Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Patricians talk: Catholic marriage today

How in the face of the complete breakdown in the understanding of the integral unity of marriage, which embraces love, union of man and woman and procreation of offspring, are we to carry out the Catholic married state? It seems to be almost a matter of despair among many of the clergy and the faithful that young catholic couples are just as likely to experience marital breakdown as their pagan counterparts.

Yet what is not often realised is that Catholic marriage, moral teaching and faith is a sign of contradiction that is to be hated and despised by the world. The harsh reality is that in order to maintain and uphold the true vocation of marriage, we have absolutely no choice but to reject contemporary culture and the way of life of our age, and to suffer for it. In other words, we must be witnesses to the truth, to the point where we may have to renounce our lives.

The stark reality is that Catholic young people will have to be taught that their faith is one which will cause them to suffer hatred and rejection by their peers. To be truly Catholic means for us to be prepared to be an alien and anti - social body in society that lives in manifest contradiction to the values of our time. We will be hated and despised for upholding the name of Our Lord, and no more so than in the state of matrimony.

For far too long the church in England and Wales has bent over backwards to achieve social acceptance and integration among pagan society, rather than proclaim the Gospel in and out of season. This has no more become more manifest than in a Catholic education system in this country which has virtually apostatised. However the time of compromise is coming to an end. We are facing a secular establishment that is demanding that we accept openly immoral laws such as same sex marriage, and acquiesce fully in the culture of death.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Hope of reconcilliation?

The Transalpine Redemptorists based on Papa Stronsay in the Orkney Islands have just issued this statement in which they seem to be open to the possibility of becoming regularised with Rome. Keep them in your prayers.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Silly bishops!

Having forced upon us the transfer of the feasts of the Epiphany, Ascension and Corpus Christi to the nearest Sunday completely against the general wishes of the laity, the English bishops are trying to do the same to the 1962 missal! It seems that the idea that some churches might keep the old feasts does not cut much ice with them. This is the request they made to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei:

Following a request for information the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales submitted a dubium to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei which confirmed that in the Roman Rite, whichever Form of the liturgy is being celebrated, the Holydays of Obligation are held in common. Where the obligation has been removed and the Holyday transferred to the Sunday, the Epiphany of the Lord, the Ascension of the Lord and Corpus Christ, this is to be followed in both Ordinary and Extraordinary celebrations of Mass.

Let us hope that this does not cut too much ice in Rome.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Ascension day mass

Next Thursday we will have a mass for the Feast of the Ascension according to the 1962 missal. This is now part of the official Oratory liturgy since the feast was transferred by the English bishops to the nearest Sunday. Here are some photos of last year's mass (courtesy of Jackie Parkes):

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Patricians talk: the revolt of Eros

One of the more astonishing things about the modern consciousness is the general view that falling in love is now a completely separate matter from getting married and having children. In university nowadays it is almost de rigour for students to have sexual relationships of love, but the notion that this being done by means of marriage with the consequence of bearing children causes at best astonishment. The concept of sexual love binding together man and woman for life till death do you part is barely understood by most people. It is considered perfectly normal to live together in a state of concubinage, with the possibility that either party can completely end the relationship.

Part of the reason why has of course been the contraceptive mentality, which has completely divorced sex and procreation of children. But this I think is the consequence of something much more profound, and which dates long before the so -called sexual revolution of the 1960's. It is very understanding of the place of erotic love.

Erotic love is a sacred thing: it was created by God as a key ingredient in matrimony and procreation, and is an integral part of the human person. Both sacred scripture and the sacred liturgy talk in it's terms, to describe the relation of the soul to God, and Christ to his mystical body the church. Nevertheless, it has been damaged by original sin, and since the fall has to be made subject to reason and the order of grace.

What has happened now? Eros has gone wild, been cut off from matrimony, and now has become a God in its own right. Having effectively been condemned as part of the corruption of human nature by the protestant reformation, and separated from the life of grace and sanctification, it was bound to revolt. This was to happen in the romantic movement in the 18th and 19th centuries, which stressed the primacy of feeling against cold reason and law.

Romanticism made falling in love a form of redemption, whereby one achieved a state of ecstatic bliss in the moment of passion, which transcended the experience of the ordinary world. But this was not as a part of marriage: love now becomes an experience that destroys the lovers, whereby they achieve death at the high peak of bliss. Eros has become a force that rejects life and procreation.

No more so does this come apparent in the music of Richard Wagner, which have been enormously influential in modern culture, particularly in contemporary films and film music. The characters Tristan and Isolde, as well as Sigmund and Sieglinde in the Ring cycle, are one's whose love is illicit and outside matrimony, and is so powerful and strong that they are destroyed by it. This is a common motif in modernity, and is repeated time and time again in modern literature and film culture.

Richard Wagner

But this worship of erotic love as a God did never achieve its aims. It was to quickly degenerate to a point where 'love' has just become another word for promiscuity. So what shall be the response of us who are Christians, and who are trying to be faithful to the church's teachings? I will try to follow on in another post.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Newman's beatification update

It seems that the latest news from the Vatican is that the doctors and medical specialists investigating the case have unanimously decided that the miracle on Deacon Jack Sullivan is beyond natural explanation. This will mean that the process will move on to the next stage, to undergo the scrutiny of the theologians.

