Saturday, November 27, 2010

Successful Garrigou-Lagrange Colloquium in Oxford

I couldn't attend the Server Training Day in Teading today, organised by the Society of St Tarcisius, because I was at a colloquium in Oxford held to discuss the theologian Garrigou-Lagrange.

It was organised by the Aquinas Institute, which is based at the Oxford Blackfriars; that's where the Colloquium took place. G-L was one of the most prominent orthodox theologians of the era leading up to the Second Vatican Council (he died in the 1950s), a period best known for it's dissidend theologians, some of whom sprang to prominence and influence during the Council itself. For this reason he has been unjustly neglected, and deserves a reappraisal.

He was renowned as a Thomist who combined his work on metaphysics with a large body of work on spirituality.

The Colloquium was a great success; the Aula at Blackfriars was packed; it was good to see about a dozen Dominicans there to discuss their confrere, including Br Lawrence Lew, Fr Aidan Nichols, and Fr Thomas Crean. There were lots of theology students from the University, and it was remarked how a serene discussion of G-L's merits was possible now, but would not have been twenty years ago. The instinctive and irrational barriers to the rehabilitation of a pre-Conciliar conservative theologian have, to a large extent, melted away.

Before I left I bought a copy of Aidan Nichols' 'Criticising the Critics', his recent work of apologetics, from the stall from St Philip's Books. I read the opening chapter, on Modernism, on the bus home and I recommend it highly as a short and clear introduction to Modernism as condemned by Pius X and as revived after the Second Vatican Council.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

The Tablet: escape from reality

Last week The Tablet published an article about demand for the usus antiquior (or the 'Tridentine Rite', as they always call it) since the Motu Proprio. The article was carefully researched: they made enquiries with all the dioceses of England and Wales (though they got few responses), and were most eager for facts and figures from the Latin Mass Society, which we duly provided.
The Congregation at the Traditional Mass in St Mary Magdalen's, Wandsworth: were they all there three years ago? Is the camera lying?

What was actually printed, however, reflected not the results of their reporters' research but their own preconceptions: again and again The Tablet has simply asserted, in the teeth of the evidence, that demand for the Chruch's traditional liturgy is not growing, or is limited to people old enough to have experienced it before 1970. It won't surprise many people reading this blog to hear that the Tablet's editors are in a state of denial about the way the wind is blowing (or should that be: 'about innovative ways of being Church'?), but it is depressing to provide them with hard evidence for an article and then see the article draw the very conclusion the evidence shows is impossible.

They have very decently printed my letter protesting about this - with a few excisions which I show in bold.

Letter to the Editor, The Tablet.

Extrapolating from some off-the-cuff remarks made by spokesmen from seven of the twenty-two dioceses of England and Wales, your report (News From Britain and Ireland, 20th November) suggests that the Latin Mass Society may be mistaken in claiming that there has been a significant increase in demand for the Traditional Mass since the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum came into effect three years ago.

We offered your reporters hard statistical evidence for our claim, but this data did not find its way into the article. Perhaps your reporters thought that Tablet readers would not wish to hear that the number of regular Sunday Masses celebrated according to the Usus Antiquior has almost doubled since before the Motu Proprio, or that the number of Masses on a typical feast day has increased by more than 60%. Nevertheless, it is true, and readers not inclined to believe it need only download the Mass listings from our website (, and satisfy themselves that these Masses are really taking place: they will be most welcome.

It should be noted that the increase in the number of public traditional Masses on Sundays and holy days does not, yet, reflect the increase in the number of priests able, and eager, to say it. The number of priests able to say the Roman Rite in its traditional form has tripled since the Latin Mass Society’s first Priest Training Conference, which took place just before the Motu Proprio took effect. Many of these priests are saying traditional Masses on weekdays and on special occasions, exercising great pastoral sensitivity in gradually introducing this form of the Mass to their parishes. The number of traditional Masses on Saturdays, for example, has from a low base increased by a staggering 450%.

The notion of ‘demand’ for the Traditional Mass is a slippery one. People cannot demand what they do not know about, and people who want it won't appear in the statistics if they are unable, for reasons of geography, to get it. The reality is that when a parish priest introduces a Traditional Mass at a reasonable time on a Sunday in his church a congregation emerges from nowhere, and increases over time. After a few years these congregations can rival those for the other parish Masses. There is nothing special about the parishes where this has happened: it is reasonable to assume that it would happen in any parish where it was tried. But on the basis of the places where it actually has happened, we estimate that the number of people attending the Traditional Mass regularly has doubled since the Motu Proprio.

