Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Thesis online

This is not my thesis
It is all official now. My minor corrections have been accepted and my thesis has been uploaded to the Durham University website, and is now there for all eternity (or until the revolution when imperialist theses concerning Nostra Aetate and the covenant - an ill conceived concept stretched beyond its limits, will rightly be consigned to the flames as propaganda).

If you want to see the great work, then here.

Come the revolution, I will have a few things to say about Nostra Aetate, let me tell you... and a certain German Cardinal...

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

The Agony in the Garden (2)

The Agony in the Garden (2)

In the Garden of Gethsemane, while the disciples slept, Our Lord prayed to His Father: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it.” Then after this prayer, and checking on the disciples, He said “If this cup cannot pass by, but I must drink it, your will be done!”

For you or I the agony in the garden would be easy to understand. If suddenly you realised that you were going to be betrayed by your friend, taken away, mocked, spat upon, beaten to a pulp, dragged through the hideous streets to your death with your skin hanging from your bones and your blood congealing in the scorching heat while people laughed at you, and threw stones at you, then you would be in agony. And if you could see your mother over there, behind that crowd, her heart breaking, her soul being crushed by aching love and screaming horror; if you knew that all that was about to happen to you, then would you not fall to your knees and plead - no, not plead, but beg - that you did not have to go through it? For us, then, the agony in the garden would be fear of pain, fear of humiliation, fear of failure, fear of death. Yes, we can understand it well enough, if it had been you or I in that garden.

But it was not you or I, it was Our Lord, and it was His agony. All of those fears I have just described must have been there in the background (Our Saviour is fully man as well as fully God) but I guess that they were held in check, held at arms length by His divinity. So perhaps God’s agony was not so much that He knew what was going to happen, but rather that He knew that it had to be this way. That this was what His creation, His beloved creation, was going to do to Him. These men and women, who He had made, and who He loved with all His heart and soul, who He had walked among, ate with, laughed with, cried over. These men and women were going to do all of these things to Him. Indeed that these men and women would do these things to anyone.

Perhaps the agony in the garden in part was the final realisation of the depravity of human beings, baying for His blood like dogs. His blood which He still poured out for them, despite everything. His agony would not be the same as ours, for we would fear for ourselves. The agony of Our Lord would be that we would do these things to Him.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

The Agony in the Garden (1)

The Agony in the Garden

After the Last Supper, Our Lord went away with Peter, James and John to the garden of Gethsemane to pray. He had just celebrated the first Mass, when Our Lord had miraculously changed the bread into His Body, and the chalice of wine into His Blood. This miracle of the Mass is celebrated every time the Priest offers the sacrifice of God to God.

The time line was now fixed. The Mass had been given for all eternity. Judas had gone from it to betray our Lord - and whenever the reality of the Mass is denied and people depart from belief in it, the Lord is again betrayed. And then Our Lord goes off with this small group of His disciples to pray. The Gospels do not say that the disciples thought that this was a strange thing to do, and indeed, we know that Our Saviour would often go off on His own to pray, so perhaps it was not out of the ordinary for Him. And perhaps after such an evening - full of meaning and significance - the disciples were happy for a few moments of quiet and reflection.

We, of course, know what is to happen. We know that Our Lord is preparing himself for the final moments before His death. But the disciples, of course, do not know that. For them it has been an extraordinary evening, one which they will not fully understand until after the resurrection. In fact, that very evening they had become the first Bishops of the Church; a Church which would be born from the side of Christ as He hangs dying on the cross, and which would be constituted on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit would breath life and courage into the terrified Apostles. But for Peter, James and John, this was all in the future. All they knew was that their master had asked them to go with Him to Gethsemane, and there to wait for Him, while He prayed.

