Monday, 30 August 2010

Pope is "an expert in liturgy" - elder Marini

In the post ICEL translation - don't try this at home, I mentioned the ludicrous assertion made in the Tablet that the Pope is not a trained liturgist. This is occasionally taken seriously and therefore it was interesting to read a quotation, passed on to me by a correspondent, from the former Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations, Archbishop Piero Marini (not to be confused with his successor Mgr Guido Marini).

In his valedictory letter, Archbishop Marini referred to the Holy Father as an “expert in the liturgy”. He speaks of his time serving Pope John Paul II and then offers particular thanks to Pope Benedict. He says:
[...] fin dal primo momento mi sono sentito accolto da Papa Benedetto come un figlio. In lui ho potuto conoscere, con mia viva soddisfazione, non solo un Professore ma un Papa esperto in liturgia.

[...] from the very beginning, I felt welcomed by Pope Benedict as a son. In him I have been able to know, with great pleasure, not only a Professor but a Pope who is an expert in liturgy.
Some of us would take issue with Archbishop Marini's enthusiasm for the reformed Liturgy but it is all the more welcome for that, to find him recognising Pope Benedict's expertise.

More vintage CTS pamphlets

Following my post Lay apostolate in the tradition of the CTS, a correspondent sent me a link to this page from Australia: Catholic Truth Society Pamphlets. From various countries. There are so far 270 clean pdfs of old pamphlets from Australia, England, and Ireland. It is quite a treasure trove.

The illustration for this post is from Lux Occulta. If you go there you can click on the picture and read the whole pamphlet in a pdf. I think that it might be of interest to those who write on "The Art of Manliness". The back cover is interesting too because it shows the CTS bookshop before the Piazza was cleared.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Heretical "Catholic" group spends £15,000 on anti-Papal posturing and is promoted in Redemptorist Papal visit leaflet

"Celebrating the Papal Visit. Your spiritual companion" sounds a promising title. I'm keen to promote anything good that comes my way as a parish priest so this was one piece of mail I put aside to read over coffee. Inside the four page leaflet produced by the Redemptorists, there is an article about how it is not easy to be a Catholic, accompanied by a related "Hot topic" piece. Laurence England has kindly typed them out so you can read both articles over at The Bones.

The first article includes a disturbing account of Lucy Russell's response to a question about Catholic sex education which implies that her school gave no distinctively Catholic teaching at all. The sidebar article talks about the ordination of women, encouraging people to decide what they think about it. At the foot of the article is a link to the Catholic Women's Ordination website. How either of these pieces is supposed to help Catholics to prepare spiritually for the Papal Visit is beyond me. It might have been helpful to point out that the teaching of the Church that she has no power to ordain women to the priesthood is to be held definitively as part of the deposit of faith.

In its campaign for the ordination of women, CWO asserts the additional heresy that Our Lord did not ordain anyone to the priesthood. Answering the objection many pose to their position, namely that Jesus didn't ordain women, the CWO resources page says "He didn't ordain men either! This came later in the Church's history." It is worth noting that the teaching of the Council of Trent that Jesus did in fact ordain priests, and that it was heresy to say the contrary, was referenced by Vatican II (Presbyterorum Ordinis n.2) when it spoke of the institution of the priesthood by Christ. Although I expect many members of CWO are also part of the Stand Up for Vatican II campaign, I doubt that this little detail from the letter of Vatican II will bother them unduly.

Since the leaflet which promotes the CWO website is produced by the Redemptorists (and is accompanied with another leaflet offering free copies of the Tablet) it may be apposite to quote the preface that their founder St Alphonsus wrote to his book "The history of heresies and their refutation"
Heresy has been called a cancer: "It spreads like a cancer" (2 Tim 2.17); for as a cancer infects the whole body, so heresy infects the whole soul, the mind, the heart, the intellect, and the will. It is also called a plague, for it not only infects the person contaminated with it, but those who associate with him, and the fact is, that the spread of this plague in the world has injured the Church more than idolatry, and this good mother has suffered more from her own children than from her enemies.
Reuters reports that CWO has spent £15,000 on placing advertisements on the side of buses asking Pope Benedict to ordain women. The bus adverts shown here, asking Pope Benedict to do other things that he can't do, are from Acts of the Apostasy blog (see: CRONES Across The Pond) There is also a comment about the fifteen grand:
That's a lot of money wasted on demanding the impossible. Not to mention I'm fairly certain Pope Benedict won't have his mind suddenly swayed by a whiny complaint displayed on the side of the bus.
The Mulier Fortis drills down into the links with Catholic Voices for Reform, Catholics for a Changing Church etc.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Via Romea cake

After the end of the Via Romea cycling pilgrimage to Rome, I was invited to the family home for dinner and this cruel but celebratory cake. It shows Gregory fallen off the bicycle, Joseph as Big Ears and Anna Marie in last place. All agreed it was "Not Fair!"

