Friday, 31 December 2010

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas Eve Special


Text of the Holy Father's "Thought for the Day":

Recalling with great fondness my four-day visit to the United Kingdom last September, I am glad to have the opportunity to greet you once again, and indeed to greet listeners everywhere as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Our thoughts turn back to a moment in history when God's chosen people, the children of Israel, were living in intense expectation.

They were waiting for the Messiah that God had promised to send and they pictured him as a great leader who would rescue them from foreign domination and restore their freedom.

God is always faithful to his promises, but he often surprises us in the way he fulfils them.

The child that was born in Bethlehem did indeed bring liberation, but not only for the people of that time and place - he was to be the Saviour of all people throughout the world and throughout history.

And it was not a political liberation that he brought, achieved through military means; rather, Christ destroyed death forever and restored life by means of his shameful death on the Cross.

And while he was born in poverty and obscurity, far from the centres of earthly power, he was none other than the Son of God.

Out of love for us, he took upon himself our human condition, our fragility, our vulnerability and he opened up for us the path that leads to the fullness of life to a share in the life of God himself.

As we ponder this great mystery in our hearts this Christmas, let us give thanks to God for his goodness to us and let us joyfully proclaim to those around us the good news that God offers us freedom from whatever weighs us down: he gives us hope, he brings us life.

Dear Friends from Scotland, England, Wales and indeed every part of the English-speaking world. I want you to know that I keep all of you very much in my prayers this Holy Season.

I pray for your families, for your children, for those who are sick and for those who are going through any form of hardship at this time.

I pray especially for the elderly and for those who are approaching the end of their days.

I ask Christ, the light of the nations, to dispel whatever darkness there may be in your lives and to grant to every one of you the grace of a peaceful and joyful Christmas.

May God bless all of you!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

All Creation Waits!

(I was going to post this yesterday as one of my four main reasons for liking the Office of Readings but hadn't the energy to type it all out. Thanks to Enlarging the Heart who beat me to it.)

You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit.

The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him.

We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.

The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die.

In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.

Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it.

All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet.

It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.

Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God.

Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.

Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident.

This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous.

Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary.

Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter.

If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves.

Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): In Praise of the Virgin Mother (Hom. 4, 8-9) from the Office of Readings for December 20

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Father Christmas Sightings!

You don't believe me?
Well look again!

Friday, 10 December 2010

Please Act to save Asia Bibi

Please sign the petition to save Asia Bibi

Petition by Wilson Chowdhry Vice Chairman of the "British Pakistani Christian Association"

Asia Bibi an innocent Christian woman caught up in the injust and unequal society of Pakistan has been given an historical death sentence (by hanging) from the Sheikupura Court of Pakistan. The malevolent Blasphemy Law of Pakistan is a constant threat to people from minority faiths residing in Pakistan.

The BPCA calls for the British Government to urge the president of Pakistan to act by bringing an anullment to this unjust legal decision.

We urge the UK Pakistani Embassy to seek justice for this victim and to urge a repeal of the judicial decision by President Zirdari. We express our complete horror that such a decision has caused turmoil and perplexity to an innocent mother and her family.

Thanks H/T Fr Blake

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Chapter House - Details

The Chapter House of Southwell Minster is remarkable for the extraordinary realism of the carvings of foliage which adorn the masonry.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Monday, 29 November 2010

Nave- Southwell

A view of the nave looking westward. The west window, unfortunately bleached out in this photograph, is a large stained glass composition by contemporary stained glass artist Patrick Reyntiens which is itself a worthy modern addition to this splendid building.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Southwell Minster

After Lincoln, I visited Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire. This impressive and largely Romanesque church was an important regional centre within the archdiocese of York during the middle ages. I had been aware of some striking sculpted foliage in the chapter house but was quite unprepared for the breathtaking elegance of the nave which hit me the moment I entered through the north porch. While Lincoln Cathedral was, in the opinion of John Ruskin, worth two other English Cathedrals, Southwell was apparently much appreciated by John Betjeman. "Elegance" is not a word one often hears associated with Romanesque architecture where the focus of writers tends to be upon strength, massiveness and so forth but at Southwell the clarity of forms and sheer lack of any fussiness make a powerful and immediate impression of grace, of beauty, that is lasting.

Last Judgement- Lincoln

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Monday, 22 November 2010

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Queen Eleanor

The effigy of Queen Eleanor from her visceral tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Queen Eleanor, the wife of King Edward I, died at nearby Harby in Nottinghamshire and the famous Eleanor Crosses mark the stopping points on her funeral procession to Westminster.
Although only holding her internal organs, this monument is apparently a full-sized copy of her tomb in Westminster Abbey.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Shrine of St Hugh of Lincoln

(Click to enlarge)
The remains of the shrine of St Hugh in Lincoln Cathedral.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Lincoln Cathedral

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

Monday, 8 November 2010

A basilica consecrated

Following the day upon which the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona I think it only appropriate to post a picture I took last year of one of Gaudi's fascinating models used in working out his architecture. I have the feeling that he was attempting to re-think gothic architecture in the age of the solitary artist. He devoted something like the last twenty-six years of his life to the basilica, living on site, only going out each day to attend mass. Knocked down in the street by a tram on one such outing and eventually dying as a result of his injuries he was three days in the hospital before he was recognised as the celebrated architect.
I was lucky to catch the ceremonies on a video link just as Pope Benedict, in the pontifical dalmatic, was about to annoint the altar. As he did so I was struck by the fact that this was no mere thumb touch of the holy oil but a real messy pouring out and spreading over. It resonated most powerfully for me with those scriptural instances of consecrations and annointings we come across in the Old Testament as something very materially real- no mere nice attenuated symbolising.
Pope Bendict's visit to Spain seems to me a very powerfully prophetic gesture aimed at reconnecting Europe with the Christian sources of its culture. The ancient (and continuing) tradition of pilgrimage to Compostella once drew a matrix of roads through Europe marked by great churches at nodal points while Gaudi's basilica suggests that cultural tradition still living and vital in the modern era.