However what this probably means that the beatification is not absolutely for definite: all the necessary stages have to be passed through. But this certainly a piece of good news!

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Newman's beatification (for real this time?)

The following news article has come in from the Catholic News Agency via the Birmingham Mail. Let us hope that it is not another false alarm like last time in January.

The Vatican has approved the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, the English convert and theologian who has had immense influence upon English-speaking Catholicism, the Birmingham Mail reports.

John Henry Newman was born in 1801. As an Anglican priest, he led the Oxford Movement that sought to return the Church of England to its Catholic roots. His conversion to Catholicism in 1845 rocked Victorian England. After becoming an Oratorian priest, he was involved in the establishment of the Birmingham Oratory. He died in 1890 and is buried at the Oratory country house in Rednal.

The Catholic Church has accepted as miraculous the cure of an American deacon’s crippling spinal disorder. The deacon, Jack Sullivan of Marshfield, Massachusetts, prayed for John Henry Newman’s intercession. At his beatification ceremony later this year, John Henry Newman will receive the title “Blessed.” He will need one more recognized miracle to be canonized.

The case of a 17-year-old New Hampshire boy who survived serious head injuries from a car crash is being investigated as a possible second miracle.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

St. George

Today is the feast of St. George, patron of England. Little is actually known of his real life: he was a Roman soldier who was martyred for the faith under the Emperor Diocletian. He was born between AD 275 and 281, Nicomedia, Bithynia in modern-day northwestern Turkey, and died on April 23, 303, Lydda in Palestine. As far as I know his becoming the patron saint of England largely dates from the time of the crusades.

St. George is popularly associated with the famous legend of him slaying the dragon. Today this is much dismissed as a medieval fantasy, yet it is highly symbolic, for the dragon that is slain is none other than the beast of the apocalypse. He may seem an unusual choice for this country, but in fact it is very appropriate for we have always been a country with a very strong military tradition. As St. George slayed the dragon, it was England that was to save Western Europe from the terrible scourge of totalitarianism in World War II.

It is a sign of hope that the celebration of his day has been revived recently. Entirely secular though the intentions may have been, the Feast of St. George has recently been raised to a solemnity. His intercession for our country is much needed today: by his help and intercession may the dragon of the culture of death be slain.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Papal mass at Yankee Stadium

Here are a few images of the Holy Father's mass at the Yankee Stadium: a fitting end to his pastoral visit to the USA.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Benedict XVI at Ground Zero

Yesterday I watched our Holy Father conduct a prayer service at Ground Zero live on Sky News. Here are the pictures of the event: acknowledgements to Father Z.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Patricians talk: contractual marriage

If marriage in both the ancient pagan world and in the Catholic faith is seen as a sacred and religious union, how did the modern concept of marriage as a mere contract of convenience come about? How did it become desacralised? There are of course many reasons why this happened, but I think by far the most significant in forming the modern view has been the protestant reformation.

In Catholic belief, the joining of man and woman in marriage for the procreation of new life is a participation not only in the creative plan of God, but also in the life of grace and in the life of the Trinity. But there is one thing that also needs to be stressed: the human body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and is sacred. Consequently the nuptial joining of man and woman in a loving sexual union is an emphatically holy act. Indeed the Sarum rite of marriage consisted of the promise to be 'bonny and buxom in bed and board'!

Adultery, fornication and sexual perversions are grave sins precisely because they are acts of sacrilege and profanation against the dignity of the human person and what is a holy act. This is why sacred scripture treats both idolatry and sexual immorality as nearly identical evils. Sexual sins seek a pleasure in the wrong way and in the wrong place, without acknowledging the intrinsic sanctity of the human body.

The protestant reformation however rejected this sacramental view of marriage, and completely denied that it was a state of holiness. This was because of Luther's doctrine that the human state and condition was radically corrupted by sin. The human body is no longer the temple of the Holy Spirit, but a living corruption of sin. Hence it could not participate in the life of grace, but only be at best covered by God's mercy while remaining corrupt from within.

Consequently the marital sexual act is no longer a participation in a sacramental life of grace, but a participation in sin and corruption. Sex becomes an almost intrinsically sinful act. Nevertheless, the reformers could not deny that scripture taught that marriage was divinely instituted. Hence marriage now became a matter of utility, not a state of holiness. It is not difficult to see that this was one factor in the development of the view of bourgeois marriage whereby it becomes a mere institution of respectability and convenience. Married love is not seen as an essential component: instead it is something to be downplayed.

The reason why I say this is that I believe that the view of modernity at heart is one of Manichean despair, viewing erotic love is intrinsically evil: a legacy from protestant theology. It may seem that modernity may worship erotic love, but it is in a way that is completely cut off from the natural order of procreation. It has become a destructive force in the world. This is one reason why people today cannot understand the notion that erotic love ought to be subject to the law of grace and of reason. For them they are irrevocably opposed.

