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Monday, 21 July 2014

An Invitation to Blackfen for the Feast of St Alphonsus

Saturday 2 August is the feast of St Alphonsus Liguori in the old calendar, and in God's loving providence, this year it is the first Saturday of August, so we will have Missa Cantata at Blackfen at 10.30am. I'll be preaching on St Alphonsus (one of my favourite saints); I haven't composed the sermon yet, but following the great Doctor's example, I expect it will include some reflection on the four last things.

As this will be my last Saturday Missa Cantata at Blackfen (I am moving to Margate on 2 September) I would like to take this opportunity to invite any Hermeneutic of Continuity readers, Twitter followers, and Facebook friends to join us. After Mass, we will order pizza according to need, and the bar will be open. At 2.30pm there will be sung Vespers and Benediction.

No need to reply, just turn up if you can.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Some British diplomacy for papal interviews?


Following the news that Lord Patten of Barnes is to be the new communications supremo at the Holy See, I did wonder whether he might bring some British style diplomacy to what seems frankly a bit of a mess over the whole papal interview thing. You know - millions of commuters in London seeing the Metro front page claim that the Pope says that one in 50 priests is a pervert, dwarfing the news of Hamas threatening rocket attacks on Israel, Germany winning the World Cup, the Cabinet reshuffle and the forthcoming heatwave. A story like this was never going to get pushed to page 9 with the "Killer Gran who thought Cyclist was a Badger."

Here is the possible conversation that ran through my mind:
"Franco, Hi! Great to see you again, carissimo Papa! Shall we get down to the interview?"

"Sure, Eugenio. Have a seat. I trust you absolutely. Fire away my friend!"

"You know of course, Franco, I don't go for this recording-the-words gig - it's not very Italian."

"Hi, Eugenio, great to see you!" Lord Patten intervenes, oozing British charm you could bottle for Fortnum and Mason, "You know you're really very welcome and if I can speak on behalf of the Holy Father, we're all immensely grateful to you for taking the time to be with us. I do of course realise that Italian journalists dispense with slavishly recording every word: and what a jolly liberated way of carrying on that truly is! I hope you understand that here in the Holy See, we're a tad behind the times, and we do tend to want a, sort of, well, transcript of what the Holy Father actually said - you know, the words that in fact issued from the pontifical mouth, as it were. So if you can possibly bear it, and I know it's such a bore, I'll just put this little electronic thingy on the shelf over here. It won't intrude or make a noise or anything, and one of our chaps will just type it all up later. If you're interested, we can email over a copy to you."
Actually that wouldn't be all that British, come to think of it. Standard Operating Procedure would probably be to conceal the recorder anyway and not say anything about it. Then if it were necessary to quote some actually uttered words, His Lordship of Barnes could simply arrange for a minutante to pretend that he pressed the wrong button on his mobile phone and recorded the interview by accident.

Anything really would be better than what actually happened.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Confraternities of Catholic Clergy Rome Conference, January 2015


The American, Australian, British, and Irish Confraternities of Catholic Clergy will be represented at a Conference in Rome from 5-9 January 2015. The last conference was in 2010, and out of that conference came the desire to form Confraternities in Britain and Ireland. It was a stirring gathering and a great opportunity to meet priests from around the English-speaking world in the heart of Rome.

Cardinal Pell, Cardinal Burke, and Archbishop di Noia are featured in the programme, and you can guarantee that the rest of the line-up of speakers will also be inspiring and well worth travelling to hear. I will be attending the Conference myself and I warmly recommend it to brother priests.

For further details and registration, see the website: Confraternities of Catholic Clergy 2015 International Conference.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Film about the Claretian Martyrs of Barbastro



Thanks to the Eponymous Flower for notice of this film about the Claretian martyrs of Barbastro who were executed by the communists during the Spanish Civil War.

The film, directed by Pablo Moreno was given the "Silver Fish 2014" award for the best film, at the 5th International Catholic Film Festival Mirabile Dictu in Rome last month.

