Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Requiem at St Benet's Hall: photos

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Fr John van den Burgh of the London Oratory, an alumnus of St Benet's, celebrated a Sung Requiem Mass for the deceased of the Hall on Saturday 9th November. He was assisted by Fr Daniel Lloyd. Mass was accompanied by the Schola Abelis of Oxford.

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Saturday, November 09, 2019

Photos from the Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage, 25-27 Oct

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Above: Bishop Dominique Rey of Frejus Toulon celebrating Mass in Sta Trinita on Sunday 27.

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Mass in the Pantheon on Friday 25

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

A response to Zita Ballinger Fletcher: the Mass is not 'a cult of toxic tradition'

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Procession to St Peter's during the Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage
My latest on LifeSiteNews.

A certain Zita Ballinger Fletcher, writing in the National ‘Catholic’ Reporter (a notoriously not-very-Catholic publication) has written an unintentionally hilarious article attacking the traditional Mass. It alternates between statements of the obvious, presented as though they were horrifying revelations — the Latin Mass is said in Latin! The priest celebrates facing away from the people! — with bizarre non sequiturs: this form of the Mass is sexist, oppressive, and clericalist.
And worst of all, people aren’t allowed to wear red.
Fletcher is worried about division in the Church — at least, this is presumably the point of talking about the Latin Mass creating ‘sects’ — but it is she, not Catholics attached to the ancient liturgical tradition, who is causing divisions with this article. Her embittered and rather personal attack contrasts very much with the attitude of her victims. Traditional Catholics do not fill their leisure hours attacking the character of Catholics who attend the ‘Ordinary Form’. 
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Tuesday, November 05, 2019

The problem with 'Great Books'

My latest in the Catholic Herald: a book review.

In the 1920s, some influential academics were dismayed to find that many graduates of elite American universities were, not to put too fine a point on it, culturally illiterate. They lacked the knowledge that could be taken for granted among cultivated Europeans at the beginnings of their tertiary education, let alone at the end.

The academics’ natural response was to attempt to address this lack, and so the “Western Civilisation Course” or “Great Books Programme” was born, and made compulsory (or strongly recommended) in many institutions. These courses frog-marched students through a carefully selected canon of Western literature, from the Greeks and Romans onwards, with excursions into philosophy and history.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Requiems this Saturday: London and Oxford

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Sung Domincan Rite Mass in St Dominic's from the spring, celebrated by Fr Lawrence Lew

The Catholic Medical Association is holding a Requiem for deceased members followed by a day of recollection in St Dominic's, Havestock Hill, this Saturday: the Dominican Rite Sung Mass begins at 11am. See here for more details.

The annual Requiem for deceased members, staff, and benefactors at St Benet's Hall, 38 St Giles, Oxford OX1 3LN will take place on Saturday at 10:30am. It will be a High Mass in the traditional Roman Rite, and will be celebrated by Fr Edward van den Burgh of the London Oratory.

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Last year's Requiem at St Benet's Hall
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Thursday, October 31, 2019

Prof Stephen Bullivant at Iota Unum talk Friday (1st Nov) in London

Our series of Iota Unum talks in London continues with Prof Stepen Bullivant, author of Mass Exodus, talking about his study of Catholic lapsation since the second world war.

Did Vatican II have anything to do with it? Stephen Bullivant, a sociologist of religion, will tell you...

6:30 for 7pm in the basement of Our Lady of the Assumption, Warwick Street: please use the Golden Square entrance. £5 on the door. Drinks and a good company.

Click for a map.

See my discussion of the book on LifeSiteNews.

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Perseverantes Unianimier in Oratione: Pilgrimage to Walsingham, 7-8 December

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The LMS Walking Pilgrimage to Walsingham in August 2019

From the LMS

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children is being joined by the Latin Mass Society and the Good Counsel Network in organising a pilgrimage to Walsingham on 7-8 December, with a short conference on the Saturday and a Sung EF Mass on Sunday (10am in the Reconciliation Chapel at the Catholic Shrine, Houghton St Giles), followed by a procession to the site of the Holy House in the grounds of Walsingham Priory.

