Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Celebrate Good Times

The Grand Master

As well as the Mass and Investiture, 
the 350th anniversary of the Order in Belgium 
was celebrated with a cocktail party and a splendid Charity Dinner.

The Grand Prior of Belgium making us welcome.

Cocktails were served in the Napoleon Room of 
Le Cercle Catholique
on the Cathedral Square.

HE Matthew Jackson, 
Grand Secretary and our own Marshal, 
enjoys the refreshments.
He was serving at the altar for me when he was only ten years old!

New Chaplain to the Order, Abbé Serge de Cauwer
explains the Belgium sense of humour.

Don Cyrille Bachelfort greets Princess Léa of Belgium.

With Prince Charles-Phillipe and some of the British contingent.

Guests of honour, including Princess Lea of Belgium,
Princess Marie Gabrielle of Savoy and
Mr Maxime Prevot, Vice President of the Walloon Government.
You might notice behind them all the companies
who are sponsoring the work of the Order in Belgium.
A reminder that our celebrating was not an end in itself.

A Gala Dinner followed in the smart setting of
Castle Cercle de Wallonie 
in the Namur Citadel.

Pierre Piccinin da Prata, writer and war reporter
and member of the Belgian Grand Priory.
Twice held hostage in Syria during his work.

Looking ready for dinner...
... or at least for those wine glasses to be filled.
Where is that waiter?

With thanks to François de Ribaucourt for kind permission to use his photographs.

Mass in Belgium

 The Entrance Procession of Knights and Dames led by the thurifer.
At least they know how to swing a thurible in Belgium.
Introibo ad altare Dei.

The Grand Priory of the Kingdom of Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg held a splendid Mass in the city of Numur, capital of the Province of Wallonia last weekend, to which their Grand Prior, Damien Van Bellinghen had kindly invited me.
There are a few photos below but many more over at the 

 Mass was celebrated by Archpriest of the Cathedral, 
Canon Jean-Marie Huet.

 Grand Masters of the Order past and present.

H.E. Cev. Matthew Jackson, Grand Secretary, reads the Epistle.

Chaplain to the Order, Don Cyrille Bachelfort, 
proclaims the Gospel and preaches.

The Investiture is announced.

 Blessing the Insignia for the new members.

The Grand Master welcomes Abbé Serge de Cauwer as a new Chaplain.

 The splendid Cathederal of St Aubain.
Interestingly, in 1908 it was a Belgian architect,
Charles Ménart,
who used the cathedral as his inspiration for 
St Aloysius Church, in Glasgow
(which has a fine depiction of St Lazarus in its mortuary chapel).

 The music for the Mass was sung by Les Petite Chanteurs de Belgique.

A great pity, as in so many cases, that the architectural splendour of the Cathedral has been liturgically rather compromised by ignoring the focus around which the architect constructed it - the high altar. The usual bland platform and rather mini-altar have been installed, leaving the actual high altar as no more than picturesque scenery, which would be a much more suitable seat for the drama of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The Mass setting was composed by this young man,
Mario Macedo from Brazil,
Missa Sancti Lazari.
A wonderful setting based on plainchant
but with added harmonies and embellishments.

 The (surely exhausted) singers.

Statue reliquary of Saint Aubain
Silver beaten and chiselled, Namur 1718.

For those who may not have come across St Aubain before. He was born in 360 in the Greek island of Naxos, Aubain. Around 380AD he visited St. Ambrose of Milan, who sent him into Gaul as a missionary priest in charge of the fight against the Arian heretics who denied the divinity of Jesus and were condemned by the Council of Nicaea in 325. With missionary zeal Aubain worked in France before reaching 404 in Mainz, Germany, always ready to defend the truth of Christ, professed in the Nicene-Constantinople Creed. Hunted by the heretics, he was beheaded at Mainz in 406, and his relics were brought to Namur in the 11th century. It has been said of him that he had died of loyalty to the this phrase of the Creed in particular and especially to the reality it expresses:

“God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
consubstantial with the Father.”

With thanks to François de Ribaucourt for kind permission to use his photographs.

