Friday, May 30, 2008

Cor Jesu Sacratissimum

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

For this feast we remember the infinite love of Our Lord for all of humanity. The Gospel of the day (St John 19:31-37) recalls the final event on the Cross when Jesus' heart was pierced by the spear of a centurion. The mingling of water and blood which gushed forth alludes to the reality of the sacraments in the life of the Church, and the gateway to heaven which has thus been opened.

Above all, Your Heart was wounded so that a visible scar would enable us to see the invisible wound of Your love. For how could the ardour of Your love be better shown than by this, that not only Your body but even Your very Heart was pierced with a lance?
- St Bonaventure

A devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is twofold; it involves a consecration of Our whole lives to Jesus as loving Redeemer of Humanity, and thus be penitent and ready to have our lives changed by Him. Secondly it involves a readiness to make reparation for the indifference and ingratitude which is now shown by humanity towards Our Lord.

There are many specific devotions which help us towards this end, like the First Fridays devotions. Our family particularly enjoy saying our private prayers before the Sacred Heart Altar after we receive communion (above) and will undoubtedly enthrone the Sacred Heart image in our home formally before long.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mission: Impossible?

Today, after a lovely Corpus Christi Procession (indoor because of delightful British weather) and on the feast day of St Madeleine Sophie Barat, we get a wonderful first performance from our little Maddy, now aged exactly 16 months! Enjoy the following video:

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Birmingham's Extraordinary Cathedral

I have written previously about St Chad's Cathedral, the mother church of the huge archdiocese of Birmingham. It was about four years ago that Wendy and I discovered this Cathedral, at a time when we were excitedly discovering the Catholic Faith. Pugin designed this church with grand, sweeping 'Sarum' liturgies in mind; the likes of which are probably never going to be seen again owing to the political and heretical problems of the 16th century. The Mass, or any public worship of the Church, is there to reflect and embody the teaching of the Faith. When attacks are made on the integrity of the Faith, it is often the Mass which suffers. Pugin's dream was to recapture a quintessentially English Catholicism, at a time in the nineteenth century when Catholicism was permitted and revived.

St Chad's Cathedral was the product of this way of thinking, and in a rare way outdoes the Anglican Cathedral of the city (in my humble opinion). The old English style of liturgy was never re-employed again, mainly because it had been killed off. Now the familiar form of liturgy to Catholics living in this country was the form promulgated following the Council of Trent: the so-called 'Tridentine' Mass. It was thus this barrack against Protestantism, this perfect and timely missal, which was uttered under the great gothic arches of St Chad's.

Since the reform of the liturgy in 1969, the traditional missal had only been employed sparingly; it was as long ago as 1982 that a Mass was said in the Tridentine Rite at St Chad's Cathedral (a Requiem as a dying man's wish). Last year under my suggestion the Brother's of the Little Oratory had a low mass in St Edward's side chapel (a 1930s addition) with the kind permission of the then-Dean, Fr Brian Doolan.

Now today, with the kind assistance of Canon Patrick Brown (the Cathedral Dean), a Low Mass was said in the sanctuary. The occasion was a Latin Mass Society meeting for the diocesan representatives, about 100 faithful were in attendance. It was a modest and prayerful affair, and gave us a chance to reflect on the symbolism of this great building, and the connotations it has for us today. Fr Paul gave us a very thought provoking homily (right), remarking "it's good to be back!" which, I'm sure, reflected the sentiments of everyone present. It is always a joy to go to St Chad's Cathedral, and even more so when the aspirations and desires of this group of faithful are met in such a wonderful way. As you can see from the photos, the Mass was said by Fr Paul Chavasse at the newly installed low altar which is commonly used for Masses versus populum. Although not designed for this, I thought Columb Howell did very well to serve in quite a tricky space (below); one false move and he would have been tumbling down 7 steps! Such an altar enables everyone to see much closer, although for a Solemn High Mass the original High Altar would really be necessary (still in place below St Chad's relics in a fabulous reredos).

