Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Maddy's First Blessing

Tonight we went to the Oratory with Maddy for the first evening of the Triduo before Candlemas devotions. Candlemas will be celebrated on Friday, the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord, with a High Mass at 8pm. It is a special Feast in particular for the Oratory because it is the anniversary of its foundation by the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman in 1848. So these few days leading up to that are an important time for prayers and Benediction to ask Our Lady's intercession for our community.

A very special evening for little Madeleine! Not only did she have all the Oratory mothers swooning over her, but the opportunity to be blessed (including by the monstrance and blessed sacrament, of course) and held in consecrated hands! All the Oratory Fathers were very taken with her; Fr. Phillip Cleevely gave her a blessing during communion (above left). He also held her afterwards (right) during a birthday party for Fr. Paul Chavasse (who was beaming with delight at the new addition to his congregation); Fr. Guy Nichols (top) held and admired her; Fr. Dermot Fenlon gave her his blessing. I hope you like the lovely pics!

Educated British Catholics Speak Out

There is a great post over at the New Liturgical Movement reproducing a declaration of appeal to the Holy Father, in the same spirit as the 1971 declaration, which led to the so-called Agatha Christi indult which allowed the Latin Mass to continue being said (albeit with restrictions) in the British Isles (long before the 1984 and 1988 indults). I recently spoke with a prominent member of the Latin Mass Society who was responsible for translating the original appeal into Italian; it is wonderful to acquire such insight from someone with that sort of experience.

I reproduce the latest declaration in full, which speaks clearly for Traditional Catholicism in this country.

Monday, January 29, 2007

British declaration in support of the liberalization of the 1962 Missale Romanum

[Under the auspices of the International Una Voce Federation a group of British scholars and intellectuals (or at very least those rooted in Britain) have released a declaration supporting the initiative to give freer use of the classical Roman liturgy. This declaration includes such persons as Fr. John Saward, Prince Rupert zu Loewenstein, Dr. Catherine Pickstock (an Anglican scholar), Count Neri Capponi, Lord Gill, Dr. Sheridan Gilley, Dr. Alcuin Reid and Dr. Laurence Hemming, to name only a few. This document represents a continuing witness to the growing hope that the Holy Father will release this Motu Proprio so that the classical Roman liturgy might again find a freer place of expression in the life of the Church. We join our own voices with theirs, united in the same cause and in a spirit of love for the Church and her liturgical treasury.]

Appeal to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.
[From the British Isles]

In 1971 many leading British and international figures, among whose number were Yehudi Menuhin, Agatha Christie, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Nancy Mitford, Graham Greene, Joan Sutherland, and Ralph Richardson, presented a petition to His Holiness Pope Paul VI asking for the survival of the traditional Roman Catholic Mass on the grounds that it would be a serious loss to western culture. The then Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Heenan himself appealed to Pope Paul for the continued celebration of the traditional Mass. The full text of this appeal in 1971 was:

"If some senseless decree were to order the total or partial destruction of basilicas or cathedrals, then obviously it would be the educated - whatever their personal beliefs - who would rise up in horror to oppose such a possibility. Now the fact is that basilicas and cathedrals were built so as to celebrate a rite which, until a few months ago, constituted a living tradition. We are referring to the Roman Catholic Mass. Yet, according to the latest information in Rome, there is a plan to obliterate that Mass by the end of the current year. One of the axioms of contemporary publicity, religious as well as secular, is that modern man in general, and intellectuals in particular, have become intolerant of all forms of tradition and are anxious to suppress them and put something else in their place. But, like many other affirmations of our publicity machines, this axiom is false. Today, as in times gone by, educated people are in the vanguard where recognition of the value of tradition in concerned, and are the first to raise the alarm when it is threatened. We are not at this moment considering the religious or spiritual experience of millions of individuals. The rite in question, in its magnificent Latin text, has also inspired a host of priceless achievements in the arts - not only mystical works, but works by poets, philosophers, musicians, architects, painters and sculptors in all countries and epochs.

Thus, it belongs to universal culture as well as to churchmen and formal Christians. In the materialistic and technocratic civilisation that is increasingly threatening the life of mind and spirit in its original creative expression - the word - it seems particularly inhuman to deprive man of word-forms in one of their most grandiose manifestations. The signatories of this appeal, which is entirely ecumenical and non-political, have been drawn from every branch of modern culture in Europe and elsewhere. They wish to call to the attention of the Holy See, the appalling responsibility it would incur in the history of the human spirit were it to refuse to allow the Traditional Mass to survive, even though this survival took place side by side with other liturgical reforms."

This appeal in 1971 came at a crucial time in the history of civilisation when the future of the traditional Latin “Tridentine” Mass was in jeopardy. Pope Paul VI graciously acknowledged this appeal and the traditional Mass was saved, at least in England and Wales. Since this momentous appeal in 1971 the traditional Latin Mass has prospered once again among the faithful worldwide and is now celebrated in almost every country in the world. Now, in 2007, there is great hope and expectation that this treasure of civilisation will be freed from its current restrictions. We, the signatories of this petition, wish to associate ourselves to the sentiments expressed in the petition of 1971 which, perhaps, are even more valid today, and appeal to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 to allow the free celebration of the traditional Roman rite of Mass, the Mass of Ages, the Mass of Antiquity, on the altars of the Church.