The pilgrimage is in response to recent legislation imposing compulsory sex education on schools, including Catholic schools, and seeks God's grace for those, above all our bishops, in responding to
this.

The conference will be addressed by Joseph Shaw, Chairman of the Latin Mass Society.

Full details here.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

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Last Saturday was the LMS Pilgrimage to Oxford. We had a lovely Dominican Rite High Mass in Blackfriars, with the Schola Abelis singing Dominican chant, and the Newman Consort singing Byrd's Four Part Mass, with a motet by Baudldeweyn, Ave caro Christi cara: all of which was lovely.

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Monday, October 21, 2019

Pachamama is a pagan deity

My latest on LifeSiteNews.
Quite a lot of what is happening at the Synod on the Amazon right now in Rome is shrouded in mystery, since the press is not being allowed to see the texts of synod addresses — even those of Pope Francis. We are left to contemplate the outward spectacle, which started with a strange tree-planting ceremony in the Vatican gardens and continues with processions and displays in St Peter’s and elsewhere. At the ceremony, and in many of these displays, is a figurine of Pachamama, which in the tree-planting seemed to be what various participants were bowing before, while Pope Francis stood in the background.
Heroic efforts have been made to explain Pachamama away. Austen Ivereigh, the papal biographer, declared not only that she was a native representation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but that anyone expressing concern about the figurine was racist. It took the Vatican press officers to disabuse him. In a press conference, Bishop David Martínez de Aguirre Guinea of Peru suggested instead:
Probably those who used this symbol demonstrated, wishes to reflect fertility, to women, to life, the life presence among these Amazonian people … and Amazonia is meant to be full of life. I don’t think we need to create any connections with the Virgin Mary or with a pagan element.
On this line of thought, the figurine represents an abstraction, or perhaps a collection of them: ‘fertility’, ‘women’, ‘life’.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Scalfari and the Pope on the Divinity of Christ

My latest on LifeSiteNews.

Earlier this month, journalist Eugenio Scalfari claimed that Pope Francis believes, "once incarnated, Jesus ceases to be a God and becomes a man until his death on the cross."

Scalfari’s claims about the beliefs of Pope Francis have been puzzling Catholics for six years, and from time to time elicit some form of denial from Vatican spokesmen. On this occasion, they pointed out that Scalfari’s apparently direct quotations of the Holy Father are a mere "personal and free interpretation" of his words, and, furthermore, Scalfari has not met Pope Francis for two years.

Neither statement is exactly decisive, especially as Scalfari claims to have telephone conversations with Pope Francis, a claim that has never been denied. Nevertheless, I was inclined to sympathize with the spokesman, Matteo Bruni, who expressed some exasperation. This claim is so ridiculous, he suggested, that it just goes to show how little we should trust Scalfari’s claims.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Oxford Pilgrimage this Saturday: Mass at 11am in Blackfriars

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This Saturday, 19th, is the annual Latin Mass Society Oxford Pilgrimage, with a High Mass in the Dominican Rite at 11am, and a procession at 2:15 followed by Benediction.

It is the feast of St Frideswide, the Patron of the City of Oxford, and the Mass will be hers.

Blackfriars is in St Giles in the centre of Oxford, postcode OX1 3LY: click for a map.


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Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Our Lady of the Rosary in Holy Trinity, Hethe

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If these photographs look as though they were taken through a gradually thickening fog, they were. There was a lot of incense left over from the previous Mass when we started, and the view from the choir loft became steadily more obscure as Mass proceeded. Nevertheless, it was a lovely occasion, the first time - probably, the first time ever - that the traditional Dominican Rite has been celebrated in this venerable church.

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Fr Richard Conrad OP followed the Mass with a blessing of roses, which is a Dominican tradition on this day. Roses, and lilies, are very much a theme of the chants.

Monday, October 07, 2019

LMS Aylesford Pilgrimage, 26th October

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The St Catherine's Trust Summer School at Aylesford in July
Saturday 26th October will see the Latin Mass Society's annul pilgrimage to the Carmelite Priory at Aylesford, home of the Brown Scapular. We have Mass in the Relic Chapel, which houses the cranium of St Simon Stock, the recipient of the promises of Our Lady on the scapular.

