Sunday 31 January 2016

More Reflections on Obedience

I have blogged about Obedience before (here, and elsewhere, passim) because it is so counter-cultural, and so critically important to the Christian life.

If one considers the miracle at Cana, it is instructive to note that the servants obeyed Christ, not because they had any reason to think He was doing anything useful: they may well have thought the contrary - particularly the one instructed to take the water to the Steward of the feast to taste. (Incidentally, architriclinus the Latin for Steward, is a very difficult word to sing, as we found last week...). Rather, they knew that obedience is required of people in their position.

And obedience is required of us, of people in our position, for several reasons. One is that we are creatures, subject to the authority of God. The very term Our Lord (and perhaps that is why it is out of vogue) requires submission to the Lordship of Christ. And the Church has always heard Our Lady's words to the servants, Do whatever he tells you, as a command to all of us.

The most obvious and compelling reason, of course, is that imitation of Christ, which is at the heart of the Christian calling. It is very fashionable to see Christ as some kind of anarchist, who broke the rules. But that, it strikes me, is a very naive reading.

Even at His birth, He chose to place Himself under the civic authority: it was due to obedience to Caesar that He was born in a stable at Bethlehem. The mysterious incident of the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple is also worth considering. Our Lady and St Joseph were astonished: clearly He had never appeared disobedient to them before this occasion, and the Evangelist makes it clear that He resumed that pattern of obedience to them immediately afterwards: He went home and was subject to them.

The incident itself, as He makes clear, was in obedience to His heavenly Father, as indeed was His whole life. 

We can reflect also on His obedience to the authority of John the Baptist, calling people to be baptised in the Jordan; His obedience to the paying of the Temple tax; His obedience in instructing people to pay their civil taxes (render unto Caesar), and so on. What He did not obey were man-made customs that had no proper authority, but these were exceptions to the pattern, not the pattern itself.

And as noted before, the over-arching theme of His life was obedience to His heavenly Father. Nowhere is that clearer than in the Passion, and St Paul makes it clear in Romans that it was through this obedience that the evil of Adam's disobedience was finally put right.

I believe that it is only in obedience that we are able properly to cooperate with Christ's saving work, and submit to whatever He asks of us. But every force in our fallen nature and in our society and its dominant thinking, culture and values, rebels at that notion.

So that is, perhaps, the first of my resolutions for this Lent: to seek opportunities to obey.

Fiat voluntas tua!

Saturday 30 January 2016


I have just heard from Sr Petra Clare about some icons she is painting for us, of the children's patron saints. This is very exciting, of course (and the children don't know about them, unless they stumble across this, which seems unlikely).

But it reminds me that it is a long time since I plugged her work (see here for example), so I thought I should give her another mention. 

Here is an example of her work: a rather wonderful Annunciation. 

More may be seen on her website here. If ever you are stuck for a gift for an important occasion for a Catholic friend, an icon is a wonderful thing to give - and to receive.

In Which I Am Afraid...

All this talk about the Mandatum prompted me to re-read what our Holy Father Emeritus had to say about it in his Jesus of Nazareth (vol. 2) which, incidentally, will serve very well as my Lenten Spiritual Reading.

Needless to say, it is rich and profound reading. But what really struck me this time were his reflections on Peter's refusal to have his feet washed. Ratzinger links this to Peter's earlier 'Lord, may this never happen to you!' (Remember, that time when Our Lord forgot about being non-judgmental and not hurting people's feelings, and said: Get thou behind me, Satan!). He also links it to Peter's impetuous cutting off of the servant's ear, but most tellingly to Peter's denial of Our Lord.

He concludes: It is the response to Jesus that we find throughout history: You are the victor, you are the strong one - you must not lower yourself or practice humility! Again and again Jesus has to help us recognise anew that God's power is different, that the Messiah must pass through suffering to glory and must lead others along the same path.

So I was left with the question: was Peter's concern at Our Lord's suffering born out of a deep and probably unconscious fear that he might have to suffer too?