Rt. Hon. Michael Ancram, QC MP.
Miss Madeleine Beard, M.Litt. (Cantab).
Dr. Mary Berry CBE, Founder of the Schola Gregoriana in Cambridge.
James Bogle, TD, MA, ACIarb, Barrister, Chairman of the Catholic Union of Great Britain.
Count Neri Capponi, Judge of the Tuscan Ecclesiastical Matrimonial Court.
Fr. Antony F.M. Conlon, Chaplain to the Latin Mass Society.
Julian Chadwick, Chairman – The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales.
Rev. Fr. Ronald Creighton-Jobe, The Oratory, London.
Fra’ Fredrik Crichton-Stuart, Chairman CIEL UK.
Leo Darroch, Secretary – International Federation Una Voce.
Adrian Davies, Barrister.
R.P. Davis, B.Phil., M.A., D.Phil (Oxon), retired senior lecturer in Ancient History, Queen’s University of Belfast; translator/commentator on the Liber Pontificalis of the Roman Church.
John Eidinow, Bodley Fellow and Dean, Merton College, Oxford.
Jonathan Evans MEP, Vice Chairman Catholic Union of Great Britain.
Fra’ Matthew Festing, OBE, TD, DL. Grand Prior of England – Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta.
The Right Honourable Lord Gill, Lord Justice Clerk of Scotland.
Dr. Sheridan Gilley, Emeritus Reader, University of Durham.
Dr. Christopher Gillibrand, MA (Oxon).
Rev. Dr. Laurence Paul Hemming, Heythrop College, University of London.
Stephen Hough, Concert Pianist and Composer.
Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director, Aid to the Church in Need UK
Prince Rupert zu Loewenstein, President of the British Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. KCSG.
James MacMillan, CBE, Composer and Conductor.
Anthony McCarthy, Research Fellow, Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics.
Mrs. Daphne McLeod, Chairman – Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice.
Anthony Ozimic, MA (bioethics).
Dr. Susan Frank Parsons, President, Society for the Study of Christian Ethics (UK) and Co-Founder of the Society of St. Catherine of Siena.
Dr. Catherine Pickstock, Lecturer in Philosophy and Religion; Fellow – Emmanuel College, Cambridge.
Dr. Thomas Pink, Reader in Philosophy and Director of Philosophical Studies, Kings College, London.
Piers Paul Read, Novelist and Playwright; Vice-President of the Catholic Writers’ Guild of England and Wales.
The Rev’d. Dr. Alcuin Reid, Liturgical Scholar and Author.
Nicholas Richardson, Warden of Greyfriars Hall, Oxford.
Prof. Jonathan Riley-Smith, retired Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Cambridge University.
Fr. John Saward, Lisieux Senior Research Fellow in Theology, Greyfriars, Oxford University.
Dr. Joseph Shaw. Tutorial Fellow in Philosophy, St. Benet’s Hall, Oxford University.
Damien Thompson, Editor-in-Chief, The Catholic Herald.
Please continue to pray for the Holy Father, who in discerning this next step has already faced fierce opposition against what is actually a comparatively benign movement (when taken in context with the rest of Catholicism). I would suggest that such illogical opposition can only be diabolical in nature.

Friday, January 26, 2007

First Pictures of Madeleine

Here is the first picture of Madeleine after a successful birth in the early hours of this morning. 

It was quite a crazy evening which culminated in a quick and relatively straight-forward birth (although there were a few hair-raising moments and doctors rushing in etc).

Weighing in at 3.16kg (6lb 15oz)!!

The main complication was a retained placenta, which required intravenous oxytocin and eventually a manual evacuation under spinal anaesthesia (ie. Wendy was awake but we were separated for a short time). During this period I had the opportunity to really bond with Maddy; with 'Kangaroo Care' (or skin-to-skin contact) and lots of singing (including Salve Regina, Ave Maria and Adoremus in Aeternum/psalm 116!). This really settled her because she remembered my singing during her stay in the womb.

Kangaroo care is the best way to promote bonding with the newborn. It helps to regulate the baby's heartbeat and breathing, and has many proven benefits. It is used in many premature babies, but is still great for a full term baby like Maddy. And let me tell you, it is the most AMAZING thing in the whole world! I only wish words could express the fantastic bond of supreme love which was so tangible at this moment.

Now I need to get some more sleep so that I can help Mum and Maddy in the days ahead. I have had to come home while Wendy is getting well looked after by the midwives and nurses on the post-labour ward. Thank you everyone for your prayers - I am sure they have helped with a speedy labour (once induction worked!!) and healthy baby and mother.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Come On Baby Girl!

Wendy couldn't believe her luck: we are on the hospital ward waiting to be induced, and can use a bed-side internet console to go on my Blog! And who ever said the NHS was in a mess?!

We are in good spirits passing our time reading the Telegraph, and even Heat magazine! Who ever thought induction of labour would be this fun! They've listened to Maddy's heart and she is doing great: probably revelling in all the attention. Wow!

