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Showing posts from January, 2014

British Confraternity of Catholic Clergy news

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Yesterday I was in the hot seat for the meeting of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy (British Province of St Gregory the Great) to give a lecture on "The Priest: Presbyter and Sacerdos: a Question of Identity." Fellow clergy are always a daunting audience especially when some are scholars in their own right with several books to their name, but I think that the talk was appreciated, and the quality of questions and useful comments afterwards made for a profitable day. Having failed in a pious intention, the lecture is not quite ready for publication but I hope to address this in due course.

We met this time at St Mary Moorfields and after the lecture enjoyed a wholesome lunch and good conversation - an important part of the day. In the Church, the Blessed Sacrament is exposed during the day, so there was an opportunity after lunch for priests to catch up on the office, say the rosary or spend some time in quiet prayer. I do encourage you to take out membership if you agr…

CD 278: Communion at an Orthodox Church

I am going on holiday to a country where I may not be able to find a Catholic Church. Is it legitimate for me to receive Holy Communion in the Orthodox Church?
First of all, to be clear, if you cannot get to a Catholic Church on a Sunday or Holyday of Obligation, your obligation to attend Mass ceases: neither God nor the Church commands the impossible. Moral theologians generally reckon that a journey of more than about an hour would excuse from the obligation to attend Mass.

If you are on holiday and there is no Catholic Church available, your desire to participate in the Holy Eucharist at an Orthodox Church is praiseworthy and I would encourage you to attend the Divine Liturgy because it can help us to understand how the Eucharist is celebrated in a different tradition.

As for receiving Holy Communion, it is true that the Code of Canon Law says that a Catholic, for whom it is impossible to approach a Catholic minister, is permitted to receive Communion from a minister in whose Churc…

Campaign to buy Sawston Hall and make it a Catholic heritage centre

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One of the great Catholic recusant homes, Sawston Hall in East Anglia was a base for Fr John Gerard SJ, has a priest hole built by St Nicholas Owen (along with two others), had St John Rigby as Estate Manager, and was a place of hiding for Queen Mary, evading the Duke of Northumberland on her way to claim the throne. It is in fine condition and is now up for sale.

An article in the Cambridge News: Heritage group in £4.75m bid to buy Sawston Hall - and to open it to the public reports on the campaign to raise £4.75 million to buy Sawston Hall and make it a Catholic heritage centre with facilities for study and open to visits from the public. This is a wonderful opportunity to promote the study and understanding of this important part of our English Catholic history and to foster devotion to the martyr saints and other courageous Catholics who kept the flame of faith alive under persecution.

To support this campaign, see the website Save Sawston Hall.

Photo credit: Cambridge News. For f…

Papal invective revived

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"Smarmy narcissistic butterflies." If we follow the summary, provided by Vatican Radio, of the homily of Pope Francis last Saturday, we priests must be clear that we don't want to be one of those. Laurence England has updated his helpful Pope Francis Little Book of Insults though he has, with scholarly precision, separated the smarmy bit from the butterflies.

There are problems with the translation. When speaking a language other than one's mother-tongue, insults and swear-words are dangerous territory. It is notoriously difficult to know the strength of any particular expression, and there are often regional variations in just how offensive a word is. The pitfalls of translation are magnified when derogatory Italian expressions are translated into a variety of other modern languages.

We might be tempted to translate "untuoso" into English simply as "unctuous" which is not quite as strong as "smarmy", but my Dizionario Garzanti does giv…

St John Fisher's prayer for holy bishops

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St John Fisher, made a Cardinal by Pope Paul III in the hope of King Henry VIII to spare the holy Bishop. Famously, the King said:
"Yea, is he yet so lusty? Well, let the pope send him a hat, when he will. But I will so provide that, whensoever it cometh, he shall wear it on his shoulders, for head shall he have none to set it on." In 1504, at the age of 35, Fisher was appointed Bishop of Rochester, the poorest see in England, from which Bishops were expected to rise as their career progressed. Fisher in fact remained there for the rest of his life, not seeking any promotion.

In a sermon given in 1508, he made the following prayer asking God to send good Bishops to the Church (many thanks to John Howard for posting it on Facebook):
“Lord, according to Your promise that the Gospel should be preached throughout the whole world, raise up men fit for such work. The Apostles were but soft and yielding clay till they were baked hard by the fire of the Holy Ghost.

So, good Lord, d…

Declarations by theologians on marriage and the family

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The John Wijngaards Catholic Research Centre has published a Catholic Scholars' Statement on marriage and the family. The statement asserts among other things that leaders lack experience of married life, marriage exists in multiple forms, real married life is complex, Church guidance lacks sensitivity and that contraception should be allowed.

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre on the other hand, has produced a Declaration by Married and Lay Catholics preparatory to the Synods of 2014 and 2015, composed and edited by Dr Pia Matthews on behalf of a group of married and unmarried lay Catholics involved in academic research or teaching. Dr Matthews is the Programme Director for the Foundation Degree in Healthcare Chaplaincy at St Mary’s University College, Twickenham. She is also a colleague of mine as a visiting lecturer at St John's Seminary, Wonersh where she does some of the teaching in moral theology.

The Anscombe Biothics Centre statement looks at false dichotomies, the richnes…

“Choose Life – Choose Love” conference on beauty, freedom and the family

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From 28 February 2014 to Sunday 2 March at St Patrick's, Soho, the Westminster Office for Family Life are holding a conference "Choose Life - Choose Love. Beauty, Freedom and the Family."

Speakers include Dana Rosemary Scallon, and John Henry Westen, editor-in-chief of Lifesite News.

The Westminster website has a brief notice; for full details, email Edmund Adamus.

