Saturday 28 January 2012

Morning- Westminster

A view of the nave of Westminster Cathedral- taken after the 7a.m. mass on the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul, 25th January 2012. The mass was actually celebrated in St Paul's chapel - off the south aisle. It is usually my custom, when visiting London, to go to the early mass at Westminster in thanksgiving for a safe journey to the big city and, quite simply, because it is one of my favourite places...the House of God...the Gate of Heaven...

Sunday 22 January 2012

Elgar's Church

Fr John Abberton of Stella Maris has an interesting post on "Elgar and other Catholics"
which has given me an excuse to post this snap of St George's, Worcester which I took in October 2010. Elgar was organist at St George's from 1885 until 1889- although he had deputised for his father, who preceded him in the post, from 1872. At his leaving the parish priest, Fr Knight, presented him with a copy of Blessed John Henry Newman's poem "The Dream of Gerontius" as a wedding present. The rest is, as they say, history!

Thursday 19 January 2012

St Wulstan

A view of the crypt of Worcester Cathedral with its elegant Romanesque columns and groined vaulting.
Today is the feast day of St Wulstan who was bishop of Worcester from 1062-95 and who was canonised by Pope Innocent III in 1203. The crypt, shown here, is the most complete survival of the rebuilding of the cathedral undertaken by St Wulstan who, nevertheless, is said to have shed tears at the necessary demolition of the work of his holy predecessors. He was renowned for his pastoral solicitude no less than for his personal holiness. Distracted while celebrating mass by the delicious smell of roasting meat wafting from the monastery kitchen, he resolved never to eat meat again. He was assiduous in visiting his diocese which extended as far south as Bristol- where he intervened to stop the slave trade.

Sunday 15 January 2012

Quote of the day!

"To be Catholic, we must always remain in continuity with the living tradition we have inherited."

Fr. John Boyle of Caritas in Veritate.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Holding fast to hand on

I was recently struck by the very active sense of tradition in the new translation of the Eucharistic Prayer I - the Roman Canon. Consider the old translation here:

"We offer them for your holy catholic Church, watch over it, Lord, and guide it; grant it peace and unity throughout the world. We offer them for Benedict, our Pope, for N. our bishop, and all who hold and teach the catholic faith that comes to us from the apostles."

The new translation of the same part goes thus:

"...which we offer you firstly for your holy catholic Church. Be pleased to grant her peace, to guard, unite and govern her throughout the whole world together with your servant Benedict our Pope and N. our Bishop, and all those who, holding to the truth, hand on the catholic and apostolic faith."

I do not think that there is anything glaringly wrong with the old version and there is certainly nothing amiss with praying for "all who hold and teach the catholic faith that comes to us from the apostles" but in the new translation it is made quite clear that the faith- the "catholic and apostolic faith"- is something which is "handed on" by those who "hold... to the truth".
In other words the faith is seen as not just something vaguely floating down to us "from the apostles" but something particular and almost concrete and, as such, dependent upon those intermediate persons- i.e. between the apostles and ourselves- actually holding (on to) the truth.

To speak in these terms is to recognise both the active nature of tradition in the Church- "handed on" being the literal meaning of "tradition"- and the particularity of the faith. That the truth is, necessarily, conceived as something to be "held to" for the purpose of the handing on of the faith is also remarkable. Indeed it is a ringing declaration of the fact that the catholic and apostolic faith is something altogether different from what most people in contemporary society would conceive of as "a faith"- namely belief in a set of more or less improbable fancies. Rather is it anchored in the truth.

Sunday 8 January 2012

To blase the rising of this glorious sunne...

The Epiphanye

To blase the rising of this glorious sunne

A gltteringe starre appeareth in the Easte

Whose sight to Pilgrimm toyles three sages wunne

To seek the light they long had in requeste

And by this starre to nobler starr they pace

Whose armes did their desired sunne embrace

Stall was the skye wherein these planets shynde

And want the cloud that did eclipse their rayes

Yet through this cloud their light did passage finde

And perc’d these sages harts by secret waies

Which made them knowe the ruler of the skyes

By infant tongue and lookes of babish eyes

Heaven at her light, earth blusheth at her pride

And of their pompe these Peeres ashamed bee

Their Crownes, their robes their trayne they sett aside

When Gods poore cotage clouts and crewe they see

All glorious thinges their glory now dispise

Sith God contempt doth more than glory prize

Three giftes they bringe three giftes they beare awaye

For incense myrrhe and gould , faith hope and love

And with their gifts the givers hartes do staye

Their mynde from Christ no parting can remove

His humble state, his stall his poor retynewe

They phancie more then all their ritch revenewe

St Robert Southwell S.J. (1561-95)

Saturday 7 January 2012

Wise men...or just lucky?

Nearly twenty years ago I saw a television programme details of which had a profound impact upon me. I think the subject of the broadcast was the fraught relationship between the Chinese Communist government and Tibetan Buddhism and how the Chinese rulers were attempting to control the selection of a high-ranking lama. Such lamas are each believed to be a reincarnation of a previous lama and it was the method of divining or determining the "correct" individual which struck me most vividly. Two or three monks set off on a journey through the kingdom carrying some of the deceased lama's personal possessions which appeared to be easily portable items. These were, in turn, presented to young boys- largely toddlers if I remember rightly- whose reactions to the objects were then carefully observed. On the basis of the appropriate reaction of apparent familiarity or interest the individual was deemed to be the reincarnated lama. He was subsequently taken away to train for the post.

It seemed to me at once bizarrely strange but also curiously "familiar". As the saffron-robed searchers reverently laid out the treasures before each little boy I felt myself witnessing something remarkably similar to events in Bethlehem some two thousand years ago. Of course there are people who argue that the Infancy narratives in the Gospels are merely the Evangelists mythologising!

Thursday 5 January 2012

A timely poem!


The law's been passed and I am lying low
Hoping to hide from those who think they are
Kindly, compassionate. My step is slow.
I hurry. Will the executioner
Be watching how I go?

Others about me clearly feel the same.
The deafest one pretends that she can hear.
The blindest hides her white stick while the lame
Attempt to stride. Life has become so dear.
Last time the doctor came,

All who could speak said they felt very well.
Did we imagine he was watching with
A new deep scrutiny? We could not tell.
Each minute now we think the stranger Death
Will take us from each cell

For that is what our little rooms now seem
To be. We are prepared to bear much pain,
Terror attacks us wakeful, every dream
Is now a nightmare. Doctor's due again.
We hold on to the gleam

Of sight, a word to hear. We act, we act,
And doing so we wear our weak selves out.
We said, "We want to die" once when we lacked
The chance of it. We wait in fear and doubt.
O life, you are so packed

With possibility. Old age seems good.
The ache, the anguish - we could bear them we
Declare. The ones who pray plead with their God
To turn the murdering ministers away,
But they come softly shod.

Elizabeth Jennings

Thanks to Ben Trovato

Update: An ideal doctor?