It tends to be younger Catholics who are more open-minded about the Usus Antiquior, and younger priests who are most eager to learn it and say it. On this point, however, we can take the Pope’s own word for it: as he put it, young people have “found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them.”

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Congregation at the LMS Oxford Pilgrimage, regularly more than double the number we saw 2005-2007 - or are the pictures lying?

Ok, so it's a busy week; the letters page includes such jems as Mgr Basil Loftus denying that he shut down Fr Michael Clifton's blog and a screed from (once Mgr) Bruce Kent on nuclear disarmant. But lest anyone be in doubt that it is the wishful thinking of The Tablet's editors, and not the facts of news stories, which generate the content of this publication, they need only turn to p28, where they will be greeted by the headline

'Pope says use of condoms can be justified in certain circumstances.'

I know all news sources have their own angle on things, but it is downright cruel to the liberal Catholics and assorted post-Christians reading this to make them think that the Pope has said something he manifestly hasn't: they will be sad and disapointed when they realise the truth. This process of sad realisation, on a host of subjects, is often in fact manifested in the letters pages, where one sees lacrimose epistles saying 'I thought that Vatican II had done away with (delete as appropriate) Latin / the cappa magna / moral theology / priestly vocations, but it seems this dreadful thing has somehow survived!'. By trying to keep the truth from their readers, The Tablet simply makes it more painful when it does emerge.
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Good Friday 2009 with the FSSP in Reading. I've been attending the Triduum with the FSSP since before the Motu Proprio, and numbers have again doubled - but don't take my word for it.
Message to the The Tablet: you can run, but the truth will catch up with you.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Authur Pitts of Iffley, priest and confessor

Here's an interesting historical titbit from CFNews, on a local Oxfordshire man, a singer, scholar, and priest during penal times.

ARTHUR PITTS, 1557-1634?, Catholic priest, was born at Iffley, Oxfordshire, the younger son of Arthur Pitts, sometime fellow of All Souls', Oxford, who died a man of some wealth on 10 May 1578. Young Arthur became a chorister of All Souls', and was afterwards for a time at Brasenose College, Oxford. He did not graduate, but with two brothers left for Douai, apparently in 1575, and joined an elder brother, Robert, who was already settled there in deacon's orders. Although his father had left him and his brothers considerable property at Staunton, Woodfrey, Iffley, and Stafford, he was described in the Douay matriculation register as 'pauper.' From Douai he was sent in 1577 to the English seminary at Rome. He was back at Douai in 1579, when he was described as twenty-two years old and student of theology in minor orders, and as having 'declared himself ready to proceed to England for the help of souls, and confirmed this by oath.' He set out for England on 22 April 1581, in company with Standishe, the two forming part of a detachment of forty-seven priests sent from Douai during the year. On 6 Feb. 1582 he was seized, with George Haydock and another priest, while dining together at an inn in London. The three were committed to the Tower. In October Cardinal Allen wrote that Pitts was expecting torture and death. In January 1584-5 he and twenty other priests were banished from England. They were shipped from Tower Wharf, and landed on the coast of Normandy in February, after signing a certificate to the effect that they had been well treated on the voyage. Pitts then resumed his studies at Rheims, and came out doctor in both faculties of law and divinity. He then 'came into Lorraine,' and was received into the house of the Cardinal of Vaudemont, 'with whom all his life he was in great favour and credit.' When, in 1623, the Pope re-established the Catholic hierarchy in England, and William Bishop was nominated vicar-apostolic and bishop of Chalcedon, Pitts was appointed one of the first canons of the English chapter, and he became titular archdeacon of London, Westminster, and the suburbs. In later life he resided with the Stonors of Blount's Court in Oxfordshire, and, dying there about 1634, was buried in the church of Rotherfield Peppard.

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The Pope on Condoms: the dust begins to settle

Does the Pope undermine an argument against the use of condoms to stop AIDS? Arguably his comments undermine one of the arguments used - but this is going to get complicated so see my Philosophy blog here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Traditional Baptism in Oxford

On Sunday afternoon there was a traditional baptism in the Oxford Oratory, followed by Low Mass in the chapel of St Philip.
The Baptism was very well attended and we spread right across the nave in order to assist at Mass.
An unusual perspective on the Traditional Mass in the Oxford Oratory!

The lighting was particularly difficult for photography, since the lights in different parts of the church are different colours. As you can see above, the back of the church is too yellow while the interior of the chapel is fine.