Friday, 5 November 2010

On the road- Lincoln.

A couple of weeks ago I managed to resume my longstanding project of visiting all the medieval cathedrals and major churches of England and Wales. First on the list was Lincoln Cathedral. Lincolnshire being somewhat flat, the cathedral dominates a large area in part owing to its placement on one of the very few hills in that county. For a couple of centuries the spire on the crossing tower made it the highest built structure on earth. Unfortunately it fell down in 1549 and was not replaced. This was, of course, during the reign of Edward VI when, the English Reformation having entered a particularly virulent Protestant phase, good works were suppressed.

In the Middle Ages the diocese of Lincoln covered much of Eastern England extending from the Thames in the south to the Humber in the north. Notable bishops included St Hugh of Lincoln, a contemporary of St Thomas Becket, and Robert Grosseteste, one of the greatest scholars of medieval England. Later the Cathedral's most illustrious organist was none other than William Byrd.

The view above, taken from the Morrisons car park, conveys something of the way in which the strongly vertical emphasis shared by the twin western towers and central crossing tower still dominates the modern city. Admission to the Cathedral is six pounds- which unfortunately does not guarantee entry to the treasury or library both of which were closed when I was there.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

O Quam Gloriosum est Regnum

O how glorious is the kingdom where all the saints rejoice with Christ! Clothed in white robes they follow the Lamb wherever He goes!

Monday, 18 October 2010

St Luke

From lofty heights...

I am saddened to read that Fr. Mildew appears to have been silenced by someone claiming to be a Monsignor who writes for The Catholic Times. Is this real? A Catholic priest threatening to sue another priest? Who would have thought it? And what does it mean?
I hope Fr Mildew is back soon and I shall pray that the Monsignor comes to his senses.

Monday, 11 October 2010

St David mosaic

On my recent trip to London I was able to see the new mosaic of St David in Westminster Cathedral which was blessed by Pope Benedict on 18th September. It is certainly very striking. The colours are attractive although I find the iconography somewhat puzzling. He doesn't appear to be wearing a recognizable habit or vestments but, with his raised tumbler, is clearly advertising the marvellous qualities of Welsh water! Cheers!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Upbeat? I thought it was kind of goofy...

Well... as one of the few bloggers (it seems) who hadn't posted this yet, I was determined not to be the last!

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Praise to the holiest in the height

Praise to the Holiest in the height,
And in the depth be praise;
In all His words most wonderful,
Most sure in all His ways.

O loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
A second Adam to the fight
And to the rescue came.

O wisest love! that flesh and blood,
Which did in Adam fail,
Should strive afresh against the foe,
Should strive and should prevail.

And that a higher gift than grace
Should flesh and blood refine,
God’s Presence and His very Self,
And Essence all divine.

O generous love! that He, who smote,
In Man for man the foe,
The double agony in Man
For man should undergo.

And in the garden secretly,
And on the Cross on high,
Should teach His brethren, and inspire
To suffer and to die.

Praise to the Holiest in the height,
And in the depth be praise;
In all His words most wonderful,
Most sure in all His ways.

Blessed John Henry Newman

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Monday, 4 October 2010

Four Amazing Days 11

The trek back to the bus!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Friday, 1 October 2010

Monday, 27 September 2010

Four Amazing Days 5

Archbishop Bernard Longley welcomes Pope Benedict.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Four Amazing Days 4

Anticipation builds as all eyes are on the screen!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Four Amazing Days 3

A view from my spot in Cofton Park before Mass.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Four Amazing Days 2

Just twelve months ago today, the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham, I was at the Cathedral in Liverpol for the visit of the relics of St Therese. Now, five days after the conclusion of Pope Benedict's visit, it seems clear to me that, given the media hostility that preceded both events and their subsequent success there is an important lesson to be learned about the generally "invisible" nature of reality, as far as the news media are concerned.

It is not entirely true to say that we humans see what we expect to see but it is nevertheless largely true.

One of my favourite stories concerns the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Some have speculated that they did not recognise the risen Lord because He was somehow disguised. Others suggest that some miraculous or supernatural event prevented them recognising Him. I have long suspected,however, that what prevented their seeing Him as Himself was their belief that He was dead and that dead men just don't come back. It was only when Jesus had explained the likelihood of His rising- as indicated in the scriptures- to them- and their minds were thus opened- that they saw Him. In other words, it is all about mind set.

Pope Benedict's homily in Westminster Cathedral was rich beyond words- yet commentators seized upon just one part of it, the reference to child abuse., to the exclusion of anything else. They found what they were looking for. It was the subject upon their agenda.

From time to time one comes across Catholics who are critical of the Church or of the Holy Father. After a little inquiry it becomes obvious that, quite unthinkingly, they have swallowed misconceptions current in the media. Sometimes one doesn't have to scratch very deeply to uncover them. References to the Holy Father's "policies" or "opinions" is generally a give away.
But it can go deeper. Before the Papal Visit one could easily be forgiven for thinking that Pope Benedict was walking into an overwhelmingly hostile country where even Catholics would prove apathetic if not, even, hostile. Things turned out differently and the images were so clear as to be undeniable.

