Thursday, May 31, 2007

A House Chapel

We had the pleasure today to visit a family with a beautifully decorated home, complete with a Chapel in one of their downstairs rooms. Have you ever wondered what happens to the church art which is jettisoned from closing convents and wreckovated churches? Some lay people are keen to preserve our patrimony, and this is a beautiful example. I hasten to add the sanctuary lamp was not lit.

On a related note there is a wonderful article on Fisheaters about the Catholic Home as the "Domestic Church".

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Dedication of the Oratory

Last night we went to the Oratory expecting a simple low Mass at 1745 like every other day. Not paying attention to the bulletin, it turned out we were treated to the solemnity of the dedication of the church, in common with the rest of the diocese (the actual anniversary is in mid-June). It was a Sung Latin Mass, with a small schola of two parishioners (both members of the choir) singing wonderful gregorian chant audible right from the back of church! Fr Paul Chavasse was celebrant with a small team of MC, thurifer and acolytes. One of our parishioners currently in the seminary read the first reading, from the book of Kings, to call to mind Solomon's feelings of inadequacy towards the temple he had built.

Fr Paul reflected on the fact we are very blessed with this House of Prayer, our posterity and history deeply embedded within it. Also in the way we have fostered and preserved the beauty of music and liturgy, so that we may make fitting worship and reverence before God. Most importantly he reminded us that we are the building blocks of the church, and that even with the most beautiful building and decoration, it can all become stale without individuals who are dedicated and committed to the Faith. My family do not live in the Parish; I wonder if I have thought enough about this odd position. Many people would exhort me to support my local parish and contribute my talents there (especially when compared with a grand church like the Oratory).

My family is young and still in its infancy. I have never ceased thinking of myself as a little child; requiring guidance, instruction, formation, nourishment and opportunities to live my Faith in practical ways. I want to avoid polemics, so will simply concentrate on those aspects which make the Oratory an essential place to nurture these things.
  • The Fathers They always spring to my mind when I speak with fondness about the Oratory. Outsiders will often remark that the Oratory is 'distant' and 'impersonal' (probably due to the size of the building and the solemnity of the liturgy). To this I will always answer that the Oratory Fathers are the friendliest, kindest and most genuine priests I have come to know. But this is not the normal kind of friendship which I may have with contemporaries, it is a priestly friendship. It has a divine origin which speaks of a friendship with Christ. I have not come to think of it like that before now, so I will try to explain. When I associate with the Fathers, I am aware that they have all the time in the world for me. They may be busy in the practical sense, but not in other ways; a presence in the confessional before every mass; their preserved role of distributing the blessed sacrament during holy communion; several daily masses; availability of spiritual direction; religious groups like the brothers of the little oratory; devotional services like benediction, adoration, processions, vigils.All these things speak strongly of the endless mercy of Christ present in spiritual formation and the sacraments, through the priest who is living his vocation of Alter Christus - Another Christ. I have also heard of diocesan priests envious of the number of priests (five) present at the Oratory to share their huge duty of missionary duties. Well, in the context of their history, five is actually very few (there is space for twenty!). The Oratory has a unique responsibility and duty when compared with the average parish, and this is not to sound arrogant; each priest at the Oratory works incredibly hard for the service of his parishioners and at the service of each other. Above this, they often serve a duty to the wider Church, of study and writing. The quality of the liturgy, historical work and the cause for the beatification of Cardinal Newman are all responsibilities which are undertaken.
  • The BuildingAs mentioned previously, there is a wealth of history and lay devotion, artwork and sculpture which is clearly visible at the Oratory. All of this intends to orientate the mind toward God, endowing us with means of devotions and opportunities towards sanctification.
  • The Parishioners As time has gone by, we have made more friends and important networks of support. This makes it harder for us to simply 'church hop' like we used to; we feel more settled and valued, with a special place to bring our daughter each week. Fellowship isn't nearly the most important part of going to church, but this is traditionally the place where the community comes together and develops relationships. This has been most conducive within separate parish communities (of which there are many: Brothers, Union of Catholic Mothers, Legion of Mary, Walsingham Association, Society of St Vincent de Paul, Lourdes Group).
  • The Liturgy The Eucharist is the "source and summit of Christian life" and therefore the most fitting and reverent celebration of it is my favourite thing (as I'm sure is clearly evident from the Blog). I don't want to argue about what is right and what is wrong, and therefore at the Oratory I can easily get on with my spiritual life and benefit from the sacraments without having occasions to sin by worrying what is going on, and becoming judgemental. The Liturgy is not banal, and equally it is not pretentious. Additionally I am learning more and more traditional devotions all the time: hymns sung at Benediction, antiphons to Our Lady, Latin ordinary of the Mass (to which Vatican II exhorts the people to know their parts - Sacrosanctum Concilium 54) This all helps us to practice our Faith in a productive, lively, and worthy way.
I hope these points will help others to see why the Oratory is so important in our lives, and why its worth travelling a distance for.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Veni, Sancte Spiritus