See the post A "Silver Fish” For “Un Dios prohibido” -- Catholic Film Festival Swims Against the Flow which has details of some of the other award winners.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Gregorian Chant Hymns: another great resource


Gregorian Chant Hymns is a new website that promotes the learning of Gregorian Chant by making sheet music, recordings, translations, and instructions. There is a short guide to Gregorian Notation (those square notes) and to Latin pronunciation. Everything is available free of charge, in line with other great traditional music websites.

To give you an idea of the quality of the recordings provided, have a listen to this recording of my favourite Latin devotional hymn, the Adoro te devote [embedded mp3]:



The website is focussed on popular Gregorian chant hymns and hymns and devotional chants. There are plenty of resources out there for the ordinary and the propers, so this fills a niche and provides an opening for people to make a start with Gregorian Chant. In modern education-speak, it would perhaps be called a "pathway."

The initiative comes from the Schola Sanctae Scholasticae and they have used material with permission and encouragement from other devotees of chant - you know, places like St Cecilia's, Ryde, Pluscarden, Solesmes... as well as other online promoters of chant such as CMAA and the Society of St Bede.

The Schola Sanctae Scholasticae (Dr Candy Bartoldus, Clare Bowskill, Julia Jones, and Martina Jelinkova) have sung at Blackfen and Brighton and if I am undeservedly blessed again, they just might find their way to visiting another seaside town before too long.

Bara Brith has posted on initial responses to the new website, but also includes a useful list of her other favourite resources.

Gregorian Chant Hymns is the fruit of much labour and is a welcome contributor to the grass roots revival of Catholic music and devotion.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Italian parish priest deemed crazy for dissenting from the new orthodoxy on communion for the divorced and remarried


In exalted ecclesiastical circles in Italy, there seems to be a new orthodoxy emerging with regard to the question of Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried. So strict is it that a parish priest gets a guided missile from the heart of the curia for his dissent.

Many readers follow Sandro Magister's English language blog, Chiesa, for its well-informed and incisive comment on Vatican affairs. Magister also writes an Italian language blog for L'Espresso, called Settimo Cielo which often has additional material of great interest.

A few days ago, in his article Cose da pazzi. Il cardinale Collins e il curato di campagna ("Crazy things. Collins and the country priest") Magister told of the reaction to Fr Tarcisio Vicario, a parish priest of the diocese of Novara in Italy who recently spoke about the question of Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried, saying:
"For the Church, which acts in the name of the Son of God, marriage between the baptised is alone and always a sacrament. Civil marriage and cohabitation are not a sacrament. Therefore those who place themselves outside of the Sacrament by contracting civil marriage are living a continuing infidelity. One is not treating of sin committed on one occasion (for example a murder), nor an infidelity through carelessness or habit, where conscience in any case calls us back to the duty of reforming ourselves by means of sincere repentance and a true and firm purpose of distancing ourselves from sin and from the occasions which lead to it."
The Bishop of Novara made it clear that an appeal to logic or the proper understanding of rehtorical analogy, would fall on deaf ears, characterising the priest's expression as:
"an unacceptable equation, even though introduced as an example, between irregular cohabitation and murder. The use of the example, even if written in brackets, proves to be inappropriate and misleading, and therefore wrong."
In fact Fr Vicario did not "equate" irregular cohabitation and murder. His whole point was that they are different - one is a permanent state where the person does not intend to change their situation, the other is a sin committed on a particular occasion where a properly formed conscience would call the person to repent and not commit the sin again.

The wrath descending upon poor Fr Vicario did not end with a rebuke from his Ordinary. Cardinal Baldisseri, the Secretary General of the forthcoming Synod, said that the words of Fr Vicario were "crazy, a strictly personal opinion of a parish priest who does not represent anyone, not even himself." ("una pazzia, un’opinione strettamente personale di un parroco che non rappresenta nessuno, neanche se stesso.")

Leaving aside the tortuous hyperbole (as Sir Bernard Wooley might interject, his opinion cannot be personal yet not represent himself) it must be asked why such a mainstream and orthodox opinion, expressed with clarity, should be the object of such vehement condemnation.

Sandro Magister's article makes a pertinent comparison between the words of the Italian country priest and those of Cardinal Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, who was appointed in January this year as one of the five members of the Commission of Cardinals Overseeing the Institute for the Works of Religion.