The roadworks outside the Cathedral is now finally finished, which has opened up the concrete roundabout atop Birmingham's inner ring road, with a lovely open space. Hopefully this much neglected gem of Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter will now be rediscovered! I would urge you to contribute to the proposed crypt redevelopment programme, which will open up this side of the Cathedral to a new audience for the greater glory of our Catholic Faith.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Panem Caeléstem

Bread of Heaven

We were treated tonight, at the Birmingham Oratory, to splendid divine liturgy for the traditional feast of Corpus Christi. I did not take photos this year, but include this photo from last year. It was a Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, and thus it re-awakened in me a sense of the beauty and majesty which has been handed down to us by the eternal Church. It is such a blessing to be presented with a mystery whose depths can be explored for a whole lifetime with ever new insights of grace and blessing.

This High Mass was concluded, like last year, with a beautiful procession around church and Solemn Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Fr Paul Chavasse preached about the wonderful gift of God upon the altar, which can act as a particular consolation at this time in England, after this devastating week in Parliament which is such a setback for the pro-life cause in our country. We must continue the good fight, and like the martyrs of Mexico who we commemorated yesterday, proclaim "long live Christ the King" for evermore.

Ecce Panis Angelorum, factus cibus viatorum:
vere panis filiorum, non mittendus canibus.
In figuris praesignatur, cum Isaac immolatur,
agnus Paschae deputatur, datur manna patribus.

Hail! Bread of the Angels, broken, for us pilgrims food, and token
of the promise by Christ spoken, children's meat, to dogs denied!
Shown in Isaac's dedication, in the Manna's preparation,
in the Paschal immolation, in old types pre-signified.

St Thomas Aquinas has given the church such depth of spiritual wisdom in our Church's doctrines, particularly evident on this great feast day, which was spread throughout the church in 1264.

From today's Lesson in the Breviary (None):
O banquet most precious! O banquet most admirable! O banquet overflowing with every spiritual delicacy! Can anything be more excellent than this repast, in whihc not the flesh of goats and heifers, as of old, but Christ the true God is given us for nourishment? What more wondrous than this holy sacrament! In it bread and wine are changed substantially, and under the appearance of a little bread and wine is had Christ Jesus, God and perfect Man. In this sacrament sins are purged away, virtues are increased, the soul is satiated with an abundance of every spiritual gift; no other sacrament is so beneficial. Since it was instituted unto the salvation of all, it is offered by Holy Church for the living and the dead, that all may share in its treasures.

- St Thomas Aquinas
In gazing upon the Blessed Sacrament, we must be preparing ourselves for partaking in this glorious banquet, by receiving Christ in Holy Communion and thereby abiding in Him, and Him in us; sharing in the very life of the Trinity. So although these photos are beautiful - it is not actually Christ you are looking at - but a computer screen! So go to a Catholic Church.... NOW! Christ is right there, waiting for YOU!!

Cálicem salutáris

Chalice of Salvation

On the other hand, did George Lucas and Steven Spielberg pick today to release Indiana Jones' latest adventure for any particular reason? How could I possibly draw a connection between this and Corpus Christi?

Well, despite being a long time coming, and Harrison Ford's grey hair and tired looks, there is still life in the old dog yet. The new cinematic film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull contains all the important formulae which made the original trilogy so enjoyable: excellent characters, cold-hearted villains, interesting historical themes (in this case the cold war with Russia), romance, dry wit and double-crossing twists. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and was truly on the edge of my seat!

But in terms of the supernatural nature of the film, for me this was a bit of a disappointment.

Sure, they are all just good stories and not to be taken seriously... But the original films all had spiritual themes which struck at an important core. Raiders has the lost Ark of the Covenant, and the supernatural wrath of God. Temple of Doom had the plausible fear of black magic and the evil occult. The Last Crusade had the wonderful theme of the quest for the Holy Grail, and Faith itself, and the healing power of the chalice of salvation. Of course it always goes a bit far, but hey, its Hollywood.

The latest installment, by contrast, decides not to draw upon the spiritual realm. It goes for something perhaps more fashionable, but still supernatural it some sense. Many (crazies) may say even plausible. But unfortunately it passes into the realm of science fiction, and seems more like an ending from the latest instalment of Close Encounters, complete with excellent special effects. Indiana (and his motley crew) is again left a bit flabbergasted by the whole experience, but true to character, puts his tongue firmly in cheek, and makes light of the whole thing. I guess maybe I should too, rather than reminisce on how cool the ending to The Last Crusade was...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

