Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Invitation - Epiphany High Mass

Traditional Feast of the Epiphany
Solemn High Mass in the Classical Roman ('Tridentine') Rite
Birmingham Oratory
(at the High Altar)
8pm - Tuesday, January 6th 2009

Following the success of the Birmingham Oratory's Solemn High Mass for the feast of the Epiphany 2 years ago (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 Epiphany on the nearest Sunday. 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

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Oratory Christmas Masses

You can see the latest Oratory newsletter with a complete breakdown of all the masses at the Oratory for the Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord.

But I wanted to draw people's attention to the ones in Latin, since people are prepared to travel far and wide for these:

Christmas Eve:
"Mass of Christmas Midnight"
according to the 1962 Missal: Wednesday December 24th at 4pm (fulfils obligation)

Christmas Morning:
Low Mass
according to the 1962 Missal in St Philip's Chapel: Thursday December 25th at 9.30am
Solemn High Mass in Novus Ordo: Thursday December 25th at 11am

Feast of St Stephen (Boxing Day):
Low Mass according to the 1962 Missal: Friday December 26th at 9.30am

Feast of St Thomas Becket of Canterbury (Patron of English Clergy):
Solemn High Mass according to the 1962 Missal: Monday December 29th at 11am

Hopefully I will be able to book annual leave at short notice for the latter mass! Luckily I am not on the rota to work over Christmas itself and am looking forward to a lovely family affair. However, spare a thought for all those who are not so lucky. In fact, maybe Christmas Day should be transferred to the sunday after, to avoid any possibility that anyone would miss this important feast. Or maybe not.

I think we will have to stop calling the traditional, extraordinary form of the Latin Mass, the "1962 Missal" since it was updated by the Holy Father this year, with a new prayer for Good Friday, and is therefore more properly called the 2008 Missal (the most recent form of the Roman Rite, forever old and forever new!)

Saturday, December 13, 2008


GAUDETE in Dómino semper: íterum dico, gaudéte. Modéstia vestra nota sit ómnibus homínibus: Dóminus enim prope est. Nihil dolíciti sitis: sed in omni oratióne petitiónes vestrae innotéscant apud Deum.

REJOICE in the Lord always: again I say, rejoice. Let your modesty be known to all men: for the Lord is nigh. Be nothing solicitous : but in every thing by prayer let your petitions be made known to God.
(Introit, Third Sunday of Advent, Philip 4: 4-6)

Advent is not merely anticipating the first Christmas of Christ's birth, but takes St John the Baptist's call to repentance afresh in order to prepare for the second coming, the day of the Lord. We are reminded after every Mass in the old Rite, at the Last Gospel, of this important call:
[St John the Baptist] came for a witness, to bear witness of the light, that all men might believe. He was not the light but was to bear witness of the light. That was the true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world.
(beginning of St John's Gospel)

Thus it is that every Mass should be a preparation for Christ's coming; a chance to make fresh our conversion, and anticipate the glorious coming of Christ. For where he once came into the world at Bethlehem, so he comes into the world anew every Mass at the consecration, through the action of the Holy Spirit; and so will he come at the end of time, in glory, to judge the living and the dead.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Ethics Essay

When I was in my first year at medical school, being drip-fed Beauchamp and Childress' principles of biomedical ethics, I confess to have missed the excitement in healthcare ethics. In recent years I have come to hold it in high esteem, and benefited immensely from the recent Linacre Conference.

This is all just as well, since it is a core competence of Foundation Trainees (junior doctors) to consider these issues. I was determined to show a degree of aptitude, and so I wrote an essay for a competition run by the Institute of Medical Ethics. The title was based on the well known maxim Primum non nocere (First do no harm) and went on to recommend Virtue Ethics in the practice of medicine.

Alas, I did not win a prize. But at least I can be proud of my work, and will now welcome any comments. I have published it over at the Catholic Physicians Blog (click on the title of this post for a direct link to my essay).

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Santa Claus!

Look who visited our house today! I guess a lot of Catholics will be dressing their boys up as Bishops today, but we have not resorted to dressing Maddy up as an Anglican Primate yet.

For my previous post about St Nicholas of Myra, whose feast day it is today, go here!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New Baronius Books

Baronius Press have just made the following press release. We are all still in eager anticipation for their traditional breviary... but until then, here are a few treats which could end up in your christmas stocking, assuming you're not a puritan:

by Father Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.
$54.95 / £39.95

One of the best and most loved resources for meditative prayer – newly published by Baronius Press in a beautiful leather bound edition! This book is designed to assist the faithful in the quest for intimate union with God through the practice of meditating on holy truths. These Carmelite meditations are easy to fit into even the busiest schedule, giving you food for thought and inspiration every day of the liturgical year.

by Saint Louis-Marie De Montfort
$21.95 / £12.95

A new leather hard bound edition of this ever popular text that continues to inspire all who read it. Readers will understand that a true devotion to Mary is indeed a straight and sure path to a deeper understanding and relationship with Christ.

$89.95 / £59.95

Those familiar with the Douay-Rheims Bible will know that it is one of the most beautiful and accurate Bible translations available today – a word for word translation of the Clementine Vulgate.

Now, we have combined the traditional English Catholic translation with the Clementine Vulgate. The two venerable texts are presented side by side enabling the reader to see exactly where the vernacular translation came from. Even those with limited Latin skills will be able to follow along, using the Douay-Rheims translation as an aid. You’ll see how the Douay-Rheims is a literal translation of the classic Vulgate.

Bound in leather with ornate gold blocked cover and spine. Gilded page edges, head and tail bands and two satin ribbons.

Available to pre-order now. Estimated shipping date – 8th December for USA, Canada and Rest of the World, January 2009 for UK & Europe.

