Friday, September 30, 2011

Our Lady of Walsingham and the doves

I am catching up with the blogs (having been away from proper internet access for a while) and I don't want to let this post by the Reluctant Sinner to pass without comment, since it relates to Walsingham, to which I've been on pilgrimage recently myself.

It seems that, in a remarkable parallel to events surrounding the crowning of the shrine image of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, when the shrine image of Our Lady of Walsingham was crowned in 1954 two white doves settled on the statue and remained perched there for its journey from the site of the Holy House and Abbey in Walsingham to its permanent home in the Slipper Chapel. It was captured by Pathe News on film.

This is not a very big miracle; we might call it a consolation. If we take it seriously at all it is a mark of divine favour, certainly not one of dogmatic authority but there it is, for each person to judge as he sees fit. I think it is interesting not only as an endorsement of the restored cultus and shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham but in connection with the coronation of the statue itself, undertaken by special mandate of the Holy Father, Pope Pius XII, on the Marian Year he had declared. The involvement of Popes and of our own bishops in approving, commending, and honouring shrines is something of great importance; it is not an irrelevant rigmarole. We don't make our own religion, it is in union with our bishops and the Pope and in continuity with past generations.

Other officially crowned statues of Our Lady I have seen include the statue of Our Lady of Consolation at West Grinstead in Sussex, which I think was the first such statue in England, Our Lady of Caversham outside Reading and of Our Lady of Willesden in London. There are Latin Mass Society pilgrimages to each of these; the one to Willesden is coming up (29th October). It would be good to see a list of officially approved shrines in the Catholic Directory; there seems to be no published list of them.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Eat yer heart out Fr Z!

I eat this breakfast twice a year: on my outward and return journeys to where I go on holiday.

So look out, world! I'm coming back.


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Una Voce International: Four New Members

A very encouraging press release from FIUV, the International Federation Una Voce.

28 Sep 2011
The International Federation Una Voce Welcomes Four New Members.

The International Federation Una Voce is pleased to announce the admission of four new members. The Federation Council has approved applications from:

Una Voce Albaruthenia (Belarus),
Una Voce Natal (Brazil),
Una Voce Cuba,
Una Voce Ucraina (Ukraine).

Since the promulgation of the motu prorio Summorum Pontificum in July 2007 the Federation has admitted twelve new associations: from Malta, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Chile - Casablanca, Philippines, Japan, Portugal, and now the four associations named above. We are also in active discussions with another five groups in Latin America and two in Asia. What is especially encouraging is that all these groups are being formed and led by energetic young people who have found in the traditional liturgy a spirituality they have not been able to find elsewhere. This is our hope for the future in that young lay people will be working with young clergy and religious to ensure that the traditions of the Church will be preserved and fostered.

The first President of the International Federation Una Voce, Dr Eric de Saventhem, speaking in New York in June 1970, said that the suppression of the traditional Mass had been achieved de facto only and not de jure. It would be unthinkable, he said, for the older form of Mass to be forbidden as one would have to argue that it had been wrong or bad - either doctrinally or pastorally. He thought it perfectly legitimate to ask that the new Ordo Missae should be offered as an additional, alternative way, of celebrating Mass. This was an argument that all the leaders of the International Federation have used regularly when in Rome. The motu proprio Summorum Pontificum has confirmed what Dr de Saventhem said nearly forty years earlier. In his talk he also said:

"A renaissance will come: asceticism and adoration as the mainspring of direct total dedication to Christ will return. Confraternities of priests, vowed to celibacy and to an intense life of prayer and meditation will be formed. Religious will regroup themselves into houses of "strict observance." A new form of "Liturgical Movement" will come into being, led by young priests and attracting mainly young people, in protest against the flat, prosaic, philistine or delirious liturgies which will soon overgrow and finally smother even the recently revised rites.

It is vitally important that these new priests and religious, these new young people with ardent hearts, should find -- if only in a corner of the rambling mansion of the Church -- the treasure of a truly sacred liturgy still glowing softly in the night. And it is our task - since we have been given the grace to appreciate the value of this heritage -- to preserve it from spoliation, from becoming buried out of sight, despised and therefore lost forever. It is our duty to keep it alive: by our own loving attachment, by our support for the priests who make it shine in our churches, by our apostolate at all levels of persuasion."

Everything that Dr de Saventhem prophesied has come to pass. The revised rite of 1970 has indeed been overgrown and smothered by flat and delirious liturgies. For forty years the members of the International Federation have worked unceasingly to keep alive "the truly sacred liturgy" and to prevent it being "buried out of sight, despised, and therefore lost forever". The enquiries being received by the Federation are coming mainly from young people who are not attracted or inspired by these "flat, prosaic, philistine or delirious liturgies" and are welcoming and embracing the venerable usus antiquior of their forefathers. The International Federation Una Voce will continue unceasingly in its work to attract new members and help restore and spread the usus antiquior and the venerable and ancient liturgy of our forbears to our altars.

Leo Darroch, President - Foederatio Internationalis Una Voce.

28th September 2011.



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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

'Firmly I Believe and Truly' Ed Fr John Saward et al

Last night was the book launch of 'Firmly I Believe and Truly' edited by Fr John Saward, John Morrill, and Michael Tomko. Fr Saward is familiar to readers of this blog as a great friend of Tradition in Oxford; his small parish church of SS Gregory & Augustine in North Oxford sees a great many traditional Masses, many of them sung. He is the author of many books, and the translator of the English edition of Pope Benedict's The Spirit of the Liturgy.

This new book is an anthology of English Catholic writers, and it sounds fascinating. It demonstrates the continuity, breadth and depth of English Catholicism, and the absurdity of the idea that Catholicism is somehow foreign to England, or not English enough ever to be the religion of this nation once more, as it was for a millenium.

I paste in below some of the publisher's blurb; HERE is where to buy it: at a discount!

