Saturday 31 December 2011

Te Deum laudamus! In thanksgiving to God for all his mercies and blessings throughout the past year

The Te Deum, chanted by the Schola of the Benedictine Pontifical University of St Anselmo, Rome

The Guild would also like take this opportunity to express its thanks to Mary O'Regan for highlighting our work in her piece for the Christmas edition of the Catholic Herald.

May all the Guild's members and supporters enjoy a Happy and Holy 2012!

Monday 26 December 2011

A Prayer for Christmas, composed by one of our readers

Adoration of the Shepherds by Charles Le Brun (1689)
Christ is with us! 
Rejoice, the Christ child is born!
Not of lofty or rich estate,
but, God's only Son sent to us. 
Praise God the Father and Rejoice in Christ the Son,
Holy Emmanuel, come among us to save us from sin. 
You are beyond the power of speech,
yet all that we speak stems from You.
You are beyond the power of thought,
yet all that we can conceive of springs from You.
All things proclaim You,
All the joys and pain of the world meet in You.

All things utter a prayer to You,
a silent hymn composed by You.
You sustain everything that exists,
and all things move together according to Your Will.
You are the summit of all that exists.
You are one and You are all.

Lord Jesus may your light shine on our way,
as once it guided the steps of the Magi:
that we too may be led into your presence
and Worship you, the Child of Mary,
the Word of the Father,
the King of Nations,
the Saviour of Mankind;
to You be Glory Forever and Ever.
This beautiful and thoughtful prayer as well as the image of the Adoration of the Shepherds by Le Brun were both sent to me by Anne, one of the Guild's supporters.

May I also wish all the Guild members and supporters and all readers of this blog a holy and joyful Christmas season!

Dylan Parry (A Reluctant Sinner)

Sunday 18 December 2011

A Group To Remember In Your Prayers

My Grandmother had been a widow for many years and when she came to live with her daughter and son-in-law, after they moved in the early 1950s into a council house on one of the great overspill estates constructed to free people from the slums, had become friendly with the other widows in the parish.  There were two sorts: the first comprised wives whose husbands had died young, whether killed by Germans or Japanese, or by industrial accidents in those pre-Health and Safety-conscious days, or by illness in days when far more people died from things that are now curable or because of things like pollution or heavy smoking which belong to the past.  The second group was of spinsters of her age: the women who had never had the chance to marry and become mothers, because so many of the young men of their age whom they might have married had gone to sea, or to France, or Turkey, or Italy, or wherever, between 1914 and 1918 and hadn't come back.

As we got to the 1960s, a group of these ladies, by then in their 70s began to come to our house every year for their Christmas dinner.  They simply couldn't be left on their own, and were parcelled in groups around various families where they were welcomed as we might have hoped to have been able to welcome the Holy Family, had we had a room in Bethlehem: "why put a candle in the window on Christmas Eve if you aren't prepared to give someone a dinner on Christmas Day?" my Grandmother would ask.  "Why indeed" my mother, who would cook and clear up would answer, if only to herself.  But they were always welcomed.

These ladies were all of a type.  They had all been brought up in the same way: they were the daughters of labourers in the factories of late nineteenth century Manchester, had received such limited education as the state was prepared to enforce, had left school in the main at the age of 12 or 13 to go to work either in the factories or in service.  They had worked all their lives until when they were 60 a grateful state had told them to stop working and had given them a small pension.

They were all practising Catholics: not just Mass on Sundays, but Novena and Benediction on Thursdays; and First Fridays, and Adoration when there was Adoration; and processions, and Confraternities.  Confession was on Saturday: either weekly or fortnightly, but regular as clockwork.  The Rosary was daily: at least once daily.  The Rosary could be said alone or in a group.

When I knew them they were old: in their seventies they no longer had to keep up any appearances other than those they chose to.  Their clothes were shabby, because they were never going to spend large amounts of cash on clothes that might not see them out; they tended towards the unembarrassedly flatulent; they liked rum, and whiskey: rum and pep, whiskey and dry ginger; and tea, sweet tea in beakers.

They had just enough to live on but they saved out of the little they had.  They saved for two things: first, for their funerals, and for Masses to be said for them after their deaths.  Second, for Lourdes. 

If you read the popular histories of travel, you will find that overseas travel began in the UK in the 1960s, and that by the end of that decade the package holiday to the Mediterranean had become the norm for the British, but if you look at working class Catholics in Manchester, you will find that from the 1950s the package pilgrimage to Lourdes had already become established.  They flew from Ringway, a converted RAF base in the south of Manchester in converted ex-military aircraft, sucked boiled sweets to cope with the lack of pressurisation, suffered institutionalised French mass catering (foreign food can sometimes really be muck), endured (and offered up) sleeping conditions which would have led an army to mutiny; but Lourdes was theirs.  Few of them could afford to go every year, but every second year or third year was enough.

Why Lourdes?  Why not Fatima?  Why not Rome?  I've no idea, but I might guess that the idea of Our Lady appearing to a poor, not very clever, girl, who lived in poverty in a family where the father wasn't particularly bright, and everybody looked down on them because they had few brains and less money might have rung a few bells. 

It was the girl She appeared to, too.  Her Son knew how bad they were; She could tell Him how good they could be if He would help them.

That, the Communion of the Saints, and the fact that the priest turned bread and wine into God's Body and Blood were pretty well all the theology they knew.  You never argued with a priest and were blessed literally and metaphorically when he visited you.  When, every few years, the Bishop came you knelt to kiss the ring which said that he was truly in the line of succession of the Apostles, and, when you were really old, there was somebody to help you kneel, and get up afterwards.  There was a Pope in Rome: some of the men who had been in the Army had seen him in 1944; but he was a long way away and while you prayed for him, you could leave it to the Bishop to worry about what he was up to. 

