Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Day trip to Lisieux

I caught an early morning train from Paris last Saturday, to arrive in Lisieux at the site of the basilica of St. Therese. Impressive from a distance it may seem, it is decidedly mediocre as a building. The French Oratorian Fr. Louis Bouyer was rather scathing about it in his book 'The Decomposition of Catholicism': I do see his point! Nevertheless, it is a very important shrine to one of the 20th century's greatest saints.

The basilica

The main altar

The crypt

In Paris

Most of the time I spent in Paris was in eating and drinking copious amounts (at considerable expense!), but I nevertheless wanted a weekend of some indulgence! I stayed at the foot of the Montmartre hill near the Sacre Coeur basilica, a very pleasant church to spend hours before the Blessed Sacrament.

Rue des Abbesses, Montmartre

On Saturday I made a day trip to Lisieux: more on that later.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Back from holiday

In case any of you have been wondering, I was unable to get an Internet connection when I was in Paris, and so there have been no blog posts of late. However, I have just returned from Paris and Lisieux, and have a selection of photos to show all of you.

While I was away the news came in that the dispute of the Birmingham Oratory fathers with the city council over the Rednal fence has finally been resolved. Well, the visit to the shrine of St. Therese of Lisieux certainly has had results! The following statement was issued:

The Fathers of the Oratory at Birmingham are pleased to announce that they have reached amicable agreement with the City Council concerning the fence at Rednal and thank all those who have offered their prayers for this intention.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Preparing for Paris

As I write this, I am getting my travel documents and tickets in order for my Paris visit, and packing my case. I shall be catching the morning train from Birmingham New Street, changing in London for the Eurostar to Paris. I'm taking the usual things: several sets of clothes, toiletries, a Benedictine breviary, a clock and a few books to read. Yet I always forget something! Nevertheless, I shall try to visit the Rue de Bac and I will pray for all of you who read this blog.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Blog for World Youth Day

Kurt Barragan and Sophie Caldecott give extensive reports of World Youth Day in Sydney, on this blog run by the Catholic Herald. Acknowledgements to Fr. Tim.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Wreckovation in reverse

Fr. John Boyle in Ashford, Kent, a prominent member of the blogging community, has had the courage to do a reverse wreckovation of his church, by expanding the altar steps and restoring the altar rails for kneeling at communion. It is a fairly modern building, and after seeing so many beautiful Victorian churches horribly vandalised, this is most welcome news: here is a Youtube snapshot of the work in progress.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

The Beelzebub Broadcasting Corporation reports..

EWTN seems to have done an extremely thorough job in covering World Youth Day in Sydney, but the BBC has apparently given a very different slant on it, focusing almost exclusively on the Holy Father's apology for sex abuse cases, as well as on homosexual activists giving out condoms. As Fr. Tim notes:

This is utterly iniquitous, cynical and contemptuous bias on the part of our so-called "public service" broadcaster which most people in Britain have to subsidise through the outdated license fee because they use a television.

Fr. Tim's full article here. What a pity that C.S. Lewis did not invent the Beelzebub Broadcasting Corporation in his Screwtape Letters: how apt it would be to read about it 60 years later.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Address of Benedict XVI to the disadvantaged

Here is an address that the Holy Father gave a group of young people from a rehabilitation community. It is a clear and powerful demonstration of the teaching that the love of money is the root of all evil.

Dear Young Friends,

I am pleased to be with you at Darlinghurst today, and I warmly greet all those taking part in the “Alive” programme, as well as the staff who run it. I pray that you will all benefit from the assistance offered by the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Social Services Agency, and that the good work being done here will continue long into the future.

The name of the programme you are following prompts us to ask the question: what does it really mean to be “alive”, to live life to the full? This is what all of us want, especially when we are young, and it is what Christ wants for us. In fact, he said: “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10). The most basic instinct of all living things is to stay alive, to grow, to flourish, and to pass on the gift of life to others. So it is only natural that we should ask how best to do this.

