Sunday 29 November 2015

EF Mass Times in December in Lancaster Diocese

Mass times for December

Sunday December 6th Second Sunday of Advent
St Walburge, Preston 10.30 am, Sung Mass 
St Mary Magdalene, Leyland Road, Penwortham 8.30 am 
St Catherine Labouré, Stanifield Lane, Leyland 11.30 am
Our Lady & St Joseph, Carlisle 6.00 pm 

Tuesday December 8th Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
St Walburge, Preston, 7.00 pm

Sunday December 11th Third Sunday of Advent  - Gaudete Sunday 
St Peter's Cathedral, Lancaster 3.00 pm (please note, this will be the last EF Mass in the Cathedral. From January 10th, this monthly Mass will revert to St Mary's Hornby)
St Walburge, Preston 10.30 am, Sung Mass
St Mary Magdalene, Leyland Road, Penwortham 8.30 am 
St Catherine Labouré, Stanifield Lane, Leyland 11.30 am
Our Lady & St Joseph, Carlisle 6.00 pm 

Sunday December 18th  Fourth Sunday of Advent
St Walburge, Preston 10.30 am, Sung Mass
St Mary Magdalene, Leyland Road, Penwortham 8.30 am 
St Catherine Labouré, Stanifield Lane, Leyland 11.30 am
Our Lady & St Joseph, Carlisle 6.00 pm, Sung Mass

Thursday December 24th  Vigil of the Nativity
St Walburge, Preston 10.30 pm

Friday December 25th  Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ

St Walburge, Preston 10.30 am

Sunday December 27th  Sunday in the Octave of the Nativity

St Walburge, Preston 10.30 am, Sung Mass
St Mary Magdalene, Leyland Road, Penwortham 8.30 am 
St Catherine Labouré, Stanifield Lane, Leyland 11.30 am
Our Lady & St Joseph, Carlisle 6.00 pm
Shrine Church of St Walburge, Preston 
Sundays: 10.30 am, Sung Mass
Mondays – Fridays: 8.30 am, Low Mass (except First Friday 7.00 pm) 
Saturdays: 10.30 am, Low Mass

Happy New Year!

Today is the first Sunday of Advent: the start of the Church's year.

We have the whole family here this weekend, to celebrate Anna's (Mrs T's) birthday. So I am not going to spend much time writing new posts. Instead, here is a re-cycled post from previous years, slightly adapted.

Whilst the experts on the Pray,Tell blog are quick to proclaim that Advent is not a time of penance, I demur.   

Having discussed this over a few yearwith my friend the Part Time Pilgrim, we have made some progress.  After a bit of to and fro, he explained that his concern with my position is that Advent should not be seen as the same as Lent.  I agree: the two are different.  Advent is a time of joyous preparation for the coming of Our Lord (memories of his first coming, and looking forward to his second, of course). But both of these considerations naturally lead us to listen to the words of St John the Baptist: Repent!

We think it important to keep our Advent Celebrations quite distinct from our Christmas Celebrations - though they are related, they are two different seasons of the Church's cycle, with different themes and moods.

So as ever, we will celebrate Advent by saying our prayers around the Advent Wreath, singing O Come O Come Emmanuel and having a reading as we add another character to our Jesse Tree. We will also say the wonderful collect from the traditional Roman rite of the Mass:

Arise in thy strength we beseech thee O Lord and come; from the dangers which threaten us because of our sins, be thy presence our sure defence, be thy deliverance our safety for ever more. 

For those who love Latin, or those who fondly remember my introduction to Liturgical Latin, here is the collect in Latin. too:

Excita, quǽsumus, Dómine, poténtiam tuam, et veni: ut ab imminéntibus peccatórum nostrórum perículis, te mereámur protegénte éripi, te liberánte salvári.

The Marian Antiphon changes today from the Salve Regina to the Alma Redemptoris Mater, which we will sing until the Feast of the Purification (February 2nd).

Alma Redemptoris Mater

Alma redemptoris mater, 
quae pervia caeli porta manes,
et stella maris succurre cadenti
surgere qui curat populo.  
Tu quae genuisti, 
natura mirante, 
tuum sanctum Genitorem.  
Virgo prius, ac posterius, 
Gabrielis ab ore, 
summens illud ave, 
peccatorum miserere.

