Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Christmas!

O come, let us adore Him!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

More on St Mary Magdalen

I blogged a while ago about the connection between the ‘sinner’ who anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair, ‘Mary of Bethany’ the sister of Martha, and Mary Magdalen. The first two are identified as Mary of Magdalen by a long tradition of exegesis.

I have been looking at a reproduction of the Holkham Bible, a wonderful Medieval manuscript, not a Bible in fact but a series of pictures with a Norman French commentary. This has shed a light on these identifications which hadn’t occurred to me. For here are, from the same page, depictions of Our Lord dining with Simon the Pharisee with the 'sinner' annointing his feet, and the dinner at Bethany, with Mary and Martha: Mary sitting at His feet.

What is immediately obvious, and clearly intended by the artist, is the visual parallel between the two scenes. In both, Mary is at Our Lord's feet, which are resting on a long foot-stool. In both she is the subject of carping criticism, and in both Our Lord is defending her. These are not just parallels in how the scenes are depicted, of course, they are (apart from the footstool) in the scriptural text.

Stories echoing or contrasting with each other are in fact characteristic of the Gospels, and in itself this doesn't indicate that they two ladies at Jesus' feet are the same person. What the artist is doing with them, however, is very nice: they are 'before and after' scenes, before and after Mary Magdalen's absolution. First, we see her repentance: she comes to Jesus with a contrite heart, and Our Lord explains that her perfect contrition - sorrow motivated not by fear but by love, she 'loved much' - makes possible her forgiveness. In the next scene she is still at His feet, in a new state, a state of grace, and what she wants to do, following her conversion, is listen to Our Lord as intently as possible. And as He explains, this vocation is not to be taken away from her. From the bitterness of regret Mary is given the sweetness of contemplation, through repentance and absolution.

My reproduction of the Holkham Bible is accompanied by a translation of the text which accompanies the pictures. The commentary by the editor, Michelle Brown, priggishly remarks, about the first picture:

'A woman (here not specified as Mary Magdalen, an identification that is theologically unsound) kneels at Christ's feet...'

But she is 'specified as Mary Magdalen': the commentary in the Bible itself tells us 'la Marie magdalene entrat en le meson es se asseat a pes Ihesus et commenceat a plurer'. This is not the only passage in which Michelle Brown seems to have written her own commentary without bothering to read the commentary given in the manuscript itself. Later she muddles up the Pharisee and the repentant Publican in the parable: being influenced apparently by her assumption that outward signs like bowing down are bound to be insincere, she jumps to the false conclusion that the man depicted prostrated on the ground is the Pharisee.

She also misses the point of the two stories above: that these two women are identified with each other, going beyond the scriptural texts, is for present purposes actually more important than their identification with Mary Magdalen. Perhaps Brown is more comfortable with the identification of Mary of Bethany with Mary Magdalen, but she doesn't say why.

However Brown clearly has her own agenda in looking at this manuscript. In this video she actually suggests that the artist was protesting about pollution. Give me strength...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Dominican Rite in St Dominic's, London

The Dominicans have a magnificent church in north London, St Dominic's, Haverstock Hill, and thanks to their hospitality the Latin Mass Society held its annual meeting of Local Representatives in a meeting room there. Fr Leon Pereira OP kindly said Mass for us before the meeting began, in the Dominican Rite.
The church is astonishing. As the photos indicate, it is extremely tall; it also has an enormous number of side altars. It has one for each of the fifteen decades of the Rosary, plus a few more: St Joseph, St Thomas Aquinas, and a couple of others. I had never been to this church before, so I was glad to have a reason to visit.
Our meeting was very successful. The Latin Mass Society's Local Representatives are, and always have been, fundamental to the Society's work. They make it possible for the Society to support and organise things all over the country, and thanks to them we have an idea of what is going on at the local level. The successes and frustrations of our Reps are a barometer of the health of the Traditional movement as a whole, and allow us to say exactly how Summorum Pontificum has been implemented. We are very lucky to have a very dedicated team of Reps. Some them have been doing the job for decades, but the group is constantly refreshed by new recruits. This year we have appointed new Reps in Plymouth, Lancaster, Clifton, and Portsmouth dioceses (some dioceses have more than one). All, of course, are unpaid volunteers, though they can claim back expenses such as postage costs. We are currently looking for Reps / Assistant Reps for Cardiff, Southwark North, Cornwall, Warwickshire, and the city of Birmingham. Anyone willing to accept such a role should contact the office.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Oxford Pro-Life Witness, Saturday



3pm -4pm

PLEASE join us for a 'pre-Christmas' pro-life witness contemplating upon the Christ Child and praying for all those unborn babies who will never live to see this year.