Well, I'm sure we'll have a fun day. And thankyou, everyone, for all your prayers!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Let's Get This Baby Out!!

Another visit to the Women's Hospital prompted by a worried midwife! This time things were a little more ominous: Wendy's blood pressure was a little high and there was some proteinuria. So, to cut a long story short, the Doctor has decided to be better safe than sorry, and to induce the labour now! We were actually quite excited at the prospect, and agreed to get the ball rolling tomorrow morning. Before coming home, Wendy had a 'membrane sweep' (not for the faint-hearted!) which showed that the cervix has already begun to dilate. So things are well on the way!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Christian Unity

I have decided to no longer blog on a Sunday, but felt I may as well back date this because it is a reflection on the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany which falls within the week of prayer for Christian unity. I have many thoughts on the topic of ecumenism and religious dialogue, with most of them not being particularly 'with the times' and perhaps somewhat cynical. However, I wanted to share with you some points from an inspiring homily by Fr. Paul Chavasse, who had already preached at two morning Masses before he said Mass for us in the Tridentine Rite!

The Gospel today from the old lectionary is particularly useful to meditate upon for this subject:
And when he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him: And behold a leper came and adored him, saying: Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus stretching forth his hand, touched him, saying: I will, be thou made clean. And forthwith his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith to him: See thou tell no man: but go, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift which Moses commanded for a testimony unto them. And when he had entered into Capharnaum, there came to him a centurion, beseeching him,

And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, and is grieviously tormented. And Jesus saith to him: I will come and heal him. And the centurion making answer, said: Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof: but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man subject to authority, having under me soldiers; and I say to this, Go, and he goeth, and to another, Come, and he cometh, and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. And Jesus hearing this, marvelled; and said to them that followed him: Amen I say to you, I have not found so great faith in Israel.

And I say to you that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven: But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said to the centurion: Go, and as thou hast believed, so be it done to thee. And the servant was healed at the same hour.
Here we see, in the spirit of the epiphany, a two-fold manifestation of Christ to the world: Firstly to the Jewish people, whereby he exorts the healed leper to bear testimony to the priests. Secondly, to the Gentiles, as we see Jesus work his saving power in the life of a Pagan centurion who exhibits more faith than all of Israel.

It is an important lesson for us with regards to Christian unity because it reminds us that God works wherever He will: sometimes outside the normal visible boundaries we consider. This means, in our time, that many people are worked upon with prevenient grace, and orientated towards the Holy Catholic Church. Quite often, it is clearly evident how much other christian denominations have: a committment to Jesus' moral teaching, an ardent love of Christ, and a reliance on divine providence. It is important for us Catholics not to scorn what is good in separated communities, but to acknowledge the truth they possess. But also to show them how much they lack, and what fullness of Faith they could possess in the Catholic Faith; nourished by the Sacraments and benefiting from the full embodiment of Christian teaching.

Fr. Paul used the inspiring example of Edith Stein (now canonised Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross), Virgin and Martyr, having died in the gas chamber during the holocaust in 1941. Having visited Cally's Kitchen countless times, I was beginning to wonder who she was!

She was born in 1891 and raised a Jew in Germany (present day Poland). In her twenties she studied Philosophy and gradually became interested in Catholicism after falling into atheism during her teens. When she presented herself to the local parish priest, shortly before her baptism in 1922 (age 30) she already had a full grasp of Catholic teaching. How? Simply by visiting a bookshop and buying a Missal! From this book, compiling all the Church's liturgical prayers and customs, she gained a deep and wonderful appreciation of the Catholic Faith.

I wish I could say the same for my poor little Collins Missal!

God works where He will, and it is therefore up to Catholics not to hide their Faith from others, but to share it and let others know the blessed hope we live with. As St. Paul reminds us in today's Epistle, this includes even our enemies:

Be not wise in your own conceits. To no man rendereth evil for evil: providing good things not only in the sight of all men... if thy enemy be hungry, give him to eat: if he thirst, give him to drink: for doing this, thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head[!]

So, in all things Charity! Something I will strive to remember rather than falling temptation to pride. I will conclude by recounting the words of Pope Benedict XVI:

We cannot have Jesus without the reality He created and in which He communicates Himself. Between the Son of God-made-flesh and His Church there is a profound, unbreakable and mysterious continuity by which Christ is present today to His people - built on a foundation of the apostles and alive in the succession of the apostles.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Physician's Prayer

Hat tip to Catholic Medical Student who is doing a wonderful service in his Ohio apostolate.

An Eastern Orthodox Physician's Prayer:

O Lord Jesus Christ our God, Lover of Mankind, Physician of our souls and bodies, who didst bear the pain of our infirmities, and by whose wounds we are healed,
Who gave sight to the man born blind,
Who straightened the woman who was bent over for 18 years,
Who gave speech and sight to the mute demoniac,
Who not only forgave the paralytic his sins, but healed him to walk,
Who restored the withered hand of a troubled man,
Who stopped the flow of blood of her who bled for 12 years
Who raised Jairus’ daughter to life
And brought the 4-day-dead Lazarus to life
And who heals every infirmity under the sun,
Do now, O Lord, give your grace to all those here gathered who have labored and studied hour upon hour, to go into all the world, and also to heal by the talent You have given to each of them.
Strengthen them, by your strength, to fear no evil or disease,
Enlighten them to do no evil by the works of their hands,
And preserve them and those they serve in peace,
For You are our God, and we know no other,
And to you we send up glory together with your Father who is from everlasting, and your most Holy, Good, and Life-creating Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.


