Friday 30 September 2011

Is she the world's favourite saint?

 Feastday Saturday 1st October

I mean, of course, St Therese de Lisieux, the Little Flower, the patron saint of the missions who never left her native France, the nun who, despite dying at the age of 24,  made a massive impact on the world - by doing what?

By living the life of Christ! By embracing all that surrounded her in a fervent manner! By suffering for Christ as He had suffered for her on the cross!

"I only love simplicity, I have a horror of pretence"
                Good words for Catholic bloggers to abide by

From Frances Parkinson Keyes’ biography ‘St Teresa of Lisieux’ comes this extract……….

“She observed every conventual rule for sefl-discipline meticulously, anticipated and expanded every precept for self-sacrifice.
Though stll beset by a sense of her own unworthiness, she bent her will and her spirit toward cleaving a pathway to Light.
“I will wait to make my profession” she told herself firmly, “as long as God may require. Only I could not bear it if were through my own fault that my communion with Him was indefinitely deferred.
I will put forth my best efforts to weave for myself a shining garment of goodness incrusted with the precious stones of righteousness.
When it is rich enough in His sight, He will not refuse to receive me as His own”.

We cannot doubt that it was “rich enough in His sight” long before the authorities of Carmel recognized its glory.
Being human they “saw through a mirror in an obscure manner” though yet “face to face”. But in heaven Teresa’s worth must have already been known; her name already “written”; and the time came, as it had come before, when her will – and heaven’s – could no longer be thwarted.
She made her profession on the eighth of September, in the year of Our Lord eighteen hundred and ninety.

The ceremony itself was not dazzling, as taking the habit had been, but the day was one of utmost splendour. No still snowbound night, this, but a mellow morning when the light seemed drenched in amber.

As the procession advanced, a great flock of swallows, sweeping across the glittering sky, suddenly swooped down and circled over the convent, skimming so close to it that their wings seemed to brush the walls.

As the procession passed, the bright birds shot upward again and vanished into etheral space.
They had gone as quickly as they had come. But none who saw their flight did so unmoved.

Was it only the wings of birds which brushed over the convent that day?
Or were there hovering angels, too, in that strange, swift flight?”

The church of St Therese de Lisieux, Laos - a country still oppressed by communism and in need of the intercession of St Therese

Tomorrow – Saturday 1st October is the Feast of St Therese and the date set for the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma (Catholic bloggers) meeting at the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, commencing with Mass at 10.30am – all are welcome

Posted by Richard Collins - Linen on the Hedgerow

Thursday 29 September 2011

Sunday 25 September 2011

The Hilaire Belloc Blog makes it into the press...

Fame at last... 

Local Source
From the Mail
A View From England

Wanderer reader from England recently tipped off From the Mail to a wonderful new web site devoted to Hilaire Belloc, which, for the first time so far as FTM knows, provides direct links to just about everything Belloc ever wrote as well as to commentaries on Belloc’s work. Readers can see it here:

asked this longtime foreign friend what he thought of the riots sweeping England, and he replied: “ Riots reinforce our cry for ‘ Parents as the primary educators and protectors of our chil­dren’!”

This longtime Catholic activist added: “I think almost every one of our government ministers is divorced, living in sin, or ‘ gay’…. So much for supporting the family.”

The Defect Of Tyranny Within Us

Among Belloc’s writings that
FTM had never seen before, which appears on this new Belloc blog, is an essay he wrote for the Cath­olic Truth Society in March 1918 titled, “ Religion and Civil So­ciety.”

Belloc was responding to an article published a month earlier by England’s leading atheist, Mrs. Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, called “ Christianity Versus Liberty,” in which she advocated ( suc­cessfully) for the repeal of a British law which prohibited the Ra­tionalist Press Association from inheriting money from wills and trusts, because it propagandized against Christian doctrines.

In this brilliant essay — which every U. S. Catholic should read this political season when so much of what our government does is under review — Belloc tells us what the purpose of a state is: “The authorities of the community exist for the purpose of main­taining the community, that is, of maintaining 1) its material ex­istence, and 2) the character or tradition which makes it what it is. This end to their action gives those actions all their validity. You could not have a community in which civil authorities did not exercise power of restraint over the members thereof. In the absence of such, the mere material framework of the community would fall to pieces, and it is an implied injunction upon the au­thorities which civilly govern the community that they should pre­serve not only its material structure, but its character or soul. In proportion as this end is perfectly attained we speak of the com­munity as politically free, although the restraints to which mem­bers therein are put by the common authority may be very severe. “ For instance, in time of war, when the community is threat­ened with foreign conquest, the authorities may compel the full service of any man, including the sacrifice of life itself, in the defense of the state; yet the man so conscripted is politically free, and the state to which he belongs is essentially a free state.

“If such orders came from a foreigner, compelling a man to such sacrifices for a community that was not his own, then that man would be unfree, and the community thus subjected to alien au­thority would be unfree also. But this ‘ Political Liberty,’ the most necessary form of liberty, is only a condition of the narrower thing which we call especially ‘Civil Liberty.’ A community must be free from alien government for its citizens to be free at all, and must have the right to preserve its own character by the extrusion of practices which it feels fatal to that character. . . .

“ In practice the area of such ‘ civil liberty’ in a healthy and prac­tically free state, the proportion of acts which the individual or the corporation may perform at will, without restriction by the state, is always very large. It always includes by far the greater part of one’s daily activities, at any rate of normal times; and we regard the extension of this ‘ civil liberty,’ quite apart from national or political liberty, as a good; we jealously watch encroachments upon it as dangerous, that is, as liable to produce great evil, for four reasons: “ First, we know by our reason that the state is not an end in itself, but only exists for the happiness of its members — real bodies and souls — that make it up. Therefore each must have the power of testifying to the success or failure of state measures toward that end, and of himself furthering it.

