Friday, August 29, 2008

Catholic Physicians

I am happy to now be a member of the "Catholic Physicians Blog"! Along with Catholic Dads, it seems that now every facet of my life is covered by a blog. How about "Catholic Star-Wars Fans"? Perhaps it will fall on me to start that one up...

My first post on Catholic Physicians Blog is about Psychiatry, a profession which I may very well specialise in. It is a sensitive topic, and I hope I have handled it well and with compassion. Please head on over there and let me know what you think.

I have previously written on being a Catholic Physician here and here... amongst others...

Catholic Media House

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Aug 29, 2008.

A brand new website has been launched called Catholic Media House to assist bishops, pastors, priests, catechists, youth directors, and teachers/instructors by providing multimedia resources for the New Evangelization.

The different types of media offered for download are mini-movies, motion and still backgrounds, countdowns on various topics of all varieties and can be used in presentations "to re-evangelize the baptized, disciple and mobilize them for evangelization and to be a blessing".

Catholic Media House is also a great platform for producers of media to have their
resources in a central visible and easily accessible location.

I have been asked to publicise this new resource; it seems quite pretty, although is American and pricey, but do go see what you think: Click on the link in the title above.

The site seems to talk a lot about using these visual media forms as part of a 'service'. This sounds a bit strange; I'm not sure what to think about using this kind of thing as part of the liturgy.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Newman Shrine

In a quiet corner of the Birmingham Oratory, between two large marble pillars, parishioners are beginning to imagine a new 'centre-piece' to the church: a shrine devoted to the life of its founder, the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman. At this point there will soon be placed a large marble sarcophagus which will contain the earthly remains of Newman.

The plans for this are being finalised, with the Ministry of Justice now approving of the transfer of Newman's remains from his grave in Rednal (the Oratory retreat house a few miles south of Birmingham, near the old Rover factory in Longbridge). The body will be photographed before being placed into a new coffin and put on show at the Oratory, before a final celebratory Mass, when the coffin will be placed into its final resting place of the marble sarcophagus.

The sarcophagus will be a shade of green Italian marble, from the quarry at Carrara (a suitable piece of stone has already been identified) and emblazoned with Newman's coat of arms. It will have inscribed upon it in silver lettering Newman's motto: Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem which means "out of shadows and images into Truth". It will be surrounded by four candlesticks and surmounted by a silver lamp, as a fitting place to venerate Newman's relics, which will one day be transformed and reunited to his soul in Heaven, as is our Christian Hope.

This sarcophagus will cost in the region of £50,000, but over £8500 has already been raised. The Holy Souls Altar, where it is due to be placed near, is on the Gospel side of the church (left-hand side) and is the second side altar from the back of church. Please continue to pray for the continued success of the beatification process in Rome, as he will hopefully be declared 'Blessed' in December later this year.

Eternal Father, You led John Henry Newman to follow the kindly light of Truth, and he obediently responded to your heavenly calls at any cost. As writer, preacher, counsellor and educator, as pastor, Oratorian, and servant of the poor he laboured to build up your Kingdom.

Grant that through your Vicar on Earth we may hear the words,
'Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter into the company of the canonized saints.'

May you manifest your Servant's power of intercession by even extraordinary answers to the prayers of the faithful throughout the world. We pray particularly for our intentions in his name and in the name of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Friday, August 15, 2008


The reform of the reform is well under way at the Birmingham Oratory! In fact, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI's wish that the two forms of the Roman Rite be "mutually enriching" find their fulfilment here! I have written previously on the differences... but things are in constant flux!

Tonight at the High Mass for the feast of the Assumption, in the Ordinary form (Novus Ordo) not only was the 'Liturgy of the Eucharist' in Latin and ad orientem, as is the usual high standard, but the Introductory/Penitential Rite was also said ad orientem silently to the backdrop of the choir's Introit (with preceding processional organ voluntary) in the same way as the Traditional 'prayers at the foot of the altar'.

Also the Canon was silent with seperated Sanctus and Benedictus around a central sung Quam Oblationem and consecration, with sung final doxology (I've always liked the latter).

I believe that hitherto, priests have not felt that they've been able to do these sorts of things - but this sort of organic growth is welcome and necessary to bring out the unique aspects of the Roman Rite, and to preserve the wealth of Sacred Polyphony. The Mass setting tonight was Palestrina's Assumpta est Maria, and there were no moments when ministers were 'hanging around' waiting for the choir to finish its elaborate pieces... Except perhaps the Agnus Dei - which actually gave me wonderful time to say a prayer by St Thomas Aquinas found in the Mass booklet, to prepare for communion. It was fitting to wait at this point and hear the 'Ecce Agnus Dei' as it is a lovely part of the Mass, even though the piece was probably designed to be sung throughout communion.

The Collect and Post-Communion were also said from the celebrant's sedelia, preceded by a 'Dominus Vobiscum' and facing 'North' (or left) which maintains a degree of decorum and reverence which the versus populum posture does not. Overall, the Introductory Rite was less clunky and maintained those unique things from the Old Rite which were sorely missed.

