Monday 29 August 2011

Guild Announcement: Day out in Blackfen, including High Mass and the first ever official meeting of the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma

It is with great pleasure that I can now announce the first official meeting of the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma, which is an association of Catholics who use the new media. The Guild is very grateful to Fr Tim Finigan of The Hermenuetic of Continuity for agreeing to host the meeting and arranging it so that members will be able to join his parish on Saturday, 1 October, for the celebration of High Mass as well as Solemn Vespers and Benediction.

The meeting of the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma will be held on Saturday 1 October 2011 at Our Lady of the Rosary (Blackfen), 330a Burnt Oak Lane, Sidcup, Kent DA15 8LW. The day will begin with High Mass (EF) at 10:30am, which will be followed by a talk by Fr Tim Finigan. Lunch will be kindly provided by the parish (donations may be offered). The Guild then will meet (relatively informally) at 1:40pm to discuss its aims and mission, as well as any other matters arising from its preliminary meeting, which was held last May. At 2:30pm, Guild members will be able to join the parish in celebrating Solemn First Vespers of the Anniversary of the Dedication of the Church, which will be followed by Benediction. Of course, Mass, Vespers and Fr Finigan's Talk are parish events, open to all.

Any Catholic who uses social media - blogging, Facebook, YouTube and the like - is more than welcome to join the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma. It is a group specifically for those who engage online with the world, other faiths, philosophies or Christians. One of its principal aims is to support members in their desire to promote the Gospel and to deepen their spirituality, especially as they face the many trials and temptations that arise as a result of being present on the Web. In that sense, the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma is a response to Pope Benedict XVI's call for a truly Christian witness on the internet, as voiced recently in his Message for the 45th World Communication Day ("Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age").

Membership of the Guild is free and details on how to join may be found above (How to Join). Those members wishing to write posts for the Guild blog are required to abide by two rules only - the first being that posts remain faithful to the Church's magisterium and the second being that personal insults or overly controversial or uncharitable remarks should be avoided.

Blessed Titus Brandsma was chosen as our patron, thanks to an inspirational suggestion made by Fr Tim Finigan. It is really wonderful to have such a courageous and loving witness to the Gospel as our heavenly mentor. Those wanting to know more about Bl Titus might like to read this short blog post on his life (here).

Please do not hesitate to contact me at if you require more information about the Guild or the planned day in Blackfen. Directions to Our Lady of the Rosary can be found on the parish website.

"They who want to win the world for Christ must have the courage to come into conflict with it."
Blessed Titus Brandsma

Bl Titus Brandsma, pray for us

Posted by Dylan Parry A Reluctant Sinner blog

Thursday 25 August 2011

Our Lady: Key to the New Evangelisation in Britain (re-post)

Ever since having been invited to participate in this fine establishment of Catholic bloggers, I have been thinking of this post. My thought has been "what does an American really contribute to a guild of English bloggers?" I came up with this.

(originally posted at

Many blogs and news reports that you read will speak of the dire straits that the Bishop's Conference of England and Wales is in-- in fact, according to these sources, perhaps the one thing going for the BCEW is that it is not as bad off as the Scottish Bishop's Conference! 

In light of the riots and other news coming out of the UK, I thought I would share a bit of my experience living and working in ministry there for three years, as this “moderately pessimistic” viewpoint shared by many has not been my experience at all. 

In October of 2006, as a new convert I travelled to Scotland to be a part of the Living Water Ministry, a lay community of young Catholics who committed themselves to a year of retreat ministry throughout all of the dioceses in Scotland, primarily targeted toward secondary schools and parish programmes. I travelled quite a bit, but had as a base of operations Taynuilt, a tiny village in the West Highlands, not far from Oban, and, incidentally, not far from the Craig Lodge Community. Canon Fraser, the spiritual director for the community, was a wise priest, full of wit, and "a true Scotsman". 

At the end of my year, I discerned that God wasn't finished with me yet in the UK, and so I took up a position at the Maryvale Institute in north Birmingham. While working there, I lived at the Newman House at nearby University of Birmingham, living in a small community of men under the direction of Fr. Julian Green, doing ministry at the chaplaincy. I also was blessed to have a spiritual director in Fr. Philip Cleevely of the Oratory, just up the road in Edgbaston, where I served Mass, and was first really introduced to the Extraordinary Form, and where, later, I would propose to my wife. 