“ Secondly, we discover by experiment and from the example of history how necessary to the health of the state as a whole, how necessary to its vigorous common life, is this power of reaction to it.

“ Thirdly, we know that there is in human nature a defect of tyr­anny — the love of ‘ running other people,’ of seeing them obey you. Therefore, the human agent of civil authority must be sub­ject himself to restriction and limits as of appointment or custom. “ Lastly, one of the attributes of a conscious individual being is the desire and instinct, or what might be called ( without too much exaggeration), the sheer necessity for self- expression. An undue restriction exasperates this instinct and forbids satisfaction of this desire. In so much it warps and weakens and inflames the individ­ual, makes him unhappy and defeats the end for which the state exists, which is the happiness of its members.

“ Now civil liberty being of this nature, and being by common consent a good, and any unnecessary loss of it an evil, it will at once be granted that the imposition of a special form of thought or philosophic express upon the mass of free men against their will, is a restriction of the gravest kind. In common (and true) language, it is tyranny.”

In other words, Belloc prophesized against the then coming “dic­tatorship of relativism” that penalizes Christian thought and ac­tion, and wars against both personal and civil liberty.

What’s In Your Beer?

Fans of Belloc will also find on this new blog all of his inter­ventions in Parliament, where he served as a Liberal member from Salford from 1906 to 1910, as recorded by Hansard, Britain’s equivalent of the Congressional Record.

In 1906, Belloc stood in support of the Pure Beer Bill, intro­duced by Sir George Courthope of Sussex, after a number of his constituents died from arsenic- laced beer.

The entire debate is utterly fascinating, pitting as it did the ad­vocates of “ healthy” beer made of barley malt, hops, water, and yeast — really a “ whole food” — and “ chemical” beer made of sugar, arsenic, and whatever else the industrial beer manufactur­ers wanted to put into it.

In pushing his bill, Sir Courthope argued that chemical beer was not only increasing drunkenness, but was also a major cause of disease and ill health.

In support of this Pure Beer Bill, Belloc argued, according to Hansard’s account, “ that in the constituency which he represented a number of people had died from drinking impure beer. What was still more important, for electoral purposes, a great number survived. So far as his memory served, something like this hap­pened. When the friends of those who died from arsenical poison­ing brought an action, the brewer said, ‘ I am innocent. I used glu­cose.’ They then brought an action against the glucose manufac­turer. He said, ‘ I am innocent. I used pure sulphuric acid.’ The sulphuric acid manufacturer said that there was ‘ no more than the usual proportion of arsenic.’ “ Unfortunately there was, and by the use of these three differ­ent ( or identical) substances used in the making of beer a large number of people suffered acute agony. He stood there for those people. Those who listened to the debate on the address would know that they had all been returned for a large number of dif­ferent reasons, but among the other questions was the question of
pure beer. He wanted to insist upon the fact that they were a rep­resentative as well as a deliberative body, and there was not the slightest doubt that if they put this bill to the votes of the people they would get an overwhelming majority in its favor. They were told that the populace did not understand the deep chemical mys­teries by which the preparation of beer was ruled. The financial secretary to the Treasury had said with some force that it was im­possible to tell the difference between beer brewed from malt and hops and beer brewed in other fashions.”

What’s in your beer? Maybe that question should be part of the public debate.

Nothing Less Than An Attack Upon The Church

Another Belloc essay
FTM was not aware of posted on the Belloc blog is a March 1910 Catholic Truth Society publication: “ The Ferrer Case.”

Francisco Ferrer was a Spanish anarchist who went from hum­ble beginnings to a top position in international Freemasony, ac­cumulating extreme wealth along the way and developing contacts among all the wealthiest Church- haters in major European cities. Among Ferrer’s special interests was publishing children’s school­books for use in government schools. While Ferrer was in London in June 1909, his handlers suddenly called him back to his home city of Barcelona to foment riots against the Spanish government’s unpopular military action in north Africa — riots which he direct­ed against the Church in a precursor to the Spanish Civil War of 1936. After that, Ferrer was arrested, tried, and executed.

Who could read this section and not think about how “ conspira­cies” against the Church really do work? Belloc opened: “ The readers of the following lines may remember the excite­ment in the month of October of the year 1909, an explosion of excitement and anger took place simultaneously in a certain num­ber of great towns with regard to the execution of a Spanish crim­inal of the name of Francisco Ferrer.

“ This man’s name had been hitherto unfamiliar to all but a nar­row circle of people, who were interested in his educational work and in his remarkable personality. He was very well known in the town of Barcelona, near which he had been born, in the suburbs of which he resided, and which latterly had been the scene of his political efforts. But he was not in any sense a public figure in Europe, nor were the public in general acquainted with his name.

“ Of a sudden, within two days, that name was talked and shout­ed about in Paris, in London, in Rome, and one or two other great cities where secret organization can be prompt and thorough in ac­tion; and it filled public attention to the exclusion of every other subject. In Pisa an attempt was made to burn down the cathedral. In London a hostile demonstration was made outside the cathedral of Westminster; in Paris a large mob was gathered, great injury was done to municipal and private property, many policemen were wounded, and one was killed. . . .

“ Now that we can look back upon that strange episode, we see it marked by certain characters which every man of independent judgment and common sense, no matter what his philosophical or religious opinion, must recognize.

“ In the first place it was organized; it was not spontaneous. It is self- evident that a spontaneous explosion of sympathy with an un­known person cannot take place. It is further self- evident that a spontaneous explosion does not take place in five or six widely sep­arated centers at the same moment. That the movement was orga­nized artificially is further proved by the fact that it was put an end to as secretly, as suddenly, and as abruptly as it was aroused. The moment the facts began to leak out, the moment the truth about Ferrer’s life became known, the same power which had spoken in Rome, in Paris, and in London discovered the topic to be uninter­esting and dropped it. . . .