Schedule of the 2019 Pilgrimage

12:45 pm – Confessions (Fr Neil Brett)

1:30 pm – Missa Cantata (Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary) (Fr Matthew Goddard FSSP)
Sung by Schola Cantorum Sancti Johannes Houghton (Director: Clifford Lister)

3:00 pm – The Rosary Way (led by Fr Matthew Goddard FSSP)

3:45 pm – Enrolment in the Brown Scapular (administer by Fr Matthew Goddard FSSP)

4:15 pm – Vespers (Little Office of Our Lady) and Benediction (Fr Matthew Goddard FSSP)

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Enrollment in the Brown Scapular in the Relic Chapel
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Saturday, September 28, 2019

Good Counsel Network: annual ball

From the Good Counsel Network.

I am really pleased to invite you to Good Counsel’s Annual Pro – Life Fundraising Ball on the 9th November, and being held at the Royal Garden Hotel in South Kensington. This is our biggest event of the year and helps raise thousands of pounds for our life-saving work.

We would really love as many of our supporters as possible to come and have a great night out. We can promise a great night with a superb 3 course, 5 star meal, a brilliant live band, with even more time for dancing than last year and lots of fun throughout the night with games, a silent auction and an opportunity to continue supporting the vital pro-life work of the Good Counsel Network.

The following are the key details:

DATE: Saturday 9th November 2019

TIME: Arrival from 6pm with dinner starting at 7pm, please don't be late as we will not be able to wait for you!

LOCATION: The Royal Garden Hotel, 2-24 Kensington High Street, London, W8 4PT. Please look for the Palace Suite (The Palace suite has its own exclusive entrance to the right of the main doors.)

TICKET PRICE: £95 per person. Tables of 10 cost £900.
TO BOOK TICKETS YOU MUST EMAIL GCNBALL@GMAIL.COM OR CALL 07886000882.

DIETARY REQUIREMENTS: All dietary requirements can be catered for, but these requirements must be given to us at the time of booking.

DRESS CODE: Black Tie

We look forward to hearing from you and hopefully seeing you soon.

God bless

Conor
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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Sir James MacMillan: London performances

Sir James MacMillan is a Patron of the Latin Mass Society, and I am pleased to pass on this notice about a forthcoming performance of his work, from the man himself.

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Le grand Inconnu is coming to London on 14 October. (The BBC Radio 3 broadcast of the premiere is below.) 

Performed by The Sixteen, Genesis Sixteen and the Britten Sinfonia at the Barbican that evening it is paired with my The Sun Danced, based on the miracles at Fatima. 

Also two of my favourite composers in the programme - Arvo Part and Benjamin Britten. 

Come and join us! 


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Monday, September 23, 2019

'Breaking with the Pope'

My latest on Life Site.
The canon lawyer and journalist Edward Condon declared to his Twitter followers the other day, ‘If someone tells you the only way to be authentically Catholic is to break with the pope and the bishops, they are — at best — a Protestant’.
Perhaps I can help him out. Like Condon, I believe that Jorge Bergoglio was validly elected as pope and reigns today, as a matter of the law of the Church, as Pope Francis. Also like Condon, who has written extensively and often very well on recent crises in the Church, I have some concerns about some of the things which Pope Francis has done and said. Perhaps he and I also agree that it would be good if Pope Francis were to clarify some of his more puzzling remarks, even if Condon prefers not to clarify his own. 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Cardinal Burke in London: photos

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His Eminence Raymond, Cardinal Burke, celebrated Low Mass in the Shrine Church of Corpus Christi on Monday 16th September, at the request of the Latin Mass Society. We were very honoured by his kindness in doing this, which is very characteristic of him.