And of course that leads to the immediate realisation that at least one of the reasons I am so upset at the Church sets out, yet again, on the Way of the Cross, is that I am afraid I may be called to suffer; that I do not wish to tread that Way.

Thursday 28 January 2016

Giving Thanks for Luther

Contrary to some people's opinions, I do not seek to view everything our Holy Father does through a lens of suspicion, mistrust and hostility.

However, I did need to pause for a while when I heard of the plan to celebrate Martin Luther and the Reformation.

However, I am reminded of St Paul's admonition, to give thanks for everything, always. Moreover, I recall the audacious line in the Exsultet: O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem.

And we regularly give thanks for the passion and death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

In that context, I can give thanks for Martin Luther and the Reformation. For God will draw good out of everything; and if we can celebrate Adam's fault - evil though it was - and give thanks for the Crucifixion - evil though that was - then surely we can give thanks for the Reformation and the work of Luther.

And though much evil has flowed from them, just as it has from Adam's sin, God still manages to draw greater good from it.  And although Luther and the Reformation did not win for us so great a Redeemer, Adam's sin having already done so, they may have contributed to the Scourging, or the Crown of Thorns, for which also we give thanks.

And we have countless saints and martyrs, and great clarifications in theology from Trent onwards, as some of the fruits of the evil wrought in the sixteenth century.

Deo gratias!

Wednesday 27 January 2016

Strange criticism

James Melody kindly posted a link to my post about the Mandatum to Facebook, with a complimentary comment.

A chap called Ruari McCallion, whom I have yet to have the pleasure of meeting, quoted me and added a comment, thus:
"The second is that it risks confirming a modern anthropological error: that male and female are trivial, not essential, differences. It risks appearing to bow at the altar of a modern understanding of what it means to be a woman (or a man); an understanding that sees contraception, promiscuity, and abortion as stepping stones along the road to true equality." 
You might think that's the best you've read on the subject so far; I fear I must respectfully disagree, James. Ivereigh was markedly less excitable; maybe he has a less fertile imagination?
I like to model my response to criticism on that of PG Wodehouse, about which I have blogged before.  I am glad, though slightly bemused, that Ruari found that post, and (I assume) in particular the paragraph he quoted, to be both exciting and imaginative. 

Yet I also gather (for I am a perceptive sort, under my hearty bluster) that these were the very reasons he disagreed with James' positive assessment of my comments; and that Ivereigh's dullness and lack of imagination were in fact reasons to prefer his take to mine.

All of which is very strange, when you think about it.

I may, of course, be quite wrong in my analysis in the post he is criticising; but nowhere does Ruari say where that is. I have already said what I think of Ivereigh's piece, so won't dwell on that, other than to say I think it was a more imaginative take on reality than mine.

But it does strike me as fairly typical of many such discussions that rather than dwell on the arguments, the stress is laid on the (perceived) tone.

My argument in that paragraph is straightforward, I thought. But maybe I assumed too much and should unpack it a bit.

We are confronted in our time with two very different understandings of the meaning of male and female. On the one hand the Church has always seen these are inherent in the meaning of the creation of man. The complementarity of man and woman is part of the divine plan, and their unity in the nuptial union is the means of the generation of new life, the establishment of the family, the mirror of Christ's relationship with the Church, and so on. Man and woman are equal in dignity, yet distinct in nature. This difference is one of the reasons that it is not in any way unjust that they have different roles they may legitimately fulfil: motherhood is only for women; fatherhood, and also priesthood, only for men. This is a deep and fundamental truth which we continue to understand in more depth as the Church reflects and develops her teaching (not least under the papacy of St John Paul II).

On the other hand, the contemporary progressive view is that male and female are somewhat superficial differences; some go so far as to say that they are largely social constructs. Equality must mean parity in all things and anything that may prevent women from aspiring to anything a man may do is ipso facto unjust. Thus contraception, promiscuity, and abortion come to be seen, as I remarked originally, as 'stepping stones along the road to true equality.'