I've bought a couple of things from Baronius before and was very happy with the excellent quality of the binding and typing. If I had a button on my sidebar to make it possible, I would beg the general public to buy me every title in their catalogue!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

R.I.P. Fr Higham

It is with sadness that I learn of the death of Fr David Anthony Higham this weekend. I have known him since attending his parish of St Mary's at Harvington Hall in Worcestershire, where he said a traditional Latin Mass every month. Earlier this year he suffered a stroke and has since been recovering at Oulton Abbey in retirement.

Fr Higham was parish priest at Harvington Hall from 1999 till 2008. He wrote the book "The Priests and People of Harvington" published in 2006, which has been an excellent contribution to the history of this important recusant area. I have written a little about Harvington Hall before, but want to reflect today on his life, mainly in his own words, and recount some of the contributions Fr Higham made to the parish.

David Higham was educated by the Dominicans at Blackfriars, Laxton, and entered the Benedictine Order at Prinknash Abbey, Gloucestershire in 1944. He was subsequently sent with other monks to repopulate St Michael's Abbey at Farnborough in Hampshire. He was ordained priest in 1954, and eventually appointed superior at Farnborough. In 1980, when the monastery achieved autonomy, he was elected conventual prior. For three years Dom Higham also combined his duties with that of parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes in nearby Cove.

Ten years later, for reasons Fr Higham was always quite reserved about, he relinquished his office of prior and returned to the Midlands to become chaplain to the Benedictine nuns at Oulton near Stone in Staffordshire (It was here that Fr Higham returned to be nursed in his final months). Around this time he was briefly the superior of a small traditional monastic community at Alton, which included fellow monk Dom Andrew Southwell.

Fr Higham joined the Archdiocese of Birmingham in 1997, and after serving parishes in Staffordshire was assigned to the metropolitan Cathedral of St Chad's in the city centre of Birmingham. It was therefore with pleasure that Fr Higham was then reassigned in 1999 to his beloved countryside of Worcestershire and the little parish of Harvington.

Fr Higham soon set about restoring the Georgian-style priest's house adjoining the church of St Mary's, and investigating the archives. For company he shared the house with a border collie and two Burmese cats, who Fr Higham commented managed to live together more peacefully than some humans he has known! It was with sadness that his dog died in 2007, and Fr Higham hoped to be soon buried in the same grave in the garden of the Priest's House.

Fr Higham will leave a grand legacy behind him at the parish of Harvington, the shrine of St John Wall: in 2003 the roof and walls were repaired and refurbished to include angelic paintings on each ceiling overlooking the sanctuary (see pictures below). Other refurbishments include improved fittings for the reredos and tabernacle, a brass eagle lectern (where I will always remember Fr Higham's beautiful, intelligent and powerful sermons), new stained glass windows, new oak seating, and new paving outside the porch. Of note is also a sculpture of St John Wall by Gabrielle Mercer.

Fr Higham celebrated his Golden Jubilee of Priestly Ordination in 2004. I hope that we may pray fervently and confidently upon his death, and dedicate his life's work back to God, whom he laboured so tirelessly for.

Subveníte Sancti Dei, occúrrite Angeli Dómine, Suscipiéntes ánimam ejus, Offeréntes eam in conspéctu Altísimi.

Suscípiat te Christus, qui vocávit te, et in sinum Abrahæ Angeli dedúcant te. Suscipiéntes ánimam ejus, Offeréntes eam in conspéctu Altíssimi.

Come to his assistance, all ye Saints of God: meet him, all ye Angels of God: receiving his soul, offering it in the sight of the Most high.
May Christ receive thee, who hath called thee, and may the Angels conduct thee to Abraham’s bosom. Receiving his soul and offering it in the sight of the Most High.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Reginald Cardinal Pole

Fr Anton Guziel preaching about Cardinal Pole following the Mass

Last night the Birmingham Oratory, along with several other churches around the country including Magdalen College in Oxford, hosted a Traditional Latin Requiem Mass on the 450th anniversary of Cardinal Pole's death. The following is an extract promoting Michael Hutchings new book, "The Last Archbishop of Canterbury" (click here to order from Southwell books) Also available directly from St Joan Press for £15.49 and on sale at St Pauls Bookshops in London, Birmingham, Leeds and York.

Reginald Cardinal Pole was the son of Sir Richard Pole, a cousin of Henry VIII, and Margaret Plantagenet, Countess of Salisbury. He was a potential claimant to the throne. In 1549 Ple narrowly missed election as Pope.

Studying at Magdalen College Oxford and the Carthusian monastery at Sheen, Pole was widely respected for his scholarship. He left England for Padua to study, angering Henry by his opposition to the 'divorce'. Pole's continued intrasigent opposition to Henry led to the execution of his mother, Blessed Margaret Pole (pictured left), at Tower Hill in 1541, having been held prisoner at Cowdray near Midhurst.

After twenty-three years in Italy, Pole returned to England as Papal Legate in order to absolve England from schism. This occured on 30 November 1554, a day later decreed to be held in thanksgiving in perpetuo. Pole instituted a Synod for the restoration and reform of the Church in England. He prepared the ground for the establishment of seminaries, thereby anticipating Trent.

His hopes for England were cut short by the sudden death of Queen Mary. His own death occured hours later, on 17 November 1558. He was the last Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury.

I served at our humble Missa Cantata and with Father Anton Guziel's permission took a couple of photos of the Mass. I was not bold enough to hold up the camera, so this is actually taken 'blind' at hip level! It is the incensing of the altar at the offertory. I was asked by the organisers of this nation-wide commemoration to try and take some snaps, and I hope these efforts will be useful!

For more on Cardinal Pole see Fr Nicholas Schofield's complete sermon.

Let us pray:

O God, who didst raise Thy servant Reginald Cardinal Pole to the dignity of bishop and cardinal in the apostolic priesthood; grant, we beseech Thee, that he may be joined in fellowship with Thine apostles forever more. Through Christ our Lord,


Monday, November 17, 2008

Sung Requiem at Birmingham Oratory

BUMP - For Your Attention!