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This church is one of London's historic Catholic churches, and has a special place in the history of the Traditional Mass, as thanks to various parish priests over the years the celebration of the ancient Mass never ceased here. Today it is, of longstanding custom, celebrated every Monday evening, a Mass organised by the Latin Mass Society, and on some other occasions as well. Cardinal Burke was a very special celebrant, therefore, for this regular Mass, which is usualy a Missa Cantata.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Reminder: Server training in London this Saturday

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Enrollmemts into the Society of St Tarcisius on the Walsingham Pilgrimage
The training days for Altar servers have been a great success, regularly attracting a dozen participants. The servers' sodality we have established, the Society of St Tarcisius, now has 59 enrolled members, from as far away as Bristol and Edinburgh.

In the London events, the Guild of St Clare has a vestment-mending day running alongside the server training, making use (at St Mary Moorfield's) of the large and well-appointed basement.

The next two events, on this Saturday, one next month, are both in St Mary Moorfields, 4-5 Eldon St, London EC2M 7LS (click for a map):

Saturday 14th September (booking page here)

Saturday 30th November (booking page here).

Please book for the server training; if you wish to participate in the vestment mending, email the Guild of St Clare. (It really helps to know how many people are coming!)

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Monday, September 09, 2019

Gender theory is ruining theatre

My latest on LifeSiteNews.
By the time I finally stopped watching television, more than a decade ago, even the shows I liked best were being spoiled by the producers’ need to include politically correct themes, issues, and characters. There can be no objection to having, for example, bad people, in fiction, who are nominally Christian, or good people who are same sex–attracted, but if they invariably turn out that way, one begins to wonder if something strange is going on. At the same time, writers were having to make their plots more and more macabre to maintain a constant level of shock value. Between the obeisance to political correctness and the display of dismembered corpses, the human interest of the drama seemed to have slipped away.
The decay of modern culture manifests itself in a different way in theatre. I watch a fair number of plays, including open-air Shakespeare and student productions in and around Oxford. The summer season has just come to a close, and while some of the productions have been excellent, others have been problematic. When presenting classical drama, a view has taken hold, less so at the top level of professional theatre, but elsewhere, that the sex of a character does not affect the relationships between that character and others.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Eucharistic Adoration is not the answer to the crisis of faith in the Real Presence

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My latest on LifeSiteNews.
Recently, it was reported that more than half of self-described Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence at all. As I have written before, this represents an emergency, a pastoral crisis, which has received a somewhat lethargic response. Not long before the survey about beliefs came out, Stephen Bullivant’s survey on lapsation recorded lapsed Catholics complaining that their parish catechists didn’t believe the Faith and were not passing it on. It seems that some of our lapsed brothers and sisters would like to insist on higher standards of orthodoxy than some of our priests and bishops.
Apart from catechesis and preaching, one traditional response to error about one doctrine or another is to emphasize the correct teaching liturgically. Bowing or kneeling at references to the Incarnation (in the Creed, when we say “and was made man”), for example, helps to hammer home the truth about that. I am a strong believer in the power of the liturgy to reinforce the Faith: for one thing, it is impossible to get adult Catholics to go to catechism classes, but if they come to church at all, they will experience the liturgy. Can Eucharistic Adoration help, then, in restoring the sense among Catholics that Christ is truly present in the Host?
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Thursday, September 05, 2019

Paganism old and new

My latest on LifeSiteNews.

recent study by the London-based Benedict Centre has shown that up to half of self-described atheists and agnostics across different countries believe in ‘underlying forces of good and evil’ and that ‘significant events are “meant to be”’. This is a reminder that a large part of the decline of religious practice and belief in the West is not about rejecting the supernatural realm, but adopting a kind of vague paganism. This should not be confused, however, with the paganism of the ancient world.
Contrary to what is sometimes claimed, the people of ancient Greece and Rome had an uneasy conscience about many of the practices Christianity later suppressed, which are re-emerging today. The Greek historian of Rome, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, praised Rome’s mythical founder, Romulus, for making marriage a holy and indissoluble institution (Roman Antiquities II.25), from which it later declined. It’s far from clear what historical basis there might be to this claim, but it represents an ideal, a golden age, from which the Romans and Greeks of Dionysius’s own day fell short.
Carry on reading.

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Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Cardinal Pell and contempt for justice

My latest on LifeSiteNews.