Mother of the Redeemer, who art ever of heaven
The open gate, and the star of the sea, aid a fallen people, 
Which is trying to rise again; thou who didst give birth, 
While Nature marveled how, to thy Holy Creator, 
Virgin both before and after, from Gabriel's mouth 
Accepting the All hail, be merciful towards sinners.

(Translated by Blessed John Henry Newman)

(For those who prefer a more contemporary sound, try The Dogma Dogs: It's Lent - but note that this is not for Liturgical Use!)

So today we will be out in the rain, collecting holly for the wreath, up in the attic looking for the advent calendars, Jesse Tree book etc, and I will be singing the Alma Redemptoris throughout the day...

Anna's Jesse Tree blog, means that Ant, when she and her husband,  return home, and Bernie, when she goes back to her flat in Manchester, and Charlie, when he returns to University, can all be with us spiritually at the end of each day as we recall Salvation History.  

Thursday 26 November 2015

That Offensive Prayer

Further to my earlier post, here is the text of the 'offensive' prayer.

Oremus et pro Iudaeis: Ut Deus et Dominus noster illuminet corda eorum, ut agnoscant Iesum Christum salvatorem omnium hominum. (Oremus. Flectamus genua. Levate.) Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui vis ut omnes homines salvi fiant et ad agnitionem veritatis veniant, concede propitius, ut plenitudine gentium in Ecclesiam Tuam intrante omnis Israel salvus fiat. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Let us also pray for the Jews: That our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge Jesus Christ is the Saviour of all men. (Let us pray. Kneel. Arise.) Almighty and eternal God, who want that all men be saved and come to the recognition of the truth, propitiously grant that even as the fullness of the peoples enters Thy Church, all Israel be saved. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

See also Joseph Shaw's comments here.

Inadvertent Antisemitism?

I was struck by the comment by Deacon Augustine on Fr Hunwicke's post about CBCEW and the Good Friday prayer for the Conversion of the Jews. He (Deacon Augustine) wrote: 
Why are these spineless bishops refusing to pray for the salvation of the Jews? Do they not merit the offer of eternal life too? Are our bishops antisemites?
It is a good question. It is not just that they are refusing to pray for the conversion of the Jews: they are taking time to try to ensure that the small number of people who attend the EF do not pray for this intention.

Here are some possibilities:

The statement released on behalf of the bishops does not reflect their beliefs.

The bishops do not believe that their mandate is to 'go, baptise all nations, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.'

The bishops believe that the Jewish religion is as good a means of salvation as the Catholic Faith.

The bishops believe that the Jewish people should not be offered Christ's salvation.

The bishops care less about eternal verities than about socio-political posturing, virtue-signalling, solidarity with the German hierarchy, putting the boot into the EF or the Pope Emeritus, or some other false god fashioned in their own image...

Have I missed any?

If any of the above are true, it strikes me as profoundly worrying.

And whoever wrote that statement, who I am sure believes he was being nice (possibly 'merciful' or 'tolerant' or whatever this week's trendy virtue is) towards the Jews is, by seeking to reduce the number of prayers for their conversion to the True Faith, guilty of (presumably inadvertent) antisemitism.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Bow, Bow, ye Lower Middle Classes!

I started my musings about art and truth prompted by the poor quality of liturgical music, and now I find that I have come full circle, thanks to a comment on Twitter by @cumlazaro, of the excellent Cum Lazaro blog.

He tweeted: ‘It’s perfectly clear that, objectively, a lot of Catholic music is extremely poor, both liturgically and aesthetically. And that matters.

Which made me reflect that there is something else I think worthy of comment. This is not directly about the quality of music, or art, but rather our (societal, and specifically ecclesiastical, and more specifically clerical) attitudes to that question.

My Parish Priest, for example, would not deny (I think) that most of the music perpetrated during liturgies at our church is pretty poor aesthetically, both in conception and in execution. However, he has little interest in changing that. Because his criterion of what is good liturgically is based on a different standard, one that over-rules all other considerations, and that is participation.

This widely misunderstood concept is the trump card: every other standard bows, when it is paraded.

Bow, bow, ye lower middle classes!
Bow, bow, ye tradesmen, bow, ye masses,
Blow the trumpets, bang the brasses,
Tantantara! Tzing, boom!