“ Now, not only did this incident bear the plain character of or­ganization, and of secret organization: It bore a character which very often accompanies phenomena of that sort in Europe — to wit, that its whole energy and meaning were an attack upon the Catholic Church. The cry in favor of the condemned criminal was identically the same as the cry against the faith. No one joined in it save from hatred of the Catholic Church, or under orders from, or duped by those, who hate and would destroy the Catholic Church. Conversely, no Catholic, not even those isolated and ill­informed Catholics who in Protestant countries are so easily de­ceived by the falsehoods ’ round them, joined in that demonstra­tion.

“It was nothing more nor less in its inception, character, and mean­ing than an attack upon the Church. The weapon used was a fa­miliar one. First, the assertion that a great injustice had been done — and that presented in a light which made the deed seem inhu­manly wicked; next it was suggested or asserted that the authors of this monstrous iniquity were the priests of the Catholic Church. In precisely the same manner are the events of the past of Europe presented by those who hate Jesus Christ and the Institution He founded. The mark of persecution — and especially of persecu­tion by falsehood — was stamped upon the whole business.”

After detailing Ferrer’s rise from poverty to wealth, and his aban­donment of his family which he left in dire poverty for a succes­sion of mistresses, Belloc turned to Ferrer’s abrupt return to Spain while in England, and his activities there: “ Official buildings were spared and the persons connected with the unpopular government and its action were not attacked. Though the movement was nominally proletarian, neither the goods of the capitalist class nor their palaces, which are many and sumptuous in Barcelona, suffered. The whole movement was canalized against the Church, which had nothing to do with the African Expedition nor with any part of the quarrel! The poorest parish churches as well as the greatest and wealthiest of the monastic foundations were sacked and burnt, and the movement was organized with as much method as might be the movement of an army.

“Picked men went from place to place conveying the instructions of the hidden organizers; petroleum and firearms were always found ready for these attacks upon the clergy and the churches. The only efforts made against the military were made with the object of pre­venting them from defending the churches, the nuns, and the priests. In a word, the rising which had begun as a vague, sponta­neous, and general protest against the military expedition, against unpopular officialdom, and against the capitalism which was sup­posed to inspire it, was directed, when once organization and meth­od appeared, not against army, officials, or capitalists, but solely against the Church, upon the lines with which Ferrer’s name was locally chiefly connected, and in the interests of that section of opinion of which he was locally the acknowledged head.”

Reading this leads one to think how easily public opinion can be directed against the Church, does it not?

Saturday 24 September 2011

England's Nazareth: Our Lady of Walsingham's solemn crowning in 1954 is often referred to as the "miracle of the doves"

Our Lady of Walsingham watched over by two white doves
Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Ransom (Mercy), which is kept in England and Wales as the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham. England has been known as "Our Lady's Dowry" for several centuries. So it's only appropriate that the Blessed Virgin's most honoured title in England is celebrated on this day - as we trust that she will surely ransom her own Dowry at the appropriate time.

In honour of Our Lady of Walsingham, then, I would like to draw your attention to a little miracle (or marvel) that happened in England's Nazareth during the Feast of the Assumption, 1954.

That year had been declared a Marian Year, and to mark the occasion Pope Pius XII wished to honour Our Lady of Walsingham by having her new statue solemnly crowned. Only a few statues in the world have been crowned in the name of the Pope, so this was a big event! Over 15,000 pilgrims attended the ceremony at the old Abbey's grounds, and the Archbishop of Savannah, Gerald Patrick O'Hara - who was about to become the Papal Delegate to the UK - crowned Our Lady of Walsingham, using a crown made from precious jewels and metals donated by various Catholics - mainly women - from around Britain.

The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee (Lk 1:35)
Straight after the solemn crowning, two white doves settled on the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham and remained on the Blessed Virgin's lap during the mile-long procession to the Slipper Chapel. The two birds then stayed with Our Lady for a whole night, as if they were keeping watch with her. This little miracle was much talked about at the time, and the spectacle was even caught by a Pathé News cameraman (the above picture is a screen shot from this piece of film).

As the story of Our Lady of Walsingham centres around a vision of the "holy house" at Nazareth, the Annunciation (cf Lk 1:26-38) has always been an important aspect of the Shrine's preaching mission. One of the great mysteries of the Annunciation, of course, is the coming of the Holy Spirit upon Mary, which led to the conception of Our Lord. It's quite strange, then, to recall that the Spirit of God is nearly always symbolised by a white dove! One wonders, therefore, whether these doves were sent by God to remind us of Our Lady's submission to His will and to help us meditate on her perpetual virginity and on the fact that she conceived through the "overshadowing" power of Holy Spirit?

