Thursday, 28 July 2011

A bicyclette! Au revoir!

It's nearly August and, with the parish and the Vicarage in good hands while we're away, the Vendée beckons. There comes a point, particularly if it's not been possible to get away for about twelve months, when a certain amount of tiredness and ennui set in; when even the daily parish round becomes a little bit of a struggle, when blogging is just a chore and the news and comment - from all quarters - seem flat and unprofitable.
So, no laptops and no internet, just a pile of summer reading, our bicycles and my breviary (well, along with paint pots, brushes, lawnmowers, hedge trimmers...... you get the picture.) 
But it really isn't such a bad idea simply to shut up once in while before one gets too smug and self-satisfied both with one's own opinions and with those of people of a like mind.
So it's time for some R & R and, with a bit of luck, some reliable sunshine (or, to paraphrase Belloc, good red wine under a Catholic sun) and the chance to catch up with friends across the Channel.

Having said that, I had my early morning cup of coffee today, sitting on the small terrace outside the Vicarage kitchen, a little oasis awash with scarlet geraniums and olive trees in pots and full of the smell of citrus flowers. Despite the continuing uncertainty and even the gathering storm clouds, this is not such a bad place to which to return to work at the end of the summer.

While the blog is quiet for the next few weeks, you could do worse than keep an eye on the Welsh Ordinariate site (link on the right). A usually reliable source tells me to expect some kind of announcement about future developments after the middle of the month.
See you in September!

'A Bicyclette' by Yves Montand to set the tone.
All right, maybe not quite the cycling I had in mind, but it's a good song full of wistful longing for a lost youth  ............ no, get a grip; I just need some sunshine!

Back in September!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

"Abandon the way of hatred"

From Vatican Radio

Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday prayed for the victim’s of Friday terrorist attack in Norway, which took nearly 100 lives. Speaking after his Angelus in Castel Gandolfo, the Holy Father said, “Unfortunately, yet again, comes news of death and violence,” and expressed his deep sorrow. He reiterated a “grief-stricken” appeal to all to forever abandon the way of hatred and to flee from the logic of evil.
Before reciting the Angelus, the Pope reflected on the importance of one’s conscience is doing good and avoiding evil. He was speaking about the first reading from Sunday’s Mass, which spoke of King Solomon, who had prayed to God to give him a meek heart, meaning a developed conscience to determine between good and evil.
The Pope said, “Solomon’s example applies to everyone…The moral conscience presupposes a capacity to listen to the voice of truth, and to be meek towards its indications.”
“In reality,” Pope Benedict XVI said, “the true quality of our own life and that of society depends on a person’s rightly formed conscience, and on everyone’s capacity to recognise good, separating it from evil, and to try and bring it about patiently to contribute to the cause of justice and peace.”
The Holy Father added, “People called to political office naturally have more responsibilities, and thus, as Solomon teaches, need God’s help even more.”

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Our prayers for Norway

On this feast of the Scandanavian saint, Saint Bridget of Sweden, the news of the horrific events across the border  in Norway.
We join our prayers with those of all the saints for the victims and their families and  for all Norwegians today.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


Today is the anniversary of the July 20th 1944 bomb plot against Hitler and the German Nazi regime. Many of the conspirators, military and civilian, in this attempt at tyrannicide were convinced and devout Christians, both Catholic and Protestant; the resistance included the Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Jesuit, Fr Alfed Delp, both of whom were executed for their involvement.
The attempt was, as we know, unsuccessful, but those who carried it out and supported it should be honoured, for, even in the knowledge that their cause was probably doomed to failure, they nevertheless acted against a monstrous evil in accordance with conscience and truth. They were not all saints, not all of them were untainted by previous associations or compliance with what they came to realise was a demonic regime, but they acted honourably and decently and deserve not to be forgotten.