Rosary and prayers led by Fr John Saward.

Inline image 1

LMS Pilgrimage to Rome, November 2013

The Latin Mass Society will be organising a pilgrimage to Rome in November 2013.  Departure from the UK will be on Thursday, 7 November and the return will be on Tuesday, 12 November.  It is most likely that the flight will be from either Stanstead or Luton Airports to suit the majority of pilgrims, although a northern option is also being considered.

Accommodation is being reserved at a convent in central Rome, which is within walking distance of St Peter’s Basilica and many of the principal churches and visitor sites.  We expect to take with us at least one chaplain.

The dates of the pilgrimage have been chosen to coincide with the biennial meeting of the International Federation Una Voce, which takes place on the Saturday and Sunday.  Although our pilgrims will not be directly involved in this meeting, the choice of these dates will mean that Latin Mass supporters from many parts of the world will be in Rome at the time, providing opportunities for Solemn Masses and other liturgies in major churches, which LMS pilgrims will be able to attend.  Some time will be set aside for sightseeing.

Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos giving his blessing to FIUV delegates at the end of a special Mass in St Peter's
Every effort is being made to keep the cost down, so as to be affordable for as many people as we can manage.  The full cost, including flights and five nights’ accommodation in Rome is not expected to exceed £500 per person, although this will have to be confirmed when the arrangements are finalised.

At present, we invite members and non-members to register an expression of interest with our office staff, either by e-mail or telephone:

020 7404 7284

Anyone interested is urged to make early contact, so that the size of the group can be established, and preliminary bookings made.  Registering at this stage does not mean a firm commitment.
A priest saying an early-morning Low Mass at a side altar in St Peter's

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A new Rose altar frontal

Last Sunday Fr John Saward blessed a new Rose coloured altar frontal, and tabernacle veil, for his church, SS Gregory & Augustine's in Oxford, immediately before celebrating the Traditional Mass for Gaudete Sunday. He already had a set of Rose vestments, and the frontal was made to order by the Oxford branch of the Guild of St Clare to match, as closely as possible. In the pictures you can see the frontal and tabernacle veil next to the chalice veil, which is part of the set of Rose vestments.

As far as I can see the colour matched perfectly; looking closely, there is a subtle pattern in each which is different.

Well done to the Guild of St Clare! They have blog post about making it.

Iona Institute video on Same-Sex Marriage

This is nicely done. H-t Mark Lambert.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Loftus on women

The Catholic Times rejoices in the contributions of Mgr Basil Loftus, whose columns I find painful to read. I forced myself to do the other week, however, as he was addressing both the ordination of women and altar girls. With jaw-dropping logic, he admitted that having altar girls was part and parcel of the women's ordination agenda, and simultaneously claimed that, since the ordination of women was off the menu for the moment, having altar girls, including at the Traditional Mass, was all the more important. Any old stick is good enough to beat the tradition, and if it breaks, then you have two!

I sent in a letter, which they didn't print. They never print my letters. It is interesting that The Tablet allows me a right of reply, but Kevin Flaherty of that esteemed organ, The Catholic Times, which must be read by about twenty people, does not. Here it is.

Mgr Loftus ('Tackling anti-feminist prejudice', 9th December) makes a number of questionable claims. Most importantly, the claim that that impossibility of ordaining women is not taught infallibly by the Church is simply false. As the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith explained back in 1995, it is a matter of the 'ordinary' magisterium: it has always been taught, it is reiterated today, it cannot be false.

He is disingenuous when he says that the permission for female servers took the form of a decision that the existing rule did not exclude females. The rule in question was the 1983 Code of Canon Law: the 1917 Code was quite unambiguous, as has been nearly two millennia of legislation, since at least the Council of Laodiciea in the 4th Century, and the Roman Missal of 1962 which governs what is allowed in the Extraordinary Form. The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei has made it abundantly clear that females may not serve in the EF.