'Firmly I Believe and Truly'
  • Brings together a diverse array of writers from the last five hundred years to celebrate the English Roman Catholic tradition
  • Includes authors who maintain a high profile today and reintroduces key figures whose writings have recently been neglected
  • Provides authoritative introductions to each author
  • Chronologically ordered with a clear three part structure to aid navigation
  • Thoughtfully illustrated with images relevant to each part of the anthology
An Anthology of Writings from 1483 to 1999

Firmly I Believe and Truly celebrates the depth and breadth of the spiritual, literary, and intellectual heritage of the Post-Reformation English Roman Catholic tradition in an anthology of writings that span a five hundred year period between William Caxton and Cardinal Hume. Intended as a rich resource for all with an interest in Roman Catholicism, the writings have been carefully selected and edited by a team of scholars with historical, theological, and literary expertise. Each author is introduced to provide context for the included extracts and the chronological arrangement of the anthology makes the volume easy to use whilst creating a fascinating overview of the modern era in English Catholic thought. The extracts comprise a wide variety writing genres; sermons, prayers, poetry, diaries, novels, theology, apologetics, works of controversy, devotional literature, biographies, drama, and essays. Includes writings by:
John Colet, John Fisher, Thomas More, Robert Southwell, Philip Howard, Anne Askew, Edmund Campion, John Gother, John Dryden, Mary Barker, Alexander Pope, Richard Challoner, Alban Butler, John Milner, Elizabeth Inchbald, Nicholas Wiseman, Margaret Mary Hallahan, A. W. N. Pugin, John Henry Newman, Henry Edward Manning, Frederick William Faber, Bertrand Wilberforce, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Vincent McNabb, Hilaire Belloc, Maurice Baring, G. K. Chesterton, R. A. Knox, J. R. R. Tolkien, Caryll Houselander, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, John Bradburne, Cardinal Hume

Readership: People of all Christian traditions who want to gain a deeper understanding of the roots of the Catholic faith and heritage. Scholars in the fields of theology, history, and literature.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Shameless plug for the 'Roman Forum'

If you don't know the Roman Forum, then you should find out about them, listen to their downloadable MP3s and, if possible, attend their events. I am envious of the intellectual activity they have been able to generate; I wish we could do some of this here in the UK. I admire Dr Rao and his work enormously.

Here is a plug for their new season's activities, and an appeal for funds, from Dr Rao himself.

---------------------------------

The Roman Forum
11 Carmine St., Apt. 2C
New York, New York 10014
www.romanforum.org

September, 2011


Dear Friends:

The Sack of Rome! Most people think of this in conjunction with barbarian invasions, although the worst assault on the Eternal City actually took place in the Sixteenth Century, when commanders of a “Christian” army justified their soldiers murdering, burning, and plundering the capital of Christendom as divine chastisement for the sins of the Papacy. Despite this horror, it still required a number of years, many more setbacks, and the election of another successor to St. Peter, Paul III, before the Church awoke from her “dogmatic slumbers” to pursue the magnificent work of the Tridentine Reform in earnest. She did this not by choosing “Pope Luther”, as the troops punishing Clement VII in 1527 demanded, but by going back to the sources of the Faith. In returning to Tradition, she also created something new as well: Baroque
Civilization.

The Sack of the final remnants of Christian Civilization in all its forms! That is what we are witnessing in our own time. Although we already have a Pontiff eager to stem such destruction, there are many obstacles, inside and outside the Church, making any progress in doing so ephemeral. Why? One major reason is because we believers are not yet plumbing the fullness of the Catholic Tradition for the answers to dilemmas that could lead to the creation of a fresh Christian Culture. Instead, we continue to listen to liberal, conservative, neo-conservative, and libertarian teachers, providing them soldiers for the Sack of Christian Civilization in the process. The Roman Forum’s mission is that of urging Catholics to flee ideology and open their minds to a return to the complete Christian Tradition; a Tradition that also provides a reliable road map through new, unchartered territory; a road map “back to the future”. How does it fulfill this task?

1) First of all, through our New York City Church History Lectures.

2) Through our Modern Image and Catholic Truth Series.

3) Through our Summer Symposium on Lake Garda, Italy. For two weeks in the summer, a small Italian resort, Gardone Riviera, on Lake Garda, the largest and most beautiful lake in Italy, is literally transformed into an international Catholic village, with daily traditional masses, lectures, camaraderie, superb food and wine, and day trips to surrounding sites, such as Venice and Trent. For participants, many of whom come back year after year and feel like family, it is a rare and wonderful opportunity to experience Catholic life on the continent where Catholic culture first fully came to flower. The Summer Symposium hosts a large international faculty, which has included Dale Ahlquist (G.K. Chesterton Society of America), Patrick Brennan (U. of Villanova), Christopher Ferrara (American Catholic Lawyers Association), Fr. Brian Harrison (Catholic U. of Puerto Rico, Emeritus), James Kalb (author of The Tyranny of Liberalism), Michael Matt (editor of The Remnant), Brian McCall (U. of Oklahoma), John Médaille (U. of Dallas), Fr. Richard Munkelt (Fairfield U.), Fr. Gregory Prendergraft (FSSP), Duncan Stroik (Notre Dame U.), Alice von Hildebrand (Hunter College, Emeritus), David White (US Naval Academy, Emeritus), and myself from the United States; Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro-Carámbula (Human Life International, Rome) and Danilo Castellano (U. of Udine) from Italy; James Bogle (Catholic lawyer, activist, and writer) from the United Kingdom; Miguel Ayuso-Torres (U. of Madrid) from Spain; Thomas Stark (Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule, St. Pölten), from Austria; David Berlinski (Discovery Institute) and Bernard Dumont (editor of Catholica) from France; and Taivo Niitvaagi (Hereditas Foundation) from Estonia. The late, prolific, traditionalist author Michael Davies, from the UK, and my predecessor as chairman of the Roman Forum, the late William Marra (Fordham U.), were honored speakers for many years. Faculty and students are served spiritually by a large number of secular and religious clergy.

Next year’s Summer Symposium will be a particularly splendid one, marking our twentieth anniversary in Gardone Riviera. Having completed our cycle of historical studies, we will begin our activities in mid-June with a Tour of Greece, the main secular font of Western Civilization. We will then sail to Venice. After several days in Venice, we will move to Gardone at the end of June and early July for our eleven-day academic program. Gardone, 2012, entitled Either
Catholic Political and Social Doctrine---Or the Sack of All Civilized Order, obviously takes its theme from the situation discussed at the beginning of this letter. Please consult our website
(www.romanforum.org) and that of The Remnant Newspaper (www.remnantnewspaper.com) for more complete information on the Greece and Venice Tour, the 2012 Summer Symposium, as well as other future events, like our annual New Year’s Eve Dinner Dance.

4) Through our Lecture Downloads. 2010-2011 Summer Symposium Lectures are available through The Remnant Newspaper. Almost all of the lectures of our History of Christianity program from 1993-2010 can be downloaded to your computer for only one dollar per lecture or purchased on audiotape at www.keepthefaith.org.