Waiting with Baited Breath...

I have received many enquiries into how Wendy is getting along, and whether Maddy has shown herself yet! Well, all I can say is that it is currently a period of blissful waiting, like the calm before the storm, you might say! After my hectic exams (it really wasn't that bad!) I feel liberated and relaxed, with a week off in which to, hopefully, see the delivery through and get to know Maddy.

Maddy is being baptised very early on, in February, which is already booked. So as not to make our lives completely public (and due to limitations in the saying of private masses) I will not be posting all the details here. But if you really would like to come and meet the new addition to our family, get in touch via email and I will give you the details.

Here is a picture of us beside the beautiful baptismal font where Maddy will be joyfully incorporated into the Body of Christ; liberated from the way of the flesh; and born anew in the Spirit whereby God's grace will divinise her life. It is the most exciting thing we, as parents, can provide for her. I hope to reflect on the important theme of baptism in the coming weeks.

Friday, January 19, 2007

A Mythered Medical Student

This week I feel like I have suffered a lot with my current exam week. Monday I had a 3-hour written paper; Wednesday I had an OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination - assessing practical skills); Thursday another OSCE; and today a final OSCE, this time over an hour of rigorous one-to-one assessment. I always struggle with exams. Not only in revision, when I find it difficult to concentrate on books for very long, but also pre-exam nerves where my body gets flooded with Adrenaline.

Once I'm in there, I'm fine. In fact, today I really enjoyed my OSCE. It consisted of six 12-minute stations, two of which involved conducting a consultation with an actor playing a patient, and being examined for communication skills. It is all very frantic and stressful. Perhaps that is the idea: Doctors have to be able to cope with stress, especially in emergency situations.

By mid-week I was thoroughly exhausted. I was feeling withdrawn, unable to revise, and quite despairing (especially after I prescribed Viagra for a patient's hospital stay. Why??)

But I'd like to focus on today's exam. It was testing skills in General Practice, mostly consisting of an examiner asking us questions about hypothetical scenarios. Even so, it is easy for morally objectionable subjects to crop up. I felt like my answer to these were quite good considering the added stress and pressure!

Luckily I had recently read an excellent chapter in a book sent to me by Dr. Charlie O'Donnell (one of the authors) which I'd heartily recommend to any medical student or doctor concerned about complicity with the moral problems of medicine:

Cooperation, Complicity & Conscience: Problems in healthcare, science, law and public policy. Ed Helen Watt. Linacre Centre: London, 2005

Chapter 8 is brilliant, especially for a career in General Practice. Mike Delany gives some excellent advice on how to handle a patient requesting abortion, which enabled me to find this particular station entirely unproblematic. My first step was to explain to the examiner the criteria of the 1967 abortion act, and that if taken legitimately it is much harder to justify 'abortion on demand' which is clearly a violation and abuse of the law. The examiner agreed. Next I was able to mention the moral objection clause, which protects doctors from doing anything they feel uncomfortable with. But ultimately I was able to score my points with him by giving the requirements which the other doctors would need to meet if the patient sought a second opinion (which I would be required to freely enable). It is certainly easy for me to say this, but how to practice this well, as a good Christian, is better left to the expert! I quote Mike Delany in abbreviation:
My approach... is to view the situation as I would any other medical consultation: I have training in medicine alone and can only offer a medical opinion... So, I begin by taking a history and performing whatever examination or further investigation is appropriate; I am then in a position to discuss my findings... I will do all I can to provide support through this pregnancy and facilitate connection with other services available... If she persists along the lines of seeking an abortion, I share my experience of treating the aftermath of this procedure... deleterious psychological sequelae... the nature of the procedure and the risks entailed... Sadly few are swayed... The first precept of doing no harm [non-maleficence] has been honoured; the rather thornier issue of respecting autonomy follows.
So it is then appropriate merely to remind the patient of their right to a second opinion from another doctor of their choosing. The most important aspect about this approach is the compassionate way we feel bound to approach a mother contemplating a difficult unsupported future, for example, and not merely to send them out the door without any guidance merely to keep one's hands clean of the situation. Incidentally, it was a Muslim doctor who advised me to do the latter, since most patients have no interest in religious motivations.

