Saturday, 31 August 2013

The Order of Premontre

Last week one of our members, Brother Stephen Morrison, o.praem. made his Solemn Profession as a Canon Regular of Premontre.  These Cannons follow the Rule of St Augustine and that of St Norbert their founder and for that reason they are also known as Norbertines.

The Master was present as Bro Stephen made his vows for life to God, in the presence of the Rt Revd Hugh Allen, o.praem. Prior of their Canonry in Chelmsford and members of the order from Rome, the Czech Republic and Belgium. At least three other members of SSIM were also present, one assisting in choir and another serving at the altar. S Justin, our great patron, also got a mention in the Litany of the Saints, which according to a Norbertine custom is always sung standing (unlike the norm in the Roman Rite, when it is usually sung kneeling).

Please pray for Br Stephen and all of the steadily growing community at Chelmsford. We wish him well as he continues his formation for the sacred priesthood. 

Monday, 1 July 2013

New Associate

The Master, assisted by the Chamberlain, today admitted a Priest and Canon Regular of Premontre as an Associate Member. The admission took place in the Generate of the Norbertine Order in Rome

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Baddesley Clinton

This Tudor House (with major Victorian additions), is in the care of the National Trust and lies to the South-east of Birmingham.

It was a fitting place to visit on St Justin's day as the house, seat of the Ferrers family, conceals no fewer than three priest holes crafted by Nicholas Owen.

The room which was converted into a Catholic Chapel in the 1890s, had been the bedroom where 8 Jesuit priests slept for over 3 years whilst stationed at the house and carrying out their secret sacramental duties during the great persecution.

The Chapel remains and contains a picture of Our Lady to which the then Bishop of Birmingham attached an indulgence of 40 days for the faithful who prayed the litany of loreto, the memorare or three Hail Mary's before it.

Near-by the Anglican Church of St Nicholas dates from the closing years of the Catholic period of English history. The tower was completed in 1517 in the reign of Henry VII.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Pentecost in Birmingham

On Pentecost Sunday I attended the Solemn High Mass at the Birmingham Oratory.  This was celebrated, as has become their recent custom on a Sunday morning, in the Extra-ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, using the Missal of Blessed John XXIII (1962).  

They do things well at the Birmingham Oratory and always with the minimum of fuss.  Despite the beautiful vestments, Mass setting by Schubert and two gorgeous motets by Palestrina, the whole liturgical experience feels very ‘ordinary’.  By this I mean that it isn't a performance or a concert it is ‘just’ the People of God at Mass.  

It was during this Mass that two things struck me very powerfully.  

Availability of Confession
In order to cope with the large number of people in the confession queue a priest sat in the confessional for most of the Mass.  I suspect this is frowned upon by many because the ‘assembly’ should be participating at mass and should have sorted out going to confession well before hand.  And yet it struck me as a most pragmatic, pastoral approach.  Now that so few Catholics  make use of the sacrament of penance in the way the church requires, it is critical  that priests make it available at times that are convenient and where others can see that there are those who still go to confession.  Even in churches with multiple priests on the staff it is rare to see this practice and of course it is impossible if the priest is single handed.  During Lent in a parish in Essex I saw a priest leave the confessional 2 minutes before mass started, celebrate Mass and then return to the ‘box’ immediately after removing the vestments.  It is no coincidence that it is in these churches where an effort is made to make the sacrament of confession accessible, that it is in fact used in great numbers.

Active Participation
One of the perceived ‘problems’ of the old rite of mass is that it apparently at odds with the teaching of Vatican II.  Sacrosanctum Concillium, the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy says, “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.

“In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit; and therefore pastors of souls must zealously strive to achieve it, by means of the necessary instruction, in all their pastoral work.”

In the older form of the Mass, now called the Extra-ordinary Form (EF), the people in the pew apparently do very little. The clergy carry out the sacred actions in the sanctuary and in most cases even the people’s responses are made for them by the server.  The people are expected to pray quietly in their places and to many this form of participation may seem anything but active or perhaps entirely passive. 