It was not much that He asked. Just to wait and pray with Him. But they fell asleep. The unutterable loneliness of bearing the burden of the sins of the world was taken on His shoulders, and all He has asked was that they wait for Him. He was contemplating His duty, His task for the salvation of the world. All He wanted was that humanity would be there are witness His prayer. But they could not stay awake. And for all eternity, we do not. We fall asleep to the presence of God. We take Him for granted, and He waits for us… not far off, just a stones throw away. Praying for us.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Strange Bed Fellows

No I am not talking about Morecambe and Wise - though I suppose that nowadays certain German Cardinals would be jumping through hoops to bless a couple of blokes sharing a bed. Though interestingly they would probably condemn the fact that Eric is smoking a Pipe. How things have changed - how funny!

I am talking about the aligning of Dr Rowan Williams and Richard Dawkins in common cause against the opening of new Catholic Schools (whoops, 'faith schools'). See link here from the Catholic Herald website. I shall refrain from saying 'by their friends shall ye know them' as Dr Williams lends his signature together with Dawkins and "Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of Humanists UK, Rabia Mirza, Director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy" inter alia. I shall also refrain from reflecting on the fact that it is rather difficult to know what the CofE stands for on any number of issues - and I'm sure this is not their official position.

Simply let us reflect on the one phrase quoted on the website (as I cannot get the premium site):

[it is] difficult to bring to mind a more divisive policy, or more deleterious to social cohesion
Really?? I knew Dr Williams at Oxford, and there is no way he would have allowed such an unsubstantiated phrase in an undergraduate essay. How about wealth inequality? How about unemployment? How about class cohesion? How about Freemasons?

Really?? Nothing more deleterious then allowing Catholics to open schools? What does he fear - that we will be teaching the moral basis on which this country and Western democracy was built? That we will be teaching complementarity of the sexes? That a moving, wriggling, sensing baby in the womb shouldn't be able to be treated as unwanted matter? That we shouldn't allow great aunt Alice to be bullied into telling her doctor to inject her with death? That we shouldn't allow state sponsored self harm?

I hope I'm wrong, but it seems that this fine intellect, this fine mind has been momentarily seduced by good old fashioned anti-Catholic bigotry. What a pity.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

How have we got here?

I was just reading the report on the Catholic Herald website about Cardinal Sarah's comments about "high ranking prelates betraying the Church". And I realised that I didn't even turn a hair. The report is here.

The fact that one Cardinal is calling out Bishops and Abbots for teaching heresy, betraying the teachings of Christ, with a spot of arrogant first-world quasi-colonial post-Christianity thrown in for good measure...

And I simply go on the next article!!!

What has happened to the immutable teaching of Christ? What has happened to the Church standing against the changing standards of society?

In the old days we used to get flustered because the Pope wore a new hat. A NEW HAT!!!

Now, communion for the divorced and remarried is OK, blessing gay couples is OK (according to the Germans), artificial contraception is OK (well, we're having a 'study group'), euthanasia is OK (if you''re a bunch of Belgian brothers)...

There is only one creature who is taking pleasure in this. Only one.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Lent Things

Lent Things

The great Lenten practices are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Of course the cynical ask “But Father, shouldn’t we be doing that anyway? Why is it different in Lent?”

Actually it is a good question (unless the reason for asking it is to get off the hook and do nothing for Lent at all). We know that we all have the obligation to say a Morning and Evening prayer - and for those of us in vows or promises, those prayers may have a special form. And we know as well that (almost) every Friday through the year we must abstain from eating meat (by the way this is not an optional extra for the keen, or religious fanatics. Nor is it something that a mere Priest can exempt you - or himself - from). And as for almsgiving, then we only have to hear the words of Our Lord in the Gospel of St Matthew to know the consequences that await us if we do not give drink to the thirsty, food to the hungry, clothes to the naked &c. So if we have to do that anyway, why is Lent different? Well, apart from us trying to mirror what happened to Christ in the desert in a small way, it points to something much deeper.