For the people of the Old Testament, this question was just as urgent as it is for us today. No doubt they listened attentively when Moses said to them: “I set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live in the love of the Lord your God, obeying his voice, clinging to him – for in this your life consists” (Dt 30:19-20). It was clear what they had to do: they had to turn away from other gods and worship the true God who had revealed himself to Moses – and they had to obey his commandments. You might think that in today’s world, people are unlikely to start worshipping other gods. But sometimes people worship “other gods” without realizing it. False “gods”, whatever name, shape or form we give them, are nearly always associated with the worship of three things: material possessions, possessive love, or power. Let me explain what I mean.

Material possessions, in themselves, are good. We would not survive for long without money, clothing and shelter. We must eat in order to stay alive. Yet if we are greedy, if we refuse to share what we have with the hungry and the poor, then we make our possessions into a false god. How many voices in our materialist society tell us that happiness is to be found by acquiring as many possessions and luxuries as we can! But this is to make possessions into a false god. Instead of bringing life, they bring death.

Authentic love is obviously something good. Without it, life would hardly be worth living. It fulfils our deepest need, and when we love, we become most fully ourselves, most fully human. But how easily it can be made into a false god! People often think they are being loving when actually they are being possessive or manipulative. People sometimes treat others as objects to satisfy their own needs rather than as persons to be loved and cherished. How easy it is to be deceived by the many voices in our society that advocate a permissive approach to sexuality, without regard for modesty, self-respect or the moral values that bring quality to human relationships! This is worship of a false god. Instead of bringing life, it brings death.

The power God has given us to shape the world around us is obviously something good. Used properly and responsibly, it enables us to transform people’s lives. Every community needs good leaders. Yet how tempting it can be to grasp at power for its own sake, to seek to dominate others or to exploit the natural environment for selfish purposes! This is to make power into a false god. Instead of bringing life, it brings death.

The cult of material possessions, the cult of possessive love and the cult of power often lead people to attempt to “play God”: to try to seize total control, with no regard for the wisdom or the commandments that God has made known to us. This is the path that leads towards death. By contrast, worship of the one true God means recognizing in him the source of all goodness, entrusting ourselves to him, opening ourselves to the healing power of his grace and obeying his commandments: that is the way to choose life.

A vivid illustration of what it means to turn back from the path of death onto the path of life is found in a Gospel story that I am sure you all know well: the parable of the prodigal son. When that young man left his father’s house at the beginning of the story, he was seeking the illusory pleasures promised by false “gods”. He squandered his inheritance on a life of indulgence, and ended up in abject poverty and misery. When he reached the very lowest point, hungry and abandoned, he realized how foolish he had been to leave his loving father. Humbly, he returned and asked forgiveness. Joyfully his father embraced him and exclaimed: “This son of mine was dead, and has come back to life; he was lost, and is found” (Lk 15:24).

Many of you must have had personal experience of what that young man went through. Perhaps you have made choices that you now regret, choices that led you down a path which, however attractive it appeared at the time, only led you deeper into misery and abandonment. The choice to abuse drugs or alcohol, to engage in criminal activity or self-harm, may have seemed at the time to offer a way out of a difficult or confusing situation. You now know that, instead of bringing life, it brings death. I wish to acknowledge your courage in choosing to turn back onto the path of life, just like the young man in the parable. You have accepted help – from friends or family, from the staff who run the “Alive” programme: from people who care deeply for your well-being and happiness.

Dear friends, I see you as ambassadors of hope to others in similar situations. You can convince them of the need to choose the path of life and shun the path of death, because you speak from experience. All through the Gospels, it was those who had taken wrong turnings who were particularly loved by Jesus, because once they recognized their mistake, they were all the more open to his healing message. Indeed, Jesus was often criticized by self-righteous members of society for spending so much time with such people. “Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?”, they asked. He responded: “It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick … I did not come to call the virtuous but sinners” (cf. Mt 9:11-13). It was those who were willing to rebuild their lives who were most ready to listen to Jesus and become his disciples. You can follow in their footsteps, you too can grow particularly close to Jesus because you have chosen to turn back towards him. You can be sure that, just like the Father in the story of the prodigal son, Jesus welcomes you with open arms. He offers you unconditional love – and it is in loving friendship with him that the fullness of life is to be found.

