Friday, May 29, 2009

The Oratory Fathers

In typical press style, I managed to capture a picture of all the Oratory fathers together with Cardinal John Foley after First Vespers of St Philip Neri on Monday night:

From left to right: Fr Sebastian Jones (novice, Priest), Fr Gregory Winterton, Br Lewis Berry (Acolyte), Fr Philip Cleeveley, (Cardinal Foley), Fr Guy Nicholls (Parish Priest), Fr Anton Guziel (novice, Priest), Fr Paul Chavasse (Provost), Fr Dermot Fenlon

Pontifical High Mass

Tuesday night was the closest I've got to a Pontifical High Mass. It was a beautiful opportunity to photograph the rich sanctuary of the Birmingham Oratory, which is notable in its noble simplicity, its simple form, and functional area. Like the whole church, it does not make one feel swamped by sheer splendour, but invites the soul to share the majestic heights which it aspires to in a more intimate way than the Roman basilicas it is modelled after.

There are so many photos, it is better to simply embed a slide show. You will notice, this Mass was celebrated by Cardinal John Foley in the new form of the Roman Rite, which customary to the Oratories incorporates traditional mass custom with the Novus Ordo missal. The musical setting was Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcelli which is divine. The result is something which closely resembles the old Rite, without losing the unique aspects of the new; such as offertory processions, special intercessions etc. I find the main drawback to this approach is the stop-start nature of the Rite when coupled with the long Mass scores. In the old Rite, it is more usual for the music to provide a backdrop to what is happening at the altar, rather than an interlude in the proceedings.

Flickr set here

Please go to the Cause Website for an official report of the Mass and the Cardinal's excellent homily.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Happy St Philip Neri

Have a Blessed Feast of St Philip Neri

"My heart grew hot within me, and in my meditation a fire shall flame out..."
Second Alleluia (Psalm 38:4)
"The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by His Spirit dwelling within us"

Introit (Romans 5:5)

We were lucky enough to begin the feast of St Philip Neri, the founder of the Oratorian congregation, last night with First Vespers presided over by Cardinal Foley, who is staying at the Birmingham Oratory during this special time. For more on his visit, see the Cause Website.

He celebrated Vespers beautifully, which consisted of traditional Gregorian chanting of five Latin Psalms intoned by the Cantors (four of the Oratory clergy, vested in copes and sitting on the red stools). This then lead to the Magnificat, the song of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was sung elaborately by the Oratory choir, during which the Altar was incensed by the celebrant (in this case Cardinal Foley).

A special part of last night's ceremony was the Blessing with St Philip's relic (right). There is actually an opportunity for anyone to receive this blessing every Monday at 8pm. Last night, it was of course, more elaborate and solemn. It included a procession to the reliquary (seen in the top picture) where Cardinal Foley blessed it with incense (an ancient act dating back to the Israelites to symbolise the rising up of our prayers to heaven).

After Vespers we also have Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, where the Celebrant blesses all the Faithful with the Blessed Sacrament held in a monstrance (left). This act of adoration seeks to extend the blessings encountered during the midst of the Mass, when the Host is elevated for brief veneration.

The Cardinal's American accent was no longer evident as he took up the sung Latin Collect with great care and prayerful attention:

Deus, qui beátum Philíppum Confessórem tuum, Sanctórum tuórum glória sublimásti: concéde propítius; ut cujus solemnitáte laetámur, ejus virtútem proficiámus exémplo. Per Dóminum...

O God, who hast exalted blessed Philip, Thy confessor, in the glory of Thy saints: grant in Thy mercy, that we who rejoice in his festival, may profit by the example of his virtues. Through Christ our Lord... Amen.

For more about the Saint, the holy and inspirational Philip Neri, see a previous post of mine. Vespers at the Oratory uses the traditional breviary pre-1969, but follows the revised calender depending on the feast and its corresponding Magnificat Antiphon and Collect.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Busy Bank Holiday

It is wonderful to be busy with family rather than work. The weather was perfect for a barbeque yesterday, with wine and beer on tap. Much fun was had by all (in a very restrained civilised way of course). Today we have enjoyed the beautiful sun by taking a bike ride along Birmingham and Black Country's idyllic canals. We came across Galton Bridge, built in 1829 by Thomas Telford, which is an excellent example of Victorian industrial architecture. It spans two railway lines and one canal, and at 151 feet (46 metres) it had the highest span of its day.