Lucy Shaw Cakes provided a cake for the party afterwards. The vast number of children made short work of the considerable quantity of refreshments which were on offer!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Confirmations: pictures

Bishop Stack talks to the confirmations before the service.








We were delighted at the numbers at the service, both of confirmands (39) and the congregation. Two other confirmation services have taken place this year in the extraordinary form, one for St Philip's School and one in the diocese of Nottingham, so numbers overall are clearly on a strong upward curve.

This service is only possible thanks to the great efforts of Latin Mass Society staff and volunteers, organising it in advance and helping on the day. Many thanks are due to them!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Anscombe Centre on the Pope on condoms

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre is one of the foremost Catholic institutes dealing with these issues in the world, and is supported by the Bishops of the three Conferences of the British Isles. Their statement can be read here.

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More on the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer

I spent Saturday morning singing in a Mass in Oxfordshire (I hope to post some videos soon) so I couldn't make the LMS Confirmations but I am delighted to see photos of this event, and the Sons' participation, on a number of blogs. The one above is from The Ecumenical Diablog.

I managed to catch up with them afterwards, and with various other people we had an extended tea and dinner round the corner in an Italian Cafe.

This was the first time I have met members of the community and I was able to have a chat with them on a wide range of subjects. They are the most interesting group of men, from all over the world, and despite the very difficult time they have had since reconciling with the Holy See they have lost neither their zeal nor their sense of humour. I'm not sure which is the greater acheivement!
Fr Anthony Mary F.SS.R saying his private Mass after the Confirmations, in St James', Spanish Place.

Their order is a reformed, traditional Redemptorist order. I don't know much about Redemptorists but Fr Anthony Mary (on the left, above) explained the Redemptorist apostolate in more detail to me. Apart from ministering to the parish where they are based, their approach is to avoid taking on parishes, and concentrate on retreats and, above all, parish missions. This makes them very different from the Benedictines - you have to go the Benedictines, but the Redemptorists come to you.

The typical way this works is a week-long mission, Sunday to Sunday. One of them would preach at all the Masses one Sunday, and have a series of evening talks during the week, and preach again at the Masses on the following Sunday. The emphasis is on getting people back to confession. I have come across a sort of folk memory of parish missions with fire-breathing Redemptorists in the 'old days', and the question is whether this format can still work: will people come to parish events on weekday evenings, for example? Fr Anthony told me that pastors have invariably been amazed at the response - far more people making the effort to get to as much of the mission as possible than they had expected, long queues for the confessional, and a renewal of parish life for the parish priest to build on from then on.

As Fr Anthony said, it is impossible for a parish priest to give a powerful sermon every Sunday - neither he nor the parishioners would be able to keep it up. The opportunity exists, however, when someone comes into the parish to do exactly that, and this is a resource of which parish priests could once avail themselves. And they will be able to do so again.

The ordination of members of the community has been delayed while their canonical status has been sorted out, but two men have completed their studies and a third in his final year. Once they are ordained the community will once more have the manpower to send priests into the mission field. This could be a huge shot in the arm for the increasing number of parishes where the priest is sympathetic to the Traditional Mass, and perhaps even has one on a Sunday, but is faced by the reality that the great majority of Mass-goers have not been properly catechised or prepared for their own confirmations and marriages. The parishes in this country, and not only here of course, could really do with the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer.

In the meantime, please support them! They publish an excellent quarterly newspaper, The Catholic, and are now selling a wall calendar with charming pictures not only of the liturgy of the Sons at work in the monastery. Naturally, you should buy the LMS wall calendar as well! See their blog for details.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Pope on condoms

With some reluctance I interrupt my Sunday to post this:

"When asked whether the Catholic Church was not opposed in principle to the use of condoms, the Pope replied: "She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality." "

He is talking about the use of condoms by male prostitutes (presumably, male prostitutes with male clients.) So, what he is saying is that the use of condoms is immoral in all circumstances. This isn't the message the secular media and liberal Catholics want you to hear, so read this paragraph carefully and be prepared to quote the Holy Father's words when other people are giving you tendentious paraphrases.

The situation he describes reminds me of a case considered by the well-known Catholic moral theologian Germaine Grisez when he did some seminars in Oxford some years ago.

Suppose you meet a man preparing to commit suicide. He's strapped a vast amount of explosive to himself and is preparing to flip the switch. You remonstrate with him; he's going to kill not only himself but a lot of innocent bystanders. He is adamant that he wants to commit suicide, however, and is going to do it in a few moments - you can't stop him.