Reginald Cardinal Pole was the last Archbishop of Canterbury, dying on 17th November 1558 (the same day as Queen Mary). It will therefore be the 450th anniversary of his death this month.

Sung Requiem Extraordinary Form
Monday, 17th November 2008 at 7.30pm

The Birmingham Oratory will be saying a Missa Cantata in the Traditional Roman Rite for the repose of his soul (although I'm sure he's a martyr and will have gone straight to heaven!)

P.S. I have been gracefully informed that although he died within hours of Queen Mary, it was to influenza and not to the axe. Therefore - Not a martyr!

Other Masses on this day around the country are:

St Wilfrid's Chapel, Brompton Oratory, London (Low Mass, 12 noon)
Side Chapel, Fisher House, Cambridge (Low Mass, 6pm)
Corpus Christi Church, Covent Garden, London (Missa Cantata, 7pm)

Saturday November 29th - St Andrew's Chapel, Westminster Cathedral (Low Mass, 4.30pm)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Newman's Last Repose

Although the grave of Newman simply revealed the mystery of death, and no earthly relics; it did contain some precious artifacts. The cross around Newman's neck still maintains its strong and reassuring form. Around his neck in life, death and beyond.

This is one of the few relics we have of the venerable Cardinal, as well as some locks of hair and a speck of blood. All contained in a simple little reliquary resting in the chapel of St Charles Borromeo in the Birmingham Oratory. It marks a perfect symmetry with the chapel on the other side of the Sanctuary - that of St Philip Neri's shrine modeled on the Roman Oratory. Newman would be humbled and honoured to be placed in a place of such significance.

It may seem to many that the Cause for Newman's beatification is a done deal. But I think that it still requires fervent prayer. This is a time when all sorts of powers and influences have oozed out of the woodwork, to combat such a noble process. We must pray. Pray that such forces as Newman eloquently described in his great poem, do not cloud the way:

The mind bold And independent, The purpose free, So we are told, Must not think To have the ascendant What's a saint? One whose breath Doth the air taint Before his death; A bundle of bones, Which fools adore, Ha! ha! When life is o'er; Which rattle and stink, E'en in the flesh. We cry his pardon! No flesh hath he; Ha! ha! For it hath died, 'Tis crucified Day by day, Afresh, afresh, Ha! ha! That holy clay, Ha! ha! This gains guerdon, So priestlings prate, Ha! ha! Before the Judge, And pleads and atones For spite and grudge, And bigot mood, And envy and hate, And greed of blood.

(Demons, The Dream of Gerontius)

Recently published on the Cause Website are the following articles:

Translation of Remains of Cardinal Newman at his Birmingham Oratory (full account of the exciting few days written and with photos by Peter Jennings)

Full Text of sermon by Fr Paul Chavasse (of the November 2nd Mass for translation of Newman's Remains) - Link Downloads Word Document

Commemorative Mass Booklet (from November 2nd Mass) - .pdf file (requires Adobe Reader or browser plug-in)

Exorcizo Te

I have come across an interesting new drama production just broadcast on the BBC. It is called Apparitions and you can watch it on BBC iPlayer (but this may only be for a limited period.) Before this 2-part had even been televised, there were already plans for a whole series.

I have only watched part of the first episode so far, but it seems very promising. I can't say how accurate it is with regards to the subject of demonic possession, but the performances are certainly compelling, and it doesn't take a liberal stance as far as I have seen. The central character is Father Jacob, a Catholic priest who works for the Cause for the Canonisation of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (although at one point his nun colleague suggests he 'shelve Mother Teresa' and work on Newman instead!)

I think it is interesting that the BBC has chosen to commission this sort of thing. I hope that an interest in this area will encourage people who watch this to find out more about the Catholic Faith. It is quite well known that exorcists still use the old rite of exorcism because the new one doesn't work! These things really are important.

But the first kind of exorcism there is for someone is Baptism, which in the old rite (still freely in use today) contains prayers specifically designed to exorcise the soul of the catechumen and prepare it for the abundant grace of Baptism, or new birth in Christ.

A good verse was quoted by the character of Father Jacob:

When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through places without water, seeking rest; and not finding, he saith: "I will return into my house whence I came out." And when he is come, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then he goeth and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and entering in they dwell there. And the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.
St Luke 11:24-26

He used this verse to show that Baptism without faith is efficacious, but the soul will easily be susceptible to further attack by worse forces if Christ is not rooted there.

The topic of demonic possession has already been the popular subject of movies. The 1973 film The Exorcist receives criticism, and rightly, for glorifying the whole issue and making it more horrific and scary than it really is. This film has many saving graces in my opinion. The central story is not really about the little girl possessed (which has lost its sting now due to countless parodies) but rather the young priest who is having a crisis in faith. Notice that he says Mass for the first time and understands it, having been exposed to the horrors of evil.

A better film is the Exorcism of Emily Rose, which portrays the real life story of Anneliese Michel, who was a 16 year old German girl who became possessed in 1968. Although the film is dramatised, there are interesting aspects of the true story that deserve note. Firstly there is controversy surrounding whether the girl was, in fact, possessed at all; the parents and exorcists were charged with negligence after the girl died following a protracted illness with pneumonia and starvation. But also there is a supernatural character quite extraordinary: the fact that the girl was previously devout in her faith, and was comforted during her trials by apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She was allegedly given the option of divine deliverance, but opted for her special 'mission' of showing the world the power of evil.

Nowadays the Devil's greatest triumph is that noone believes in him (not even many so-called Christians). Secondly, that many people do not even believe in Sin, but that in the relativistic culture of ours, values are fleeting and built on sand. Perhaps if people are faced with the tangible power of evil, they will come to realise the subtle influence that the devil has over our lives. When I came to conversion, I realised that most of my mental block towards the Faith was related to this, rather than a sort of 'enlightened reasoning' which I thought I had.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Remember it's Sunday

Unfortunately I haven't been well today and subsequently missed Mass. But I wanted to put a couple of pictures up from my archive: Top takes us to Rome for today's feast, the dedication of the Lateran Basilica (which is the 'Cathedral of Rome'), and what I'm sure you'll agree is a most striking facade... and the smaller ones above take us back to Birmingham for Remembrance Sunday (pictured is the memorial in Centenary Square).