Perhaps now that we have re-established these beautiful features, we will be able to see more clearly the unique aspects of the reformed liturgy which can validly contribute towards the Roman Rite. In his homily, Fr Guy said that humanity's creation was remarkable, but not as splendid as the way God would re-create it in its redemption from its fallen state (or words to that effect - he is much more eloquent than I): It struck me that for all the suffering and crises in the Church and its Liturgy, we can look forward with joyful hope at the magnificent recreation of the glories which were once taken for granted.

Also today, in a little family tradition which Wendy introduced, we crowned our statue of Mary with 12 silver stars (left), to celebrate today's feast and her coronation in heaven.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Assumption of our Flesh

The daughter of the King comes in, all beautiful: her robes are of golden cloth.

Thou art the glory of Jerusalem! Thou art the joy of Israel! Thou art the honour of our people!

Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline your ear: and the King shall greatly desire thy beauty.

Epistle and Graduale - Psalm 44:14, Judith 15:10, Psalm 44:11-12

It is that holiday again - The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Liturgy for this feast is full of beautiful allusions to Our Lady from Holy Scripture:

From the beginning of Creation, Our Lady is foreshadowed as the one God would distance from Satan (Genesis 3:15)

I will put enmities between thee and the Woman, and between thy seed and her Seed.

But as sin entered the world through Eve and disobedience, so too Grace enters the world through one Woman: the Blessed Virgin Mary. Hence Christ becomes the 'New Adam' (1 Corinthians 15:22) and where we were once dead in Sin, now we are alive in Christ. This is the essence of the sign of Our Lady's Assumption into Heaven.

In the Eastern Church, this event is known as the "Dormition" or the 'Falling asleep' of the Mother of God. For it is not even as though Mary had died; her body was "full of Grace" (St Luke 1:28) and the stain of Sin, and hence the power of death, were not present in her. Thus she prefigures the consummation of the whole Church, in the same way that Our Lady is often seen to represent the whole Church (Apocalypse 12:1):

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

The Assumption and Crowning of Our Lady is the last glorious mystery of our Faith. Our Faith does not rest solely with the Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord into heaven: the climax is the first fruits of his saving power over humanity. For Christianity is not some ethereal and abstract philosophy: it is concerned with the sanctification of the FLESH.

"Behold: I make all things new!"
Apocalypse 21:5

Christianity is an earthly, bodily religion. God created us in His own image, and it is only through humanity's own fall that the flesh now speaks out of sync with our soul. Thus pain and suffering abound, and we are lost to understand the meaning of it all. Our whole history is concerned with the power of death and sin over our lives: but this is not the end of the story. With the coming of Christ, we are grafted onto a new tree: a holy and living well of salvation. It is through the Grace which flows from Christ that our flesh is made holy (cf. Romans 5:16). Christ took once holy and sacred institutions, like marriage and bodily unity for example, and re-instituted them as righteous things.

O Virgin most prudent, whither goest thou, bright as the morn? All beautiful and sweet art thou, O daughter of Sion, fair as the moon, elect as the sun!
Magnificat Antiphon - Canticles 6:9

Through Christ we can find the once lost meaning of the flesh and all our earthly desires. It is thus simple to understand why Our Lord chose earthly symbols to be the very carriages of His Grace: water to wash us clean of Sin (right); bread to feed us with His Body, and unite us as the grains of wheat; Wine to carry forth His Blood and saving death as a sacrificial lamb; Oil to anoint and strengthen our spirit, and heal our soul; and the conjugal act to unite two as one in the most primitive human example of divine love.

All generations shall call me blessed, because He who is mighty hath done great things to me.
Communio - St Luke 1:48-49

It is with especial excitement that our church, the Oratory, has become the centre of much media excitement in recent weeks. Its founder, Cardinal John Henry Newman, will undoubtedly be declared 'Blessed' by the Church, and numbered among the just in heaven, as a suitable intercessor and example for all the Christian Faithful. Part of this process is the transferral of his earthly remains from the grave in Rednal (left), to a marble sarcophagus in the Birmingham Oratory, to be venerated by the faithful. Before anyone sees this as 'medieval and macabre' we have but to remember that early Christian worship was founded in the catacombs, upon the bones of the Saints.

The great basilicas in Rome, of St Peter (right) and St Paul, the 'pillars of the Church', have now been archaeologically proven to be built upon their earthly remains. We believe that Christ has sanctified the Saints in body and soul, which is why at the end of the world their bodies will be resurrected and reunited with their souls, currently enjoying heavenly bliss. In a similar way, we will venerate the bones of Newman, who we know was a vessel of Grace for us all, and especially in England. Those bones are not an empty shell, but an imprint of heavenly glory in our earthly lives, and one which will be raised up and consummated on the Last Day.

Just as Our Lord has taken his mother, the Immaculate Virgin Mary, up into heaven , body and soul; so also we pray that our eyes may be fixed on heavenly things, and that we may share in the same glory!

Monday, August 04, 2008

From the Kiddy Album...

I think Wendy may have had a devotion to Our Lady long before she converted to Catholicism!

Unlike many converts, it wasn't a negative aspect of Anglicanism that pushed her over the Tyber, but rather a positive moving of the Holy Spirit in her life, which was already deeply committed to God.

But that's not the point of this post; merely to show a cute kiddy photo of her dressed up as Our Lady! Don't know who the St Joseph is. I only ever ended up being a shepherd, but other times may have been busy "internally participating" in the Sacred Mysteries....