I think that is fairly uncontentious, (though perhaps I am naive). Therefore I conclude that the part which Ruari finds imaginative and exciting is to say that the arbitrary change of the Church's liturgy to include women in a rite that was formerly exclusive to men 'risks appearing to bow at the altar of a modern understanding of what it means to be a woman (or a man).' Yet, again, I think that risk is real and evident. It seems to me precisely how modern liberal-minded people will interpret the Holy Father's change. 'Ah, the Church is making one more, slow, belated step to recognising what we all know: that women and men are equal in every way, and that all discrimination against women is a legacy of misguided (or worse) patriarchy.'

But because Ruari never actually addresses anything I said, it is hard to know if I am on the right track here. 

Tuesday 26 January 2016

What is to be done?

The indomitable Red Maria (@dolphinmaria on Twitter) has tweeted at me: 
I think your analysis is rational and correct. The question is what is to be done?
As Marx said, "Philosophers have interpreted the world; the point is to change it." 
Initiatives like the letter in support of priests were excellent. Why stop there? What's next?
Well, appeals to the authority of Marx (whether Karl or Cardinal) are surely the way to get me going...

However, I am not by nature an activist, in the political sense, still less a leader. But that does not let me off the hook, of course: many of those whom God has called to lead decisively would have said the same, I am sure. But I am also keenly aware of the risk to those who lead political resistance successfully that they be corrupted by the process (history is littered with examples) and I am not convinced that I would have the strength and integrity to avoid that fate.

More significantly, my analysis of the problems we face is that they are primarily spiritual problems. They may manifest in political ways in some prelates and priests, but the roots are spiritual.

So I believe that the response must be primarily spiritual. At the personal level, that means prayer and fasting; a sacramental life, and a growth in faith, hope and charity. And on that journey, I have a long way to travel.

But I am also part of a larger whole, the Church, and my own imperfections do not let me off from making a contribution there.  However, if my analysis of the problems is correct, and that it is primarily a spiritual battle in which we are engaged, that also must inform our response. 

According to St Augustine (I understand - I am not a great scholar and get most of my knowledge second or third hand - in this case, if I recall correctly, from Frank Sheed) the faculties of the soul that distinguish men from animals are intellect, memory and will.

So one of the ways in which we oppose the malaise infecting the Church must be by the use of the intellect. We must study, and we must analyse, and we must share the results of that study and analysis. That is where the internet has proved such a boon. Previously, it was easy to be swamped by the approved narrative, and to imagine that one was alone in one's questions. Now, one can find other concerned and well-informed Catholics and learn from them - and (as I have frequently found) they are also good at correcting our misunderstandings and misperceptions.

Another way we must oppose the malaise is by the use of the memory. And here I am referring to the collective memory of the Church, which is Tradition. That is why I find it infuriating when people claim novelty as restoration - it is reminiscent of the wilful destruction of collective memory that was such a feature of Ingsoc in Orwell's 1984. Indeed, the more I reflect on this, the more I think that is why I am at heart a traditionalist. I refuse to discard the wisdom of the generations of saints who have preceded me, and the teachings of Christ Himself and His apostles which the Holy Spirit has inspired the Church to understand with ever-increasing depth over the centuries. I refuse to imagine that we in the early twentyfirst century are so much wiser than our forebears that we can discard all that has gone before that is out of sympathy with our present culture and sentiments.

Finally, there is the will. We are called above all to love. And that means to love even when we have been betrayed; to love even those who have betrayed us. I find that very difficult, and I am clear that if I were to engage in active campaigns, the risk would be that it would be bad for me. I reflect on some of my posts on ++Nichols, for example, and wonder whether my motives would stand scrutiny. I am always haunted by that great couplet in Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral:

The last temptation is the greatest treason: 
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.

Of course,  should I discern that I am called to something more, then I will strive to answer that call. But for the present, I think that living my vocation as husband, father and professional, living a sacramental life and seeking to grow in virtue, and contributing as I can to the intellectual, traditional and charitable life of the Church, is how I am called to oppose the malaise at present. 

I don't think that's quietism - but as ever, am open to correction.