"The whole world will vilify us now, but I am still totally convinced that we did the right thing. Hitler is the archenemy not only of Germany but of the world. When, in few hours' time, I go before God to account for what I have done and left undone, I know I will be able to justify what I did in the struggle against Hitler. God promised Abraham that He would not destroy Sodom if just ten righteous men could be found in the city, and so I hope that for our sake God will not destroy Germany. No one among us can complain about his death, for whoever joined our ranks put on the shirt of Nessus. A man's moral worth is established only at the point where he is ready to give up his life in defence of his convictions." 
Major-General Henning von Tresckow, conspirator.

"During these long weeks of confinement I have learned by personal experience that a person is truly lost, is the victim of circumstances and oppression only when he is incapable of a great inner sense of depth and freedom. Anyone whose natural element is not an atmosphere of freedom, unassailable and unshakable whatever force may be put on it, is already lost; but such a person is not really a human being any more; he is merely an object, a number, a voting paper. And the inner freedom can only be attained if we have discovered the means of widening our horizons. We must progress and grow, we must mount above our own limitations."    
Fr Alfred Delp S.J. 

One of the very best accounts of the Widerstand, the German resistance, is still the film by the director, Hava Kohav Beller, ''The Restless Conscience,' (1992) containing documentary footage and interviews with those resisters who survived and their families. It is available now, I think, only in a North American DVD format.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

17th July: by way of reparation

"That that is is" ; so I, being master Parson, am master Parson; for,what is "that" but "that"; and "is" but "is"? (Shakespeare: Twelfth Night IV.ii.15-19) 

"Then shall the just shine as the sun, in the kingdom of their Father. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."
(St Matthew 13.43)

The history of England's break with Rome is a tangled one. Many of us are becoming increasingly aware that the reign of Elizabeth I was very far from the 'Merrie England' of the historical myth, even perhaps being the nearest thing to a 'police state' outside the unlamented twentieth century. Today's anniversary of the arrest of St Edmund Campion at Lyford Grange in Oxfordshire brings that brutal fact home to us, even if it were more convenient, in all kinds of ways, to forget it.
I'm not sure that anyone can, meaningfully, apologise for the tragedies and injustices of what is now distant history. We simply live with them in the sense they have helped make us who we are, either for good or ill, depending on the lessons we are able to draw from them.
But we can honour those who died for the sake of true faith and right conscience and ask for their prayers. The only real reparation is the attempt to live a life worthy of the One who died for us all.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Les Dialogues des Carmélites & weekend round-up

Some interesting things are being said about the Ordinariate, its genesis and its likely development.
From Dr William Tighe [here], Mgr Newton [video here], and  from Damian Thompson (wooden spoon ever at the ready) - tucked away [here] at the end of a piece about the Proms.

And a couple of characteristically thoughtful posts - moving and timely reminders -  from Fr Chadwick: they should be required reading for all of us [here] and [here]

And today, belatedly, for the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, this is the harrowing final scene from Poulenc's Les Dialogues des Carmélites, based on the history of the Martyrs of Compiègne during the French revolution. The sisters go to the guillotine singing the Salve Regina............
We are about to begin a week of anniversaries

Friday, 15 July 2011

St Swithun & St Bonaventure

'St Swithun' rose

Today is St Swithun's Day.
But no rain today - as yet - although our fields and gardens are still in need of it.

In the general western calendar, today is the memoria of St Bonaventure:

"......he composed a text entitled Evangelical Perfection. In this work he shows how the Mendicant Orders, especially the Friars Minor, in practising the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, were following the recommendations of the Gospel itself. Over and above these historical circumstances the teaching that Bonaventure provides in this work of his and in his life remains every timely: the Church is made more luminous and beautiful by the fidelity to their vocation of those sons and daughters of hers who not only put the evangelical precepts into practice but, by the grace of God, are called to observe their counsels and thereby, with their poor, chaste and obedient way of life, to witness to the Gospel as a source of joy and perfection."

Pope Benedict XVI

Thursday, 14 July 2011

La Fête Nationale

Like the people of my adopted département, I always feel more than a little ambivalent about le 14 juillet (Bastille Day.) But on this day of  French national celebration, prayers for France, "the elder daughter of the Church."