Strangely, this event in Walsingham mirrored a similar spectacle, also known as "the miracle of the doves", which happened a few months after Our Lady of Fatima had been solemnly crowned on behalf of Pope Pius XII on 13 May 1946. Although it's hard to find many eye-witness accounts of the Walsingham spectacle, we do have several statements from those who saw the doves at Fatima. These "Fatima doves" stayed so close to Our Lady during a two-week nation-wide procession in December 1946, that it's believed they didn't even leave her side to consume food or water. Here is part of the account given by one of the priests, called Fr Oliveira, who was present at the the procession in honour of the solemn crowning of Our Lady of Fatima - it's well worth reading: -
"Let me tell the incident of the doves, about which the newspapers here in Portugal have spoken so much and which is on the lips of every person in the nation. 
"It began in a town called Bombazral, a short time after the statue had left Fatima. 
Scenes from the Portuguese "miracle of the doves" 
"As part of the ceremony in that particular town, while the streets filled with people were singing hymns to Our Lady and pressing to be near the statue someone freed four white doves. The greater part of the crowd hardly noticed it. 
"After flying off into the air, three of the doves ... instead of flying from the great crowd to some roof-top ... made several evolutions over the statue and then suddenly, to the amazement of all who saw them, plummeted downwards, and alighted at Our Lady's feet! 
"This was the beginning. 
"During the days that followed, midst ever-changing crowds, moving from one town to another night and day for almost two whole weeks, the doves did not leave the statue. They remained there at the very base of the statue, as though vying one with the other actually to stand on Our Lady's feet. Yet bands played, people shouted, the bier on which the statue was mounted moved and swayed, rockets exploded at night and cascaded fire, while giant searchlights burned at them. They were constantly buffeted by flowers tossed to the statue from the surging crowds. 
"But they did not fly. They blinked, shook off flowers that hit them, occasionally stretched their wings to keep balance. But they remained there at her feet during the entire two-week journey. They refused food or drink. 
"When the statue was carried into Lisbon, I had the honor of walking at its side as Carmelite Tertiaries bore it triumphantly into the city. I was so close to it, and to the doves, that I could reach out and touch either. Cordons of militia and police were holding back the crowds of many thousands of people who had gone far out of the city to meet this most famous representation of the Virgin, coming for their greatest Marian centennial. 
"All during the night of December 5th, in the Church of Our Lady of Fatima of Lisbon, the doves remained standing at the feet of the statue. By now they were more the object of comment than the beautiful statue or the glory in which it was enthroned. The newspapers had been filled with the story of their perseverance, their utter fearlessness, the strangeness of their position. Many must have wondered what would happen ... now that they had actually accompanied the statue into the church that had been prepared for its reception, refusing to be brushed off or frightened away. 
"The next morning, at Mass, they had their answer. 
"The next morning, the doves flew. 
"From midnight, Masses were constantly recited at the altar near the statue. As I mentioned in the beginning, the church was crowded to the doors with Lisbonites keeping vigil. 
"In the morning, after the many Masses of the night, came the solemn High Mass, which was to be followed by a general Communion. 
"During the Solemn Mass, most of the people in the great church had undoubtedly stopped watching the doves, to which they were now accustomed, to concentrate on the Mass. This was especially true in the solemn moment when the bell sounded, and a great hush fell over the crowd just before the elevation. 
"In that moment of hush, there was a sudden fluttering of wings. 
"To the utter amazement of all, two of the doves suddenly flew ... after two weeks of refusing food or drink and of remaining at the feet of the statue ... one sped straight to the gospel side of the altar, and the other to the epistle side! There, as the bishop straightened to raise the Consecrated Host, they alighted and folded their wings ... one on each side ... as though in adoration! 
"As the Mass progressed, the two doves remained there to the bewilderment of the celebrants and servers and the stupefied congregation. 
"But this was still not the climax. 
"The third dove had not left the statue. 
"Suddenly, at the moment of communion, the third dove flew up and perched on top of the statue's golden crown ... placed there by the cardinal Legate who personally represented the Holy Father the previous May 13 at Fatima ... and as the celebrant turned and held up Our Lord, saying 'Ecce Agnus Dei' ('Behold the Lamb of God'), it spread its white wings and held them open!"
Of course, the appearance of doves or gentle animals has often been a sign of God's special blessing upon a person or thing. Our Lord himself was visited by the Holy Spirit "in the form of a dove", which "rested upon him" (cf Lk 3:22) after his baptism at the beginning of his public ministry. Others, such as Pope St Gregory the Great, have also been graced by doves as a sign of God's blessing on their ministry. Even the present Pope has spoken about the joy he felt when a lark (the bird that sings at Heaven's gates) suddenly appeared from behind the high altar during his own ordination to the priesthood. And we all know that Bl Pope John Paul II often seemed to be greeted by white doves that wanted to settle on him during his pontificate.

These little miracles seem to suggest that God's innocent creatures enjoy being around those who are close to Him. These signs can also point to some providential blessing upon men or women dedicated to the Gospel, or to the fact that the Holy Spirit - the giver of Life - is moving amongst us!

Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us
Our Lady of Ransom, pray for us
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love!

Poster by Dylan Parry A Reluctant Sinner
This is a slightly edited repost from my own blog.

Now Is the Time to Rebuild

Over the last few days, there have been some wonderfully inspiring readings from the prophet Haggai, which speak directly to the current situation of the Church. After a time of darkness and confusion, which may be best understood as a time of refinement through suffering, we are faced with the task of rebuilding the beauty and majesty of the ancient Church, so that it will be even more splendid than in former days.

Even while persecution increases and liberalism is still so widespread, it is a time of great hope:

‘Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not in your sight as nothing? Yet now take courage, O Zerubbabel, says the LORD; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the LORD; work, for I am with you.’ (Haggai 2:4).

‘The latter splendour of this house will be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts.’ (Haggai 2:9).

Just as in the time of Haggai, God used the high priest as an instrument for rebuilding his house, He is now using the Vicar of Christ, the Holy Father.

But there is a solemn warning for those who would rather build up their own wealth than build the house of the LORD:

‘You have looked for much, and behold, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? says the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while you busy yourselves each with his own house.’ (Haggai 1:9).

This reminded me of a point made by Fr Benedict Groeschel about the modest neighbourhood in which he grew up in the thirties, filled with factories and tenements, but each neighbourhood nevertheless having its beautiful church, paid for from the modest incomes of the devout people who lived there. And how many beautiful churches has the last fifty years produced, a time of unrivalled material prosperity? We have looked for much, and it has come to little. ‘He who earns wages earns wages to put them into a bag with holes.’ (Haggai 1:6).

The rewards for devotion are very concrete in the Old Testament: better harvests and prosperity. But the riches we are promised are far greater: the eternal reward of salvation as we co-operate with Christ in his redeeming sacrifice.

Take courage, all you people of the land, says the LORD; work, for I am with you.

Posted by Anthony Radice (A Tiny Son of Mary)

Happy Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham.

In 1061 Our Lady appeared to Richeldis of Walsingham, asking her to build a replica of the Holy House of Nazareth, where the Angel Gabriel had sought her consent to become the Mother of God.