Retreats for young women with Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia

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The Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee set up a new convent in Elgin, Scotland last summer. (see: Catholic Herald report) Their community numbers around 300 sisters and has been generous in sending out sisters to serve in 19 dioceses in the United States and in Italy, Australia, Canada and now Scotland.

Part of the apostolate of the sisters is to offer retreats for young women. See the poster above for details of some forthcoming retreats. Here is a link for the same details and an email link.


Confession and the grille

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Many years ago at a Confirmation class, we asked the candidates to note down what might put them off going to Confession. There were various answers from the group but one stood out as the most common: "I don’t like the priest to know who I am." These were teenagers of 12-13 years of age and it did not surprise me to know that they wanted to be anonymous. However the confessional in my Church did actually have a grille: it was not perfect in that the penitent had to walk past an open space where the priest could see – although I always shielded my eyes to make it obvious that the penitent could be anonymous if desired.

When I mentioned this to the youngsters, they did not avert to the possibility of the priest perhaps seeing them as they walked past, they said that they did not know that they were allowed to kneel down behind the grille. That was a good reality-check for me as a priest. These young people had been taught for their first confession to sit opposite the priest…

CD 275: Paying cash for work done

A handyman who does work for me prefers for me to pay him in cash. Am I committing a sin if I agree to do so?
It is fascinating to see how virtually the whole country has become engaged in the intricacies of moral debate on this issue, including the complex question of material or formal co-operation in evil. The broad consensus is correct according to Catholic moral teaching: there is absolutely nothing wrong in itself with paying somebody using cash, which is, after all, legal tender. However if we pay cash because of an explicit offer to reduce the cost of the work, and because this reduction is due to the evasion of income tax or VAT, then we are formally co-operating in evil, and committing a sin (probably a venial sin given the amount of tax normally involved.) If we simply have a suspicion that cash is requested in order to avoid tax, then we ought (within reason) to ask whether this is the case or not.

The costs that small businesses incur with bank charges, credit card mercha…

Epiphany sacramentals

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Fr Zuhlsdorf has helpfully posted on various sacramentals related to the feast of the Epiphany (see: BEGONE SATAN! Epiphany Blessings, The Devil, and You.) Today at Blackfen we had the blessing of Epiphany water with the Litany, psalms, exorcism, Benedictus and Te Deum all sung. I didn't check the time carefully but I think it took about 40 minutes.

The exorcism is quite dramatic: it is a consolation to be able to use it as a parish priest on this occasion. Remember that Satan does not normally manifest his disgusting work by making books fly off the shelves or causing projectile vomiting. One of his most effective customary tactics is to cause jealousy, bitterness, discord and hatred among good people. It is a sickeningly effective way for him to hinder, spoil and destroy good work in a parish.

Tomorrow we will have Missa Cantata at 8pm for the feast of the Epiphany and that will be followed by the blessing of chalk. This can then be taken home by people to mark their door with …

Bawdy Metres and Inspectors at Staggers

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Fr Hunwicke's blog is a not only a mine of useful information on classical matters (see, for example his post Of the Father's heart begotten with background information on the trochaic tetrameter catalectic metre and its bawdy origins); his blog also contains nuggets of rare humour. I enjoyed yesterday's post on Mass practices at Staggers and the confounding of the Inspectors who were looking for liturgical extremism. It would spoil it if I summarised it, so do have a read of More Mass Practices.

Confraternity meeting in London

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The British Confraternity of Catholic Clergy (London Chapter) are holding a day for priests on Wednesday 22 January at St Mary Moorfields in London (EC2M 7LS). The programme is as follows:

11.00 Coffee
11.30 Talk
1.00 Lunch
2.30 Eucharistic Adoration

The cost is £20 to include lunch with wine. For purposes of catering, bookings must be made by Friday 17 January. To book, email Fr Richard Whinder.

The talk this time is being given by yours truly. I'll be speaking on the subject ‘Priest: Sacerdos and Presbyter – A Question of Identity.’ Please don't let that put you off: the lunch and the company are always excellent :-)

Do also see the Confraternity website for details of other forthcoming meetings.

A wonderful New Year blessing for the Ordinariate

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On New Year's Day, the ten Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Maryvale took their solemn vows and were established by Mgr Keith Newton as the first autonomous monastery of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. It was the anniversary of the sisters' reception into full communion with the Catholic Church. During the past year, they have been quietly preparing for this wonderful day which is a blessing not only for the Ordinariate but for all of us: the strength of the Church in any place is strongly enriched by those in contemplative life who pray for us all.

Mother Winsome (above) was appointed the first Reverend Mother for an initial period of three years. After that, the superior will be elected in accordance with the constitutions of the monastery. She said:
“For us the day was a mixture of great solemnity, but also of deep joy. We each professed our original vows separately, in the case of some of the sisters, more than 50 years ago. For us to be able to renew our…

Plenary indulgences for particular days

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Every day you can gain a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions by spending half an hour before the Blessed Sacrament, by reading the scriptures for half an hour, by making the Stations of the Cross in Church, or by saying the Rosary either in Church or in a family or other devout group.

However there are many plenary indulgences given for particular occasions. Although I have reservations about some of the practical reforms Pope Paul VI carried out, his Apostolic Constitution Indulgentiarum Doctrina is a superb theological and spiritual exposition of indulgences. It is not difficult to read and I heartily recommend it if you never heard anything at Catholic school about indulgences except perhaps that they were sometimes sold in the eeeeevil Middle Ages (Boo! Hiss! He's BEHIND you!)

One point made by Pope Paul VI is relevant to the indulgences granted for particular days:
The aim pursued by ecclesiastical authority in granting indulgences is not only that of helping the f…

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