Saturday 16 August 2008


ICEL are dragging their feet with regard to making the new translation of Mass texts available because of copyright "issues." They claim that this is to protect the integrity of the texts. Rubbish. I heard that it was precisely to avoid copyright issues that composers mucked about with many of the words of the Mass, and that is the reason that we have such ghastly versions of the Gloria and Sanctus, etc. etc...

But Jeffrey Tucker of NLM fame informed ICEL that he could get ten or so professional musicians to compose musical settings of the Mass and make them freely available on the web... provided they wouldn't be accused of infringing copyright. However, it looks as though ICEL aren't at all keen to make use of this generous offer...

The Pastor in Valle thinks he might be being overly cynical: he suspects that "approved" musicians and liturgists have been in possession of the texts for some time, and that they are being given first bite of the cherry with regard to getting their Mass settings published (and, presumably, copyrighted to the hilt!)

Sadly, this sounds like an all too likely scenario... why else would one turn down the offer of free, uncopyrighted musical settings for Mass?

Cardinal Arinze On Liturgical Dance...

...why is it that Tabletista liberal types always want to have bongo drums and liturgical dance, and claim that this is more "inclusive" because dance as worship is the culture of Africa and Asia?

In my experience, some of the more respectful, reverent, and traditionally minded people I have encountered are African or Asian. They can appreciate the beauty of liturgical vestments, Latin and plainchant just as well as us Western types. And Western church acoustics are not suited to bongo drums, however reverently they're played! Western churches are not suitably adapted for dance either...

Cardinal Arinze sets the record straight: the graceful movements of both African and Asian peoples is part of worship, and is an expression of joy... it is NOT "dance," and the Latin Rite should have no truck with so-called liturgical dance during the celebration of Mass and the Sacraments. Definitive answer. End of.

The bit about dance starts at 3:18

"Dance is not known in the Latin Rite of the Mass... Our Congregation has considered it for years... the directive we give from our Congregation is this: in the strict Liturgy, that means the Mass, the sacraments, Europe and America should not talk of Liturgical Dance at all..."

This Is What Happens...

...when you forget that Liturgy is the official worship of the Church, and is given to us by God. It is not something we "do" for God, it all comes from Him.

There are rubrics for a reason. The Mass is the supreme prayer: adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, supplication, and this is offered on our behalf by Christ. He is the mediator through whom our prayer becomes acceptable. The priest is in persona Christi.

At least, that's what should happen.

And when you forget that, when you think that Liturgy is really what makes us feel good, inducing soft, warm fuzzies in everyone, then you get this sort of cringe-making spectacle... men in pyjamas walking through the congregation with large incense-filled woks held aloft, (whom, exactly, are they incensing, and why?) and women in tight tops and flowing skirts doing "meaningful" stretching exercises for no discernible reason. There also seems to be a great deal of unexplained banner waving... at one point I thought they were waving giant feathers, and I wondered what sort of hormones they'd been feeding the chickens...

Twitch of the mantilla to Fr. Ray Blake... when I stop feeling queasy, I might be able to forgive him.

Friday 15 August 2008

Feast Of The Assumption

I love this Feast of Our Lady... it's one that "sorts the men from the boys" as far as Catholic teaching goes... as the most common objection of Protestants is that "it isn't Scriptural" !

I love Scott Hahn's comment. If you could make your mother perfect, if you had the power to do that, well, wouldn't you make her the best she could be? Totally sinless? Completely perfect?

Well, Jesus is God. He can do exactly that. And so he did...

On a more mundane note, I survived this evening! There were three of us to sing the propers for the Mass of the Assumption this evening... we used the Rossini propers, as there wasn't enough time to learn the full motets from the Graduale Romanum. Apparently, we sounded ok!


I am terrified of dentists.

This is a fact which completely confuses my family... they know my fascination with all things medical, the fact that I've been conscious during the last few major leg operations I had (I react very badly to general anaesthesia) - and that I wanted to watch what they were doing... I have cheerfully observed surgeons cutting suspect lumps from my body (the smell of cauterised human flesh is quite unique) and I have no problem with injections...

...until I see a dentist. Then I am reduced to a quivering wreck. I particularly hate the injections into the gum... but I can't possibly have treatment without the local anaesthetic.