Sunday 24 January 2016

The Pope and the Washing of Feet

It will not surprise my regular readers to learn that I think the Holy Father's recent changes to the rubrics surrounding the Mandatum are unwise.

I do not buy Austen Ivereigh's line, that this is the restoration of an ancient practice. Rather, as the Decree itself says, this is an innovation. (I did, in fact, have an exchange with Ivereigh on Twitter about his claim, and he sent this link to justify it.) The fact that women, in convents, have had their feet washed outside the liturgy does not, I think, justify the claim that allowing women to have their feet washed as part of the liturgy is a restoration.

Some people (judging by some of the comments online, such as Niall Gooch's on Twitter) seem to think that the traditional discomfort with this innovation 'appears to be that since there have been bad changes in the past, ALL CHANGE IS BAD.'  I don't think that is a fair characterisation. 

For myself, I have reservations on a few grounds. 

The first is that this seems to be a part of a pattern of post-hoc legitimisation of illegal behaviour. It is not as egregious as the legitimisation of altar girls. That was done by chicanery - at least this is a more official procedure. But the pattern endures - and the message it risks sending is simple. If you disagree with the Church's law, carry on - the Church will catch up with you eventually. That is clearly both wrong and dangerous.

The second is that it risks confirming a modern anthropological error: that male and female are trivial, not essential, differences. It risks appearing to bow at the altar of a modern understanding of what it means to be a woman (or a man); an understanding that sees contraception, promiscuity, and abortion as stepping stones along the road to true equality. The Church should be correcting this view, not colluding (or even seeming to collude) with it.

A third is that it risks colluding with another (related) error: that the Church has, by and large, got it wrong in the past, and needs to catch up with modern understandings in order to correct its practice and belief. I remain unconvinced that modern western liberal democracies have anything of significance to teach the Church. I would argue, rather, that there is a lot that they could learn from the Church, if only they would not harden their hearts.

My fourth concern is that it is premised on a wrong understanding of liturgy. It seems to be using the liturgy as a means of (at worst) 'virtue signalling'; or at best as a means of 'making everyone feel included.' I suggest that both of these fall far short of liturgy's true purpose.  That is not to say that the liturgy of the Church cannot, or indeed should not, change. But, as Sacrosanctum Concilium rightly ruled, nothing should be changed unless the good of the Church certainly requires it. 

Finally, the Decree says: 'In order that the full meaning of this rite might be expressed to those who participate it seemed good to the Supreme Pontiff Pope Francis to vary the norm...'  I remain unconvinced that the Holy Father has explained the full meaning of this rite, which is rich and complex; and further unconvinced that it is better expressed by changing it from 12 men to a small group of people. The impression one gets is that the word 'seems' is carrying all the weight: Francis is not a theologian, and I think he should change the liturgy only with proper advice and theological consideration - or not at all.

Monday 11 January 2016

Because (ir)Religion

I am a little tired (and bored) of people saying 'Oh, so Because Religion!' as a rebuttal. It is cheap, thoughtless, and ignorant.

Am I supposed to defer to them, on the grounds that their personal lived experience, and their reading of the Guardian (or the Daily Mail, come to that) is real, whilst my conviction that Christ is God-made-man, and the associated philosophy built on the wisdom of centuries, is insubstantial and meaningless? It seems odd to me that anyone might expect that.

In fact, I fear that we are raising an (or another) uneducable generation, by teaching them that everything can and should be the subject of their personal 'informed' decision making.

It is made worse by the fact that most people who say Because Religion have no notion that their own philosophy, such as it is, is also based on assumptions; or indeed that they have a philosophy at all. There is frequently a naive belief in science and progress (not amongst real scientists, who are often both wise and aware of the limitations of their discipline, but in society more broadly) that does not stand a moment's scrutiny; and that is often married to an incompatible belief that everything is relative. When I ask them to name their assumptions, they are typically unable to do so.

So I discern both a paucity of thought and a staggering arrogance. It was Maslow, of all people who nailed it. We are raising, he lamented, a generation that has lost that great Jewish virtue: respect for the teacher, for the wiser man.