Of main interest is Brutus doing his E.T. impression (top). As you can see, it is impressive how many life-forms you can legitimately fit on a conventional push-bike. It would have been nice to have flown over Galton Bridge, but perhaps a little ambitious. Is there anyone else that sees Jesus parallels in the film E.T.? Glowing heart, death, resurrection, ascension, etc?? Constantly 'phoning home'?

I was also honoured with the charge of taking photos of Cardinal John Foley's visit to the Oratory this morning, after serving a Low Mass. Tonight I will be snapping away at Vespers, and then tomorrow for the High Mass of St Philip Neri. I hope to serve EF Low Mass in the morning at 8.30am for his feast as well. I feel all this is like spiritual refuelling after the most brutal and stressful few months I can remember... Things are of course looking up. I have my Psychiatry training post secured for the West Midlands in August; LMS and Guild of Catholic Doctors events to work on; and Wendy is also 'working on' a very special project, which involves not drinking alcohol for 9 months. Keep up to date with the banner at the top!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Doctor Poem

Check it out:

-- Posted From Wend's iPod Touch WiFi (4.5Mb/s)
Virgin Media Broadband

St Philip Neri Celebrations

Obviously St Philip Neri is very close to the heart of everyone at the Birmingham Oratory. For his feast day this year, we will be visited by Cardinal John Foley (Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, previously President for the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Cardinal Deacon of San Sebastiano al Palatino, and whose titular See is Neopolis in Proconsulari).

He will be visiting Cardinal Newman's rooms in the Oratory house, and will be celebrant and preacher for the Solemn High Mass (Ordinary Form) on Tuesday evening.

Solemn First Vespers: 7:30pm, Monday 25th May 2009
Solemn High Mass: 7pm, Tuesday 26th May 2009

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Abortion Numbers Falling

Deo gratias. I heard on the radio this morning, but cannot find a web-link anywhere, that abortion rates in Birmingham have fallen this year. A spokeswoman from the Marie Stopes lot said this is indicative of improved reproductive education, in "quality and not just quantity". I couldn't agree more, and it is good that some of these people are acknowledging abortion as an undesirable outcome. She added that, apparently, young people have been playing "Russian roulette" by having unprotected sex (I assume she's talking about getting pregnant as somehow comparable to a bullet through the head).

Birmingham is fairly unique in that, when the Abortion Act of 1967 was passed, pressure from leading gynaecologists (including one who stated on television "Whatever the law says we will not murder little children in Birmingham") meant that, to this day, NHS establishments do NOT provide abortion in Birmingham. It has thus been the abortion factory of Calthorpe Clinic in Edgbaston (just near the Birmingham Oratory) which the NHS pays to provide women with their "reproductive rights". It seems obvious to me that this is an almost worse situation, since the advocates of abortion will have the monopoly in this clinic, and clearly offer very biased information to women in distress. For instance, I have come across many naive young girls who think that abortion is completely safe, and sadly come across fertility and gynaecological complications later on down the line. I'm sure the Calthorpe Clinic makes most of its money (up to £960) from private patients, and thus pitches itself particularly for overseas women who can fly in, have their baby killed, and then fly out again (sometimes all on the same day:

If you live abroad, it is possible to have an assessment and treatment on the same day. You will need to be at the Clinic by 0830 (8.30am). Some procedures (such as the early medical) currently require that you attend the Clinic again (between 6 hours - 3 days, whichever is most convenient) after taking the first tablet so you will have to stay in Birmingham overnight. We strongly recommend that women stay overnight after the second treatment before travelling home. If you are travelling back on the same day after treatment, we recommend that your return travel times are after 2000 (8pm) and that you have someone with you when you travel.

The Helpers of God's Precious Infants meet outside the Calthorpe Clinic every Saturday morning. Why? Monsignor Philip Reilly (founder of the international Pro-life organisation) put it thus:

…You are going there for the purpose of salvation. You are going there for the love of the mother. You are going there for the conversion of the mother. You are there for her salvation. For the conversion of the abortionist. You are going there with the mindset of John and Mary at the foot of the Cross. To be pro-life is to be with the mindset of Christ. It is to be a victim with Christ at Calvary.