The title Veni, Sancte Spiritus is the golden sequence sung at Mass today, at Harvington Hall's parish of St. Mary's. It is a beautiful hymn, probably written by Cardinal Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury in the 13th Century. He was a great legislator, and Fr Higham reminded us in his homily that he was appropriately also a great poet. What a combination so treasured in our Church!

There was something else very special for today's celebration of Pentecost. Not only did we have the Neri Singers lifting our hearts and minds; the delicate precision and noble elegance of the Tridentine Mass; the sweet smell of incense; and the incredible mystery of Our Lord truly present under the appearance of humble bread and wine... but there was a very special chasuble being worn by Fr David Higham! I haven't all the details to hand, but this exquisite vestment dates back to the 15th Century, and features an elegant red cross made using the fabric from one of Catherine of Aragon's dresses, explicit in her last will and testament. What thoughts and feelings this evokes. I will provide more photos and details about this in due course.

Fr Higham preached an inspiring sermon as always. What more appropriate occasion to reflect upon this day, than the unfortunate situation in Brazil where the Holy Father has recently visited? They have the largest Catholic population, but huge numbers are being plucked away by 'Pentecostal' sects. What do these sects claim to have over and above the Church? Rather than set, rubrical forms of worship led by a priest; they have spontaneous, lively preaching and music. Rather than intricate and complicated doctrines; they boast basic and simple biblical truths. "The gifts of the Holy Spirit living and active in believers today." Can the Catholic Faith boast these things?

The Catholic Church holds the day of Pentecost in high esteem, commemorating it on this day. It was this event which founded the Church with the living, Holy Spirit of God. It is this Spirit which is active in the Church throughout the centuries; to preserve her, teach and instruct her, and inspire her members towards holiness and sanctification. This is far more beautiful and divine than warm subjective feelings and outbursts of joy. Such feelings can be reproduced in the most secular of settings, and lend more to a kind of social interaction rather than a living and present divine reality. The Catholic Faith provides sustenance and sanctification through the Holy Spirit's special action in the Sacraments. In particular, at the Mass it is the power of the Holy Spirit which transforms our reality into the heavenly realm: by re-presenting the sacrifice on Calvary of our Lord Jesus Christ; by transforming our earthly gifts of bread and wine into His Body and Blood, the Lamb of God, the Bread from Heaven in which we partake in the eternal banquet. That is a reality which Our Lord begged us to accept like little children, or our Life in the Spirit is simply not possible, and we cannot enter God's Kingdom.

Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi
"If any one love Me, he will keep my word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and will make Our abode in him."
St John 14:23

Let us echo the words: "Veni, Sancte Spiritus" and like St Philip Neri, experience that great inrush of the divine Spirit into our hearts. One which for Philip, resulted in an overwhelming burning and divine delight, the likes of which overflowed into the hearts of everyone he met, drawing them into the Church and saving their souls. If we reduce the action of the Holy Spirit into a simple transient community experience then we reduce the Church to an earthly and individualistic realm. Through obedience and authority we accept a higher divine guidance of Christ's body, the Church, one which Our Lord promised the apostles would "teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you."

Fr Tim Finigan at Birmingham Oratory

Fr Tim has put up some excellent posts of his trip to Birmingham Oratory. In particular, he has provided us with a wonderful insight into the Oratorian priestly life; something I could never hope to do!