Most fundamentally, Mgr Loftus suggests that there are no arguments against the ordination of women to the priesthood, other than the example of Our Lord's choice of Apostles. Blessed Pope John Paul II made an extended argument in Mulieris Dignitatem (1988), and it applies to servers as well as the clergy whom they assist so closely. Allowing female servers obscures this argument, and it is natural therefore that they only be allowed for serious reasons and at the discretion of both bishop and celebrant.

The argument takes its start from the naturally (not just culturally) 'spousal' character of women, who can represent the Church as bride more perfectly than men. Men can better represent the Bridegroom, especially in His priestly role. This complementarity is reflected in human marital relations (Eph 5.23).

2011 04 09_8861
Mass at the SCT Family Retreat 2011
Bl John Paul II quotes Lumen Gentium in reminding us that Our Lady is the 'figure' of the Church. I see no prejudice in his offering them this example.

Loftus is a frustrating person to critique because he makes so many preposterous claims in quick succession (and he has a long column to play with) that it is hard to know where to start, or when to stop. Maybe the best approach is ridicule, as practiced on him by Eccles and Bosco. He shot to fame in 2010 for threatening an elderly priest, Fr Michael Clifton, into shutting down his blog, and shouting down the phone at Fr Ray Blake, for the crime of calling Loftus a heretic. (In Fr Blake's case, the crime was committed by a commenter on his blog.) You'd think Loftus wouldn't mind that particular accusation. But to be on the safe side, all I'm going to say about Loftus' orthodoxy is that, while I'm not his superior and so unable formally to pronounce judgement, the prima facie case against him appears powerful.

Actually there's no need to worry about legal threats from this relic, the courts refuse to make the judgement about whether accusations of heresy are 'fair comment' or not. A point I suspect Loftus knew perfectly well when he tried his bully tactics.

A rare photograph of Mgr Basil Loftus
Well, Monsignor, you can't scare me.

Postscript: It is a strange fact that Google Image searches can find no pictures of the great man from the search term  'Basil Loftus' or the obvious variants. Instead, puzzlingly, you get images like this one, on the left. Basil? Is it you?

Chesterton play to be broadcast

 I have reservations about Chesterton as a thinker, but I love his fiction - Fr Brown and his poems are a particular favourite. I've never seen this play, but it sounds very interesting. Good for EWTN for doing a production.

GK Chesterton, well known Catholic author, journalist and public debater, also wrote a couple of plays. His last play, The Surprise, a fascinating Catholic story spun around a travelling playwright who creates a set of puppets to perform one of his plays, is to be shown on EWTN. The play is 2 hours long and can be seen on Saturday 22nd December at 12.30am, Sunday 23rd at 9pm or Wednesday 26th at 3am. You can watch EWTN online at or on sky 589. For Chesterton prayercards etc see

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Catholics Unplug Your Televisions: new blog

The group 'Catholics Unplug Your Televisions' now has a blog, which has been eliciting some lively debate. It is called 'Clear Vision'.

The CUT website has a lot of information about TV, past newsletters, and how to join the group. Even those who don't watch the thing should be informed about the content and effects of the telly; those who do watch it, the more you know the better you can gauge what is dangerous.

I always like this quote from the Catholic academic John Senior: 'First, ...smash the television set. The Catholic Church is not opposed to violence; only to unjust violence; so smash the television set.'

Monday, December 17, 2012

Messiaen, birdsong, and Gregorian Chant

The pianist Matthew Schellhorn has given an interview on Messiaen, on whom he is an expert, and birdsong. Messiaen was fascinated by birdsong, and based numerous compositions on it. Matthew remarks:

While Messiaen found birds to be "sovereign" in their creative capacity, he also said they are "the closest to us, and the easiest to reproduce". I should assert that the only man-made music ever, perhaps, to come close to birdsong is Gregorian chant. This music, the music proper to the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church, manifests the same flexibility of both melody and rhythm. There is even evidence to suggest that the Gregorian melodies we have written down were the basis, in fact, of improvisation – which of course further reminds us of the sounds of the natural world.
In antiquity and the Middle Ages birdsong was regarded a very significant. The above picture, from a Bestiary, shows a lion bowing to a cockerel; in Hamlet the theory that cockerels sing all night at Christmas time, banishing evil influences, as they do throughout the year at dawn, is recounted. St Francis preached to the birds, encouraging them to praise God for the natural gifts with which God had endowed them, by singing. And so, of course, they did.
It is interesting to compare the ordered spontaneity of birdsong and of Gregorian Chant. Singing Gregorian Chant has to be learnt, by human singers, but in learning to do it we reconnect with something very fundamental in human nature.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