We know that cream cakes, and sherry (or fizzy drinks), and sitting around watching Casualty, are good things. But they are not good things if all you do is spend your life slumped in an armchair, with the remains of custard slices and empty sherry bottles (or fizzy drinks bottles) around you. We also need exercise, health drinks and nourishing food, to keep our bodies, and our minds in a good state, to keep us fit and active. And if we are about to do anything important, be that running a marathon, or trying to get into that little black dress again, or listening to your doctor, then we have to prepare for it. There is no magic wand to make us healthy and fit. We have to work at it, bit by bit, so that as we become fitter, or slimmer, or healthier, and so we can reach our goal. So it is with Lent. It is, if you like, our spiritual work out regime - preparing us for life. Even though we may fall into bad habits at other times of the year, Lent gives us the opportunity to refocus, and get in shape. So, although we should be doing these good things at other times of the year as well, Lent is a (not so) gentle reminder of what we should be doing and how we should be living.

Keep spiritually fit this Lent through prayer, fasting and almsgiving!

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Statues for Sale

The Shrine has commissioned statues of Our Lady St Mary of Glastonbury. They are made of resin, and stand at 8 1/2 inches high (21cm).

Generally they are sold in the Shrine itself or during the Diocesan Pilgrimage, but I want to spread devotion to Our Lady of Glastonbury, and statues are a time-honoured way of encouraging prayer.

The cost is £25 (plus postage - see below). If you would like to buy one, then email me at achaplainabroad@hotmail.fr and we can arrange payment etc.

Postage is as follows:

UK £ 3.40
Europe £ 7.20
Zone 1 (USA) £ 10.70
Zone 2 (Australasia) £ 11.40

Monday, 19 February 2018



What a strange word ‘Lent’ is! In most languages this period of preparation before Easter has something to do with the word ‘forty’. In Latin it is quadragesima: in Italian it is quaresima; in Spanish cuaresima; in French carême. German is a little different with Fastenzeit - ‘the time of fasting’. Japanese is 四旬節  - but I have no idea what that means.

These words, then, either tell us something about the season (a time of fasting) or how long it lasts (forty days). Of course, in English we do not follow this practice. For us ‘Lent’ comes from Old English lencten which means Spring, or the time when the days are getting longer. We just have to be different! The forty days mirrors the forty days when Our Lord was in the desert preparing to begin His public ministry. This is why we begin Lent on the Wednesday before the first Sunday of Lent. The Latin West has never kept Sundays as fast day because the day of the Resurrection has always been held most important that fasting. But if we remove the Sundays from Lent, then we no longer have forty days. To make this up, Lent was extended before its first Sunday by adding the missing four days, thus arriving at Ash Wednesday.

This is not a fish
We fast, because Our Saviour fasted while He was in the wilderness. Although the great Lenten practices are prayer, fasting and almsgiving - fasting has always been the most important. And we know that it has been important, because we have document after document for centuries upon centuries trying to get out of fasting! We have endless questions about what counts as a meal, and what we can eat, and how much of it, and if it includes wine or not. By the way, having to give up wine went out in the 13th century.  So you can still have a dry sherry - but not too many! It was often the case the Kings and princes (and the Queens and princesses) were exempt from fasting, but this smacks of favouritism if you ask me. I believe puffins were defined as fish for a while, so could be eaten during Lent. Hunting and other celebrations were also banned during Lent, so that the whole season was focussed on God.

Anyway… Lent is a time when we follow the example of Our Lord, and as He prepared Himself for His Father’s work, so we prepare ourselves to be His followers and faithful servants. May your Lent be spiritually fruitful, full of the love of God.

Saturday, 17 February 2018


I have been crossing out the "This is..." from the New Lectionaries that the Shrine has bought. The readers stand more of a chance of remembering if there is a nice pencil mark through it. Of course in the great tradition of mutilation of liturgical books, I should have done it in biro - I have several altar missals desecrated by scrawls and crossings out - but pencil it is.

Anyway, I am starting on Volume III. I noticed that the options for the reading for confirmation are as follows:

Old Testament (or New as a first reading ) - 10
Responsorial Psalm - 5
Second Reading - 7
Alleluia - 5
Gospel - 12

Now, any boy who I have taught will be able to tell you that to get the correct number of possible combinations you multiply the numbers together.

So, for the rite of confirmation we have a possible combination of



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