That is why we endure readers who cannot read out loud without mutilating the text with misreadings and misleading prosody. It is why the Mass must be disrupted so that the children back from their ‘children’s liturgy,’ may parade in the sanctuary with their drawings. It is why icons written by masters who have studied the tradition for decades are out, whereas felt banners produced by parishioners with more time than taste are in. It is also why we endure poor music, poorly performed.

The notion that we might participate better by experiencing beauty than by engaging in banality is completely incomprehensible to many priests educated since the Second Vatican Council.

The notion of training the laity, and particularly selecting those with aptitude, to use higher levels of skill, would be seen as elitism, and excluding. Anathema sit!

And of course, if they do put their toe in the water, and have one piece of chant at Mass, they get complaints from the usual suspects, and announce, ruefully, that they were right and that ‘the people’ don’t like that kind of thing. (My post on Junk food and junk music refers…)

Tuesday 24 November 2015


This is why I love blogging. I thought I had said all I had to say about objectivity and art, over the last week or so, in a series of blog posts, starting here.  Then Ttony and Part Time Pilgrim left comments on one of my posts, pushing me, and making me take my thinking further. I was already dimly aware of my underlying thoughts here: the criteria of truth and beauty refer, and some of the comments on Twitter also, about the recognition of beauty, really resonated.

So here is where I am up to...

I maintain that my approach is not gnosticism but rather its opposite. That is, I believe one can discern that there is a Natural Aesthetic similar to Natural Law. It is written in our hearts, but obscured by Original Sin, miseducation, current intellectual fashions etc. Hence the educational programme is firstly wide exposure and the stripping  away of the barriers.

Thus my posts on criteria were more like a primitive jurisprudence. We recognise the Natural Law intuitively, if we are both honest and undamaged. We know it is wrong to lie, to commit adultery, to murder and so forth. But it can get complex and there are certainly moot points, or at least points worthy of discussion (the issue of lying to expose evil in abortion clinics was one such recently). So jurisprudence is developed over the years: the collected wisdom of generations in determining how law applies in particular cases, and the extrapolation of broader principles from that, always subservient (if it is good jurisprudence) the the Natural Law and (if it is Christian jurisprudence) the Divine Law.

Likewise, I think that we recognise beauty and truth intuitively, if we are both honest and undamaged (or healed). We know that admiring the wonder of the stars, the mountains and valleys, the oceans and landscapes, in which we find ourselves, or the dewdrops on a spider's web, the snowdrop peeping through the snow, the snowflake itself, and so many more things in between, is not a mere subjective notion. These things are worthy of admiration, because they are the artistic works of the Creator. Human art is sub-creation, as Tolkien was keen to point out, and as such when it works, it reflects Him and His work. 

All my attempts to identify or define good art are really groping towards that fundamental truth. I have decided to call this approach Artisprudence, for the obvious reason. 

I am not the first to coin the term but can only find two prior uses of it. One is in Scholae Academicae an account of changes in the University of Cambridge during Victorian times, by Christopher Wordsworth, published in 1877. He uses the term once and does not seek to define it. The other use is as the title of a short story, written c. 2004 by Christopher Rowe, and revised in 2008.  I have not read either work, but believe I can adopt the word to my use for the obvious etymological reasons.

I would also suggest that our nervousness around this topic, that terrible fear of snobbery, elitism and so forth, is very much a product of our current intellectual and moral climate; and that we should not be afraid to stand up for absolute truth and objective reality in this sphere, any more than in any other - though we must necessarily be humble about claiming that we know what it is.


Sunday 22 November 2015

An Artistic Education

All this talk of art and music, and especially my passing comment about the need for education in order to discern the good from the bad, made me reflect on what I meant by education in this context, and indeed on my own artistic education.

By artistic education, I don't mean teaching This is the canon: Shakespeare at the top and the rest in some sort of hierarchy beneath him;  or Mozart at the top at the top and the rest in some sort of hierarchy beneath him; or Leonardo da Vinci  at the top and the rest in some sort of hierarchy beneath him...

I think it a gentler and more reflective process; as much to do with exposure, the removal of barriers, and perhaps the discussion of context and why and how some works get their effects, why some are perceived as great, and so on.

The result of that may be an educated taste that goes a little deeper than the immediacy of an uneducated taste. I have likened this before to weaning children off a diet of junk food. 