This Holy House, and the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham it contained, became the greatest Shrine of Our Lady in the world, and was ranked alongside Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela. It was known as ‘England’s Nazareth’ and was renowned for miraculous cures, answers to prayer, penance and thanksgiving.

In 1538 the Shrine was destroyed under the orders of Henry VIII, and the sacred image, along with many others, was publicly burnt in London. The Augustinians who looked after the Shrine, and the Franciscans in the village, were dispersed, and their religious houses ruined. Some men were put to death; hung, drawn and quartered on what is known today as the Martyrs’ Field, trying in vain to save the Shrine and Priory.

The restoration began in 1897 with the creation of a new Holy House within the Catholic Church at nearby King’s Lynn, for which Pope Leo XIII blessed a new statue. The first pilgrimage since the Reformation was made in that year to the fourteenth-century Slipper Chapel that had been preserved and restored. In 1934, the Slipper Chapel, containing a copy of the original image of Our Lady of Walsingham, was designated England’s National Shrine of Our Lady, by the bishops of England and Wales, with the approval of the Pope. Meanwhile, Anglicans too restored pilgrimage in 1922, by placing in their parish church an image of Our Lady of Walsingham. This was transferred in 1931 to a new Holy House and Pilgrimage Church built in the village.

Walsingham today is once again a powerhouse of prayer, and a major centre of pilgrimage for Catholics, Anglicans, Orthodox and others. It bears witness to the remarkable way in which Our Lady draws together the followers of her Son in unity and reconciliation. Devotion centres on the mystery of the Annunciation and Our Lady’s willing response to the Word of God, assisting us to respond in the same way to God’s will and to live out the meaning of the Incarnation, God made man, in our daily lives.

Prayer for England

O Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God
and our most gentle Queen and Mother,
look down in mercy upon England, thy
Dowry, and upon us all who greatly hope
and trust in thee.

By thee it was that Jesus,
our Saviour and our hope, was given
unto the world and he has given thee to
us that we might hope still more.
Plead for us thy children, whom thou didst
receive and accept at the foot of the cross,
O sorrowful Mother. Intercede for our
separated brethren, that with us in the
one true fold, they may be united to the
Chief Shepherd, the Vicar of thy Son.

Pray for us all, dear Mother, that by faith,
fruitful in good works we may all deserve
to see and praise God, together with thee
in our heavenly home. Amen.

Picture © ST PAULS
Text © ST PAULS taken from Novena in Honour of Our Lady of Walsingham

Sunday 18 September 2011

For Many - Last of 4 Part Catechesis on the Corrected Translation

Before looking at the corrected translation let's look at the Gospel for today. Blessed Pope John Paul in his exhortation for the lay faithful, Christifidelis Laici, says that this Gospel is excellent for illustrating the lay vocation.

God doesn't pay by the hour. Perhaps there could be no greater payment than simply being called, being uniquely, personally, and intimately chosen by him to work with him, or rather, to allow him to work through us. Those who labor longer with him are rewarded with being in his presence longer. You can't put an hourly wage or any other reward on that. He is the best reward.

Listen to my homily for today:

If you have trouble listening click here.

He sends us into different vineyards: to our family, our relationships, and our work. In order to bring a fruitful harvest we must first be equipped and sent. This happens at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
There are three different phrases which have been made more accurate in the corrected translation of the Mass. The first one we will will look at is the most important phrase, the consecration:
Accipite, et bibite ex eo omnes: hic est enim calix Sanguinis mei novi et aeterni testamenti, qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum. Hoc facite in meam commemorationem.
Which translates:
Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the New and Eternal Covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.
We notice that it is no longer translated as "cup" but "chalice." Fitting considering nothing else goes in the chalice except the precious Blood of the Lamb while a cup is what I drink water from the kitchen sink. We also notice that instead of "everlasting" the translation is "eternal." Amazing that God eternally has called us to partake of his very life.

However, the most drastic change her is the phrase, "MANY" instead of "ALL." First we have to not that this is simply a translation. Those in the past falsely used the principle of equivalence and tried to make everyone think that many should mean all. Why? Well, it simply is not Christian to believe that Christ did not die for all. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in number 605:
The Church, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men without exception: "There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer."
Yet do all accept the gift of his redemption? Well obviously not. "Many are called but few are chosen" (Mt 22:14). Even Origen was guilty of a heresy called αποκαταστασις (apokatastasis), which basically teaches against the 27 times Jesus mentions hell in the New Testament basically saying that everybody is going to heaven. Many people sitting in Catholic pews probably ascribe to this heresy. Yet we have to follow the teachings of Jesus, not of the spirit of this age.

St Thomas Aquainas gives us his usual crystal clear clarity commenting on "the many". He says that Christ died for all and grants all sufficient grace to be saved, but only those who accept it have efficacious grace to save their souls. For a more lengthy treatment of this, read Pope Benedict's statement from his book that he wrote while still a Cardinal, God is Near Us: the Eucharist, the Heart of All Life.

The next phrase we will look at is:
Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi. Beati qui ad cenam Agni vocati sunt.

Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.
This is much better than the previous translation simply because its reference to the book of revelation is much clearer. One day the Father will have gathered all, in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, all will bow down before the Lamb of God and all will know that he is Lord. How blessed are those who participate in the Eucharistic foretaste of that moment! It is such a grace to know who he is now. Our response is with faith and that is why the next phase is a biblical allusion to the faith of the centurion:
Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum: sed tantum dic verbo, et sanabitur anima mea.

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.
Again, the corrected translation is far superior because it simply points to that encounter with Christ, the only one recorded in the Gospel where Jesus was "astonished" at his faith, of which he said,
"Greater faith I have not found in all of Israel" (Mt 8:10)
This shows us that we must receive the Eucharist with faith. Only then will we permit God to be God and transform us into himself.

