Thursday, 25 September 2008

Blogging holiday

Sorry folks: due to constraints on my time and energy at the moment I will have to take a break from blogging until November. However, I have not given up and may do the occasional posts in the meantime. So stay tuned!

Saturday, 20 September 2008


Here is a sex education comic, called 'Let's grow up with Nisha and Joe', aimed at six year old primary school children. It has been brought to our attention by Fr. Ray Blake:

It encourages young children to examine and explore their genitalia, showing naked children, and has been produced by the Family Planning Association. A pilot print run of 50,000 copies have been made for nationwide introduction. This is something that my good friend Jackie Parkes has gone ballistic about in the past, and will continue to do so in the future. But as for those who have produced this comic, the words of Our Lord himself seem particularly relevant:

It were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Happy Birthday, Jackie!

Today my friend, neighbour and fellow blogger Jackie Parkes of Catholic Mom of 10 fame celebrates her birthday: so here is a short post to wish her happy birthday! Here is a recent photo of her looking very well.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

New Blog

Lawrence England, a parishioner of Fr. Ray's has started a blog called That the bones you have crushed may thrill. Do give it a visit, as it looks very interesting!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Address of Benedict XVI to the French bishops

This is an address the pope gave to the French bishops in Lourdes on the first anniversary of Summorum Pontificem.

It is never too often said that the priesthood is indispensable to the Church, in the very own interest of the lay faithful. Priests are a gift from God to the Church. Priests must never delegate to the faithful [those] functions which are related to their own mission. Dear Brothers in the episcopacy, I ask you to remain desirous to help your priests live in intimate union with Christ. Their spiritual life is the foundation of their apostolic life. You shall exhort them gently to daily prayer and to a dignified celebration of the Sacraments, particularly of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation, as Saint Francis de Sales did with his priests. Every priest should be able to feel glad to serve the Church. At the school of the Curé d'Ars, son of your land and patron of all priests of the world, do not cease to repeat that a man can do no greater deed than to give the Body and the Blood of Christ to the faithful, and to forgive sins. ...

Liturgical worship is the supreme expression of priestly and episcopal life, and also of catechetical teaching. Your mission of sanctification of the faithful people, dear Brothers, is indispensable for the growth of the Church. I was prompted to detail, in the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, the conditions for the accomplishment of this mission, in that which relates to the possibility of using both the missal of Blessed John XXIII (1962) and that of Pope Paul VI (1970). The fruits of these new dispositions have already seen [the light of] day, and I hope that the indispensable pacification of the spirits is being accomplished, thank God.

I comprehend your difficulties, but I do not doubt that you will be able to reach, within reasonable time, solutions which are satisfactory to all, so that the seamless robe of Christ is not torn anymore. No one is excessive within the Church. Everyone, without exception, must be able to feel at home, and never rejected. God, who loves all men and wills that no one be lost, entrusts us with this mission of Pastors, making us Shepherds of His sheep. We can only give Him thanks for the honor and the confidence He places upon us. Let us endeavor to always be servants of unity.

Benedict XVI
Meeting with the Cardinals and Bishops of France,
Hémicycle «Saint Bernadette», Lourdes
September 14, 2008

Monday, 15 September 2008

Our Lady of Sorrows

Today is one of my favourite Marian feasts of the year, one which is particularly dear to me. Unlike most of the others such as the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption which focus on Our Lady in glory and power, this one focuses on Our Lady at her most human, and is intricately connected to the feast of her Immaculate Heart. It is a feast which tends to encourage a sober and unsentimental view of her, yet it is here when she is at her closest and most accessible for us.

The intercession of Our Lady of Sorrows is particularly relevant for those who have suffered failed marriages, broken homes and estrangement from their children. In her seven dolours she experienced all the pain of the married state. Let us call upon her help for marriage and the family, which is being attacked upon all sides.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

The Triumph of the Holy Cross

Today is the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. When we look around us, we see faith collapsing, the church falling apart and everywhere apostasy, dissent and rejection of the faith. But this feast tells us that death of Christ in his mystical body will lead to the church's resurrection in glory.

Indeed, all around amidst the church's collapse we are seeing signs of it's revival. Under the leadership of both John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the church has regained confidence and direction. Today is the first anniversary of Summorum Pontificem: what a difference has been made. And this year is the 150th anniversary of Our Lady's appearance saying: I am the Immaculate Conception.

Those who have hoped for the end of the Catholic church and her teachings are being confounded: heaven and earth shall pass away, but the Word of God shall remain for ever.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

We hate this hymn...

As I kneel before you,
as I bow my head in prayer,
take this day, make it yours,
and fill me with your love.

Ave Maria..

After having been forced to sing this hymn at Lourdes, and attracting considerable comment with my exasperation against it, I have decided to start a Facebook protest group! For those who like me can't stand it, it is:

We hate the hymn 'As I kneel before you,'

So if you are on facebook and you have had enough of it, do please join! My apologies to those who like this song; I loathe it!

Friday, 12 September 2008

The Holy Name of Mary

Today, September 12th, is the commemoration of the Holy Name of Mary. It originated in Spain in the sixteenth century, and was extended to the universal church after the victory of King Jan Sobieski of Poland in 1683 against the Turks in the siege of Vienna on that feastday. Through Our Lady's intercession, Europe was saved from Islamic domination. On a more personal note, the feast of the Holy Name of Mary is also the anniversary of the consecration of the basilica of Downside Abbey, my old school.

Why is the very name of Mary holy? It is because of her singular privilege of being conceived without sin, and being pre-redeemed by her son from the very moment of her conception. Far from detracting from the honour due to Our Lord, the incarnate word, she shows forth his great power: for all the honour due to her is from Him, and from Him alone.