There are doubtless many features of modern life which contribute to increasing secularism and worse but the values implicit and promoted in the media are, in my view, the chief cause. I hope and pray that by turning out to welcome the Holy Father last weekend we contributed to breaking down the media assumptions that hinder the progress of truth in our countries.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Four Amazing Days 1

It has been wonderful beyond words. Yet I think I can see something of a parallel in what happened just twelve short months ago. TWELVE months! And yet the last four days have felt like a whole year together in some respects.

In case anyone has forgotten- it is just twelve months since what I see as a kind of remarkable curtain-raiser for Pope Benedict's visit occurred in the events surrounding the visit of the relics of St Therese to our country. The spiteful venom expressed in the media by people with some kind of animus against the Catholic Church was apparent then in the period leading up to the relics' visit. What was it in the reverencing of some "bones of a dead nun" by benighted credulous papists that so disgusted these sophisticated types?

If hateful attacks from outside were one thing, then a view, inside the Church, that the visit would be of interest to very few Catholics in this country, was another. In the event everyone was taken by surprise when thousands turned out at a whole series of venues to venerate the relics. Some of the erstwhile critics, no doubt with a certain sensitivity towards the market out there in the real world, began to subtly moderate their tone.

Fast forward to last week and the stage is set. This time the issue of child abuse by clergy is taken up as a particularly devastating cudgel with which to attack the Church by people whose own record on the subject is curious to say the least. Richard Dawkins, who is on record as having experienced sexual abuse at one of the private schools he attended and considered it little worse than "embarassing", wants to have the Pope arrested. Mr Tatchell, who had earlier advocated "intergenerational sex"as not necessarily a bad thing, is similarly exercised over the papal visit. Radio and Television journalists constantly speak of the proposed visit as "overshadowed" by the "abuse crisis". Within the Church signs look ominous not least because some of the bishops seem to be bent on discouraging people from attending events. We are told that tickets will be rationed and that people will mostly have to follow on television and internet.
Health and safety regulations and terrorist/security threats are given as reasons and even for those determined to attend events there are hurdles- from the limited number of tickets available to each parish, to admission being dependent upon using the approved transport. "Pilgrims" were to be bussed in and the charges, for families for instance, could be considerable. In addition it was necessary to register an interest in going and provide payment within a very short time frame. It was beginning to look as if the whole thing was being organised by people who wanted the visit to be a conspicuous flop. Particularly dispiriting was the pessimism of some clergy. "People just won't turn out for Benedict as they did for John Paul" was something I heard one priest say somehow ignorant of the fact that, apart from being asked to contribute to collections and buy approved Papal Visit memorabilia, no one was asked to pay for tickets in 1982. Then too, in 1982, there had a long period of practical preparation in the parishes with sessions devoted to practising the music. That, this time, it might prove a badly attended flop looked real enough, given such less favourable conditions. Thanks be to God: it did not but what actually happened, glorious as it was, is not, in my opinion, easily explained. The events of last September may hold a key.

I found so much that happened during Pope Benedict's visit profoundly and joyfully moving. Many of my own thoughts and feelings of the first three days I found being echoed by others either when we were waiting to get on the bus or chatting in the queue to get through the security check at Cofton Park- from the wondrous beauty of the Mass at Westminster through disgust at the BBC obsessive focus upon the abuse scandal to a shared resolution to be simply there to support the Holy Father in the face of his enemies. There were many "Gosh! I thought that!" moments for me on Sunday- encounters with the surprisingly familiar but the trip to Birmingham began with the realisation that we three were among fellow parishioners only a handful I knew even merely by sight.

Part of this might be explained by the fact that the church where I attend Sunday mass and have been most active is actually a chapel of ease within a parish of fair size and territorially extensive. Our party was culturally diverse including new Polish arrivals and Travelling people in addition to the more traditional mix but we were the only ones from our end of the parish. I had been disappointed when the invitation had been given out that so few at our church had responded. I had been sad too at hearing from my brother in another diocese and how his considerably-sized parish had seen a poor response. I had heard, too, of how there had been no take up of tickets in one very well-heeled parish in the Liverpool diocese. Reflecting upon this I began to wonder if the take up of the £25 tickets was largely in inverse proportion to the wealth of the pilgrims. "Largely", I say, because I myself am not poor- yet. One of the reasons I had been dismayed at news of the charge when proposed was the fear that this would discourage all but the fully motivated with the result that the media would be enabled to continue their "declining church attendance line". I felt that we needed as great a number of bodies present as could possibly be imagined in order to smash that lie. In the event the privilege of being in such company was to be magnified many times over in the field at Cofton Park. (tbc)

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Birmingham pilgrims have soles too... was quite evident after the long walk from and to the coach park!

It has all been just too wonderful for words. Yes! I was there in Cofton Park - privileged to be a small part of these last four tremendous days.
Having been up since 3am, however, all I am saying for the present is: Deo Gratias.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Please Pray....

...for dry weather in Brummagem tomorrow!
Now I must get ready before snatching some sleep.

Watching Telly

I have spent most of the day in front of the television making use of the BBC News Channel as never before. It has been wonderful seeing the Holy Father so enthusiastically welcomed in London. It has also been fascinating observing the space given to critics. There were real crackpots like Sinead O'Connor live from Dublin and a "Professor" Grayling. Miss O'Connor imagines she is a priest! I think they used to lock up people with delusions like that. According to Wikipedia- I've checked- Mr Grayling actually is an academic. Alas he had little regard for truth as he spouted out a whole ragbag of allegations. My favourite nutter of the day, however, was the fellow from the "Protestant Truth Society". He at least had an honest position as was evident when he was asked if he agreed with the Pope and the Catholic Church on anything and conceded that there was common ground on the doctrine of the (Blessed) Trinity! The other two just poured venom.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of all this was how the visible presence of the Holy Father together with the overwhelming presence of the crowds of Catholics and other well wishers in the television images contradicted the messages- the lying messages- that the news media have been pouring out for so long. So here is the "monster"! So here is a visit overshadowed by the abuse scandal! So here we see a divided and apathetic Church not turning out! I don't think so.