FIUV Papers available as a Lulu book

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.Go over to Rorate Caeli to read the kind endorsement by Archbishop Gullickson, Apostolic Nuncio to the Ukraine.

Lulu is very convenient: it is completely free to use, and as they print each volume as it is sold there is no risk of having unsold stock; furthermore, it is printed on the side of the Atlantic that it needs to go to.

This volume includes the General Introduction and all 13 papers published in the course of the year, which defend specific aspects of the ancient liturgical tradition. You can download each of them as a pdf - here they are:

PP 1: The Service of Men and Boys at the Altar 
PP 2: Liturgical Piety and Participation 
PP 3: The Manner of Receiving Communion
PP 4: Liturgical Orientation
PP 5: The Vulgate and Gallican Psalter
PP 6: Liturgical Pluralism
PP 7: Latin as Liturgical Language 
PP 8: Prefaces
PP 9: Silence 

PP 10: Eucharistic Fast
PP 11: Western Culture
PP 12: Latin in Seminaries
PP 13: Holy Days of Obligation

The point of having a book is that, now there are a good number of them, anyone wanting to read them all will find it much more comfortable with a book, and it makes it much easier to give to people. The book is not intimidating (it is only 125 pages), it is attractively packaged, and you can give it to your friends, priests, the people you argue in the pub with and all the rest.
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

The series of papers in ongoing; I draw attention to each one on this blog.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Economist notices Catholic Traditionalism

There's an article in this weekend's Economist (which you can read online) about the reappearance of the Latin Mass in the Catholic Church. It starts:

'SINCE the Second Vatican Council in 1962, the Roman Catholic church has striven to adapt to the modern world. But in the West—where many hoped a contemporary message would go down best—believers have left in droves. Sunday mass attendance in England and Wales has fallen by half from the 1.8m recorded in 1960; the average age of parishioners has risen from 37 in 1980 to 52 now. In America attendance has declined by over a third since 1960. Less than 5% of French Catholics attend regularly, and only 15% in Italy. Yet as the mainstream wanes, traditionalists wax.'

As a regular reader of the Economist I'm used to the strange, jaunty style in which they write everything (they love words like 'canny'), and the oddly casual attitude to facts - a statistic here, an anecdote there, and hey, readers can now take a view on a vast and complex subject when it comes up at a cocktail party. But it is essentially a very positive article, and it was pleasing that they went to the Una Voce Federation and the Latin Mass Society for information. (And yes, we did NOT tell them the LMS has more than 5,000 members. Sheesh.)

I like the quote from Fr Timothy Radcliffe in the final paragraph.

'The return of the old rite causes quiet consternation among more modernist Catholics. Timothy Radcliffe, once head of Britain’s Dominicans, sees in it “a sort of ‘Brideshead Revisited’ nostalgia”. The traditionalist revival, he thinks, is a reaction against the “trendy liberalism” of his generation. Some swings of pendulums may be inevitable. But for a church hierarchy in Western countries beset by scandal and decline, the rise of a traditionalist avant-garde is unsettling. Is it merely an outcrop of eccentricity, or a sign that the church took a wrong turn 50 years ago?'

Solemn Dominican Rite Mass in the Oxford Blackfriars, for the LMS Pilgrimage
I wonder what Fr Radcliffe makes of the traditionalist revival in his own order. Has he noticed that not all the young priests saying the Dominican Rite these days fit his stereotype?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Battle of the Egans

Bishop Egan
Bishop Philip Egan got a dressing down a couple of weeks ago on the letters page of the Catholic Herald, from a certain Br Edward Egan, who appears to be a Christian Brother. Bro wrote, in part:

'Bishop Egan seems to be nostalgic for a society where the Christian Church was central - I hope not one like Franco's Spain, Galtieri's Argentina or Pinochet's Chile! Is not modern liberal society more fertile ground for John's Last Supper model of a servant Church than many 'Constantinian church' models since?'