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As I have written before, the conviction of Cardinal Georgy Pell, despite being upheld on appeal, is difficult to understand. On the one hand, as Pell’s legal team painstakingly explained, it was essentially impossible for Pell to have abused two choristers (as alleged) in a sacristy, while still vested, without anyone noticing, at a time when he would actually have been outside the front of the cathedral talking to Mass-goers. On the other hand, the only evidence against him is the word of one accuser; the other alleged victim denied that the abuse took place.
However the jury and two court of appeal came to their decisions, doubts will continue to be voiced, especially in light of the carefully argued dissenting opinion by one of the appeal-court judges.
Carry on reading.

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Thursday, August 29, 2019

Young Catholic Adults annual retreat 25-27 Oct

During the weekend of the 25-27 October 2019, Young Catholic Adults will be running a retreat at Douai Abbey, it will feature author and associate editor of the Catholic Herald Stephen Bullivant, Fr. Stewart Foster (Brentwood Diocese), Canon Poucin ICKSP, Dom. Jonathan Rollinson (Bemont Abbey) and Dom. Christopher Greener (Douai Abbey).

The weekend will be full-board. YCA will be running the weekend with the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge who will be holding Gregorian Chant workshops.

There will also be a Marian Procession, Rosaries, Sung Masses, Confession and socials. All Masses will be celebrated in the Extraordinary form.

Please note to guarantee your place this year Douai Abbey have requested that everyone books in 3 weeks before the start of the weekend i.e.4th Oct 2019.

More information: http://youngcatholicadults-latestnews.blogspot.co.uk/

To book:- https://bookwhen.com/youngcatholicadults-douai2019

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Young Catholics deserve answers, not scorn

Cross-posted from Rorate Caeli.
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LMS Pilgrims at the site of the Holy House in Walsingham on Sunday.
Recent days have seen one of those waves of attacks on Traditional Catholics on social media. I have responded to one aspect of it, that of simple charity, with a Twitter-thread you can see here. Here I want to look at another aspect of it: the kinds of things the supposedly hateful traddies are talking about.

We all know how anti-trad moral panics work. Some one claims to have experienced ‘bossybitter’, or ‘extreme’ views, not from an established writer, but by some Twitter or Facebook account with 12 followers, if we are allowed to know who it is. Other people then chime in to say, Wow, I’ve had the same experience: not pausing to consider the fact that, unless they live under a stone, they’ll also have had one or two bad experiences with every other category of human being on the planet with more than a handful of members.

It doesn’t seem to occur to those making this criticism that they are doing precisely what they are usually accusing Traditional Catholics of doing: of being rather quick to condemn others. Those of them who are not obscure Twitter accounts with 12 followers ought to know better. But let that pass. The other question is whether we should be having these discussions which the trads are having, and if so, what they should be like.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

More photos of the Walingham Pilgrimage 2019

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 Fr Terrance Naughton OFM Conv was the celebrant at the High Mass in the Catholic Shrine's Reconciliation Chapel. Since it was a Sunday, we had the Asperges, though in the Shrine it is possible to have a Votive Mass of Our Lady.

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The chapel presents a challenge for photography, with strong sunlight pouring through the windows behind the altar.

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We begin the procession to the site of the Medieval Shrine in the ruined Priory: the Holy Mile.

Photos of the Walsingham Pilgrimage

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High Mass in St Ethelreda's, Ely. We had four priests with us so High Mass was possible every day of the pilgrimage. (Votive Mass for Pilgrims.)

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Fr Michael Rowe, who is based in Perth, Australia, blesses the pilgrims before the start of the walking, in the Methodist Hall in Ely, where we had breakfast (and dinner the evening before).

Saturday, August 17, 2019

SCT Summer School: more photos

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Asperges at Mass on the first day (Sunday)

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Benediction in St Augustine's Shrine

Friday, August 16, 2019

SCT Summer School: some photos

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I have had trouble getting my photos of the St Catherine's Trust Summer School off the memory cards, but here are some, at last. The Summer School took place 27th July to 3rd August, in the Divine Retreat Centre, which is over the road from St Augustine's Shrine in Ramsgate.

