Saturday 17 October 2009

Forty Hours Devotion...

I didn't know anything about this devotion until I ended up attending one of the Masses at Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane. I mean, I'd heard of "Forty Hours" and knew that it meant the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for forty hours, but I didn't realise that there was a specific structure and particular rubrics to be followed.

We're about to have the Forty Hours at Blackfen - Thursday 22nd October - Saturday 24th October, to be precise. So I was keen to find out more.

It seems that the actual number of hours doesn't have to be forty, the devotion just has to happen over three days.

On the first night, there is a Mass of Exposition, followed by a Blessed Sacrament Procession around the church, and the Litany of the Saints is sung, imploring the intercession of the saints for all our needs. The Blessed Sacrament is exposed on the altar with at least 20 candles lit in honour. I have no idea why it has to be 20 candles...

On the second day, there is a Mass for Peace, and it is celebrated at a side altar rather than at the altar where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed.

After the second night, the devotion ends with the Mass of Reposition, the sung Litany of the Saints and a final procession.


Anyway, at Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, the whole thing will kick off with the Mass of Exposition (Extraordinary Form) starting at 8pm on Thursday 22nd October. On the Friday, there will be an English Mass for peace with hymns at 10am, and, at 8pm, a Mass for peace in the Extraordinary Form. Finally, it all ends on Saturday with the Extraordinary Form Mass of Reposition, Litany and Procession at 10:30am.

We need to make sure that there are people watching in the church the whole time the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, so there is a sheet in the porch for people to sign, or forms at the back of the church which can be filled in and posted through the Presbytery letterbox, or it is possible to email Fr. Tim with details of when you can attend... or, alternatively, people can just turn up!

It does help to have a few definite names down though, just to check that the devotion will be possible...

I snaffled the picture from Fr. Michael Brown's post on his own parish's celebration of the Forty Hours. Hopefully I'll soon have some pictures of my own to post!

Friday 16 October 2009

Praying For Priests...

To celebrate the Year for Priests, Fr. Stephen Langridge, Vocations Director for the Archdiocese of Southwark, has organised a prayer "rota" with each priest of the diocese being assigned a particular day to be prayed for.

The calendar can be found on the resources page of the excellent Southwark Vocations website: it can be downloaded as a PDF file or as an Excel spreadsheet.

There's even a prayer:

God our Father,
we pray for ______ and thank you for his ministry and example. Give him a deep faith, a firm hope and a burning love. Fill him with your grace and consolation that he may serve you and those entrusted to his care. May he always be aware of our appreciation for the gift of priesthood in the Church. We ask this through Jesus Christ the eternal High Priest. Amen.

Our Lady, Queen of Clergy, pray for him.
St. John Vianney, pray for him.

This seems like a good opportunity to remind everyone about the Spiritual Mothers of Priests initiative, where women pray for a particular priest and offer up prayers, sacrifices and penances for him. This really is a fantastic idea, so do pop over and explore the blog.

Assisted Dying Opinion Poll

There's an opinion poll being taken by Bath University on the question of whether assisted dying should be legalised for the terminally ill.

"Assisted dying" is rather a chilling term...

Anyway, at the moment, the vote at the Bath University site is 97% against (with a total of 881 votes cast.)

Twitch of the mantilla to His Hermeneuticalness.

I'm A "Distinguished Author"... (heheheheh !)

I posted previously about writing a chapter on Saint Anne Line for a book on English Catholic Heroines.

I couldn't see any mistakes in the proofs I was sent (although my heart is now in my mouth, as I'm sure that something will have slipped through!) and so pretty much forgot about the whole thing. This evening I arrived home to find an invitation to the book launch, at the London Oratory.

Also included was a flyer for the book itself. The publisher's blurb was rather amusing:

In this book a group of distinguished authors with varying interests champion the achievements of twenty-three seminal figures in the history of the English Church, from the seventh century to the present day, who through their Catholic witness have made a contribution to the spiritual, intellectual, ethical and physical welfare of the nation which can be fairly described as "heroic".


I checked out the publisher's website: the blurb for the book is now up, but it's not yet for sale - I think it actually becomes available from November. I have to say that I don't think much of the picture on the front of the book (it's on the flyer, but not on the website) but it might look better "in the flesh" so to speak! The book is edited by Joanna Bogle (of Auntie Joanna Writes) and Fiorella Nash and Sr. Andrea Fraile have also written chapters.

It's rather exciting... If I go to the book launch, I'll take lots of photos...

Thursday 15 October 2009


Having announced my return to blogging, I realised that posting today would be tricky: I usually go straight to church (from school) on Thursdays for Benediction. Contrary to popular belief (mostly among schoolchildren) teachers do not get to go home at 3:30pm. I'm usually at school until 5:30pm - 6pm, getting turfed out by the premises staff. Since Benediction starts at 8pm, and I usually help to open the church and prepare things, there isn't much point in my going home.

Sometimes I grab a portion of chips en route, and sit in the car (in the church car park) munching while listening to the radio.

This can be a bit of a mistake. Radio 4 has an anti-Catholic bias which is often bad for my blood pressure.

Having noted the phenomenon of St. Thérèse's relics attracting thousands of the faithful (and the not-so-faithful), the BBC decided that it was impossible to avoid comment, though they really had tried. But, since they had to say something, they made sure it was a disparaging reference to superstitious practices which many ordinary Catholics find quite embarrassing.