I was so frightened on one occasion, I bit the dentist. I maintain that it was his fault... he didn't move his fingers fast enough!

As a result, my mouth is a bit of a mess. I only go to the dentist when I have no alternative, when the pain of toothache overcomes the fear of the chair. So I always need treatment, which is usually complicated and, well, painful and unpleasant... which reinforces the fear...

Anyway, I lost a filling or two many months ago. By diligent brushing of the teeth, I managed to stave off the inevitable for quite some time, but the holes got bigger, and there are gaps between the remaining fillings and my teeth... and it hurts. I've put up with fairly constant toothache for about a week, but last night I couldn't sleep and my whole head was throbbing.

I did an internet search for a dentist near me, and rang round to see if I could be slotted in as an emergency case. I judge a dentist by the quality of their receptionist - I'm in no fit state to judge anything once I'm in the chair - and I picked a dentist close to me whose receptionist sounded soothing and reassuring. The only appointment slot was for 2:45pm...

...and may God have mercy on my soul... *whimper*

UPDATE: I went. The dentist tapped a few teeth. Then he prescribed antibiotics and painkillers. And I have to go back for possible root canal work. I want to die... preferably before Monday...

Thursday 14 August 2008

Baby Faith

After the highly enjoyable Faith Summer Session, I returned to Woldingham School this week for round 2: the Faith Summer Break, affectionately referred to as "Baby Faith."

Baby Faith, as its name suggests, caters for a younger clientele than the Summer Session: the children are between 11 and 15 years old. The format is pretty similar, though there are more activities planned for each day. It's a pretty gruelling experience for the helpers (it's residential... and you try persuading 43 excited youngsters that they really would rather go to sleep than run riot through the dormitories having midnight feasts and pillow fights!)

I was wary of taking photographs, because of the age of the youngsters - probably unnecessarily so, but I preferred to be cautious. However, these three reprobates insisted that I blog about them!

The chap on the left is Joe Kelly - an RE teacher. He managed to hold the attention of 43 youngsters before and after Mass, as he explained why the Mass was so special and such a vital part of the life of any Catholic who wished to take their faith seriously. The kids were completely captivated. He also led them in praying the Rosary during the time for Confessions - not only were the children totally engaged, but he even coped with the constant movement of helpers and children as they were being shepherded into Confession. Pretty amazing stuff... I wish I had that sort of magnetism!

Dr. Miles Leeson is the shifty looking individual on the right... not only had he given up a week to help with Baby Faith, but he had had an interview for a lectureship the previous week, and was therefore still waiting to hear from the University. He was remarkably phlegmatic - I'd have been phoning home every day to see if any post had arrived! Anyway, I keep waiting for the comments correcting my spelling, punctuation and grammar...

Finally, in the middle is Dermott O'Gorman, whose father is responsible for the Faith website (I think he still does it!) Dermott is about to go off to Valladolid for his first year of seminary. His brother Matt (to be honest, I don't know which one is the eldest) has gone out to the Venerable English College, Rome, also to start training for the priesthood. I think both brothers went to the John Fisher School, Purley, which is where the Faith Movement was started.

As an aside, the number of priestly vocations inspired by contact with the Faith Movement is amazing - have a look at the number of priests and seminarians in the photos on Fr. Tim's post. I have been privileged to become friends with very many of them: fine young men, all of them! It is very heartening to see... and it contrasts starkly with the prevailing view in Tabletista country: that we need to prepare for a Church with fewer priests. No, we don't. We need to pray for vocations and preach about vocations and encourage young men to think about vocations to the priesthood. It is noticeable that the Mass celebrated by Faith priests is always reverent and prayerful, and there's none of the mucking about with the rubrics which I decried in my last post, and no focussing on the personality of the priest, either. It's always very clear that the Mass is about Jesus Christ!

I didn't manage to get many other photos, but this one shows Sister Andrea of the Sisters of the Gospel of Life, a new religious order founded in Glasgow which gives practical and spiritual help to mothers in crisis pregnancies. Both Sister Andrea and Sister Roseann were encouraged and supported in their vocation by their contact with the Faith Movement. You can read more about the Order and their work by going to their blog... In case you're wondering, the priest is Fr. Chris Findlay-Wilson, who brought a minibus-load of children all the way from Cornwall. Hopefully they've arrived home by now!

