Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More on the Anglican Ordinariate

There has been a great deal of discussion about the Holy Father's offer to (former) Anglicans and I have already drawn the obvious parallels with the offer he is likely to make to Traditionalists, should the present talks (which started on Monday) with the SSPX prove successful (and quite likely, even if they do not).

Many Catholics find the situation of 'High' Anglicans baffling, and this has found its way into a lot of online discussion. They would do well to read the extensive autobiographical literature on conversion, by former Anglican clergy: J.H. Newman's 'Apologia', and his novel 'Loss and Gain'; R.H. Benson's 'Confessions of a Convert'; Ronald Knox's 'Spiritual Aeneid', Hugh Ross Williamson's 'The Walled Garden'. (Ross Williamson was a founder of the Latin Mass Society.) Part of my own interest in these books stems from my grandfather, Edward Rich (a friend of Ross Williamson), being one of the wave of converts in the 1950s (he wrote it up in 'Seeking the City').

One of the things which characterises these books is the sheer difficulty of the move to Rome. The intellectual and emotional effort required by these intelligent and sincere men was immense. The books start with childhood because, in retrospect, that is when the process started, and it took years and years of soul searching, reading, talking, thinking and praying. Newman remarks in the Apologia that he could not have come over earlier without risking regret: as it was, he was ready and he never regretted his conversion.

How was it that Newman's great intellect was occupied, and pretty continuously occupied, by related questions for so many years, when the answer to his problem seems so obvious? And let me mention, to Anglican readers, as a matter of sociological fact, that the Anglican Communion does not impress Catholics: it seems to have not a leg to stand on, historically or theologically.

The answer is that, whatever its defects, Anglicanism had been the spiritual home of these people, and leaving home is difficult. That is not just an emotional truth; it effects the intellect as well. Intellectually, one has to start from where one is: the education one gets, the premises one accepts, one's intellectual preferences, formed by all sorts of influences. These men were not marginal Anglicans; more than one of them was a convert to Anglicanism, and they all played an important part in Anglican debates over many years. They were Anglicans to the core, but eventually they demonstrated the important fact that wherever you start you can reach the truth if you pursue it with enough vigour and courage for long enough.

There is a fascinating insight in Mgr Benson's book, in which he says that when he looked back at Anglicanism after conversion he couldn't see what had kept him there. It was, he said, like the man in the fairy tale who was entertained in the magnificent fairy palace, and when he left he looked back at it and all he could see was the bare hillside.

Things look completely different when you look at them with different assumptions. And this is not just a philosophical fact, it involves the theological truth encapsulated by St Anselm: Credo ut intelligam: I believe that I may understand. In a way which it is - for obvious reasons - hard to express, it is necessary to believe certain things before one can really understand them. One can understand enough, of course, to make the statement of faith, but not all of the implications, not all of the reality of the thing, will be visible until the proposition becomes part of one's living faith.

Another puzzling factor is the matter of the 'trigger' moment, when some particular issue seems to trigger conversions. Many Anglicans were ridiculed for converting 'because of' women priests. My grandfather, for that matter, converted in the context of the union with the Church of South India; Newman in the context of the Jerusalem Bishopric: these are pretty obscure events you may think. But clearly what happened in each case is that a particular event or issue made things finally clear. In fact what most, perhaps all, of the trigger issues did was to make it clear that Anglicanism was not part of the Universal Church, and could not be finessed into it either. This is a lesson which it seems must be learnt afresh by each generation: perhaps you have to struggle with an issue like that, and lose, to appreciate fully that most Anglicans have no interest in conforming to Catholic and Apostolic positions.

Catholics must be patient with the Anglicans; we must pray for them and extend them whatever help we can. If their path can be eased by unusual arrangements and concessions, where these are compatible with the Faith and the good of the Church they should - as the Holy Father teaches us - be made. English Catholicism is unusual, I think in fact unique, in the Europe after Trent for being constantly refreshed by large numbers of important conversions. This is as much part of Catholic life and culture here as is the more 'tribal' Catholicism of Lancashire and the Irish community, or that of the Recusant English gentry and their chapels. Personally, I value each kind of Catholicism, as representing different ways to triumph over the attempt to impose an alien creed on this country in the 16th Century. The Older Sons should not begrudge the fatted calf being made ready for the Prodigal.

Photos: Newman, Knox, Benson, Pope Benedict.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Call for assistance from Una Voce group in Cuba

I've had this message from Una Voce International. Please spread the word; I know many people, especially in America, have a special interest in Cuba and may wish to help the faithful establish the Traditional Mass there.

In the context of the appalling persecution Catholics have suffered in Cuba since the revolution, and which is not over yet, this is really a sign of hope.

If you can do anything for the Cuban traditionalists please email

I am writing to you in order to communicate a call for help from Cuba. A group of faithful of that hispanic country are organizing themselves to celebrate the Mass and probably to create Una Voce Cuba in the near future.