In order to undertake these projects properly, the Roman Forum needs an annual budget of $50,000. Where do these funds go? Mailings, advertising, books, storage space for them, and use of conference halls alone now cost us at least $15,000 per year. More importantly, most college students, priests, and seminarians hoping to attend the Summer Symposium cannot be present without some financial assistance. Although no one on the teaching faculty receives any compensation for his work there, the daily expenses of all those delivering papers in Gardone
must also be covered. Aiding both speakers and participants therefore takes up almost all of the rest of our annual budget.

But why should we place such an emphasis upon this Summer Symposium? Dr. Ayuso-Torres summarized the chief reason in a lecture in Gardone in 2008: “Unless we traditionalists learn to appreciate the universal nature of the Catholic vision and fight for its general recognition and
victory, we will all rest contented with our own little parochial piece of that heritage, and destroy the entirety in the process”. My Remnant article on this subject, entitled Are Beauty, Camaraderie, and Talk Really Expendable? (see jcrao.freeshell.org) underlines the same point.
Providing scholarships for such a program to priests, professors, and students can be expensive---but its incalculable fruits will be more and more seen in preaching, teaching, and writing in the years to come.

The Roman Forum may not be able to promise immediate political benefits, but we work with the conviction that what we are doing is being done to good long-term and lasting spiritual and educational effect. To show you our appreciation, we have arranged that the intentions of our benefactors be remembered once a month at a traditional Mass offered in Rome by our chaplain, Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro-Carámbula. With the acknowledgment of your donation, of any size, you will receive a note confirming that you have been enrolled in these Masses. I thank you in advance for your generosity.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

John C. Rao, Chairman, D. Phil. Oxford
Assoc. Prof. of History, St. John's University

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The LMS' Patron Saints, and the new banner

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The LMS Walking Pilgrimage to Walsingham was the first outing of a newly made banner. And it was the first time the LMS has commissioned something from the Guild of St Clare, a recently formed group of Catholic needleworkers committed to liturgical and domestic needlecraft in the context of the Traditional Catholic life.
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As well as paying for the materials, in recognition of the work done on the banner the LMS will set aside money for the Guild to spend on training. They can either pay an expert in a particular field of needlecraft to spend a day with them, or go as a group to a course with the Royal School of Needlework. Over time they will no doubt use both approaches. The skill at the top of their priorities is Goldwork, the use of gold and silver thread, which will be essential for the repair of fine vestments.
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The basic idea of the banner was specified by the LMS, but it was designed and made entirely by adult members of the Guild's Oxford branch. The Oxford branch also has a children's section; there are in addition branches in London and Birmingham. Anyone interested in joining, including setting up a new branch in another city, or in commissioning the Guild to make or repair something should email the Guild. Different branches of the Guild have already repaired vestments for several priests.
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The banner shows the Latin Mass Society's two patron saints, St Margaret Clitherow and St Richard Gwyn. St Margaret was recently honoured with an LMS Pilgrimage to York, where she was crushed to death with weights for sheltering priests in 1586. St Richard Gwyn (or White, a translation of his Welsh names into English), after studying in Oxford, Cambridge, and Douai, was a school teacher in Wales. Like St Margaret he was married with several children. He was hanged, drawn and quartered in Wrexham in 1584. There has also been an LMS pilgrimage to St Richard's site of martyrdom.
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Both were canonised in 1970, with the '40 Martyrs of England and Wales', by Pope Paul VI. The LMS's patron saints were chosen quite recently, in 2008. They represent the tradition of the lay apostolate, helping priests, passing on the faith, and giving charity to neighbours, in the context of family life, in both England and Wales.
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The banner became completely drenched on the pilgrimage; although a clear plastic cover was prepared for it, it was never in the right place at the right time to be used. The banner stood up well to this experience, and is little the worse for wear. We will however improve on the mechanism holding it up, which was put together at very short notice and is rather basic.

There's a set of photos of the making of the banner here; you can see it in action, on the Walsingham Pilgrimage, here (and in lots of other places!)
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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Cardinal Hume and the Popes on Latin

I recently came across this inspiring little quotation from the late Basil, Cardinal Hume, Archbishop of Westminster, sometime Abbot of Ampleforth. I can't find it on the internet, I assume it's come from one of his books or talks.


'It does not matter, to my mind at any rate, whether we sing in Latin or in the vernacular, but it does matter that our worship be done with dignity and reverence.'

This is a puzzling statement. It seems to have the same logical form as this:

'It doesn't matter how fast you drive, as long you drive safely.'

It denies what no-one claims, that Latin is the only determinant of the dignity and reverence of worship (that it is a necessary and sufficient condition), just as no one claims that speed is the only determinant of safe driving. But it presents this thwacking of a straw man in such as way as to imply something quite different: that Latin makes no contribution to dignity and reverence in worship (like the claim that speed is irrelevant to road safety). 'It does not matter...'? The quoted statement airly dismisses the possibility as not worth considering: our attention is drawn away from the irrelevant issue, Latin, to the relevant issue, dignity and reverence. Can we conclude that Latin is irrelevant to dignity and reverence, from the statement? Not strictly logically, but somehow the view that it is relevant is made to seem silly. This is a rhetorical trick.

What did Bl Pope John XXIII say about Latin? He wrote an Apostolic Constitution on the subject in 1962, on the eve of the Second Vatican Council, 'Veterum Sapientia'. Here are some choice quotes:

On ancient languages in general: By their use in sacred liturgies and in versions of Holy Scripture, they have remained in force in certain regions even to the present day, bearing constant witness to the living voice of antiquity.
On Latin specifically (quoting Pius XI, here and later): Its "concise, varied and harmonious style, full of majesty and dignity" makes for singular clarity and impressiveness of expression. ...

Finally, the Catholic Church has a dignity far surpassing that of every merely human society, for it was founded by Christ the Lord. It is altogether fitting, therefore, that the language it uses should be noble, majestic, and non-vernacular. ...

In addition, the Latin language "can be called truly catholic." It has been consecrated through constant use by the Apostolic See, the mother and teacher of all Churches, and must be esteemed "a treasure ... of incomparable worth.". It is a general passport to the proper understanding of the Christian writers of antiquity and the documents of the Church's teaching. It is also a most effective bond, binding the Church of today with that of the past and of the future in wonderful continuity. ...


The employment of Latin has recently been contested in many quarters, and many are asking what the mind of the Apostolic See is in this matter. We have therefore decided to issue the timely directives contained in this document, so as to ensure that the ancient and uninterrupted use of Latin be maintained and, where necessary, restored.
So you might say that the use of Latin would be a way of making an act or worship more dignified, more reverent, for at least four reasons: through its inherent 'majesty', its connection with antiquity, its universality, and its consecration by long use by the Church.