If the only music a child is ever exposed to is what's currently in the charts, or used in advertisements, or accompanying tv programmes or computer games, it is pretty pointless to expect him or her, at first hearing, to enjoy the Beethoven string quartets, beautiful though they are.

I make no secret of the fact that the visual arts are not my forte. All I learned in art classes at school was that I cannot draw: a conviction it took me many years to shed. (For anyone similarly afflicted, I recommend Betty Edwards' book, Drawing on the Left Side of the Brain). However, I was fortunate that an enlightened General Studies teacher told me to go to the National Gallery and choose a painting, and look at it for thirty minutes. That seemed a tall order, but I decided to give it a go, and stood in front of one of Monet's paintings of waterlilies.

Prior to that experience, I had always preferred photographic realism: the more like the real thing it looked, the better I thought it was. Monet taught me to look differently.

My musical education was richer. My father was a fine pianist, so from earliest childhood I would go to sleep to the sound of him playing Bach, or Schubert, or Chopin, or Rachmaninov or... Then as a schoolboy I joined a good church choir, and quickly learned to love early polyphony. It was very obvious to me that Byrd, Tallis, Gibbons and so on were doing something rather more wonderful than Gregory Murray, Wilfrid Trotman or Joseph Gelineau.

Strangely (or perhaps not, given the historical context, early 1970s) we sang almost no chant. All I can remember is a version of the Ave Maris Stella, with alternate chant and polyphonic verses, which was magnificent. We also sang some Duruflé, based on chant melodies, which was also ravishing.  But my love of chant comes much later in my musical education, and is based on obedience to the Church, and then the discipline of learning to sing it, and, eventually, falling in love with it.

As I wrote that, I suddenly wondered how we have educated the children, artistically. They have not had the same opportunities as me: no good church choir locally, no National Gallery... But I think we have managed to achieve the same basics via different means. They have all learned to play at least two instruments to a reasonable standard, and played in the school orchestra and various other ensembles, which has given them a fairly good exposure to a broad repertoire. It must be a product of Original Sin that their musical taste (like mine) remains execrable. But while they may, for choice, fill their playlists with Disney songs, they genuinely enjoy it when we get the opportunity to go to a concert and hear, dare I say it, good music.

In the visual arts, their school education has been very much better than mine was; and not only have they learned to draw and paint, but they have been encouraged to do artists' copies, which again has exposed them to a range of works, and some understanding of both aesthetics and technique. In that field, as in so many, they are ahead of me.

And in literature, I do my best with them. Again, they read a ton of junk, but in between they occasionally read something worth reading; and again, genuinely enjoy the live screenings from the National or RSC (we saw the Broadway production of 'Of Mice and Men' this week, and very good it was too. And Dominique loved it).

So, a long and rambling post, but I think the point I am edging towards making is that the need for education to appreciate and evaluate art is not some induction into a world of snobbery; but rather a truly Catholic approach that exposes one to a wide range of works, and that good learning will ensue.

Saturday 21 November 2015

Ave Maria (Offertory for Advent 4)

We have been practicing for our next sung Mass, which is on the fourth Sunday of Advent. The offertory is Ave Maria, and is a truly beautiful chant.

Further to my previous post on the necessity of prayer in our troubled times, I commend this to you.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum.  Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui Iesus.  Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

(Struggling with the Latin? - go here) 

Our Strongest Weapon

We must pray for our enemies: we are under orders.

Our strongest weapon against the terror unleashed by terrorists is prayer.

Lepanto was won by the Rosary, first.

The crisis in the West, the collapse in Christendom and the subsequent rise of militant secularism, of idle indifference, and of hostile Islam - all these are the fruits of a spiritual poverty.

Prayer is our strongest weapon.

Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genetrix.
Nostras deprecationes ne despicias in necessitatibus nostris,
sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta.

Jackson Pollock and Historical Perspective

In the second of my two recent posts (here and here) about reaching an objective judgement about the quality of works of art  (and in particular, music) I proposed some criteria for reaching such a judgement.

I also mentioned that Jackson Pollock's name had been mentioned in this regard, and now I want to return to that, and as a result propose one further criterion.