May the corrected translation bring about a greater harvest of faith and fruitful participation not only in the Eucharistic Mystery but in the apostolate of the lay faithful.

Four Part Catechesis on the Corrected Translation

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Do we have an obligation to evangelise?

Well, Our Blessed Lord urged that we should ‘Go forth and teach all nations’ but that just applies to the ordained does it not?

I think not. Just imagine, if we washed our hands of the evangelisation bit we could be stealing the chance of Heaven from those whom we meet. We would become shallow and inward looking, turning up to Sunday Mass as spectators rather than doers.

The rather sticky issue is, just how do we go about evangelising today?
The Jehovah’s Witnesses route is a closed door (literally) and standing on a soapbox, if you could find one, and haranguing the Saturday morning shoppers places us in the same category as the Islamists (except that we would be the ones to be arrested).
The Legion of Mary have proved their worth by setting up a stall in Oxford on a busy Saturday, that is a possibility but not all of us live near major conurbations or have groups such as the Legion nearby.

The good old Catholic fall-back answer is to say that we teach by our example. As of tomorrow when meat comes off the Friday menu that is yet another possibility, it was always good as a conversation opener years ago when one declined the sausages and chips on the office cafeteria menu. But that’s a bit passive really. What will St Peter say to us when we present our record of achievement at the Heavenly Gates:

 “What! When faced with abortion, euthanasia, apostasy, sacrileges, blasphemy, acceptance of homosexual practices, war, poverty, famine, disease, and secularism in general you opted for the egg and chips?”

                                       Are we egg and chips Catholics?

I don’t see setting an example as the prime weapon in our Christian Witness war chest.

We need an action that is a little more demanding, a little more effective but, before we get to action perhaps we should consider targets and those, according to the blogger called Catholic Gadfly, who left a comment on my blog, could be much closer to home than we think.
Gadfly’s point is that we need to catechise contemporary Catholics who, generally speaking, do not know a great deal about what goes on in Rome or their Diocese today.
I am not being patronising; I know many Catholics from diverse backgrounds who would describe themselves, in all modesty as being average, good Catholics but who have little concept of what Summorum Pontificum is or, even, what an EF Mass is.

So possibly, Gadfly is right, this is the audience that needs evangelising to make them aware. Now he goes one step further and asks why the Guild of Bl Titus does not shoulder this responsibility and produce an online poster giving blog details of all members, the theory being that, if it was posted on church notice boards, this might open the eyes if not the minds of the faithful.

 The concept is a good one but whether the Guild sees this as part of its portfolio is another matter; perhaps we could place it on the agenda for the October 1 meeting. And before anyone gets upset by this proposal let me say that the Guild has always stated that it is open to all shades of opinion.
Now it is a matter for Guild members to consider.

I would not like the conceit of believing that reading my blog would help deepen a person's appreciation of the faith (it may quite possibly, have the opposite effect) but there is value in reading a broad spectrum of blogs, it certainly opens my eyes.

Maybe a poster placed on church noticeboards could be one step in the right direction?

Oh, and just for the record a gadfly is a fly that has a nasty sting that it inflicts on the thick hides of livestock - perhaps it's best left there!

Posted by Richard Collins - Linen on the Hedgerow

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross: "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself."

Today is the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, which the Church has kept since soon after St Helena, Empress and mother of Constantine the Great, found the relic of the true Cross in the early 4th century. To celebrate one of the most important as well as one of the most ancient of Christendom's feasts, which sees both East and West united on this date, I thought it might be good to republish today's meditation from The Saint Andrew's Daily Missal (published 1945). I think these few words capture something of the essence of what this glorious feast is about.
On September 14 , in 335, took place the dedication of Constantine’s basilica, which enclosed both Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre. “At this date,” says Ethelria [also known as Egeria, who wrote her Pilgrimage to the Holy Lands at the end of the 4th century], “the holy Cross was discovered. And the anniversary is celebrated with as much solemnity as Easter or the Epiphany.” Such was the origin of the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. [Other sources differentiate between the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and St Helena's discovery of the true Cross, also on this date, in AD 326
“When I shall be raised on high, I shall draw everything unto Me,” Jesus had said [cf Jn 12:32]. It is because the Saviour had humbled Himself, being obedient even to the death of the cross, that God exalted Him and gave Him a name above all other names [cf Phil 2:9]. Wherefore we must glory in the Cross of Jesus, for He is our life and salvation [cf Gal 6:14] and He protects His servants from the wiles of their enemies [cf today’s Communion antiphon: Per signum Crucis de inimicis nostris libera nos, Deus noster]. 
Towards the end of the reign of Phocas, Chosroes, King of Persia … took Jerusalem [AD 614], where he put to death several thousand Christians and carried off to Persia the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, which St Helena had placed on mount Calvary. 
Heraclius, the successor of Phocas, has recourse to many fasts and prayers, imploring with great fervour the help of God. He assembled an army and defeated Chosroes [AD 628]. He then insisted on the restitution of the Cross of the Lord. Thus the precious relic was recovered after an interval of fourteen years. On his return to Jerusalem, Heraclius carried it on his shoulders in great pomp to the mountain where the Saviour Himself had borne it (AD 629). 
An extraordinary miracle marked the occasion. Heraclius, who was loaded with ornaments of gold and precious stones, was held back by an invincible force at the entrance gate of mount Calvary and vain were his attempts to enter. 
As the Emperor and all those who witnessed the scene were astonished, Zacharias, bishop of Jerusalem, said to him: “Consider, O Emperor, that with these triumphal ornaments you are far from imitating the poverty of Jesus Christ and His humility in bearing His cross.” Heraclius thereupon doffed his splendid garb and walked barefooted with a common cloak on his shoulders to Calvary, where he again deposited the cross. The feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on the original spot, the anniversary of which was celebrated on this day, became of great importance. 
Let us join, in spirit, the faithful who in the Church of the Holy Cross in Rome venerate on this day the relics of the sacred wood exposed for the occasion, so that, having been privileged to adore it on this feast when we rejoice for its exaltation, we may likewise possess for all eternity the salvation and glory the Cross has won for us.