Oratory Hospitality
Press Photos
Round the Oratory Church
High Altar
St Philip's Chapel

It was lovely meeting Fr Tim, and I wish we had more time to chat after the High Mass.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

St Philip Neri

Today is the big Feast for Oratories around the world. For several weeks we have been anticipating this at Birmingham Oratory, with tapestries hanging around the church depicting stories from the Saint's life, and red banners hanging from the walls around the sanctuary. The church today was alight with candles everywhere; all the side altars were aglow, and large candle fittings were attached to the walls and decorated with flowers. The Shrine of St. Philip Neri, which is just next to the sanctuary, was decorated particularly well, and his reliquary was arranged beautifully just outside.

The Feast began yesterday evening with Solemn Vespers and Benediction. This was just fabulous. There were four cantors in copes with Fr Paul Chavasse as celebrant. We were all blessed with a relic of St. Philip; a particularly moving occasion which is also possible every Monday evening in the Shrine.

I had an early start today to serve Mass for Fr Tim, who preached an excellent homily at the High Mass. Hopefully he will reproduce it on his blog; an account of the wonderful gifts St Philip Neri displayed in his ministry, and the effect it had on those around him. Fr Tim called him the "President of the Saints' Club" which includes many other counter-reformation Saints, during a period of history when Rome itself was in need of these great souls. For this reason, Philip himself is known as 'Apostle of Rome'.

I am a Brother of the Little Oratory, which is a brotherhood founded by St Philip himself. He wanted to promote spirituality among laymen in the world, and gathered around him men of every class. Their spiritual meetings would consist of sermons and prayers, and eventually led to many members becoming ordained with Philip into the priesthood. But the Oratory is not a religious monastic community; it exists as a congregation led by the spirit of St Philip, of priests and laymen united by a common bond of charity. Through this we are inspired to devote our leisure to works of mercy and charity, and to serve God under St Philip's gentle guidance.

At Birmingham Oratory, the Brothers meet every Tuesday night under the spiritual guidance of our Father Prefect Philip Cleevely. We follow certain rules and spiritual exercises, which were adapted from those in use by Rome when Cardinal Newman established the Oratory in England. We also have evenings of recollection during Advent and Lent, and go on trips in the Summer. Most of the Brothers serve at High Mass and Vespers each Sunday, and are generally helpful and prominent in the Parish.

The Venerable Cesare Cardinal Baronio wrote the following prayer to St Philip Neri, which I try to say every day.
Look down from heaven, Holy Father, from the loftiness of that mountain to the lowliness of this valley; from that harbour of quietness and tranquillity, to this calamatious sea.

And now that the darkness of this world hinders no more those benignant eyes of thine from looking clearly into all things, look down and visit, O most diligent keeper, that vineyard which thy right hand planted with so much labour, anxiety, and peril.

To thee, then, we fly; from thee we seek for aid; to thee we give our whole selves unreservedly; thee we adopt for our patron and defender.

Undertake the cause of our salvation, protect thy clients; to thee we appeal as our leader, rule thine army fighting against the assaults of the devil; to thee, kindest of rulers, we give up the rudder of our lives, steer this little ship of thine, and, placed as thou art on high keep us off all the rocks of evil desires, and with thee for our pilot and our guide we may safely come to the port of eternal bliss. Amen.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Bloggers Rendezvous

At 3pm this afternoon Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ (Catholic Mom of 10) staged a well calculated meeting between the 3 pillars of the Catholic Blogging World, nay the whole internet.

The Occasion: A visit by the Reverend Timothy Finigan (of Hermeneutic of Continuity fame) to the Birmingham Oratory for the Feast of St. Philip Neri

The Plan: An abundance of Graces from a union of these three great blogs for an afternoon of good company, chat, child-minding and most importantly food. Jackie Parkes headed up this great initiative with the daring proposition that we use her fortress whilst the kids were at school.