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It was a great privilege to be able to have Mass during the Summer School in the Shrine church, which thanks to recent restoration, now looks as Pugin intended it, with a splendid Rood Screen. In these photographs Fr Andrew Southwell, our Chaplain, is celebrating Mass.

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As the historian Eamon Duffy has pointed out, the Medieval Rood Screnn, which Pugin tried to revive, served not to hide the action in the sanctuary, as curtains had done in more ancient times, but more to frame it: we see what is going on through a series of windows.


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Sohrab Ahmari: the story of his conversion

My latest on LifeSite.
I have just finished reading ’s From Fire by Water (Ignatius, 2019), an engaging, perceptive, and edifying account of his spiritual and intellectual journey from a not-very observant Islamic early childhood, to Catholicism, with a lot of secular modern allegiances in between.
Ahmari was born in Iran to a secularized, middle class, intellectual family. Having some access to American culture, especially films, Ahmari was thoroughly seduced by the American way of life before he had any personal contact with it. When he and his mother managed to emigrate to America when he was 13, the reality of a financially precarious life in rural Utah was a letdown. He was a precocious reader and in time discovered Nietzsche and the Existentialists, drifting into Trotskyite Communism and then Post Modernism as he passed through college. 

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Patreon page launched

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I thought I would experiment with a Patreon page. My thought is that I am producing a fair mumber of articles, and from time to time doing long audio interviews, for which I am not paid, and often are not easily seen by my regular readers.

If people would like to support this work, and the other things I do, they can do so through Patreon, and I can make some of this material available to them.

So here is the link: Become a Patron!

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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Roosh takes the 'God' pill

My latest on LifeSite is about Roosh, the writer of 'Game' books: books about how to pick up women. Particularly in light of his repudiation of meaningless sex, I am planning to write more about him, probably on this blog.

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It is good to hear every now and then of someone who has turned away from a self-destructive way of life. The conversion of Daryush Valizadeh, known as “Roosh,” is an example that deserves some attention. It has received less, I think, at least partly because he has not become a Catholic, but joined the Armenian Apostolic Church, presumably because of his own religious and cultural heritage (he describes himself as half-Armenian and half-Iranian), and partly because he still harbors some peculiar views (more on that later). But it is still an astonishing turnaround. He announced his Christian commitment on March 29, 2019.
So what was he before? To put it bluntly, he made his living from fornication. On the basis of vast experience persuading women to sleep with him, he wrote books and gave talks and workshops about it, facilitating the sexual sins of other men. He was one of the premier “pick-up artists” of the world.
Continue reading.

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New Mass of Ages

In this issue:
• We celebrate the Ordination of four men, in the Traditional Rite, by Bishop Philip Egan in his Cathedral in Portsmouth • Joseph Shaw explains the ‘Confirmation slap’
• A selection of pictures from our recent pilgrimage to Holywell
• Maurice Quinn remembers the Dorset men who died for the Faith – the Chideock Martyrs
• Jonathan Luxmoore explains why Polish Catholics rally to their Church undeterred by a new crisis
• Fr Lawrence Lew OP on the traditional liturgy and Catholic masculinity
• Joseph Shaw explains how Catholic Linguistic Survivals from the Ancient Liturgy are embedded in the fabric of our lives

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Friday, August 09, 2019

Schola Sainte-Cécile in England 2019

Programme                                                                             1 August 2019

Monday August the 19th
Oxford Oratory
Oratory Church of St Aloysius Gonzaga, 25 Woodstock Road, Oxford OX2 6HA
by courtesy of the Fathers of the Oratory and Fr Oliver Craddock, Cong.Orat., Prefect of Music
6:30 pm       Vespers and benediction (Trad Roman Rite - 2nd Vespers of St John Eudes)

Tuesday August the 20th
Balliol College chapel
The Broad, Oxford OX1 3BJ
by courtesy of the Revd Dr Bruce Kinsey, Chaplain, Balliol College.
9:30 am       Solemn mass of St Bernard of Clairvaux (Trad Roman Rite)