With regards the Russian roulette of coming into this world, I hope the odds have started to get better for unborn babies in Birmingham.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ascension High Mass

Unfortunately, because of working, we won't be able to get to the High Mass at 8pm on Thursday. Would anyone be able to take a few photos to put on the Blog?

I'm sure it'll be a beautiful feast for all the senses; a symbol of the Christian mystery of redemption, and a noble response to the true presence of Christ given to us by the Tradition of His Church. God bless!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Brutus the Pug

We are in the process of booking a dog-friendly hotel in London for the LMS AGM and High Mass! The big question: is Westminster Cathedral Pug-friendly??

-- Posted From Wend's iPod Touch WiFi (4.5Mb/s)
Virgin Media Broadband

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Birmingham Latin Mass Times

See my LMS blog for a quick report on Mass times for this month. We now offer a Saturday morning Low Mass which everyone is welcome to, and of course the High Mass for Ascension Thursday.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Consecrated Hands

This is quite an interesting article:

A constitutive part of masculinity is the desire for unique intimacy. Much has been written in the past three decades about appropriate intimacy for the priest... The need for a unique physical intimacy with another is constitutive of permanent monogamous relationships ordained by the Creator, Yet it is precisely that type of intimacy with another human being that the celibate sacrifices. The celibate priest, however, was offered through his office an incomparable and unparalleled intimacy: he alone could touch God.

The liturgical legislation of the post-Conciliar era has eliminated the Eucharistic exclusivity that marked the office of the priest. The celibate priest no longer possesses the unique corporeal relationship with God. He is not denied the relationship, but others have access to it. Consider a parallel situation: i.e., within the Sacrament of Matrimony. The possession of an exclusive bodily prerogative with one's spouse is primary; in fact there exists no greater convergence between the Divine Law and the instincts of even fallen human nature than on this point. Violate this pact, and one risks murderous rage. If a celibate priest, however, reacts with even the slightest resentment towards the loss of what was his corporeal exclusivity within his Sacrament of Holy Orders, he is considered a candidate for psychological evaluation."

The loss of the priest's unique intimacy with the sacred has subtly, but mightily, contributed to this development. While insisting that nothing has essentially been changed for the priest because he is still the one who consecrates, the liturgical engineers have made his presence optional at the most intimate moment of holy communion between the flock under his care and Our Lord. The majority of Catholics receive the Eucharist from the hands of a lay person. The act of shared intimacy that is at the heart of shepherding ("Feed my lambs, feed my sheep") is absent. The Church, echoing an increasingly feminized society, is telling priests: "Once you have consecrated, you are no longer needed." The act of the priest "feeding" the faithful with the Bread of Life incarnates his role as Its sole provider and, far more than the eye can see, forms his and his people's perception of his spiritual fatherhood. The priest's role was never confined to the sanctuary, but what made him unique to his people was his unique relationship to the Eucharist which he brought forth from within the sanctuary. The commitment to celibacy in the Latin Rite was the tangible sign of the Eucharistic "Christ-man."


The vocations crisis, created by the anti-masculine policies of the ecclesiological revolution, is now blamed by the bishops on celibacy. Celibacy is a problem, but only because the present structural environment of the Church has removed those elements which traditionally have supported its compatibility with a healthy masculine nature.

I came across the point in Dom Prosper Gueranger's book "The Holy Mass" about why, in the Traditional Rite, a priest holds his finger and thumb together after consecration. I have heard previously that this was a merely practical measure to prevent tiny fragments of the Blessed Sacrament from falling and becoming profaned. Perhaps this is also true. But Gueranger says that it is because the Priest's fingers are sacred, or consecrated, and alone have the privilege of touching our Lord (rather than anything else around him). This consecration happens at a Priest's ordination, when the bishop wraps a special material around the fingers, consecrating them with oil. To stress his point, Gueranger adds that if a Priest were to lose one of these forefingers through injury, he would have to seek special permission to use another finger for the Sacred Mysteries. All this may seem silly and ritualistic. But take something so ingrained in Tradition away from the priesthood, and perhaps it is difficult to predict the consequences. The above article, I suppose, seeks to get to the psychological bottom of it! Take it or leave it, but I agree with its conclusion.

Image: FSSP Ordinations June 2007