(The 18 was for Joseph's birthday. Congratulations!)

Attacco a Ratzinger

Two respected Vaticanisti, Paolo Rodari and Andrea Tornielli, have written a book analysing the various occasions during Pope Benedict's papacy when he has been subjected to fierce attack in the media: Attacco a Ratzinger: Accuse e scandali, profezie e complotti ("Attack on Ratzinger: Accusations and Scandals, Prophecies and Plots").

There is a lengthy review (in Italian) by Massimo Introvigne: I tre nemici del Papa (The three enemies of the Pope). I was reading this when a tweet came up with a link to an even longer review by John Allen: 'Attack on Ratzinger': Italian book assesses Benedict's papacy.

In addition to the main lines of the various stories which most Catholic blog readers will be familiar with, Attacco a Ratzinger has much material that has hitherto not been published. This is a valuable contribution since, as we know, the Italian Vaticanisti have proved time and again that they do have access to reliable inside information. John Allen quotes a "zinger" produced by Tornielli and Rodari with regard to the forced resignation of Bishop Wagner as auxiliary in Linz. They have a quote from a Vatican official:
Cardinals and bishops can publicly criticize the pope all they want, but an auxiliary bishop is forced to resign because of a couple of statements years ago about Katrina and Harry Potter … it's truly incredible.
Allen comments:
Getting that kind of insider skinny is a primary reason we need an English translation of the book.
Attacco a Ratzinger identifies three ingredients to the various PR crises that have faced Pope Benedict:
  • The media taking particular quotations out of context and writing or broadcasting inflammatory copy
  • Catholics (including priests and bishops) who are hostile to the Holy Father
  • The weakness of the response of the media operation of the Holy See
In the case of Summorum Pontificum, Introvigne notes:
What is at stake, as the authors justly note [...] is not only the liturgy but the interpretation of the Ecumenical Council Vatican II. Those who oppose the motu proprio defend the hegemony of that interpretation of Vatican II, in terms of discontinuity and rupture with the whole of the preceding Tradition, which Benedict XVI has tried in many ways to correct and undermine.
Introvigne points out that the various secularist lobbies against Pope Benedict have enjoyed particular success because they have been able to enrol liberal progressive Catholics; as he explains:
Interviews with progressive Catholics allow the media to represent their secularist propaganda not as anti-Catholic, but as a support against the reactionary pope who wants to "abolish the council," who is challenging its alleged "spirit", since the text of the documents of the council is not even known by anti-Catholic journalists and is considered irrelevant by their "Adult Catholic" fellow travellers.
Both Massimo Introvigne and John Allen highlight the way in which Attacco a Ratzinger has placed a spotlight on the failure of those who should be assisting the Holy Father to respond adequately to the dramatic changes in communication of recent years. The development of the internet through a combination of social networking and handheld devices has reduced response times to minutes. The Holy Father himself seems to be more clued-up about this than many of his experts.

John Allen justly emphasises the case of Bishop Williamson. He lists the members of what he calls "the Vatican's most senior brains trust" who gathered to discuss the presentation of the decree lifting the excommunications of the SSPX bishops. Williamson's comments on the holocaust had been in worldwide circulation for two days and yet the matter was not even discussed at a meeting specifically concerned with public presentation. Allen also notes, of course, that five minutes on google would have alerted the Vatican to Williamson's "troublesome history" even if he had never given the interview with Swedish TV.