Grisez's case was about the question of whether you could help him in committing suicide by a means which did less damage to others. What it takes for granted is that it would be better for him to use an alternative means of killing himself. That doesn't make it right, but it is still better. Perhaps he would still go to hell, but his punishment in hell would be less severe.

That's the Holy Father's point: some sins are more serious than others. There is a view among some Protestant thinkers that all sins are equally bad: even the smallest sin is an offense against an infinitely good God, and so infinitely bad and worthy of infinite punishment. That is not the Catholic view. Sins come in degrees. Killing 6 million Jews is more serious than getting involved in a bar-room brawl, even if the latter is a mortal sin. Working as a male prostitute is a totally immoral way of life, involving daily sins of an extremely serious kind: sins categorised as crying out to heaven for vengeance. Does it make any difference if a male prostitute also steals, lies and hits people? Of course it does. Would it be better if he took even non-fool-proof measures to lessen the risk of infecting his clients with a deadly disease? Yes it would.

Would this apply to a female prostitute? Not necessarily, because condomistic heterosexual sex outside marriage is morally worse than non-condomistic heterosexual sex outside marriage. Using a condom in homosexual sex makes no difference because it neither acts as a contraceptive nor does it deform the sexual act itself, making it an un-natural sexual act (it can't do that because it is already an un-natural sexual act), as (it has been argued) the use of condoms for heterosexual sex does.

This is not the kind of thing I normally write on this blog, but it needs to be said. For more on the Pope and condoms, see my Philosophy blog here and here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A fun evening with the Sons

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In Caffe Caldesi with the Sons!

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer: in London on Saturday

On Saturday (20th November) the Latin Mass Society is having its annual Confirmation service in St James' Spanish Place, at 11.30am; the candidates are being confirmed by Bishop George Stack according to the usus antiquior. Among the candidates will be a postulant of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer, the traditional community from Papa Stronsay formerly known as the Transalpine Redemptorists. Their candidate will be accompanied by Fr Anthony Mary F.SS.R. and some brothers.

The reconciliation of the Sons to the Holy See is a wonderful fruit of the Holy Father's Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, and this is an unusual opportunity to meet Fr Anthony and some of his confreres without travelling to the Orkneys! Fr Anthony will be saying a private Mass at Spanish Place after the Confirmations are over, and after that he will be available to meet at the Cafe Caldesi, 118 Marylebone Lane, a 2-minute walk from St James, during the afternoon and evening. Please join us for tea or dinner!

From St James' you walk east along George Steet to the main road, Marylebone High Street / Thayer Street. Turn left into that and immediately right, and then first left.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Juventutem London launched - second meeting planned

Many congratulations to Juventutem London for their successful first meeting! It was attended by 15 people.

See their Facebook page.

Their next meeting will be:

Place: Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane (Map) for Mass and Restaurant (TBC) afterwards
Date: Friday 10th December
Time: 6.30pm Traditional Mass (Low) and after

Monday, November 15, 2010

Solemn Requiem in Wandsworth

Fr Martin EdwardsYesterday I went with my family to a Solemn Requiem in the Church of St Mary Magdalen in Wandsworth, for Remembrance Sunday. This is the church of Fr Martin Edwards, who gave the address to the Latin Mass Society AGM two years ago.

The celebrant was a newly ordained priest from American, Fr Ian McDole, was had been deacon at the AGM when Fr Edwards was subdeacon. Fr McDole's deacon was the well-known blogger Fr John Zuhlsdorf.
It is a very interesting church, built at the beginning of the 20th Century and lovingly restored by Fr Edwards over many years. It is bigger than it seems from the outside, because it is very broad, and the Mass was well attended.
The choir was extremely good; the sang much of Durufle's Requiem, some very polished Gregorian Chant, and even a bit of Handel.
At the end of Mass Fr McDole gave first blessings.
And then we had some refreshments with Fr Edwards. Here I am talking to Fr Z.
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More photo here; slideshow.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fr Z sighting

Seen in Wandsworth. More tomorrow!

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Early polyphony at St Anthony of Padua, Headington

We had a beautiful Mass today in St Anthony of Padua celebrated by the Parish Priest, Fr Aldo Tapparo. Fr Tapparo has been saying the Traditional Mass on his church on Thursday mornings at 9am for some time; this however is his first Missa Cantata.
The Schola Abelis, a choir which includes students and 'townies' (as we call them in Oxford) were there and sang the Chant propers and a lovely ordinary by Johannes Brassart, who lived through the first half of the 15th Century. Here is the Introit Justus ut palma, followed by Brassart's Kyrie. For more see the blog of the Schola Abelis.