Eros, having been condemned by protestantism as part of human corruption, and pushed out of marriages of convenience, was bound to rebel. This was what happened in the Romantic movement, culminating in the operas of Richard Wagner, which have had untold influence on the modern consciousness. This will be subject of the next post.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Hold fast to sound teaching

Our Holy Father gave this address to an ecumenical gathering in the United States. It is well worth a read! Acknowledgements to Father Ray Blake.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

My heart abounds with gratitude to Almighty God - “the Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph 4:6) - for this blessed opportunity to gather with you this evening in prayer. I thank Bishop Dennis Sullivan for his cordial welcome, and I warmly greet all those in attendance representing Christian communities throughout the United States. May the peace of our Lord and Savior be with you all!

Through you, I express my sincere appreciation for the invaluable work of all those engaged in ecumenism: the National Council of Churches, Christian Churches Together, the Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, and many others. The contribution of Christians in the United States to the ecumenical movement is felt throughout the world. I encourage all of you to persevere, always relying on the grace of the risen Christ whom we strive to serve by bringing about “the obedience of faith for the sake of his name” (Rom 1:5).

We have just listened to the scriptural passage in which Paul - a “prisoner for the Lord” - delivers his ardent appeal to the members of the Christian community at Ephesus. “I beg you,” he writes, “to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called … eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:1-3). Then, after his impassioned litany of unity, Paul reminds his hearers that Jesus, having ascended into heaven, has bestowed upon men and women all the gifts necessary for building up the Body of Christ (cf. Eph 4:11-13).

Paul’s exhortation resounds with no less vigor today. His words instill in us the confidence that the Lord will never abandon us in our quest for unity. They also call us to live in a way that bears witness to the “one heart and mind” (Acts 4:32), which has always been the distinguishing trait of Christian koinonia (cf. Acts 2:42), and the force drawing others to join the community of believers so that they too might come to share in the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8; cf. Acts 2:47; 5:14).

Globalization has humanity poised between two poles. On the one hand, there is a growing sense of interconnectedness and interdependency between peoples even when - geographically and culturally speaking - they are far apart. This new situation offers the potential for enhancing a sense of global solidarity and shared responsibility for the well-being of mankind. On the other hand, we cannot deny that the rapid changes occurring in our world also present some disturbing signs of fragmentation and a retreat into individualism. The expanding use of electronic communications has in some cases paradoxically resulted in greater isolation.

Many people - including the young - are seeking therefore more authentic forms of community. Also of grave concern is the spread of a secularist ideology that undermines or even rejects transcendent truth. The very possibility of divine revelation, and therefore of Christian faith, is often placed into question by cultural trends widely present in academia, the mass media and public debate. For these reasons, a faithful witness to the Gospel is as urgent as ever. Christians are challenged to give a clear account of the hope that they hold (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

Too often those who are not Christians, as they observe the splintering of Christian communities, are understandably confused about the Gospel message itself. Fundamental Christian beliefs and practices are sometimes changed within communities by so-called “prophetic actions” that are based on a hermeneutic not always consonant with the datum of Scripture and Tradition. Communities consequently give up the attempt to act as a unified body, choosing instead to function according to the idea of “local options”. Somewhere in this process the need for diachronic koinonia - communion with the Church in every age - is lost, just at the time when the world is losing its bearings and needs a persuasive common witness to the saving power of the Gospel (cf. Rom 1:18-23).

Faced with these difficulties, we must first recall that the unity of the Church flows from the perfect oneness of the Trinitarian God. In John’s Gospel, we are told that Jesus prayed to his Father that his disciples might be one, “just as you are in me and I am in you” (Jn 17:21). This passage reflects the unwavering conviction of the early Christian community that its unity was both caused by, and is reflective of, the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This, in turn, suggests that the internal cohesion of believers was based on the sound integrity of their doctrinal confession (cf. 1 Tim 1:3-11). Throughout the New Testament, we find that the Apostles were repeatedly called to give an account for their faith to both Gentiles (cf. Acts 17:16-34) and Jews (cf. Acts 4:5-22; 5:27-42).

The core of their argument was always the historical fact of Jesus’s bodily resurrection from the tomb (Acts 2:24, 32; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30). The ultimate effectiveness of their preaching did not depend on “lofty words” or “human wisdom” (1 Cor 2:13), but rather on the work of the Spirit (Eph 3:5) who confirmed the authoritative witness of the Apostles (cf. 1 Cor 15:1-11). The nucleus of Paul’s preaching and that of the early Church was none other than Jesus Christ, and “him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). But this proclamation had to be guaranteed by the purity of normative doctrine expressed in creedal formulae - symbola - which articulated the essence of the Christian faith and constituted the foundation for the unity of the baptized (cf. 1 Cor 15:3-5; Gal 1:6-9; Unitatis Redintegratio, 2).