It is often said that people will see what they expect to see or what they want to see. Well, yes. Up to a point. But truth, no less than murder, will out like a stain on a wall that however often it is painted over, survives to reassert itself.

Well, looking forward to another hard day in front of the box- and an early start for Brum the next day- I'd best be off to bed!

Friday, 17 September 2010

Come on England!

I can hardly contain my joy at the wonderful reception the Catholics of Scotland gave the Holy Father today. After the sustained and vicious media campaign against the Church and Pope Benedict of the last few months they did a wonderful job of being there and being joyful. OK so the music, despite the fine things we have heard from James Macmillan, might have left something to be desired but the background against which all this took place makes it all the more wonderful. I hope and pray that we can match their effort.

It is that Christian joy that really annoys the enemies of Christ.

Well. Now it is our turn. Come on England! and Wales!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Thank you, Scots

I want to say a big thank you from the bottom of my heart to the Catholics of Scoland who turned out insuch great numbers on the streets of Edinburgh to welcome the Holy Father to our shores. You have done us all proud. I pray that we can match you when he comes south. After the anxieties and the constant carping in the media it warmed the heart to see so many there for Pope Benedict. Bizarrely, on the One o'clock news a dimwit was suggesting a lower than expected turnout at Bellahouston Park. There are four hours to go! Let's see what happens!

This is the day...

Wednesday, 15 September 2010


...continue. Although I have yet to find a papal flag, today I got my English flag - also known as St George's Cross. Part of the Holy Father's mission is to remind us of our Christian heritage so the red cross on the white background responds to that. It's origins as England's flag are obscure. Some have suggested that it is the Papal Vexillum carried by William Duke of Normandy when he invaded in 1066. Others claim an association with Richard I and the Third Crusade. In any case it is present in the Wilton Diptych which seems to commemorate Richard II's consecration of his kingdom to Our Lady - as seen above.

Stating the obvious

If one needed any evidence that the enemies of Christ's Church are the enemies of truth one need surely look no further than the response to Cardinal Kasper's statement about the experience of landing in this country.

BBC Olds

On "Midlands Today" this evening the unfortunate victim of an abusing priest was featured requesting an apology from Pope Benedict for the abuse he had suffered. I seemed to remember something and so, later, did a bit of googling. The priest concerned had been imprisoned in 1998 and subsequently laicised by Pope John Paul in 2001 before dying in prison that same year. All this was recorded in a BBC news article from 2004 in which the authorities of the children's home in which the crimes had occurred were recorded as formally apologising to victims, one of whom, using the same pseudonym as was used in this evening's programme, said that the apology (2004) meant "closure" and "the end of it". I rather suspect that the obsessive focus of so much within the media upon the abuse issue may be re-opening wounds for many of these unfortunate souls.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

It's getting closer!

Despite the negativity still floating around in the media this "Pilgrim" (regd Trade Mark 2010) is beginning to get quite excited. My preparations are under way. At the weekend we got some lightweight deckchairs - reduced to only £5 at Black's - and today I acquired a decent rain cape for only £6.99 at Lidl. If I can occasionally sit down, keep dry in the event of rain, and have sufficient water to drink then I think that I should be able to survive the rigours of Cofton Park.

Now a great deal of fuss is being made about the numbers involved and security and health and safety. At least these are the reasons that have been trotted out for the peculiar arrangements with everyone being bussed in and coralled. Driving past The Hawthorns- the West Bromwich Albion football ground- the other day made me wonder how the numbers involved at a big football match would compare. I did a quick check on Wikipedia and learned that the capacity of Albion's ground is 28,000. St Andrews, the Birmingham City stadium holds 30,700, while Villa Park, the home of Aston Villa holds over 42,000.

All of a sudden the projected numbers for the Beatification Mass at Cofton Park begin to look less unusual both in terms of movements of people and of the levels of policing necessary. On a Saturday with all three teams playing at home there is a potential for something like 100,000 souls converging on those grounds in an already busy urban environment. Of course comparisons begin to fail here because Catholics, unlike the gentle passive and docile football fans are well known for their boisterous, aggressive and often violent alcohol-fuelled behaviour. And their rivalries! Police will doubtless be stretched to the limits keeping Legion of Mary supporters well away from the SVP. And if the Charismatic Renewal were to clash with the Tridentinists...need I say more!
.Thankfully we will have the West Midlands Police force to sort that lot out! Their extraordinary track record of looking after Catholics - especially Irish ones- is legendary and their enthusiasm for confessions is said to far exceed that of some south coast bishops. Since we now have Extraordinary Ministers of Communion why stop there? Extraordinary Ministers of Confession next? And who better to get it off to a start?

Sunday, 12 September 2010


So it is really happening!
Today I received my "Pilgrim Pack" for Birmingham.
It came in a big white envelope with my name on it!
And wasn't I thrilled!
I could hardly wait to tear it open but with a massive effort of self discipline I resisted the temptation until I got home.
The delayed gratification, I am sorry to have to report, was distinctly underwhelming. Perhaps they had forgotten something in mine?
No. The rest of the family found identical contents in their packages when opened.
Never mind, I thought, at least I will be able to learn the music of the James Macmillan Mass from the CD. Alas, this was not on the disc. It may be a wonderful disc but somehow it doesn't appeal to me. Can any attentive reader guess why?
In fact I may just use it as an alternative penance on Friday so that I can treat myself to a steak.