Whilst Isaac Newton was not the first to say it (Wikipedia tells me the idea can be traced back at least as far as Bernard of Chartres), Newton's understanding that If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants is a great insight. Yet by encouraging 'independent learners' to work everything out for themselves (in the humanities, less so in the sciences, perhaps) we are depriving them of that high vantage point and encouraging them to squirm in the mud, all the while believing that they are wiser than their forebears (and anyone contemporary who has the temerity to disagree with them) Because Science (or sometimes, Because Progress).


Sunday 10 January 2016

Today's (un)Readings

Today was spectacular, in terms of the readings at Mass. I pass lightly over our local rendition, which was almost incomprehensible due to the ineptitude of the reader (inter alia, we got: 'He sacrificed himself for us in order to set him free from all wickedness' and 'it was for no reason except our own compassion that he saved us'...)

No, what I am referring to is the fact that all three readings in the new lectionary had holes in the middle of them.

So in this post, I will look at what was excised.

The first reading, from Isaiah, omitted:
A voice commands: "Cry!" and I answered: "What shall I cry?" - "All flesh is grass and its beauty like the wild flower's. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on them. (The grass is without doubt the people.) The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of God remains for ever."
The second reading, from St Paul's Letter to Titus omitted:
Now this is what you are to say, whether you are giving instruction or correcting errors; you can do so with full authority, and no one is to question it. Remind them that it is their duty to be obedient to the officials and representatives of the government; to be ready to do good at every opportunity; not to go slandering other people or picking quarrels, but to be courteous and always polite to all kinds of people. Remember there was a time when we too were ignorant, disobedient and misled, and enslaved by different passions and luxuries; we lived then in wickedness and ill-will, hating each other and hateful ourselves. But
The Gospel, from St Luke, omitted:
'His winnowing-fan is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out. ' As well as this, there were many other things he said to exhort the people and to announce the Good News to them.
But Herod the tetrarch, whom he criticised for his relations with his brother's wife Herodias and for all the other crimes Herod had committed, added a further crime to all the rest, by shutting John up in prison.
Is it me, or is there a theme here? Could it be that anything that has any suggestion of judgment has been excised? 

'All flesh is grass' is a wonderful, poignant note in the middle of Isaiah's great proclamation. One would have to have a tin ear to cut that (not to mention other deficiencies).

Oddly, I am particularly irritated by the omission of 'But,' which is the first word of Titus 3:4. It was clearly omitted as it would have made no sense. But it would have made no sense, because the whole thrust of St Paul's argument depended on what had preceded it. A shameful cut! But we can't go talking about authority or wickedness...

Cutting the winnowing-fan and fire that will never go out is entirely reprehensible, if predictable.  One might think there is a case for cutting the imprisonment of John the Baptist, as it seems a parenthesis - indeed, at the wrong place in the story, as it precedes his baptising Christ. But I choose to believe that St Luke was more inspired than the compilers of the Lectionary. I think part of the message here is that just as the powers of this World (and the Flesh and the Devil) were putting John out of the way, God's plan was unfolding with greater power still, with the early epiphany of the Blessed Trinity, and the Son being commissioned by the Father and the Holy Ghost. But we lose all that.

Moreover, they have not only cut it on this occasion, but from the two other passages in the synoptic Gospels when it should be read.

Attentive readers will remember that I examined all the Sunday Gospels for the three year cycle some time ago, noting what had been cut and seeing if there was a pattern. St John's imprisonment, for example, is omitted from all the Sunday Gospels through the three year cycle. I posted my conclusions of that analysis here. Today, the shortening (I had almost said censoring) of all three readings seems to support my hypothesis.

Next Week's Chant

I have just spent some time practicing the chant for next week, the Second Sunday after the Epiphany of Our Lord. It has some quite exceptional music. Even if you can't read square note notation (or any notation) this is fairly spectacular:

 I could only find one recording of it on the web, and it is not great (either in execution or in sound quality).  But for what it's worth, here it is:

The Offertory is equally wonderful, and so here is a recording of that. The sound quality is better, but I think the percussive effect on the repeated neumes is overdone. Nonetheless, a glorious piece of chant.