"...At the time of the French Revolution that very concept of the State considered as a whole unto itself was preserved, but it shifted from the King to the Nation, mistakenly identified with the body politic; hence Nation, Body Politic and State were identified. And the very concept of sovereignty - as a natural or innate and inalienable right to supreme transcendent power - was preserved, but shifted from the King to the Nation. At the same time, by virtue of a voluntarist theory of law and political society, which had its acme in eighteenth century philosophy, the State was made into a person (a so-called moral person) and a subject of right, in such a way that the attribute of absolute sovereignty, ascribed to the Nation, was inevitably, as a matter of fact, to be claimed and exercised by the State....."
"............That concept of the State, enforced in human history, has forced democracies into intolerable self-contradictions, in their domestic life and above all in international life. For this concept is no part of the authentic tenets of democracy, it does not belong to the real democratic inspiration and philosophy, it belongs to a spurious ideological heritage which has preyed upon democracy like a parasite. During the reign of individualist or "liberal" democracy the State, made into an absolute, displayed a tendency to substitute itself for the people, and so to leave the people estranged from political life to a certain extent; it also was able to launch the wars between nations which disturbed the XIXth Century. Nevertheless, after the Napoleonic era the worst implications of this process of State absolutization were restrained by the democratic philosophy and political practices which then prevailed. It is with the advent of the totalitarian regimes and philosophies that those worst implications were released. The State made into an absolute revealed its true face. Our epoch has had the privilege of contemplating the State totalitarianism of Race with German Nazism, of Nation with Italian Fascism, of Economic Community with Russian Communism.

The point which needs emphasis is this. For democracies today the most urgent endeavor is to develop social justice and improve world economic management, and to defend themselves against totalitarian threats from the outside and totalitarian expansion in the world; but the pursuit of these objectives will inevitably involve the risk of having too many functions of social life controlled by the State from above, and we shall be inevitably bound to accept this risk, as long as our notion of the State has not been restated on true and genuine democratic foundations, and as long as the body politic has not renewed its own structures and consciousness, so that the people become more effectively equipped for the exercise of freedom, and the State may be made an actual instrument for the common good of all. Then only will that very topmost agency, which is made by modern civilization more and more necessary to the human person in his political, social, moral, even intellectual and scientific progress, cease to be at the same time a threat to the freedoms of the human person as well as of intelligence and science. Then only will the highest functions of the State - to ensure the law and facilitate the free development of the body politic - be restored, and the sense of the State be regained by the citizens. Then only will the State achieve its true dignity, which comes not from power and prestige, but from the exercise of justice."

from Jacques Maritain, 'Man & the State' (1951

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The prerogative of the harlot; it's not just the press, it's an entire culture

Added to the appalling stories of the exploitation of the victims of crime and terrorist outrages, the latest news concerning the leaking of the medical records of the family of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown  [report here] seem likely to help bring about the spectacular crash of a over-mighty media empire. Not before time, some might say; what goes around comes around.
But before anyone is tempted to feel self-righteous in the  wake of recent events, we need to stop and consider the lengthening list of those who were complicit in the degradation of the British way of life: politicians, their advisors and spokesmen over several generations desperate either to obtain office or hang on to it, convinced of the need to earn the approval of the largest circulation tabloid newspaper and its owner; journalists eager to get on in their chosen profession, without asking too many questions about the methods they were encouraged to employ; and it would now seem, too, members of the police force and other public bodies not averse to taking illegal payments for slipping more than the odd piece of information to unscrupulous reporters. One wonders who will be next.
But the damage is greater than that; the rise of celebrity 'culture' - stoked and encouraged by the media - has done more to blight our national life and destroy previous traditions of civility and loyalty and a certain British social 'gentleness' than anything else. 'Freedom without responsiblity' hasn't been the sole prerogative of the press;  the lurid culture of 'kiss and tell'  stories and tabloid (or broadsheet) revelations has been lapped up by a jaded, voyeuristic and cynical public eager to learn about the frailties, sexual and otherwise, of those in the spotlight.
No one comes out of this with any credit. We really are 'all in this together.'
But where do we go from here? How can what has been lost be restored? The 'public interest' demands that we should at least attempt to do so as a matter of urgency, even if the chances of success seem fairly slim.