The Mass is of course the supreme liturgical act of the Church as She participates in, offers and makes present the Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary offered once for the sins of the world.  To kneel in silent prayer, wonder and awe as the priest offers this Sacrifice at the altar is no less active a participation than was Our Lady’s participation as she stood and watched her Son die.  The degree to which our participation is active or passive doesn’t depend on everyone doing their own bit, reading, taking the collection, running the Sunday school, ‘giving out’ Holy Communion; it depends much more on how we engage inwardly with the action of the priest offering the Mass; the degree to which we bring our needs and those of of our family, friends and the world to the very foot of the cross and unite those intentions with those of Christ himself.  Busy-ness in church is no substitute for the real active participation which is predominantly interior and spiritual and yet has expression in our standing, kneeling, actively listening, making the relevant responses etc.

In my experience there can be much more active participation in a prayerful attendance of Mass in the EF than can be be seen in many parishes where everyone has a job to do, no one joins in the many hymns anyway and where there is incessant murmur and chatter throughout the liturgy.  In both forms of the Roman Rite this imperative of active participation by the faithful is fulfilled by their presence, their prayers and their union with the Church as it carries on the work of redemption.  We have to accept that our Lord offered himself on the Cross for us.  He was and is the principal in the drama of our redemption and in the Mass; the full conscious and active participation of each one of us in either form of the Roman Rite must not obscure that simple fact that we are at the mercy of God.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Dorchester Abbey

Four members of SSIM visited Dorchester Abbey whilst attending a meeting of the Association of Latin Liturgy on April 13 which was held a few hundred metres along the road at the beautiful Catholic Church of St Birinus.

On visiting the abbey one is first struck by a notable example of reformation desecration as one has to side step and altar stone which was set into the pavement of the porch, deliberately so that people would trample on the very spot where the precious Body and Blood of Our Lord rested during the sacrifice of the Mass. (See picture).

The church itself is impressive and was served first by secular and subsequently regular Augustinian canons. It was the Cathedral of the Kingdom of Mercia, a privilege it lost by royal edict, to Lincoln.

The relics and shrine of St Birinus can be found inside as can notable examples of medieval glass and stone carving.

Pictures in this post include a member fulfilling his SSIM duties before a medieval crucifix wall painting, the great east window and the Shrine of St Birinus.

Dorchester is well worth a visit, as are its many pubs!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Wash one another's feet!

Pope Francis, will celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper this year in the Casal del Marmo, a penal institution for young people in Rome.  The holy Father has specifically asked that this liturgy be marked by simplicty. In doing this the Pope is departing from the tradition of the Bishop of Rome celebrating this mass in his Cathedral, St John Lateran by taking this liturgy to those in prison.  That he does this will shock some and please others.  He is not the first Pope in history to visit this particular institution of course.  Both Benedict XVI and John Paul II did so, demonstrating their own care for the marigianlised, he is though the first to not celebrate the Liturgy of the Cena Domini, with solemnity and in public (we are told this event will not be televised).

Clearly the Pope has mad a pastoral decision, that is well within his competence to make and we must again get used to a man who is a firm decision maker and who sees to it that his decisions are implemented.  If some thought that John Paul II knew how to use his authority they should watch Pope Francis!  Even so its clear that this change of venue is not at odds with liturgical law.

Beyond the change of venue though, what shall we make of Pope Francis’s reported intention to the wash and kiss the feet of 12 boys and girls from different nationalities and confessions during the Mass of the Lord’s supper?

Let us look at what the Roman Missal says: “The men who have been chosen……..”  in Latin the word used is Viri, so we cant say “men” means “human” in this context.  It is abundantly clear that the liturgical law requires those whose feet are to be washed to be selected from the male of the species.  Many who read this will have experienced for many years, the priest washing the feet of women during this part of the liturgy but make no mistake that is a liturgical abuse.  The tradition of the Church and the rubrics place an emphasis on the symbolism of Christ washing the feet of his disciples.

Departure from tradition is something many of us find uncomfortable.  We can though, take comfort in the fact that the most noble and important traditions of the Catholic Church are codified and have legal standing.  The legal systems of the church are not just for dealing with complicated martial situations!.  Raymond Cardinal Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura (often referred to as Chief Magistrate of the Church) has delivered conferences on the juridical nature of the liturgical instructions and rubrics.  Liturgical law is Law!