My dear friends, the power of the kerygma has lost none of its internal dynamism. Yet we must ask ourselves whether its full force has not been attenuated by a relativistic approach to Christian doctrine similar to that found in secular ideologies, which, in alleging that science alone is “objective”, relegate religion entirely to the subjective sphere of individual feeling. Scientific discoveries, and their application through human ingenuity, undoubtedly offer new possibilities for the betterment of humankind. This does not mean, however, that the “knowable” is limited to the empirically verifiable, nor religion restricted to the shifting realm of “personal experience”.

For Christians to accept this faulty line of reasoning would lead to the notion that there is little need to emphasize objective truth in the presentation of the Christian faith, for one need but follow his or her own conscience and choose a community that best suits his or her individual tastes. The result is seen in the continual proliferation of communities which often eschew institutional structures and minimize the importance of doctrinal content for Christian living.

Even within the ecumenical movement, Christians may be reluctant to assert the role of doctrine for fear that it would only exacerbate rather than heal the wounds of division. Yet a clear, convincing testimony to the salvation wrought for us in Christ Jesus has to be based upon the notion of normative apostolic teaching: a teaching which indeed underlies the inspired word of God and sustains the sacramental life of Christians today.

Only by “holding fast” to sound teaching (2 Thess 2:15; cf. Rev 2:12-29) will we be able to respond to the challenges that confront us in an evolving world. Only in this way will we give unambiguous testimony to the truth of the Gospel and its moral teaching. This is the message which the world is waiting to hear from us. Like the early Christians, we have a responsibility to give transparent witness to the “reasons for our hope”, so that the eyes of all men and women of goodwill may be opened to see that God has shown us his face (cf. 2 Cor 3:12-18) and granted us access to his divine life through Jesus Christ. He alone is our hope!

God has revealed his love for all peoples through the mystery of his Son’s passion and death, and has called us to proclaim that he is indeed risen, has taken his place at the right hand of the Father, and “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead” (Nicene Creed).

May the word of God we have heard this evening inflame our hearts with hope on the path to unity (cf. Lk 24:32). May this prayer service exemplify the centrality of prayer in the ecumenical movement (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio, 8); for without it, ecumenical structures, institutions and programs would be deprived of their heart and soul. Let us give thanks to Almighty God for the progress that has been made through the work of his Spirit, as we acknowledge with gratitude the personal sacrifices made by so many present and by those who have gone before us.

By following in their footsteps, and by placing our trust in God alone, I am confident that - to borrow the words of Father Paul Wattson - we will achieve the “oneness of hope, oneness of faith, and oneness of love” that alone will convince the world that Jesus Christ is the one sent by the Father for the salvation of all.

I thank you all.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Patricians talk: marriage in the ancient world

In the book of Genesis we have the view of marriage that was created and intended by God before the fall of man, where both man and woman are 'flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone.' The narrative presents the couple as naked and knowing no shame. Why? Because they were in a state whereby the passions of the body where totally subordinate and under the control of reason.

And later in Genesis we are given dramatic imagery of the consequences of the fall and of original sin. Adam and Eve were driven out of the state of paradise and forced to live in a hostile world. Relations between them become one of suspicion, jealousy and mistrust, and they become ashamed of each other: the reality of the human condition.

This is pretty much an allegory of the ancient pre - christian world where man existed in a state in need of redemption. Nevertheless despite the fall much of the original sanctity of marriage still remained. In pagan cultures it was a sacred rite of passage and a participation in a great unknown mystery of existence and procreation. Marriage remained an institution that united two in a full union of body and soul, a full religious participation in a great order of the unknown.

Christianity did not reject this pagan view of marriage: far from it, it exalted it. The great unknown order of life and existence became revealed in the mystery of the three persons of the Trinity. Marriage was no longer a participation in the great unknown, but instead a participation in the revealed life of the God himself, who had become flesh, and subjected himself to human parents. It was exalted from a pagan mystery to a sacrament, and a full participation in the life of grace.

Nevertheless what the ancient pagan and Christian views of marriage share in common is that marriage is an enfactically religious union and a sharing in the life of the divine, of such profundity that it was a union that only death could break. Also it is a holistic union in which the components of love, procreation, and union of two persons are inseparable from each other. It was completely foreign to the ancient world to conceive of marriage as a contractual union of convenience that could be broken at will: the view that has become very prevalent today. How this came about I shall try to tackle next.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Interview of Pope Benedict XVI

The following is a transcript of certain questions put to our Holy Father by Fr. Federico Lombardi and several journalists on his way to his pastoral visit of the USA. I have posted this as it gives a fascinating insight into certain issues of the US church as well as in particular church - state relations. Acknowledgements to John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter.

Lombardi: In the name of all those present, thank you for your kind willingness to be with us this morning, to greet us and also to give us some ideas about this trip. It’s your second inter-continental trip, and your first as Holy Father to the United States and the United Nations. It’s a very important trip, much anticipated. Can you say something to us about your sentiments and your hopes with which your approach this trip, and what your fundamental objectives are?

