Sunday, 31 August 2008

Lourdes' 1970's liturgy

One of the more negative aspects of this great shrine to the Immaculate Conception is that liturgically it is frozen in a time warp of the 1970's, as if Pope Benedict had never been elected and liturgical reform had been yesterday. Coming to the daily English mass in the chapel of St. Cosmas and Damian is a good example. The tabernacle is in a corner, often the celebrant does not wear a chasuble and the mass is more like an international 'gathering' where 'diversity' is celebrated.

In the Blessed Sacrament procession, some of the chants were about worshipping 'Christ in the gathering of the people of God' rather than in the Eucharistic presence: more about that in a later post. In the rosary procession in the evening many of the intercessions are packed with 'better world' and liberal social justice terminology, and barely a mention is made for the conversion of sinners and repentance: what Our Lady appeared for in the first place!

The liberal French bishops obviously have major a vested interest in Lourdes, as it is the most important shrine in France with a huge international following, and it is of great strategic importance for the liturgical establishment. Unsurprisingly the pilgrimage authorities have fought tooth and nail to prevent the Extraordinary form from establishing a presence. So much is their antipathy to it that when a bomb was planted in the underground basilica of St. Pius X by Basque separatists, the blame was at first pointed to the Pius X society!

Nevertheless, due to the massive pressure in the wake of Summorum Pontificem they have conceded a 1962 mass at 9.30am every Sunday in the Upper Basilica, which I gratefully attended. This is however barely advertised in the mass times, as merely a Latin mass.

The mass was a sung Gregorian mass with chant provided by French Benedictine monks on pilgrimage, and it was packed to the rafters. There was barely space for communion.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Back from Lourdes

Phew! I have just arrived back in Birmingham from a very long coach trip from Lourdes with the Grand Order of Babysitters (GOBS), about 20 hours drive with only a few breaks. In case you were wondering, I did not gain internet access when I was there, partly because I could not find any, and partly because I was too damn lazy to do any posts. Nevertheless, I have a whole series of photos to show you in the jubilee year (150th anniversary) of the apparitions.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Off to Lourdes tomorrow..

Tomorrow morning I join the Grand order of Babysitters for the marathon coach journey from Birmingham to Lourdes, and return on Saturday week. It is quite a trek, but it is great fun and I am returning to the GOBS after a 6 year lapse: I am much looking forward to this. Most of the children of Jackie Parkes will be coming along as well. I shall remember all of you in this anniversary year, as a special indulgence has been granted.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Bishop Patrick O'Donohue speaks out

Acknowledgements to Clerical Whispers

Roman Catholic Bishop Patrick O'Donohue of the Lancaster diocese in northwest England, has heavily criticised his fellow bishops of England and Wales for what he sees as a weak, "flat" response to many of today's moral crises, especially that of the radical homosexualist and anti-Catholic, secularist lobby.

A document is due to be published next week, in which O'Donohue calls on his fellow bishops to "rediscover" and fearlessly exercise their teaching authority in union with the Pope.

In the densely packed 92-page document, "Fit for Mission? Church", Bishop O'Donohue writes of the failure of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales forthrightly to face the issues of homosexual activism as a body.

He especially emphasizes his "disappointment that our Bishops' Conference recently could not agree on a collegial response to the Government's legislation on same-sex adoption."

"Attempting to arrive at a consensus among bishops with sometimes divergent views, Episcopal Conference statements and documents have a tendency to be often flat and 'safe' at a time when we need passionate and courageous public statements that dare to speak the full truth in love."

"I must admit that during my 15 years as a bishop I have increasingly come to share certain concerns about the relationship between individual bishops and the National Conference."

Bishop O'Donohue says he agrees with the warning of the 1985 Synod on the "necessity of limiting the authority of national Episcopal conferences."

The Bishop writes that the idea of dividing the areas of responsibility, such as education, liturgy and healthcare, among the bishops, has resulted in a "reluctance among the rest of the bishops to speak out on these issues."

He notes particularly that some bishops had reacted with "surprise" that he had dared to produce his own teaching document, "Fit for Mission? Schools", earlier this year.

"The effort to achieve a consensus" he says, "results...often in the loss of the 'scandal' and the 'folly' of the Gospel, so that we are no longer the 'salt' and 'leaven' so urgently needed."

"Confident, courageous and prophetic bishops [are] vital for the well-being of the Church during this time of increasingly aggressive secularism."

Citing the great 5th century bishop St. Augustine, Bishop O'Donohue calls for bishops to "re-exercise their individual teaching charism."

This rediscovery of the charism of bishops, he says, is needed to combat the loss of passion for Catholicism notable in many parishes and lay people.

"The passion to serve the Lord is noticeably absent in many cases - there seems to be at times a tiredness and reticence to preach the gospel." He says that in the course of the 16-month consultation in preparation for the document, he saw a "lack of confidence and knowledge of the Catholic faith."

He therefore calls for a revival of apologetics, the reasoned defence of Christianity, especially in the face of increasingly popular atheist polemics from writers such as Richard Dawkins.