I do not like Pollock's work. I find it does not move me; I am not sure what it is trying to do, and therefore cannot evaluate how well it does it. I question whether it really demonstrates any skill, or any insight. So, in my judgement, it does not meet many of the criteria I proposed. However, I also recognise that all of that is a subjective perspective, and at least in part based on my ignorance. Others clearly think it is art of stature.

I compare my reaction to Pollock with my reaction to Mondrian. At first glance, I had a similar view of Mondrian's work; but the more I see of it, (particularly originals - his work does not reproduce well, I find) the more I question that. I think he really is onto something, though I would struggle to say what.

But again, I recognise that is a subjective view. And there is (a large) part of me that wonders if most modern art has lost its way, and is pulling a fast one, as it were. And that too is a subjective view.

So I am prepared to hold fire, and not have a strong opinion (well, I do on Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst, but the less said about them, the better). Nor do I find there are many cultural or artistic critics in whom I have sufficient confidence to accept their judgements pro or contra

The same is true of some modern music: serialism does nothing for me, for example. But that may be a failing in me, not least due to a lack of education and understanding.

But the most important additional criterion, I think, is the judgment of time. Artistic judgements are subject to fashion. Even Shakespeare was out of vogue for a period, and during the Restoration there was a marked trend to improve his plays to conform to current tastes. But over time that shakes down: the genius of Beethoven or Van Gogh is clearer with historical perspective.

So I am happy to remain agnostic about Pollock and Mondrian, and let our descendants be the judges. But that does not, I think, detract from my central thesis that one can make objective statements about the quality of art. It just suggests that education, understanding and perspective may all be necessary in order to do so.

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Some criteria for discernment...

In yesterday's post I spent most of my time making the easier part of my case for being able to claim that some pieces of music are intrinsically, objectively, better than others. That was the argument from craftsmanship.

That alone, I think, suffices to justify my claim.

However the second part of the case I treated rather lightly, though in fact I think it the more important aspect. I wrote: 'I would also argue that some forms of art are (when well executed) intrinsically better than others (even when well executed).

I then exemplified that by citing The Beatles  and P.G. Wodehouse (chosen because in terms of personal taste, they are favourites of mine) in contrast with Mozart, and Shakespeare.

However, I did not argue that case. So here I propose to do just that.

This is, of course (and particularly in our current intellectual climate - a fact I find very significant) a much harder case to make. Arguments of the 'What is Art?', and particularly of the 'What is Great Art?' variety are notoriously difficult.

The modern temperament on this topic is admirably captured at the start of the film Dead Poets Society, when the hero (John Keating, played by Robin Williams) tears up, in contempt, the opening pages of a worthy book on literature that attempts to do this by saying that one can determine great art by multiplying the greatness of the theme by the quality of its execution.

Keating's view, as far as one can gather, is the more fashionable one that great literature is literature that moves one, and that is finally a subjective judgement. That is, I think, the great Romantic conceit: the elevation of personal sensibilities to be the supreme measure of judgement.

That is not to say the the potential of a work of art (including literature or music) to move one is irrelevant: far from it. But it is not the only criterion, any more than 'greatness of theme and the quality of its execution' are the only two.

Since discernment is all the vogue these days (and my readers know how important it is to me to stay with the fashion) I thought I would offer a few criteria for discernment when trying to think about whether a particular work, or indeed a genre, is great.

I offer these with some trepidation, and am certainly open to suggestions for criteria I have missed, or better expression of the ones I have identified. And I make the claim for these criteria that Stoppard makes for the cricket bat in the passage I quoted yesterday: they do not exist because of some conspiracy by the academy, but rather because experience has demonstrated that they work...

My first draft criteria for evaluating a work of art as good:

  • It does what it sets out to do skilfully
  • What it sets out to do is worth doing
  • It moves the audience/viewer/reader/listener 
  • It moves the audience/viewer/reader/listener repeatedly when engaged with on second and subsequent occasions
  • It both demonstrates and provokes insight
  • It makes demands on the audience/viewer/reader/listener
  • It has some element of novelty or originality
  • It mediates truth and beauty (though that may be in the negative way: eg demonstration of evil at work etc)

I think that interesting, as one can then see both why a successful soap opera or a good pop song works (eg it does what it sets out to do skilfully, it has some element of novelty or originality, it moves the audience) and also why it is unlikely to be watched or listened to again by succeeding generations (it may not meet many of the other criteria).