Collect for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross: -

Deus, qui nos hodierna die Exaltationis sanctae Crucis 
annua solemnitate laetificas: 
praesta quaesumus; ut cuius mysterium in terra cognovimus, 
eius redemptionis praemia in caelo mereamur.  
Per eundem Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, Filium tuum,
qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti 
per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

O God, who year by year, dost gladden us by
the feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross:
we beseech Thee, grant unto us, who on earth have known its mystery,
to be found worthy to enjoy the rewards of its redemption in heaven.
Through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son,
who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God,
world without end. Amen.

[Image: St Helena and Heraclius taking the Holy Cross to Jerusalem; source: Wikimedia Commons]

Posted by Dylan Parry - A Reluctant Sinner

Friday 9 September 2011

The Martyr Priest Who Points Us to Mary

When I heard the story of St Maximiliam Mary Kolbe’s sacrifice in Auschwitz, I knew I had heard it somewhere before. But when I heard it the first time, there had been something vital missing, something which St Maximilian would never want to be left out: the centrality of his devotion to Our Blessed Mother Mary.

I remembered how I had heard the story of a Polish priest who had sacrificed his life for another man when I had first attended, then helped to teach on Alpha Courses. I had been deeply moved and impressed by the story of course, but had never taken the trouble to investigate more deeply who this amazing man was, and how he obtained his astonishing faith. As the story is told on the Alpha Course, we hear that the priest led the inmates of the starvation bunker in prayers and hymns. But we don’t hear that central to those devotions were hymns and prayers to Our Blessed Mother Mary.

Mary Immaculate was helping and sustaining St Maximilian at the time of his final trial. To omit this is to omit the central plank of St Maximilian’s faith, stretching all the way back to his childhood, when Our Lady appeared to him and offered him two crowns, a white crown of purity and a red crown of martyrdom. He chose both.

Posted by Anthony Radice (A Tiny Son of Mary)

Wednesday 7 September 2011

The Legion of Mary - 90 years old today!

Founded in Dublin on 7 September 1921 by the redoubtable Frank Duff, the Legion of Mary is a lay organisation for both men and women who undertake good spiritual and welfare works at parish level.

On their website they describe their activities as follows:-

"The Legion sees as its priority the spiritual and social welfare of each individual. The members participate in the life of the parish through visitation of families, the sick, both in their homes and in hospitals and through collaboration in every apostolic and missionary undertaking sponsored by the parish.

Every legionary is required to carry out a weekly apostolic work in the spirit of faith and in union with Mary".

Member groups (known as a praesidium) hold weekly meetings that are a mix of prayer, discussion and action plans.
Among recent reports of their activities was their Saturday information stall in Oxford where Catholic literature and information was freely available alongside the Islamic and Protestant stalls.

Still more recently, ten days or so ago, in fact, saw a group of Legion of Mary volunteers descend upon the parish of The Sacred Heart, Morriston, near Swansea, where, with guidance from Fr Jason Jones, Parish Priest, and Gail Mills from Bath, a programme was put into action in order to reach out to non practising Catholics in the parish.

Within the course of a few days some 4,285 households had been visited and 117 lapsed or non practising Catholics identified together with ten people who were interested in becoming Catholics.
From those visits came an invitation to go to Confession and, of those that went, two penitents had not received the Sacrament for more than 15 years.

Today, on the 90th Anniversary of The Legion, Fr Jason Jones is holding an inaugral meeting to establish a praesidium at the Sacred Heart parish, so far, 34 people have committed themselves to attend.

I am sorry to bombard you with figures but this is one of those occasions where statistics reveal both a very great need and a very real success.

The Legion of Mary has a worldwide membership of over 10 million (about the same number as the population of Portugal) making it the largest lay organisation within the Church.

Here is their very beautiful prayer, The Catena Legionis

Antiphon. Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array?

(Make the Sign of the Cross)
v. My soul glorifies the Lord.*
R. My spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour.
v. He looks on His servant in her lowliness;*
henceforth all ages will call me blessed.

R. The Almighty works marvels for me.*
Holy His name!
v. His mercy is from age to age,*
on those who fear Him.

R. He puts forth His arm in strength*
and scatters the proud-hearted.
v. He casts the mighty from their thrones*
and raises the lowly.

R. He fills the starving with good things,*
sends the rich away empty.

v. He protects Israel His servant,*
remembering His mercy,
R. The mercy promised to our fathers,*
to Abraham and his sons for ever.

v. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit..
R. As it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Antiphon. Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array?

v. O Mary, conceived without sin.
R. Pray for us who have recourse to you.

Let us pray.
O Lord Jesus Christ, our mediator with the Father, Who has been Pleased to appoint the Most Blessed Virgin, Your mother, to be our mother also, and our mediatrix with You, mercifully grant that whoever comes to You seeking Your favours may rejoice to receive all of them through her. Amen.

Richard Collins - Linen on the Hedgerow

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Tiaras, Etc

It's taken me quite a while to shake off my wish for a Papal Coronation, or at least for the Pope to wear a tiara.  There is something about the triple crown that speaks of a more muscular Catholicism: a Catholicism which faces up to the world, at least, but looks as though if the flesh and the Devil want a go, then we're ready.

The fact of JPs I and II doing without Coronations, and settling merely for Inaugurations felt a bit wet.  It was a though a dimension of the Pontificate had been sacrificed merely to give a good impression; as though the "temporal rule" bit was being somehow downplayed, merely to act in harmony with the spirit of the age.