"......Ubi societas, ibi ius: every society draws up its own system of justice. Charity goes beyond justice, because to love is to give, to offer what is “mine” to the other; but it never lacks justice, which prompts us to give the other what is “his”, what is due to him by reason of his being or his acting. I cannot “give” what is mine to the other, without first giving him what pertains to him in justice. If we love others with charity, then first of all we are just towards them. Not only is justice not extraneous to charity, not only is it not an alternative or parallel path to charity: justice is inseparable from charity[1], and intrinsic to it. Justice is the primary way of charity or, in Paul VI's words, “the minimum measure” of it[2], an integral part of the love “in deed and in truth” (1 Jn 3:18), to which Saint John exhorts us. On the one hand, charity demands justice: recognition and respect for the legitimate rights of individuals and peoples. It strives to build the earthly city according to law and justice. On the other hand, charity transcends justice and completes it in the logic of giving and forgiving[3]. The earthly city is promoted not merely by relationships of rights and duties, but to an even greater and more fundamental extent by relationships of gratuitousness, mercy and communion. Charity always manifests God's love in human relationships as well, it gives theological and salvific value to all commitment for justice in the world..."
Pope Benedict XVI 
Encyclical Letter: Caritas in Veritate
(Introduction: 6)  Full text here
[b/t to Titusonenine]

Saturday, 9 July 2011

A busy weekend

A busy weekend ahead of us.
Today, another village fete - at which I'm running the bookstall : is it ethical to sell on for church funds the vast numbers of (unread) Dan Brown paperbacks we've been given?
And a short, hour-long evening concert in Church given by a group of very talented amateur musicians.
Sunday is our patronal festival here at St Arvans - Solemn Mass with a guest preacher (there are a few people still speaking to me, even if I have to import them from across the border!) followed by the parish hog roast.
But the advertising flyer for the hog roast frankly troubles me - the poor cartoon pig looks far too pink and healthy, even cheerful about what is happening to him - a lesson to us all, perhaps?

Friday, 8 July 2011


An oasis of calm and (at about four minutes in) a lyricism to touch the heart.  Some 'untypical' and unjustly neglected Vaughan Williams to end a troubling week.: the Romanza, the second movement of the Piano Concerto in C Major  

Thursday, 7 July 2011

More 'new' liturgy

Here is a fascinating insight from the Ordinariate Portal into the way the Ordinariate's liturgy is developing - from Fr Aidan Nichols via Dr William Oddie at the Catholic Herald.

From a well-justified fear of ridicule I'm not going to set myself up as any kind of liturgical expert, although twenty five years (at Michaelmas this year) as an Anglican priest does give me, as someone once said, 'a certain professional interest' * in the matter.
And a matter of huge interest to this particular observer is how an 'Anglo-Catholic' liturgy will be developed once freed from the historical constraints of state interference and the modern process of liturgical bartering in committee which goes on among representatives of the three broad traditions of Anglicanism. Our experience of this legacy is not a particularly happy one, ending up - for centuries - with something less than is either desired or needed.
For those who have not adopted the 'Paul VI mass' in totality, both Common Worship and the new Welsh Prayer Book of 2004 seem, on the surface, to offer usable if imperfect eucharistic rites. In reality, it is the western catholic tradition which has lost out during modern liturgical revision. For example, all the eucharistic prayers, at least in the modern Church in Wales rite and Common Worship alike, skirt around any explicit statement of the eucharistic sacrifice (what is being offered?), and the intercessory element in the canon is reduced to a barely recognisable minimum, if it is present at all.
In fact, the 1966/84 Welsh revision (in traditional language only) - a version of the 'interim rite' - on the whole offers a much more satisfactory option for 'catholics' than the minimalist texts which have been officially provided since. [Interestingly, those who still adhere to it will respond to the priest with words which will soon be increasingly familiar: "And with your spirit." ] As others have said, the official provision of a translation of the  ancient western eucharistic prayer, the Roman Canon, would have rectified the omission. 'Comprehensiveness' has had its liimts, however.
So, following a long tradition, we have supplemented from, as they say, "other sources" to make explicit what is only implicit or, at best, ambiguous. In fact, there has been a remarkable consensus among us on what has been necessary in this regard, but the dangers of eccentricity and an unauthorised eclecticism are obvious.
It will, then, be of huge interest to all Anglo-Catholics, Ordinariate-bound or otherwise, to see what emerges in the liturgy of the Personal Ordinariate in the United Kingdom now the tradition has been freed from its..... Babylonian Captivity.