Congratulations to the Schola, and above all to Fr Tapparo!

More photos here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Walsingham Walking Pilgrimage 2011

You are invited to the second Latin Mass Society walking pilgrimage for the conversion of England. We will be walking from Ely to Walsingham from 26th to 28th August 2011. This is a bank-holiday weekend.
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Pilgrims will meet in the evening of Thursday 25th August at St Ethelreda's Catholic Church, 19 Egremont Street, Ely. The pilgrimage will begin with the Traditional Mass in St Ethelreda's Catholic Church on Friday morning.
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There will be a sung Traditional Latin Mass each day and Confession will be available throughout the pilgrimage.
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Mass on the second day will be in the Catholic chapel at Oxburgh Hall.

The pilgrimage will conclude with Mass at Walsingham on Sunday afternoon.
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This pilgrimage is open to all ages and to families.

Camping is compulsory for men, and optional for women and children. Women and children will be able to sleep indoors on the Thursday and Saturday nights. We are still looking for an indoor option for the Saturday.
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To confirm your place on the pilgrimage please make a cheque payable to 'The Latin Mass Society' for the appropriate amount.
Adult, non LMS members: £60
Adult LMS members: £50
Under 18s and students: £30

Please send all cheques to:

The Latin Mass Society,
11 - 13 Macklin Street


If you would like more detail on the route or the Mass times then please email me: Paul Smeaton -

We expect next year's pilgrimage to attract significantly greater number than this year. If you are prepared to assist in any way with the running of the pilgrimage, for example by marshalling or driving a support vehicle, then please let us know.

In Christ,


Posts on this blog about the 2010 Pilgrimage here and here. Slideshow of photos here.

Monday, November 08, 2010

LMS Annual Requiem 2010: pictures

My pictures have nearly all uploaded to Flickr so here's a selection.
See the full set; see a slideshow.
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As I remarked on the day, this is always a very moving occasion. This year was particularly well attended, and the ceremonies and music (all Gregorian Chant) were very impressive. We had a very splendid cataphalque and the celebrant, Bishop John Arnold, blessed it with great solemnity.
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The Epistle.

The press release gives the details:

The Rt Rev. John Arnold, auxiliary bishop in Westminster, celebrated a Pontifical High Mass of Requiem in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite in Westminster Cathedral on Saturday 6 November for the repose of the souls of all deceased members and supporters of the LMS. Father Nicholas Schofield was Assistant Priest, Fr Andrew Southwell, LMS National Chaplain, was Deacon and the Sub-deacon was Fr David Irwin. Gordon Dimon of the LMS was MC.

A congregation of some hundreds heard the men of the Cathedral Choir sing the plainsong Requiem Mass.

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The Gospel.

The Mass was followed by a homily by Bishop Arnold and then the traditional ceremonies of Absolutions at the Catafalque. The coffin for the occasion was supplied by the Fairways Partnership, Funeral Directors.

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Bishop Arnold washes his hands seated on the faldstool.

Before Mass, a wreath was laid by Dr Joseph Shaw, Chairman of the LMS, and other LMS Committee members on the grave of Cardinal Heenan in the cathedral nave in thanksgiving for the Cardinal’s efforts to preserve the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Father Patrick Hayward read prayers for the occasion.

Doctor Shaw said afterwards: “This was the second time that Bishop Arnold has celebrated the LMS’s annual Requiem Mass and we are most grateful to him. We also thank Canon Christopher Tuckwell, the Cathedral Administrator, and Fr Alexander Master, the Cathedral Precentor, for their help”.

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He is incensed.

You'll also spot in the photos Fr Patrick Hayward and Mgr Gordon Read, the LMS South East Chaplain (in choir on the left/Gospel side) and Fr Tim Finigan (in choir on the right/Epistle side).
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Orate fratres.
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The Consecration of the Chalice.
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Bishop Arnold incensing the cataphalque.
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You might be wondering why we had bleached candles (for those who aren't, it is traditional to have yellow, unbleached candles at a Requiem). The answer is that the set we bought last year couldn't be found among the Cathedral's stores when they were needed. It seems they are not used by anyone else at the Cathedral - similarly, it seems we are the only people to want a catafalque, so we had to supply our own (with the kind help of Fairways Funeral Directors).

The lack of unbleached candles at the Cathedral will explain the oddity I noticed at the 'Treasures of the Cathedral' exhibition: the display of special Requiem candlesticks had bleached candles stuck in them.