Silence Is Golden... least, that's what I suspect the majority of my readers will conclude, once I get back into the swing of things blog-wise!

On a more serious note, I actually want to blog about the place of silence at Mass.

I have only been attending the Extraordinary Form of Mass for a relatively short period. I went to a High Mass at St. Bede's about ten years ago, although I had no real idea what was going on: I was invited by a member of the choir, and so was with them for most of it... and the only thing I recall from the experience was wondering when the Mass was going to begin, and then discovering that we'd reached the Gospel! The choir had been singing continuously, as they do at a Solemn High Mass, and I'd been waiting for them to stop so that the priest could make the sign of the cross...

I also gathered that this "Old" Mass was something frowned upon by the majority of Catholics, and so it was spoken about in very circumspect tones "among friends." It wasn't forbidden, but one didn't really advertise it. As a result, I wasn't too keen: I hadn't been long back within the fold, and I didn't fancy the idea of becoming involved with a clique... and a slightly frowned-upon clique at that!

I eventually ended up as a parishioner at Blackfen, where Fr. Tim Finigan is Parish Priest. One of his parishioners had requested that her Requiem Mass be celebrated in the Extraordinary Form, and, after agreeing to this, Fr. Tim got to grips with the rubrics. He then switched to praying the TLM whenever he had a private Mass (private as in "not the usual Parish Mass.")

I would occasionally be able to attend these private Masses if they were before or after school, and so I experienced Low Mass. I loved the silences, the very careful movements which were laid down in the rubrics, the feeling that this was the Mass celebrated for centuries, and the Mass with which many of the Martyrs would have been familiar.

I joined the Latin Mass Society (alas, lack of organisation meant that my subscription soon lapsed, and I kept forgetting to renew it!) and bought myself a St. Andrew's Missal... and that's when I got very angry. I suddenly realised how very poor the translations of many of the prayers of the Mass were, and how much ICEL had dumbed down the Novus Ordo. I had bought into the legend that, pre-Vatican II, everyone had failed to understand the Latin, and had just sat in silence and ignorance while the priest and server "got on with it." Here, in my hands, I had proof that this was far from the case.

My St. Andrew's Missal was beautiful. The prayers were side-by-side in Latin and English, and so I could follow the Mass word-for-word if I wished. But there was so much more: the major feasts had short essays, descriptions of various stationed churches in Rome, and doctrinal, historical and liturgical notes... pages and pages of the stuff. A veritable catechism in itself! The Novus Ordo Missal was pretty small beer by comparison...

I found myself being drawn in by the TLM, and I gradually discovered the beauty of silence. It took a while before I realised that I didn't need to follow every word of the Mass as it was spoken - that, instead, I could read the readings and prayers beforehand as preparation, and then, during the Mass, just reflect on what I had read. Or pray the rosary. Or just watch the actions at the altar. Or just bring myself and my worries to God and sit there while the priest, in persona Christi, interceded for the rest of us, and offered the supreme Sacrifice.

The silent Canon is awesome. Whichever method of praying the Mass I adopted, each time I found myself holding my breath during the Consecration, almost as if I might disturb the descent of Jesus to the altar... and I'd heave a huge sigh after the second genuflection. And it seems that I'm not the only one to react this way... demonstrated by comments made on Fr. Tim's blog, first by Fr. Seán Coyle:

"It was the communal coughing that was a release of the tension among people who knew they were present at something truly awesome."

and then by David:

"I refer to the coughing and shuffling which immediately followed the elevations. Nothing could have better highlighted the riveting attention, prolonged ever so slightly by the pause before the last bell as the pall was replaced on the chalice."

I still attend the Novus Ordo Mass. I understand that there are some adherents to the TLM who consider the Novus Ordo invalid. This is complete nonsense: if the words of Consecration are spoken with the right intention by a validly ordained priest, then we have the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ made present on the altar. And so I wear my mantilla at Novus Ordo Masses as well as at the TLM.

