Tuesday, 29 September 2009


Today is the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, traditionally known in England as Michaelmas. This is a feast which has marked the beginning of autumn and of the new academic year in universities, as well as the end of the summer holidays (and the beginning of the grim long winter's nights...). There is also as far as I'm aware a superstition that it is bad luck to pick blackberries after this feast. If this is true, it does not bode well for me, as I have yet to harvest the considerable crop that appears in Birmingham for jam and puddings!

Sancte Michael Archangele,
defende nos in proelio;
contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium.
Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur:
tuque, Princeps militiae Caelestis,
satanam aliosque spiritus malignos,
qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo,
divina virtute in infernum detrude.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Absolutely shocking!

The Bishops of England and Wales have commissioned two songs from Mike Stanley of CJM Music fame for the visit of the relics of St. Therese of Lisieux. They have been brought to my attention recently as examples of 'Catholic' music that really takes the biscuit for sheer awfulness and saccharine sentimentality.

The MP3 files can be downloaded here: Child of Grace (Therese) and My Song of Today. Being an amateur composer, organist and singer myself (go to my CPDL site for what I have written), I thought I might listen and give my opinion. They are exactly as I have heard others describe them, and let me tell you, they require considerable stamina and guts to listen to. I must say, I take back all my harsh words against Maria Parkinson's As I kneel Before You. It sounds like Bach and Palestrina in comparison to this! And a word of warning: DO NOT LISTEN to the downloads without having a sick bucket handy.

I feel sorry for the Little Flower that such appalling music should have been written in her honour. Even I could do a better job than this shocking and embarrassing attempt! Why the hell couldn't the Bishops of England and Wales commission Britain's leading Catholic composer James MacMillan for the task? Now that would have indeed been a genuine and real act of devotion, for one of twentieth century's greatest saints.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Grant Roberts R.I.P.

Of your charity please pray for the repose of the soul of Grant Roberts, a long time stalwart of the Oratory parish community, the Latin Mass Society and one of the founding members of the Birmingham branch of the Walsingham Association. He died in hospital of a heart attack on the eve of the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham, following on severe cancer of the liver. This was just short of the 40th anniversary celebrations of the branch.

This morning an extraordinary form requiem was celebrated for his repose in St. Philip's chapel. May he and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace, Amen.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Walsingham Association Birmingham branch 40th anniversary mass

Yesterday the Birmingham branch of the Walsingham Association celebrated its fortieth anniversary with the mass of the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham celebrated by Bishop Philip Pargeter,Auxiliary of Birmingham. It was a very joyful occasion, but it was also overshadowed by the death of one of the founding members, Grant Roberts, yesterday. Please remember to pray for the repose of his soul.

Above is Bishop Pargeter delivering the homily: he celebrated the golden jubilee of his ordination this year. For those of you wondering, this is a concelebrated English novus ordo mass celebrated ad orientem! Below is Anne Roebuck leading the bidding prayers: the national Walsingham association chairman and stalwart of the Oratory parish.

Unfortunately due to the lighting in the Oratory unless you have professional equipment photographs come out with a red tinge! But that can't be helped. The mass continues with the offertory:

Bishop Pargeter leads the final prayer and blessing:

And then we have the procession of the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham around the church to the hymn, 'Sing the praises of Mary, the Mother of God.' The Walsingham mass is an annual event in September which is an integral part of the devotional life of the parish. There is a great tradition of devotion and pilgrimages to Our Lady of Walsingham here which was begun by the late Fr. Humphrey Crookenden, one of the Oratory fathers who died in 1978.

And finally, we had a buffet in the parish hall afterwards, where Bishop Pargeter was presented with a gift for his golden jubilee of ordination on behalf of the Walsingham Association members.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Pope to visit England next year

Just recently news has come from unofficial sources that Pope Benedict XVI will visit England next year, at a time that could well coincide with the upcoming beatification of Cardinal Newman. If this is true, let us hope he will come to visit us in the Oratory in Birmingham. If that does happen, it will be one of biggest news stories of the English church in years. And what a snub it will be to our enemies and critics! I would love to see the reaction of the Tablet and some of the Bishops of England and Wales to a papal high mass in the Oratory...

For nearly forty years, particularly during the church's grim Babylonian captivity in the 70's and 80's, we were an embattled ghetto holding fast to the doctrinal, liturgical and devotional traditions of the church often by the skin of our teeth. Now those days are well and truly over and we are seen as the model for the Benedictine reforms, particularly on the web. The combination of the beatification of our founder, with a visit from the Holy Father will be the vindication of our efforts and what we have stood for.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Public health warning!

Bones has issued an urgent health warning of a terrible new disease that has broken out across England and Wales. He explains in great detail the symptoms, potential remedies and what to do if you think that you have caught it.

It seems that I have caught a very mild form of it, but if you are a militant secularist suffering serious convulsions about what I have posted on in the last three days, please follow the link!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

The veneration of Saint Thérèse's relics

In Birmingham there is a great tradition of devotion to St. Thérèse of Lisieux and the Oratory is no exception. So deep is this that there are several parishes dedicated to her, almost every Catholic church has a shrine to her and Teresa is a very common name for Catholic girls in the city. So it was be expected there would be a big response to the visit of her relics, but not as great as I imagined!