House Exorcism

A little while ago we had our house 'blessed' or 'exorcised'. This is not because of anything terrifying happening in the night! As Catholics, we believe that the home is the 'domestic church' and by the act of blessing seek to sanctify or 'make holy' something otherwise ordinary. It includes a prayer of deliverance from evil influences, and sprinkling of holy water. I hope to write more about this process of 'Faith in the Home' as I learn more myself...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Low Mass at St Chad's Cathedral

Saturday, May 24th 2008
at 1 o'clock pm

Other cathedrals around the country may be boasting Pontifical High Masses, but we in Birmingham have been somewhat slow. Imagine my joy at seeing advertised a Low Mass (in the Extraordinary Form 1962 Missal) celebrated by Fr Paul Chavasse (of the Birmingham Oratory) at St Chad's Cathedral. I have yet to find out whether this will be at the High Altar; I do hope so.

I'm sure Pugin would be rejoicing with the heavenly angels to know his great work would be put to traditional use! Although, on the other hand, he is perhaps grudging of the fact it is not the 'Sarum Use' of old English Catholicism! Still, the Tridentine Missal is the one which was used in the re-establishment of Catholicism in England following the great split with Rome. St Chad's Cathedral was the first to be built following the Reformation, and thus this is a significant event!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sign of The Times

My Dad was contacted by Saga to see if we would mind being featured in The Times newspaper, with regards grandparents who help their grandchildren getting on 'the property ladder'. Our nan released equity for us last year.

I think this highlights how much we rely on those around us; whether financially, spiritually, emotionally etc.

Often our pride may tempt us to give the impression that we can make it alone, be 'superhuman' if you like. The truth is that we are utterly dependent on God, and in His wisdom and mercy He provides people around us who will support us, enabling us to let go of our pride and be humbled. So I am ever grateful to those who patiently give, always out of Love.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Consolátor óptime, Dulcis hospes ánimae, Dulce refrigérium

O Thou of comforters the best, O Thou the soul's delightful guest, The pilgrim's sweet relief.

We have been settling into our new house in an incredibly disruptive but exciting month of April. Now it is May, the wonderful month of Our Lady (and my birthday) and the sun has come out!

I'm afraid I simply haven't had the energy to post much recently. I feel incredibly edified by this Easter season, even though I felt a bit stuck in Lent for the first part... unfortunately despite such wonderful inspiration from the feasts of Ascension and now Pentecost, I feel unable to muster the brain power necessary to commit my thoughts to a decent post. I am sorry, and am sure that in a little while I will have the necessary energy to share some juicy Catholic titbits...

In the meantime perhaps you will enjoy some photos from today. On the left, Maddy is admiring two beautiful statues that a friend from church gave us. I will have to erect a couple of special shelves to accommodate them!

Everyone warned me that "moving house is the most stressful thing you will ever do!" But I'm afraid I didn't take these warnings very seriously, especially as they were in a similar vein to the warnings I received about marriage, having children, starting job etc etc, all which I have found wonderful and joyous! Now, of course, I have to agree that moving house really is a complete drag. Still, it was worth it, and we are sure to have many happy and wonderful years in our new home. In fact, we plan never to move house again!

The Oratory is truly looking splendid at this time of year. There are large red banners hanging down, all the candles blazing, reliquaries on the high altar, St Philip Neri tapestries (left) hanging inside and out... All in preparation for the feast of St Philip as well, of course. It is lovely to have his feast so close to Pentecost because he is an excellent example of the workings of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life.

Also coming up everyday this week (Monday-Friday) are 8.30am Low Masses in the Extraordinary Form (1962, Tridentine) for the octave of Pentecost. And of course the traditional Roman feast of Corpus Christi, Thursday 22nd May, 8pm Solemn High Mass and Procession in the Extraordinary Form as well. This month certainly is crammed full of spiritual excitement at the Birmingham Oratory!

Monday, May 05, 2008

May Procession and Crowning of Our Lady

This is the image of our Queen

Who reigns in bliss above
Of her who is the hope of men
Whom men and angels love,
Most holy Mary! at thy feet
I bend a suppliant knee
In this thy own sweet month of May
Dear mother of my God, I pray
Do thou remember me!

Let us pray:

O God, You gave Your Holy Spirit to Your Apostles while they were at prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Grant through her intercession, that we may serve You faithfully, and by our words and our deeds, spread the glory of Your name. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.