The problem that they have is that they don't own any ornaments, Missals, liturgical objects, surplices, cassocks for the acolytes. They need
help, and due to their special situation (economic and political environment, dominated for decades by atheist materialism) they haven't got many possibilities to get the
appropriate things, nor even to do the right steps to get public help.

If any of you could get ornaments (chasubles, maniples, etc.), even used, to send them, please contact us, they will be very grateful. They also need money to support their apostolate, and of course, prayers for their cause.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Oxford Pilgrimage 2009

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For the fifth year, the LMS Oxford Pilgrimage in honour of the Catholic martyrs of Oxford took place. For the first time the celebrant was a Dominican, Fr Simon Gaine, the Prior of Blackfriars, where the Mass took place. The deacon and subdeacon, Fr Richard Conrad and Br Lawrence Lew, and the servers, were all also Dominicans, which is very pleasing. The ceremonies were performed extremely well, in what is a superb sanctuary for Solemn Mass.
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The Mass was accompanied by the Schola Abelis, which included me. In another first, some of our members sang a polyphonic Ordinary. In recognition of the nature of the celebration, we thought William Byrd would be appropriate. There will soon be videos of the Mass, including the singing, on the Schola's blog.

The procession to the site of the martydoms of 1589, which is now marked by a plaque (blessed on the same occasion last year by an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese, William Kenny), was led by Fr Simon Leworthy FSSP, who also led Benediction after that.

Despite heavy rain in the morning and during lunch, Mass was attended by more than 60 people and the procession by more than 40. It did not, in fact, rain on the procession, a fact I attribute to a very kind Providence!
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It was a busy day in Oxford. In the above picture we are passing a thinly attended anti-vivisection demonstration; matriculation ceremonies were also taking place, and we passed crowds of students wearing academic dress. In Broad Street we also passed a bizarre figure made of wood and straw (below, on the left); I imagine it is supposed either to represent Guy Fawkes or something to do with Halloween - it is hard to know which.
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Into this maelstrom of different activities we gave an impressive witness to the Faith, singing the Great Litany, the Te Deum, and Faith of Our Fathers, among other things, and praying the Rosary, as we passed down the route followed by the martyrs, where our gallows was positioned, and then returned to Blackfriars.
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More photos here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pope offers a canonical structure for Anglicans

It was announced today that a canonical structure will be made available for Anglicans wishing to enter full communion with Rome while retaining aspects of their spiritual and liturgical traditions. The announcement draws a parallel with military ordinariates, in which a group of people - members of the armed forces of a particular country - who are scattered in different places are placed under their own bishop. Another obvious parallel would be the way that Eastern Rite Catholics are looked after by their own bishops even when they live in the West. The new structure is called a 'Personal Ordinariate'. Ordinaries will normally come from among the converts themselves, who if married could not be bishops, but could still have the jurisdiction envisaged here.

This is huge news, and you can read about it all over the blogosphere; all the official documents are on Rorate Caeli.

Traditionalists should welcome this for several reasons.

First, it emphasises the imperative felt by the Holy Father to make pastoral provision for people who are seeking union with him but find obstacles in things which are non-essential to the Faith. Where by making the kind of concessions envisaged here hundreds of thousands of good-hearted people can enter the Church, these concessions should be made: that is the message of the Holy Father, very much in accordance with his remarks about avoiding schisms in the first place which he made in the letter accompanying the Motu Proprio.

Traditionalists have already been the beneficiaries of this attitude of the Pope's, which is truly pastoral. And we have reason to hope that further benefits will derive from it in the future.

Second, it emphasises the true pluralism of the Church: a pluralism of liturgy and spirituality. While so often characterised as a 'free for all', the Church since the Council in some ways has seen a remarkable diminution of this pluralism, which had been in decline since the Counter Reformation. But this is the kind of pluralism of which it was said in the Middle Ages 'Diversa, non adversa': diversity without adversity.

The Traditional Mass or usus antiquior is an example of this pluralism also.

Third, the kind of structure the Holy Father envisages is innovative, though as indicated not entirely without precedent. It represents the culmination of a lot of hard work and hard thinking by the Pope and his advisors. The way it has been presented, as an initiative of the Pope in response to the desires and needs of others which he has clearly understood deeply, is also indicative of the personal political capital he is prepared to spend on this. In fact it is staggering.

I am not sure whether to be less staggered or more in that he did something very similar with the Motu Proprio. This pontificate appears to moving up a gear!

The structure is exactly the kind of thing which for years has been discussed and rumoured about in relation to the SSPX and traditionalists in general. This will serve both as an indication of seriousness and a possible working model for reconciliation as the discussions with the SSPX draw on.

I have never been so optimistic about the propects for the reconciliation with the SSPX. Right now, however, I am happy for the Anglo-Catholics who will benefit from the Holy Father's extraordinary generosity and courage. I pray that they will be able to respond to it with the same characteristics.
Viva Papa!

TCFA Family Day at Ware

Every month the Traditional Catholic Family Alliance has a meeting for families in St Edmunds College, Ware - there are also monthly meetings at Reading. There is catechesis from a priest for all ages of children and talks and activities for everyone. I was in Ware for the meeting on Saturday.