And as for the "Pilgrim Passport"!
It contains such gems as "A pilgrim is a person who undertakes a journey to a sacred place or event as an act of religious devotion."
Now what highly paid half-wit thought that someone who had forked out twenty-five quid would need to be so instructed?
Indeed one wonders why the term "passport" was chosen since one of the more practical points of information it carries is the fact that it will be necessary for one to bring one's real passport or some other form of identification including a photograph.

And! Wonder of wonders! We even have a card advising us to "Share the joy of your pilgrim journey with others" by text messaging, facebook, twitter etc..

Am I alone in suspecting that this material has been produced by people who believe that we Catholics are really as stupid as the Dawkins's of this world take us for?


The "Magnificat" booklet of the Papal Visit is absolutely magnificent! Whoever put that together should be knighted, enobled or even beatified!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

I'm back...

... and here is the "Notre Dame de la belle verriere" window from Chartres Cathedral as photographed by yours truly shortly after mass on Sunday 15th August 2010 and at the beginning of what was to be a somewhat dramatic family holiday.

Friday, 6 August 2010

The Transfiguration of the Lord

Raphael's painting of The Transfiguration, now in the Vatican Picture Gallery. was comissioned in 1517 by Cardinal Giulio de Medici and appears to have been intended as an altarpiece for one of his cathedrals, Narbonne, in southern France. I do not know why he meant to favour this see because he was simultaneously Archbishop of Florence and Bishop of Worcester both of which had fine cathedrals! (Note, the original and real Worcester in England!) Unfortunately Raphael died before he could fill in all the colours and the delay in its completion resulted in the picture's remaining in Rome. The patron, however, was on an upward trajectory, being elected Pope as Clement VII in 1523. His was a somewhat eventful pontificate during which he, very properly, denied Henry VIII the annulment of his marriage to Queen Katherine but also saw the virulent spread of the Protestant heresies and Henry's mischief.

Some three hundred years later, in 1837, a near life size copy by an English artist named Furse was given by one of the Earls of Shrewsbury to Saint George's Catholic Church in Worcester where it is to this day. Perhaps it is as well that the original was not sent to the cathedral there given the vicious iconoclasm that was unleashed by wicked men like Hugh Latimer.

Raphael's painting skillfully combines the narrative of the Transfiguration (Matt.17, 1-8) in the upper half of the picture with the story of the disciples' unsuccessful attempt to cure the epileptic demoniac(Matt.17,14-21) in the lower half. This both heightens the dramatic impact of the image and provides a contrast or counterpoint to the revelation on the mountain. From the Gospel text we might easly infer that the artist has sought to represent the scene as it might have appeared but not so. The main figures in the upper register are easily recognised - or are they?

Besides the figure of Christ we observe Moses (with the tablets of the Law) and Elijah. Fallen on the ground we see the three Apostles, Peter, James and John. Immediately to the left, however, are two other figures who, kneeling, look upon the scene- one of whom is clearly wearing the dalmatic of a deacon. These are believed to be the martyrs SS Felicissimus and Agapitus whose commemoration coincides in the traditional calendar with the feast of the Transfiguration on 6th August. There is more to Raphael's "Transfiguration" than meets the eye.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Ave Maris Stella

In honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Three Prayers Meme Tag

Please bear with me...
I appear to have been"tagged" - which sounds like something that used to happen in the playground when I was at school but is the first time it has happened to me in the blogosphere.
The rules, which need to be posted: Name your three most favourite prayers, and explain why they're your favourites. Then tag five bloggers - give them a link, and then go and tell them they have been tagged. Finally, tell the person who tagged you that you've completed the meme... The Liturgy and the Sacraments are off limits here. I'm more interested in people's favourite devotional prayers.

Thank you, Leutgeb.I'll try to oblige. The first bit is easy:
Three favourite prayers:
1. The Memorare- because it brought me my wife. Really.
2. The Hail Mary- because I know I can depend on Our lady's prayers. She really is the Refuge of Sinners- like when I was breathalysed.
3. The Veni Sancte Spiritus- because it reminds me of God's active presence in the World.
So there it is - or they are. Not particularly edifying but that's how it is.
So, now, who can I tag?

I think I shall tag Paul Mallinder, Reluctant Sinner, Breadgirl, Athanasius, Scottish Teuchtar ,

Saturday, 10 July 2010

New Blog on the block!

If I find a blog that interests me I tend to bookmark it. If I think it of more than passing interest I add it to the list on the right. On this occasion I'm going one step further and adding a link here- as a personal recommendation. I have been a fan of CTS pamphlets for longer, I suspect, than most bloggers have been alive. I remember, for instance the celebrated "Simple Prayerbook" going through several new editions in the mid 1960s as the mass was repeatedly adjusted. And not just the mass. I don't recall anyone pointing out the change in the Our Father from "them that trespass against us" to "those who..." but it was in the CTS "Simple Prayerbook" that I first noticed this change. In those days most CTS pamphlets were rarely more than a few pence in price and as a compulsive reader I was easily hooked. A particularly memorable booklet was "The Holy Shroud" by Bishop Langton Fox which I acquired in 1967. Whether or not the Shroud is genuine I remember and will always treasure the very powerful sense of the reality of the Resurrection I gained as a result of reading that book. But there were many more and I am grateful to the authors and indeed the whole organisation for the the support to faith provided in those pre-internet days. I pray the CTS will continue to flourish and hope the new blog helps.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Not Coventry: Brum!

I heard it on the BBC "Midlands Today" programme. So the Holy Father will be beatifying Cardinal Newman in Birmingham at Cofton Park which is pretty close to both the M5 and M42 motorways. Despite a lower capacity than Coventry Airport its proximity to the places associated with Cardinal Newman makes it seem more appropriate. On the other hand it is a great pity that some event at which the faithful could be present in mega numbers hasn't been organised.