Quarantore in Manchester

Bl Juvenal Ancina of the Oratory, Bishop of Saluzzo,
before the Blessed Sacrament

The Oratorain Community at St Chad's Church

Cheetham Hill Road
M8 8GG
are keeping

Forty Hours Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
Friday 27th May 
beginning at the 5.30pm Solemn Mass
continuously until
Sunday 29th May 
at the 11.30am Solemn Mass and Procession

Devotions throughout the Forty Hours

Friday 27th May

5.30pm    Solemn Mass and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament

9pm        Sung Compline

12 midnight    Stations of the Cross

Saturday 28th May

3am    The Seven Penitential Psalms & Meditation on the Passion

6am    Devotions of St Alphonsus

9am    Sung Terce

11am    Mass

12 noon    The Seven Sorrows of Our Lady

3pm    Rosary

7pm    Musical Oratory (Sermons, Hymns and Music)

12 midnight    Prayers for the Bishop, the Diocese and for our Parish

Sunday 29th May - The Solemnity of Corpus Christi

6am    Meditations on the Blessed Sacrament from the Writings of the Saints

8am    Mass

11.30am    Solemn Mass, Procession and Solemn Benediction

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

A Pentecost Octave by any other name

I'm wearing these Holy Spirit Vestments this week, as I am following the example of Fr Ray Blake and offering Votive Masses of the Holy Spirit in the New Form of Mass in the pattern of the Octave of Holy Week in the Traditional Form.

 These are some images of the vestment laid out for the week. On the back is depicted the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove casting down grace in the form of rays onto the storm tossed Church below. Certainly an apt image in these times for the Barque of Peter.

The front depicts the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit
in the form of tongues of fire.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Why can't a woman be more like a man? Or Why can't a nun be more like a priest?

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, seems to have set off another round of speculation from a seemingly unprepared and off the cuff remark. Female deacons - or is it deaconesses? There is an eloquent analysis of this at One Peter5 and in many other places. You can read the actual transcript here.

Two things strike me immediately.

1. Already, whatever may or may not happen about any commission, there is an interchangeable use of the word "deacon" and "deaconess" - even in the transcript of the question and answer the Pope gave. Surely the two are not he same - not that it would matter, I suspect, should that particular false trail be set out upon.

2. Pope Francis also went on to say:
I will tell you something that comes after, because I saw that there is a general question. Consecrated women must go to the consultations, the assemblies of the Congregation for Religious: this is for certain. Consecrated women must go into the consultations on the many problems that are presented. Another thing: better inclusion. At the moment, concrete things do not come to mind, but again, as I said before: to seek the opinion of consecrated women, because women see things with an originality different than that of men, and this is enriching: both in discussions, and in decision-making, as well as in concrete reality.
 All this is good. Why should not women - consecrated and otherwise - be more involved? I was at a Conference just recently where most of the clergy might have been considered generally traditionally minded  (though they might style themselves simply orthodox) where two of the four speakers were highly able committed Catholic lay women working in challenging areas. As far as I could see, they had the respect of everyone present and gave excellent presentations, the content of which I certainly took to heart. 

Just because they were talking to a room full of men didn't mean that they had to become men themselves. Pope Francis says above that women - consecrated and otherwise - should be more involved but why must they become ordained to do so? Can women not advise, lead and innovate without without cross-dressing in a cassock? Surely we should aim, as the Pope seems to say, at enabling women to be included without them having to give up their own particular beautiful and noble calling - as women, as nuns or Religious. Can we not work to improve in this area without trying to make the only role in the Church that is worth anything is to be a cleric? We would characterise a man dressed in a nun's habit as "cross dressing", might not the same be applied to a woman dressed in a roman collar?

It appears to me that the same gender dismorphia that is taking a grip in our western world's media at the moment is the same spirit at work here. Is it not possible to acknowledge that men and women are different and can play - fruitfully and equitably - different roles in life and in the Church? Is it not possible to work for equality between men and women, without having to do away with all differences between them? Is the new ideal that we all to become hermaphrodites?

Can it really be that the answer to inequality is for a woman to be more like a man, as Professor Higgins believed? Is a woman becoming more like a man really the best the modern woman can hope for?