I am also interested in the fact that many people will find this a difficult argument to swallow, but want to think further about that before I write too much more.

And I am also interested in the link between this argument, and C S Lewis' The Abolition of Man, but again, I want to reflect further on that before committing myself (others, of course, think I should have been committed years ago, but that's another story...)

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Who Am I to Judge (Music)?

We were chatting on Twitter last night about music. I said: I quarrel with the notion that musical taste is purely a matter of personal preferences and further (rashly) that I would argue that some music is objectively better than other music, regardless of taste.

Here I wish to explore that idea, and also the reaction it provoked (including, from the normally wise and perspicacious Ttony: I wish you the best of luck with this one. Naughty crotchets! Wicked bass clef! )*

Can one really say that one piece of music is better than another, in an absolute sense, not just based on taste.  I believe that one can.

But I shall start by talking about writing, simply because I know more about it. I will then apply the argument I make about writing (assuming its validity) to music (and the visual arts, come to that, as I notice that people are continuing the Twitter conversation even as I write, and mention has been made of Jackson Pollock).

With regard to writing, my contention is simple: that it is not a matter of opinion or taste that Macbeth is a better play than The Maid of Buttermere (by Lisa Evans, from the novel by Melvin Bragg, which is, as it happens, the worst play I can remember attending in my life).

One of the clearest ways of explaining this simple fact comes from another play, by Tom Stoppard (one of my favourite current dramatists). In The Real Thing, Henry, a writer, has criticised a play written by Brodie, a soldier serving time for going AWOL and burning a wreath at the Cenotaph. Annie thinks Henry is being a snob, and points out that Brodie wasn't trying to write Eng. Lit. Henry (to Annie's alarm) fetches his cricket bat...

Henry: Shut up and listen. This thing here, which looks like a wooden club, is actually several pieces of particular wood cunningly put together in a certain way so that the whole thing is sprung, like a dance floor. It’s for hitting cricket balls with. If you get it right, the cricket ball will travel two hundred yards in four seconds, and all you’ve done is give it a knock like knocking the top off a bottle of stout, and it makes a noise like a trout taking a fly… (He clucks his tongue to make the noise.) What we’re trying to do is to write cricket  bats, so that when we throw up an idea and give it a little knock, it might… travel… (He clucks his tongue again and picks up the script.) Now, what we’ve got here is a lump of wood of roughly the same shape trying to be a cricket bat, and if you hit a ball with it, the ball will travel about ten feet and you will drop the bat and dance about shouting ‘Ouch!’ with your hands stuck into your armpits. This  (indicating the cricket bat) isn’t better because someone says it’s better, or because there’s a conspiracy by the MCC to keep cudgels out of Lords. It’s better because it’s better. You don’t believe me, so I suggest you go out to bat with this (indicating Brodie's script) and see how you get on. ‘You’re a strange boy, Billy, how old are you?’ ‘Twenty, but I’ve lived more than you’ll ever live.’ Ooh, ouch! 
He drops the script and hops about with his hands in his armpits, going ‘Ouch!’ 
Annie watches him expressionlessly until he desists.
Interestingly, the point Stoppard is making here has just been made in the Twitter discussion, where PattiF wrote: 'Jackson Pollock had to know how to draw first.'

That is to say, that there is a craftsmanship essential as the underpinning of any type of art. There are certain skills that must be acquired, and moving on to the higher business of expression without the foundational skills leads to inferior art.

Lisa Evans, who subjected us to hours of tedium in the Keswick Playhouse, didn't know the basic rules of the game, particularly with regard to exposition. As the (very kind, I thought) Guardian Review makes plain, she took three hours to tell us what she had already told us in three minutes. (Was it really as long ago as 2009? I can still feel the numbness in my rear end when I think about it...)  It is not a matter of personal taste to say that Macbeth is better written: it is a simple fact. 

By the same token, I believe that one can say that Mozart had a mastery of his craft that surpasses the skill of, say, Michael Barnes (the main songwriter for the band The Tiffany Shade). That is a fairly indisputable fact, as is the fact that Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A (K.622) is a better piece of music than Barnes' 'Won't you take my mind out for a walk.'

Likewise, Vermeer had a better technical mastery of painting than, say, Terry Frost, and Girl with a Pearl Earring is a better painting than Pippa Renwick in Red.