Cardinal Hume could not have failed to have been familiar with this document. But he chose, not only to ignore it, but by implication to ridicule the views of people who took the immemorial teaching of the Church on the subject of liturgical language, which it reiterates, seriously.


Also tossed aside by Cardinal Hume are the views of Pope Paul VI. As I have recently reported on this blog, his neglected Instruction Sacrificium Laudis of 1966 both begged and commanded religious superiors to retain Latin and the fullness of their traditional offices. On Latin, he wrote in particular:

For this language is, within the Latin Church, an abundant well-spring of Christian civilisation and a very rich treasure-trove of devotion.

Oh, but 'It does not matter': to your mind, Cardinal Hume, not to that of the Popes.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mediocrity and Elitism

Many people following my recent series of posts - probably not the sort of people who read this blog very much, so this is perhaps a theoretical claim - would say that the pursuit of excellence, in liturgical art, architecture, in the intellectual sphere, and in everything else that pertains to Catholic life is elitist, and therefore bad. Many such people would add, when it was pointed out that the Church has historically always promoted such excellence, that this was still bad, and all done away with by Vatican II.

Well Vatican II did no such thing, of course, and the immemorial tradition of the Church still has something to teach us. As I have said before, however, the central motivation of the advocates of mediocrity, in my view, is to make available to a larger percentage of the typical congregation the opportunity to make a contribution to the the parish in the fields of music, art, liturgy, catechesis, and anything else which might be up for grabs. If these things are run by properly qualified people exercising strict quality control, they will exclude a good number of people from being directly involved. So take away the quality control, sack the qualified overseers, and get as many people signed up as possible. To repeat, this attitude arises from two things: a failure to value the spiritual participation of an ordinary parishioner worshiping in his pew, and the collapse, in most parishes, of the sodalities and guilds engaged in spiritual and especially practical charitable work in which everyone can, if they wish, find a valued place. In regard to the first point, this is, then, a reflection of a misguided attitude to the liturgy.

So that's where the attitude comes from; this post is about an aspect of its consequences which I have not yet discussed. The goal is to bring as many people as possible into 'parish ministries' without regard to their training or talent. The various tasks exist not because of the importance of the product (the music, the liturgy, the RCIA class) but because of the importance of the office holder. The person having responsibility for the music ceases to be an artisan, who would expected to be booted out if the standard slipped. He becomes instead a primadonna, whose office is an attempt to give him a feeling of being valued.

If that is the point of having parish ministries, then the distinction between those who are 'involved in the parish' and those who are not ceases to be an accident of vocation, training, and talent, but becomes a matter of status. The people 'involved in the parish' are the important people, the valued people, the people who are really participating: for that is the point of the parish ministries, to enable greater 'participation'. The reality, that it is the holiest members of the congregation are the ones who are participating most intensely in the parish's spiritual life, and that you will never know who they are, is forgotten. It is replaced by a very visible distinction between an elite group, separated from the majority of the congregation, since you can never get the majority of a parish into the choir or parish liturgy committee, however extravagantly they have grown. (The creation of herds of lay readers and EMHCs is clearly an attempt to overcome this problem, but a large number of Catholics are not sufficiently regular at a given Mass at a given church to be included in the mind-bogglingly expansive rotas which are produced.) This elite is itself hierarchically organised, into leaders, committee chairmen, coordinators and so on, a hierarchy which is perceived to be a hierarchy, not of skill, but of esteem.

This is the elitism of mediocrity.


The charge of elitism, in a negative sense, made against parishes where efforts are made to foster excellence is based, I think, on a confusion. It is assumed that in a parish aiming at excellence people performing important tasks, like singing and serving, there is the same elitist attitude as in a parish aiming at mediocrity, the only difference being that in the former the number of 'involved' people is probably smaller and it is acceptable to tell people that they are not up to scratch for a given task. But where it is crystal clear that people are only in a choir because they can pitch a note, then you are less, not more, likely to understand that they are not regarded as a better than everyone else in any other way. It is not because they are more zealous, because they are regarded as 'good people', or because it has become an unwritten rule not to offend them: no, it is because they can pitch a note. No one can object to an elite of singers who are simply the people in the parish who can sing: what is problematic is an arbitrarily selected elite who are regarded as superior to everyone else, despite the fact that in many cases they can't sing. With parish ministries, it is when you remove the connection with skills, and make it a matter of 'participation', that you create a situation of elitism in the negative sense.

This is very evident in much parish life today. In many parishes the system has collapsed, or the number of active parishioners is so small that the issue does not arise. But in large, active and successful parishes which have a policy of mediocrity, you can see it in technicolor. The priest is surrounded by a sort of Praetorian Guard of assistants, who occupy positions designed solely to flatter the occupants into thinking they are making a contribution, regardless of the value of that contribution. This Praetorian Guard often has a very special privilege, which is access to the Parish Priest, a privilege denied to others. If any ordinary member of the congregation were to say something to the Parish Priest about any aspect of parish life he will be told not to bother the PP but address his concerns to the head of the relevant branch of the parish bureaucracy. Only those office-holders are allowed to discuss things with the PP - the poor man, of course, being cut off from the views of the ordinary pew-sitters, but surrounded by a group of people whose only qualification for their jobs is a pair of sharp elbows.

Once, when I was an undergraduate, I attended a Mass in the Oxford Chaplaincy where the organ was played continuously through the consecration. I didn't know much about liturgy in those days, but it struck me as very odd, and I asked the celebrant about it. He referred me to the head Chaplain. The head Chaplain eventually responded by saying that the music was organised by a particular lady. 'I am not going to demotivate her by criticising what has done' he said. Well, I was certainly demotivated from attending Mass at the Chaplaincy again.

So there you have it: the majority of the congregation are ignored for the benefit of a privileged elite, a clericalised minority. The majority is regarded as canon-fodder for the experiments, not of the priest, but of this elite. The majority is regarded as less important, less central to the life of the parish, less Catholic. The elite are the important people, the people with the ear of the priest, and perhaps the bishop too. And heaven forbid that priest, bishop, or for that matter Pope, should contradict them.

Here are a couple of quotations from Redemptionis Sacramentum. Paragraph 40:
Nevertheless, from the fact that the liturgical celebration obviously entails activity, it does not follow that everyone must necessarily have something concrete to do beyond the actions and gestures, as if a certain specific liturgical ministry must necessarily be given to the individuals to be carried out by them. Instead, catechetical instruction should strive diligently to correct those widespread superficial notions and practices often seen in recent years in this regard, and ever to instill anew in all of Christ’s faithful that sense of deep wonder before the greatness of the mystery of faith that is the Eucharist....