This may be so, and I was grateful at the time for this advice, which I found incapable of obtaining elsewhere. But like I have said, the approach outlined by Mike Delany in this book seems more in keeping with a compassionate Christian approach, where the temporal concerns of the patient (and not just the eternal welfare, which may require a judgemental approach) are taken into account and treated sensitively. That is what we are trained as doctors to do, in all situations, and there is no reason why we cannot apply it to the case of abortion. It is very rare that a patient's demands must be bowed to without considering all the implications. However, as I said in a previous post, there is a tendency for an 'autonomy' obsessed healthcare system to become consumerist, which we have to be careful about. I also need to take the following duty of a doctor into account, which is no longer from the Hippocratic oath, but rather part of the GMC recommendations for tomorrow's doctors:
...make sure that your personal beliefs do not prejudice your patients' care... avoid abusing your position as doctor... [and] in all matters you must never discriminate unfairly against your patients or colleagues
I am happy to abide by these principles as long as they do not infringe upon my own spiritual life. This is perfectly reasonable, and there is no reason to think that being a doctor is not compatible with being a saint.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Damian Paul Coghlan 1977-1997

I have just had a wonderful conversation with Fr. Leo Chamberlain OSB, Master of St. Benet's Hall at Oxford University. The reason was to explain that Damian, my late brother, couldn't come to the invited 110th anniversary dinner because he unfortunately died whilst at University. Their records did not have a note of this, so he was glad to hear from me.

Damian was educated by the Rosminians (Institute of Charity) from the age of 8 till 18; first at Grace Dieu Manor preparatory school, and then Ratcliffe College (where I shared my formative years). He attended Oxford University in the last couple of years of his life: 1995-1997 (during Dom Henry Wansbrough's time), and read Philosophy and Theology. He struggled his whole life with a congenital heart defect, and suffered considerably in his last few years with Eisenmenger's syndrome. Unfortunately Our Lord took him before he was able to complete his degree, but I am so very pleased he had the experience of St. Benet's Hall, even if he didn't regularly take advantage of their beautiful Gregorian Chant Liturgy!

This year it is coming up to the 10th Anniversary of Damian's death. For this occasion I am using my rosary making skills to construct a full size 15 decade rosary, with a commemorative plaque, which I hope to adorn somewhere appropriate (ideally a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary somewhere in Oxford). It would also be a wonderful occasion to offer up prayers afresh, of petition and thanksgiving. For the latter, I thought it would be most appropriate to compile a book of photos and testimonies from different people who knew him. If, by chance, you are reading this and knew him, please do get in touch and contribute to what I hope will be a fitting tribute to a wonderful and brave young man.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas...

I was fascinated to learn that it is thought to be a secret Catholic song; "on the twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent to me: a partridge in a pear tree!"

The song's gifts are supposedly hidden meanings to the teachings of the faith. The "true love" mentioned in the song doesn't refer to an earthly suitor, it refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents refers to every baptised person. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge which feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, much in memory of the expression of Christ's sadness over the fate of Jerusalem:

"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen doth gather her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldest not?
Matthew 23:37

The other symbols in the song are interpreted as thus:
2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity (the Theological Virtues)
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch"
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit / the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve articles of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed
Recall your minds back to last Saturday... on the traditional date for the feast of the Epiphany, the twelfth day of Christmas, I could sing with joy my own song:

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas my true love sent to me:
A Twelve altar church
at Eleven in the morning
Ten Singers chanting
Nine Altar servers
Eight Maids mantill'ed
Seven Yards of Lace
Six Candles Blazing
* Five * Bell * Rings * ! * (at each consecration!)
Four Altar Relics
Three B'rettas
Two Acolytes
A Tridentine-High-Mass in the Ora-to-ryyy!

Patient Autonomy in Healthcare

After adding a new Catholic Medical Student to my blogroll, I was inspired to strive in coming weeks to attend more to some of the ethical problems in medicine and how I, as a Catholic, manage to come to terms with these. One of the comments I recently received asked how I could cope with the way abortion was taught at Medical School. Well, I have only been taught about this in the context of the Law (1967 Abortion Act), and have yet to meet it in medical practice (I have Obs & Gynae next month though!) but luckily the NHS doesn't provide this service in Birmingham (although it does pay for referrals to private clinics, of course).

For now, as I am quite busy with revision for next week, I just wanted to share with you some of the ethical observations I made whilst working in the field of Palliative Care, in the context of how Physician-assisted suicide has been argued using the buzzword of 'autonomy' or patient choice. It is interesting to see how the model of healthcare is evolving, and how that in turn affects the whole morality of medicine. The following is an extract from my elective project about reflective practice in Palliative Care:
The concept of ‘autonomy’ has been used in recent decades to refer to the idea of patient's rights. But there are various interpretations of this principle; the first of which enriches the traditional idea of ethical medicine, but the second is not compatible and implies a radical change in the doctor-patient relationship.[1]

Because autonomy is so important in palliative care, it is essential to be clear on which interpretation is used in the model of care. Kant (1785) introduced the concept of persons as self-determining, self-governing beings, whose decisions are essentially rational (when not blinded by our desires). This concept was modified by J. S. Mill (1859), who suggested an autonomous decision is less about rationality as it is about personal preference. When combined, this traditional Kantian-Millean idea of autonomy is that of preference and informed consent.

This allows openness in human relationship, something which isn’t as present with a paternalistic approach. It is certainly the helpful during a medical consultation, where the physician engages with the patient on an empathetic level.[2] This is where patient autonomy is the key to effective healthcare, requiring excellent communication skills and a robust doctor-patient relationship.