But, given a free choice in the matter, I prefer to attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form. I have come to appreciate the value of silence, something sorely missing from the Novus Ordo... oh, a priest might include a period of silence, but it's entirely at his whim. There's no telling when it might occur, or how long it will go on for.

And then there are the Novus Ordo Masses (like one I attended recently) where there is no silence allowed at all: where the priest insists on talking to "explain" everything. "Now we are going to tell God how sorry we are..." "Now we are going to bring up the gifts of bread and wine"... and worst of all, immediately after the Consecration of the Host, at the Elevation: "Now we say together, 'My Lord and my God'..."

(Mind you, I should have realised this was on the cards when the priest introduced the Mass by telling everyone present that they needed to focus... "First, focus on me... then, focus on the readers... and then focus on Jesus..." I suppose I should be grateful that Jesus got a mention... At least that type of Mass is a rare experience for me!)

In the TLM, the "silences" are actually periods when the priest is praying... and you get to know how long a period of silence is (basically, it ends when the prayers do!) And, in that silence, you can let God touch your heart.

Silence isn't really golden. It's far, far more precious than that!

Monday 11 August 2008

Blogging Suspended...

I'm going to be back in the communications Bermuda Triangle which is Woldingham School for the next few days - it's "Baby Faith" this week, and I was crazy enough to say that I'd be able to help....

Oh dear Lord, what have I done...?

Another Interview With Fathers Z & T...

Another interview between the two überbloggers, Fr. Z and His Hermeneuticalness, on the recent Merton Conference where priests were learning to celebrate the Extraordinary Form.

Sunday 10 August 2008

The New Translation & Catechesis...

Oh boy. It seems that the new English translation of the Novus Ordo Mass will be available "as early as" 2010. ICEL are really jumping the gun here... I mean, the whole point of the delay in making use of the new translation is to allow us stupid people time to get our heads around the difficult words. Will a whole two years be sufficient for the catechetical materials and training courses to be approved and implemented? I have serious doubts...

The American Bishops' Conference has posted the whole text as a PDF file, but it has "Study Text Only" printed in big letters on each page; no doubt this is just in case anyone should be tempted to study the paper the words are printed on rather than the text...

As a teacher, I want to do my little bit to help. I have a great deal of experience in teaching children strange new words like "photosynthesis" and "chromatography," and so I feel that I am uniquely placed to assist lay people with the return to a more sacred language...

Looking at the Canon of the Mass, I found one immediate change we can get to grips with...

Old translation: "he took the cup." New translation: "he took this precious chalice."

Ok, look at the pictures below.

(1) Cup

(2) Chalice

Now, which word do you think best represents the sacred vessel we use at Mass to hold the Precious Blood? And do you think that two years is long enough to get the hang of this difference?

An Alternative Magisterium... And Another "Exclusive" From The Mulier Fortis!

I mentioned before that Damian Thompson was sitting next to me at the High Mass I attended at Merton College, Oxford. I spoke to him briefly to say how much I enjoyed reading his blog, but forbore to mention that I had a blog of my own: I'm extremely small fry in comparison with the Editor-in-Chief of the Catholic Herald and author of Holy Smoke, one of the Daily Telegraph's blogs. I have, however, been waiting eagerly for his take on the Merton Conference. Thanks to the tireless work of überblogger extraordinaire Fr. Zuhlsdorf, Damian's article on the Conference has been tracked down... somewhat confusingly, it's in the Sunday Times.

It's very interesting. I particularly enjoyed the oblique reference to the snippet of gossip which I was responsible for releasing into the Catholic Blogosphere, namely the discussion by the Bishops of England and Wales at their Low Week meeting on how they should attempt to "rein in" priestly bloggers.

"He [Bishop Malcolm McMahon] also tells Father Tim Finigan, author of the Hermeneutic of Continuity, the most influential of all the conservative blogs, to keep writing. Which is interesting, given that the Bishops’ Conference would dearly like to stop that particular blog."

A further snippet has come to my attention: allegedly, their Lordships are a tad concerned that His Hermeneuticalness is likely to become an "alternative Magisterium."

Heheheheh... Remember, you heard it here first!

Busy, Busy, Busy...