He offers a useful analysis of PR crisis management, following Eric Dezenhall's point that a crisis is not an "opportunity" in the modern world of instant communication, but a "mugging" because of a new breed of "crisis capitalists" who will pile in when someone is in trouble. Introvigne calls them "moral entrepreneurs" which is another good term. Dezenhall says that they include:
reporters, victims, bloggers, tweeters, plaintiffs' lawyers, regulators, legislators, non-governmental organizations, activists, short-sellers, anonymous sources, technical experts, analysts, media hounds, opportunists, and a cavalcade of amateur crisis experts.
Allen points out that the conclusion seems obvious:
From a PR point of view, it doesn't matter whether anyone is actually out to get you, because when a crisis starts rolling, market dynamics will compel people to act as if they were. The aim, therefore, isn't to persuade them not to mug you; the aim is to avoid making it easier.
He then applies this advice intelligently to the case of the Holy Father's remarks on AIDS on the plane on the way to Cameroon, suggesting a practical strategy that would have "made it more difficult to portray Pope Benedict as isolated, out of touch, and uncaring, which was the storyline that dominated the African journey." His advice is moderate, sensible, and practical; it reeks of his experience of the way the mainstream media works.

As I mentioned, John Allen has pleaded for an English translation of the book. He also volunteered to write a preface to introduce the book to English-speaking readers. As things are going, I rather think that he should set his sights higher and apply for the post of Press Officer to the Holy See.

Comic book of St Augustine's Confessions

A few years ago, a young man from Tolentino, Fabrizio Cotogno, wrote a comic book version of the life of St Augustine as recounted in the Confessions. See: Agostino l'uomo. Click on "pagine" to see the pages. It would be good to see this in English (with perhaps a couple of alterations to one or two pictures...)

Friday, 27 August 2010

John Pridmore at New Addington

Thanks to Fr Stephen Boyle for this video of John Pridmore at the Church of the Good Shepherd, New Addington at a mission earlier this year, taken by one of his parishioners.

John spoke in my parish a year and a half ago:

Blogging bishops

Marcel at Aggie Catholics has posted a list of US Bishops who blog. They range from Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York all the way to Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles. (I mean that they range geographically of course.)

Go over to Marcel's post to check whether your own blogging bishop is there. It would be good if someone built up a list of Bishop bloggers worldwide. I don't think we have any in England yet, but do correct me if I am wrong.

Pope's theological seminar on hermeneutic of continuity

The Holy Father has continued the custom that he maintained as a Cardinal, of meeting each summer with his former students of theology at Tübingen and Regensburg. Since he has become Pope, the meetings have been held at Castel Gandolfo.

This year, the theme is the hermeneutics (or interpretation) of the Second Vatican Council. The video above has a clip of the Holy Father giving his speech to the Roman Curia in December 2005. That speech was the inspiration for this blog.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Atheist doctors more likely to kill you

The Journal of Medical Ethics recently published research by Clive Searle: "The role of doctors’ religious faith and ethnicity in taking ethically controversial decisions during end-of-life care." The full paper is only available to subscribers. (A doctor kindly forwarded me a copy to read but obviously I can't put it on the internet myself.) There is an abstract freely available online.

One of the findings of the research summarised in the abstract is that:
Independently of speciality, doctors who described themselves as non-religious were more likely than others to report having given continuous deep sedation until death, having taken decisions they expected or partly intended to end life, and to have discussed these decisions with patients judged to have the capacity to participate in discussions.
The reporting of this research has been subject to spin that Private Baldrick might describe as "like a very spinning thing." So the BBC reports: Religion may influence doctors' end-of-life care. The report offers the following reassurance:
While it is illegal to give drugs with the deliberate intention of ending someone's life, doctors may administer morphine or other medication to relieve pain or distress which may have the effect of shortening life - so-called deep sedation.
This rather ignores the finding of the research that non-religious doctors were in fact taking decisions that they "partly intended" to end life. Certainly this is supposed to be illegal according to the Mental Capacity Act. But we knew all along that the MCA would lead to doctors taking decisions that were intended to end life. This has been happening for quite some years now and the MCA has made it easier to get away with it.

The obvious conclusion that the MCA has in fact led to euthanasia by the back door is ignored in favour of subtly attacking doctors who do have a religious faith, implying that they do not take into account the patient's needs or best interests. In Britain today, it is accepted that a patient's "best interests" might be to die, whereas a doctor who believes in the sanctity of life, the hippocratic oath or other such unfashionable concepts might well consider that intending to end a patient's life is a perversion of any reasonable understanding of their "best interests." The spin given to the reporting of Clive Searle's research is a clear hint that "religious" doctors should be controlled and prevented from having so much influence in the palliative care of the dying.