On the other hand, autonomy is also understood in terms of ‘consumer autonomy’, where the patient is seen more as the customer of a service industry, rather than part of the therapeutic relationship described above. The British Government is increasingly adopting this model of healthcare, with emphases being placed on consumer ethics; services being more accessible and subject to regulation, with the patients having more choice, information, and the ability to obtain redress. If this consumer concept of autonomy is adopted, then healthcare will seek less to retain the sorts of ethics which aim to protect vulnerable patients against exploitation.

1. Randell F, Dwonie RS. Palliative care ethics: A good companion. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996
2. Longmore M, Wilkinson I, Török E. Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine. 5th ed. (Facing Death, P. 7) Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Traditional Solemn High Mass at Birmingham Oratory

It was such a joy for me to sit down at the Oratory this morning, and see three altar cards set out on the High Altar, and the temporary lectern and microphone stand pushed aside. Today was the first time I have been to a High Mass in the Old Rite (using 1962 liturgical books). This occasion was even more special because it was happening at my home church of Birmingham Oratory, where I know and dearly love many people. I just caught the end of benediction before I prepared for what was a most beautiful spectacle! The church was very full, probably a similar number that attends the principal mass every Sunday. This is a wonderful indication for us, because in our modern Church in this country, there is no obligation at all any more to attend Mass on this day. Yet still there are so many of us willing to observe the twelfth day of Christmas, in the traditional manner.

In the customary Oratorian way, we were treated to a full complement of servers, and beautiful golden vestments. While the Ministers prepared us for the sacred mysteries by reciting Psalm 42 and the Confiteor in a penitant way, the choir was in full swing, chanting the Introit:
Behold the Lord the ruler is come: and the Kingdom is in His hand, and power, and dominion. O God: and to the king's son Thy justice. The Kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer gifts. The Kings of Araby and Saba shall bring presents. And all the kings of the earth shall adore Him; all peoples shall serve Him.
What is wonderful about this feast, as Fr. Paul Chavasse explained in his homily, is the way we resemble the wise men; bringing the gifts of our lives, and humbly bowing and kneeling in adoration, at His presence in the Blessed Sacrament. The Epiphany is the manifestation of Christ to the whole world, embracing the Gentiles in His plan of salvation as long as we imitate that humility displayed by the three kings. Our responsibility is great; to reveal to others in turn the joy we have received from the Gospel. Even if we do not feel influential, we can achieve this by living good lives and displaying the humility and reverence as the wise men did.

This first part of the Mass is so wonderful in the Old Rite, we see such petitions of penitence and humility. For instance, as the Celebrant ascends the Altar he says quietly in Latin: Take away from us our iniquities, we entreat Thee, O Lord, that with pure minds we may worthily enter into the Holy of Holies.

The Kyrie and Gloria were sung beautifully by the choir, from the Mass O quam gloriosum est Regnum by Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611). The choir's performance provides more of a backdrop than a focus in the Old Mass, during which the Ministers are busy with rituals like incensing the altar, saying quiet prayers, and ultimately offering the Canon which is the central prayer of the Mass.

For this special Mass the Ministers all wore birettas, which looked fabulous! During the Gloria, when they are seated at the Sedilia, it is noticeable that these birettas are removed every time the Choir sing the name "Jesus" as a mark of respect for this Holy Name!

Indeed, Catholics revere the name Jesus so much that it is used sparingly, with term "Our Lord" being more common. Every time the name Jesus is spoken it is proper to briefly bow one's head.

Once the Kyrie ("Lord have mercy") and the Gloria ("Glory to God in the Highest") have been said, our penitence has been transformed to joy. The prayers of all the faithful present are then united in the Collect: proper to the day's Feast:

O God, who on this day didst reveal Thine only-begotten Son to the nations by the guiding of a star, grant, we beseech Thee, that we who now know Thee by Faith, may be led to contemplate the beauty of Thy shining.
Next the Subdeacon (Fr. Philip Cleevely) takes the Missal and chants the Epistle, standing away from the Altar itself but directing the prophecy towards it. I have heard it said that this minister represents the people of the Old Covenant, or more properly the Jewish people, who never accepted Jesus as Messiah. The Subdeacon is alone in his actions, and always stays behind the Celebrant, who like the Priest at every Mass, resembles Christ. I don't know how true this observation is, but like everything it is edifying and prayerful to see such rich symbolism in our worship, which I will continue to reflect on during this account.

Isaias 60. 1-6 "Thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon Thee... the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and kings in the brightness of thy rising."
Next the Missal is transferred to the Deacon (Fr. Guy Nicholls), who represents the people of the New Covenant. He asks "Jube, domne, benedícere" (Sir, bid a blessing) and is blessed by the Celebrant with the words: "May the Lord be in thine heart and on thy lips that thou mayest worthily and fitly proclaim his Gospel".

This proclamation is done most splendidly and joyfully with the procession of the Missal to the 'Gospel side' of the Altar, with the choir singing the tract and Alleluia:

Alleluia, Alleluia!
We have seen His star in the East, and are come with gifts to adore the Lord.
The Missal is illuminated by acolytes and incensed with the thurible. The orientation is different from when the Epistle is said; the Deacon faces away from the Altar, almost (and probably historically) towards the people. The celebrant looks on from the Altar itself, facing the Deacon's back, in such a way that it appears to be him (as Christ) inspiring the Deacon (as the Church) to proclaim the Gospel.

