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Eucharistic Adoration

A few days ago The Pope addressed the Cardinals of Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, who had been meeting to consider the question of Eucharistic adoration. Which, to judge from from HH’s comments and personal experience, appears to be sadly lacking in great swathes of the church.

In my youth, reverence for the Blessed Sacrament was almost the first thing that we were taught. It preceded the “Janet and John” books and learning how many fingers made four. At Mass, when the bell rang at the Consecration we all knelt and bowed our heads, because that was the moment when Christ became present before us. Even now, I cannot look at the host during the elevation; it is instinctively disrespectful. It just isn’t done! Later, formal catechesis built on our infant conditioning adding intellectual reasoning along with, it must be admitted, whacking great doses of Irish Catholic superstition, mortification and guilt. But through all that, potentially psychologically damaging as it may have been, reverence for the Real Presence stood out. Christ was Priest , Prophet, Saviour, King and the Son of God to boot! Somehow He managed to squeeze Himself invisibly into a tiny wafer of bread and didn’t mind if you ate Him. How could you not kneel and bow your head? Later still, when I progressed to the Sanctuary as an Altar Boy, the reverence required was ratcheted up quite a few notches. Even to the extent of wearing white cotton gloves before I handled anything that might possibly come into contact with the Sacred Species. Around this time there were whispered stories in the sacristy of what Satanists got up to with the consecrated host. I was horrified. How did they dare do such appalling things to God? Hanging, drawing and quartering Martyrs was bad enough, but stealing and manhandling God was way, way beyond wickedness. Then 1968 happened and the world turned upside down.

Some time ago I witnessed a Mass celebrated in Wolfsthal in Lower Austria by Christoph Cardinal Schoenborn. It was one of those toe curlingly, cringe making performances called “Youth Mass”.

 Have a look, if you can bear it. The worst parts come at around the 1m 45s mark.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67Lom28KSlg

This is bad enough, though there are far worse things that are passed off as Holy Mass. For me, what makes this shoddy little video stand out is the position in the hierarchy of the celebrant. Schoenborn is a CARDINAL. He sat in the conclave which elected our present Pope. He is the pastor of millions of souls and he sees nothing scandalous, disrespectful or wrong in this.

Compare the Cardinal’s video with the story of an English Parish Priest, Fr. Tim Finigan of Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen. Fr. Finigan was the subject, a couple of weeks ago, of a truly dreadful piece of journalism by Elena Curti, writing for “The Tablet”. In the article Fr Finigan was accused of arrogance and high handedness, insensitivity and outright bullying with the added implication of fiscal misdeeds to add a little spice to the sorry diatribe. His crimes, as perceived by Miss Curti, were to offer mass in the Extraordinary Form, which is to say the way it always used to be said prior to 1968, once a week. To ask for silence during the canon of the Mass so that people could properly adore the Eucharist. And, which is probably worst of all from the point of view of “The Tablet”, increasing Mass attendance among the young as a result.

On June 29th 1972, the late Pope Paul VI said of the results of Vatican II that “From some fissure the smoke of satan entered into the temple of God”. I must revise my opinion of this much neglected prophet of our times.

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On a mission !

Before 1968 it was generally understood that English Catholics should, as a matter of course, offer prayers for the conversion of England. In the years since 1968, the Bishop’s Conference of England & Wales has decided that the only valid interpretation of the injunction to ecumenism in the documents of Vatican II, means that protestantism is just as valid a way towards salvation as the One True Faith and consequently we must be nice to them. We must not do or say anything which might upset them. We must not point out that their orders are utterly null and void. We must not make reference to Henry VIII’s expropriation of church lands and property. And if we really must commemorate the Glorious English Martyrs we should do so quietly.  To bang home the point, to Catholics and Anglicans alike the Bishop’ Conference have decided that the Holy Mass should be “ecumenised” as well, reducing it to something that even a low church Protestant would feel comfortable with.  Not surprisingly, Catholics have been leaving the church in droves ever since.

Of course there is a lot more to the subject than my necessarily brief precis, but I think it just about sums up the situation.