During my three years of living in the UK, I came into contact with some extraordinary movements, and some even more extraordinary people. I was involved with Youth2000, I came into contact with folks from the Faith movement, as well as attending the Evangelium Conferences. I made a pilgrimage to Walsingham, to Glastonbury, to Ladyewell, to Harvington, on several occasions to the martyr's shrine at Tyburn, to the cells of Thomas More and John Fisher at the Tower of London, and even on a hunt to find the remains of Thomas a' Becket through Canterbury Cathedral. 

I had the opportunity to go on retreat both at Pluscarden Abbey in the far north of Scotland, and at Quarr Abbey in the far south of England. I have met many a fine diocesan priest, such as notable blogger Fr. Tim Finigan, Fr. John Saward, vocations director extraordinaire Fr. Stephen Langridge of Southwark, and I could go on, but then, there would be no room for mentioning the great CFR friars, the blackfriars in Oxford, the Dominican Sisters of St. Joseph, the SOLT community... With all of these fine leaders already present in the Church, and now with the influx of Catholics through the Ordinariate-- of people who have actively chosen the truth in spite of great adversity-- Catholic presence in the public forum (both positive and negatively spun) is sure to increase. 

The point is, God in his providence really blessed me greatly. As a new convert, I had no concept of "liberal" vs. "conservative," or "progressivism," or "orthodoxy"-- yet he placed me into the heart of the Church to be found in one of the ancient centres of the Faith: Britain, of all places! 

Now, I won't name names, but there are plenty of ministries that if you live in England you know that I could have been involved in that would have not given me near the experience and formation in the Faith that I gained while living abroad. To throw darts at a board, I more than likely would have ended up in such a ministry. And yet, without even knowing, I stumbled into this epicenter of orthodoxy, and came to more fully root myself in a Catholic identity. 

I write all of this, hopefully to encourage and inspire-- in spite of the problems in English society, and yes, even within the Church herself, her parishes and schools, there is a mighty vine underneath the soil of Great Britain, simply waiting for the right moment to spring up. There is a faith deeply rooted in the spirit of a Briton-- and, dare I say it, that faith is Roman Catholic. 

Now, for a challenge.

How do these various groups of people: academics, “trads,” “charismatics,” youth and adults alike, all come together to drive a wedge of orthodoxy into the culture? I’ll give you one idea. This weekend, in the wake of World Youth Day and over the bank holiday weekend, there are two separate groups converging on the National Shrine to Our Lady in Walsingham-- the annual Youth2000 festival, and also the Latin Mass Society walking pilgrimage. Combined, there are sure to be 2,000 or more pilgrims in the same place this weekend. And yet, neither of these communities have traditionally related at all with each other, in spite of the fact that many folks involved in the LMS had some exposure to Youth2000 in the past. I use this as an example, not to be critical of either movement (perhaps there will be some interaction between the two this weekend?), but to point out a trend that many of these groups seem not to interact with each other very much, and many not at all.

The challenge is this: in loving the Church, in cultivating “the Benedict Bounce” further, it seems that it would be prudent to form some strategic plan in order to bring about the New Evangelisation in Britain. Somehow, folks who perhaps come back into the Church through the gateway of Youth2000 or another movement, get passed forward to movements like Faith, or invited to the Evangelium Conference, or perhaps get mobilized into the pro-life movement through the university SPUC Conferences.

I can already hear the nay-sayers complaining that the Bishop’s Conference won’t support it, that they already don’t vocally support these movements individually, let alone collectively. Rather than enter into a political game, which is what too often people reduce some of these rather complex pastoral decisions to, I’d simply say this: the Bishops will never be able to do anything in this arena without a well-mobilised laity.

This is where the ball is in your court. Rather than simply waiting for “the biological solution,” there are a ton of priests and religious (and even Bishops!) today, now, to support this effort. In the face of an increasing secularism and loss of identity, these groups of faithful Catholics need to come together, in spite of disagreements over liturgical preference, methods of youth ministry, etc-- or maybe even because of these disagreements-- in order to form a unified front, rallied around this great “romance of Orthodoxy” that Chesterton spoke of.

I’ll close with one final thought: this “organisation” need not be a bureaucracy by any means. I think that, if you look at what all of these individual organizations have in common, you’ll find the answer: Prayer, the Sacraments, and Our Lady. In 1061, the mother of Christ asked that a chapel of the Annunciation be built there in Walsingham, and though that structure no longer stands, I think that this event holds the key-- the surest way towards achieving this “new evangelisation” is in fulfilling the request that was made nearly a thousand years ago: to, not unlike St. Francis, re-build the church, one that presents the Annunciation, the Incarnation of Christ, to all people.