At the Outside In blog by Catholic father, Michael Merrick, there is a good article analysing the BBC report: BBC: bringing Dignity to a death near you. Anglican Bishop Nick Baines also writes: Shock report: faith affects choices! fisking the BBC report. He makes the important point:
Conscious atheism or agnosticism should demonstrate equal consistency and be examined for inherent weakness in the same way as religious beliefs should be subjected to rigorous scrutiny. But, atheism cannot simply be assumed to be the neutral default position from which any other ‘belief’ is a dangerous deviation.
In fact, the full text of the research paper (not available on the internet without subscription) actually acknowledges this:
One potential response to the findings about the influence of religious faith is to suggest, as other have done, that religious doctors disclose their moral objections to certain procedures to patients so that patients can choose other doctors if they wish. This assumes that religiosity is the ‘exception’ to be set against the non-religious ‘norm’. It is equally plausible to argue that non-religious doctors should confess their predilections to their patients.
Despite this important qualification in the paper itself, the British Medical Association said:
The religious beliefs of doctors should not be allowed to influence objective, patient-centred decision-making. End-of-life decisions must always be made in the best interests of patients.
Following Bishop Baines, we should require that the BMA recognise that the atheist beliefs of doctors should not be allowed to influence objective, patient-centred decision-making. Particularly when they are nearly twice as likely to kill you intentionally on request as the research finds.

At this point, comparisons are sometimes made with Nazi Germany. However it is important to remember that the euthanasia programme in Germany was not initiated by the Nazis. As I have pointed out before ("The life thou gavest, Lord, we've ended"), they took over an already existing programme which had been promoted by doctors in favour of eugenics.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

When anything goes, the first thing to go is apostolic tradition

Just a quick heads-up to an excellent article by George Weigel addressing some of the issues facing Pope Benedict on his forthcoming trip to Britain. He begins:
Pope Benedict XVI’s pastoral visit to Great Britain next month will unfold along a pilgrim’s path metaphorically strewn with landmines. Headline-grabbing new atheists like Richard Dawkins, along with their allies in the international plaintiff’s bar, may try to have the pontiff arrested as an enabler of child abuse. More subtly, but just as falsely, homosexual activists and their allies will portray John Henry Newman, whom the Pope will beatify, as the patron saint of gay liberation. No challenge facing Benedict in Britain, however, will be greater than the challenge of re-framing the Anglican-Catholic ecumenical dialogue, which is on the verge of de facto extinction.
For the rest of the article, see: When compromise trumps apostolic tradition

Lay apostolate in the tradition of the CTS

Shane has started an interesting new blog called Lux Occulta in which he has posted scans of the covers of various old Catholic Truth Society (CTS) pamphlets. Many have an advert for the old CTS bible (Douai Rheims) on the back, priced 6/- for the blue cloth bound version and 8/6d for the maroon leatherette version. I have a copy of the blue cloth version but do remember as a child wondering if I might be able to afford the luxury leatherette version one day!

These pamphlets are an important part of our Catholic history, showing the hermeneutic of continuity in practice. The CTS always engaged effectively in promoting the lay apostolate - the decree of Vatican II on the Lay Apostolate Apostolicam Actuositatem affirmed this work that was a strength of the life of the Catholic Church in Britain long before the Council. Pope Benedict spoke of its importance in his Ad Limina address to the Bishops of Scotland earlier this year (as I mentioned in February):
Hand in hand with a proper appreciation of the priest’s role is a correct understanding of the specific vocation of the laity. Sometimes a tendency to confuse lay apostolate with lay ministry has led to an inward-looking concept of their ecclesial role. Yet the Second Vatican Council’s vision is that wherever the lay faithful live out their baptismal vocation – in the family, at home, at work – they are actively participating in the Church’s mission to sanctify the world. A renewed focus on lay apostolate will help to clarify the roles of clergy and laity and so give a strong impetus to the task of evangelizing society.
The picture above shows a CTS pamplet on the vocation of the laity in the world. It is priced 3d but someone has raised the price to 5p in felt pen, showing that it was on sale before the change to decimal currency in 1971 and then given a stiff price hike by someone running a parish repository somewhere. It was published by the Dublin CTS in 1956. If you go to the post at the Lux Occulta blog and cick on the picture, you can get the whole text.