I argue all that from a consideration of craftsmanship. But there is more. I would also argue that some forms of art are (when well executed) intrinsically better than others (even when well executed). The Beatles were, arguably, one of the best bands ever. They are certainly one of my favourite bands. Yet even their best song (and I won't court further controversy by saying what I think that is) is not in the same league as Mozart's Clarinet Concerto.

Likewise, P. G. Wodehouse is a master craftsman, and one of my favourite authors. Yet even his best novel (OK, I'll risk it and plump for Code of the Woosters) does not approach Macbeth.

None of that means, of course, that there isn't scope for a lot of debate, and many, many moot judgements. But to say that any such judgements are meaningless or impossible is a different matter. 

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that I think it is quite possible to say that Inwood and his cronies' music is poor, by two standards: the craftsmanship is typically workmanlike, at best; and the idiom in which they write is a poor idiom, compared to the great heritage of Catholic music.

(Incidentally, I think that the Church teaches this, when it cites Plainchant as being particularly suited for the liturgy, whilst recognising the value of the polyphonic tradition, and deprecating the use of styles and instruments not fitted for liturgical use.)

There, I've said it. Let battle commence.


* I realise, I never got around to discussing the reaction and my ideas about that - perhaps another time.

Hymns for our times (1)

You know how you sometimes wake up with a really bad idea and have to execute it just to exorcise it...

Lord of uncertainty,
Lord of all doubt,
Whose voice was so gentle, 
Who never would shout,
Who welcomed the moneychangers
And would not them judge:
Make me in your image
O Lord of the fudge.

Hymns for Our Times (1)

Others may follow (if you are unlucky).

Sunday 15 November 2015

The Clericalism of Bugnini

In my recent review of the new LMS booklet, I wrote, inter alia:  'traditionally, the Faithful were not told how they had to pray the Mass: there was licence for many different ways, allowing for the Catholicity of the Church. It is a recent (post-Vatican II) innovation to require us to behave and pray in the way Bugnini and his confrères thought we should.'

(As an aside: I was interested, as I was drafting this post, to notice that Ttony makes a reference to the same point here "...if you wanted to follow the bizarrely mid-twentieth century idea that you should be reading the words the priest was saying, rather than praying the Mass.  [snip...] The age of literacy has been used by the Devil to tempt us into trying to understand Mass on our own terms, instead of praying it on God's."  And his post reminded me of an earlier one of mine, on the heresy of understanding. We do go on about the same things over and over, we traditionally-minded people...)

A few sentences later in my review, I wrote: 'also line drawings (by Steffano Mazzeo) showing the posture of priest (and server where appropriate) at different points in the Mass.'

Putting these two facts together, I realise with renewed clarity the incredible clericalism of Bugnini's approach.

Formerly, the priest was tightly bound by the rubrics: he had to do just what he had to do: nothing more and nothing less. The congregation were free to pray as the Spirit moved them.

In the new rite, that has been reversed: the priest seems able to take incredible liberties with the Mass, in both word and gesture; the congregation are marshalled into a single way of praying, and indeed behaving (there are local variations, but within any particular parish, the peer pressure to do it the way we do it here is enormous).

That seems to me to be both the worst sort of clericalism and a very poor way to treat the Mass - and the Faithful.

It also reminds me, I should get back to reading Bugnini - perhaps a suitably penitential resolution for Advent...

New LMS Mass Booklet

I recently received my latest copy of Mass of Ages, the Latin Mass Society Magazine, and along with it a new Mass Booklet, compiled by Joseph Shaw.

It is excellent. Its cover page accurately sums up the contents: The Ordinary Prayers of the Traditional Latin Mass (Extraordinary Form, or Vetus Ordo), Benediction, Angelus and other prayers and devotions.

The layout is clear, in the traditional manner, with the Latin text on the left hand page, and an English translation (a traditional one, with thee and thou etc) on the opposite page. There are explanatory notes in the margins. I rather like: Commonly used postures for the Faithful: Kneel when the server kneels. For traditionally, the Faithful were not told how they had to pray the Mass: there was licence for many different ways, allowing for the Catholicity of the Church. It is a recent (post-Vatican II) innovation to require us to behave and pray in the way Bugnini and his confrères thought we should. But I digress.