Para 45:
To be avoided is the danger of obscuring the complementary relationship between the action of clerics and that of laypersons, in such a way that the ministry of laypersons undergoes what might be called a certain “clericalization”, while the sacred ministers inappropriately assume those things that are proper to the life and activity of the lay faithful.

Here's Michael Voris on the problem of 'minstries' in parish life.

I'm not sure about the US-style 'direct action' he recommends at the end, but you can understand the frustration.

See also my post about the Traditional Mass and the charge of 'clericalism'.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Walsingham Pilgrimage Early Bird offer expires tomorrow!

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You can sign up for the LMS Walking Pilgrimage to Walsingham at this year's prices on our 'Early Bird' offer, today: the offer expires tomorrow. You only need to pay a deposit. There are discounts for students and LMS members.

This is a wonderful event: build it into your diaries now!
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Monday, September 12, 2011

Mediocrity and Evangelisation

In my last two posts (here and here) I've been saying that a critical attitude is essential to any enterprise. Anyone hoping to achieve anything worthwhile needs relentless criticism to succeed. This might sound paradoxical but it is true: everywhere you find excellence you find a culture of forthright criticism.

A culture in which criticism is not encouraged is soon swamped by mediocrity. Some people, as I described in my last post, actually like mediocrity, since it allows a diffusion of tasks related to the church to people with no aptitude or training in specialist fields from theology to playing the organ. The performance of such tasks is seen as the most important way of participating in parish life, where spiritual participation in the liturgy, prayer in common, and organised practical work in sodalities and guilds is either devalued or unavailable.

A parish in which mediocrity is triumphant is clearly not going to impress visitors with its music or art, with the disciplined harmony of its altar service or the confidence and expertise of its catechists. Plenty of people will react to this by saying that the visitor needs to look beyond the lack of resources to see the zeal of the people. This misses the point: I'm not talking about a lack of resources, but a culture in which mediocrity is king. When you look beyond the drab exterior of such a parish you don't see people trying as hard as they can, but of people accepting second best. You don't see the best person available doing each task, but a heaving pyramid of sharp-elbowed busy-bodies.

Resources are sometimes hard to find. The reason, however, that there is so little in the way of worthy furnishings and fittings in so many churches is not because they are unaffordable, even if they are, but because they were deliberately removed, sold or destroyed, in the 1960s and '70s, and sometimes more recently. The reason why so few parishes have a good musical tradition is not because it is so hard to create, though it is, but because polyphonic and chant groups were disbanded in the 1960s and '70s, and again sometimes later too. In both cases what was fine, worthy, traditional, and helpful to devotion was deliberately destroyed in favour of the mediocre, for the reasons just described.

One problem with mediocrity which I have not yet touched on is that it drives away talented people. People of musical, artistic or intellectual sensitivity quickly realise they are not welcome, and they flee.

If they flee from the Church as a whole then of course they are wrong to do so: the Church is the Ark of Salvation. We are used, however, to looking at things from the other way round, so let's not blame the ones fleeing but consider how we have failed to help them see the beauty and truth of the Faith.

Talented people who see mediocrity raised on high, praised, and shoved under everyone's nose, can feel very uncomfortable. It indicates to them that the people in this church have no intellectual or artistic tradition, that this faith is anti-intellectual and anti-artistic, as many Christian groups are. It indicates that while they are valued in their own fields, they will not be valued here. Mediocrity is counter-evangelical.

I think most people can tell when a parish fails to rise to great heights of artistry through sheer lack of resources. The state of the building and nature of the parishioners will tell you enough. Such a situation, where poverty is matched with zeal, has made many Catholic artists want to contribute to community life at their own cost, as an act of charity. When artistic mediocrity is matched with pile carpets, expensive sound-systems and a well-heeled congregation, then you know that it is ideological.

(Picture: Michelangelo in his studio, by Delacroix.)

When you start the work of restoration, when you really do want to create something worthwhile with limited resources, then it can be very hard work. Talented people can be very hard to find; when they exist, they are busy and frequently have to move on. I have assisted at many, many Masses where the standard of singing - including my own singing - was not up to scratch, where the serving was inexpert, and where the physical environment was frankly unworthy. I like to remember, in this regard, the years the Traditional Mass was offered, with the full permission of Archbishop Nichols, in a sports hall, because no church was available: see the picture above. You struggle on, and hope you can improve and with time gather more and better resources. I appreciate the difficulties of such situations, and it is certainly not the case that I, or others attached to the Traditional Mass, are not interested in going to Mass where it is offered in a humble setting by people doing their small best (see my response to this absurd charge here). What would be crazy, and not charitable at all, is to pretend that the difficulties of these situations aren't difficulties, and that everything is always wonderful. But the point I am making now is that one of the reasons this is such hard work is because talented people are actually driven away from the Church by the cult of mediocrity. Mediocrity, like excellence, fosters the conditions of its own continuation. Each becomes embedded, mediocrity attracting the mediocre, and excellence attracting those capable of excellence. It is hard to improve parish A because the culture of parishes B to Z has convinced the local population that excellence is foreign to Catholic worship.

And so we have the situation in which people who want to sing, for example, or are interested in fine church furnishings, or even dignified ceremonial, will look to the Anglicans and not to the Catholics. Anglican Cathedrals and centres of High Anglicanism have maintained choirs and all the other things to a much greater degree than Catholic churches. Anglicans were not unaffected by the cult of mediocrity in the 20th Century but more survived. One of the the things we aimed to do by introducing polyphony to the Schola Abelis I set up in Oxford for the Traditional Mass was to provide an outlet in Catholic worship for singers otherwise attached to college choirs singing Anglican Evensong and to the High Anglican centre, Pusey House. Some of these singers are in fact Catholic, but generally speaking they have no opportunity to develop their skills in a Catholic context.

The Anglican Ordinariate is a great opportunity in this regard, and in Oxford it has stimulated the creation of a new group to sing polyphony, the Newman Consort, founded by people associated with the Ordinariate. Doing these things is, however, a constant grind: excellence does not come easily. It is made that much harder when Catholics insist that it is not only not worth the effort, but actually a bad thing.

Is it really necessary to point out the achievements of Catholic culture in order to convince people that fine music, architecture and everything else is appropriate to Catholic worship? The High Anglican experiment was, of course, an exercise in bringing into Anglicanism things which were Catholic - Catholic music, Catholic vestments, Catholic ceremonies. For Catholics to reject these things is an exercise in self-hatred.