All of these women have been gathered to God, and we who are left are privileged to have known them.  They understood more than I do, and believed more profoundly than me.

Pray for them at Christmas, and let's pray that we might attain their faith.

Saturday 17 December 2011

Catholic history - courtesy of Pluscarden Abbey

I came across this unique piece of invaluable Catholic history whilst searching for some Advent chants from Pluscarden Abbey in Scotland.

Pluscarden has a wonderful history that, in many respects, reflects the history of the faith in Great Britain, a mix of failure, defeat, renewal and triumph.

Some years ago TV journalist, Selina Scott, carried out a fly on the wall type of documentary programme on Pluscarden. She asked the Prior why the community had such a reverence for a woman (the Mother of God).

The Prior replied (as best I can recall):

 "Because, as a community of men we need the softening influence of Our Lady. Life would be very hard and austere for us without our Blessed Mother"

That is a sentiment that, I believe, would have a resonance with all Catholics. The influence of Our Lady prevents us from spilling into a Calvinist type of belief. It keeps us in touch with the virtues of faith, hope and charity and leads us to "the Word made Flesh".

This clip dates from c. 1945 when the Priory passed back into Catholic hands and the monks returned to restore the balance of liturgy and worship to Almighty God.

It is grainy and the sound is far from ideal is a part of our living history.

Posted by - Richard Collins Linen on the Hedgerow

Monday 5 December 2011

Advent: Memories of goodness that lead us through the door of hope - and a prayer for the Successor of St Peter

Pope Benedict XVI celebrating First Vespers
on the First Sunday of Advent 2007
from the Throne of Pope Leo XIII
Here is a quotation from a book written by the then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. It comes from his reflection on Advent as contained in the book Seek That Which Is Above, which was first published in 1986. I happen to think these words are beautifully profound and enlightening: -

"Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope.… It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope."

Let's thank God for all the beautiful memories we might have, especially ones from our childhood, as well as for that joyful gift: Hope. Let us also thank Him for our compassionate and wonderful Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

A Prayer for the Pope
(composed by Pope Leo XIII)

O Lord, we are the millions of believers, humbly kneeling at Thy feet and begging Thee to preserve, defend and save the Sovereign Pontiff for many years. He is the Father of the great fellowship of souls and our Father as well. On this day, as on every other day, he is praying for us also, and is offering unto Thee with holy fervour the sacred Victim of love and peace.

Wherefore, O Lord, turn Thyself toward us with eyes of pity; for we are now, as it were, forgetful of ourselves, and are praying above all for him. Do Thou unite our prayers with his and receive them into the bosom of Thine infinite mercy, as a sweet savour of active and fruitful charity, whereby the children are united in the Church to their Father. All that he asks of Thee this day, we too ask it of Thee in unison with him.

Whether he weeps or rejoices, whether he hopes or offers himself as a victim of charity for his people, we desire to be united with him; nay more, we desire that the cry of our hearts should be made one with his. Of Thy great mercy grant, O Lord, that not one of us may be far from his mind and his heart in the hour that he prays and offers unto Thee the Sacrifice of Thy blessed Son. At the moment when our venerable High Priest, holding in His hands the very Body of Jesus Christ, shall say to the people over the Chalice of benediction these words: "The peace of the Lord be with you always," grant, O Lord, that Thy sweet peace may come down upon our hearts and upon all the nations with new and manifest power. Amen.

Posted by Dylan Parry

Saturday 3 December 2011

A prayer for Advent, grounded in the spirituality of St John the Baptist: "Illum oportet crescere, me autem minui"

Recently, a friend called Anne sent me this prayer, which she has especially composed for Advent. It is a beautiful prayer, written by a beautiful soul. I hope you like it...

A Prayer In the Cave of My Heart

Illum oportet crescere, me autem minui (Jn 3:30)
O Lord, ever Loving and Faithful God,
help me to be little in your eyes,
and in the eyes of men.
May I shrink until there is nothing left of my will.
Take my wilfulness and admonish it,
reduce it to nothingness, so that I may reside,
with Mary, the most chaste spouse of the Holy Spirit,
and Saint Joseph, her earthly husband, alone in the light
of Your Divine Will.

Our Father, may your Will reign in me as it does in heaven.
By Grace may I be buried in the ocean of Your Will,
so that it is not my life, but Yours.
Not my living, but You living in me.
Not my prayer, but Your prayer in me.
Not my love, but Your love returned to You.
Not the glory You have given me,
as a creature created in your image and likeness,
may Your Glory be returned to You in full.

May I be so little as to no longer count, but
to live only in You, Dear Saviour, Child Jesus,
only-begotten Son of the Father Almighty.

In these days of Advent, as the Church struggles with anxieties
and hopes for the coming celebration of Your Nativity,
may this prayer be pleasing to You,
so that I may be nothing,
and, in my nothingness gain true servitude to You,
one, Holy and True God. Amen

This prayer reminds me of those famous words of St Paul: "And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me. And that I live now in the flesh: I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered himself for me" (Gal 2:20).

May this Advent be a time of preparation for all people of good will, for all those who search for the truth, as well as for all us poor sinners who already have the joy of knowing Christ - even if we only know him dimly (cf 1 Cor 13;12). May we also be given the grace to prepare a place in our hearts for Christ's birth by dying to self - so that our knowledge of him, our love for him and our unity with him will grow deeper through the grace of his Incarnation and Nativity. May he be born in all people this Christmas - anew or for the first time - so that all of us may eventually come to share in the fullness of St Paul's joy: "And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me."

Posted by Dylan Parry (A Reluctant Sinner). Prayer composed by Anne C
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