Unusually, I was too tired on Friday to blog about the Faith Summer Session. I like to try and get my blog posts in quickly, especially if His Hermeneuticalness or the South Ashford Priest are at the same event, because otherwise it looks as if I'm just copying them... However, I knew that Saturday was going to be a busy day, and didn't want to risk being tempted to blog past my bedtime.

Saturday was wonderful. It started with a mad dash to the dry-cleaners to get some stuff dropped in, and, after a bit of pleading, they promised to have it ready for me before midday. I then made my way to Mass at Blackfen. The Saturday morning Mass is now always in the Extraordinary Form, and I try not to miss it.

I left earlier than usual, though, so as to get back to the dry-cleaners before they closed (they finish early on Saturdays) and also to give me enough time to primp and fluff! Don't panic... no details about hair or make-up shall be forthcoming.

Then it was off to the Catholic church in Eltham, where the eldest daughter of friends was being married. Natalia looked stunning. Her three younger sisters were bridesmaids - and (unspecified) relatives of Phil (the groom) were also bridesmaids and page boys.

We then made our way round to Natalia's parents' house, where the reception was being held. They had a marquee in the back garden... which had a sort of "tardis" quality to it. I've seen the garden (sans marquee) and I didn't think it was that big. But the marquee seemed to go on forever. There were a couple of trees and bushes in the way, but this wasn't a problem... they were simply incorporated into the marquee, and dressed up with fairy lights. The groundsheet produced a curious illusion - you expected the floor to be flat, and then discovered that you were actually standing on a hillock... as a result, several people were staggering around while holding champagne glasses... at least, that's what they all said...

This worked in my favour: my table was the last to get given the starter - some sort of vegetable and cheese tartlet, and, by the time they reached me, a waiter had fallen foul of the flooring and dropped the last batch. I was asked if I would mind awfully having Parma ham and melon instead... as this was far more to my taste than vegetable tartlet, I was able to reassure the waiter that I didn't mind in the slightest.

I spotted the bride standing surrounded by a bevy of friends, and jokingly accused the groom of having abandoned her already... imagine my horror when, smiling broadly, the "groom" said, "Ummm, actually, I'm Phil's identical twin..." Uh-oh. Time to beat a hasty retreat. I was consoled by the father of the bride, who told me that his brother had made the same mistake... Natalia's uncle had been driving down the road to the house when he spotted Natalia's fiancé walking down the street with his arm around a strange woman. Incensed, he'd ground to a halt and charged out of the car to remonstrate with Phil for such caddish behaviour... only to find that it wasn't Phil at all!

I have to say that portaloos will never be the same for me again. We are not talking about rickety cubicles in which there is barely room to turn around, let alone indulge in a spot of moggy-swinging. These were decidedly up-market portaloos - the ladies' consisted of two washbasins, mirrors, and two cubicles with proper toilet paper on rolls and Monet prints hanging on the walls. I found myself wondering if there was a hotel attached...

I had a wonderful time, and I wish the happy couple every blessing for their life together.

The Ceilidh...

Truthfinder, one of my American readers, left a question on my last post: What's a ceilidh?

Put simply, a ceilidh (pronounced "Kay-lee") is the Gaelic equivalent of the English barn dance, and is very similar to American line dancing. In the ceilidh, people aren't all dancing in rows facing the same way... for some dances you have a partner, while others are danced in groups of eight. Also, (this may apply only to the ceilidh's we have at Faith) there isn't a "caller" during the dances - though there is a brief demonstration by "expert" dancers and a quick run-through for everyone of the steps while someone calls them out... and then, once the music starts, it's a bit of a free-for-all.

Some of the dances, as I've indicated, are danced in groups of eight... The great thing about a ceilidh is that you can just dance with anyone, so you don't get wallflowers abandoned at the side of the room looking wistfully on at the action. Anyone can be asked to dance, without the "loaded" meaning you get at a disco. In fact, it can be quite dangerous trying to watch a ceilidh from the side of a room, as a bunch of people, desperate for another person to make up their set, are likely to press-gang you into joining the fun.

The photos I've shown here are actually from one of the Winter Conferences - as I explained in my last post, my mobile died pretty early on in the proceedings - and these were taken with a much less snazzy phone camera.
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