A week ago, on the eve of the publication of the Instrumentum Laboris for the Synod, Brandon Vogt interviewed Cardinal Collins for the Word on Fire blog. During the course of the interview, Cardinal Collins said:
Many people who are divorced, and who are not free to marry, do enter into a second marriage. There are various reasons that can lead to this, and their fellow parishioners should not occupy themselves speculating about them. Catholics in that tragic situation can be involved in many ways in the life of the community, but they may not receive the sacraments, such as Holy Communion, since whatever their personal disposition is or the reasons for their situation, known perhaps only to God, they are continuing in a way of life which is objectively against the clear command of Jesus. That is the point. The point is not that they have committed a sin; the mercy of God is abundantly granted to all sinners. Murder, adultery, and any other sins, no matter how serious, are forgiven by Jesus, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the forgiven sinner receives communion. The issue in the matter of divorce and remarriage is one’s conscious decision (for whatever reason) to persist in a continuing situation of disconnection from the command of Jesus. Although it would not be right for them to receive the sacraments, we need to find better ways to reach out to people in this situation, to offer them loving assistance.
Sandro Magister is quite right to point out that Cardinal Collins did not say anything different from Fr Vicario. And he is quite right to ask whether he too is to be accused of being crazy.

By way of a postscript, did you notice that there seems to be a slide forming? Are we now no longer limited to considering Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried, but widening the question to all "irregular cohabitation"? I hope that the higher ecclesiastics consider the pastoral question of how long couples have to be cohabiting before they can receive Holy Communion? Parish priests such as myself and Fr Vicario need to know where the line is to be drawn.

I suppose everyone might agree that a one-night stand is not sufficient (though who knows what might be proposed by the real crazies in this debate?) But would a few weeks of shacking-up with the girlfriend or boyfriend, moving in your Playstation and bagging a few drawers for your clothes, put you in a fit state to receive Holy Communion?

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

CD 284: on using an iPad in Church

I use my iPad to follow the readings at Mass, for prayers after Communion and sometimes to follow the chant. Last week someone behind me tutted loudly. Is it wrong to use an iPad in Church?

Some readers might say “Yes, you should be using an Android tablet” but I prescind from that argument. There is no intrinsic reason why you should not use an electronic device to read the scriptures or the text of prayers and devotions. The iPieta app is a wonderful collection of spiritual writings, scripture, theology and magisterial teaching, and I know several Choir Directors who find the Liber Pro app an amazing resource for Gregorian chant.

One potential problem with using any backlit device in Church is that the bright screen could distract others. A small phone can be hidden but a tablet is likely to catch peoples’ eyes from quite some distance, especially if the lighting in the Church is subdued. In the current state of technology, the use of an e-book reader is less problematic in that it is not a light source; with a discreet cover, it can be made to look quite like a book and therefore not scandalise people who think that others should not play with what they think are just silly toys.

Let us be honest as well that if the use of tablets in Church becomes popular, some people will not resist the opportunity to check their email or catch up on their favourite blogs. If you are ever tempted to do this, consider whether you would start texting people in Church or take out a copy of the Daily Mail. The use of a device that is connected to the internet will always require a certain discipline.

We do not know what new hardware may become available even in the relatively short term. The Church was in the forefront of making use of the new technology of moveable type and Pope Benedict has several times encouraged us to use technology in the service of the Gospel.

And by the way, tutting at others in Church is not quite the thing either.

Catholic Dilemmas column published in the Catholic Herald
Suggestions for Catholic Dilemmas are always welcome by email or via Twitter @FatherTF

Monday, 30 June 2014

Deserved recognition for Kevin Knight, founder of New Advent


Kevin Knight founded New Advent nearly 20 years ago, and keeps it going today. The site itself is a one-stop shop (where everything is free) for the Catholic Encyclopaedia, a Greek-English-Latin parallel-column bible, the texts of the Fathers of the Church, and the Summa.

I was in South Thamesmead when the project to transcribe the 1913 Catholic Encyclopaedia was mooted back in 1994. It was one of the earliest examples of crowd-sourcing, using the enthusiasm of volunteers, backed by solid organising ability, to accomplish this seemingly impossible task in what was an amazingly short time for those days. The ability to see the potential of crowd-sourcing, and the importance of making information available free, was at the heart of the success of New Advent, and Kevin Knight deserves the highest acclaim for seeing that so clearly when the internet was still only beginning to become popular.