Wednesday August the 21st
Oxford Oratory
11:00 am     Solemn mass of St Jeanne de Chantal (Trad Roman Rite)

2:00 pm       Visit to Littlemore
International Centre of Newman Friends, 9 College Lane, Littlemore, Oxford OX4 4LQ
Blessed Newman commemoration and devotions

Balliol College chapel
6:30 pm       Vespers (Sarum Rite - of the Octave of Assumption, memory of the Martyrs Timotheus and Symphorian)

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Review of Stephen Bullivant in Catholic Herald

I'm late posting this on here but my latest in the Catholic Herald is a review of Mass Exodus by Stephen Bullivant. It begins:

Was Vatican II in some way responsible for declining Catholic practice and “affiliation” (people calling themselves Catholics), or is this phenomenon a matter of trends beyond the Church’s control? Focusing on Britain and the United States, Professor Stephen Bullivant, a sociologist of religion at St Mary’s University, London, presents the evidence with precision, while still producing a highly readable book. The thesis of Mass Exodus is that the Church, like other ecclesial bodies, has clearly faced considerable headwinds since the 1960s as a result of wider social forces, but has also made things worse for itself.

Bullivant’s analysis revolves around three key sociological concepts. The first is the role of networks in nurturing belief, or “social network theory”. The denser the social network of believers, the more they are connected with each other (as opposed to non-believers), and the lower will be the rate of lapsation and disaffiliation. The Amish, for example, with their distinctive way of life and close-knit community, have a very low level of disaffiliation. Catholics were never like them, but up to the 1960s there was, to some degree, a “Catholic ghetto” in both the US and Britain where, in a hostile world, they had social support from fellow believers. The community was marked out by customs such as eating fish on Friday, distinctive forms of worship and spirituality, and interest in a common history, particularly of persecution.

Carry on reading.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Two ideas for stemming lapsation

My latest on LifeSiteNews.
Contemplating the problems in the Church today, I feel like the countryman in the joke about the stranger asking for directions. 'If I were going there,' he replies, 'I wouldn't start from here.'
I wouldn't start from a situation in which, because of fifty years of bad or absent catechesis, some people walk out of church if they hear a sermon which talks about moral issues. I wouldn't start from a situation in which, because of fifty years of poor and occasionally sacrilegious liturgy, some people walk out because they see anything redolent of reverence or tradition.
We are where we are. How could we begin to make things better, without making things too much worse in the short term? Bearing in mind that if you make things too much worse in the short term, you lose your chance to persist in the experiment for the long term.
Here are a couple of ideas. If implemented, they would drive some people out: but any policy will do that, including the policy of no policy, just leaving things alone. The hope is that with the right ideas, a counter-trend of growth might be established.
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I have now written short reviews here of both of Professor Stephen Bullivant’s books: one on a recent survey of lapsed Catholics for the Diocese of Portsmouth in England, the other an in-depth discussion of the sociology of Catholics leaving the Church. These form the background to my consideration, today, of what the Church can do to stem the tide of lapsation, which continues, notwithstanding Catholic immigration into both the U.K. and the USA, which flatters the overall numbers.
Prof. Bullivant asked the lapsed Catholics who completed the Portsmouth survey the simple question: “Can you imagine yourself returning to the Church? If so, what specific things might the Church do to help towards this?”
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Monday, July 22, 2019

AGM Mass in Westminster Cathedral

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I've been reading in the archive of the Catholic Herald about the first ever Mass for the Latin Mass Society to mark an Annual General Meeting: in June 1972. You can read it here. 2,700 people packed the Cathedral for the Mass and 400 attended the AGM itself afterwards.