The Result: Full stomachs all round, and an inspiration to blog just a little bit more! Little Madeleine benefited a great deal from being blessed by super-blogger Fr. Tim himself (who, might I add, is a very pleasant and interesting priest even more in the flesh than on the 'net). We touched on some interesting technical aspects of blogging, as well as practicalities like confidentiality, and even some moral questions like blogging coming between spouses (I wouldn't know anything about that. Just don't tell Wendy I'm on the Blog).

I look forward to hearing Fr. Tim preach at tomorrow's High Mass for the Feast of St. Philip Neri (the Oratorians must have run out of things to say about him, I think).

Update: Fr Seán Coyle was also there as a guest of Jackie, who runs the website Misyon. He may be a blogger yet!

Prayer of St. Isidore of Seville (Patron Saint of the Internet)

Here we are in front of You, Holy Spirit.
We feel the burden of our infirmities,
but we are united all together in Your name:
come to us, help us, enter into our hearts:
teach us what we should do,
the path to follow,
do for us what You ask us to do.
Be the only one to propose and guide our decisions,
because only You, with the Father and the Son,
have a name that is glorious and holy.
Do not allow us to offend justice,
You, who love order and peace,
Don’t let ignorance lead us astray,
Don’t let human sympathy bias us,
Don’t let people or office influence us.
Keep us intimately close to You
with the gift of Your Grace,
so that we may be only one thing with You,
and nothing may separate us from the truth.
Gathered in Your Holy Name,
may we be good and firm,
so that all we do may be in harmony with You,
awaiting that the faithful fulfillment of our duty
may lead us to the eternal good. Amen.

St Madeleine Sophie Barat

Whilst everyone else is celebrating the Feasts of St Bede the Venerable, and Pope St Gregory VII, our household is taken up with honouring Madeleine's very special Patron Saint. Many Catholic families make as much of this as a birthday itself, so it would be great if we can take up this tradition and seek intercession for little Madeleine's spiritual life.

Madeleine Sophie Barat is honoured by the Church as Virgin and Foundress of the Society of the Religious of the Sacred Heart. She was born to humble beginnings in a Jansenist household in December 12 1779 in Joigny. Her elder brother of 11 years, Louis, was appointed godfather. He himself became a priest, but as Deacon was made master in a college in his native city. During this time he educated 10 year old Madeleine, a sprightly intelligent girl, in spiritual matters. He was sure that God destined her for great things, and so it was.

During the first fury of the French Revolution, Louis Barat was imprisoned in Paris for 2 years. On returning to Joigny, he was concerned that young Madeleine, who had become a very popular and charming young girl, would lose her sense of vocation to the religious life. He took her back to Paris with him, and there she became involved in the very important work of re-establishing Christian educational institutions. Her reputation preceded her, and she was soon charged by the Jesuits to establish a girls educational institute based on devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (a certain antidote to her Jansenist upbringing). On November 21, 1800, she began her religious life, and was even appointed superior of the second convent in Amiens for poor children - at the age of 23!! Her first act was to kneel and kiss the feet of all her sisters. Six years later she was voted Superior General; a position she retained for life.

In December 1826, in response to a memorandum drawn up by herself and presented in person to Pope Leo XII, the Society of the Sacred Heart received formal approbation. Having lived to the age of 85, she saw her daughters firmly established in twelve countries of two continents. On May 21 1864 she was stricken with paralysis, and four days later, on the Feast of the Ascension, she went to meet her maker. She was beatified by Pope St. Pius X in 1908, and canonized in 1925 by Pope Pius XI.

Put me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thy arm;
for love is as strong as death.
Ps. 107. 1. My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready:
I will sing and I will give praise with my glory.
Let us pray
Lord Jesus Christ, who after the model of Thy Sacred Heart
didst wonderfully adorn Saint Madeleine Sophie with humility and love,
and didst will that through her there should flower forth a new family of virgins;
make us ever cling to Thy most Sacred Heart,
and by our imitation of the same find our joy in becoming Thy companions.
Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, world without end. Amen.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Lets hear it for the Dads