As with many institutions, the CTS went through a bad patch after the Council but was revived very successfully, and continues today in the spirit of its fine tradition. One suggestion I would have is to recover some of the pamphlets from the 20th century such as those written by CC Martindale, Frederick Copleston, Ronald Knox and others. I am sure that they would be popular if reissued as facsimile editions.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

LMS Walsingham walking pilgrimage photos

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Joseph Shaw has written a series of posts about the walking pilgrimage from Ely to Walsingham which was held by the Latin Mass Society for the first time this year: See his posts from 20-22 August. He also has plenty of photos at his flickr set. Above you can see Fr Alex Redman walking in the pilgrimage in cassock, cotta and stole. Hardnut! If you have done a walking pilgrimage, you will know what I mean. Fifty miles might sound simple but it is enough to do your feet in comprehensively if anything is slightly out of kilter, and any minor discomfort can magnify over the miles.

Paul Smeaton got the idea going for the Pilgrimage so congratulations to him for pulling it off and to the walkers for doing the distance. You can bet that this will become a much loved and cherished tradition among them.

If you do actually walk for a reasonable distance in a spirit of penance and prayer, there is something very moving about reaching the pilgrimage destination. Here the pilgrims have reached the Slipper Chapel:

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FLI media training for youngsters

Family Life International had a training day for young people in London recently, in which teenagers and young adults were put through a grilling on Catholic issues by an experienced Catholic media expert acting as "devil's advocate", posing as someone in favour of abortion, condom distribution and so on.

The interviews were followed by analysis and instruction on better arguments and techniques to use. This is a great idea and it is wonderful to hear that some of our good Catholics are preparing for battle while still young.

Two teenagers from my parish took part and wrote to me to say how helpful and enjoyable the day was. They are keen to do more so that they can build up their confidence. BTW One of them got his GCSE results today and did very well so send up a prayer of thanksgiving. God has obviously forgiven him for those terrible socks.

Video: "Pope Benedict XVI - My Vatican"

A correspondent sent me the link to this video by Journeyman Pictures calle Pope Benedict XVI - My Vatican. There is a (very) irritating advert at the beginning and a few statements with which we would take issue, but on the whole it is a well produced and sympathetic documentary with some fascinating comments by Cardinal Ratzinger when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Embedding is disabled (why would anyone want to choose that option?) so here is the link.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

ICEL translation - don't try this at home

Mgr Charles Pope has drawn attention to the fact that the New Roman Missal Translation Contains Some Last Minute Changes. Fr Anthony Ruff at the PrayTell blog has posted a helpful table with a comparison of the changes. They are genuinely minor but somewhat irritating nevertheless. In the combox, Mgr Pope says
It’s kinda murky as to who in the Vatican got their fingerprint on this at the last moment.
Quite so.

Leaving that slight annoyance aside, it is interesting that Mgr Guido Marini, the Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations recently spoke about the liturgical texts to be used during the Papal Visit to Britain next month and referred to the ordinary as having been approved a while ago.

This presents something of an anomaly since, for example, in the USA, the implementation of the new translation is set for the first Sunday of Advent 2011. We have, as yet, no date for England and Wales. Thus we have texts that are approved for use but not yet "implemented". One suggestion might be that although they are not yet compulsory - that will come with the "implementation" - they are nevertheless not actually forbidden. (Though perhaps a liturgical co-ordinator will correct the Holy Father who, as we know, is "not a trained liturgist" according to the Tablet.)

At the website of the US Catholic Bishops, you can download the text for the Ordinary of the Mass. Using the full version of Adobe or some less expensive program such as Nitro, it is quite possible to extract the text (of the first Eucharistic Prayer, for example) into a clean Word file. Acrobat reader, and plenty of free and open source programs will let you get the raw text, though you would then have to re-colour the rubrics.

Then it would be possible in theory to paste a devotional picture of the crucifixion before the beginning, put the text in two columns, add drop capitals, and so on, to make a worthy print-out that could be used for the liturgy study purposes.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Petit Palais in Avignon

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At the northern end of the large open space which begins with the Palais du Papes in Avignon, there is the Petit Palais which was extensively modified by Guiliano della Rovere who became Pope Julius II (known as Il Papa Terribile) who gave the dispensation for Henry VIII to marry Katherine of Aragon, and founded the Swiss Guard, among his other claims to fame.