Saturday, 14 May 2016

One Million Views

Sometime overnight the blog received its millionth view. So if you are a midnight reader, it might have been you (or an early riser in Russia - for some mysterious reason, hits from Russia have been particularly high this last month or so).

A picture might be worth a thousand words, but a millions views are worth... well, nothing in monetary value but a great deal in the encouragement I've received, new friends made and the knowledge that its been of help and interest to some -  as well as annoying others (usually anonymous) "stop your evil blog". 

I receive occasional phone calls out of the blue. The most memorable one from a young priest in Canada who telephoned just to say thank you, as he had been struggling with opposition in his parish/diocese. I was  once surprised, when walking into a restaurant in Prague, to be greeted most warmly by someone who recognised me from the blog! 

Of course, in terms of the internet today, a million hits isn't actually very many but considering I didn't actually mean to start a blog, its been an interesting and mostly rewarding ministry (which is sort of how I think of it now). It began as a means of posting online some footage of a Mass celebrated here at St Catherine's so that others could have access to it. Things liturgical have continued to be its main focus - greatly inspired by our beautiful Holy Father emeritus, Pope Benedict.

So this is a little opportunity to say thank you to all those who read this blog; thank you for your encouragement and for the friendships that it has engendered - and keep reading!

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

A little oratory about the Oratory

The splendid church of the Sacred Heart in Bournemouth.

So what is going on with the Oratorians of St Philip Neri in this country? Having remained at two houses in Birmingham and London since the nineteenth century, Newman’s desire for a House in Oxford finally came to fruition in 1990. Since then, a community in formation has long been doing splendid work in Manchester and just recently another in York, where I had the joy of offering High Mass just recently. Now two more Oratorian communities in formation are to be established in Cardiff and Bournemouth as well. 

The Oratorian vocation in this country is focussed on a city centre ministry with a penchant for celebrating the liturgy style and ministering pastorally to a diverse local community that city centres draw together. Though thought of as “traditional” they seem to draw good mixed congregations with a more than usual young element. My own opinion is that they are not “traditional” in the partisan way that word has come to signify  but simply in touch with the Church’s living Tradition in liturgy and pastoral care. It’s important to emphasise that pastoral care part—I’m told (NOT by Oratorians, by the way) that even students who don’t attend Mass at the Oxford Oratory are more likely to go there to Confession if they have any serious matters to bring.

It has left me reflecting on my own experience of the Oratory, which began when I was eighteen. The first time attending Mass at the London Oratory was a revelatory experience. 

I had been exposed to the sort of “classical” music that is the repertoire there before. I had experienced Latin in the liturgy before. 

I grew up in here in the UK in two parishes: St Alban’s in Wallasey (a once lovely church mutilated by misconceived re-ordering in the 1970’s) where they still began the main Mass with sung Latin Asperges.  

St Alban's before and after.
The lower picture taken at my First Mass.

The other was Ss Peter and Paul’s in New Brighton (closed and now joyfully re-opened under the care of the Institute of Christ the King) where the tradition of dressing the Italianate statues was still going strong). 

However, going to the London Oratory for a Mass of Pentecost reduced me to tears in the pew. I think it must have been experiencing for the first time the combination of beautiful music in its proper setting, together with what was definitely some awesome ritual taking place in such a splendid setting, that moved my heart. I note that just because the ritual was taking place “up there” in the majestic sanctuary didn't prevent it having a very personal and activating effect on me “far away down in the pews.” 

Like all Religious Communities, Oratories will have their difficulties but my own experience has always been of devout men, hard-working priests and loyal sons of the Church. It seems to be a recipe that is bucking the trend and attracting priests and postulants to its ranks.

I recall the summer I worked in the English College summer residence of Palazzola outside Rome, reading an old life of St Philip Neri. I can’t recall now the name of the biography or its author. It was a rather twee life of St Philip but it still radiated his personality and joy. St Philip's way of life obviously has some mileage in it for today’s failing church communities. Some sadly still consider the Oratory in this country to be at the extremes (even though they now count a bishop among their number). We might call them extreme but only in following St Philip's maxim: 
If you wish to go to extremes,
let it be in sweetness, patience, humility and charity.

 May God who has begun these good works bring them to completion.