* I remember with a friend being shown around the Abbey of Bec Helloiun as young newly-ordained deacons by the then Prior (later Abbot) Dom Philbert Zobel, by co-incidence in the company of a small group of Mirfield Fathers and a Cambridge academic (who will remain nameless). When we reached the library and the scriptorium, the aforementioned lady asked, "but do you have any real biblical scholars here?" Dom Philibert replied in impeccable English, "Well, we do all have a certain professional interest in the Bible."

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

None of my business, really

The new English translation of the Roman Missal is, of course, strictly speaking, none of my business - not that, as they say,  that has ever stopped me from commenting on something before.
All I will say is that from what I have seen of the new missal, it is, at least, a translation of the Latin original rather than  a very inadequate paraphrase. The inadequacy of the present translation is uncontroversial; if it were up to the task there would be no need for a replacement.  If there is the occasional 'over-literal' infelicity in the new, and far more faithful translation, Anglican liturgists have no reason to be smug as 'our' modern revisions are, supposedly, English originals. Hmm....

But Fr Z [here] has a post highlighting a problem which is common to all of us - the creeping advance of those who simply do not accept (liturgically or otherwise) any reference to a recognisable Christian ethic relating to individual (that is, personal) sin.
The target of his comments is, mirabile dictu, an article in the Tablet.
Read Fr Z's critique; it's trenchant; it's even, in a tragic sort of way, rather funny; but above all, it's absolutely true.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011


Ruth Gledhill at The Times has this:

"The Charity Commission has been asked to investigate a £1 million grant made to the Ordinariate, a new Roman Catholic organisation for defecting Anglicans, by a 150-year-old Anglican charity.
Trustees of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, founded in 1862 as part of the High Church revival in the Church of England, voted the grant through a few weeks ago, thus divesting their charity of more than half its total assets of £1.85 million.
The grant has prompted an outcry among Anglo-Catholics who have remained in the Church of England.
Shortly before the grant was made, the confraternity changed its membership rules, allowing Roman Catholics to become members for the first time.
Counsel’s advice was sought by the confraternity before finalising the grant, a substantial sum which will go a long way to establishing the fledgling Ordinariate as a going concern.
Many priests have converted before retirement age and with little or no guaranteed income to replace their former Church of England stipends. A further grant of £10,000 was also made to the three Anglican nuns from Walsingham who left their order and went over to the Ordinariate.
Father Paul Williamson, an Anglican priest from Hanworth, south-west London, a “ward superior” in the confraternity, has lodged a formal complaint with the Charity Commission about the grant and has also written protest letters to the Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols and to Pope Benedict XVI, under whose personal remit the Ordinariate ultimately falls.
He told The Times: “This grant of £1 million to the ordinariate is an outstanding disgrace. For 150 years, members of the Church of England have given money for the objects of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament which were to provide tabernacles, chalices and vestments for parishes of the Church of England.”
Father Pearson said last night: “The Trustees considered an application for financial support for the ordinariate very carefully, with the assistance of advice from leading counsel. We agreed that the objects of the Ordinariate was compatible with the charitable objects of the confraternity and specifically the advancement of the Catholic faith in the Anglican tradition. We agreed that making a grant would be in the best interests of the confraternity, in furthering our charitable objects. We also hope that a substantial grant might be a helpful signal to others contemplating financial support to the Ordinariate.”