Here is the view from the door of the Little Palace:

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There are some more photos in the Flickr set but I was taken by this painting of St Peter by Taddeo di Bartolo of Siena (d.1422), with the apostle in a yellow toga:

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Giovanni Pagani of Monterubbiano in the Marches (d.1545) painted this unusual Vierge du Secours in which Our Lady illustrates the military maxim "Talk softly and carry a big stick."

ND Secours

I am back now from Avignon and back into the parish schedule. If you are waiting for a reply to an email that might take a few days...

Homosexual rights trump religious freedom

While I was away, I read several news reports on the final decision of the Charities Commission concerning Catholic Care, the adoption agency of the Diocese of Leeds, which won the right to appeal against the Commission's earlier ruling that they would have to consider homosexual couples as adoptive parents.

The Charities Commission has reconsidered its decision and come back with more of the same.
The Commission considers that the charity has not met the requirements for showing that there are particularly convincing and weighty reasons justifying the proposed discrimination.
One key point in the Charity Commission summary is:
The High Court indicated respect for religious views is not a justification for discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation in the circumstances of this case.
One might want to counter that respect for sexual orientation is not a justification for discrimination against a Catholic charity, forcing it to close. The case demonstrates that in today's Britain, homosexual rights trump the right to act in accord with Christian belief.

Original High Court Decision: Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) v Charity Commission for England and Wales & Anor [2010] EWHC 520 (Ch) (17 March 2010)

Charity Commission Press Release
Charity Commission Case Summary
Charity Commission: Full document of the final decision (pdf)

Statement from Catholic Care

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Vespers au Barroux

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We finally made it to the Abbaye Sainte Madeleine au Barroux after about an hour of trying to get a taxi from Carpentras. Vespers was at 5.30pm so we had a chance to take a good look around the bookshop. I bought a video documentary of the life and work of Jacques Maritain but did not go for the lavender which is a local speciality. (Not my thing, you understand.)

On the journey we drove almost continuously through vineyards which the driver was able to name. There were also some olive groves: Le Barroux had both. Fr Briggs is here standing by some olive trees near the Monastery:

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There were about forty people at the back of the Church for Wednesday ferial Vespers. These ranged in age from 0 to about 80 with several young families and a group of young men with a priest. Here is one family going into the Church:

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and below is a group gathered afterwards; it was all most edifying. The French Church is by no means dead but you need to know where the life is.

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I scarcely need add that Vespers was sung exquisitely but without fuss. We happened on a normal part of everyday monastic life with the Sacred Liturgy at the heart of it, and were privileged to participate. It was well worth the trouble of getting there.

Cathedral at Carpentras

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Carpentras is on the way from Avignon to Le Barroux. One way to get to Le Barroux is to take the bus to Carpentras and then a taxi on from there. The problem is that although Carpentras is a great place for lunch,  taxis are rather hard to come by. At any rate, you do get to visit the Cathedral of St Siffrien which has this rather good Lady altar:

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and an "Altar of the Chair" imitation behind the High Altar:

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There is also some French baroque:

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Bomb scare at Lourdes and silly comments

It was sad to hear that there was a bomb scare at Lourdes on Sunday, the feast of the Assumption. Everyone had to be evacuated from the Domaine for three hours while the army searched the place. Not pleasant for the people there, but I suppose it is good for Lourdes to have a dry-run evacuation. With the amount of anti-Catholic hatred being whipped up in Europe it is not impossible that places like Lourdes will become real targets.

Given that danger, I was irritated by the silly bits at the end of the Telegraph report Bomb scare at Lourdes. Here they are:
Around 200 million people have visited the shrine since 1860, and the Roman Catholic Church has recognised 67 miracle healings, the last in November 2005.

Despite this, the Lourdes (sic) has built up enemies over the years among those who criticise its commercialism. It makes millions from tourism and souvenir selling every year.