Benedict XVI: My trip has basically two objectives. The first is a visit to the church in America, in the United States, and naturally also the entire country. There’s a particular motive, which is that 200 years ago the Archdiocese of Baltimore was elevated as a metropolitan archdiocese, and at the same moment two or three other dioceses were created … Philadelphia, Boston, Louisville. It’s a great jubilee for the church in the United States. It’s a moment of reflection on the past, but also on the future, on how to respond to the great challenges of our time that will present themselves in the future.
Naturally, the inter-religious and ecumenical encounters are an important part of this trip, as is the encounter in the synagogue with our Jewish friends on the vigil of their Passover festival. That’s the religious and pastoral aspect … the church in the United States in this moment of our history, and the encounter with all the others in this common humanity which leads to a common sense of responsibility.At this point, I want to thank President Bush who is coming to the airport and has devoted considerable time to our meeting, and who is also receiving me on the occasion of my birthday.
The second objective is the visit to the United Nations, and also here there’s a particular motive. This is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It’s an expression of the founding philosophy of the United Nations and the human and spiritual basis upon which it’s constructed. Thus it’s a moment of reflection and to refresh awareness of this important moment in history, that in this declaration of human rights diverse cultures came together. There’s an anthropology that recognizes the human being as a subject of rights prior to all institutions, with a value that must be respected by everyone. This trip, given a moment of a crisis of values, gives us the opportunity to build upon what was begun in this moment and to exploit it for the future.

Lombardi: Now we’ll turn to the questions that you yourselves presented in recent days and that some of us will present to the Holy Father. We’ll start a question from John Allen, who I don’t think needs an introduction. He’s a well-known commentator on Vatican affairs in the United States.

Allen: Holy Father, I’ll ask my question in English. I know you will speak principally in Italian, but we would be grateful for at least a few words in English. The Catholic church in the United States is large and dynamic, but also suffering, above all because of the recent sexual abuse crisis. The American people are waiting to hear what you have to say on this subject. What will your message be?

Benedict XVI: It is a great suffering for the church in the United States, for the church in general, and for me personally that this could happen. If I read the histories of these victims, it’s difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betrayed in this way their mission to give healing and to give the love of God to these children. We are deeply ashamed, and we will do all that is possible that this cannot happen in the future.I think we have to act on three levels.The first is the level of justice, the juridical level. We now have also norms to react in a just way. I would not speak in this moment about homosexuality, but pedophilia, [which] is another thing. We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry, this is absolutely incompatible. And who is really guilty of being a pedophile cannot be a priest. So the first level is, as we can do justice and help clearly the victims, because they are deeply touched. So [there are] two sides of justice, on the one hand that pedophiles cannot be priests; on the other hand, to help in all the possible ways to the victims.The second level is the pastoral level, the level of healing and help of assistance and of reconciliation. This is a big pastoral engagement, and I know that the bishops and the priests and all the Catholic people in the United States will do all possible to help assist and to heal, and to help that in the future these things cannot happen.The third point [is that] we have made a visitation in the seminaries to also do what is possible in the education of seminarians for a deep, spiritual, human and intellectual formation –with discernment so that only sound persons can be admitted to the priesthood, only persons with a deep personal love for Christ and a deep sacramental love, to exclude that this can happen [again]. I know that the bishops and the rectors of seminarians will do all that is possible so that we have a strong discernment, because it’s more important to have good priests than to have many priests. This is also our third level, and we hope that we can do, and we have done, and we will do in the future, all that is possible to heal this wound.

Lombardi: Thank you, Your Holiness. Another theme upon which we had many questions from our colleagues was that of immigration, reflecting the growing presence of Hispanics in the society of the United States. We’ll have a question from our colleague Andres Beltramo, from the Notimex agency in Mexico.

Beltramo: I’ll ask the question in Italian, but we would love to have just a greeting in Spanish. With the enormous growth in the Hispanic presence, the Catholic church in the United States is becoming steadily more bilingual and bicultural. Yet there’s also a growing “anti-immigrant” movement in America. Do you intend to invite the United States to welcome immigrants well, many of whom are Catholic?

Benedict XVI: Unfortunately I’m not ready to speak in Spanish, but I offer a greeting and blessing for all the Spanish-speakers! Certainly I’ll talk about this subject. I recent had the ad limina visit from the bishops of Central America, also South America. I saw the scope of this problem, above all the grave problem of the separation of families. This is truly dangerous for the social, human and moral fabric of these countries.It seems to me that we have to distinguish between measures to be taken immediately, and longer-term solutions. The fundamental solution [would be] that there is no longer any need to immigrate, that there are sufficient opportunities for work and a sufficient social fabric that no one any longer feels the need to immigrate. We all have to work for this objective, that social development is sufficient so that citizens are able to contribute to their own future.
On this point, I want to speak with the President, because above all the United States must help countries develop themselves. Doing so is in the interests of everyone, not just this country but the whole world, including the United States.In the short term, it’s very important above all to help the families. This is the primary objective, to ensure that families are protected, not destroyed. Whatever can be done, must be done. Naturally, we have to do whatever’s possible against economic insecurity, against all the forms of violence, so that they can have a worthy life.I’d like also to say that although there are many problems, so much suffering, there’s also much hospitality [in America.] I know that the bishops’ conference in America collaborates a great deal with the Latin American bishops’ conference. Together they work to help priests, laity and so on. With so many painful things, it’s also important not to forget much good and many positive actions.