If this happens, and I believe it has already started and will continue over the next coming years, then the renewal of the Church in England will be a glorious revival-- something that Bl. John Henry Newman dreamed of in his day, and, by God’s grace, will result in the re-awakening of the Catholic in the heart of every Briton.

Monday 22 August 2011

The American Cardinal who backed a man called Sarto

Cardinal James Gibbons, 1834 to 1921 was one of America's great prelates. He was appointed Bishop of Richmond in 1872 and was made Cardinal in 1886 during which time he became the face of the Catholic Church in the USA and a powerful advocate on behalf of the people and a man not afraid to fight his country's corner in Rome.

                                  Cardinal Gibbons - the Pope maker!

He served initially, under Pope Leo XIII and upon his death he worked hard behind the scenes to secure one Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto as Leo's successor. He had recognised, in the then Cardinal Sarto, a man who had visions beyond Europe and who was intuitively driven to appreciating the emerging Catholicism in the USA.
It was to Cardinal Gibbons that Cardinal Sarto went in a state of doubt over the decision of the Conclave to appoint him Pope and it was Gibbons strength that saw him accept the Papal crown.
Cardinal Sarto is, of course, Pope St Pius X whose feastday was celebrated yesterday, Sunday 21st August.

This is an extract from Theodore Maynard's book, The Story of American Catholicism......writing about Cardinal Gibbons.....

"In a unique sense he was the American Cardinal. It was fortunate indeed that he was a Bishop for fifty-three years, the Archbishop of Baltimore for forty-four, and a Prince of the Church for thirty-five.

He came to be so much of an institution that it was impossible for anyone, here or abroad, to think of the Catholic Church in America without also thinking of Gibbons.   ....Quite literally he grew up with the Church in America, and it was under him that the Church grew.
There was no Catholic movement in which he did not take part or, in his unobtrusive fashion, make himself felt.

He came to the rescue of the Knights of Labour; he was one of the chief targets for attack by the Conservatives during the School Controversy and the 'Americanism' misunderstanding; he was sympathetic to Dr McGlynn and worked with Cardinal Manning in England to prevent Henry George's Progress and Poverty being placed on the Index.   ....If he had an incalculably great influence at home, both in the Church and in regard to the relations of American Catholics with their Government, he brought off at least one master-stroke that affected the fortunes of the Church throughout the world.   ...It was really Gibbons, more than any other man, who made Pius X Pope.
....No great man was ever more accessible than the Cardinal. His romps after Benediction with the altar-boys were proverbial (Remember, these were times of great integrity and innocence).

All Baltimore was full of people who would tell you proudly, 'I'm a friend of Cardinal Gibbons.'"


If we recognise no other achievement of this fine Cardinal, we should be immensely grateful to him for his support for one of the greatest Popes of recent history, Pope St Pius X.

Posted by Richard Collins - Linen on the Hedgerow

Saturday 20 August 2011

The Art of Greg Tricker with reflections by Sister Wendy Beckett

An exhibition of works by the contemporary Christian artist Greg Tricker is to be held in Westminster Cathedral from Monday 26th September to Saturday 15th October.

Greg Tricker uses a variety of materials, ranging from ink, paint, wood, stone and stained glass, to produce works of art which illustrate the Gospels and the Christian tradition. His style is greatly influenced by Vincent van Gogh, and he continues the mystical tradition in modern British art pursued by Eric Gill, Cecil Collins and others from the last century. Tricker has previously produced collections on St Francis of Assisi, St Bernadette and Kaspar Hauser. His current collection is entitled "The Christ Journey".

ST PAULS is publishing the book to accompany the exhibition, which contains reflections on Greg’s work by Sister Wendy Beckett. As Sister Wendy writes in her Introduction to the book,

"One might expect the Christ Journey to be pictures illustrative of the life of Jesus. The natural assumption would be of a journey beginning with the Annunciation, or at least the Nativity, and ending with the Resurrection and the Ascension. Tricker, as so often, confounds these expectations and exceeds them.

There are, indeed, wonderful images of Jesus but they are highly selective. Tricker will show us only one miracle, and yet he depicts, most movingly, several of the great ‘I Am’ sayings of Jesus. He deliberately passes on to post Ascension time, with paintings from the lives of St Paul and St John, and there is an amazing emphasis on St Joseph of Arimathea and St Mary Magdalene.