We know that as lay people we have a right under the law of the Church to be provided access to the liturgy of the church, properly celebrated according to the norms of the Roman Missal and the other liturgical books.  When that right is infringed we may and are encouraged to, complain to the local Bishop or to Rome (Congregation or Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments).  Some liturgical abuses are more serious than others of course yet it is clear that some are considered so severe that they are classed as graviora delicta (more grave crimes) with pardon from such offences, in the external forum, being reserved to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.  One example of a liturgical offence of this sort would be the attempted ordination of a woman (CDF 19 Dec 2007).
Now most of the liturgical abuse we witness in many of our parishes, day by day, are not of this order and don’t warrant more than the raising of an eyebrow.  Yet we must be certain that what the Church lays down in the liturgical books and especially when it is in conformity with the long tradition of the Church, over many centuries, is what is being celebrated.  If not then we are impoverished to some degree.

Pope Francis will depart from an ancient tradition, codified in the liturgical books and he will do this as an act of his own will, using his power as Pope.  He can do this of course as he isn’t subject to the law as we are.  

Canon 332 says of the Pope, “he has supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the church , and he can always freely exercise this power”. So this derogation by the Pope from the liturgical norms for Holy Thursday is an exercise of his power as Vicar of Christ.  The question hangs in the air as to whether this liturgical change now applies to the entire Latin Rite Church or whether it should be seen as a particular departure from tradition in these circumstances alone.    

It surely better that changes which need to be made to the liturgical laws are made by means of a clear juridical process (i.e. a motu proprio), not so much because of this case but because there may be other more significant changes to come.

God bless our Pope!


Friday, 22 March 2013

Pure nard......

There is little doubt now in the minds of most Catholics that Pope Francis has much he wishes to teach us about service to the poor and marginalised.  This Argentinian priest and bishop, whom the Cardinals chose to succeed to the See of Peter, as Vicar of Jesus Christ, brings a unique style and approach to the Petrine ministry.  He is no Benedict XVI, neither is he a John Paul II or even Paul VI, who himself sold a Papal Tiara to the Catholics of the USA in a gesture of solidarity with the poor.  No, Pope Francis is his own man, yet he ascends the throne of Peter in a long line of continuity with each of his predecessors and within the tradition of the Universal Church.

When he meets with his immediate predecessor on Saturday 23 March for lunch, we can be certain that the Pope Emeritus will pledge afresh his personal loyalty to the successor of Peter.  What else will pass between them, we may never know but it is to be hoped that in his humility the Holy Father will listen carefully to gentle words of encouragement and advice from Benedict, beloved of us all.

Much is being written in these days about the focus of Pope Francis on humility and serving the needs of the poor.  Thank god for this aspect of his teaching and his personal example, which we ought to imitate personally and through our support of sound Catholic charities.  Those who delighted in eight years of Pope Benedict reinvigorating the papal liturgies with a sense of worthiness that befits the liturgy as opus Dei, may have been concerned at reports of Pope Francis allegedly saying to his MC ‘the carnival is over’ or at the loss of the red pontifical shoes, the pontifical dalmatic etc.  

We should take heart however from His Holiness’s address to the diplomatic core in the Sala Regia of the Apostolic Palace on 22 March.  Recognising the material poverty of the homeless, orphans and the sick he went on to talk about “another form of poverty”, he said, “It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the 'tyranny of relativism'.”   Closely allied to this is a liturgical poverty which the devil creates in order to conceal the face of God from his people.  It is the beauty of sacred worship, celebrated faithfully and according the norms of the Church, as Vatican II and other earlier Ecumencial Councils have required, which discloses the Godhead and which makes manifest the salvific works of the incarnation, life death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ afresh in our own time. We should pray ceaselessly that Pope Francis is given the grace to hold these things in their proper balance.  As he said, to the diplomats, “It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people.”

At Mass on Monday, the second day of Holy Week, our Holy father will hear these words from St John’s Gospel, “Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair; the house was full of the scent of the ointment.  Then Judas Iscariot - one of his disciples, the man who was to betray him - said, ‘Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor?’ He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to contribution.  So Jesus said, “leave her alone; she had to keep this scent for the day of my burial.  You have th poor with you always, you will not always have me”.  We give to God our most precious possessions, ointment, skill, silk and gold because we love him.  We give to the poor, our love, shelter, comfort, food and drink, because we love him in our neighbour - or at least we should!  These things are not mutually exclusive, they are complimentary.  The spiritual and corporal works of mercy have always gone together; Pope Francis is reminding us of this and we should remind one another and if I dare say it, him too.