Lombardi: Thank you, Your Holiness. Now we’ll have a question that refers to American society, the place of religious values in American society, from our colleague Andrea Tornielli, the Vatican writer of the newspaper Il Giornale.

Tornielli: Holy Father, in receiving the new ambassador of the United States of America, you cast in a positive light the public value of religion in the United States. I’d like to ask if you consider this a possible model also for secularized Europe? Also, is there also a risk that religion and the name of God can be abused for supporting a certain political stance, including war?

Benedict XVI: Certainly we can’t simply copy the United States. We have our own history, and we must learn from each other.What I find fascinating about the United States is that they began with a positive concept of secularism. This new people was composed of communities and people who had separated from state churches, and they wanted to have a secular state which would open possibilities for all the confessions and all the forms of religious expression. It was an expressly secular state, and it was directly opposed to a state-church. It was secular precisely out of love of religion, for the authenticity of religion, which could be lived only in freedom. Thus we find a state that’s expressly secular, but favorable to religion in order to give it authenticity.We know that the public institutions in America, albeit secular, draw on a de facto moral consensus that exists among the citizens. This seems to me fundamental and positive to consider, also in Europe. But in the meantime, more than 200 years of history have passed with so many developments. Also in the United States, they’ve had a new form of secularization, a new secularism, which is entirely different. They also have new problems, such as immigration, the “Wasp” ideology, and all these problems. The situation has become complicated and differentiated in the course of history, but the fundamental idea seems to me even today worthy of being observed.

Lombardi: Thank you, Your Holiness. Now we’ll have the last question, dealing with the theme of the visit to the United Nations. It will be asked by John Thavis, the bureau chief in Rome of the Catholic News Service.

Thavis: Holy Father, the pope is often considered the conscience of humanity, and this is one of the reasons your address at the United Nations is highly anticipated. Do you think a multi-lateral institution such as the UN can protect the non-negotiable principles defended by the Catholic church, meaning those rooted in natural law?

Benedict XVI: This is precisely the fundamental objective of the United Nations, to protect the common values of humanity upon which the peaceful coexistence of nations is based, the pursuit of justice and development against injustice. There’s an idea I’ve already touched upon which seems to me to be fundamental for the United Nations, and that’s the idea of human rights, the rights expressed by them as non-negotiable in all situations, are the fundamental principles of the institution. It’s important that there be this convergence among the cultures, which found a consensus that these values are fundamental and are written in the being of the human person. To renew this awareness, that the United Nations and its peacekeeping mission can work only if it’s based on fundamental rights held in common by all. To confirm this fundamental conception and to reinforce it as much as possible is an objective of my mission.At the beginning, Fr. Lombardi asked about my sentiments. I’d like to say that I’m going with joy. I’ve been in the United States several times, I know this great country, and I also know the great life of the church despite all the problems. I’m happy to be able to meet in this historical moment, both through the church and my visit to the United Nations, this great country.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Talk given to the Patricians on marriage

Last Sunday one of the Oratory fathers had asked me to give a talk again to a group organised by the Legion of Mary called the Patricians. Here the speaker expounds on a certain theme or topic of the faith, this is open to discussion and one of the Oratory Fathers gives a summary. The theme this time was: Where and why have all the marriages gone? I agreed to do this, but I said it wouldn't make any preparation and talk off the top of my head!

Thankfully the talk went reasonably well, and as it is such a pertinent subject I thought I might write down the points I made at it in a few posts. Basically the theme was that marriage has degraded from being a sacred union to a mere contractual arrangement of little worth. Erotic love has become completely separated from it and has become a destructive force in its own right. I shall try to sketch the history of marriage and its breakdown, erotic love in the modern consciousness, and try to bring out a few points for the future of Catholic marriage.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

The Oratory Easter Vigil: The Sevenfold Alleluia

Here is a point in the Easter liturgy that sometimes can be quite comic. The celebrant intones the Alleluia and the choir follows, and he reintones this again up in pitch twice over with us following. Then we have to sing the verse. This usually ends in a shambles, but this year it went relatively smoothly!

Monday, 14 April 2008

The Oratory Easter Vigil: The First Reading

After a hiatus due to technical problems, I continue with posting the Youtube clips.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

The hatred of the Christian family

One of the notorious clauses in the infamous Human Embryology and Fertilization act is the clause which eliminates the right of a child to a natural father. It is another manifestation of the great hostility to the family and in particular the christian family of the ruling and academic elites in our society.

Why this hostility to the family? Surely its enemies should know that for all its faults and failings it is the building block of any real social order? It needs no explanation that family breakdown is the root cause of almost all of our social problems on our city streets.