Yesterday afternoon, after the service of Midday prayer was over for the arrival of Saint Thérèse's relics, seeing the sheer numbers of people present, I thought that it would be better to go away for an hour and wait for the crowds to subside. So after having a pint with some fellow Oratory parishioners, I came back to discover that the throng had not diminished but considerably increased! So much so that there was a long queue stretching right down the street.

Nevertheless, with a little patience I got in to venerate the casket. But very little time was given with only 5 seconds allowed to kneel before it, and then we were moved on. The sick and disabled were given priority, and were allowed to sit in the cathedral: and with just all of them alone the pews were filled to capacity!

Reports from the secularist media about the visit of the relics have ranged from cynicism at best to downright hysteria and bigotry. Most of talked about the usual knee - jerk 'medieval superstition', while some have even made thinly veiled demands that the authorities stop this event! I have seen articles saying, 'religious tolerance is being taken too far!', 'vast crowds being duped and led astray', 'politicians should not kowtow to fundamentalists', etc. etc.

But these people have good reason to react badly. The Little Flower is a saint who means business: the Nemesis of secularism and atheism! Indeed when I came back today, the crowds were even bigger, with the police maintaining a benign supervision of the event. I asked them how many people had come and how did they react to it. They told me they about 5000 - 10000 could have turned up, and yet this has been all very orderly and well organised with no problems whatsoever. Yet to secularist paranoia, Christian fundamentalist terrorists are in the making in this gathering..

Indeed, to give an idea of the scale of the crowds, here is the back of the queue towards the cathedral. It took about quarter of an hour to move through it to venerate.

This event was a real sign of Catholic unity and fellowship. People came from all across Birmingham, the Black Country and beyond, with every parish being represented, and with groups coming from other parts of the diocese in Stoke on Trent, Lichfield, Worcester and Coventry. Almost every nationality and ethnic group was represented, and Catholics whether liberal or traditionalist laid aside their differences to come together in prayer and veneration before the saint. Never once before I have seen such unity in diversity, and such a powerful sense of the mystical body of Christ. How good and how pleasant it is, when brothers live in unity!

The Franciscans of the Immaculate came down for the day from Burslem, Stoke on Trent, where they confirmed to me that five of them have just set up a new friary. They have now settled in well, and so my prayers have been answered. Deo Gratias! Later on they were to join us in the Oratory this evening for vespers.

But this is only the beginning! The relics have another month to tour England and Wales, and what we see here will be nothing compared with what will happen when the relics visit London. Let us hope that the media go wild with fury, for we will then know that the Little Flower has struck England's secularist heart.

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, pray for us.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

St. Thérèse comes to Birmingham

Today this afternoon at two o'clock the relics of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux arrived in St. Chad's cathedral, stopping over in Birmingham over the weekend during their tour of England and Wales. I arrived just in time to the joyous peeling of the cathedral bells, where the procession was just starting up.

Slipping through the crowds, I managed to catch a few pictures. Bishop Philip Pargeter, Auxiliary of Birmingham is leading the procession, while behind him are the nuns of the Carmel of Wolverhampton. For many of them, it may be their first day out in years.

And here is the reliquary, borne in procession to the cathedral:

I expected the cathedral to be busy, but I didn't realise that I would be very fortunate to get inside for the service that was to follow! We were held waiting by the doors while the stewards managed to squeeze in a few extra persons.

And when I got inside, it was standing room only!

Then followed sung Midday Prayer, led by Bishop Pargeter, with the nuns of Wolverhampton Carmel.

At the end of the recessional, we were asked to wait for official photographs of the occasion, before beginning veneration. Seeing the vast crowds, I thought it would be better to go away for an hour for them to subside, and come back later. However, I was in for a surprise when I came back! More later...

A glimmer of hope?

In recent years relations between us and the Russian Orthodox Church have considerably thawed since the election of Benedict XVI to the see of Peter, as will as the election of Patriarch Kyrill. Yesterday Archbishop Hillarion, head of the external affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate, met up with the Pope.

There has been much talk of imminent reunion between the two sister churches on the blogs. Personally, I think this is wildly optimistic. There is a very long tradition of bitterness, jealousy and rivalry between Russian Orthodoxy and Polish Catholicism which alas is still alive and kicking in the Ukraine, particularly over the issue of the Uniates. Also in Orthodoxy there are movements that are heavily tied up with Russian nationalism and identity (and Serbian and Greek in the other churches), and who are very violently opposed to any kind of collaboration, let alone reunion.

It is all too easy to forget that although doctrinally Catholicism and Orthodoxy are almost identical, Orthodoxy is otherwise in fact very different to us and in many respects just not the same. Their liturgy, iconography, mystical tradition, spiritual and devotional life, religious orders and brotherhoods are completely different and can be quite a shock to Catholics unfamiliar with them. The Orthodox likewise often strongly object to many Catholic practices such as the Sacred Heart, as they see them as not part of and conflicting with the patristic tradition, and look upon our scholastic tradition with disfavour.