He sees Christ as embarking on a cosmic journey through time, and so he adds images of saints, some from later centuries, especially dear to him: St Bernadette, St Francis, St Clare. He is revealing his profound conviction that the Christ Journey is for each of us, our own journey. We do not make it alone or in our own power.

Of ourselves we are helpless spiritually to put one foot ahead of another. But in Jesus, we journey strongly and surely. It is not that we take the same journey. Jesus is our Journey. If our faith cannot accept this and live out its consequences, then we have no faith at all. We either journey in the Christ Journey or we stay lost, on the shore."

The book will be available on 26th September and can be purchased here.

Here are some examples of Greg’s work from the exhibition

 The Boy Christ

 The Grail Boat
 St Francis of Assisi
Mary Magdalene

Sister Wendy's reflections that accompany these pieces will be posted on ST PAULS blog over the next few days.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Man of the Beatitudes: Bl Pier Giorgio Frassati - From a talk given at this week's World Youth Day in Madrid

The talk which is gratefully reproduced below was recently given by one of our most talented Catholic bloggers, Catholic with Attitude. It was addressed to young Dominican friars attending this week's 26th World Youth Day in Madrid.

“I would like to thank the Dominican brothers for allowing me to speak to you all today about a young blessed to whom I have a particular devotion, and whose life, I feel, is a great example of joyful and holistic Catholic living. This particular blessed had a deep love for our Lord Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary. He was given permission to receive Holy Communion daily, which, during the time he lived, was a rare occurrence; he was also an ardent proponent of the Rosary. At the same time, he loved to drink with his friends, smoke, and climb mountains. He played practical jokes and even boxed with a young Karl Rahner! He was nicknamed “Terror” by his closest friends, got into fights and was even arrested during a Church-organised demonstration. This blessed has been described as, ‘The Man of the Beatitudes’ by Cardinal Karol Woytyla, later Pope John Paul II, and in a litany in honour of this man, he is invoked as, ‘Athlete for God’s kingdom’. One book calls him, ‘An Ordinary Christian’, yet I would argue that this young man is perhaps one of the most extraordinary Christians of the twentieth century. Karl Rahner says what struck him most about this young blessed, ‘was his purity, his radiant joy, his piety, his freedom as a child of God for all that is beautiful in the world, his social conscience, the awareness he had of sharing the life and destiny of the Church.’ In a time when purity, piety, and faithfulness to the Church are treated disparagingly and viewed as out-dated, the example of this ‘ordinary Christian’ serves as a reminder that, in his words, ‘true happiness… does not consist in the pleasures of the world or in earthly things, but in peace of conscience, which we only have if we are pure in heart.’ The name of this blessed is Pier Giorgio Frassati.

Pier Giorgio Frassati was born into the well-known and wealthy Frassati family of Turin, a town in northern Italy, in the year 1901 on the 6th April. His father, Alfredo Frassati, was the founder of the Italian newspaper, La Stampa, which till this day still exists; he was also an Italian senator and from 1920, Italy’s Ambassador to Germany up until Mussolini’s rise to power. His mother, Adelaide Ametis, was a painter and had a turbulent marriage with Alfredo, which almost resulted with the two separating. Pier Giorgio had one other sibling, a sister who was one year younger than he and whom he loved dearly, called Luciana. Neither of his parents were particularly religious and could best be described as ‘cultural Catholics.’ Pier Giorgio, on the other hand, from a very young age, developed a close relationship with Christ, which could be seen, but not always understood, by those around him. As I mentioned previously, he received permission to receive Holy Communion daily, which at that time was a rarity, at least for someone of Pier Giorgio’s age. He was a member of various lay movements, including the Marian Sodality and the Apostleship of Prayer. Pier Giorgio’s deep spiritual life manifested itself to others in his many acts of charity. He was an ardent defender of the poor and sick, even from a very early age. In one instance, when Pier Giorgio was only a few years old, a gypsy lady with child in arm knocked on the front door of the family home. Pier Giorgio opened the door and realised that the child she carried had no shoes. Immediately, Pier Giorgio removed his shoes and gave them to the child. Pier Giorgio also used any money he had to buy food for the hungry and medicine for the sick in Turin. He kept a little logbook, which I have seen myself, and in it he used to write the names of the people to whom he had given money and how much he had given. Always, his charity was performed in secret. The generous giving of himself to others, both financially and with his time, often meant he was late for various appointments and regularly late for dinner at home, much to his mother’s annoyance.