St. Matthew 2. 1-12
"Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East, and are come to adore Him"
Special to today's Gospel is the rubric for the point when the Deacon chants the section:"and falling down they adored Him"
"et procidéntes adoravérunt eum"
We all genuflect with him at this moment to mirror the Magi's act of adoration. This act is the height of humility: those who were Kings themselves, and not likely to have been convinced by prophecies or apologetics, but by God acting in them in a unique way, to bring them to the foot of the manger.
"By the words of the Gospel may our sins be blotted out"
Fr. Paul Chavasse then preached what was, as I have said, a wonderful sermon; which has given me inspiration to reflect on this magnificent feast here. It also provided a suitable moment for Wendy to have her hourly toilet break (Maddy is taking up a lot of room)!

The next part of the Mass is the principal sacrificial part and is based around the manifestation of Our Lord in the changing of bread and wine into His Body and Blood under the humble appearance of the former. This part is traditionally known as the 'Mass of the Faithful', since catechumens (or Christians-in-training) were dismissed at this point in very early Christianity, to maintain secrecy and security in times of persecution. Nowadays, the name has been changed to 'Liturgy of the Eucharist' which reflects the distinctive act of 'thanksgiving' which takes place here.

It was at this point when I was fascinated to see, for my first time, the Subdeacon receive a humoral veil which has an important liturgical function in the High Mass:

Here the Subdeacon on the right presents the water and wine cruets to the Celebrant, which will be offered to God and transformed into the Blood of Christ:
By the Mystery signified in the mingling of this water and wine, grant us to have part in the Godhead of Him Who hath deigned to become a partaker of our humanity, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord...
Next the Altar is incensed and the Subdeacon receives, concealed under his veil, the paten (which the transformed Sacred Host will be placed upon later). The symbolism of this revolves around the blindness of the Jewish people towards the Saviour, who is present in the New Covenant. It sounds dreadfully un-PC, but that's what I've been led to believe; and perhaps the reason why the modern Church has abolished the role of Subdeacon altogether! I think it creates a marvellous beauty and elegance to have these different roles being reflected in the Mass.

May this incense which Thou hast blessed, O Lord, ascend to Thee, and may Thy mercy descend on us. Welcome as incense-smoke let my prayer rise up before The, O Lord. When I lift up my hands, be it as acceptable as the evening sacrifice.
The great Sacrifice of the Mass is where the Christian life culminates each week. We are mystically present at Christ's own sacrifice, which is re-presented through time and space at every Altar. It is like the Temple of the Old Testament being present in the midst of every people in the world. That is why the structure of a church building is so important; the sanctuary is kept holy and undefiled behind the altar rails (or the iconostasis in the Eastern Church, or rood screen in Gothic churches) and within it is the holy of holies: the tabernacle - where Christ is present in the Blessed Sacrament (reserved hosts from communion are contained there).

Amid the elaborate prayers of the Roman Canon, the pinacle is the simple pronunciation of Christ's words at the Last Supper, which brings about the transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Our Lord.



We bow down in humble adoration at this moment, making an act of faith such as "My Lord and my God" (the words of the Apostle Thomas on witnessing the resurrected Lord). This is our inheritence from the Magi; this is what we recall on this feast: Christ is born among us in the Church, we are called to pay our own homage and ask him into our lives.

"Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccáta mundi"
Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him Who taketh away the sins of the world
The choir sang the Communion Motet "Magi viderunt stellam" by Victoria as the congregation received communion in the traditional manner.

Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that with minds that have been cleansed we may grasp the meaning of that which with solemn rite we celebrate. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Advert - Epiphany High Mass

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Traditional Feast of the Epiphany
Solemn High Mass in the Classical Roman ('Tridentine') Rite
Birmingham Oratory
(at the High Altar)
11am - Saturday, January 6th 2007
Followed by refreshments and party

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Precious Unborn

Today we embarked on a trip to the Birmingham Women's Hospital. On Wednesday our midwife, on a home visit, was concerned that Maddy wasn't growing enough. So we were a bit anxious to know that Wendy had to have another ultrasound scan to ensure the growth was normal. Thankfully it was! Everything is going great with all the measurements spot on the expected growth curve. Her estimated weight, based on today's scan, is 6lb 3oz (+/- 1lb) or 2.8kg. She'd be fine if she came now!

Although the option of buying a photograph is there at every scan, at this stage Maddy is too big for us to get a good one. Her face was hiding because her head was down in Wendy's pelvis! Maddy is definitely gearing up to meet the outside world. How exciting!

The most amazing scans are conducted using the latest ultrasound technology to produce a 3D image. On the left is a sample picture of a baby about Maddy's age. It is incredible the sort of information available by looking at these scans; the minute movements that a fetus is capable of, even very early on in gestation. In fact, pro-life supporters have used these images to show how incredible human life is at this stage, especially around the age of 20 weeks, when abortions can happen quite easily. Look at the picture below of a 10-week old fetus (that's still in the first trimester!)