Now there's a man who's learnt some long words but doesn't really understand them.

Bishop Egan hardly needs me to rush to his defence, but I found this letter more than usually irritating. Is military dictatorship the only alternative to a supine surrender of the Church to her enemies? Is everyone who doesn't embrace liberalism a Fascist? So I replied, as published in this week's edition:


Br Edward Egan (Letters, Nov 23) appears to be accusing Bishop Egan of Portsmouth of hankering after military dictatorships, on the basis that he opposes anti-Christian secularism. This association of ideas seems a little extravagant. 

Galtieri: lookalike?
By contrast, Br Egan appeals to 'John's Last Supper model of a servant Church.' This is a bit strange, as St John's Gospel contains no account of the Last Supper. Perhaps Br Edward should spend less time attacking people who defend the Church, and more time reading the Gospels. 

Yours faithfully, 
Joseph Shaw Chairman, The Latin Mass Society 

Brother Egan has form. Googling him brings this unsavoury letter to the Catholic Herald up, attacking the late, great Alice Thomas Ellis, from 16th July 2004:

She criticises religious sisters for dressing in a modern and sensible way that signifies that they are truly sisters to their fellow men and women. Many people were alienated by the old medieval garb that could signify sanctimonious separateness and superiority.

The Belgrano: sinking like Br Egan
Her criticism of Creation spirituality and her regressive championing of Original Sin theology is wrong. Many people are liberated by the concept of Original Blessing and the Creator’s wonderful gifts...

The “tawdry baubles of paganism” were there aeons before Christianity in all continents, providing a more feminine,peaceful and eco-friendly world until the arrival of the more patriarchal, war-mongering and exploitative last two millennia of so-called Christendom.

I suggest that Alice Thomas Ellis might benefit from reading modern theology and Scripture studies (and also The Tablet), instead of dragging us back to the dark ages of “the fortress Church”.

(Unfortunately the page in the Catholic Herald archive jumbles his letter up with another one; online subscribers can chase it down in full via Exact Editions.)

It is interesting how the debate has moved on. Back in 2004 Br Egan's long letter in the Herald defended a succession of heretical, disobedient, or just plain lunatic ideas which were really widespread: they were the basis of many religious communities and parish groups and appeared to have full official encouragement. Alice Thomas Ellis, though well known and feisty, was very much at the far conservative end of the spectrum of printable opinion, and died early the following year at the age of 72. Now Br Egan has for an opponent a newly appointed bishop of 57, and has got printed a letter which is just as bonkers as the last one, but seems a little forlorn. Calling people you don't agree with 'Fascists' always comes across as pretty pathetic.

You may need to get them second hand, but I recommend Alice Thomas Ellis' interesting commentary on the Church, the Serpent on the Rock, slightly less so the collection of her articles, God Has not Changed, (the Herald article (link for subscribers) to which Br Egan was responding was an extract from that book), and above all her great novel, The Sin Eater. And say a prayer for a great Catholic. Alice, you've won.

Friday, December 07, 2012

LMS Chaplain honoured

Mgr Gordon Read, the Latin Mass Society's National Chaplain, has been given Life Membership of the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland, of which he is a Trustee.

Mgr David Hogan (President) says:
'This was in recognition of the outstanding service which Gordon has given to the Society over many years and the huge contribution which he has made to the Newsletter issue after issue. Gordon is currently one of the four Trustees of the Society and as with everything  else this is carried out with true quiet dedication, courtesy and good humour. Many of us have gained much by his wise counsel unfailingly given, over many years. I am personally enormously grateful to Gordon and trust this distinction will convey our esteem and gratitude.'

Mgr Read's contribution to interpretation of Canon Law is well known; he is also the Chancellor of his diocese, Brentwood, and a busy parish priest. The Latin Mass Society is very honoured to have him as its National Chaplain.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

A traditional Benedictine house in the UK?