Monday, November 03, 2008

Newman Mass on EWTN

The Mass I attended on Sunday morning, for the translation of the remains of Cardinal Newman's remains, was televised live. Wendy and Maddy watched at home on the projector; and were fortunate to hear commentary by Peter Jennings and avoided experiencing nearly an hour of high pitch feedback coming from the speakers (most of the congregation were above a certain age and were oblivious). In any case, the squeeling was fixed sometime during the gloria and my sanity was spared.

Besides that it was a lovely Mass. This sort of thing should demonstrate the very best possible from the modern Roman Rite, and Fr Guy Nicholls is to be commended for his hard work in this regard. Of particular note was the 7th candlestick (which the altar at the Oratory isn't really designed for, it has to be said!) and the unbleached candles around the catafalque, indicating Newman is not yet blessed! Everything else was pretty much standard Oratory performance, except perhaps the large amount of con-celebrants present in choir for this special occasion.

If anyone is aware of a way to view this in retrospect, I'd be grateful. I would love to purchase such a production, and perhaps put it alongside the DVD of Cardinal Hoyos' Mass in Westminster Cathedral!

Scott Hahn Conference

On Saturday we were pleased to spend the day in Oxford and catch the afternoon session of the conference organised by Second Spring, entitled Scripture and Liturgy in the Theology of Pope Benedict XVI. Clearly our Holy Father is such an accomplished theologian that it pays dividends for other theologians to analyse his writings more closely!

The theme of the day seemed to be that, in these 'new movement' times of the Church, the liturgical movement and the scriptural movement should cross paths. It was fascinating hearing Adrian Walker (who translated the Pope's novel Jesus of Nazareth) discuss the way we should read scripture in a 'spiritual way'. Funnily enough, I had come to a similar conclusion just by seeing the way the old Douay Rheims bible was annotated and edited. He focused particularly on a section of the Pope's book about the Johannine image of water, in chapter 8.

Likewise, I'm afraid I only began to fully appreciate the place of scripture in the life of the Church after being given a St Andrew's Daily Missal (published in 1954) which shows how the liturgy is crafted lovingly using scripture throughout. The old form of Mass also enables me to reflect and meditate on scripture, especially when the Mass is sung, as the Psalms were intended. I am not convinced that the Novus Ordo intention of bombarding the Catholic faithful with as much scripture as possible has really payed dividends.

Scott Hahn presented a paper he had written entitled Eucharistic Kingdom and the World as a Temple which he was as enthusiastic about as ever! I could not hope to recount everything he said, but needless to say he painted a beautiful image of heavenly worship throughout scripture, and how this is relevant to the Mass. Hearing his description of how we are partaking with the altar in heaven, where the Lamb is worshipped, was just awe-inspiring. It is enough to make me thirst all the more for Liturgy which is conducted with this vision in mind. The Novus Ordo can be performed in a variety of ways, and a lot is down to interpretation. I am always confident and secure in the knowledge that Mass celebrated according to the strict rubrics of the 1962 missal will be reverent, prayerful, and will reflect the heavenly reality in a way that has been accomplished through centuries of development.

There were a few people in the audience who enthusiastically asked questions, mainly I think about the liturgy, and I think the old Rite was more or less dismissed from serious discussion. However, we did not stay for the remainder of the discussion because we had a baby to rescue from the torrential rain outside! Also we did not hear Dom Aidan Nichols talk, which I'm sure would have been peppered with references to traditional liturgy.

The highlight of the day was of course meeting Dr Scott Hahn. We have enthusiatically followed his writings since 2004 when Wendy was an Anglican, and picked up a title called "Hail, Holy Queen". Reading and listening to his conversion story also had a profound impact upon us, and we went on to read the book Rome Sweet Home co-authored by his wife.

We took the opportunity to get our latest book, Reasons to Believe, signed by Dr Hahn. We were fortunate in that we were sitting very near him during his talk, and when the tea break came we were the first to approach him (before a long line developed behind us)! Of note was his happy and friendly demeanour, and the way he talked passionately to each and every person who mercilessly requested an autograph! He was very excited to hear about yesterday's Mass for the translation of Cardinal Newman's relics. A fellow convert; Hahn is a big fan of Newman!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

All Saints

This great multitude,
which no man could number
is gathered into this one day's commemoration,
the goodly fellowship of Prophets,
the noble army of Martyrs,
the Children of the Holy Church Universal,
who have rested from their labours.

- John Henry Cardinal Newman
(Parochial and Plain Sermons Vol 2, no 32)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Winter Chill

As the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are My ways exalted above your ways, and My thoughts above your thoughts. And as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return no more thither, but soak the earth, and water it, and make it to spring, and give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall My word be, which shall go forth from My mouth: it shall not return to Me void, but it shall do whatsoever I please, and shall prosper in the things for which I sent it.
Isaias 55:9-11

It's a little early for snow, but I'm sure that it signals the winter before the autumn is even over! The colours of brown and yellow are beautiful, and so long as one is wrapped up with a roaring fire and cup of tea at home, it is probably my favourite season!

There have been fireworks everywhere for 'Diwali', and tonight is All Hallows Eve: we can fix our minds on the true Light of Christ, and His Saints who we hope and pray to become. All through Jesus and Mary.

Newman - Vigil of Reception

Update: BBC video report available here

Wendy and I have just attended the vigil of reception for the remains of Cardinal Newman. We are not used to proceeding through several police officers to get to the upper cloister hall at the Oratory House! Perhaps this is a precaution based on certain militant homosexuals who loosely associate themselves with the Catholic cause. The officers were good natured and pleased to give their assistance.