I have been thinking a lot about the state of the church in England over the last few weeks. The pallaver over the appointment to Westminster has helped to bring things into a somewhat sharper focus. I do hope for an Archbishop who will begin to set the Faith back on the straight and narrow path, who will, among other things, urge the remaining faithful to once more pray for the Conversion of England. Fr Aidan Nichols, should he be appointed, would make that a priority. Sadly though, I feel his candidacy has not recieved much attention from the Congregation of Bishops in Rome. 

 So, as usual, the laity must fill in where the hierarchy fail. Recently I have felt a distinct movement of the spirit to pray for England and her conversion, and the more that I have prayed, the more I feel called to pray. The ideal place to do this would be by the side of the round plaque which marks the site of Tyburn gallows.  But since I live in Lancashire, logistics confound my desire. However Prayer is Prayer and I suppose it does not really matter where it is performed so long as it comes from the heart and the intention is crystal clear.

 

So here is the prayer (I am indebted to St Paul of the Cross and Blessed Dominic Barberi) Which I will now say every day at 17:00hrs.  If any of my readers would like to join me – feel free, perhaps you would like to pop an acknowlegement in the comments box. 

O MERCIFUL God,

 let the glorious intercession of Thy saints assist us, particularly the most blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Thy only-begotten Son, and Thy holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, to whose patronage we humbly recommend this country. Be mindful of our fathers, Eleutherius, Celestine, and Gregory, bishops of the Holy City; of Augustine, Columba, and Aidan, who delivered to us inviolate the faith of the Holy Roman Church. Remember our holy martyrs, who shed their blood for Christ: especially our first martyr, Saint Alban, and Thy most glorious bishop, Saint Thomas of Canterbury. Remember all those holy confessors; bishops, and kings, all those holy monks and hermits, all those holy virgins and widows, who made this once an island of saints, illustrious by their glorious merits and virtues. Let not their memory perish from before Thee, O Lord, but let their supplication enter daily into Thy sight; and do Thou, who didst so often spare Thy sinful people for the sake of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, now, also, moved by the prayers of our fathers, reigning with Thee, have mercy upon us, save Thy people, and bless Thy inheritance; and suffer not those souls to perish, which Thy Son hath redeemed with His own most Precious Blood, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, world without end. Amen.
Let us pray.
O most loving Lord Jesus, Who, hanging on the Cross, didst commend us all in the person of Thy disciple John, to Thy most sweet Mother, that we might find in her our refuge, our solace, and our hope; look graciously upon our beloved country, and on those who are bereaved of so powerful a patronage; that, acknowledging once more the dignity of this holy Virgin, they may honour and venerate her with all affection of devotion, and own her as Queen and Mother. May her sweet name be lisped by the little ones, and linger on the lips of the aged and the dying; and may it be invoked by the afflicted, and hymned by the joyful; that this Star of the Sea being their protection and their guide, all may come to the harbour of eternal salvation. Who livest and reignest, world without end. Amen.

Obscure and Rare

An oddity came to light the other day which I thought I would share with you.  It is one of the things that makes the Faith so fascinating but which the modernisers thought that they had consigned to the dustbin of ecclesiatical history. Happily, in remote Ecuador, they take less notice of trendy happy-clappiness than we do in western europe and so archaic rituals like this survive and make the Faith more meaningful and “real”.

Arrastre de Caudas

A short reminder of the very old and very symbolic and very cool celebration of the “dragging of the trains” which will take place again this year on the Wednesday of Holy Week in Quito, Ecuador. This custom seems to date back all the way to the Roman Empire. Roman soldiers who had fallen in battle were covered with a big black flag, which was supposed to absorb their fighting-spirit. The flag was then carried past the mourning soldiers, all dressed in black, and the mojo of the fallen was thus passed on to the living.

The church transformed this into a ceremony in which the huge black flag carried by the archbishop is supposed to symbolize death (in fact, superstitious belief had it that you would die in the coming year, if the flag touched you while it was carried through the town). The procession ends in the cathedral, where the canons lay down, while the archbishop, in cappa magna, holds up the flag so that the faithful be reminded of the virtue of Christ, who died for us on the cross. The capes of the canons have large, very large trains. Apparently the trains are supposed to symbolize the sins of the world, which would be a good explanation not only for the black color but also for the tremendous length.