Of course in these enlightened days, we don't have Sundays after the Epiphany any more (who needs reminding of the Epiphany of Our Lord?) any more than we have Sundays after Pentecost (who needs reminding of the Holy Ghost?); instead everything is Ordinary Time (because your Ordinary is clearly far more important...)

Wednesday 6 January 2016

The Epiphany

Happy Feast of the Epiphany.

I understand that it was celebrated on Sunday in the new Calendar, in this country.  However, I went to an EF Mass then (the Feast of the Holy Name) and will go to an Epiphany Mass today.  I believe that Rome celebrates today, and I strive for unity...

This is a fairly wonderful piece for the feast:

Tuesday 5 January 2016

A Simple Soul

I'm a simple soul, so have been a bit wary of wading into the difficult issue of whether Muslims worship the same God as we do. I was aware that my head said yes: in so far as they worship the God of Abraham, then they worship the same God as we (and the Jews, of course) do.  Yet my feelings were less confident: not only because of the atrocities and barbarities committed in the name of Allah (Christianity, after all, is not unblemished there) but also because of the way in which they seem to conceive of God: so unutterably distant that the notion of calling God 'Father' is pretty well blasphemous; not to mention denial of Christ, the Trinity and so on. And of course, all that could also be said of the Jews.

So I was interested to read John Charmley's piece on the (always fascinating) All Along the Watchtower site. John does not duck the difficulties, and indeed links to a previous piece of his own in which he argues the case against the proposition. However, his more recent piece is more nuanced, and reconciles what the Church officially teaches with his own difficulties.

In short, it hangs on that clause I introduced earlier:  in so far as they worship the God of Abraham, then they worship the same God as we (and the Jews, of course) do. Of course, they do so in a limited way, as, like the Jews, they have not accepted the fullness of Revelation in Our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently know far less of God (eg they deny the Trinity) and how to worship Him.

Reading today's Epistle from St John set another thought going in my mind. 'Everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.' So, in so far as the Muslim (or Christian, come to that) is truly seeking to live out of love, he knows (however imperfectly) God.

All that then reminded me of another attempt to deal with these difficult issues: C S Lewis' in The Last Battle.

Here Emeth, surely the type of a good Muslim in Lewis' thinking, encounters Aslan: I said, Alas Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. 

Lewis however, rejects the idea that we worship the same God: Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. 

Forced to choose between Lewis and the teaching of the Church, I naturally adhere to the teaching of the Church. But I quote Lewis because I think his insight also applies. When a Muslim (or a Christian) does things in the name of God which are against love, it is not God whom he serves, but Satan.

As I said at the start, I am a simple soul. The Church teaches that Muslims worship the same God and I accept that. The Church also teaches that their understanding of God is limited, and that they need Christ for salvation, and I accept that. The Church also teaches that, in so far as Islam differs from Christianity (and that is a very substantial amount indeed), it is a false religion.  And I accept that.

And mutatis mutandis, the same could be argued about all the Protestant denominations which reject aspects of the Catholic Faith, to unpack a little further what Archdruid Eileen says here.

Of course the state of any individual's soul is not mine (or yours) to judge.

Sunday 3 January 2016

EF Mass Times in Lancaster Diocese for January

Apologies for not posting this sooner.

Mass times for (the rest of) January in (and near) the Diocese of Lancaster

Wednesday January 6th The Epiphany of Our Lord
St Walburge, Preston, 7.00 pm
Our Lady & St Joseph, Carlisle 7.00 pm,

Sunday January 10th 
St Mary's, Hornby 3.00 pm (please note this is transferred from the Cathedral).
St Walburge, Preston 10.30 am, Sung Mass
Our Lady & St Joseph, Carlisle 6.00 pm 
St Mary Magdalene, Leyland Road, Penwortham 8.30 am 
St Catherine Labouré, Stanifield Lane, Leyland 11.30 am