What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behoves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place. Pope Benedict XVI

But I need to address one final point: excellence and mediocrity and the issues of elitism and clericalism. I will do that, in the post after next.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Criticism and Mediocrity

This may sound harsh, but following on from my last post I am convinced that the major reason so many people in the Church jump up and down with annoyance and accusations of lack of charity whenever someone voices criticisms is a love of, or at least a deep desire to tolerate, mediocrity.

Some geniuses have been thin-skinned but excellence of all kinds requires criticism. Students in Oxford would learn nothing if their work was not criticised. Performing artists need to know the difference between a good performance and a bad one: they need to hear more than just 'Oh that was marvellous darling!!' every single time.

I'm not talking about vulgar abuse, which as I said in my last post should be swiftly deleted from coments boxes, and simply ignored when the abuser has his own blog. By contrast, criticism can be fair or unfair, it can be accurate or misguided, but all of it tells us about how what are doing comes across, what misunderstandings we need to guard against, which techniques we are using work on a particular audience, and what we have missed.

Great centres of artistic and academic excellence are centres of insistent and fearless criticism. It can hurt but you learn to live with it and you improve, or maybe you stop wasting your time and try something else. Working without anyone to criticise is extremely difficult: you can run off into highly elaborated schemes based on flawed foundations and waste years of work. Criticism of practical projects is particularly important because no one has a mastery of all the aspects of a big project and critics can offer much-needed expertise, or at least point in the direction where more attention is needed.

Fundamental criticisms, when one finds one's very basic assumptions are being questioned, are essential to avoid 'group think': the situation in which a group of people who share fundamental attitudes also share blind spots about potential pitfalls or objections. Organisations which foster innovation have got to tolerate criticism at every level of generality, ends as well as means.

Being open with criticism is not necessarily correlated with being unwilling to help with a project. Indeed in my experience they are inversely related. After all, criticism is a form of help: it is spending time thinking about a proposal and coming up with objections to it. I have tried and in some cases succeeded in getting many projects off the ground in the Catholic context and it is not the people who think carefully about a proposal and ask 'have you thought of X?' or 'what are you going to do about Y?' who are the problem; it is the people who say 'that sounds nice' but then refuse to help. Worst of all are the people with grave misgivings who are too frighttened of a confrontation to articulate them: in some cases they could be cleared up by explanation, in other cases the project needs to be adapted. Certainly, when people bring me worthwhile proposals I aim to give, insofar as I can, both attentive criticism and practical help.

So why are people so against criticisms, and so critical of critics? It is partly because they are in state of 'group think' themselves: they think their position in their group is imperilled by criticising a pet project, and is reinforced by rejecting the criticisms of others. Rational considerations are rejected in favour of social ones. But a major reason is that the mediocrity which results from accepting everything uncritically is actually regarded as a good thing.

It is regarded as a good thing because an intellectual and artistic engagement with the Church is regarded as an important form of 'participation', and the great majority of people are not cut out for intellectual and artistic endeavour of great value. Worthwhile art and serious intellectual output is the result of many years of specialist training and practice, as well as native talent, and this is obviously something very few people have. Only at the level of mediocrity can you have members of the parish without serious training creating visual religious art or leading liturgical music, or leading the RCIA course or contributing to discussion groups about Church teaching. And these kinds of participations in parish life are regarded as terribly important; by no means should the parish amateurs be displaced by, or placed under the supervision of, professionals.

Why, one may ask, would any Catholic think that it was important for their (or their children's) ghastly artistic creations to disfigure the church's walls, for their cracked voices to pain the congregation's ears in the liturgy, or for their half-baked ideas about faith and reason to be taken seriously by other members of a discussion group, or, heaven forbid, catechumens? A good question, but notice that they do think so: and they can get very shirty if they sense you don't agree. It seems to be their right to do these things; this is their contribution to the parish. The implication is that if you stop them doing these things you leave them without an outlet for their devotion.

One purported justification of mediocrity is the Protestant-Romantic idea that the product of deeply-felt passion and spontaneity is actually of greater worth than the product of training and skill. This of course is deeply at odds with the Catholic artistic and intellectual traditions, but it is a widespread notion. With this you just have to be tough: you as an individual may be offering all you have to God, but that doesn't mean it is the best we as a community can offer Him.

Another justification, and this is the more important, is that the ordinary parishoner's spiritual participation in the liturgy is no longer understood or valued by many Catholics, and appropriate outlets for Catholics without special artistic or intellectual skills have largely been destroyed: the guilds and sodalities which used to characterise parish life, particularly those devoted to the corporal acts of mercy. All that is left is apologetics and catechesis, and artistic contributions to the liturgy.

Of course I'm all for as many Catholics as possible learning about the Faith and learning about singing and art, but we have the situation today in which catechesis, as well as music in the liturgy, seems too often to be directed by people without serious knowledge or training: the well known stereotype of the modern Church, the lay RCIA director, being something to bring a chill to every spine.

I was delighted to find this last image on the web: 'Mediocrity Empowers'. That is absolutely right. To be crass about it, we desperately need to disempower the people who have been empowered by mediocrity. We also need to have more training in music, art, and theology and other subjects, and this is perhaps beginning to happen. But the people with real skills can actually be feared and hated, because they spell the end of the tyranny of mediocrity, and the return of criticism.

Catholics don't need less mutual criticism, they need more - far more. Far too many people, particularly good-natured priests, feel they need to endure the second-rate to avoid hurting anyone's feelings. This policy is understandable but it is disastrous, since it quickly leads to the tyranny of the mediocre and the loss to the Church of the genuinely talented. Now I've got going on this theme, I'll post about this last point tomorrow: how the mediocre drives out the excellent.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

On being critical

"If I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand." (Ezekial 3:18)

When I posted my reaction to Michael Voris, I said that since I thought he was basically a Good Thing I would show my appreciation by criticising what I took to be the main point of his talk. I wasn't joking: since I am basically well disposed to what he had to say, it is useful to him (in the unlikely event that he reads it) and to others to make a critique of what he said. In fact I thought his message should have been more nuanced and balanced.

Inevitably I was criticised myself in the com-box by some of his many fans - since this blog is pretty obscure I got off lightly, I know others who've criticised Voris have been deluged. These fans say that I shouldn't criticise Voris for the very reason that I think that it is important to criticise him: that is, because despite his limitations he is basically a Good Thing.