Its difficult to comprehend how people can feel it is acceptable to destroy such innocent human life. It is especially hard for me, because I have become so attached to the 'fetus' inside my wife, from the first moment I knew of its existence! But for those mothers who are in such pain and turmoil that they consider this an option, they need to be shown compassion and charity, to oppose the culture of death we live in. That is why I have linked to the wonderful Good Counsel Network in the Resources on my sidebar: they save lives by supporting the mothers and offering up prayers and sacrifices for these little souls, who are often disregarded by our society, in what has become a secret genocide bigger than any other in all human history.

Join me in prayer for these unborn children, and their mothers, as I seek the intercession of St. Gerard for my own unborn daughter. Every baby is beautiful, as we were reminded of after our visit through the Women's Hospital today.

Ultrasound images Courtesy:
Saied Tohamy, Egypt
The Cyber 3D Ultrasound Society

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Fullness of Faith

New on my Blogroll: a Blog (update: now here) by an ex-Anglican-vicar-turned-Catholic! I love the title, Fullness of Faith, because it is the phrase which expressed best how Wendy felt when she converted to Catholicism. Its a wonderful testimony and I pray this sort of thing can happen to more vicars, which cannot be easy considering all they have to give up in worldly terms in order to make the transition. Deo Gratias!

O Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our most gentle Queen and Mother, look down with mercy upon England your dowry, and upon us all who greatly hope and trust in you. By you it was that Jesus, our Saviour and hope, was given to the world; and he has given you to us that we may hope still more. Plead for us your children, whom you did receive and accept at the foot of the Cross, O sorrowful Mother. Intercede for our separated brethren, that with us in the one true fold they may be united to the Chief Shepherd, the Vicar of your Son. Pray for us all, dear Mother, that by faith fruitful in good works we may all deserve to see and praise God, together with you in our heavenly home.

Childhood Reverence

I was looking through some old loose family photos, and came across some real gems from me and my brothers' formative years at our home parish in Nottingham. I won't go and say what parish it is, but I had a great fondness and love for it, and for the Priest there. The first picture is of my baptism (left) and raises some interesting points. Firstly, as you can see, I was quite a bit older than a baby, at the age of 3. It turns out this was because my Dad, a Presbyterian, objected to me being baptised a Catholic, so it was only a long time after, when my mum came to England, that she got round to it.

The next picture is of my brother Damian's First Holy Communion (I assume it was at a similar time, when he was about 8) on the right. This was a similar format to when I first received Communion; we processed into the sanctuary and knelt during the Communion Rite, then received the Blessed Sacrament onto our tongues. Of course, after this our catechists encouraged us to receive in the hand like everyone else, but I suppose the priest wanted to make the First time as reverent and special as possible, and so insisted upon the traditional way.

The next picture (left) is of myself, just having received First Holy Communion, processing down out of the sanctuary back to our pews. I didn't know I was being photographed: I really was that pious (or at least carefully instructed by the Priest to be)!! I just love this photo, and it gives a fairly good view of the sanctuary which is quite important before I display my next photo.

This Parish Priest was present from 1982 until 2000, so during my whole childhood in Nottingham. His predecessor was responsible for the reordering of the church in the 1970s (details of which I am unaware of), but thankfully, as you can see from the above photos, certain traditional features like the altar rails were retained. However, during the 1990s (after I had left the Parish) there was further reordering of the sanctuary. The altar rails (which were beautiful) were removed, and the steps widened to cover the entire width of the sanctuary. The whole sanctuary was also carpeted in a nice red colour (not, I hasten to add, to make kneeling more comfortable!)

Frankly I don't know why this was decided upon, but on my last visit there I had a glimpse of some possible explanations. Before communion, a whole army of 'eucharistic monsters' (or more properly speaking, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion) processed up to the altar in a long wide line (now possible with a new open, spacious sanctuary). They received communion at the same time as the Priest (a new replacement since 2000) and took a huge amount of time to receive the Sacred Chalices for distribution. The whole spectacle was actually quite embarrassing, and I could never quite work out the justification for the use of so many lay ministers. I assume its an effort to be more 'inclusive' but more likely turns out to be a way for prominent parishioners to display a degree of authority.

In any case, I have one picture left which to some degree displays these changes. Up till now, I would forgive you for thinking of me as pedantic, but something tells me these things do make a difference. The last picture; my little brother Jerome's First Holy Communion:

I rest my case.

P.S. Love you Jerome!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Nottingham Castle

Before Christmas I finally got around to taking Wendy to Nottingham Castle. There's not much left of the Castle itself, except the walls and gatehouse:

Opposite this stands a wonderful old tudor house now used as the Lace Centre. Nottingham is traditionally famous for its production of lace (despite now only being famous for gun crime), having been the centre after the 16th Century for machine production of lace. We took the opportunity to buy a little lace bib for Madeleine's baptism!

But there is a more modern building now on the castle mount (the Museum and Art Gallery, 1875) inside which there are an interesting collection of artifacts. This picture shows what miserable foggy weather we were having that week:

My favourite bit was the medieval religious relics, carved from alabaster, and preserved from before the reformation (some under floorboards)! Of particular note was a huge reredos with wonderful carving of different scenes from the Passion (right). How wonderful it would be to still have our modern churches adorned with these treasures... The guard there reluctantly gave me permission to take these photos!