference 2010 which demands, inter alia:

2. Guarantee the rights of young people, including the right to safety, food and water; the right to education; the right to health, including sexual and reproductive health and rights; the right to decent work, the right to freedom of assembly, expression and movement; the right to participation; and the right to non‐discrimination.

In case the code-words sexual and reproductive health and rights are not sufficiently clear, they are unpacked later:

5. Fully recognize young people’s sexual and reproductive rights, particularly the right to choose, through achieving universal access to confidential, youth‐friendly sexual and reproductive health services, including access to evidence‐based comprehensive sexuality education, in formal and non‐formal settings. Implement key effective interventions in the continuum of care for maternal health, including access to a full range of contraceptives and safe abortion.


3. That Governments recognize LGBT as part of the spectrum of gender identities and ensure that young people that identify themselves as such have their Human Rights upheld; as outlined in the Yogyakarta principles in reference to gender and gender‐based violence, and uphold the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); the Beijing Platform for Action; CAIRO; and Belem do Para.

Contrast this with the Statement of Youth to the UN and the World, Promulgated by the International Youth Coalition. This is premised on a different set of assumptions and beliefs, viz:

Young People are Relational Beings,

Parents are the Primary Educators of Young People

Rights of Youth are Based on Their Evolving Capacities

The Right to Life is Inviolable from Conception to Natural Death

Youth are Participants in Development and Employment

A Proper Understanding of Sexuality and Healthy Relationships Must be Respected

Man and Woman are Based in Nature

Youth Must be Protected Against all Crimes of Exploitation

If, like me, you believe the second to be better - in every way - than the first, sign the declaration at CFAM

Monday 13 September 2010

The Pope's British Divisions

I've just been listening to The Pope's British Divisions - which Catholic Voices rated as superb, though my view is somewhat different.


There are countless idiocies in the programme.

For example, a young person saying that the Pope's 'views are still quite out of date' on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, and another saying the great thing about Catholicism is that you can pick and choose what you believe.

More alarmingly, the Director of Youth Services of Nottingham Diocese, Fr Joe Wheat, thinks it is 'Brilliant' and 'Fantastic' that if you ask 50 young people what Catholicism means, you will get 50 different answers; and that if young people are 'grappling and struggling' with some aspects of Church teaching, the worst thing you can do is tell them that some beliefs are required if one is to consider oneself Catholic. The particular idiocy here is that the young people are not 'grappling and struggling' with Church teaching: they have simply swallowed the secular view hook line and sinker and rejected the Truth (which has almost certainly never been explained to them by Fr Wheat or anyone else - because he doesn't want to 'make value judgements about people's Catholicism').

Another idiocy is perpetrated by Sir Stephen Wall. He recalls how when he worked for +Murphy O'Conner, Cardinal Sodano would ask + MO'C to get the Tablet to correct some of its errors. He likens that to Mobutu or some other dictator asking the British Government to censor the BBC. This is a seriously idiotic analogy. The Tablet describes itself as a Catholic paper, and it is one of the responsibilities of the hierarchy to control who uses that label and how they use it, to protect the Faithful and the Faith. Failure in this area is a continuing source of scandal.

Communion Not a Time of Judgement
At one stage they are discussing the Soho Gay and Lesbian Masses (of particular interest, perhaps, to the reporter, Mark Dowd).

Here is what Archbishop Nicholls had to say when asked if he expected those who come to Holy Communion at the Mass to live in chastity:

No priest makes the moment of Communion a moment of judgement. I trust in people as they come forward, that they do so with a good conscience, and they do so knowing that this public gesture by which they receive the Body and Blood of Christ is reflected in their heart, in their desire to live in union with Him. So that is never a point for judgement, and anybody from the outside who is trying to cast a judgement on the people who come forward to communion really ought to learn to hold their tongue.

It seems to me that there are several problems with this.

Holy Communion is a moment of judgement: St Paul is quite clear about this. That is not to say that we should judge people coming forward for communion, but it does mean that the Archbishop should ensure that the 'good conscience' in which he 'trusts people to come forward' is a conscience correctly formed in accordance with the Truth.

And where that is manifestly not the case - as the interviews with the attendees at the Mass make clear (even the Priest in charge says 'we're not here to campaign for Church teaching' - which presumably means he's not there to proclaim the Truth...) - I believe he has a responsibility to do something about it.

So he misunderstands us when we question the grave scandal caused by those openly dissenting having their own Mass. We are not judging them - they are proclaiming their dissent quite openly; no, our 'judging' if such it be, is aimed at the decision to sanction such a thing, as we fear it emperils the souls of those who take part, as they are denied proper pastoral care, and it also does great harm to others, as it risks teaching a falsehood, viz that the Church accepts practicing homosexuality as a valid lifestyle choice.


Susan Reynolds' 'heart was broken' by the introduction of one Latin Mass (out of 4 at the weekend) at Blackfen. My heart bleeds for her... Why do we never hear of the heartbreak caused to so many when at the drop of a hat ALL Latin Masses were outlawed and replaced by an infantilised and banal English liturgy?