Others, including members of the Catholic Church, are deeply sceptical of its alleged healing powers, attributing them to superstition.
Why would Lourdes build up "enemies" because it engages in commerce? Why don't the enemies moan about  Oxford Street or Bluewater shopping centre instead? They are a lot more commercial than Lourdes. If a town has a religious shrine in it, are all the people of that town supposed to live in some kind of monastic super-community without owning anything?

On the second point, it is true that many people are sceptical about the miracles of Lourdes, but in reports such as this, the one thing that you never hear of is the Lourdes Medical Bureau. Richard Dawkins did not mention it when he did his own piece about Lourdes. Anyone medically qualified or with other reasonable cause can consult the records of all the 67 approved miracles, including the medical records from before and after the alleged cure.

It is perfectly proper for people to question the authenticity of miracles. The Church does so rigorously as a matter of standard practice. What is not rational is simply to "be a sceptic" without any reference whatever to the evidence that is made available. That does not deserve the honourable name of scepticism. The more accurate word for making an a priori judgement without reference to the evidence is prejudice.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Purple rhinoceros at Avignon

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A response to the elephants of Libera Me.

Greetings from Avignon

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Yesterday morning, Fr Briggs and I took the Eurostar from Ebbsfleet to Paris, crossed from the Gare du Nord to the Gare de Lyon and took the TGV down to Avignon. Readers outside Europe may be unfamiliar with the abbreviation TGV which stands for "train à grande vitesse". It lived up to its word and got us the 430 miles in two hours and 40 minutes as per timetable, averaging over 160mph from start to stop. Francois Mitterand promoted the TGV as a train for everyone, not just a "premier" business service, and that certainly seems to have worked: the train was packed.

Avignon is sometimes described as being more like a Spanish or Italian town than French. It is hard to capture that on camera but this photo perhaps gives a clue:

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The central attraction is the magnificent Papal Palace. Every postcard stall has a picture of the seven Popes of Avignon. That is the number of the legitimate ones. (I haven't yet found a postcard with the antipopes on.) It was all a rather bad time for the Church but a fantastic time for Avignon.

This morning we went round the palace,

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marvelled at the halls,

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looked at the frescoes (not allowed to photograph them), and leaned out of the indulgence window.

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In connection with Avignon, everyone knows the song Sur le pont d'Avignon (well, those words anyway). One important "I'm a knowledgeable tourist" fact is that apparently the original bridge was too narrow to dance in the round so the people would have danced on the island under the bridge so it should be "Sous le pont d'Avignon." Well anyway, here is the remainder of the rebuilt bridge that they didn't dance on:

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We'll probably take a trip over to Le Barroux tomorrow.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Gaudeamus omnes in Domino

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Yesterday before evening Mass I took my camera out to photograph our Lady Altar which was decorated for the feast of the Assumption. Afterwards, I thought that with the light just after a heavy rainfall, it would be a good opportunity to try and get a good photo of our outside statue, avoiding cars, sheds and buildings. More or less crouching in a puddle, I was rewarded with this one which, I think, might do for a postcard.

The title of the post is from the pre-1950 antiphon for the feast of the Assumption:
Gaudeamus omnes in Domino, diem festum celebrantes sub honore beatae Mariae Virginis: de cuius Assumptione gaudent Angeli, et collaudant Filium Dei.

Let us all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating the feast day in honour of Blessed Mary the Virgin: in whose Assumption the Angels rejoice, and highly extol the Son of God.
I'm not sure that the post-1950 propers with the Signum magnum introit are an improvement.

Here is the photo of the Lady Altar:

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Say a prayer for the repose of the soul of Louise Goggins. The flowers in the photo above were given by the family to the Church after her funeral last Wednesday and our sacristy team set to work to use them in honour of Our Lady.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Fatherless - an important pro-life novel

A priest friend has written to let me know of the book Fatherless, One More Soul by Brian J. Gail. A novel set in 1980s Philadelphia, it portrays the spiritual battles fought by Catholics within the Church, focussing on a priest who is led to conversion particularly through understanding the teaching of the Church on the transmission of human life.

Unfortunately, the book us currently only available on the UK Amazon site as a Kindle ebook. It can be purchased from the US Amazon site as a paperback.

Photos from Downside conference

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Seeing on Fr Ray Blake's blog that he is back from Downside, I followed his link to have a look at the photos in LMS Chairman, Joseph Shaw's flickr set: LMS Priest Training Conference at Downside.