I found this on netmums:
Here's proof that us Dads are very important :
A recent paper from a research team led by Charlie Lewis, Professor of Psychology and Dr. Jo Warin, Lecturer in Educational Studies at Lancaster University examined British and international research over the past twenty years (more than 700 annually).
Key points include :
  • Fathers share with mothers the same level of emotional response to new-born babies.
  • Fathers are now the main carers for children when mothers are working.
  • Involvement of fathers with children aged 7-11 predicts success in exams at 16.
  • Where fathers are involved before the age of 11, children are less likely to have a criminal record by the age of 21.
  • Pre-schoolers who spend more time playing with their dads are often more sociable when they enter nursery school.
  • Nine out of ten fathers attend the birth.
  • Mothers say fathers are their main support after the birth.
  • A crying or smiling baby effects the heart rate and blood pressure of a father in the same way as a mother.
Lets hope that all Dads can embrace the responsiblity and joy of Fatherhood.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Birmingham Architecture

Taking a stroll through Birmingham, from the busy bars of Broad Street across the Inner Ring Road to the central shopping district, there is a wealth of architecture on offer. There is plenty of multi-story Georgian office blocks, which are worth looking carefully at, but I'd like to concentrate on a few other prominent buildings.

First up there is the 1974 Central Library, by architect John Madin. It occupies appropriate place atop the Paradise Circus Queensway island through which the Inner Ring Road blazes past. I couldn't resist sharing this with you because it epitomises most people's impression of Birmingham, and the detested brutalist architecture of the period. Prince Charles once famously remarked it was "looking more like a place for burning books, than keeping them"! Although he is most certainly correct on this score, there has actually been a great interest in listing this building and protecting it for future generations. Its not so bad I suppose.

On emerging from the concrete ziggurat nightmare of Central Library, one is greeted by the pleasant sight of Chamberlain Square (whose namesake regular readers will be familiar with). I was struck at my last visit by the newly installed Gothic Spire arising from a curious pool of water. It is a monument to Joseph Chamberlain, but I cannot quite work out what it is. I guess it's an example of religious architecture stripped of its religious significance. It provides a centrepiece to the tiered amphitheatre like area, which serves as a nice place for relaxation upon its steps with a big screen making it popular for sporting events (my favourite being Wimbledon on a sunny day)! I even enjoy the odd religious preacher taking up challenge from an unwelcoming audience.

The background of the last photo is the west side of the Council House building, but actually houses the splendid Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. The Council House is best viewed around the corner in Victoria Square (which also contains the Town Hall, similarly built in the classical style but resembling the Greek Parthenon. It is actually a concert venue, and I haven't included it because I find it dull). As you can see, its quite grand. The architect was Yeoville Thomason.

From Victoria Square there are lots of streets leading to different parts of Birmingham Centre, with various shops and arcades. I like Colmore Row which leads to St Philips Anglican Cathedral (architect Thomas Archer). This was built originally as a parish church in the Baroque style in 1715. Although I have never been inside, it looks nice enough from the outside. It has to be walked past by countless shoppers but the doors seem never to be open. It gained cathedral status in 1905, and is the 3rd smallest cathedral in England.

The Great Western Arcade is a nice cutting, leading from Colmore Row to Temple Row, which I always enjoy walking through. It was built in 1875 by W. H. Ward of Stone (Staffordshire). I keep looking at a Sherlock Holmes reproduction magnifying glass and pipe in one of the posh shop windows, but remind myself that a career in Medicine simply cannot justify buying this. My ancestor Arthur Conan wrote the Sherlock Holmes books based on his own experience as a Medical Student (cf Mr Watson) following the lead of an excellent professor in Medicine. I can very well understand that Medicine is indeed a detective's game!

A short walk North towards St. Chad's Cathedral and we come to a whole host of red brick and terracotta buildings. The first is the Methodist Central Hall (left) on Corporation Street, built in 1903 by architects Ewan Harper and James A. Harper. It has a prominent tower which was once used by an intoxicated Brum to commit suicide. Opposire this are the Birmingham Victoria Law Courts (right), in a similar style. These were designed by Webb & Bell, whom I have mentioned previously.

I hope this whistle-stop tour of my City Centre will help to dispel the myth that Birmingham is ugly. Even if it is, a bit.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Alleluia, Ascendit Deus in Jubilatione!