Congratulations to Mrs Jackie Parkes for getting her email read out on Midlands Today!

Saturday, 29 May 2010

The Holy Stairs

A couple of days ago I noted the anniversary of the day I visited three of the four Patriarchal basilicas of Rome during the Great Jubilee, St John Lateran, St Mary Major and St Paul outside the Walls. I have memories of all of them. But some things stand out. Most amusing was my entry into St John Lateran where I was accosted by a nun handing out booklets. Declining the Italian text offered I explained, "Inglese". Quick as a flash a North American voice returned, "And I thought you looked like Perry Como!" To this day I have been unable to discover any resemblance with an Italian American singer of my parents' generation- although with a little fresh air I am susceptible to tanning. She very kindly gave me an English version which contained, among other scriptural texts, St Luke's Gospel- a free gift from the organising committee! This, however, was merely the prelude to something that I regard as one of the defining experiences of my life.
After the basilica we went across to the Santa Scala- the holy staircase. These are the steps reputedly from Pilate's Praetorium in Jerusalem brought to Rome by St Helena and incorporated in the old papal palace of the Lateran,Before my visit to Rome I had read somewhere that Martin Luther, the infamous heresiarch, had given up the climb about half way. A champion of orthodoxy, no wimp and, indeed an Englishman to boot, I saw no real difficulty in climbing the twenty-eight steps on my knees. If you have never done it, be warned! Never in my whole life, either before or since have I voluntarily inflicted so much pain upon myself.

The original stone staircase, already worn by the knees of countless pilgrims over the centuries, was encased in a wooden covering at some point in the eighteenth century. This in turn has become worn and knobbly so that every movement one makes is extremely uncomfortable. The question "Why am I doing this to myself?" is unavoidable. I certainly couldn't dismiss it.
It is all very simple really. In fact it is one of those things which is so simple and blindingly obvious that it is easily overlooked. By doing this, I realised, I am expressing a wish to follow Our Lord in His sufferings. A prayer sometimes said when doing the Stations of the Cross sums it up,
O Jesus, who for love of me,
dids't bear Thy cross to Calvary,
in Thy sweet mercy grant to me,
to suffer and to die with Thee.

As I had started my way up the stairs I read from the Gospel account of the Passion in the booklet I had received earlier. The reality of the pain in my knees, however, brought home very vividly to me the fact that Our Lord's Passion was no cakewalk. I also found myself filled with a sense of dismay and even dread at what the Lord might be asking of me long before I got to the top of the stairs. I could see that the suffering ahead could, very likely- indeed almost certainly- involve people very dear to me and I felt terribly helpless. Only as I neared the top did it become clear to me that the real destination of the Way of the Cross was and is the Resurrection. At that moment and upon that day I received a grace which was to sustain me in the troublesome times that would soon follow.

So the Holy Stairs: would I advise it? Yes! Would I, knowing what I know now, attempt it again?
Most certainly, (ouch!) Yes!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Papal Visiting !

On this day exactly ten years ago during the Great Jubilee of the year 2000 it was my privilege to enter the Vatican Basilica through the Holy Door. There followed mass at the end of which Pope John Paul II, to our surprise and delight, entered to the applause of the vast throng. The feast of St Bede seeming an auspicious day for the arrival of us English pilgrims we had chanced upon a mass celebrated for scientists and when the Pope took his seat in front of the high altar he was addressed by one or two academic worthies before making his speech. Somewhat stooped and frail by then he nevertheless seemed to completely recover his old power once he began to speak. I had first seen Pope John Paul in the flesh during the Easter Triduum of 1979 in Rome when, as I frequently recalled, I was within a few feet of him when he blessed the new fire and Paschal Candle in the narthex of St. Peter's.
Three years later I was, initially, less than enthusiastic at the news of his projected visit to Great Britain, after all, I had been "with" him in Rome- but subsequently felt I couldn't afford to miss it. On the Saturday evening, while staying with my parents, I heard a report on the BBCMidlands news that already the roads around Coventry airport were busy. Indeed they seemed to be trying to discourage more people from going. It being a fine evening we decided that we had better lose no more time and so we set off on the forty mile journey. The roads were not busy and we arrived well before sunset. There were many people there but the site itself was vast and thousands of us settled down for the night on the airfield. The night was mild and, in an atmosphere of cheerful anticipation, passed quickly. The sun rose brilliantly upon a vast crowd that continued to grow. I am not normally one for crowds but at no time did I feel oppressed or "crowded". Wherever one went the joyful anticipation and good will were palpable.

Fast forward to 2010! Having experienced such ease in seeing Pope John Paul I am still bemused at the suggestion that Pope Benedict's visit will be ticket only. If Pope Benedict's visit had never been proposed I would not have been bothered. He is not a young man and there is no obvious necessity, despite the custom of Paul VI and John Paul II, to travel around the world. But this visit is about so much more than even Pope Benedict XVI. It is, among other things, our opportunity to demonstrate, before a world so much more hostile to Christ and His Church than was the case in 1982, our loyalty as British Catholics to the Holy Father.

Again I recall the hatred, the sneering hostility, in the media towards the visit of the relics of St Therese here last autumn. Once the visit was under way it suddenly seemed to stop. Why?