Presumably Voris himself agrees with me, since he is famous for being critical, and indeed for criticising not just the lunatic fringe liberals but apparently conservative groups like the Knights of St Columbus. Those fans of his, who infest the com-boxes of bloggers who dare say anything critical of Voris, don't seem to be alive to the irony of attempting to silence criticism of a man whose entire apostolate is based on the justification and indeed necessity of criticing fellow Catholics. If we shouldn't criticise Voris, then a fortiori Voris shouldn't criticise anyone else, especially bishops. If these fans had any sense, they'd welcome criticism of Voris in the spirit of a healthy and charitable debate.

The bigger question is whether a healthy and charitable debate is indeed an ideal, or whether we Catholics should be stifling public criticisms of each other in the interest of presenting a united front, or (where applicable) respect and obedience of legitimate authority, or simply because we think that charitable debate is impossible and we want to avoid acrimony and divisiveness. Let me address these objections in turn.

1. If we criticise fellow Catholics, we give scandal to non-Catholics.
This may indeed happen, but it is a far greater scandal to non-Catholics to see a public sinner or dissident being treated as if nothing were amiss by his fellow Catholics. When theologians who publicly dissent from Catholic teaching, or politicians who vote for abortion, are feted in Catholic institutions and lauded on Catholic blogs this very clearly and directly undermines the witness of the Church to the truth of her teaching. St Paul repeatedly says that the Christian community should ostracise and eject such people (2 Thess. 3:14; 1 Cor. 5:13; 1 Tim. 1:20). A community united by a set of beliefs will simply cease to exist if it tolerates as fully-paid up members those who do not share the beliefs.

Catholic bloggers are not the most important line of defence here - it is for bishops to reprove formally, and ultimately to excommunicate - but they do have obligations. They should not contribute to the idea that people are model Catholics because (like the Kennedy clan, for example) they are so rich or well-connected or otherwise influential that everyone is too frightened to point out that they have departed from the Faith. A vigorous rejection by a wide range of Catholic voices of the views of dissident Catholics is the best possible witness we can give to non-Catholics, given that we can't make the dissidents disappear.

2. Criticism is incompatible with respect and obedience to legitimate authority.
St Paul criticised St Peter; St Catherine of Siena criticised a series of popes. This is certainly something which has to be done with great care, and I'm not recommending it, at least in normal circumstances (normal for today, I mean). It can easily be counter productive, for one thing. But criticising those in authority is certainly not ruled out in principle by obligations of respect and obedience. Our bishops give us very clear teaching on this, by (rightly) criticising the civil authorities. We owe the civil authorities respect and obedience. We can still criticise them, and indeed we often must. However, it is usually enough to criticise ideas rather than individuals, if we want to avoid the impression of disrespect for those in authority. The point should never be a personal attack, but a point of principle.

'Conservative' Catholics and liberal Catholics sometimes seem to share a blindness to the distinction between dogmatic and prudential matters, and also to between authoritative public teaching and off-the-cuff or private statements. On issues of faith and morals, authoritative statements by those in the Church with authority to teach have prima facie force and should be accepted by the faithful, although the faithful can't be expected to accept contradictory statements, as would happen if a priest or bishop contradicted another authoritative statement. And here it should be noted that the docility of the faithful is as much, indeed more, to be measured by their acceptance of the decrees of Lateran IV or the Athanasian Creed as by the latest pastoral letter from their local ordinary. On prudential issues, matters of policy, tradition has a lot to say and priests and bishops have the grace of their offices in governing their flocks, but they are not preserved from error and debate may be an essential part of getting things right. (Also see my series about obedience.)

3. Charitable criticism is impossible so we should have no criticism at all.
It is certainly a problem for bloggers that sweet reason can be overwhelmed by the 'crazies'. The internet, it can seem, belongs to those who are least averse to staying up all night ranting. I actually think that this is a passing phenomenon: increasingly blogs are refusing to accept anonymous comments and swift moderation should mean that rants are online, attached to respectable blogs, for a very short space of time. The most widely read sites are the ones which are reasonably sane and the internet makes it easy to show that really crazy ideas contradict on-line Church documents and the like.

The other thing we all need to get used to is the instant publication of our views. The internet is a hasty forum and people blurt things out in a way they might in a saloon-bar discussion, and it is there for the whole world to see forever. I have said it before, we have to accept that the blogs are more like people sitting round in a pub than a carefully researched monograph; while being careful ourselves we shouldn't get too upset when other people seem to fly off the handle. Certainly we shouldn't forget the advantages of the medium: the instant correctability, the ability to link to photographic or video evidence or textual sources, the linking up with scholars and specialists as well as ordinary Catholics.

Debate about the application of the Church's teaching to new situations, and to prudential matters, has always taken place in the Church, and it is not only inevitable but frequently very important. When St Bernard of Clairvaux said that St Peter the Venerable was wicked from the top of his head to the soles of his feet, or when A.W. Pugin said that the classical style of architecture was unfit for Christian worship, they were getting a bit too excited. But you can't stop them, and you shouldn't want to stop them, engaging in criticism and debate. What we might want to do is make the debate more calm and charitable.

There is an deeper issue here, however, and that is mediocrity. The love of mediocrity leads to a hatred of criticism; I actually think this is a more important motive in the attempt to stifle criticism than concerns about giving scandal and charity. I'll post about this next.

Pictures: Voris, St Catherine, St Bernard.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Lanherne Convent appeal

I too have received the same e-mail as Fr Sean and Fr Ray Blake.

The Sisters of the Immaculate at Lanherne have for ten years occupied a convent owned by the Carmelites. This is not odd for them as they are unable to own property. However the Carmelites have announced that they wish to put the convent on the open market, unless... well, unless the Sisters can come up with something.

They are a thriving community who use Traditional Mass the 1962 Breviary. They are a sister order to the Friars of the Immaculate, who have a base in Stoke and two of whom accompanied the LMS Pilgrimage to Walsingham.

Please pray for a solution to be found. The community is unique in the British Isles and if they lose the convent they will have to return to Italy. The order, and the community at Lanherne, is international.
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If we English Catholics can't find a home for these sisters who want to devote their entire lives to praying for us, then I say we do not deserve the conversion of England for which we all long.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

John Medlin, Editor of Mass of Ages, retires

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John Medlin, stading behind the chap in the cassock.

The other day I attended a quiet dinner in London to conclude John Medlin's last day at work for the Latin Mass Society. It was a very pleasant evening. John is planning a move to Penzance. Despite the distance I don't think we've heard the last of him!