I mentioned earlier that when we love we are fulfilling our deepest need and becoming most fully ourselves, most fully human. Loving is what we are programmed to do, what we were designed for by our Creator. Naturally, I am not talking about fleeting, shallow relationships, I am talking about real love, the very heart of Jesus’ moral teaching: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” and “You must love your neighbour as yourself” (cf. Mk 12:30-31). This, if you like, is the programme that is hard-wired into every human person, if only we had the wisdom and generosity to live by it, if only we were ready to sacrifice our own preferences so as to be of service to others, to give our lives for the good of others, and above all for Jesus, who loved us and gave his life for us. That is what human beings are called to do, that is what it means to be truly alive.

Dear young friends, my message to you today is the same one that Moses proposed all those years ago. “Choose life, so that you and your descendants may live in the love of the Lord your God”. Let his Spirit guide you onto the path of life, so that you obey his commandments, follow his teachings, leave behind the wrong turnings that lead only to death, and commit yourselves to a lifelong friendship with Jesus Christ. In the power of the Holy Spirit, choose life and choose love, and bear witness before the world to the joy that it brings. That is my prayer for each one of you this World Youth Day. May God bless you all.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Going off to Paris!

Next weekend I shall be making a trip to Paris for a short break. The original plan was to make a retreat in Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight, but due to various circumstances this has fallen through. So having a weekend holiday booked, I thought I might use it up otherwise. I'm particularly looking forward to sampling the delights of departing from the new Eurostar terminal at St. Pancras.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

World Youth Day gets underway

Father Z has a report on the progress of our Holy Father's visit to Sydney for world youth day.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a patron of the diocese of Salford and a feast which is particularly dear to me. It has particular relevance for England, for is was at Aylesford in Kent in 1251 that Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock and gave to him the brown scapular, promising special graces to those who wear it. The full story is given here.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Newman to be exhumed?

The following news has come in from the Times:

The Vatican has asked for the exhumation of the body of the Church of England's most renowned convert to Roman Catholicism as part of his progression towards sainthood. The Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman was buried in a small cemetery in August 1890 and Rome now wants his remains to be moved to a marble sarcophagus in the Birmingham Oratory.

The move, which is expected to take place by the end of the year, would enable people to pay tribute to him more easily and is part of the process of creating a saint.

The procedure has to be approved by Birmingham City Council and the Ministry of Justice, which was accused of "procrastinating" over the issue, but is expected to be rubber stamped in the next few weeks.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Beatification of Louis and Zélie Martin

It has been recently announced that the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Louis and Zélie Martin will be beatified at Alençon on Sunday 19 October. The full story can be found here at Zenit. Yesterday, Sunday 13th July, happened to be the 150th anniversary of their wedding.

Apparently when the couple met it was love at first sight on a bridge, and they were married 3 months later. Yet Zélie cried on her wedding day, for her original wish to be a nun had finally been put paid to! For the first few months of their marriage the couple lived in celibacy: it was unconsummated until Zélie's confessor persuaded her that marriage was a true vocation from God. From then on it was a very happy and fond union and they had many children, the youngest of course being St. Thérèse herself.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Preparing for Lourdes

Right in front of me are the forms for the Grand Order of Babysitters Pilgrimage to Lourdes, at the end of August. I used to be a regular for some years, and then I lapsed from it. However as this year is the 150th anniversary, I shall be resuming! I am very much looking forward to it.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Not much to say...

As I have little that I can say on blogosphere, all I can show you is the Pope on the way to world youth day in Sydney. We pray for and wish him every success in this pastoral venture.

Friday, 11 July 2008

St. Benedict, Patron of Europe

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Benedict, Patron of Europe. The other major feast, that of the passing of St. Benedict on March 21st, was suppressed this year as it fell on Good Friday. He is one of the great lights of the church in the dark ages, and it was to be the Benedictine monks who preserved in their monasteries the faith and civilisation in that period.

In this new dark ages of the culture of death, it is not by accident that Holy Father has taken the name of Benedict. Just as his namesake led Europe out of barbarianism into the Christian middle ages, so may Benedict XVI lead a repaganised Europe back to the light of the Catholic faith.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Marketing Benedict XVI's liturgical restoration

Some of you may be familiar with the brand of Uncle Ben's rice, which seems to have pride of place in the rice section at the Tesco's in Five Ways. Creative Minority Report has done this spoof on our Holy Father's reform of the Novus Ordo liturgy. This is particularly relevant to me as I studied BSc. Food Science some years back in the University of Reading, and the nutritional analysis given here, I must say, is very accurate.