Many people say today that it is an 'outdated' institution and we should move with technological progress. It indeed seems that the intention of the forthcoming bill is to bring into being the horrific world described by Aldous Huxley in his novel Brave New World, written in the 1930's with prophetic accuracy. However I do not think that there could be anyone that could really want this to happen because they seriously think that it is a good thing and is the way forward for society.

It seems that the hatred of the family largely springs from embitteredness and resentment. It is the resentment over the fact that one's own childhood, upbringing and marriage has been a failure and a cruel disappointment, compared to the lives of others. And what will be resented and envied the most will be the family lives that are usually the happiest and most successful, those of good Catholic marriages.

Imagine someone who grew up in a pagan home: his parents were divorced and he grew up with his mother who remarried a man who had little affection for him. He lacked parental support in his life, in particular that of a good father. Later as he grew up his own love life was a disaster. Then he should see a happily married couple who are good Catholics, live upright lives and have many children.

Whatever the shortcomings and problems this family might have, their lives will be far better than his, and he will feel very bitter. His natural human desire will be to wish the destruction of this family life, and wish that they drink the full cup of his sufferings. He will wish for the systematic elimination of all the legal sanctions and protections for the family and marriage, which is exactly what our lawmakers are doing.

The sad truth is that we are in a vicious circle: the breakdown of family life is causing deep resentment and bitterness against that which remains, and is providing fuel for the movement to destroy it further. For those of us who have been happier in our family life, it is a reminded that we should not be smug towards the world outside. Instead we must have sympathy to those who have been less fortunate than ourselves, and consider just fortunate we have been.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

The Holy Father's vestments for WYD

An interesting article has come in from the Australian newspaper about the Holy Father's vestments for World Youth Day.

The Pope has decided he will not wear the vestments specially designed for World Youth Day and billed as "chic clergy couture" on the WYD website.

The "earthy-red" coloured vestments feature the Southern Cross constellation on the front and an indigenous feature titled "Marjorie's Bird" on the back.

The Pope is known to dislike vestment symbols that are not explicitly Christian. He may, though, wear some variation on the vestment design, a WYD spokeswoman said.

The snub may be the first of many in the clash of cultures between the liturgically and theologically conservative Pope Benedict XVI and the exuberance of the youth day.

Conservative liturgist Father Tim Deeter has already left Sydney and his WYD choirmaster position because of "stress", a WYD spokesman said.

Held over six days in Sydney in July, the day has a strong youth festival element, including music, performing arts, visual art exhibitions, debate, film, community gatherings, street performers, workshops and a vocations expo. But Tracey Rowland, author of a recently published book about the Pope titled Ratzinger's Faith, said Benedict was totally opposed to what he called "utility" music in the liturgy.

"Pope Benedict believes it's unacceptable to use pop music as a carrot to get people to go to church," she said, adding that he was critical of rock music outside the mass as well.

The Pope believes applause in church "was completely liturgically wrong", Dr Rowland said.

The Catholic Church expects 125,000 young members to flock to the youth day in Australia, where they will join 100,000 young Australians for the largest youth event in the world. They are expected to sleep at Randwick racecourse, where the Pope will celebrate mass on July 20 - possibly wearing a variation on the official WYD vestments theme.

Dr Rowland said she had not seen the WYD vestments, but the Pope would think it was very important that any symbols featured on the clothing were "explicitly and unequivocally Christian".

The vestments are now being produced in Bergamo, northern Italy, by Solivari, a company specialising in liturgical vestments. Seven hundred chasubles, the outer garment, will be produced for cardinals and bishops, and 3000 stoles - the strip of cloth worn around the neck - for priests and deacons.

WYD spokesman Jim Hanna said he had not heard of any difficulties arising from the Pope's conservative preferences. "I have seen no evidence of controversy brewing about the liturgy," he said.

Mr Hanna said the church continued to expect about 125,000 pilgrims from overseas, despite concerns that the strong Australian dollar and the Pope's imminent visit to the US might act as a deterrent.

"We are in regular contact with the bishops' conferences in most of the main countries - we check the numbers they give us all the time," he said. "What they're telling us at the moment is that the number of 125,000 is about right."

Friday, 11 April 2008

Cardinal O'Brien on the HE&F bill

Here is a Youtube clip of Cardinal Keith O'Brien on the Human Embryology and Fertilization Bill.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Passion for Life Campaign

Here is a website dedicated to exposing that most loathsome and infamous Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill that is currently going through parliament, which seeks among other things to abolish the right to a father and to create human - animal hybrids. It is not a Catholic aligned site, and it does give a good in - depth coverage of the issues concerned. Also here is a sample of one of their videos, Just a Block of Wood?

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

The fruit of Blair's conversion

We have waited to see when Tony Blair would show his true colours over his conversion to the Catholic faith, and recently news has come in from that he has participated in a fundraising dinner for the gay rights group Stonewall. At the same time he has been allowed to give a platform to speak in Westminster Cathedral. The full article can be seen here.