Pier Giorgio was very much an outdoorsman and loved the mountains. He loved to climb them with his friends and he loved them as a place to pray. On the back of his bedroom door he had a note saying: ‘Mountains, mountains, mountains, I love you!” It was not unusual for him to spend the entire night adoring the Blessed Sacrament before climbing the mountains with no sleep in between. So great was his love for the Blessed Sacrament, that he would rather postpone a mountain climb so as to attend Mass or Adoration. There is one instance recorded in a biography of Pier Giorgio that he had asked a priest friend to celebrate Mass at 4am so that he could then climb the mountains nourished by the Holy Eucharist. Pier Giorgio had a great love too for the writings of St. Catherine of Siena, which encouraged him to become a third order Dominican, or ‘lay Dominican’ in today’s terminology. At his summer home in the mountainous village of Pollone, lies laid out one his bed his fifteen-decade rosary bead.

Pier Giorgio was also a mining engineer student, though he struggled most of his life with academia and had to receive extra tuition during his school years. Somehow, he managed to balance his academic studies with his service to those most in need, never neglecting his spiritual life, which sustained him through difficult times.

The strength he received from the sacraments and from a deep prayer life propelled him to take an active role in the political life of his day so as to bring about social change. Pier Giorgio was totally anti-fascist and the way Italian society was heading troubled him greatly. He took Catholic social teaching very seriously and saw it as just as an important and necessary part of his Catholic life and faith, as were attending Mass and praying the rosary. The two were inextricable from each other.

Pier Giorgio lived a full-on life, cut short by an untimely death. In 1925, Pier Giorgio contracted polio and died within the space of a week at the young age of 24. It is believed that he caught the disease from one of the sick that he had been visiting. Even in his final moments, his concern was not for himself and his own comfort, but instead for the sick and needy. He managed to scribble on a piece of paper a reminder to collect some injections for a gentleman whom he had been tending. His funeral was intended to be a small affair with a few dignitaries who knew the Frassati family; instead, the streets were lined with crowds of mourners who had been on the receiving end of Pier Giorgio’s charity. His parents were unaware of the extent of his charitable activities and the poor and needy only realised then that Pier Giorgio was in fact a member of the reputable Frassati family.

Blessed Pope John Paul II took the unusual initiative of visiting Pier Giorgio’s tomb in Pollone when Pier Giorgio was only a servant of God. He was a role model and inspiration for the late pontiff as a young man living in war-torn Poland and they both shared a great passion for the outdoors. Typically several people are declared 'blessed' together in the same ceremony. But unusually, Blessed Pope John Paul II beatified Pier Giorgio Frassati alone in a Beatification Mass in St Peter's Square on 20th May 1990. A few years prior, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati’s body was found incorrupt in the family tomb and was said to have had a smile on his face. His body now lies in a side altar in Turin’s cathedral.

What I have attempted to present to you is really a brief overview of Pier Giorgio Frassati’s life and death; I could, honestly, go on for hours talking about him and if you are daring enough to start such a conversation with me, then you shall see and indeed hear! Before finishing, I would like to share with you one reason why Pier Giorgio Frassati has been a great influence on me and why I think there is for each of us, layperson and religious, something to learn from this remarkable individual. Pier Giorgio not only talked-the-talk but also walked-the-walk. He preached not only in words through his letters to friends and family, but ultimately through his actions: his helping those most in need. The fact that he managed to feed, clothe and tend a vast number of people is indeed extraordinary. However, what particularly attracts me to Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati is the way in which he was able to discern God’s call in his day-to-day life. We often speak of vocation in terms of priesthood, religious life and marriage, but I think we are prone to forget that God not only calls us to these particular lifelong vocations, but actually He invites us daily to serve Him within the situations and circumstances in which we find ourselves. In Pier Giorgio’s situation, the poor were all over Turin and nobody was helping them. He responded. What is God asking of us today? How does he want us to serve him in our university, work and religious communities? Will we say ‘yes’ to Christ’s call?

Pier Giorgio Frassati lived life to the full in its truest sense. The fact that he died at the age of 24 in no way suggests that his life was somehow less lived; rather it serves as a reminder to us all that we do not know the exact moment in which God will call us from this life. When I see Pier Giorgio’s image I am reminded that I must listen to Christ’s gentle voice and I must discern and respond to His call with courage and joy daily. I urge you all in your own time to take a deeper look at the ‘Man of the Beatitudes’ and like he, make of your life a great adventure.”