Sunday January 17th  
St Walburge, Preston 10.30 am, Sung Mass
Our Lady & St Joseph, Carlisle 6.00 pm 
St Mary Magdalene, Leyland Road, Penwortham 8.30 am 
St Catherine Labouré, Stanifield Lane, Leyland 11.30 am

Sunday January 24th  
St Walburge, Preston 10.30 am, Sung Mass
Our Lady & St Joseph, Carlisle 6.00 pm 
St Mary Magdalene, Leyland Road, Penwortham 8.30 am 
St Catherine Labouré, Stanifield Lane, Leyland 11.30 am

Monday January 25th The Conversion of St Paul
Our Lady & St Joseph, Carlisle 7.30 pm 

Sunday January 31st  
St Walburge, Preston 10.30 am, Sung Mass
Our Lady & St Joseph, Carlisle 6.00 pm 
St Mary Magdalene, Leyland Road, Penwortham 8.30 am 
St Catherine Labouré, Stanifield Lane, Leyland 11.30 am

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

The Heresy of Worshiptainment

I saw a link on Facebook to an article called The Heresy of Worshiptainment, along with a comment by a Catholic saying that it was good as far as it goes, given it is written from a Protestant perspective.

I partly agree. The emphasis on entertainment in liturgy is a corruption, and many attempts at stimulating participation fall foul of this. But even from a Protestant perspective I think it a bit lacking.  From a Catholic perspective, of course, it lacks a great deal. 

At the heart of Catholicism is the imitation of Christ. Christ, of course, included reading the scriptures, but also singing the Psalms. He taught us to adore, He taught us to pray the Our Father, and He taught us to invoke the Holy Spirit.  He told us to offer the bread and wine that become His Body and His Blood, and He offered the sacrifice of His life to the Father. He instituted and consecrated the Catholic apostolic priesthood to continue this Saving Work.

Not unnaturally, the Catholic Mass includes all of these elements, and any Protestant service, however full of worship, is lacking at the highest and deepest levels: adoration, the Sacrifice of Calvary made present, and the Real Presence received in Holy Communion.

Christ also ratified, through the Incarnation, the principle that our bodies, as well as our minds, hearts, and souls are important. So the bodily, or even sensory, aspects of our religion are also important. That is why  sacred music has always been an essential element of Catholic liturgy and sacred art an important part of our ecclesiastical buildings. We are not, after all, puritans - and perhaps that is the other error implicit in this article.

Saturday 2 January 2016

And another thing

I have continued to think about the Holy Father's sermon on the Holy Family, about which I have already posted.

In particular, I have been thinking about the Immaculate Conception, and the difficulty that poses for us, inheritors of Original Sin, to read Our Lady's words accurately.

One of the effects of Original Sin is that our passions are not properly subject to our souls: that is the seat of the will and the intellect. But in Our Lady, preserved from Original Sin and its effects, that is not the case. Her passions are subordinate to her will, that is her capacity to love, and her intellect, her capacity to know.

Further, we know that any turning of the will away from the will of God is a sin: so by definition Our Lady never allowed her will to deviate from the will of God. 

Her intellect was also endowed with those preternatural gifts which the rest of us lost through Adam's sin: knowledge of God, of her relationship to Him and of Her eternal destiny.

It is in that context that we have to read Our Lady's words to her Son, both here in Luke 2, and also, for example, at the Annunciation and at the Wedding Feast in Cana.

It is of course tempting to read Our Lady's words as 'containing a certain reproach,' but is that correct, given her Immaculate status? Certainly, if a normal mother said those words, reading reproach into them would seem completely reasonable; but in this respect (freedom from Original Sin and Actual Sin) she is not a normal mother. 

All I believe we can legitimately read into them is the intellectual question they pose: "How could you (whom I know to be all-good) do this which has caused us such distress?"  - Faith seeking understanding. And it is no defect in her intelligence that means she does not understand all her Son does; it is natural for the human intellect to be unable to fathom the full mysteries of God - indeed, that is what we mean by a mystery.