As I was saying, there are explanatory notes in the margins, and also line drawings (by Steffano Mazzeo) showing the posture of priest (and server where appropriate) at different points in the Mass. One of the wonderful things about the traditional rite is that one can follow what is happening with one's eyes, even if one cannot hear (or understand) the Latin. So this is a very practical, useful and educative aid. My children certainly found this helpful in their children's missals as they were learning the Mass, as did I.

This booklet is particularly helpful in a few other ways. One is that it has the local prayers after Mass: the Prayer for the Sovereign (Domine salvam fac) along with the music and accompanying collect. It also has the prayers for England, Scotland and Wales (the latter in Welsh with an English translation) in the appropriate place in Benediction. As well as various other prayers (Prayers after Communion, the Angelus, etc) there is a section on Chants for the Mass. This contains the Asperges, and Vidi Aquam, and then (interestingly) Masses XI (Orbis Factor) and XVII, and Credo I. There are also the four Marian antiphons (simple tones) and the Litany of Loreto.

It is well-produced, on good paper, and runs to 72 pages. It is available from the LMS, for a very reasonable £3.75 (plus postage).

Friday 13 November 2015

The Great Divorce

I have blogged many times about the issue of divorce and remarriage: ranging from the guest post by my brothers Welcoming Cardinal Kasper's Pastoral Solicitude, to the post in which I suggest that ++Kasper et al are Underestimating the Love and Compassion of God

Yet here I go again: for I think there is still more to be said, even at the risk of being called of all sorts of names by the Holy Father. 

The Church is bound to preach the Gospel of Christ, as received from Him and handed down by Apostolic Tradition and Teaching, both in the Gospel and through the inspired work of the Magisterium.

The Church is also bound to manifest Christ's love, mercy and forgiveness. But that cannot be set in opposition to preaching the Gospel and calling sinners to repent: for that is what Christ did, and that is the mission He entrusted to the Church.

The Church is not, however, bound to make people happy or feel good: indeed the Gospel warns us that we must take up our Cross, if we are to follow Christ.

Many people seem to think it unmerciful of the Church 'not to forgive divorce and remarriage.' This post is my further musing about the profound misunderstandings inherent in that point of view.

However, I have yet to hear anyone who espouses that view claim that the Church should offer absolution and unconditional forgiveness to, say, a paedophile priest who is clear that he has no intention of changing his predatory behaviour.

So I presume that they do not see divorce, or remarriage, as harmful in the same way. Yet they are.

Divorce (if more than a merely prudential measure necessary to protect oneself or one's children) is a sin against faith, hope, and charity. It is a sin against Faith, since Christ has taught that marriage cannot be ended in this way. To believe in divorce is to disbelieve in Christ's teaching and the Church's.

It is a sin against hope, since it despairs of God being able to bring good out of one's fidelity to the Sacrament of Matrimony, despite all the trials along the way.

It is a sin against charity, since the fundamental promise we make is to love our spouse until death us do part.

One cannot sin against faith, hope and charity without harming oneself and others. So in order to repent of divorce, and 'sin no more' (a Gospel requirement) we must stop believing in divorce. If divorced, we must recognise that reality: that we are still married to our spouse, with all the obligations that entails. We must seek hope, trusting in God's infinite love and mercy to bring good out of our suffering. We must seek to love our spouse, even if necessarily separated, even if they have entered a new relationship, even if they are abusive. We may have to love him or her from a distance, and that love may have to be manifested principally through prayer and fidelity to our marriage vows, but our duty to love him or her is undiminished.

Divorce is also a sin against the Sacrament of Marriage: not just that particular marriage. It manifests a disbelief in marriage itself, for the nature of marriage is lifelong. That is one of the reasons it makes a 'second' marriage impossible. If one disbelieves in marriage, one cannot contract a valid marriage. That, of course, is a secondary reason; the principal reason a second marriage is impossible is that one remains married to one's first spouse, despite any divorce proceedings.

So is divorce an unforgivable sin? Or a worse sin than any other? By no means. But, like any other sin, it does harm; and therefore the Church, in dispensing Christ's mercy, must ensure that the penitent is not left self-harming. That is why repentance and amendment are an important part of the process; and that is why a 'second marriage' must also be the subject of repentance and amendment. To suggest anything else is to deny the Gospel, and to deny the true mercy of Christ. And that would be a terrible divorce indeed!