You gave to the young Pier Giorgio Frassati the joy of meeting Christ and of living his faith in the service of the poor and the sick.
Through his intercession may we, too, walk the path of the beatitudes and follow the example of his generosity, spreading the spirit of the Gospel in society.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, pray for us.

Posted by Catholic with Attitude

Thursday 11 August 2011

Sacramental Catechesis and Mint Toothpaste

Although there are all kind of flavours available nowadays for children's toothpaste, I've always insisted that they have some kind of mint. I don't believe the new flavours exist in adult toothpaste (although perhaps soon they will, for the 'kidults' among us), and even if they did, I suspect that most grown-ups would prefer the bracing taste of mint in their mouths as they approach slumber. It's just part of the bedtime routine.

Ritual is so much part of everyday life with small children, and without it, solid food will not be eaten, sleep will not be sound; chaos and misery will ensue. It's another area where we would do well to consider what Our Lord means when he tells us that we must become like these little ones to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

But we are also aiming for maturity, and early foundations are being laid through these rituals. The taste of mint will always be part of the sensual experience of bedtime for my children. Even if they stray from it in older years, it will be deeply based in their subconscious as a necessary part of preparing for sleep.

And I don't want them to have strawberry toothpaste at Mass either. I want them to have the sensual experience, the sights, sounds and smells of the ritual. What they do with their body and what they experience with their senses will build up into an intuitive sense of the sacred which will serve them well in the future. By the grace of God, I hope and pray that they will be at home in sacred ritual, in prayer and in reverence.

[Image from Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons License.]

Posted by Anthony Radice (A Tiny Son of Mary)

The statue that refused to accept the will of men

In Pre Reformation times, religious shrines to Our Lady were richly spread around England and Wales. With the degeneration of Henry VIII, the very public and very Catholic shrines suffered obliteration, or most of them at any rate.
Many of them had been maintained at the hands of monks in the Abbeys and Monasteries and, as the monks were expelled and the buildings destroyed and the finery of Catholic worship vandalised and stolen, so the shrines disappeared.

But the history of Our Lady of Cardigan or Our Lady of the Taper as this image of the Holy Mother is also termed, begins long before Reformation times.

The church of St Mary of Cardigan together with a chapel of St Peter were known to be in existence in the 12th century and, possibly, much earlier but the first official records relate to the year 1165 when one Rhys ap Gruffydd, Prince of South Wales, had won Cardigan back from Norman rule. He then granted Cardigan to the Benedictine Monks of Chertsey, Surrey as a Priory Church.
Quite how Cardigan came to be a shrine is lost in time; we do know that, very soon after the Benedictines arrived, a statue of Our Lady "and her sonne upon her lappe, and the taper bernynge in her hande" was found on the banks of the River Teify or Tivy.
The statue was placed in the parish church but, according to legend, on no less than three or four occasions it returned to where it was found on the banks of the river. Our Lady was not to be moved by the will of men:

…that the same ymage was caryed thens unto Christes Church of Cardigane, and the sayd ymage wold not tarry there, but was
found thre or fowre tymes in the place where now ys buyIded the church of our Lady, and the taper brunnynge in her hande, which
contynued styll burnynge the space of nyne yeres without wastynge, untill the tyme that one foresware hymselfe thereon, and then it
extincted and never burned after.

 As a result, a new church was built and the statue duly installed and the pilgrimages began. A priest daily celebrated chantry Masses (special bequests) for the pilgrims and the Knights Hospitallers of St John offered accommodation on the site of what is now The Angel Hotel.
St Mary’s Church today is owned by the Church of Wales (Anglican).

The image of Our Lady and taper seems to have been more common in medieval times as the town of Haverfordwest, some 26 miles from Cardigan also boasted a “lesser taper shrine”. Today, Arras in France, Cagliari in Sardinia and shrines in Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, Guatamala and Tenerife are the only known homes, outside of Wales, of Our Lady of the Taper.

In 1538 the Dissolution of the Monasteries campaign by Good King Hal and his merry men reached West Wales and the statue of Our Lady of the Taper was taken to London for ceremonial sacrilege and burning and that, for many centuries was the end of both the statue and the shrine.
Until, 1904 when a community of Breton monks (the Llechryd one?), called their Abbey Church, Our Lady of Cardigan and the devotion was revived once more. It did not last long; they left the area in 1916 and it was to be a few years before the title was heard of again.
September 2010 and the Holy Father
blesses the statue and lights the candle
in Our Lady's hand symbolising
Christ the light of the World

In 1956 Bishop Petit of Menevia commissioned a new statue and, after a grand tour of Wales it was installed in the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows in Cardigan (you see, Our Lady never deserted Cardigan, she was ever present under one of her titles). And on 23rd July 1970, Bishop Petit consecrated a new Church as “Our Lady of the Taper” (we shall gloss over the fact that it was and still is an architectural monstrosity). Here days later and the statue was transferred there and the shrine was re-born.