I believe it was because everyone was surprised- and some were shocked- at the sheer numbers of us that turned out. Surely we must be allowed to turn out on this occasion to expose the lies that the devil's friends are already composing for the visit:
-"he's not as popular with the faithful as John Paul"
-"he is out of touch with today's catholics"
-"only in traditionally Catholic countries can he expect to be welcomed"
-"the church has been decimated by the sex abuse scandals".
So often, in this country, the Church is falsely represented by its enemies, or poorly represented by false friends. The papal visit is an opportunity- or should be- for the Church in this land to be literally exhibited, displayed, manifested by its members, clergy and laity, bodily and visibly assembled in prayer with the Holy Father.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Whit Monday Ruminations

Once upon a time, dear young people, not only did Pentecost have an octave, Whit Monday (today) was a Bank Holiday in this country- and I am old enough to remember both! For some unknown reason the Bank Holiday was transferred to the last Monday of the month and renamed "Spring Bank Holiday", although it is still occasionally referred to, incorrectly, by some older people as "Whit Monday".
One year in the mid-sixties the Quarant' Ore devotion came to the church in which I was a chorister during Whit week. As was customary in those days, it began and ended with a solemn high mass which involved, if I remember correctly, a procession and the singing of the litany of the saints. The Octave of Pentecost sort of trumped the usual mass for this occasion- the celebrant, deacon and subdeacon appeared in red vestments and we got to sing the Veni Sancte Spiritus for a second and third time that year. I remember being thrilled beyond words. Dear me! A splash of red and one of the best tunes ever written! How superficial I was! Well: not much has changed.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Veni Sancte Spiritus

Veni Sancte Spiritus- sequence for Whitsunday- attributed to Stephen Cardinal Langton (c1150-1228) Archbishop of Canterbury.
Definitely on my list of the ten best tunes ever written!
And one of my favourite prayers.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Friday, 14 May 2010


One of the reasons I feel that the transfer of the solemnity of the Ascension from the Thursday to the following Sunday is regrettable is owing to the loss of two days of the novena of the Holy Spirit. I mean a novena of seven days just isn't a novena. Pentecost, too, has always been one of my favourite feasts and it is bad enough to have lost the octave in the post-1970 calendar without this further loss. That period between Our Lord's Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Spirit seems worth celebrating in itself as presenting, in the Upper Room, an image of the Church- gathered in prayer with Our Lady.

A "Fifties table setting"

Over the years I have been a frequent visitor to France- a country with so many attractions that I have often wondered why refugees and illegal migrants were so keen to escape across the channel to dear old Blighty. The weather is better, the food is great and the booze is cheaper- not that, I daresay, the last-mentioned weighs much with the followers of Mohammed! My own enthusiasm for the country was fixed upon my first holiday there when I visited Chartres Cathedral. I have subsequently notched up a considerable number of great medieval churches of France, thanks to which, together with the pedantry of the Michelin Guides, my offshore islander's view of European history has been greatly expanded. As a Catholic from a land where our great ancient churches are in the hands of the separated brethren I always feel a a particular pleasure attending mass in an historic setting. Few pleasures in this life, however, are unalloyed and mass in French is a mixed blessing. Maybe I'm a chauvinist (despite a good head of hair) but I don't think French is as dignified a lauguage as English.

One of the strangest things I have encountered in French churches is the abhorrence of symmetry. This was first manifested in a tendency for the candles and crucifix to be placed asymmetrically- on one side on the altar. This looked like a self-consciously "arty" gesture and like some trendy table setting from the 1950's. As if this weren't bad enough, by the milennium, even the number of candles had, in many places, been reduced to one candle and a crucifix on one side. This led my son to suggest that since our brothers and sisters in the Church in France
were so poor as to be only able to afford one candle at Mass, we inEngland and Wales should have a collection in order to help them out,

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Ascension Thursday et cetera.

Today, as everyone knows- or ought to know- is Ascension Day, but under current arrangements the feast is transferred to next Sunday. Unlike a number of other bloggers I am not going to slag off the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales over this. Not that I am happy with this mucking about with the holy days. Far from it. Nevertheless, I am aware that our bishops didn't jump to make this change. Like many other things it happened elsewhere earlier.

In the year of the Great Jubilee 2000 I took the family to Rome. On the return journey we stopped for a few days on the borders of Tuscany and Umbria. Ascension Day fell on 1st June and I had had the bright idea of going to mass in the church of San Francesco at Arezzo so that afterwards we might feast our eyes upon the Piero della Francesca fresco cycle of The Legend of the True Cross. Much to our surprise we found that only one mass seemed to fit with our visit and that was being celebrated not in the main church but in the chapter house. As soon as I saw the celebrant in red vestments I twigged what was afoot. The Italian Bishops' Conference had already transferred the feast to the following Sunday so that the mass we had arrived for was that of the feast of St Justin, martyr. Had we remained in Rome, no doubt, we would have been celebrating the Ascension. Had we been at home, at that time, the same would have been true.
This I remember quite clearly. I am less clear about my first memory of Communion in the hand but I have a strong suspicion that I saw that happening on the continent before it happened here.

I was slow to adopt the new practice which I did in, I think, Advent 1977, about the time that I discovered the Divine Office- there is, for me a connection. Yet before that I had been in France in 1973 and 1976 where I had observed people receiving in the hand. Only later, if I remember rightly, did this practice cross the channel.

Remember: You read it here first!

Peter Brookes must have seen the post below!

Toffs Rule OK !

That Tony Blair, with his parsonical tone and turn of phrase ("I say unto you,"), should have been characterised as "the vicar of St Albion's" is hardly surprising. Now, however, we have the real toffs: the head boy and his fag! (Eton- left, Westminster- right).

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Saturday, 8 May 2010

The General Election - all you need to know

Labour- lost
Tories- didn't win
Liberals- did worse than expected
SNP- no better than before
Plaid Cymru- ditto

In view of the fact that no party commands an absolute majority, it seems to me that a coalition government drawn from all of the above parties would fit the bill nicely. It worked in the Second World War when Churchill famously declared he had nothing to offer but blood, sweat and tears and, given the fact that the current financial situation arguably demands unpopular measures, it would be fair for all the parties to share the ensuing "blame" equally.