In the document, produced as Bishop O'Donohue prepares to retire, he says that "Agencies and Commissions of national conferences" have failed to uphold the "fullness of the Church's teaching", particularly "doctrinal and moral teaching, in their collaboration with secular agencies."

"I'm thinking in particular of agencies with a responsibility for education or economic development. The staff of these agencies are often in a position to witness to the truth of the Church's teaching on, say, the theology of the body with its positive refutation of pre-marital sex, 'safe sex', or artificial birth control, in their dealings with government departments and committees."

Bishop O'Donohue does not name names, but many have made similar criticisms of the English Catholic bishops' overseas aid and development agency, CAFOD, that has insisted on promoting condoms as a means of controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS.

In another case, at least one Catholic adoption agency has opted to abandon its association with the Catholic Church to adhere to the government's requirement to adopt children to homosexual "partners."

When the problem of the Sexual Orientation Regulations and the Catholic adoption agencies arose in the news last year, it was revealed that many agencies held the policy of allowing children to be adopted to single homosexuals, and this with at least the tacit blessing of the local bishop.

Bishop O'Donohue's own suggestion for the Catholic social services agency was to have it adopt an uncompromisingly Catholic position and refuse to adopt to anyone who is not in a legal marriage.

In the document he criticises the administrators of Church institutions, saying, "There must be no back peddling on these issues just because certain truths are unwelcome in the corridors of power."

"We have talked too much and done too little. We have witnessed over the past forty years a growing crisis in the Catholic understanding or self-identity of the Church...Have we forgotten what it is to be Catholic?"

Hope for the future, he says, lies with the younger generation who are notably more interested in reviving the essentials of the Catholic religion.

"The maturity of the Pope John Paul II generation will lead, I hope, to a resurgence of orthodox, committed adults in the Church, gradually renewing vocations to the priesthood, religious life and marriage."

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Gabriel García Moreno

Andrew Cusack has a most interesting biography of the great Christian statesman and president of Ecuador, Gabriel García Moreno. In this age of Tony's cronies and Gordon's brownies he is an exemplary model of a leader. His cause for beatification is in progress.

Monday, 18 August 2008

The Assumption Catafalque

The Transalpine Redemptorists in Papa Stronsay have a wonderful custom of erecting a Catafalque, or 'tomb' for Our Lady in dormition, in the triduum up to the Feast of the Assumption. This is very common in the church in the East, but not so well known in the west. Here are the photos.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

St. Mary and St. John, Wolverhampton

This church was the parish church of Fr. Guy Nicholls, and it was here he was baptised and ordained a priest. It is a very remarkable building that was erected in 1855 and celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2005, for which the Oratory choir came along.

For a number of years in the 1970's and 1980's it was in the care of the redoubtable Bishop Joseph Cleary of Cresima, auxiliary of Birmingham, and kept up a high standard of worship with sung latin liturgy. It then went into decline, but recently a group of Polish Paulist Fathers, who care for shrine of Our Lady of Jasna Gora have taken it on, and it has begun to revive. It is indeed in very good condition after restoration.

The sanctuary

Lady chapel

Chapel of St. Therese of Lisieux

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Fr. Guy Nicholls' Silver Jubilee

Today a special mass was held at the church of St. Mary and St. John, Wolverhampton, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ordination to the priesthood of our Fr. Guy Nicholls, priest of the Birmingham Oratory. He was ordained on the vigil of the Assumption, August 14th 1983. It was a solemn high mass in Latin, and we the Oratory choir came along to sing. In the meantime I took these photos from the choir gallery.

We sang the Missa O Quam Gloriosum by Victoria, Sacerdotes Domini by Byrd at the Offertory, and Mozart's Ave Verum along with the Gregorian propers for the feast of the Assumption. For us this is very easy and familiar bog standard Sunday music, and it was all a great sucess, with the acoustics of the church perfect.

The Gospel, and the Offertory, with Frs. Andrew Wadsworth and Anton Guziel as deacons.

After mass we has a reception in the parish hall, and we gave a toast to him on 25 years of priesthood, which coincided with the wedding anniversary of his parents. Fr. Petroc Howells told the story a three Staffordshire jurors who were deprived off the bench for being 'Popishly affected.' Well, may Father Guy remain equally so!

Here is a photo of him just recently ordained, wearing the same vestment as his silver jubilee mass.

Here also is one of the ordaining bishop, the late Bishop Joseph Cleary, a great and renowned Auxiliary of Birmingham who was also the parish priest, and from which I received my confirmation in St. Mary's, Harvington.

Ad multos annos!

Friday, 15 August 2008

Happy feastday!

Assumpta est Maria in caelum: gaudent angeli laudantes benedicunt Dominum.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

The Newman Reader

There is a website available which has most of Cardinal Newman's writings online, which is maintained by the National Institute for Newman studies: it is

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Incense on a grand scale

In the Birmingham Oratory considerable quantities of incense are used, particularly on the feast of Corpus Christi when two thuribles are used creating great clouds before the Blessed Sacrament. So much so this causes problems with the organs, as a thick oily deposit is left on the organ pipes causing them to go out of tune. However, all this pales into insignificance in comparison to this giant thurible in Santiago da Compostela in Spain.