So just as her words at the Annunciation (unlike the very similar ones of Zachary) do not display any failing in Faith, so her words here do not display any failing in Love; nor do her words at Cana display any failing in Hope.

Indeed, Cana is in some ways my favourite: when Protestants level the charge of Mariolatry at us, I reflect that it is a charge made in ignorance. Anyone who has turned to Our Blessed Mother for counsel or comfort knows that she always ends by telling us the same thing: 'Do whatever He tells you!' The Mother always points to the Son, and to honour her is to draw closer to Him.

As always, I issue the usual disclaimer: I am no trained theologian, and if I have got anything wrong in this post I invite correction. Indeed, as I have mentioned before, one of the delights of blogging is to provoke those wiser, better instructed, or more holy than myself to educate me.

Alma Redemptoris Mater, 
Quæ pervia cæli porta manes, 
Et stella maris, 
Succurre cadenti,
Surgere qui curat, populo: 
Tu quæ genuisti,
Natura mirante, 
Tuum sanctum Genitorem
Virgo prius ac posterius, 
Gabrielis ab ore
Sumens illud Ave, 
Peccatorum miserere.

Friday 1 January 2016

Top Posts of 2015

Just as I did  a year ago, I thought it might be interesting to look back over the year and see which of my blog posts had the most hits.

And just as it was a year ago, the Blackfen Affair topped the bill. My brief post announcing that Fr Fisher Resigns from Blackfen was the most visited post, by some considerable margin.  Another two in the top 12 (who needs decimals anyway?) were on the same topic: in More on the Blackfen Saga (no 5 in the charts) I raised the question of episcopal oversight in this case; and in Telling Fr Fisher's Story (no 10 in the charts) I discussed Joseph Shaw's post and reactions to it.  The whole saga was clearly one that my readers, at any rate, were keen to follow closely.

The other issue that resulted in several highly-visited posts was the pair of letters, one from priests and one from the laity, in the run-up to the Synod, calling for fidelity to Catholic Teaching. The second most-visited post on this site over the year was A Roll of Honour, listing all those who had signed the letter from the laity. Just behind it in popularity, was the post inviting signatures In Support of Our Priests, Our families and Our Church ; the next most popular discussed Cardinal Nichols' Rebuke to the priests who had signed the original letter; and the one after that (no 6 in the charts, if you have been counting carefully [and even if you haven't]) was my post on The Bitter Pill on the Priests' Letter , which revealed the paucity of thinking of those opposed to the brave and faithful priest signatories. Again, I see it as very significant that this was a topic of such interest to my readers.

The remaining five in the top twelve dealt with different issues. Having said that,  no. 7 was also related to the Synod. In Not Wholly Convinced,  I took issue with Austen Ivereigh's claim:  Pastoral approach triumphs over doctrine at synod.

No 8 was pure self-indulgence: fisking Tina Beattie's absurd presentation of dissent as a legitimate Catholic approach to moralityShooting Ducks in a Barrel. I mean, really... Even today, looking back, I cannot read her words without wondering what on earth she imagines she believes in - other than the magisterium of me. 

In at no 9 is A Straw God Argument, in which I discuss the idiocy of the increasingly ludicrous Stephen Fry, when he attempts to do theology. Maybe he and Tina should team up and found a new sect for narcissists.

At no 11 was one of my many posts on the issue of homosexuality, which often get a lot of hits. Making Gay Okay is a review of, and some reflections on, the book of that title. The subtitle is How Rationalizing Homosexual Behaviour is Changing Everything, and gives a clue to the comprehensiveness of the book, which is well researched and well worth reading.

The 12th most-read post was  More on ex-priests and ex-nuns as teachers, which does what it says in the title. I am always mildly surprised when a part two post has more hits than the part one to which it relates, but such is the blogosphere.

Needless to say, I don't think these are my 12 best posts; not necessarily the most important, nor the most edifying, nor the wittiest, nor the most thought-provoking, nor the most heartfelt. But who am I to judge?...

I hope all my readers have a happy and blessed 2016.