St Benedict of Nursia
The Benedictine vocation is of special importance in these islands. Monasticism was the bedrock of Christianity here from the late Roman period into the Middle Ages in the continuing Christian populations of Wales, and in the evangelisation of Ireland, Scotland, and England. Both Irish and Roman missionaries to England brought monasticism with them, the latter, led by St Augustine of Canterbury, direct from the Roman monastery of St Gregory the Great, connected closely with St Benedict, whose biography St Gregory wrote. The Normans found Benedictine monasteries serving Cathedrals in England, an arrangement without parallel in Europe, which they nurtured and spread. The Benedictines and Cistercians had an enormous impact on the social, political, agricultural and industrial life of this country. (I've blogged about the ruins of their great Abbeys here and here.)

After the Dissolution, and with the help of some surviving monks, new foundations were made on the Continent so Benedictines would once again go on mission to England. Their missions and parishes, and in time the communities themselves, when they moved to England, never ceased to have a large role in Catholic life here. Their communities supplied a good number of our bishops, and their schools a good proportion of the Catholic educational elite.
Door into Jervaulx Abbey Church

This vocation, in the context of the Mass and Office as it has been said for so many centuries in Benedictine houses, is impossible today in the UK. A group of young men who are discerning a vocation to the traditional Benedictine life would like to hear from others who might be interested. They are having a year of discernment, starting now. Please pray for them.

They have a blog, and can be contacted by email:

Monday, December 03, 2012

Is the Holy Father slowing down?

The Holy Father is 85, and as time passes so he gets older. There's been a fair amount of chatter about his pontificate slowing down and the like; liberals are beginning to look forward to the next papacy. This is dangerous talk if it means that people stop paying attention to projects close to Pope Benedict's heart, because he won't be around to reward or reprimand them for doing anything or nothing about them, or if they think they can defy him in the hope that by the time the wheels of justice grind into action we'll be into a new pontificate.
But it doesn't appear to be true. He may look a little frail but look at these three important documents just from November:
the Motu Proprio Lingua Latina: a brilliant rearticulation of the reason why Latin is not just important for the Church, but indispensible: not just for the liturgy.
The address to the St Cecelia Association on Sacred Music: a brilliant refutation of the argument that the use of chant and sacred polyphony in the liturgy undermines 'active participation'.
The Motu Proprio 'Intima Ecclesiae natura', on Catholic charitable works: a firm reassertion of the necessary Catholic identity of charities using the name 'Catholic'.
These are not just reflections, each of them are calls for action, and in the first and third cases they are legislative acts which must have taken serious preparation, and will have concrete consequences.
Everyone please note: Pope Benedict is not about to disappear. And bearing in mind his mortality, the only prudent, healthy and Catholic attitude is to work on the basis that his successor won't suddenly throw everything in the air. The Holy Father's initatives are bearing fruit in all sorts of ways, and any remotely plausible successor is going to want to develop them further, not call a halt. What Pope is going to tell us to forget about Gregorian Chant? Or say that Catholic charities can break the Natural Law? Or rubbish our liturgical patrimony?
I hope Pope Benedict has a very long reign. But I'm not frightened of the next Pope. We aren't going to get some 1970s liberal. Anyone with eyes to see can perceive that Pope Benedict is moving exactly with the times: he has facilitated and channeled an inevitable and necessary realignment in the Church. The Benedictine revolution is here to stay.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Sung Requiem in St Benet's Hall, Oxford

It gave me great joy to be able to arrange a Traditional Requiem in my own academic home, St Benet's Hall. St Benet's is a 'hall' (for most purposes a small college) of Oxford University. It was founded in 1897 to allow Benedictine monks the chance to study for Oxford degrees while living in a monastic community; it now admits lay men also. It belongs to Ampleforth Abbey. IMG_1734
The building had been an Ursuline convent before it became the Hall, but the chapel is unrecognisable...
I was encouraged to organise this Mass by a group of old and current members of the Hall, who include a good number of priests who say the Traditional Mass, and I hope this will happen again. One thing we discovered in the course of the Mass was that there is a smoke detector in the sacristy. So the fire alarm went off, which was interesting. IMG_1753
Mass was said by Fr Edward van der Bergh, who is an old member, and indeed a former President of the JCR. It was accompanied by the Schola Abelis, who, thanks in part to the wonderful acoustic, sounded superb.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Protest at National Gallery

The National Gallery is showing two pictures by Richard Hamilton of Our Lady naked. I don't know if they are being deliberately provocative, though I'm sure the thought of how 'daring' they are gives them a little frisson. I suspect their main thought is just one of indifference to us, to God, and to His Blessed Mother.