Acknowledgements to Fr. Tim.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The Oratory Assumption Triduo

Tonight begins the Triduo for the feast of the Assumption in the Birmingham Oratory, a service of prayers for the Oratory and the conversion of Birmingham. One particular feature of this service is that awful hymn by Fr. Faber, 'Sing, sing ye angel bands', in which every year some people struggle to hit top F at 'higher, still and higher, through fields of starry light'! It is indeed a cause for much mirth. Nevertheless we are one of the the very few catholic churches in England to keep up what was a common devotional practice in the nineteen century: long may it continue!

Monday, 11 August 2008

Mass for the Beatification of Cardinal Newman

Today we had our annual mass for the beatification of the Venerable John Henry Newman. It is somewhat unusual as it is the only festal high mass which the choir sing at and is in English rather than Latin! Also it is one of the few times in the year in which the Missa de Angelis is sung: not one of the best plainsong ordinaries.

This year may well be the last occasion in which we celebrate this mass: the beatification is almost certain to go ahead, and as August 11th, the date of Newman's death, coincides with the memorial of St. Clare of Assisi, the feast will be celebrated on a different date. These are indeed exciting times for the Oratory.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

The last prayers by Newman's graveside

This afternoon we held our annual prayers by the graveside of Cardinal Newman, and this year may well be for the last time. If all goes to plan, God willing, his body shall exhumed in the autumn and his mortal remains transferred to a marble tomb in the Oratory church.

But most of all, by this time next year let us hope he has been declared blessed, and our prayers will be for his canonisation.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Novena for the Assumption

Every year I make this novena, beginning on the Feast of the Transfiguration on August 6th, and finishing on August 14th, vigil of the Assumption and commemoration of St. Maximilian Kolbe. This year I am making a special intention for the repose of the soul of my grandmother.

Our Father...
I believe...
Hail Mary...
Glory be...

V. Pray for us, O holy mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.

Almighty and ever living God, by whose power the body and soul of the Virgin Mary was assumed into heaven without spot or stain, grant by her intercession that we may come to share in the resurrection of her only son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and so come to the joys of eternal life. We ask this through the same Christ our Lord, Amen.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Back from Ireland

I have just returned from a very hectic week travelling to and from Ireland, where my grandmother's funeral was held at Kilquade in County Wicklow. Hence I have had no time to do blog posts, and of course it has been fairly sad for myself and my family. Today one of the Birmingham Oratory fathers kindly said a requiem mass for her in the 1962 missal. Please do keep her in your prayers.

Requiescat in pace. Amen.


Fidelium Deus omnium Conditor et Redemptor, animabus famulorum famularumque tuarum remissionem cuntorum tribue peccatorum: ut indulgentiam, quam semper optaverunt, piis supplicationibus consequantur. Qui vivis et regnas cum Deo Patre in unitate Spiritus Sancte Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen

Monday, 4 August 2008

Sheila Mary Hayes R.I.P.

Please pray for the repose of the soul of my late grandmother, Sheila Mary Hayes, who died yesterday. May her soul and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Some churches of Paris

Paris does of course have many fine churches, but unlike Poland and Malta most of them tend to be dirty, neglected and in bad repair, not to mention wreckovated. They are indeed a visible sign of the state of French Catholicism. However there are some exceptions to the rule. Here is Saint Trinite, where adoration was going on.

I went to mass in Saint Eugene by the conservatoire, a nineteenth century church below where they have high mass in the 1962 missal. It attracts a respectable crowd, but one feels that there could be more. For vespers I went to St. Nicolas du Chardonnets, the SSPX church. It seems to be the only genuinely Catholic church in Paris.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame of course needs no introduction. It is more crowded with tourists rather than worshippers however.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

The shrine at the Rue de Bac

Last weekend I managed to make two brief visits to the chapel of the Rue de Bac, where Our Lady appeared to St. Catherine Laboure and gave her the miraculous medal. It is not particularly impressive, but there are always considerable numbers of faithful around. I remember last year on the Feast of the Assumption, I could not get in for the masses of people.

Friday, 1 August 2008

The Carmel and Cathedral of Lisieux

Lisieux as a town is not particularly impressive, as it was virtually flattened in World War II by the D-Day invasion of Normandy, and has been largely rebuilt in modern style. The Carmel and the Cathedral remain. However both are examples of liberal French Novus Ordo Catholicism. The community no longer keep the strict enclosure and wear short modern habits, while their chapel has well and truly been wreckovated, as you can see below:

The Carmel chapel

The Carmel exterior

Shrine to Ste. Therese

The cathedral of St. Pierre is fairly small and seems almost English in feel and appearance. But like so many French cathedrals, it has an air of neglect.

Cathedral interior

West end