The upper cloister hall hosted a moving and austere tribute to the founding father of its congregation. We were greeted at the door by the Parish Priest Fr Guy Nicholls, and given some literature on Newman and a pamphlet guiding us through what was on display, which I shall quote from. There is strictly no photography allowed.

The location itself was fitting: Father John Henry Newman opened this very room in May 1859 as part of their school. It was the place where his remains lay in state before his requiem Mass and procession to Rednal. The display had as its centre point, at the far side of the room, a glass Casket Reliquary which contained some of the most important remains. These will be the focus of the ceremony incorporated into Sunday's High Mass (which I hope to write about, but again will not permit photography). In it are:

1) Some locks of the Cardinal's hair. These now take on a special significance, since in the absence of any further earthly remains, they will provide first-class relics to be presented to the Pope. These in the casket will remain in the Oratory Church, but there were several others on display in another cabinet which will presumably be presented to other significant places.

2) A piece of linen thought to be stained with the Cardinal's blood. This had been kept by the Sisters of the Spiritual Family The Work. They look after the College at Littlemore, where I have yet to make pilgrimage. This is the place where Newman became a Catholic in October 1845, after seeking out an almost monastic existence away from his work as Vicar of St Mary's in Oxford.

3) A small crucifix which was found in Newman's grave; made of wood and with a silver edging.

4) Some of the soil from the area where Cardinal Newman's coffin had been, in a silver topped container.

5) A Tassle, barely recognisable, which is presumably from Newman's Cardinal hat.

To each side of the glass Casket was placed two further glass cabinets which contained other artifacts and relics for the purpose of display:

In the cabinet on the left were some of the brass remains from Newman's coffin. These included one of the handles (the other three are still being restored), the brass nameplate, and the ornate brass Cardinal's hat with its accompanying tassles and cross. Photos of the latter two items have previously been published by the Oratory Fathers and can be seen on the News section of the website.

In the cabinet on the right was the remaining fragments of Newman's hair in various little frames, one of Newman's Rosaries, one of his breviaries, a red biretta and zuchetta, and two of Newman's letters to Gerard Manley Hopkins when the young poet was thinking about becoming a Catholic.

On the stage behind all these precious artifacts where two of the Cardinal's cassocks (one made of fine red silk, the other simpler and black with red piping) and his crozier. There was also a portrait on display by Claude Pratt. As we left the hall, Wendy recorded some special intentions in a book provided, which included the hope of having a second child. To attribute this to the great Cardinal's intercession would be a great blessing.

It was initially planned to be a great sarcophagus containing the earthly body of Newman. But he was to have his simple and noble wish - to return to the dust from which he had been formed, sharing the same place as his good friend and fellow priest, Ambrose St John, who died 15 years before.

It was this friend that Newman felt had been specially given him by God following the painful conversion away from the Anglican Church, and the loss of so many whom he held dear. It was Ambrose who was Newman's constant companion from then on; in life and death. Such a friendship should deserve our admiration and inspiration towards Christian Charity, and certainly not any distortion and manipulation into something unholy.

I went to sleep; and now I am refreshed.
A strange refreshment: for I feel in me
An inexpressive lightness, and a sense
Of freedom, as I were at length myself,
And ne'er had been before. How still it is!

The Dream of Gerontius - John Henry Newman

Special Masses over the next two days are:

Friday 31 October at 8pm - Votive Mass of the Blessed Sacrament, celebrated by Bishop William Kenney, CP, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham.

Saturday 1 November at 8 am - Votive Mass of Our Lady, celebrated by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster.

Saturday 1 November at 9.30am (cloister chapel) - Low Mass for the Feast of All Saints according to the 1962 Missal

Saturday 1 November at 11 am - Votive Mass of St Philip Neri, celebrated by Bishop Philip Pargeter, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham.

Sunday 2 November at 11am - (invite only) Novus Ordo Pontifical High Mass for transferred feast of All Saints, celebrated by Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham.

N.B. Above Mass will be televised live on EWTN
From The Oratory, Birmingham England. Solemn High Mass & Translation of the Remains of John Henry Cardinal Newman.
Sun 11/2/08 5:30 AM ET & 2:20 AM PT
Sun 11/2/08 12:00 PM ET & 9:00 AM PT

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Faith, the Family, the Future (Part One)

...So is the title of a bold new weekend conference which has just taken place at the All Saints Pastoral Centre in London Colney. Unfortunately we forgot to take our camera with us, and so were unable to take any photos of the beautiful location. Below is a linked photo from their website. The building itself was built in 1901 by Leonard Stokes as a convent for the All Saints sisters, with an adjoining chapel designed partially by Sir Ninian Comper completed in 1927. I noted the area designated as the Blessed Sacrament Chapel was set up with Old Rite altar cards, but I was unable to ascertain the significance of these!

Accommodation for families and delegates was provided in the nearby SPEC centre, which is designed as a youth centre for the Archdiocese, in what must have been an adjoining house for the old convent. I am sorry not to have been able to share with you photos of all of this, but you can follow the links to find out more. Although these rooms weren't quite as well designed for adults, perhaps in subsequent years some rooms in the main Pastoral Centre building will be acquired. The SPEC centre did provide a welcome focus for the residential delegates to eat meals together and share company. It was also the location of lots of children's activities which ran alongside the main lecture programme. Under 7s enjoyed such fun as Catechism from the Sisters of the Community of St John, Saints Trail, Amazing Saints, and Music Workshop! There was also a programme for 7-12 and 13-18 year olds.

The main programme of lectures will have caught the attention of most delegates. Fr Roger Nesbitt gave a talk entitled "Re-Affirming the Family" which drew from material he presented at the 2008 Faith Summer Session. This focussed especially on the difference between the sexes, and the way that all this has been preordained by God to serve Christ, just as the whole of creation has.
He chose us before the foundation of the world... his purpose he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Ephesians 1:3, 9-10

He then demonstrated that Marriage was originally conceived as a perfect, indissoluble union of Man and Woman, as outlined in the book of Genesis. This material I am familiar with from the little I have read from John Paul II's Theology of the Body.