Oh... and the member for Brighton should be put out with the other stuff for recycling next week- we are all green now!

The British people have spoken...

...and some commentators think that they/we are unclear. I don't think so. In fact we have what we wanted: a hanged parliament- one where the members of the various parties are forced to pay attention and really listen to each other instead of just grandstanding and slanging each other off. So we could be in for some interesting times.

What else shall I say?

Ah yes! He would have a heart of stone who did not shout and dance for joy at news of the demise of Dr Death! I know I did. I was going to be highly original and call it this election's "Portillo Moment"- except that almost everyone else has beaten me to it!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Vote for the Common Good!

In my experience this means voting for the least bad candidate.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Blessed Martyrs of England and Wales

Father Gerrard Tortured in the Tower

On the third day, the warder came to my room straight from his dinner. Looking sorry for himself, he said the Lord’s commissioners had arrived with the Queen’s attorney general, and that I had to go down to them at once.

“I am ready,” I said, “but just let me say an ‘Our Father’ and ‘Hail Mary’ downstairs.”
He let me go, and then we went off together to the lieutenant’s lodgings inside the walls of the Tower. Five men were there waiting for me, none of whom, except Wade, had examined me before. He was there to direct the charges against me.
“You say,” said the attorney general, “you have no wish to obstruct the government. Tell us, then, where Father Garnet is. He is an enemy of the state, and you are bound to report on all such men.”
“He isn’t an enemy of the state,” I said. “But I don’t know where he lives, and if I did, I would not tell you.”
“Then we’ll see to it that you tell us before we leave this place.”
“Please God you won’t,” I answered.
Then they produced a warrant for putting me to torture. They had it ready by them and handed it to me to read. (In this prison a special warrant is required for torture.)
I saw the warrant was properly made out and signed, and then I answered, “With God’s help I shall never do anything which is unjust or act against my conscience or the Catholic faith. You have me in your power. You can do with me what God allows you to do—more you cannot do.”
Then they began to implore me not to force them to take steps they were loath to take. They said they would have to put me to torture every day, as long as my life lasted, until I gave them the information they wanted.
“I trust in God’s goodness,” I answered, “that He will prevent me from ever committing a sin such as this—the sin of accusing innocent people. We are all in God’s hands, and therefore I have no fear of anything you can do to me.”
This was the sense of my answers, as far as I can recall them now.
We went to the torture room in a kind of solemn procession, the attendants walking ahead with lighted candles.
The chamber was underground and dark, particularly near the entrance. It was a vast place, and every device and instrument of human torture was there. They pointed out some of them to me and said I would try them all. Then they asked me again whether I would confess.
“I cannot,” I said.
I fell on my knees for a moment’s prayer. Then they took me to a big upright pillar, one of the wooden posts which held the roof of this huge underground chamber. Driven into the top of it were iron staples for supporting heavy weights. Then they put my wrists into iron gauntlets and ordered me to climb two or three wicker steps. My arms were then lifted up, and an iron bar was passed through the rings of one gauntlet, then through the staple and rings of the second gauntlet. This done, they fastened the bar with a pin to prevent it slipping, and then, removing the wicker steps one by one from under my feet, they left me hanging with my hands and arms fastened above my head. The tips of my toes, however, still touched the ground, and they had to dig away the earth from under them. They had hung me up from the highest staple in the pillar and could not raise me any higher without driving in another staple.
Hanging like this, I began to pray. The gentlemen standing around asked me whether I was willing to confess now.
“I cannot and I will not,” I answered. But I could hardly utter the words, such a gripping pain came over me. It was worst in my chest and belly, my hands and arms. All the blood in my body seemed to rush up into my arms and hands, and I thought that blood was oozing from the ends of my fingers and the pores of my skin. But it was only a sensation caused by my flesh swelling above the irons holding them. The pain was so intense that I thought I could not possibly endure it—and added to it, I had an interior temptation. Yet I did not feel any inclination or wish to give them the information they wanted. The Lord saw my weakness with the eyes of His mercy and did not permit me to be tempted beyond my strength. With the temptation, He sent me relief. Seeing my agony and the struggle going on in my mind, He gave me this most merciful thought: the utmost and worst they can do is to kill you, and you have often wanted to give your life for your Lord God. The Lord God sees all you are enduring—He can do all things. You are in God’s keeping. With these thoughts, God in His infinite goodness and mercy gave me the grace of resignation, and with a desire to die and a hope (I admit) that I would, I offered Him myself to do with me as He wished. From that moment the conflict in my soul ceased, and even the physical pain seemed much more bearable than before, though it must, in fact, I am sure, have been greater with the growing strain and weariness of my body.
Sometime after one o’clock, I think, I fell into a faint. How long I was unconscious I don’t know, but I think it was long, for the men held my body up or put the wicker steps under my feet until I came to. Then they heard me pray and immediately let me down again. And they did this every time I fainted—eight or nine times that day—before it struck five.
A little later they took me down. My legs and feet were not damaged, but it was a great effort to stand upright.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

The Sublime and the Subliminal

While I very much approved of our first hymn at mass this morning, "Ye Choirs of New Jerusalem", by St Fulbert of Chartres, I am inclined to think that the chap responsible for the music rather let a wicked sense of humour get the better of him in the selection of "Praise the Lord, ye heavens adore Him" with its tune of "Austria" by Haydn. The said tune is perhaps better known in its association with the German National Anthem, Deutschland uber alles- guaranteed to raise a smile for most Brits. What an eejit!