Acknowledgements to Fr. Tim for drawing attention to this.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Some work I skived from..

I was given an opportunity to join a working party to clear up the grounds of Rednal last Saturday, and join for a barbecue afterwards. Nevertheless, I cried off and skived from it complaining of my foot. That did not stop me from walking around and about Aberystwyth with Shank's pony. However my right foot is still quite sore and weak, and will take weeks to recover.

Above is a photo of work in progress at the graveside, taken by Jackie Parkes who came along.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Oratory Easter Vigil: Ecce Agnus Dei

Here is another video clip of the Easter vigil mass at the Oratory: the communion rite - Ecce Agnus Dei to the end of the communion.

Monday, 7 July 2008

More clips of the Oratory Easter vigil

After a long hiatus, more Youtube clips have been published of the Easter vigil service at the Birmingham Oratory. Here is the Communion Rite - the Lord's Prayer to the Agnus Dei.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

More on Aberystwyth: the town

Here also are some pictures of Aberystwyth town centre. It has very attractive and compact streets lined with stone and pastel coloured houses. Surprisingly it has largely escaped the vandalism of the 1960's town planners.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Day trip to Aberystwyth

Today I caught the train from New Street station and made a day trip to the seaside resort of Aberystwyth. The journey is about three hours long, but it is a scenic ride across the Cambrian mountains. I took these pictures from the train window.

It is a very pleasant town on the Cambrian coast, and it is a favourite resort for the Brummies for good reason. Here is the strand:

More pictures are on the way!

Friday, 4 July 2008

More on the Transalpine Redemptorists

Today I have had no time to make comment on any matters, but following on from yesterday's post here is a Youtube video of the Transalpine Redemptorists.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Transalpine Redemptorists regularised

On June 26th the Transalpine Redemptorists based at Papa Stronsay in the Orkney Islands were informed by the Holy See that all canonical suspensions against them have been lifted, and that they have now been regularised. The full account is here. This is indeed very good news, and now at last we have a congregation of Redemptorists who are loyal to the original rule of their founder St. Alphonsus di Liguori. Alas, the main body of the order has to all intents and purposes gone completely to pot and abandoned its original vocation.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

The problem in filming the Narnia Chronicles

In looking at what are the shortcomings of the film Prince Caspian, we would do well to look at what the author thought of such a project. C.S. Lewis himself was very much against film versions being made of his Chronicles of Narnia as he thought that it would lead to "buffoonery or nightmare". In many respects he was right: as children's tales they are very effective, but when as it were brought to a more realistic view film view they fall apart.

When placed in a realist setting the talking animals of Narnia are completely unconvincing, and this came apparent in the first filming of the Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe. It was a considerable improvement on the BBC television dramatisation which ended up using soft toys! Nevertheless despite the best efforts made the talking animals betray themselves as computer graphics.

Another example that could be said to be unrealistic is the idea of children sword fighting adults: it sounds attractive in a book but comes out as absurd in reality. Also the geography and features of Narnia are not at all convincing when placed in a realist setting.

Probably the most effective way to film the Chronicles of Narnia would be to do them in animated form, rather than in live action. A fairly presentable attempt at the Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe was made in the late 1970's by the Children's Television Workshop, which I remember watching in my Grandmother's bedroom as a small boy..

However, the recent version of Prince Caspian lets itself down in other ways that could have been avoided: in particular the liberties taken with the original story. I will describe them in another post.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

St. Oliver Plunkett

Today is the feast of my namesake St. Oliver Plunkett, the great Archbishop of Armagh who was martyred for the faith at Tyburn on 11th July 1681. Like myself, he was of Anglo - Irish origin. He was one of the great lights of the Irish church, and a key figure in keeping the Catholic faith alive in Ireland throughout the period of persecution. Click here for his full biography.

His head is preserved in the town of Drogheda while his arm is preserved in my old Alma Mater Downside Abbey. Here is a photo of the shrine: the reliquary lies to the right.