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People are not quite so starved of the Traditional Mass today, and this one Mass doesn't attractice such an enormous crowd. About that many people, by my estimation, attend a Latin Mass on any given Sunday. Many of those at the Mass in 1972 probably hadn't attended any for a year or more. Indeed, most Masses were celebrated in the vernacular from 1965, and at the same time the rubrics and prayers began to chance quite radically.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Why do people lapse? More from Stephen Bullivant

My latest on LifeSiteNews. This post focuses on a shorter book of Prof Bullivant, which has also come out this year. One of the interesting and perhaps counter-intuitive results of the survey of lapsed Catholics he carried out for Portsmouth Diocese is that the lapsed are not all what you might call liberal ex-Catholics: they include a fair number of conservative or even traditionalist ex-Catholics. I think it might be tempting to think of the more conservative type of Catholic as the core vote who are least likely to leave, people with a higher level of committment. The truth is more complicated. People who want traditional liturgy, beautiful churches, and clear teaching, can lose heart and lapse. Indeed, 10% of respondents even agreed (or 'strongly agreed') with the statement 'I prefer the Latin Mass but there is none in my area.'

You know how many lapsed Catholics there are? The massive and authoritative British Social Attitudes Survey indicates that there are 3.7 million in the UK. If anything like 10% of these, plus who knows what percentage of practicing Catholics, prefer the Latin Mass, even when most Catholics under 70 do not even know what it is like, then our bishops are clearly missing a trick in not making sure it is available.

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Alongside his book Mass Exodus, which I discussed in another post, the British sociologist Professor Stephen Bullivant, with some co-authors, has published a shorter book titled Why Catholics Leave, What They Miss, and How They Might Return.This gives a summary of the results of a survey Prof Bullivant undertook for the diocese of Portsmouth in England, which appealed to people who had been baptized Catholic, but no longer attended Mass regularly. The survey was to help explain why people left. The results, from 256 respondents with some connection with Portsmouth diocese, are pretty interesting, if not always surprising.
One thing which emerges from the survey is how difficult it is to maintain the Faith today. The assumptions of the modern world, about sex before marriage and contraception, about homosexuality, about gender roles, and so on, are deeply unfriendly to Catholic teaching and practice: only deep commitment will withstand the constant attrition of the secular media, friends, college professors, government policies, and so on.
This is no secret, of course: so how has the Church responded? Many in senior positions are convinced that to teach sound doctrine, from the pulpit or in catechism class, would drive people away. They reason that it is easier for Catholics influenced by modern attitudes to sex and gender, for example, to keep coming to church if they are not confronted by the Church’s hard teachings. This approach was first applied to the condemnation of contraception by Pope Paul VI in his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae; it is sometimes called the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. It seems to apply to great swathes of doctrine today. 
Carry on reading.

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Friday, July 19, 2019

Prof Bullivant on What Went Wrong after Vatican II

I'm going to be writing more about Prof Bullivant's new book, Mass Exodus, which examines the catastrophic decline of Catholic affiliation and practice since the Second Vatican Council, from a sociological point of view.

Here is a piece I have written for LifeSiteNews.

In a newly published book, Mass Exodus: Catholic Disaffiliation in Britain and America Since Vatican II, Professor Stephen Bullivant has explored in detail what went wrong with the Church after the Second Vatican Council, from the point of view of the sociology of religion. The sociological, as opposed to the supernatural, perspective has its limitations, but we should hear what it has to say.
I want to explore just one aspect of Bullivant’s argument (I heartily recommend the book for those interested in more). He introduces readers to the well-established theory of the “social network effect” in sustaining a world view. Simply put, if all your neighbors are Catholics, it is easier to remain a Catholic yourself. If you meet fellow worshipers from your parish in your workplace, in local shops, and in your leisure pursuits, if you read Catholic news sources, and if you are surrounded by Catholic devotional statues and holy pictures, the Catholic worldview will begin to seem not just one option among many, but the obvious way to look at things. Doubts can be answered or ignored. Going to church is just what everyone does. Examples of personal holiness and self-sacrifice for the Faith are easy to witness and to give.
Carry on reading.

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Monday, July 15, 2019

LMS Latin Course: book now

For details and booking see the LMS website here.

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Dates: 29th July to 2nd August 2019

The Latin Mass Society’s Residential Latin Course for adults is an intensive course, taught by two experienced tutors, focusing on the Latin of the liturgy.

It is ideal for priests and seminarians wishing to improve their Latin, and all clerics and seminarians (and those about to enter seminary) enjoy a 50% discount on the course fees, which are extremely low anyway.