The point is that until very recently they would have recognised that these were unacceptably insensitive. At this moment in our history as a nation the artistic elite seems to think they should make up for not being able to criticise Islam by kicking Catholics. This has got to stop. It will stop, if we make enough of a fuss. So I think this, below, is an excellent idea.


Many of you will be aware that the National Gallery has chosen to exhibit two offensive depictions of Our Lady as part of an homage to recently deceased British artist Richard Hamilton. As part of the exhibition, which runs until 13 January, 'The Passage of the Angel to the Virgin' (2007) and 'An Annunciation' (2005) show Our Lady nude and in a sexually suggestive pose. The former also depicts the Archangel Gabriel as a woman.

Apart from being blasphemous and offensive this is a direct attack on Christians and the Mother of God. The Director of the National Gallery, Nicholas Penny, thinks he can get away with it because, unlike the Muslims, we Christians are push-overs. He is wrong. This is what you can do to prove it:

Join us at 2 pm on Saturday 8th December, Feast of Our Lady's Immaculate Conception, to pray a rosary of reparation by the 'artworks' . NB This is a peaceful witness

If you can, please complain in writing to the Director, Nicholas Penny, at The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN or

Read Francis Phillips' piece in the Catholic Herald (


Trilocation last Saturday

I've had the bug that's going round this week, hence the silence of this blog, but here's to catch up a little.

Last Saturday I should have been in two places at once: the Latin Mass Society's Confirmations at Spanish Place, and the LMS and Guild of St Clare stall at the Towards Advent conference. So naturally I was at neither: the Schola Abelis was having a training day in Oxford, with the brilliant Christopher Hodkinson. There just aren't enough Saturdays to go around.
All three events were extremely successful. At Spanish Place there were more than twenty candidates, and the sacrament was conferred by Bishop Alan Hopes. It is great to see children, young adult cradle Catholics who didn't get round to getting confirmed at school, and adult converts of all ages, receiving this great sacrament, with the traditional ceremonies. The numbers are impressive, now that this is no longer the only EF Confirmation service happening each year: this year there was one in the Wirral and one in Stoke on Trent. IMG_0463
That is indeed Fr Tim Finigan assisting Bishop Hopes in the sanctuary, with Fr Rupert McHardy of the London Oratory. Fr Simon Leworthy, who is now the Chaplain to the Traditional Community at St Bede's, Clapham Park, is also there. See more photos.IMG_0418
Fr Tim actually made it to the LMS stall as well as the confirmations, which just shows that he's better at bilocating than I am. (Actually with a fast car and a speedboat it was quite possible to get to Towards Advent before it closed after the service.) He's even blogged about it (twice).

The Guild of St Clare, which shared the LMS stall (being affiliated to the LMS) raised £100 for training and made itself known to a lot of people. The training the Guild undertakes is serious: as well as passing on skills of all levels between members, they will soon be going to the Royal School of Needlework for a specialised course. They also go on outings of a more generally educational kind: to Beckford Silks, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. There are well-established groups now in London, Birmingham and Oxford, and the affiliated children's groups were very involved in making the Christmas Tree decorations and other nik naks which were sold at the stall.

Is this not what tradition means? The picture above shows one of the older, and one of the younger, members of the Guild at the stall. If the one on the right passes on what she knows to the one on the left, this means that skills which were being taught at schools in the 1950s will be understood and used, God willing, in 2050s, when the younger lady (pictured, who turns seven today, as it happens) will still be under 60.

Can we prevent the complete dissolution of that culture and knowledge which once could be taken for granted in the Catholic Church in England and Wales? With a bit of effort, we can. Don't take your skills to grave: don't let your children grow up ignorant of these essential things. Get involved!

On the Schola Training day, I'll say something about it on the Schola blog.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Buy the Papa Stronsay wall calendar!

 Buy the calendar today! Get lots of copies and give some away! Click here.

But why, you say? What about the Latin Mass Society wall calendar?