In the liturgical reforms of 1969, the Holy Name of Mary was abolished from the calender, but in the last years of Pope John Paul II, by his personal intervention he restored the commemoration of both the Holy Name of Jesus and the Holy Name of Mary, for which we should be eternally grateful to him.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

I'm shattered...

Sorry folks for the lack of posts: I have been inundated at work! This morning I had to leave at half six in the morning, travel all the way to London for a two hour training session and have only just arrived home. Not unnaturally I'm absolutely shattered....

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Salve Regina by Manuel Arenzana

Here is a setting of the Salve Regina by the Mexican composer Manuel Arenzana (1762 - 1821), a real gem of the very rich legacy of South American church music. This music is often performed at the Oratory by the ensemble Ex Cathedra.

Acknowledgements to Fr. Ray Blake.

Monday, 8 September 2008

The Birthday of Our Lady

Today's feast usually coincides with the beginning of the academic year after the end of the summer holidays, and indeed my first term in Downside School began on this date. On this day it would be well to pray for students and seminarians. This marvellous feast originated in the church in the East, and it is generally believed that the date was chosen as it was seven days after the beginning of the civil year in Constantinople, on September 1st.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

The Lourdes Grotto

I finish up this series of posts of the GOBS Lourdes pilgrimage with a few photos of mass at the Grotto, which was said by our chaplain Fr. Terence Creech C.S.S.R. We were given seats at the front row.

After mass we filed past the spring as a group.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Trips out from Lourdes

As part the the GOBS pilgrimage, we usually make excursions out purely for fun. In previous years we went out to what is known as the Green Lake, a former quarry that has been converted in an amusement centre where there are water slides. It is great fun, but it was given a miss this year, much to my disappointment. Some of the group went out to St. Jean de Luz by the sea, but I decided not to go.

However as a consolation we made a trip into the mountains on a cloudy afternoon, where there were some toboggan rides, which I gladly partook.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

The Blessed Sacrament procession

On the penultimate day of our pilgrimage, our group turned out in force to join the Blessed Sacrament procession, which began at the Prairie and finishes in the underground basilica of St. Pius X.

Most of the group remained in the underground basilica for the procession, watching it on the screens. As I was carrying the banner, I had to go to the Prairie to join the other banner bearers, and as would be expected, everywhere was packed out to the rafters.

Here is myself, with the banner of a rather butch Archangel Michael guarding two children.

The blessing of the sick with the holy sacrament is a long established Lourdes tradition, and it is here that the great majority of miracles and healings take place. The liberal liturgical establishment have done their best to turn it into a celebration of the 'people of God', and many of the chants were focusing on worshipping Christ in the 'gathering of the people'. Some of our group were asked to lead some of the intercessions: here are two of us in yellow.

The underground basilica is a concrete monstrosity designed to accommodate the vast crowds, and has been likened to an underground car park. It could easily be converted into one. Here we all are gathered at the front:

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Torchlight rosary procession in Lourdes

Every evening in the pilgrimage season a torchlit rosary procession is held at 9.00pm in Lourdes, where the rosary is recited publicly in multiple languages, interspersed with hymns, intercessions and various prayers.

This year due to the sheer number of pilgrims, it had to be rerouted and the size had to seen to be believes. Small groups lead the various nationalities, and one evening the GOBS were asked to lead the English group. Here we are getting ready:

So we gathered in the platform in the Praire grounds opposite the grotto in our yellows, and when our turn came, little Jacinta Parkes our youngest member said the rosary to which we answered. Unfortunately for myself we also had to lead everyone in singing that shocking hymn 'As I kneel before you,' which the rest of the group rather enjoyed. Perhaps Our Lady does have a sense of humour, or I was being made to do penance.

As for me, I had to resist the temptation to sing this version:

As I cringe before you,
as I hang my head in shame...

I will not repeat the rest, as it may cause considerable offense....

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The Cite St. Pierre

In the hills immediately above Lourdes lies the Cite St. Pierre, which was founded after in the second world war by a priest as a hostel for poor pilgrims and refugees.

In it lies a chapel which is an exact replica of the sheepfold of Bartres, where St. Bernadette tended sheep for a year before the apparitions.

It is there that the GOBS have their benefactors and deceased members mass, as it has in the past brought many graces, miracles and conversions for us. This year they commemorated my late grandmother.

The centre is largely staffed by young volunteers and now receives pilgrims from mainly Eastern Europe and the third world. It is also a centre for the scouting movement, and at one spot, known as the Cathedral of the Trees, a rather rowdy charismatic renewal gathering was being held with great vigour and energy...

I was to later discover many of the participants in this were also staying in our hotel, and we to be treated to many more displays of enthusiastic songs and prayers before meals!

Monday, 1 September 2008

The Grand Order of Babysitters (GOBS)

The pilgrimage group I went with has the fascinating title of the Grand Order of Babysitters, (GOBS, or gob smackers?) and largely exists to take children and young adults, often of deprived backgrounds, on holiday and pilgrimage to Lourdes. Here we are at a grotto mass:

It originally started out in 1969 as a group of seven bachelors, under the direction of a redoubtable Margaret O'Rourke, who volunteered to look after the children while their parents went for a night out after a hard days work. This group gave themselves the title originally as a joke, and also later invented its trademark: wearing yellow. Here is myself in GOBS attire.

Sooner or later however, the group turned from being a practical joke into something more serious and substantive, and a full uniform developed: yellow smocks and white aprons for the girls, and yellow T-shirts for the men.

This year will have been my sixth trip with the GOBS, coming for the Lourdes jubilee after a lapse of five years. They are still going strong under its high priestess Maggie, and next year will be the GOBS fortieth anniversary.