 

 

 

my thanks to the excellent the far sight 2.0 blog for the info and the pics.

And so it goes on; the search for the ideal candidate for Westminster, having exhausted almost all of the names in the English and Welsh hierarchy, seems no nearer resolution than it was when I first blogged about it.  The delay and the speculation it generates is not really very helpful to the cause. More speculation yesterday and a few new names to conjour with. Fr Ray Blake of St Mary Magdalen’s in Brighton claims inside knowledge that the terna of names has been returned twice by Rome as unsatisfactory – I’ll bet that has put the Nuncio’s nose out of joint. The new name now being discussed is Fr. Alexander Sherbrooke. Fr Sherbrooke is currently at St Patrick’s in Soho and is Eaton educated from a recusant family – dashed good form there!

But there is more. The Independent, carried a long article yesterday…

 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/pope-makes-waves-in-westminster-1641012.html

in which it claims that the leading contender is now Fr Allen White who is currently serving as assistant to the Master General of the Dominicans in Rome, The curia, apparently, would like an insider in Westminster.  Fr White is said to be a “persuasive preacher” and “very orthodox”, he is also a monk. He gets my nomination on all three counts, if only to poke the bishop’s conference in the eye after their unkindness to the late Cardinal Hume, when, after he died, they apparently vowed “never a monk again”.  If His Holiness acts true to form the Bishops of England and Wales are in for a bit of a rude awakening, as is the church itself, and not before time.

Interestingly, Cardinal Pell, the deceptively sharp Australian Cardinal has been in the UK this week saying mass in Cardinal Newman’s chapel in Birmingham and delivering the Newman Lecture at Oxford. Cardinal Pell is said to be something of a traditionalist and apparently is convinced that much of the liberal/modernist malaise affecting the english speaking church stems from the UK. I cannot help thinking that with The Pope and Cardinals Hoyos and Pell on the case the next few months are going to see some pretty astonishing changes.

The gift of hope.

We had been discussing the possible candidates to succeed Card. Murphy-O’Connor at Westminster the other day. And I have to say that, from a traditionalist and orthodox point of view, the list of potential Archbishops is not exactly inspiring and scarcely fills one with hope for a change in direction. It seems that the liberal/secular/modernists could well have the appointment sewn up. The prospect of further dumbing-down in the church cast a pall of gloom that I thought would never lift.   That is until I came across this…

http://www.traditionalcatholic.org.uk/2008RosaryCrusade/Introduction.html

I had thought that such public displays of Catholic piety were a thing of the past. I remember with great fondness the processions I took part in as a child. Enormous painted banners, brass bands belting out “Faith Of Our Fathers” and the Blessed Sacrament carried beneath a vast embroidered silk canopy. Every catholic child of the parish dressed in white processing through the town in serried ranks, giving answer to Stalin’s question about how many legions the Pope had.4

The only fly in the ointment of my delight in discovering this survival of “temps perdu” was the realisation that it had been happening anually for the last twenty four years. Six of which while I was attending Mass at Westminster Cathedral and not once did I hear about it. 

The hierarchy may wish to solely concern itself with conferences on Social Justice and Liturgical Renewal, but such “right-on” PC occupations do not satisfy or nourish the soul, and, more importantly do not fill churches or put “bums on seats”.  The laity, on the other hand, know what is needed and simply get on with filling the gaps that our pre-occupied hierarchy ignore. “I’ll sing a hymn to Mary…”

O Tempora. O Mores !

funeral1 

Yesterday, I attended the Funeral Mass held for a friend in the Catholic Parish Church. Oddly, perhaps, I was quite looking forward to the event. I had not been inside this church before and since I have decided to begin to write this blog I thought it would be useful and instructive to see how what used to be known as a “Requiem” Mass has changed in the forty years since I last attended one as an Altar boy.

 

Dear, oh dear, oh dear! Where do I start? How can I describe how infuriatingly awful the experience was? I must suppose that the Priest “meant well”; an alternative does not bear thinking about. However this does not in any way excuse him from the ecumenical shambles which followed.