The establishment of Marriage as a Sacrament of the Church followed Christ's words as recorded in St Matthew's Gospel (19:6) whereby he returns Marriage to its original dignity, following a period of corruption by Sin; throughout the Old Testament it is demonstrated that the original relationship between man and woman became threatened by discord, domination, jealousy and conflict. It is ultimately this pattern we have become accustomed to, as had the Jews at the time of Jesus who were familiar with Moses' teaching on divorce. The best way Marriage can be seen prefigured in the Old Testament is through God's nuptial covenant with his people Israel: a commitment of true fidelity. We then see in Jesus' early ministry his self-manifestation at the Wedding of Cana; Marriage thus becomes an efficacious sign of Christ's presence.
By coming to restore the original order of creation distrubed by sin, he himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God. It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to "receive" the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ. This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ's cross, the source of all Christian life.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 1615

This talk therefore helped to introduce the divine purpose of this weekend's conference: to encourage Catholic families to grow in Faith and Love, confident that their chosen way of life is built upon and nourished by God Himself.

A fitting question from the audience asked Fr Nesbitt to address the popular suggestion (not least from among whole Bishop's Conferences) that the discipline of the Church should be relaxed upon those couples who have become remarried after the so-called 'death' of a previous marriage. Fr Nesbitt was adamant that he could not envisage a change in Magisterial teaching on this issue, simply because it is based on a faithfulness to Christ's specific teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. "For the Church to do so would lessen Her devotion to Christ." I thought this an important point to stress, since relationship breakdown is often the cause of antipathy towards the Church by Catholics. I feel that more needs to be done to encourage a positive and pious state for those who suffer a marriage breakdown. Instead, what often seems to happen is poor individuals feel themselves "damaged goods" and open up to any relationship which seemingly eases the pain of loss they feel.

I will continue with a commentary on another talk I attended; Fatherhood by Johannes Waldstein, and my own reflections on this topic. My congratulations to all those who were responsible for this endeavour, and everyone who helped make it possible. Our family benefited from the intellectual drive which is aimed at bringing about a Culture of Life amidst our often dark and hostile culture.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Newman Arrangements

The following press release is available on the official Cause Website. I was anticipating that the arrangements may have to change slightly, and it seems that the new plan is much more appropriate given the lack of physical remains. As an apt commenter recently noted: "His work lives on in his writing and intercession and there is enough DNA in the mss of his letters to provide relics in abundance, if you need to have them".

Picture: The brass Cardinal’s insignia from the coffin of John Henry Newman recovered from his grave at Rednal on 2 October 2008. Picture by Peter Jennings - copyright of the Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory

We, after all, pray to the Saint in heaven, and ask for their assistance based on their position of favour with God; it is really little to do with what they leave behind. I must stress that the veneration of relics is not worship in itself, but a way of feeling close to the Church Militant, and something to spur us on in hope and faith. In this regard, I have always stood in awe at the artifacts already available in the Oratory House for inspection: Newman's original writings, his missal, his mitre, walking-stick, rosary etc. In a way, the vessel of our bodies has less permanance and importance than these items of devotion which persist and stand for something even more transcendant.

So now we are blessed to learn that over the period of 31 October - 2 November, there will be four bishops celebrating Mass at the Birmingham Oratory: including the Cardinal and primate of our country. I hope if you are able to be in Birmingham for this time, you will be able to attand these events and pay respects and prayers to the relics and artifacts which have been prepared for public veneration.

Also continue to pray for the successful progress of the cause of beatification in Rome.

Statement by Peter Jennings, Press Secretary to the Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory and for the Cause of the Beatification and Canonisation of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890), Friday 10 October 2008:


“I am able to announce that the remains of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890) will be placed in a glass-sided casket in the Upper Cloister Hall at the Birmingham Oratory, on Friday 31 and Saturday 1 November 2008.

The remains will include locks of Cardinal Newman's hair, already in the possession of the Fathers of the Oratory, a small cross and clothing found in the grave, and some wood from the Cardinal’s original oak coffin.

Everything recovered from Cardinal Newman’s grave is presently in the care of one of the country’s leading specialists in conservation, the York Archaeological Trust, including the brass Cardinal’s insignia that decorated the top of the coffin.

The times during which visitors will have an opportunity to pray in the presence of the remains are 9.00 am to 8.00 pm.

Over these two days the following special Masses will be celebrated in the Oratory Church:

Friday 31 October at 8pm - Votive Mass of the Blessed Sacrament, celebrated by Bishop William Kenney, CP, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham.

Saturday 1 November at 8 am - Votive Mass of Our Lady, celebrated by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster.

Saturday 1 November at 11 am - Votive Mass of St Philip Neri, celebrated by Bishop Philip Pargeter, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham.

2 NOVEMBER 2008,


“High Mass will be celebrated at the Birmingham Oratory at 11am on Sunday, November 2, the transferred Feast of All Saints. The celebrant will be the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham. The Very Reverend Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory and Postulator of the Newman Cause, will preach.

During this Mass the remains of John Henry Cardinal Newman will be solemnly placed in the Chapel of St Charles Borromeo, a friend of St Philip Neri, situated to the right of the Sanctuary. They will rest in the Chapel while the step by step process of Cardinal Newman's Beatification continues in Rome.

The meticulous exhumation of Cardinal Newman's grave at Rednal on Thursday 2 October 2008 did not recover any human remains. The Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory have decided that the specially made marble sarcophagus intended to receive Cardinal Newman's body will not now be placed in the church as originally planned.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

No Physical Remains Found of Newman

There has been a press release published on the recently created website for the Cause of the Venerable Cardinal John Henry Newman. Please follow the link.