Saturday, 9 March 2013

Camino Day 10 - Santiago

One thing that can be learned from a pilgrimage such as this is that the journey, as well as the destination, matters. In this sense this daily walk has been a simple parable of life. I hope that the small hardships and daily struggles we may be called to endure back home will be easier to bear as a result of this experience.

We met some lovely fellow pilgrims on the 'Way of St James' and will have many happy memories long after the aches and pains have gone. Those who walk a much longer Camino route have our total respect as do those who do so in older age and infirmity.

One can't help but be struck by the many wayside memorials to those whose earthly pilgrimage ended on the Camino. It was our happy duty and privilege to pray for them. Many, if not most, who walk this Way are not Catholics or practising Christians and yet they are searching for something. Let us pray that their arrival at the tomb of the Apostle James will awaken in them the longing for the same Lord who called James to be his apostle to the people of Galicia and to drink deep of the chalice of suffering and death.

Our little effort, despite the temptations of passing taxis, was made to implore God to guide the election of a new Pope and for vocations to the religious life, especially at Farnborough Abbey. We will lay them at the altar at mass here in Santiago as well as our prayers for you all.

Today also the novena was completed along with our walking. From our hearts, thank you to those who have accompanied us spiritually, through prayers, masses and stations of the cross offered for us. We needed you!!

As you will see from one of the pictures below Our Lady of Walsingham was here to greet us. tomorrow two of us begin the journey to Lourdes before returning to the UK.

The end in view

Our first glimpse of the cathedral at 1353 today

Friday, 8 March 2013

Camino Day 9 - Arzua to O Pedrouzo

Although we walked a slightly shorter distance (19km) today, tired limbs are very much the order of the day.

We very much look forward to arriving in Santiago tomorrow afternoon D.V. Please God the forecast rain will not materialise.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

The end of a very long day

Camino Day 8 - Palas de Rei to Arzua

Galicia is called Green Spain with very good reason and today it rained heavily all day. This was to be our longest walk at 29km.

It proved to be a great challenge but the sacrifices were rewarded by happily arriving in Arzua just in time for mass and receiving the solemn blessing for pilgrims at the end.

Rain is forecast for the rest of the week so the prospect is for donning wet boots each morning.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Camino Day 7 - Portomarin to Palas de Rei

Today the penitential character of the Camino became more apparent. Our walk was 25km but we had a lot of rain and a number of steep hills to climb.

We attended Mass on arrival in Palas de Rei this evening and had previously united ourselves in prayer with the universal Church in praying for the Cardinals at 5pm

Tomorrow is an even longer walk and as we each are in some way slightly injured, we are daunted by the challenge.

It has been wonderful to receive messages of support and word that rosaries are being offered for us and the intentions of the pilgrimage.

Please continue to pray for us as we do for you.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Day 6 -Sarria to Portomarin

Our first day of walking today was difficult with some hills in the first half of the day. As expected we met some interesting people including a group of relatively elderly Italians.

We attended the Pilgrim Mass before we set off this morning and prayed the novena prayers. We also obtained our credencial, a pilgrim passport, which we have had stamped in Churches and cafes along the Way. We two Benedictines, Monk and novice oblate are praying the divine office.

As I write this the bells of the church in Portomarin have just played a verse of the Lourdes hymn.

Tomorrow we shall pray at 5pm, along with the church across the world, for the Cardinal electors gathering at the Vatican

Monday, 4 March 2013

Camino Day 5 Burgos to Sarria

Today began with Mass in the Cathedral at Burgos then a drive to Sarria. On the way we stopped in the village of Campo to pray for the soul of Fr Joseph Carty who died there whilst walking the Camino in 2005.

Tomorrow sees the start of the walking stage of our pilgrimage.

You are all in our prayers.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Camino Day 4 Bordeaux to Burgos

We were joined today by our third pilgrim and attended Sung Mass in the Cathedral of St Andrew in Bordeaux. Music included Gregorian chant and a Palestrina motet.

This afternoon we crossed into Spain and are currently in Burgos, about which, more tomorrow.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Camino Day 3 Auvertere

Today we continued the novena and were lucky to be able to visit both the Church of St James the Apostle and a 'basilica' carved into a hillside as it were a cave both in the Dordogne, close to Riberac. As this latter church is no longer used for Catholic worship we also fulfilled the SSIM duties praying for the souls of former worshippers.