The reality, which I was privileged to observe for myself at Aylesford, was quite, quite different.

Ordinary people actually want to venerate the relics of the saint. There is a visceral "pull" - a real need to establish a physical connection as well as a spiritual one. That's what I love about the Catholic Church - she has always known that we are body and soul, and we need the physical side of our natures represented in our devotions: so we have medals, pictures, relics, bells, chants, incense, stained glass. It's real. It's touchable... and, as I discovered, once people realised that they were allowed to touch the relics, they couldn't stay away.

I did not go to Aylesford to see a miracle. I didn't expect to experience transports of joy, or any intense feelings. I went to venerate the relics of a saint, someone who has finished her earthly journey and achieved the ultimate goal: she is now in the presence of God and enjoys the Beatific Vision. She is, therefore, someone I want to emulate.

And, judging from the sheer number of people who have gone to see the relics of St. Thérèse around the country, I am not alone in this. Maybe a few people have gone out of idle curiosity. That's not a sin, and it's not to be discouraged, either: didn't Jesus himself say "Come and see" to some of his first disciples? And perhaps a few people have gone in the hope of experiencing a miracle. Miracles do happen, but only if you ask for them! The reason we see so few miracles, I am sure, is that people limit their prayers to what they believe is possible, and don't dare to ask for anything more.

I think this is what I have gained from venerating St. Thérèse's relics: the idea that I need to pray more trustingly, and more insistently, like a child who expects its parents to provide everything it needs and wants, and so just asks.

Two other very moving accounts from friends who venerated the relics at Westminster: Leutgeb has written her report in two parts (First and Second), and Patricius has also written a post.

And I want to include a message for Elizabeth: the relics are, as far as I can ascertain, the saint's femur (thigh bone) and some of the bones from her foot... I don't know what happened to the rest of her leg!

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Saint Thérèse

I am not a devotee of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Her autobiography was recommended to me soon after I returned to the Church, and I read it, eager to learn more about a relatively recent saint. I found it very hard to finish: the sentiments expressed were far too saccharine-sweet for my tastes. I preferred the acerbic qualities shown by St. Bernadette and St. Teresa of Avila.

However, it isn't every day that a canonised saint drops in for a visit, and when I heard that the relics of St. Thérèse would be coming to England, I knew that I would spend the rest of my life regretting it if I didn't make the effort to go and see her for myself.

Living on the outskirts of London, I considered going to see her relics when they were brought to Westminster Cathedral. However, I decided that this was probably not the best option for me, as I was sure there would be huge crowds, and I didn't fancy the idea of queuing for ages after having been on my feet all day at school.

Seeing the relics when they were at Aylesford seemed like a much better prospect. Aylesford is a relatively short drive down the motorway, and, even better, the relics would be there over the weekend. Although there were members of the parish UCM going early on Saturday morning (they'd been asked to stand watch over the relics for a while) and another group was going to attend the Mass on the Saturday lunchtime, I wasn't keen to get caught up with all the crowds. My knee and ankle have been playing up in the damp weather, and standing still for long periods of time, or walking in a slow-moving queue, is quite painful.

One of the Knights of St. Columba told me that there would be an all-night vigil on the Saturday night, and this seemed to be the ideal solution: I thought that there would still be lots of people, but a lot less than during the day.

Sure enough, the journey was an absolute doddle (no need to park a mile away) and, when I arrived at 10:40pm, although there were lots of cars in the parking area, the shrine itself was pretty empty...

I discovered that the all-night vigil had started with a Mass, and, on checking the programme, I realised that, since most people were at the Mass, this would be the perfect time to go to the Relic Chapel. The entrance to the Chapel was via the Rosary Way.

A large white tent had been erected as a sort of chapel, where large votive candles were burning and I asked the friar to light a couple for me, while I said a prayer or two before the statue of St. Thérèse.

I then made my way into the Relic Chapel itself, and was surprised to find it almost empty, apart from a very few people praying around the edges of the room...

I took a photo or two, and, not wanting to disturb anyone, moved in a bit closer, saying a few prayers. I felt drawn to the reliquary, but wasn't sure what to do next: after all, no-one else was moving. I waited a bit longer, and finally decided to ask the Knights of St. Columba if I could touch and venerate the reliquary.

"Yes, of course you can," came the response, "that's what it's there for."

I didn't need any further encouragement, and promptly laid my hands upon it, praying a Hail Mary or two, and then I kissed the reliquary (well, the perspex dome covering it) before moving back to sit and pray. All of a sudden, everyone else in the room converged on the reliquary, as though they had been waiting for permission!

The atmosphere in the Relic Chapel was very prayerful, and I felt intensely moved by the experience, and extremely privileged to have been able to get so close. I went back to the tent and got another candle and a rose, and I placed these on the reliquary: I believe that makes them third class relics! More and more people started to enter the chapel, and I realised that Mass had ended, so I went out, in order that others could have some time with the saint.

I shall wait and see what the fruits of this visit are: both for myself and for the country as a whole. The outpouring of devotion among so many Catholics must surely produce great things.

OK... If You Insist...

I honestly thought that I should stop blogging.

A combination of tiredness, work pressures and some other stuff left me with a real reluctance to blog, and even reading anyone else's blog seemed like a tremendous chore. However, certain friends have told me (and in no uncertain terms, too) to stop being such a wuss, and to continue posting...

So, if you are one of the people who asked me to recommence blogging, you have only yourselves to blame...

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