Monday, 31 August 2009

The Lourdes Rosary Procession

One of the great highlights of Lourdes which even the sixties liturgical vandals could not succeed in wrecking is the evening torchlit rosary procession, which is done in the multiple languages: Latin, French, Italian, German, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish and Croatian.

Interspersed with the decades are the Lourdes Ave, and unfortunately as well as that dreadful hymn 'As I kneel before you' (its author should have been shot).

Eventually everyone gathers up in front of the Rosary Basilica, and the evening ends with the Salve Regina, with the final blessing given in Latin. Which is more than you will get in the average French parish, with the exception of those that use the 1962 missal.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Mass in the Cite St. Pierre

I had returned home to Birmingham yesterday, and am still recovering from the long 21 hour coach trip. However I still have a few more pictures of Lourdes to show you. Essential to every GOBS pilgrimage is mass in the Cachot for our benefactors, which was offered by Fr. Terence Creech CSSR, built in imitation of the sheepfold of St. Barnardette. Here we are in our yellow dress.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

The Rosary Basilica in Lourdes

The Rosary Basilica in Lourdes at the foot of the Immaculate Conception Basilica above was designed by the architect Leopold Hardy and built between 1883 and 1889. It was consecrated in 1901 and has a capacity of 1,500. For the jubilee celebrations in 2009 the basilica was restored and new mosaic panels were made in the workshops of the Vatican on the front depicting the rosary mysteries of light. Above the main doors two mosaic circular panel represent, on the left Pope Leo XIII and, on the right Mgr Schoepfer Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes from 1899 to 1927.

Around the central dome, the arms that are the transept and the sanctuary contain side-altars with mosaic images of the 15 mysteries of the Rosary. The Transept on the left contains altars depicting the joyful mysteries of the rosary (The Annunciation, The Visitation, The Birth of Jesus, The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, and the Finding of Jesus in the Temple). Behind the sanctuary, five altars show the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary (The Agony in the Garden, The Scourging at the Pillar, The Crowning with Thorns, The Carrying of the Cross, The Crucifixion).

Finally, on the right transept are altars depicting the glorious mysteries of the rosary (The Resurrection, The Ascension, The Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, The Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven, The Coronation of Our Lady).

I cannot help feeling that if there is one form of art that the French just cannot manage it is that of mosaics: it has to be said that at best this basilica is not a great artistic success. Their other attempts at this in the Sacre Coeur in Paris and the basilica of St. Therese in Lisieux are just as poor. The side altars are of at best indifferent quality, while the image of Our Lady of Lourdes in the apse is shocking! Perhaps it would have been far more effective to use a plainer and more austere style here. However, in fairness it must be said that this church is preferable to that dreadful underground car park better known as the Pius X basilica!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The sheepfold at Bartres

Yesterday we made a day trip to the village of Bartres, were St. Bernadette was fostered for a while by her aunt, and later she came back to look after her aunt's sheep. As a village it is not particularly remarkarble with the exception of the church and the house of Bernadette. While we were there it was quite wet. Here are a few pictures.

House of Bernadette

Bernadette lived in this room with her aunt, and it is open to visitors in the afternoon.

The church of St. John the Baptist is fairly notable and worth seeing. While it has remains of a medieval sanctuary, most of it dates from the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries, and has quite a remarkable reordos depicting the life of St. John the Baptist. Luckily it has been spared the liturgical vandals and is almost intact, and with a portable table for it's forward altar it is ready for ad orientem worship.

The High Altar

The Lady Altar

The Sanctuary

St. Joseph's Altar

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Mass at Lourdes in the 1962 missal

Lourdes has long been a stronghold of the liberal liturgical establishment, and of key strategic importance as a major international shrine. In fact the same could be said about many other major Marian shrines: they tend to have rather liberal rectors and dubious para - liturgies.

Nevertheless, even though it may be among the last liberal bastions to crumble, the extra - ordinary form has gained a foothold, and every Sunday at about 9.30am there is a 1962 missal low mass in the Upper Basilica. Or so it may seem, for I arrived at precisely 9.30am as advertised to find that they were already in the homily.

As far as I'm aware this mass took a lot of in - fighting to get established, but hopefully it will be here to stay!