What I wrote about last December when he was received into the church by Cardinal Cormac Murphy - O'Connor has been confirmed: his conversion has not been in the least sincere, and has very grave consequences for the universal church. It will only be a matter of time before it comes to the point where he will vote for the 'pro - choice' lobby and he will have to be refused communion. But whether our bishops will stand firm on this is another matter.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

The Bacon Priest

Here is a Youtube clip from CNA of Fr. Werenfried Van Straaten, about his life and work. Acknowledgements to Fr. Tim at the Hermeneutic of Continuity.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

The Eagles: Life in the Fast Lane

As my friend Jackie Parkes is a self confessed Eagle's fan, I thought I might share an amusing boyhood memory. Some year back when I was living in rural Northamptonshire I used to go to mass with my siblings in a small country parish, and to get there all of us piled into a Volkswagon van. As you may well imagine this van was not exactly a racing car, had no windows one could open in the back, and had a small engine in the rear belching out fumes. So we all gathered in front to gasp a breath of fresh air while we were being asphyxiated.

To liven things up we used to play the Eagles song, 'Life in the Fast Lane', while the poor van struggled uphill on potholed roads in rural Northamptonshire! Nevertheless, my mother had a great affection for this vehicle despite her children's derision of it. Here is the song on Youtube: it brings back memories of boyhood piety (or lack of it for that matter)...

Snow in April

I woke up this morning to see thick snow, and I took this pictures from my bedroom window.

I continued to take a few more shots of North Edgbaston on my way to choir practice. Here was Gillott Road this morning.

And here was Portland Road. Even though we are in Paschaltide, it is almost like Christmas.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

The Oratory's Hallelujah Chorus

Tonight Ex Cathedra, the professional ensemble in which our Fr. Guy Nicholls sings in, has been performing Handel's Messiah. Unfortunately I have been unable to come to this event, but seeing it is on I thought I might give you a sample of some traditional Oratory music you will not find elsewhere. Here is a Latin adaptation of the Hallelujah chorus by William Sewell, the Director of Music at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. You can download it in PDF format here: the orchestral and organ parts are exactly the same as those published by Vincent Novello for the original.

It is sung at communion in the Easter Vigil mass. For us in the choir, it causes much mirth as rolled Rs and Xs fly all over the place when we sing 'Surrexit Christus de Sepulcro'! Nevertheless, it is a very joyous expression of the resurrection, and it is completely appropriate for the occasion: a piece that St. Philip Neri would highly approve of.

Friday, 4 April 2008

The Prickle Eye Bush

When I was staying with my parents some time back before I entered blogosphere I spent a few idle hours surfing the net in the computer room (a complete dump for the boys' toys!), and out of curiosity made a Google search of my own name. As I did this, I happened to discover this basic animation on the folk song, "The Prickle Eye Bush", which had been made up by another Oliver Hayes of eleven years. It is performed by the group Spiers and Bowden. Being an enthusiast for vernacular folk music both Western, Oriental and African, and being a cheerful song I have posted it right here. Here are the lyrics:


Oh, the prickle-eye bush, that breaks my heart so sore
If I ever get out of this prickle-eye bush
I'll never get in it any more

Hangman stay your hand, O stay it for a while
For I think I see my father coming over yonder stile
Father have you brought me gold, or silver to see me free
To save my body from the cold, cold ground
And my neck from the gallows tree?
No, I have not brought you gold, or silver to see you free
To save your body from the cold, cold ground
And your neck from the gallows tree

Oh, the prickle-eye bush...

Hangman stay your hand, O stay it for a while
For I think I see my mother coming over yonder stile
Mother have you brought me gold, or silver to see me free
To save my body from the cold, cold ground
And my neck from the gallows tree?
No, I have not brought you gold, or silver to see you free
To save your body from the cold, cold ground
And your neck from the gallows tree
Oh, the prickle-eye bush...

Hangman stay your hand, O stay it for a while
For I think I see my brother...

Oh, the prickle-eye bush...

Hangman stay your hand, O stay it for a while
For I think I see my true love coming over yonder stile
True love, have you brought me gold, or silver to set me free
To save my body from the cold, cold ground
And my neck from the gallows tree?
Yes, I have brought you gold, and silver to set you free
To save your body from the cold, cold ground
And your neck from the gallows tree

Oh, the prickle-eye bush, that breaks my heart so sore
If I ever get out of this prickle-eye bush
I'll never get in it any more.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

The Oratory Easter Vigil: Gloria 2

We continue on with part two of the Gloria. It is deliberately very long in order to give the altar servers time to uncover the images.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

The Oratory Easter Vigil: Gloria 1

Here is the clip of the Gloria intonation, organ fanfare and Heiligmesse Gloria by Joseph Haydn. During this the images in the church are uncovered. This is one of my favourite moments of the liturgy, particularly when the darkened church is flooded with light, and after the long days of Lent with no organ we hear it in it's full glory!

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

The Oratory Easter Vigil Exultet

The Easter Vigil in the Birmingham Oratory has been extensively filmed, and I shall be posting YouTube clips in the coming few days. Here is a clip of Fr. Guy Nicholls as deacon singing the Exultet, the ancient proclamation of Easter. As ever, he gives a stunning performance!