I hesitate to comment on the internal affairs of any organisation, but as a member of the C.B.S. and an Anglican, although, of course, continuing to explore the idea of the Ordinariate, I do have an interest in what is going on.
So perhaps we should ask a few questions of those who think the C.B.S. Trustees' decision to contribute to the funds of the Ordinariate is "an outstanding disgrace."
In whose best interests is it that the Ordinariate should not receive financial support in this way?
It is still the most likely outcome, given recent history, that the attempt to establish any kind of long-term and enduring episcopal provision for 'orthodox' Anglo-Catholics within the Church of England will fail.
Even if a compromise is reached, what will be the prospects of the long war of attrition in which we have been involved - on the losing side - for a generation, actually coming to a peaceful resolution?
It is simply not realistic even to hope that anything other than a temporary truce will be reached with those who are intent on driving Anglicanism in an ever more liberal protestant direction.
What then will happen to the assets of the Confraternity? Is it desirable that they should fall into the hands of Affirming Catholicism and its allies within the Church of England?

The change in the C.B.S. membership rules is to be welcomed; we are now in a entirely new era in terms of "Catholic" ecumenism. Many of us now believe that only through the Ordinariate - only through full communion with the Successor of Peter - will it be possible to  safeguard the aims and objectives of C.B.S. and indeed, any orthodox Anglo-Catholic tradition at all. The sceptics choose to ignore, when they doubt the possibility of a repatriated Anglican or Anglo-Catholic tradition within the Catholic Church, the fact that this 'distinctive patrimony' will almost certainly have ceased to exist within Anglicanism itself within a generation.
If we are inclined to question that, we only need to visit (if you can get past the locked doors) any of the large and increasing number of former Anglo-Catholic parish churches up and down the country whose tabernacles and aumbries stand empty, whose lamps have been extinguished, their eucharistic vestments unused.
And that's not to mention those places where, courtesy of the synodical process in which some are still inclined to place their trust, sacramental uncertainty is now the order of the day.
Perhaps it's time for those who seem to be suffering from a particularly unpleasant kind of visceral anti-Romanism to wake up and smell the coffee; or, at the very least, to spell out some realistic plans and hopes for the future that are not dependent for their success on the shifting sands of contemporary Anglican theological fashion.

Saturday, 2 July 2011


Modern statue of Our Lady standing in the ruins of Tintern Abbey

"And first O Lord I praise and magnify thy Name

For the Most Holy Virgin-Mother of God, who is the Highest of thy Saints.
The most Glorious of thy Creatures.
The most Perfect of all thy Works.
The nearest unto Thee in the Throne of God.
Whom thou didst please to make
Daughter of the Eternal Father,
Mother of the Eternal Son.
Spouse of the Eternal Spirit,
Tabernacle of the most Glorious Trinity.
Mother of Jesus.
Mother of the Messias.
Mother of him who was the Desire of all Nations.
Mother of the Prince of Peace.
Mother of the King of Heaven.
Mother of our Creator.
Mother and Virgin.
Mirror of Humility and Obedience.
Mirror of Wisdom and Devotion.
Mirror of Modesty and Chastity.
Mother of Sweetness and Resignation.
Mirror of Sanctity.
Mirror of all Virtues.
The most illustrious Light in the Church,
wearing over all her beauties the veil of Humility
to shine the more resplendently in thy Eternal Glory......."

Thomas Traherne
As we celebrate today the Immaculate Heart of Mary, this is the Magnificat from Godar's Mater

Friday, 1 July 2011

For the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, an improvisation on the Te Deum by Daniel Roth at the basilica of Sacré-Cœur.