On the way to Lourdes with the GOBS

I have now managed to find an internet connection here in Lourdes, and so I thought I might share with you a few pictures of the trip there. It is a 21 hour journey by coach all the way from the Oratory to our destination: here is Jackie Parkes seeing off her children, and taking pictures for her blog:

By early evening we arrive at the port of Dover, for the ferry to Calais:

The ferry leaves as we have dinner:

Then it is then long haul up to Paris and down the helter - skelter motorway across Central France to Toulouse and then across to Pau and finally Lourdes, with the occasional toilet break. By the time we arrive we are pretty exausted.

Arrival at the Hotel Santa Lucia, to be greeted by our old friends Alain and Marie - Anne!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Off to Lourdes

Tomorrow I begin the long coach journey from the Oratory to the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes with the Grand Order of Babysitters, and this year will be the 40th anniversary. Hence it is a particularly special year for them. I am much looking forward to this event, and I shall enjoy a long week of rest and recuperation!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Mulier Fortis on biotechnology's immorality

Last year in March 2008 I did a series of posts on the various lobbies and factions behind the culture of death: The Culture of Death Rogues Gallery. One of them was about the biotechnology industry and its infamous research into human cloning and human - animal hybrids. I opined at the time that 'immoral research does not produce cures!', and now, thanks to this news given by the highly esteemed and worthy of respect Mulier Fortis (hopefully that description will not offend her this time...), I have been proven right. Here is an extract from the San Francisco Weekly:

..a teenage boy who had traveled from Israel to Russia... for an implant of neural stem cells to treat a rare degenerative disease. Four years after the procedure, according to the study, the therapy hadn't worked, and the transplanted stem cells had morphed into a brain tumor.

The article continues:

As Kriegstein shuffled through his papers, looking for the report, he explained his fear that current efforts in California to create stem-cell–based cures, which he views as premature, could have similar results. "The likelihood of something going wrong is pretty high," he said. "Something like tumors are probably going to happen. This is an area where the risks are great. The public has to be prepared."

The great Mac McLernon has also demanded that I show forth my seven greatest loves, after agreeing with her on no. 6 (caffeine, in the form of what I call Dr. Tannin: tea). So here they are in full:

1) The Catholic church, the mystical body of Christ (same as Mac).

2) Our Blessed Lady, on whose Feast of the Expectation I was born in the town of Evesham, an old shrine of Our Lady.

3) The sacred liturgy with it's wonderful sacred music.

4) The Birmingham Oratory, my beloved parish church, whose great choir I sing in.

5) Downside Abbey, my old Alma Mater.

6) Tea, as explained before.

7) Alcohol, in copious amounts. If all else fails, then just drink....

Monday, 17 August 2009

Hymn 'Ave Maris Stella' by Diego Ortiz

Having lamented the fact that Jackie Parkes did not record the hymn Ave Maris Stella with polyphonic verses by Diego Ortiz from yesterday's Assumption Vespers, it appears that she has just uploaded a recording of it. Well, I take back my words, for here it is:

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Second Vespers of the Assumption (transferred)

In the Birmingham Oratory we have celebrated the Assumption twice: yesterday on the actual day in the extraordinary form, and today transferred to the Sunday in the novus ordo. To make things even more complicated, the rite of vespers we do is from the Liber Usuralis but in the new calender! Hence we had Second Vespers of the Assumption tonight.

My fellow blogger Jackie Parkes has taken this short clip from just beneath the East choir gallery where we sing vespers, and this is in the middle of the long psalms and proper antiphons. We are in fact one of the very few places in the world where we have vespers with polyphonic hymn and magnificat settings. I have written some myself for our choir which can be downloaded here at the Choral Public Domain Library. What a pity she didn't take this clip during the Hymn 'Ave Maris Stella', the Magnificat, and during benediction: we had the most glorious music then:

Office Hymn: Ave Maris Stella, Diego Ortiz
Magnificat: Tone 8, Orlando Lassus
Tantum Ergo: Max Reger no.4
Final anthem: Introduxit Me Rex by Palestrina
Organ voluntary: Improvisation by John Pryor FRCO on Salve Regina

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Assumption EF high mass in the Oratory

This morning was an exceptionally long haul for us in the Oratory choir, as we had to start rehearsal at 9.00am sharp for the extraordinary form high mass for the Assumption of Our Lady. We were doing the full Palestrina Missa Assumpta Est Maria in six parts, with Palestrina Assumpta Est Maria at the offertory and Robert Parsons' Ave Maria at communion. This as well as all the full Gregorian propers, which were more difficult than usual. So it was a two hour rehearsal for us with no break with high mass at 11.00am, finishing at about 12.30pm. Here is the entrance procession, with our organist improvising on 'Ave Maris Stella':

It was a very successful occasion, with the music much appreciated by everyone, and we had a good crowd. I managed to take a few pictures of the service from the rear gallery where we were in the spare moments I had when I was not singing.