Kathy Schiffer has interviewed The Man Behind America's Largest Catholic Super-Site with reference to New Advent being ranked number one in the ChurchRelevance list of the Top 300 Christian Blogs for Ministry. Kathy also has a background piece on the interview: My Interview With Kevin Knight, Humble King of the Catholic Blogosphere.

I still regularly use the reference materials on New Advent. The relatively recent addition of the polyglot bible is particularly useful, but like most people, I often look up material in the Catholic Encyclopaedia. However the site has also developed what is probably the best daily RSS feed of stories and I look at that most days through Feedly. It is particularly helpful in that it picks up on articles that are not simply a re-hash of what everyone else is writing about, but provide an original insight or a different angle. There are also one or two wider interest pieces included each day such as one I read earlier: This Brave Man Dives Into The World’s Biggest Waves. What He Captures On Camera Is Spectacular!

Congratulations to Kevin Knight. May God continue to bless us through his solid and persevering labour in the vineyard of the Lord.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Evenings of Faith in July


Evenings of Faith are organised by the Faith Movement to address important themes in theology for lay people. People of all ages are welcome to the two talks below:
Wednesday 2nd July, 7.30pm
The Human Person: Made for the Grace of God
Gregory Farrelly

Wednesday 16th July, 7.30pm
St John Paul II: Developing our Vision of the Human Person
Joanna Bogle
The meetings are held in the parish rooms below the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory, Warwick Street, W1 by kind permission of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Access is via the basement steps outside 24 Golden Square (a short walk from Piccadilly Circus.)

Saturday, 28 June 2014

The Sacred Heart and the purifying of our emotions

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is founded on orthodox Christology hammered out in the first centuries of the Church. Our Lord's human nature and His divine nature are united in one person - this is called in theology the hypostatic union. Following on from this doctrine, anything we predicate of Christ, either according to his human nature or his divine nature, is predicated of the one person Jesus Christ the Word made flesh. (What theologians call the "communication of idioms") So we can say that God the second person of the Blessed Trinity, was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered, and was sometimes hungry; we can also say that the man Jesus was omnipotent, all-knowing, and infinitely loving.

In the devotion to the Sacred Heart, we think especially of the human love of God made man. We can also speak of His emotions of joy and of sorrow that flow from that love. Our Lord was joyful when people responded to Him in faith, and He was sorrowful when people sinned.

Since He is truly God made man, the human nature of Christ is perfect. One of the most damaging errors of the "New Catechetics" which spread like wildfire in the late 60s and early 70s, and still influences teachers today at all levels of education, is that of making Our Lord "just like us" in the sense of attributing to Him all the moral weaknesses that flow from the concupiscence of our fallen human nature, and from our past personal sins and habits of sin. So Jesus is presented as wavering between the choice of good and evil or tempted to give up, as though He were unsure whether or not to follow His conscience.

When we are convinced of the faith of the Church concerning Our Lord's human nature, it is actually much more helpful than making Him "just like us" in an effort to soothe our guilt. Today, the emotions of joy and sorrow are much damaged, especially in matters of the heart. Because of original sin, we are tempted to find joy in disordered and sinful sexual pleasure, and tempted to sorrow because our own wilful inclinations have been frustrated. Each of us could think of other examples in our examination of conscience: our emotions are often unruly, contrary to what is good and true, and a drag against supernatural virtue.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart, among many other blessings, teaches us to tame our emotions, to recover from them when they lead us astray, to repent of our indulgence of them, and to work to align them to the perfect example of Christ who was never angry except when entirely justified, never joyful except in the good, never sorrowful except when faced with evil.

One prayer that should not be forgotten is this rhyme I learnt as a child:
O Sacred Heart of Jesus I implore
O make me love Thee daily more and more.
Or if you like French, here is a delightful couplet from St Margaret Mary Alacoque:
Je possède en tout temps et je porte en tout lieu,
et le Dieu de mon cœur, et le cœur de mon Dieu.
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