That statue did not last very long and a new one in bronze was created by Mother Concordia OSB and installed in 1986. Some 4,500 Welsh Catholics attended the installation – now that’s what I call a pilgrimage!

I shall leave the last words of the story to the website dedicated to the history of the shrine (click here)

“Its symbolism is that Mary presents her Son to us, as she did to the Wise Men, to be adored. The taper testifies that He is Light of the World. Pilgrims come to pray individually and in groups. May they learn to treasure the word of God in their hearts, as Mary did, and live by the light of her Son, who is her Saviour and ours.

Our Lady of the Taper – Pray for Wales
Our Lady of the Taper – Ora pro nobis

Posted by Richard Collins - Linen on the Hedgerow

John Henry Cardinal Newman 21st February 1801 - 11th August 1890

Today, 11th August, is the anniversary of the death of John Henry Cardinal Newman in 1890.

This great Englishman, whose own life was filled with turmoil, deprivation and loneliness but also with the love, power and guidance of God, will be horrified to see what has been happening in the country he loved and to the city of Birmingham that he served so faithfully for many years.

Today, more than ever, we should follow the example of Blessed John Henry Newman in caring and praying for each other rather than self, and pray for those who have been affected by and caused recent events in his beloved city and country.
The picture above is from the book Blessed John Henry Newman: Heart Speaks to Heart written by Fr Daniel Seward of the Birmingham Oratory and illustrated by Susan Bateman. We cannot but hope that the "kindly light" that guided Newman throughout his life and through his death will now guide and protect us all at this time.

Monday 8 August 2011

Demonic ape gets fingers burnt!

That could have been a headline in a 13th century newspaper if they but had such things in those times. It refers to todays feast, that of St Dominic, scourge of demons, curse of the Albigensians and founder of course, of the Order of Preachers – a great order that has suffered a few spiritual troughs in the last 30 years but has weathered the Radcliffe/McCabe years and is now aspiring to gain possession of the high ground once more.

If I sound a little biased in favour of St Dominic and his order it is because I was educated, or partly so, by Dominican nuns; a particularly fierce and warlike community who came fresh from the African bush to North London to impose their brand of rough and tough Catholicism on some fairly basic boys and girls (no mixing of the sexes, of course, all lessons were run in duplicate).

I am sure that there will be many good posts today on the life of St Dominic so I have chosen to highlight one of the many episodes of his life rather than go down the road of a complete biographical approach.

                              You can't monkey with St Dominic! 

There are many accounts of St Dominic's fights with Satan and one, in particular, caught my attention, at the time he was resident at the monastery of San Sisto and, after praying for some time before the tabernacle he left to retire to his dormitory to undertake some writing.
As he lit a candle a demon in the form of an ape appeared and capered around the saint emitting foul verses and taunting him.

St Dominic commanded him to stand still and then placed a lit taper in his hand. The ape continued with his obscenities but as the candle burnt down so it began to burn his fingers. The demon began to howl and scream but St Dominic again commanded him to be quiet.
After a short period the candle had burnt so low that the fire had consumed the ape's index finger and he carried on howling and dancing in pain.
At last, the saint, taking up a walking cane, whacked the demon so hard that the sound was described as like a balloon bursting.
With that the ape disappeared through a wall never to return.

The only thing left behind was a terrible stench.

Prayer of St. Dominic
May God the Father who made us bless us.
May God the Son send his healing among us.
May God the Holy Spirit move within us and
give us eyes to see with, ears to hear with,
and hands that your work might be done.
May we walk and preach the word of
God to all.
May the angel of peace watch over us and
lead us at last by God’s grace to the
Kingdom. Amen.

Posted by Richard Collins - Linen on the Hedgerow

Saturday 6 August 2011

Our Lady of Sorrows - Softener of Evil Hearts

I love sacred art, and Eastern Icons hold a particular special place in my heart. I'm no Sister Wendy Beckett at any stretch of my sometimes extremely over active imagination, in fact my art knowledge is so limited, that it equates to being able to tell the difference from Monet and Manet, purely by the first vowel of their names.