Fr Finigan put his case well, though I would have put it differently, I think, and the indomitable Mac managed to get the Holy Father's point that Truth is not subject to a majority vote onto the radio.

And so it went on.

It seemed balanced, in some ways - a bit of tradition, a bit of liberalism and so on. But I was left feeling dissatisfied with it as a programme and I'm not sure why. Perhaps because although two sides of a faultline were given a reasonable airing, neither was really examined or interrogated in depth.

There is much more that could be said about this, but I really ought to get on with my work. However, there is a good review at The Sensible Bond should you wish to read more.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Fascinating meetings with Hawking

A parallel me was operating as a string in a parallel universe yesterday (except it was't really yesterday as time works rather differently there) and I bumped into a Professor Stephen Hawking.

Fascinatingly, he poured scorn on M-theory and rubbished it for postulating more dimensions and more universes than are necessary to solve the problems it is designed to address.

He was rather dismissive of the Stephen Hawking in this universe, claiming that he didn't exist and it wasn't necessary for him to be invented.

However, in another universe, the Stephen Hawking there (who manifests as a hyper-intelligent shade of the colour blue) told the Ben Trovato there that both were wrong and that M-theory had to be combined with N-theory to to produce Theory-S which was a proper theory of everything.

And so it was as I visited my other selves across many universes: each Stephen Hawking was more sure than the last that the others were wrong. The only thing they all agreed on was that whichever one I was talking to at the time was right and that each could prove the non-existence of God.

Meanwhile the deluded BBC here continues to adulate the Stephen Hawking here as he appears to validate their particular world-view, despite the fact that numerous other Stephen Hawkings in many other unknown universes clearly think he's quite mistaken.

Monday 6 September 2010

Aid to the Church in Need Annual Mass

ACN Have asked me to post details of their annual Mass in London, which I am delighted to do.

Aid to the Church in Need Annual Mass and ‘Hope Without Fear’ Event, taking place at Westminster Cathedral and Hall, Ambrosden Avenue London, SW1P 1QW on – Saturday, 16th October Mass of Our Lady (Feast of Margaret Mary Alacoque).
The day begins with Sung Latin Mass in Westminster Cathedral at 10:30am. Mass will be followed by an afternoon of talks in the cathedral hall. We are delighted to welcome some very special guests from the suffering Church in Sudan and Siberia.

Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of Tombura-Yambio, south Sudan is leading his people in south Sudan through a time of great uncertainty. Despite the country’s fragile peace agreement, he has seen his people fall victim to atrocious attacks, including crucifixion. Benefactors are helping to provide hope, funding Christian education at the Save the Saveable schools , training seminarians , Sisters and catechists , and helping priests reach Christian communities with new vehicles .

Father Michael Shields from Magadan, Siberia is a long-time friend of Aid to the Church in Need. An American from Alaska, he chose to serve in a former communist gulag camp in Magadan, Siberia. Millions died here. Father works for those who survive, ensuring their stories are told and their suffering acknowledged by the authorities. He is the author of the Aid to the Church in Need publication Martyrs of Magadan – a book that tells the stories of 15 survivors of the gulags. Earlier this year, Aid to the Church in Need paid tribute to Father Michael’s work by including him in the book Heroic Priests .

Neville Kyrke-Smith, UK Director, Aid to the Church in Need has travelled extensively in Eastern Europe and, this year, he will give an update on the help benefactors are giving to Christians in Ukraine, where he recently visited.

John Pontifex, UK Head of Press and Information, Aid to the Church in Need will speak about suffering, faith and hope in Pakistan and how benefactors are helping to nurture this hope.

For more information please visit their Website

First Day

Today Dominique started secondary school. In honour of the occasion, Ant and Charlie made a cake for her, decorated with the kind of stuff they thought any secondary school kid should have in his pocket....

Sunday 5 September 2010

Bowdler again

Another hymn Bowdlerised...

You know:
Sojourners in this vale of tears
We sinners make our prayers through thee,
Remind thy Son that he has paid
The price of our iniquity.

Well not any more. Now we have:
Sojourners in this vale of tears
We sinners make our prayers through thee,
Remind us all that we are saved
In spite of our iniquity.

What is that about? It's not a rejection of Our Lady's intercession, as each verse still concludes 'pray for me.'

I can only assume that it is some idiot not happy with the idea of Our Lord having to be reminded.

And I say idiot, because if that is the objection, the person concerned is both a theological and a scriptural dunce.

Of course Our Lord doesn't need reminding because He is forgetful. But to make that objection is to fail to realise that we almost always have to speak of God using human metaphors. Just this morning in today's Mass we had 'Is your anger for ever.' One can't read the Old Testament intelligently unless one grasps this basic fact...

And as ever, there was no acknowledgement of the Bowdlerising in the hymn book, which strikes me as both dishonest, and damaging of the reputation of the poor writers whose work they adulterate.