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The conference was put on by the Latin Mass Society to train priests to celebrate Mass according to the usus antiquior. this year, the guest speaker was Bishop Athanasius Schneider, the author of Dominus Est. A couple of years ago, I posted a video of bishop Schneider, and some helpful links. I expect that his address will be available soon at the Latin Mass Society website. Here is a photo of Bishop Schneider giving Holy Communion in the way in which he advocates in his book, with the communicant kneeling and receiving on the tongue:

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And here is a photo of the whole gathering, after Pontifical High Mass on the feast of St Clare:

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There may be an anti-baroque reader or two who will particularly appreciate this fine conical chasuble from the Downside sacristy. I don't know, though. It smacks of monophysitism to me. (That is an in joke.)

Friday, 13 August 2010

Not standard school equipment

Reading 011

While I was at the Evangelium Conference at the Oratory School, Reading last Saturday, I took the above photo of a piece of school equipment outside the Headquarters of the Combined Cadet Force who formed a guard of honour for the Blessed Sacrament Procession at the school in June. I don't expect that it can be obtained from the standard education supplies catalogues.

Back home, I consulted the Blackfen Military Attaché (Blackfen readers will probably guess who he is) to obtain identification of this piece of equipment. It is an Ordnance QF 25 pounder with muzzle flash suppressor. The 25 pounder was introduced into service during World War II and was used in training units until the 1908s. Which all goes to show the truth of the observation made by my friend Lt Col Corum many years ago when we were at a pistol shooting range near Oxford, that in the British Army the weapons that are used for training are older than the men firing them. (If you're interested, I did fire a Smith & Wesson 38 and a Colt 45 and managed to hit the target.)

The 25 pounder was widely used in Normandy with such efficiency that the Germans thought that we had an automatic artillery piece. I have reason therefore to be grateful for this gun since it presumably contributed to keeping my father alive while he was operating the radio in the tank. (Along with most people who have seen active service, he would also be the first to regret the loss of life on the other side.)

Here's the thing working:

Good First Communion book republished

It was sad to hear that Family Publication had to cease trading. A resourceful priest bought up the copyright to several of their titles so as to facilitate republication. One important title is Dora Nash's "Jesus Comes to Me" which I mentioned when it was first published. Since many parishes use the book for their First Holy Communion course, it has been a cause of anxiety for some priests and catechists that it might now be out of print.

I am therefore happy to report that St Pauls are now publishing the book and it is available from them at £6.95.

Football related contrast between Spain and England

The victorious Spanish football team, along with Ángel Maria del Villar, the president of the Spanish Federation of Football are in Mexico to present the World Cup to Our Lady of Guadalupe. There are some photos at Demotix. This must surely be a significant gesture given the hardcore secularism of Spain's Prime Minister.

In England on the other hand, the head of media relations for the Football Association stopped Wayne Rooney talking about the "prominent cross" that he wears. The FA's official line is "We don't do religion." This fatuous intervention speaks volumes about the culture which Pope Benedict is coming to face next month.

Incidentally, five minutes' research (asking a Catholic, for instance) would have gained the Independent's reporter the extra little expert detail that the "prominent cross" is actually a rosary. If he had shown that he didn't understand the offside rule, he would be ridiculed far and wide. But when it comes to religion, who cares?

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Liturgy wars on Mars

The other day I received video response to my Summorum Pontificum celebration. I was interested in the service provided by xtranormal which enables you to make your own animated videos and have just tried it out.

I think many of you could have fun with this...

Powerful message on celibacy from Bishop Jukes

Bishop John Jukes has written a powerful and inspiring personal reflection on celibacy on the occasion of his 87th birthday. He might have issued this via the Catholic Communications Network or something, but he has shown considerable media savvy in sending it directly to Damian Thompson who has posted it in full on his blog, thus gaining the venerable Bishop and his important article quite a lot more readers than the official path might have secured. I hope that it is picked up and posted on official channels as well. See: A Catholic bishop looks back gratefully on 87 years of celibacy. (I have further reason to be grateful to Bishop Jukes since it was he who had the temerity to ordain me in 1984.)

An amusing reference to this story was unwittingly provided a few minutes ago by Our Sunday Visitor on Twitter (click to enlarge):

Don't tell Damian!
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