But nevertheless, with God anything is possible. Benedict's theology is greatly admired in Orthodox circles. And what is more his initiatives such as Summorum Pontificem, and his courageous stance in affirming the church's moral teachings in the face of the world media, have been most warmly welcomed by them. There is a genuine feeling among many of the Russians that Orthodoxy and Rome need the support of each other in their witness against the destruction of family life and normalisation of homosexuality. With this in mind, let us ask Our Lady's help to heal an ancient rift, so that they may be one!

Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, pray for us.

Friday, 18 September 2009

A message to President Obama

Prolife Catholics at www.catholicvote.com have cribbed together this short Youtube message especially for President Obama and his policies. Enjoy!

H/T to Damian Thompson

Thursday, 17 September 2009

The church of St. John Fisher, West Heath

The church of St. John Fisher, West Heath, Birmingham, where we had the solemn high mass two days ago is a most remarkable building and comes as a considerable surprise for several reasons. Firstly, for what is an average outer suburban city parish founded in the mid fifties, it is not a concrete carbuncle but a quite hansom modern brick church built in the shape of a Greek cross. It is totally of the period it was built in idiom and style, yet completely in harmony with ecclesiastical architectural tradition.

But secondly, it was built from 1962 - 1964, right during the council, and yet was specifically designed for the traditional liturgy. And thirdly, it has completely escaped the liturgical vandalism of the post conciliar era, to the point where no permanent altar versus populum has been installed, as you can see below. A portable altar is placed in the sanctuary for the parish masses.

Touring the church, we find three side altars completely intact for Our Lady, St. Joseph and the Sacred Heart.

Our Lady

St. Joseph

Sacred Heart

Choir gallery

Alas, the organ, a once very fine electric action instrument, has given up the ghost and been completely vandalised by amateur attempts to repair it. To get it up and running again would cost a small fortune. Hence a dreadful Hammond sounding electric organ has been placed up there (exactly the same kind I once played in the church of St. Birinus, Dorchester on Thames, producing a very ugly sound).


Tuesday, 15 September 2009

High mass in West Heath for Our Lady of Sorrows

This evening my fellow blogger and local LMS rep Dr. Matthew Doyle had organised a High Mass in the 1962 missal at the church of St. John Fisher, West Heath. At last, things are beginning to move in Birmingham and the Black Country for the extraordinary form. Until Summorum Pontificem Catholic traditionalism here was virtually in a ghetto: a tiny minority of stalwarts confined to a poorly attended Sunday indult low mass in St. Catherine of Siena, Bristol Street, and then later in the cloister chapel in the Birmingham Oratory.

This was only supplemented by the occasional private mass, usually in the Oratory. It was very rare for the 1962 missal to be celebrated in any of the other parishes in the region, mainly because there was a lot of suspicion and bad feeling against it and it’s followers a decade ago. And this was very often from many clergy and laity who were otherwise loyal to the orthodox faith and church’s magisterium. I can remember well the bitter disputes about the ‘Tridentine Mass’ and the untold resentment that they caused 15 years ago. It was seen as ‘schismatic’, ‘right wing’ by some, while some traddies were saying the Novus Ordo was heretical and invalid!

However, those days are at last gone. The former Oratory cloister chapel indult mass has been moved into the main church, and now it is effectively another Sunday mass, like all the others. Numbers attending have considerably increased, attracting many newcomers. But not only that, it is beginning to move out the Oratory into the other parishes in the city. St. Chad’s cathedral had it’s first EF mass for 40 years last year, while an EF mass will hopefully be arranged in St. Michael’s, West Bromwich, in November. The change in atmosphere has been very noticeable on all sides, and vastly better.


This has been the second High Mass celebrated here this year, with the last of the parish's patronal festival of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More. (See Matt Doyle's report here). Some of us in the Oratory choir as well as our organist came along to provide the music, and we had a Gregorian mass with Mass IX Cum Jubilo as the ordinary. At the end of it, I had the comment from one lady, "It was wonderful, it is like looking into the future". If only Robert Mickens of Tablet fame could have been present to overhear this! Well, here are some photos I took from the choir gallery:



The chants for the mass of Our Lady of Sorrows are notoriously difficult, so for the Gradual and Alleluia we had to default to singing in monotone. The Stabat Mater sequence we made a heroic attempt at, and while it was very beautiful chant, we thought it better to sing it to the Stabat Mater hymn melody. However tonight showed that you do not need major resources for good music for a high mass. With just 4 singers, and our very able Oratory organist with his brilliant improvisations on a poor electric organ, we created a quite impressive sound which was much appreciated afterwards. What a pity the church’s original pipe organ has given up the ghost: it had a excellent sound.





Canon of Mass



There was a buffet in the parish hall afterwards, and hopefully more high masses will be coming in the future. A low mass has been organised for this parish on the Feast of the Holy Rosary on Wednesday 7th October at 7.00pm.