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The same old rubbish from Paul Inwood

Paul Inwood is at it yet again (see previous posts here and here): writing (on Pray Tell) what would be deliberate falsehoods about the Traditional Mass, and its supporters, if it were clear he had the integrity to read the documents properly. As it is I suspect wishful thinking has got the better of him.  His comment in red, my responses in blue.
This, I am afraid, is a very commonly-encountered misunderstanding.
(1) The provision is there for members of a parish to petition their pastor for Masses in the extraordinary form if they have previously been used to having it, and feel that their spirituality is lacking without it. It is not a blanket permission. Benedict XVI himself said that this will only apply to a very small number of people, and that for most people the Ordinary Form will continue to be the norm. (Interview en route for France, September 12, 2008)
Rubbish. The Instruction Universae Ecclesiae 15 explicitly says that the groups asking for the EF need not have existed before, and places no great hurdle for the importance of the EF to their spiritual lives: it talks of groups which 'even after the publication of the Motu Proprio, come together by reason of their veneration for the Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior,' The Holy Father explicity says in the Letter to Bishops accompanying the Motu Proprio that 'that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them. Thus the need has arisen for a clearer juridical regulation which had not been foreseen at the time of the 1988 Motu Proprio.' Few such young people can have been 'used to it', since they weren't born before 1970 and the EF wasn't widely available before the Motu Proprio.
It is a 'blanket permission', since any priest anywhere in the Latin Rite can now say the EF: pastoral reason or no pastoral reason. It is simply allowed: as the MP says
In Masses celebrated without the people, each Catholic priest of the Latin rite, whether secular or regular, may use the Roman Missal published by Bl. Pope John XXIII in 1962, or the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970, and may do so on any day with the exception of the Easter Triduum. For such celebrations, with either one Missal or the other, the priest has no need for permission from the Apostolic See or from his Ordinary.' (Oh and people can come to these Masses: see article 4.)
(2) It does not give permission to proselytise in an attempt to draw in new adherents. It is only for existing adherents who feel deprived.
But there is no need to give permission to 'proselystise': how could such activity, by which Inwood presumably means the encouragement of a legitimate form of the liturgy and spirituality, possibly be banned? If the idea were not so preposterous, one could point to the establishment of the Traditional Orders back in 1988 as evidence that the Holy See is perfectly happy with people promoting the EF.
(3) It does not give permission to claim that the Extraordionary Form is on a par with the Ordinary Form. The EF permission is only, once again, for a small number of people who have not been able to let go of that form. It is, as its title declares, extra-ordinary (i.e. abnormal). It is not “half of the Roman Rite”; it is a minority manifestation of the Roman Rite.
It is on a par with the OF in the sense that 'each Catholic priest of the Latin rite, whether secular or regular, may use the Roman Missal published by Bl. Pope John XXIII in 1962, or the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970'. And in the sense that religious communities can adopt it as their proper rite (Article 3). And in the sense that the Faithful can freely attend one or the other. And in the sense that the EF should be taught in seminaries (Universae Ecclesiae 21). So what, exactly, is your point, Mr Inwood?
(4) Similarly, it does not give permission to claim (as most of its adherents seem to do) that the Ordinary Form is merely tolerated, and that the Extraordinary Form is the only true form, which should replace the Ordinary Form whenever possible. The Ordinary Form is normative; the Extraordinary Form is the exception, not the rule.
If 'most adherents' of the EF claim that the OF is 'merely tolerated', it will be easy to quote them, won't it, Mr Inwood? So let's have names, quotes, and urls. I'm intrigued to know what this means.
And if the EF replaces the OF as time goes on, in part or (unlikely as it seems today), wholly, because of laity and clergy voting with their feet, what exactly would be wrong with that? The 1970 Missal was promulgated for the good of the Church: not as a prison. If the good of the Church can be served in other ways, half a century and more later, then no one has any cause for complaint.
If only people were clear about all this, a lot of arguments could be avoided.
 How true that it.
I love this phrase of Inwood's: the Mou Proprio was for 'a small number of people who have not been able to let go of that form'. It puts his own feelings so well: he is part of a small and diminishing group of people who can't let go of the 1970s, who can't let go of their power in the Church and give way to a new generation who think a bit differently. Well I'm sorry but there'll be no Motu Propro for you: no Pope is going to enforce your tyranny over everyone else just so you can pretend it is still 1976.