The Feast of the Ascension. In our Lord's rising up to heaven we are reminded of humanity piercing into the divine; our hope and promise of salvation before us in the person of Jesus Christ. He went up so that the Holy Spirit may be brought down into our lives, making present the salvific action of Christ through the transformation of our earthly lives in the Sacraments.

How fortunate to have a Traditional Solemn High Mass today at the Birmingham Oratory, so that we could observe this feast 40 days after Easter, as the Gospel recalls. The Mass setting was the Little Organ Mass by Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) which allowed us to fully focus our hearts and minds on the mysteries before us. Like the Epiphany, there was a special feature during the sung Gospel: the Paschal Candle was extinguished at the point Jesus ascends into Heaven in St. Mark's account.

I think it was a wonderful Mass, and the benchmark for Liturgy (certainly in the western world). Since the Liturgy has been reformed, a low Mass seems to be the desired norm, with rituals built up around it. In the High Mass we are reminded of the full solemnity of the Sacrament. The Oratory does well to incorporate this solemnity into every Sunday's High Mass, whilst still using the Novus Ordo Missal. I believe this is because they use the Traditional High Mass as a benchmark; a hermeneutic of continuity is thus struck.

For a fuller account of a High Mass see my earlier photo-account from the feast of the Epiphany. This time Fr. Anton Guziel served as Subdeacon. Many thanks to the Oratory Fathers for another tremendous Feast.

The next Solemn High Mass in the 1962 Rite will be for the Feast of Corpus Christi (Thursday 7th June at 8pm.)

Invitation - Ascension High Mass

Traditional Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord
Solemn High Mass in the Classical Roman ('Tridentine') Rite
Birmingham Oratory
(at the High Altar)
8pm - Thursday, May 17th 2007

Following the success of the Birmingham Oratory's Solemn High Mass for the feast of the Epiphany this year (excess of 200 in attendence), the Oratory Fathers will once again celebrate a traditional High Mass.

Most Catholics in England & Wales are forced now to celebrate the 40th day of Easter, the Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ on the following Sunday (ie. 43 days after Easter). Here is the perfect opportunity to observe this important feast of Our Lord on the day it is properly intended. Tailored Mass books and full translations are provided, which will make it perfect for newcomers to the Tridentine Rite.

View Map

New Poll...

... on my sidebar.

When will the Motu Proprio (liberalising the 'Tridentine' Mass) be released?

A tired old question, and perhaps this opinion poll will tell us as much as the person next door who knows someone who lives in Rome who bumped into a secret Vatican official in plain clothes in the supermarket who heard the Pope say...

When will the 'Motu Proprio' liberalising the Tridentine Mass be released?
This month
Later this year
Maybe next year
When the liberals have calmed down
I don't care
What Motu Proprio? free polls

The Anglicans of Walsingham

I was just reflecting on my last post about Walsingham, and was concerned that my closing words regarding Anglicanism in that part of the world was a bit harsh. I have a great deal of respect for so called 'anglo-catholics' and think they are very interesting and devout people. The situation in and around Walsingham is quite unique, and it seems there are many being led to the Catholic Faith in this way.

Through the prayers and pilgrimages of Anglicans to this place, I hope that Our Lady will answer their desire for unity with the Church by prompting them in the correct way. Our Lady promised, back in 1061;
All who are in any way distressed or in need, let them seek me there in that little house you have made at Walsingham. To all that seek me there shall be given succour. And there at Walsingham in this little house shall be held in remembrance the great joy of my 'salutation' when St. Gabriel told me that I should through humility become the Mother of God's Son.
The building of the Anglican shrine is itself a living act of reparation; embedded in the walls of a reconstructed Holy House are stones from most of the major monastic houses destroyed during the reformation.

Perhaps this call for a renewal of devotion to Our Lady, and a better understanding of her role in our Redemption, will lead them into the unity of the Catholic Faith, available to all life's Pilgrims.