It is interesting that the Venerable Cardinal leaves us nothing of himself. Perhaps it is something of his humility and virtue, his simple desire to be buried amongst his brothers, that God has allowed this interesting course of events. I reproduce the contents of the press release below:

Statement by Peter Jennings, Press Secretary to the Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory and for the Cause of the Beatification and Canonisation of Cardinal Newman, Saturday 4 October 2008:

“The grave of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801 - 1890) was excavated with the utmost care on Thursday 2 October 2008, Feast of the Guardian Angels.

Cardinal Newman died on Monday 11 August 1890 and was buried in the small secluded cemetery at the Oratory House, Rednal, near Birmingham on Tuesday 19 August 1890. He was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II on 22 January 1991.

During the excavation the brass inscription plate which had been on the wooden coffin in which Cardinal Newman had rested was recovered from his grave. It reads:

‘Eminent [issimus] et Reverend [issimus] Joannes Henricus Newman Cardinalis Diaconus S Georgii in Velabro Obiit Die XI August. MDCCCXC RIP’

English Translation:
‘The Most Eminent and Most Reverend John Henry Newman Cardinal Deacon of St George in Velabro Died 11 August 1890 RIP’

Brass, wooden and cloth artefacts from Cardinal Newman’s coffin were found. However there were no remains of the body of John Henry Newman. An expectation that Cardinal Newman had been buried in a lead lined coffin proved to be unfounded. In the view of the medical and health professionals in attendance, burial in a wooden coffin in a very damp site makes this kind of total decomposition of the body unsurprising. The absence of physical remains in the grave does not affect the progress of Cardinal Newman’s Cause in Rome.

The Birmingham Oratory has always been in possession of some actual physical remains of Cardinal Newman. These consist of some locks of hair, some of which were sent to Deacon Jack Sullivan prior to his inexplicable cure.

These, together with items found in his grave, will be housed in a casket for a Vigil of Reception on Friday 31 October and Saturday 1 November, to be followed by the High Mass of All Saints on Sunday 2 November at 11.00 am, when the casket will be placed in the Oratory Church, Edgbaston.”

The Very Reverend Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory and Postulator of the Newman Cause said: “The lack of substantial physical remains does nothing to diminish our deep reverence for Cardinal Newman. Yesterday’s outcome seems to have a Providential significance.”

Father Chavasse added: “In the ‘Dream of Gerontius’, Cardinal Newman reflected on the experience of death. He wrote:

‘I went to sleep; and now I am refreshed. A strange refreshment: for I feel in me an inexpressive lightness, and a sense of freedom, as I were at length myself, and ne’er had been before’.

The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham said: “The establishment of this new location in the Oratory Church for our last bodily contacts with Cardinal Newman is an important moment and one that many people will want to mark with prayerful thanksgiving.

Picture is of the brass inscription plate on the wooden coffin in which Cardinal Newman was buried, recovered from his grave at Rednal on 2 October 2008. It is taken by Peter Jennings, and is the copyright of the Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Latest on Newman Cause

Please follow this link to an article published yesterday by The Times Online.

The transferral of Newman's remains is a very special time, and I hope that you would unite your prayers with the Oratory Fathers at this busy time. I would imagine that there will be an opportunity to see the remains lying in state (in a suitably presented fashion) on the 31st October and 1st November, but all the details of this are not available yet.

It's interesting to note that there will be booking forms taken for the reinterment Mass, taking place on the transferred Feast of All Saints, Sunday 2nd November 2008. I'm sure lots of people will want to attend this event.

Incidentally the theologians working on the cause in Rome have not made any definitive decision, but rather asked for more time to study the case. We must avail ourselves to Rome and not be too presumptous about where all this is going.

A new website has been set up which should be fully operational soon. It will have downloadable forms for the reinterment mass available as of Monday October 6th, and will also have a paypal facility for donations towards the cause.

Monday, September 15, 2008

1000 Years of Wulfstan

To mark 1000 years since the birth of the landmark Saint Wulfstan, my family and I attended an 'ecumenical procession' yesterday afternoon through the streets of Worcester (flanked by street performances by local school children about the life of the Saint) and a service of Evening Prayer in the Cathedral. Archbishop Vincent Nichols gave an excellent account of the Saint, and how we can faithfully be inspired by him. His Grace even went so far as to quote Pope Benedict XVI, and Saint Augustine as saying one must be within the body of Christ (ie the Church) to be with His Spirit (which struck me as an excellent thing to say at an ecumenical gathering).

Worcester Cathedral was a Benedictine Priory up until the Reformation, and Saint Wulstan was responsible for establishing the Faith in this part of the country as Benedictine Prior, and later as Bishop. He managed to be the only Anglo-Saxon Bishop to survive his position after the Norman conquest. He is responsible for many miracles, which were set to excellent Latin music by composer Adrian Lucas and performed for this occasion. I recorded a short section of this music and set a slideshow to it. I hope you enoy it!

R. Celebramus diem istum in Wolstano nobis venerabilem qui in Christo transmigravit ad locum admirabilem sanctificatis sanctificandis sanctis habitabilem.

Est ubi vera quies perpes sine murmure merces.

Office of St Wulfstan, matins responsory I (Sarum Use)
(sung in Plainsong yesterday)

R. Let us celebrate this day which, because of Wulfstan, is venerable to us, who passed over into Christ, to the admirable place, which is inhabited by saintly sanctified saints.

V. Where there is true peace without murmuring.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Message from BXVI !

XT3.com is like a Catholic Youth version of Facebook. I enjoyed this site a long time ago when it consisted mainly of a discussion group. Now it has been chosen as the official site of Sydney World Youth Day.

Imagine my surprise when I see this in my mail inbox:

Following the link, I get an electronic message from the Pope. This is very 'cool':

Dear Friends,

Fifty days ago we were together for the celebration of Mass. Today I greet you on the birthday of Mary, Mother of the Church. Empowered by the Spirit and courageous like Mary, your pilgrimage of faith fills the Church with life! Soon I am to visit France. I ask you all to join me in praying for the young people of France. May we all be rejuvenated in hope!