The Epistle

The Gospel




Last Gospel

Recessional, with Bach's Fugue on the Magnificat played on the main organ

Friday, 14 August 2009

Brothers of the Little Oratory barbecue

This evening the brothers of the Little Oratory of the Birmingham Oratory held their annual barbecue in the grounds of Rednal. Being a member I travelled down to Rednal with several of the others to get everything set up, and as ever, I was roped in to do most of the cooking and light the charcoal! We started off with mass in the Rednal chapel, and when this was finished, I got down to grilling burgers and sausages, while everyone else had a drink and a chat, and complained about how the slow the cooking was...

The Oratory originated out of a group of laymen led by St. Philip Neri, who met up for prayers, pious exercises, excursions and picnics, and such was its success that St. Philip had some of his disciples ordained to the priesthood, and from that came the common life of which we know the Oratory of today. We the brothers of the Little Oratory carry on the tradition of the Oratory's early exercises, and today was no exception. Apart from my cursing and swearing over the flaming charcoal and to my fellow brethren, it was a most convivial occasion.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Double Choir Mass by Felix Mendelssohn

Last July when I made a break in Paris, I started arranging a double choir mass from several a cappella choral works by Felix Mendelssohn. I have now completed the task and the mass is now on the Choral Public Domain Library at this page, and you can also listen to a Midi file here.

Mendelssohn originally wrote several 8 part movements of the mass in German for Lutheran services: the Kyrie, Ehre sei Gott (Gloria) and Heilig (Sanctus), but he omitted the Credo and the Agnus Dei. I have left out the Credo, and for the Agnus Dei I found an 8 part setting of a Passiontide piece called Herr, dedenke nicht unswer. With the exception of the Kyrie which Mendelssohn wrote in the original Greek, I have substituted the German text for Latin, having also to tweak around the rhythms to make the syllables fit. For the Sanctus, I have also split it into two sections to make a separate Benedictus for extraordinary form of mass. All in all, it seems to work very well.

This was suggested to me by a member of the Birmingham Oratory choir, who had just come back from a choir tour singing Mendelssohn's German settings as part of a church service, that a Latin version could be made up. This is carrying on a long established tradition and practice in the Birmingham Oratory of reworking Mendelssohn's German and English anthems into Latin for use at our High Mass. Hence we sing Cum Natus Esset adapted from Da Jesus geboren ward at Epiphany, Sicut Cervus from Like as the hart pants, and Justus ut Palma on St. Joseph from a chorus in Paulus.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

I've been tagged!

It seems that I have been tagged on the blogosphere by the venerable Mulier Fortis. Well of the seven top things that she has particular affection for, I would go for no. 6: caffeine, in the form of what I call Dr. Tannin (tea). This, as well as liberal quantities of alcohol, is essential for my sanity and good health.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Prayers at Newman's graveside in Rednal

Last year we expected our annual service of prayer at Cardinal Newman's grave to be the last, as his body was to be shortly exhumed as part of the beatification process. In fact we were quite wrong. Our cardinal had always wanted to be buried with his friend Fr. Ambrose St. John, and he has gained his wish to the very end. It was found that his body had totally decomposed into the soil leaving almost nothing behind.

Hence you can see his grave almost intact. Just before we started, I took a few pictures of Rednal's surroundings. Here is shot of Jackie Parkes:

The entrance gate to the grounds:

Rednal chapel:

The crowd gathering for the prayers:

And very poignantly, the grave of Gerard Tracey, the Birmingham Oratory librarian and archivist, whom I remember well and was for many years a key figure in the life of the Oratory. He was also a great cook and used to provide wonderful buffet dinners for the parish on major feasts such as St. Philip's day and the Epiphany. He died of a brain hemorrhage, and is very sadly missed. Next to him is the grave of Frances Wootton, the matron of the Oratory school under Cardinal Newman.