O Mary, recall the solemn moment when Jesus, your divine Son, dying on the Cross, confided us to your maternal care. You are our Mother, we desire ever to remain your devout children. Let us therefore feel the effects of your powerful intercession with Jesus Christ. Make your name again glorious in this place once renowned throughout our land by your visits, favours and many miracles. Pray, O holy mother of God for the conversion of England, restoration of the sick, consolation for the afflicted, repentance of sinners, peace to the departed. O blessed Mary, Mother of God, Our Lady of Walsingham, intercede for us. Amen.
O Lord God, Word Incarnate, Jesus of Nazareth, have mercy on us.
(from the Pilgrim Manual of the Anglican Shrine)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Meme - Five Top Catholic Places

I don't know what meme means, but I do understand enough about blogging to know I've been requested by Joee Blogs to share my own favourite Catholic places.

1) Birmingham Oratory
I have been regularly attending this magnificent church for about 2 years now, and I can't imagine going anywhere else! Not only is it the most beautiful church in Birmingham (nay, the world) but my family has received an immense wealth of love and support from everyone there; the parishioners, always keen to meet and greet us; the Fathers - who go out of their way to provide pastoral support, spiritual direction, frequent confessions (before every mass), even tridentine masses! There always seems to be so many people making such an effort to support the church, its fantastic reverent liturgy, the interior furnishings, the music etc. and without receiving glory for themselves. So this was an easy first choice. My experiences of the Faith through attending the Oratory provide me with a lot to reflect upon (and blog about!) each week.

2) My Home
Arguably the most important 'Catholic Place' for any family is their own home. We do our best to sanctify our lives based on our calling from God; I like to think that through our nurturing home environment, we are hospitable to others and provide a good place to raise our children. Wendy is to thank for most of this - she is an excellent host and loves to have people to stay. It is not the building itself which is important (we rent our property, and its a bit rough around the edges!) but the way we use the space. We adorn our living room with plenty of books, religious pictures, statues, paintings and photographs. This all helps to remind us to thank and serve God in everything we do. There is also a television and DVD player, which we love to watch movies on. This is an area which are trying our best to sanctify, so our items of furniture no longer all point towards the television, and we are not renewing our TV license after September which will mean we won't be at the mercy of the usual broadcast rubbish. "An Englishman's home is his Castle"

3) Walsingham
The first time I visited Walsingham was shortly after my marriage in May 2004. It was really the start of a major conversion in me towards the Catholic Faith (after a number of years in gnosticism). Wendy and I love to visit my cousin Janie, who runs a Bed & Breakfast a short drive from the shrine, and always provides us with hospitality and spiritual sustenance. It is a home away from home. In one of her spare rooms downstairs, she has a statue of Our Lady which was obtained from an old convent, which is adorned by numerous rosaries from previous pilgrims staying in the house. I had the privilege last weekend to make a fresh crown for Our Lady with wild flowers (all with a special significance) and to crown the statue myself. This was a special May devotion for us, having missed this ceremony at the Oratory this year!

4) St Chad's Cathedral
This Cathedral has had a turbulent past in recent years, but is now enjoying a period of restoration under the excellent guidance of Fr. Brian Doolan, the Cathedral Dean. I have written enough about the architecture, so will simply say this is the Mother Church of our Archdiocese and has a special place in my heart. It was here where my wife was present at the Rite of Election in 2005, to be greeted by the Archbishop for final formation before being received into the Holy Catholic Church. I took a special part in this process, because I myself was preparing my own personal commitment, and relit my baptismal candle at the Easter Vigil that year. When I have had the opportunity since to wander into the Cathedral, it has always been a special place of prayer where I could make fresh petition to Our Lord and Our Lady for my intentions. It is open from 8am till 5pm weekdays, which is useful for people working in the City Centre, maybe even to attend Mass at 7.30am or 12.15pm.

5) Rome
The obvious choice! I last went in the summer of 1999 (notice all the scaffolding on the front of St. Peter's Basilica in my photo), and am desperate to take Wendy and Maddy to this wonderful city. I cannot say much else, except that there is always a magnificent church nearby, wherever you are, and the city feels distinctly like home for any Catholic.

Hat tip to Fr. Dwight Longenecker for starting this intriguing "meme"! I won't "tag" anyone else because everyone who reads me, reads Joe Bloggs, so will be suitably inspired (or not) to do this. God bless!

Monday, May 14, 2007

CIEL UK Mass and Conference

The Conference will be on Saturday 19 May at the London Oratory. The theme of this year's conference is the liturgical devotion to Our Lady.