Benedict XVI's decision to remove the tiara from his arms and to replace them "merely" with a mitre is actually a much richer and more symbolic gesture, and one which situates the Church in the new Millennium.  The Church needed to develop its independence through the Papal States in the Middle Ages so that the Papacy and the Church did not become prisoner or vassal of the Emperor or some lesser monarch.  But the independence became an end in itself, and the revenues accruing to the States became an end in themselves to a succession of Popes.  Their capture by Garibaldi in 1870, and the "imprisonment" of the Pope until the time of the Lateran Treaty in 1929 seemed like a disaster, but was in fact the start of an era of liberation.  The Vatican City State might look odd, but showed how the Papacy could maintain its independence during the Second World War.  In more recent years, it has ceded many of the trappings of statehood - such as a completely independent police force - because its independence is guaranteed.

Thus the logic of the abolition of the tiara: the Pope doesn't need the trappings of authority any more.  He is the Bishop of Rome, and his curia can work independently of Italian civil authority, as long as it behaves honestly.

And this leads me on to the title of Patriarch of the West.  I must admit to having been mystified when the Pope stopped using the title, but in the light of his renunciation of the tiara, things become clearer.  The Petrine Ministry is exercised by the Bishop of Rome, and any title which appears to outrank, rather than complement, the title of Bishop of Rome has to go.  His Primacy goes with his See and nothing else.  To use the title of Patriarch might in some way detract from or dilute the fact that as Bishop of Rome, he has all the title and authority he needs. 

This is not to detract from the title of Patriarch as used in the East - I think that in taking this decision the Pope's mind, for once, was not on the East.  It was more on liberating Catholics from thinking of the Papacy in terms of temporal authority so they could concentrate on what the Petrine Ministry has to offer the twenty-first century.

Monday 5 September 2011

And With Your Spirit - Homily on the New Translation of the Mass

This is the second in a four part series to help the faithful transition to the new translation of the Mass.

Listen to my homily here:

If you have trouble listening, click here.

I said my first Mass as a priest in Latin. It is the same Mass of Vatican II, just in Latin. I just couldn't bring myself to use the translation, which I found, only with a rudimentary knowledge of Latin, to be deeply lacking in conveying the meaning of the original text.
On of the phrases that was deeply lacking in its translation is

Et cum spiritu tuo. And with your spirit.
This phrase is spoken by the faithful five times during the Mass: at the beginning when the priest greets the people in the trinitarian communion; at the Gospel before he is to proclaim the saving Word of truth; at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist before he will stand in the very place and person of Christ to consecrate the bread and wine to become the living Jesus Christ; at the peace of Christ given from the newly consecrated elements; finally at the sending of the people into their lives with the grace received at holy Mass.

What does it mean?

In the first few centuries of Christianity, it was a phrase only found in the Church. No where else did people use this interchange. St Paul used it in his epistles, but he took it from the early liturgy that was prayed in the first Christian homes of the faithful before there were even basilicas or churches.
The ordained minister is the only one to cry out, and when you hear it in Latin sung in a high pitched tone, it really pierces you and wakes you up:

Dominus vobiscum. The Lord be with You.
The reason why only an ordained priest would say this is because it is a priestly invocation, whereby the power of the Holy Spirit working through the prayers and gestures of the Liturgy makes himself present in a way he was not before, so that when he says, "The Lord be with you," the Lord becomes more present in the hearts of those who heart it with faith.

The faithful for their part, by responding, "and with your spirit," are referring to an ancient response that is singles out the spirit of the person, yet meaning the whole of the person. Blessed Pope John Paul II explained this Hebraism in his Encyclical, "Rich in Mercy." Although we speak of the heart, soul, mind, or even more obscurely in some scriptural passages to the liver or bowels of a person, we mean the whole person, yet in reference to that aspect of them signified by the part. If we say the Heart of Christ, we mean all of Jesus, yet in reference to his inmost core, which is pure and divine Love. Because it referred to the whole person, the translators of the Mass after Vatican II, took it upon themselves to translate it, "and also with you."

In the most ancient liturgies of Slovanic, Georgian, Syrian Armenian, and Arabic, it was never translated from Greek and Latin in any other way than, "and with your spirit." Also after Vatican II, all major languages of Italian, Spanish, French, and German, translated it as "and with your spirit." Why was English not translated that way? That is a very good question. Often times translators inappropriately overstep their authority to translate also the meaning, not just the words. At times there are good reasons for this, especially with euphemisms and cultural associations, but with Vatican II, there is no pretty way of saying it. We were robbed. They believed that referring to the whole person was better than referring to the spirit of the minister and so they took liberty, too much of it, to change the words.

Why is it important to refer to the spirit of the minister?

The minister stands in the place and person of Jesus Christ himself. He is a frail clay vessel holding the treasure of heaven. In the old covenant, the minister would enter the holy of holies once a year and if he had not been courageous in repenting fully of his sins before entering the sacred sanctuary, he would have been struck dead. They even used to tie a rope around his waste so that his corpse could be pulled out with little trouble. Yet in the new covenant, the minister enters the holy of holies, every time he confect the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.

Do priests need prayer? Yes. A lot of it. I would encourage you to really truly pray this from the heart, that you ask God to build up the spirit of the minister to make him holy, so that when you say, "And with your spirit", you truly are saying, may God sanctify your spirit, may he make your spirit holy, may the Holy Spirit sanctify your spirit.

Allow me to take this moment to speak personally to the hearts of those reading this. If you have been hurt, offended, or in any way scandalized by a priest, allow me to offer you a personal apology on behalf of my brother. I am sorry. He should not have hurt you. Please forgive us. Please also remember that he is merely a stand in, a substitute, an image, an icon for the real Father, the one who will not fail you, abandon you, or do anything to bring you unnecessary affliction or pain.

So when you say, "And with your spirit," pray it from the heart for priests. Let it be a sincere act of love to the one for whom he unworthily stands in his place. Let it be an act of worship.
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