 

We got off to a poor start when no one could be found to unlock the main entrance and everyone had to enter by a side door and then were packed like sardines in the narthex until the gates to the nave could be opened. There were no servers just the priest and an organist. It was not enough that he lost all of his notes concerning the deceased and the family’s wishes concerning the funeral. He had to trumpet the fact. And then add insult to injury by making light of it by suggesting that he had prayed to the deceased to enlist her aid in finding the lost notes. Anyone with any experience in public speaking or performance would soldier on and hope that no one would notice.

 

I noticed that, although The Eucharist was to be celebrated there was no Crucifix on the altar, and although the sanctuary light indicated the presence of the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle behind the altar, in his frequent crossing of the sanctuary the priest only once or twice genuflected when passing in front of it. The coffin was not censed and, contrary to canon law, was placed with the head towards the altar. It used to be the case that the coffin would be surrounded by six tall candlesticks, three on either side, bearing candles made from unbleached beeswax, a sort of brown/yellow colour, here there were just four slim white ones at the four corners.

 

I am not sure that white is an acceptable colour for vesture during a funeral mass, it robs the occasion of its necessary solemnity. Another thing which robs the occasion of any semblance of solemnity is the insistence on the use of the vernacular in everything. Gone is the great dirge “Dies Irae” and most of the other Latin prayers reminding us of our mortality and the wages of sin and the final judgement. Speaking of which, the reverend Father gave us his vision of the final judgement which we must all face. He said that he imagined God laughing at all the little stupidities of our life on earth, those embarrassing moments where we had been stressed and had got things out of proportion. Those who could not bring themselves to join in with God’s laughter were consigned to hell. So, life is just one big joke and only those who “get it” and share the deity’s sense of humour are guaranteed salvation – I hope for all our sakes that God is not German.

 

And so the afternoon wore on and we approached The Consecration. Our revered Pastor had to halt the proceedings at this point to ask if the were any Extraordinary Ministers of Communion in the congregation, he intended offering Communion in both kinds and found himself a little short-handed. Luckily, there was a lady present who said she had the required qualification and after a brief conference the consecration began. As he reached the words “When supper was ended…” he was seized with a fit of coughing, and rather than turn his head as good manners would dictate, he coughed all over the chalice and the Host.

 

This is wearisome, I am skipping the happy-clappy hymns, the repeated references to the deceased as someone who liked to cheat at cards and board games and allowing a family member to deliver a eulogy. I am also skipping the callisthenics which passed for The Elevation of the Sacraments, the fact that the place was freezing, the service overran by a good twenty minutes and that the ewer in which holy water was carried was so tarnished it looked as though it hadn’t been cleaned since Adam was a lad.

 

The parish is poor. The building is a wreck. There are holes in the stained glass and the plaster is falling off the walls of the sanctuary and there is little of beauty there. None of which would matter a bit if there was any sense of the numinous and divine. But sadly, throughout the whole chaotic hour and a half, there was not one moment where I became cognisant of the awful presence of God. And it wasn’t just me who thought so. Most of the time it was as though the priest were addressing a committee meeting rather than enacting The Divine Sacrifice and beseeching our Saviour for the salvation of the soul of our dead sister.

 

I felt cheated. Cheated for my poor friend, who could no longer help herself, for her family, so deep in grief they had not the will to speak out against this charade, and for the congregation, who have to endure, week in-week out, such appalling lack of dignity, respect and organisation. I have attended protestant services more meaningful than this.

Fasting and Abstinence

One of the first things I notice about the faith today is the relaxed, one might almost say supine, attitude to what was once considered a vital part of one’s daily obligations as a catholic; that of regular fasting and abstinence. I come from that generation born in the years following the end of rationing after the Second World War, so although I have never had to suffer the privations of war, my parents and grandparents certainly did. The wartime attitude to food and the wasting of it coloured their lives thereafter, as it has coloured mine, though perhaps to a lesser extent.