11am - Solemn High Mass in the traditional Roman Rite
2pm - Conference: St Wilfrid's Hall

Speakers include:
Msgr Michael Schmitz, Institute of Christ the King
Fr Jerome Bertram, Oxford Oratory

Tickets for the conference cost £6.50 and will be sold on the door.

I would love to go but London is simply too far at the moment for a day trip! Having read this week's Catholic Herald and the interview with Msgr Michael Schmitz, it will be a very fruitful conference indeed. I'm sure the liturgy will be of an excellent standard.

Update: This Mass and conference was a great success. Pictures can be found here (©2005-2007 Vernon Quaintance)

Pugin on the Reform of Church Architecture

There is a wonderful post over at New Liturgical Movement about Pugin's Contrasts. It makes for very interesting reading, although I think his ideas have become somewhat dated now that it is apparent that English Catholicism (in the medieval sense) has truly been crushed and destroyed by the Protestant heresy.

I am all for the neo-classical style of the Oratories, because it is clearly evident that today's restoration of our Faith is at work in them. They carried the Tridentine forms of worship (as they still do to some extent!) as opposed to the sadly extinct Sarum Use of Liturgy. We can no longer look to English Gothic Churches because they have all been destroyed, and represent their transformed Protestant beliefs. Pugin's work in Cheadle may bear testament more to a forgotten page in history, rather than the way forward.

Diocesan Pilgrimage to Walsingham

On Saturday we attended the Birmingham Diocesan pilgrimage, which was a fitting excuse to spend a long weekend staying with my cousin Janie (Maddy's godmother). Archbishop Vincent Nichols led the pilgrimage, which began at the Catholic Shrine with Mass.

This shrine is built just next to the Slipper Chapel, which was the last chapel before the final holy mile walk down to Walsingham. It was restored to the Catholic Church in 1896 by Charlotte Pearson Boyd, having been used as a barn and cowshed at various time following the reformation.

When there are large pilgrimages such as this one, the Chapel of Reconciliation is opened out to become an open-air affair. It was originally an outdoor altar, but the large barn-like chapel was built in the early 80s to replace this.

We took up shelter inside the chapel for the Mass, seeing as it was threatening to rain (and rain it did). I also thought this would give the added bonus of facing the same direction as His Grace when he offered Mass; unfortunately 20 concelebrating priests behind him in the Sanctuary blocked the view somewhat! The Archbishop preached about St. Dominic and the Rosary, and its role in our devotional life in defence of world-views which are at odds with the Faith.

A procession along the Holy Mile then followed, led by cross-bearer, serviettes, and a Statue of Our Lady of Walsingham carried by some prominent ladies. There were even a couple of birettas to spot among the clerics. It was raining quite heavy at this point, and we drove down to the town instead. After a coffee we rejoined the pilgrims in the Abbey grounds (the ruins left from the 'reformation') for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, a couple of Latin Hymns, and Benediction.

Once the Blessed Sacrament had been processed out, the Archbishop led prayers at the site of the Holy House. This shrine was established in 1061 when the Virgin Mary asked Richeldis de Faverches to build a replica of the house in Nazareth where the Annunciation had occurred. This is why Walsingham is (or was) referred to as 'England's Nazareth', with countless pilgrims flocking to the site on Pilgrimage.

Vincent Nichols spoke warmly of the re-establishment of this tradition in recent times. Indeed, it is so encouraging that Pope Leo XIII's prophecy, "When England goes back to Walsingham, Our Lady will come back to England" may be bearing fruit. Even the Anglicans have attempted to recreate a shrine, although theirs is a shrine with nothing to enshrine (since they have done so well to destroy it all in previous generations), opting instead for an aping of Catholicism which only serves to undermine their need for return to the Church.

"O Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our most gentle Queen and Mother look down in mercy upon England, thy dowry, and upon us who greatly hope and trust in thee. By thee it was that Jesus, our Saviour and our hope was given unto the world; and He has given thee to us that we might hope still more. Plead for us thy children, whom thou didst 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 thy 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 thee in our heavenly home. AMEN."