The chapel at Ware is magnificent: an unmolested Pugin creation.
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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Traditional Pontifical Mass in St Peter's, Rome

Te Deum Laudamus! The usus antiquior is out of the crypt at St Peter's and back upstairs.

This happened at 10am today. It is reported on Messainlatino, if you read Italian. The celebrant was Archbishop Burke, in the Blessed Sacrament chapel.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

New members for the International Federation Una Voce

The International Federatioin Una Voce (FIUV) has just announced its acceptance of four new members, in time for its biannual meeting in Rome which is taking place in November:

A big welcome to them, and to Pro Tridentina - Malta which also joined recently, and Una Voce Hispania, which is a new federation of the more local Una Voce groups in Spain. In truth associations are springing up everywhere all the time, in central and eastern Europe, in Asia and Africa, and these in South America.

This growth of the number of associations is one indication of the growth of interest in interest in the usus antiquior around the world, especially since the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum. It is also an indication of the work which needs to be done in relation to the Traditional Mass: organising the laity, helping the clergy, and overcoming every kind of obstacle.

The Latin Mass Society is the oldest, largest and best-funded member of the international federation, and our workload is increasing by leaps and bounds. Lay groups have always assisted the Church in liturgical matters, from fund raising for bees wax carried out by medieval sodalities to associations promoting sacred music in the 1950s. FIUV's member associations carry out a vast range of these traditioinal functions in the context of the Traditional Mass, very often in a situation where no other lay (or indeed clerical) groups are willing toget involved.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

St Thérèse visits Oxford

The turn-out for the visit of the relics of St Thérèse to the Oxford Oratory has been staggering. I was privileged to sing at a Traditional Missa Cantata at 8.30am and, despite the early hour, the church was packed. It seats 250 but people were crammed into the aisles and side chapels. The same was true for all the Masses and devotions of her visit; at times the queue to venerate the relics extended far down the Woodstock Road. Those passing through the church over the time of her stay must number in the several thousands; when services were not going on the church seemed continuously full simply with the continuous stream of people coming to venerate the relics.
The Fathers of the Oratory have been extremely well organised and the visit proceeded very smoothly. Priests were drafted in to hear confessions, to help people gain the indulgence which has been offered to those venerating the relics. There were a great many Masses during her stay, and a vigil overnight, and priests were able to say private Masses in side chapels. Fr Andrew Southwell, well known in Oxford, travelled from South London to say a private Low Mass in the newly restored relic chapel which I attended; this was not only packed but attracted a large crowd outside the chapel of people who had been queuing to venerate the relics.
The visit ended with Benediction and the solemn carrying out of the reliquary; as she passed under the choir loft petals were thrown down.

This was a wonderful occasion, indeed probably a once in a lifetime event. It has brought great joy to the Catholics of Oxford - and indeed there were people there from long distances as well. Thanks are due to the forsight and hard work of the Fathers of the Oratory, and the many volunteers who marshalled the crowds and even provided refreshment and first aid.

More photographs can be seen here.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Traditional Catholic Wall Calendar 2010

Thanks to great deal of hard work by James Windsor, a wall calendar for 2010, with glossy colour pictures of recent Traditional Catholic events and the saints and feasts of the 1962 liturgical calendar, is now printed.

The calendar is produced jointly by the Latin Mass Society and the Fraternity of St Peter: each body provided photographs.

Copies are limited so get yours now to avoid disapointment! They cost £7 each.

They can be obtained from many LMS Reps, from the FSSP in Reading and elsewhere, and various other outlets. On the internet they are being sold by Southwell Books.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Annual Portsmouth Mass

I have now returned from some time on holiday in Scotland and then a trip to Yorkshire. Term is about to begin in Oxford but we found the time to attend the LMS Annual Mass in Portsmouth Cathedral.

This is the tenth anniversary of these Masses (the first took place in 1999); they always take place in early October. In 2004 it was a Pontifical Mass celebrated by Bishop Rifan; this year, as usually, it was a Solemn Mass. The celebrant was Fr Andrew Southwell, and the subdeacon Fr Armand de Malleray.
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The deacon, Rev Mr Simon Harkins, a Fraternity seminarian who hails from Edinburgh, preached a most interesting sermon on the priesthood, pointing out the link between the day's propers and the Ember Saturday which would originally have preceded it. This link throws into perspective the story of Our Lord curing the man with the palsy by forgiving his sins: this is the Gospel of the day because it is a priestly action.

The Cathedral was restored not long ago and is a magnificent building; it is wonderful to see a Solemn liturgy here. The Mass was well attended and was accompanied by Haydn’s 'Missa Brevis St Johannes de Deo' to mark the 200th anniversary of the composer's death; this was sung by the Cantores Michaelis directed by Keith Davis.
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Congratulations to the local LMS Rep, David Joyce, for organising this Mass as he has for many years, and thanks to Richard Luzar for the loan of these vestments, which are brand new.

For more photographs see my Flickr page.