Nonetheless, I, like many of us can be deeply blessed as appreciative admirers. In both the East and West we have a deep and rich heritage of sacred art, and yet their paths have developed so very differently. When we look at some of the great works, say of the superb Caravaggio we see the artistic realism and perspective and know what is being presented to us. We immediately recognise what the centrality of the theme is and how everything else leads to that in varying importance. We can know and grasp the understanding and meaning and they stimulate both our senses and passions. Eastern sacred art is quite different, which I will explain, but first a little about the beautiful Icon above.

I'm sure most of us will immediately sense that the above Icon is our Lady of Sorrows, and be very familiar with the seven sorrows that pierced the heart of Our Lady. Perhaps like me, you have spend time reflecting and meditating on her Sorrows, whilst praying through the powerful Scripture passages. For those not quite as familiar her Sorrows begin with the Prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:34-35); The flight into Egypt (Matt 2:13); The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 3:43-45); The meeting with her Son on the Way to Calvary (Luke 22: 26); Our Lord's Death on the Cross (John 19:25); 6) Receiving His precious body in her arms. (Matt 27:57-59); And our Lord's body being placed in the Tomb (John 19:40-42)

Yet perhaps we are not quite as familiar with this specific beautiful Icon known by our Orthodox brothers and sisters as the Softener of Evil Hearts. Perhaps we are even less familiar with the heart swelling depth of reverence and beautiful liturgy found in the Akathist to the Mother of God. Below is the beginning of the Akathist, called The Apolytikion.
"Soften our evil hearts, O Theotokos, and quench the attacks of those who hate us and loose all straitness of our soul.

For looking on thy holy icon, we are filled with compunction by thy suffering and loving-kindness for us, and we kiss thy wounds; we are filled with horror for the darts with which we wound thee.

Let us not, O Mother of Compassion, according to the cruelty of our hearts, perish from the cruelty of heart of those near us, for thou art in truth the Softener of Evil Hearts."

The beauty of the Eastern Tradition of Icons lay in the harmony, colour and composition and their very apparent flatness, leads us on into the stillness. Unlike Western art we cannot immediately seize their meaning, so we must allow the meaning to come to us. One needs to disengage the mind, and begin to see with the heart. Holy Icons exert a calming influence, allowing us to stand (or sit) peacefully before them, so that we may be drawn into the stillness and then into contemplation.

It is here that we are freed for a few moments from the worries and concerns of everyday life, and from the materialistic world that surrounds and impacts us all, as we are drawn deeper and higher towards the spiritual world. Perhaps this is why Icons are known as doors to Paradise. And with the Softener of hearts Icon, it is our Mother who leads us deeper in prayer and into contemplation of the divine mysteries of our Lord.

Pax - Caral

Wednesday 3 August 2011

God is Glorified in the Sacrament of Penance

God is full of tender mercy and compassion
Like Shadowlands, I've been thinking a bit about Confession lately and it struck me that while the remission of our sins through the Sacrament of Penance gives us great spiritual joy (and dare I say it, relief) - for our guilt is removed as far 'as the East is from the West', so too God is given great joy by our humbly confessing our faults.

Our Lord talks about it at length - that there is more joy, real joy, in Heaven over one sinner that repents than over a multitude of the righteous.

St Paul tell us that Love rejoices not in evil, but in the truth and it is the truth about ourselves that we acknowledge in the Sacrament of Penance. Our sins give God no joy at all, but that we present ourselves to Him in Confession makes God happy - rejoicing - for the work of saving work of the Son has gained for the Father a soul to His Bosom.

As Our Lord says in the parable of the prodigal son, the Father runs out to meet us and embraces us, for He was looking for us, scanning the horizon, worried and concerned about us. The Son is glorified by our Confession. The Father is glorified by our Confession. The Holy Spirit is glorified by our examination of our conscience and our uttering of our sins before the Priest, who is ordained with the power to forgive sin in the name of Jesus Christ. The Triune God is given great glory and for our humility, we too, are exalted.

In Confession we have performed a work which brings God more joy than any work of mercy we may do others. We have glorified the saving work of His Son, 'in whom the Father is well pleased', the One Who never displeased His Eternal Father, yet too rejoices over us in the Sacrament, for His bitter Passion and His Cross was not in vain for we who present ourselves to Him.

So let us never fear the Sacrament of Penance, no matter what our sin. For our Confession makes God rejoice over us, for the son or daughter who returns to Him is not lost, but found and He Who is full of tender mercy and compassion, has been glorified.

Posted by That The Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill
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