John was taken on to edit the Latin Mass Society's magazine; his first issue came out in May 2003, with a daringly modern font and a change of name: no longer the 'LMS Newsletter, but a a magazine in the proper sense, 'Mass of Ages'. His last edition is the current one, August 2011: with four a year, he's produced forty five issues over 11 years. He expanded the use of colour, introduced paid-for adverts, and improved both the format and the content of the magazine.

For most of the time of his employment by the LMS he combined Editing the magazine with being 'General Manager'. Neither post existed, at least as a paid position, before he took them on. This really established the LMS as an organisation on a level with many medium-sized charities, able to organise major events and engage with the wider world through a magazine available to non-members through bookshops and other outlets, such as the St Paul's Bookshop and the CTS bookshop in Westminster.

It is always telling when one member of staff has to be replaced with two: John's workload was enormous and the range of skills needed extremely wide. We are very happy to have had our new General Manager, Mike Lord, well established before John left the office; the new editor, Gregory Murphy, will be producing the next issue of Mass of Ages, to come out in early November.

Many thanks to John Medlin, the Latin Mass Society's first professional magazine editor and General Manager. We all wish him a very happy and active retirement!

Friday, September 02, 2011

Oxburgh Hall's Priest hole

Stop press: the is a very amusing account of the pilgrimage starting on the Juventutem London blog. Other accounts can be seen on the Bones, Catholic Youth and the Chaplain Abroad, and soon on Smeaton's Corner.

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The results of the Protestant Revolt are all about us on the pilgrimage to Walsingham. We walk from the impressive and uncorrupt hand of the great Abbess St Ethelburga (d. 664) in Ely to the site of the replica Holy House built in Walsingham as a result of Lady Richeldis' vision in 1061. Catholicism had no shallow roots in East Anglia, and some of the most impressive late Medieval churches, with intact Rood Screens, are to be found in Norfolk. We stopped to pray at the ruins of the Augustinian Priory of St Mary and All Saints at East Acre, surrendered to the King 1538: the first monastic 'surrender'. It was founded in the reign of William II (i.e. late 12th Century).

The highlight of the second day's walk, however, relates more to the Catholic response to the Reformation, the wonderful, moated, Oxburgh Hall.
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The Bedingfeld family always kept the Faith, and hung washing out on the garden hedges to indicate a priest was about to say Mass in the house. When it was safe to do so, they built a free-standing chapel, in the Gothic style, in the grounds, and it is there we had Mass. It has a wonderful Altarpiece, of 16th Century German workmanship.
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After Mass the Bedingfelds gave us tea and coffee in their kitchen and allowed us to look at, and climb into, their priest hole. It is cleverly contrived under the gardrobe (the loo) next to a bedroom. Once you get in there is space for three people and more, with alcoves where you could put objects needing to be hidden or food. It is quite tricky to get in and out.
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From the outside, looking in.
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A visitor climbing out.
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View from the inside, someone (with tatoos on his ankles - who can it be?) climbing in.
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Here's the hole with a priest in it - our chaplain, Fr Bede Rowe.

It is difficult to give an impression of it with a camera, but after squeezing under the loo and round a bend you emerge into an open space. Records of who used it, and with what success, were not, for obvious reason, kept, but no priest appears to have been captured at Oxburgh, so we may assume that the priest hole served its purpose well. The identity of the builder again cannot be established with certainty but the greatest priest-hole maker was the heroic Jesuit lay brother and martyr, St Nicholas Owen, who was born in Oxford a stone's throw from the Castle, and was tortured to death in the Tower of London in 1606. St Nicholas took his secrets with him to the grave, and priest holes are still found in Catholic houses to this day, where they had been forgotten about for centuries. Owen did all his work alone, often under cover of darkness, and was clearly a brilliant workman.

We are very grateful to Henry and Mary Bedingfeld for their kindness and hospitality. The house, which is owned by the National Trust (with the Bedingfelds living in part of it) is open to the public, and is well worth a visit.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Sign up for Walsingham 2012!

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The Walking Pilgrimage to Walsingham was such a success that we want to build on it without delay. We are already thinking about how it can be made even better, and we are offering this year's pilgrims, and the general public, the opportunity to sign up now for next year's event (24-26 August 2012) at this year's prices, our 'Early Bird Offer', which runs until 15th September. I don't know how much the price is likely to go up, but this year's prices are rock bottom. We provide dinner and breakfast from Thursday evening to Sunday morning, we arrange accommodation, we provide the back up transport, and daily Sung Mass, for a unique event in the Catholic calendar.
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This year, and I assume next year too, the men were in tents two nights and a school hall one night, and the ladies used mats and sleeping bags on the floor of various halls all three nights. Our heavy bags, tents and so on were taken by car to the next evening's stop. Transport from and back to London should be available. Transport from other parts of the country is often easy to arrange, with car sharing with other pilgrims.

There is no reason why this shouldn't be a really big event, and a great witness to the Faith.
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Don't get left behind!

What is it really like? Walking all day is quite hard work, but the distances are not as extreme as on the Chartres Pilgrimage, where pilgrims plod for up 30 miles in a day. To Walsingham we go about 20 miles on the full days; the last day is much shorter, arriving at the Shrine in the middle of the day. Walking is on (nearly all very quiet) roads and good paths; there is no rough ground and no stony hills to climb. Norfolk is famously flat, with nothing but very gentle slopes towards the end: ideal for the pilgrim. We walk through countryside and villages, past a great many medieval churches and the wonderful historic flint houses of the area. We pray the Rosary, singing it in Latin, French and English, we sing the Litanies - the Great Litany, the Litany of Loreto, the Litany of St Joseph - we sing lots of hymns and some fun secular songs. We have meditations as we go along and periods of silence or quiet talk. There are opportunities for confession and spiritual direction with our chaplain. And every day there is Mass, sung and served by members of the pilgrimage, and to a high standard too.
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I am always amazed at the stamina of young people, who seem to be able to do the walk without any kind of preparation. Speaking for myself, at the end of my 30s, I went to some lengths to get into shape, taking long walks over the summer, and this stood me in good stead. Some of the pilgrims had to take to the support vehicles, but only a few. Essential are good shoes or boots, which won't rub and give you blisters, will give you ankle support if you need it, and will keep out water. Having said that some people walked in sandals, which also seemed to work well.

If you've not done this sort of thing before, don't be frightened, it is not too cruel on the legs and it is great fun. If you have done this kind of thing before, then the LMS Walking Pilgrimage to Walsingham is one of the best ways of doing it, from the point of view of the importance of the Shrine, the liturgy, and the company. So sign up now!