One of the more noticeable changes introduced by the Fathers of Vatican II was a relaxation in the church’s laws of fast and abstinence. All of a sudden it was permitted to attend mass with merely three hours of fasting, as opposed to fasting from midnight. You can imagine that for a child, this was a great relief. Gone too was the need to eat fish on Friday’s; I have a pathological hatred of fish. So, hosannah’s and halleuja’s all round one might suppose. The Wartime diet, while not being terribly exciting, did have the unexpected corollory of producing greater general fitness in the nation as a whole. And while the church’s laws were not solely responsible for sleek and healthy catholics one cannot help think that they reinforced a culture of careful consideration of what and when one ate.  At a later date the rules were revised even further so that now it is considered enough to merely fast for one hour before taking the Eucharist.

Over and above dietary considerations, one must consider the effect of this relaxation on the congregation in their preparations for taking part in The Eucharistic Feast. For our separated bretheren The Eucharist is merely a commemoration and is for that reason not especially exciting and they can be forgiven for playing around with it to the extent that they do. But The Eucharist for catholics is a wholly different and much more awesome event. Through the Mystery of Transubstantiation the bread and wine of The Eucharist is subtly transformed at the moment of consecration and becomes the actual body and blood of Christ. We are eating God! Indeed, the original greek texts of the New Testament are very precise and allow for no reinterpretation of what Christ’s actual intention was. We are meant to “chew” the Eucharist as one would chew flesh! That act of ritualised cannibalism is, the only way, to ensure salvation. It is brutal and shocking! It was never intended as some sort of comfortably mimsy get together with a couple of happy-clappy hymns and a bit of pious rhetoric. In The Eucharist there was fear and awe in equal measure. That is why the Mass was ordered the way it was, that was the reason for the vesture and why every church had an altar and a sanctuary, as opposed to a commemoration table and a celebration space. From time immemorial the act of sacrifice has required that the victim be offered to the deity on an altar and that by virtue of their special use and significance such places became special and “other” to ordinary everyday reality. If that was true when it was animals and humans who were being offered for sacrifice, how much more true and terrible must it be when the sacrifice offered is God himself?  How truly terrifying must it be to realise that the being who created all perceivable reality is not just sitting somewhere up in the sky, veiled by clouds, but is actually standing in front of you in the persona of the priest who is offering you a part of his body to eat! Would you not approach the sanctuary in dread and fall down on your knees and say, as we used to, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you under my roof.” and, moreover, mean every syllable with every fibre of your being? Because you knew that no matter how well prepared you were for this encounter, you could never hope to match the perfection of God.

All this was taught to us in various forms as soon as we were capable of understanding, first from our parents and then at school. I remember that while being prepared to take my first communion there was much allusion to good housekeeping from our teacher. It was banged home, again and again, that the only correct way to approach the Eucharist was in a state of Grace, and that meant having purged yourself of sin through prayer and fasting. To do so in any other way was to display wanton disrespect which would not only bring shame on yourself, your parents and your teachers, but, would also insult the being who created you. 

In this light it is easy to see that the relaxations ushered in following Vatican II have not really helped to maintain the sense of the sacredness of The Eucharist. Smashing the Altars, and “kumbaya” haven’t helped either!

I have a little prayer book which was given to me when I made my first Confession at the age of seven. It was published in 1951 and so represents what is perhaps the apogee of Catholic observance. In it are listed the rules for and days of Fasting and Abstinence.

1. The Law of Abstinence forbids the use of flesh-meat and of soup, etc., made from it. Eggs, cheese, butter and seasonings of food are permitted. The Law of Fasting forbids more than one full meal a day, and this must not be taken before noon.

2. All catholics seven years old or over are obliged to abstain. All Catholics from the completion of their twenty-first year to the begining of their sixtieth year, unless lawfully excused, are bound to fast.

Fasting Days

All days of Lent, except Sundays, until mid-day on Holy Saturday. Ember Days, viz: Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays after Ash Wednesday, Whit-Sunday, September 14th and the 3rd Sunday of Advent – The Vigils of The Assumption, All Saints and Christmas Day (except when these feasts fall on a Monday) -The Vigil of Whit-Sunday.

Abstinence Days

All Fridays of the year, except when Holidays of Obligation and December 26th fall on Friday. All Wednesdays of Lent, Ember Saturday in Lent, The Ember Wednesdays, The Vigils of The Assumption, All Saints and Christmas (except when these feasts fall on a Sunday or Monday).”

 

It is a lot to consider but it really is not as onerous as it might first appear.wordpress stat.