Also, here is a Youth translation I prepared of the Pope's message:

Dr Frnds,

50 dys ago we wr tgtha 4 th clbrtn of Mss.
2dy I grt u on th brthdy of Mry, Mtha of th Chrch.
Empwrd by th Sprt & couragus lke Mry, ur plgrmge of faith fills th Chrch wth lfe!
Soon Im gonna visit France.
I ask u all 2 join me in pryin 4 th yng ppl of Frnc.
May we all b rejuvntd in hope!


Sunday, September 07, 2008


I have not written previously about the so-called apparitions at Medjugorje. Based mainly on the facts contained in the book written by the late Michael Davies, I concluded a long time ago that the events surrounding a supposed apparition of Our Lady were not worthy of belief, attention or wasted money and effort. If nothing else, I would simply obey the line of the Church, and the local Bishops, that there was nothing suggesting supernatural events (despite several thousand claimed apparitions).

Now, just recently, it has come to light that the 'visionaries' key spiritual advisor, Fr Tomislav Vlasic, has been subject to severe disciplinary measures by the Franciscan Order. Not only that, but the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have authorised these measures. Fr Vlasic claimed to have been chosen by divine providence for his advisory role in the apparitions, and now has proven himself to be less than up to the job. Sure, we are all sinners; but managing to father a child to a nun really takes some doing.

I'm afraid this is just yet another slur against the motley crew, who continue to have support all over the world, mainly with 'charismatic' type Catholics who often have questionable views about the nature of the Church as it is. Do yourself a favour, and stop detracting attention away from true Catholic spirituality, like the apparitions at Fatima for instance.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Profession for Catholic Converts

In the old way of doing things in the Catholic Church, a candidate for "reception into full communion" would have to recite a Profession, which seems almost like an oath. The form of the Rite seems to be based around the Priest absolving the convert from excommunication. There will also have been some inquiry into whether the candidate's non-Catholic Baptism would have been valid, and if necessary Baptism is 'repeated' (even if only conditionally, just to make sure!)

I reproduce here in full the text of the Profession. The whole Rite can be found in the Appendix of the Rituale Romanum, which can be found here.

Although this profession is no longer required, with a new Rite being followed, I would encourage any candidates for the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) in the Catholic Church to study and meditate upon this text. The structure of the RCIA often assumes that everyone will be ready at the end of it at the same time; but some people feel they need longer, or indeed feel they could have been received earlier. In any case, from my experience with my wife Wendy (left, being confirmed), who underwent this process, I found it a time of immense Grace, which led me back to the Faith! The night of the Easter Vigil is a very special time to be received into the Catholic Faith.

Perhaps by studying this Profession, any candidate will be aware how 'ready' they really are. Enjoy!

The convert kneels before the priest (vested in surplice and purple stole,) and with his/her right hand on the book of Gospels makes the profession of faith as given below. If the person is unable to read, the priest reads it for them slowly, so that they can understand and repeat the words after him.

I, N.N., .... years of age, born outside the Catholic Church, have held and believed errors contrary to her teaching. Now, enlightened by divine grace, I kneel before you, Reverend Father ...., having before my eyes and touching with my hand the holy Gospels. And with firm faith I believe and profess each and all the articles contained in the Apostles' Creed, that is: I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; He descended into hell, the third day He arose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father almighty, from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy Catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.

I firmly admit and embrace the apostolic and ecclesiastical traditions and all the other constitutions and ordinances of the Church.

I admit the Sacred Scriptures in the sense which has been held and is still held by holy Mother Church, whose duty it is to judge the true sense and interpretation of Sacred Scripture, and I shall never accept or interpret them in a sense contrary to the unanimous consent of the fathers.

I profess that the sacraments of the New Law are truly and precisely seven in number, instituted for the salvation of mankind, though all are not necessary for each individual: baptism, confirmation, holy Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony. I profess that all confer grace, and that baptism, confirmation, and holy orders cannot be repeated without sacrilege. I also accept and admit the ritual of the Catholic Church in the solemn administration of all the aforementioned sacraments.

I accept and hold in each and every part all that has been defined and declared by the Sacred Council of Trent concerning original sin and justification. I profess that in the Mass there is offered to God a true, real, and propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead; that in the holy sacrament of the Eucharist the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ is really, truly, and substantially present, and that there takes place in the Mass what the Church calls transubstantiation, which is the change of all the substance of bread into the body of Christ and of all substance of wine into His blood. I confess also that in receiving under either of these species one receives Jesus Christ whole and entire.

I firmly hold that Purgatory exists and that the souls detained there can be helped by the prayers of the faithful.

Likewise I hold that the saints, who reign with Jesus Christ, should be venerated and invoked, that they offer prayers to God for us, and that their relics are to be venerated.

I firmly profess that the images of Jesus Christ and of the Mother of God, ever a Virgin, as well as of all the saints should be given due honor and veneration. I also affirm that Jesus Christ left to the Church the faculty to grant indulgences, and that their use is most salutary to the Christian people. I recognize the holy, Roman, Catholic, and apostolic Church as the mother and teacher of all the churches, and I promise and swear true obedience to the Roman Pontiff, successor of St. Peter, the prince of the apostles and vicar of Jesus Christ.

Moreover, without hesitation I accept and profess all that has been handed down, defined, and declared by the sacred canons and by the general councils, especially by the Sacred Council of Trent and by the Vatican General Council, and in special manner all that concerns the primacy and infallibility of the Roman Pontiff. At the same time I condemn and reprove all that the Church has condemned and reproved. This same Catholic faith, outside of which none can be saved, I now freely profess and I truly adhere to it. With the help of God, I promise and swear to maintain and profess this faith entirely, inviolately, and with firm constancy until the last breath of life. And I shall strive, as far as possible, that this same faith shall be held, taught, and publicly professed by all who depend on me and over whom I shall have charge.

So help me God and these holy Gospels.