Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Do we still believe in Europe?

Well, what do you know? We voted to leave Europe! I think that before the vote on June 23rd the Bishops said something (which I took the precaution of not reading) but I am not convinced that there was a ‘Catholic’ answer to the question. It was simply one of those extraordinary moments when the UK was given a referendum vote over something important, and if you ask someone something, then they are going to give an answer.

Europe as a continent still exists. I can say that with some certainty as I looked it up on the internet, which we all know, never lies. But what an interesting thing it is to look at Europe through Catholic eyes. In 2007, Pope Benedict said, “It is a question of a historical, cultural, and moral identity before being a geographic, economic, or political one; an identity comprised of a set of universal values that Christianity helped forge, thus giving Christianity not only a historical but a foundational role vis-à-vis Europe.”

Our Lady of Europe
What then is Europe? It is history, culture and moral identity. And it is all of those things based on Christianity. Pope Benedict was quick to point out that the attempt by European politicians to ignore Christianity, when they were writing the European Charter, was both foolish and deceitful. Without Christianity, Europe is reduced to a piece of geography which you can point to on a map, or a political body which can change on the whims on the individual members, and which can be left or joined at will (for example Brexit). It is only through history, culture and moral identity that peoples and individuals can be melded into something greater than themselves.

Our principal ‘natural’ identity, the sense of who we are, comes from our family. This is why we react almost without thinking to protect those who are closest to us, even to the point of giving our life. Then comes our ‘clan’ – our extended family, our region, our football team. The largest natural unity that any of us can really identify with is our country. The further away from the intimate unit, the more strained identity is. When Europe, then, tries to have a claim on us, it is already going to be an uphill struggle. On the ‘natural’ level, Europe indeed can seem distant and different.

But this should not necessarily be the case. Pope Benedict points us to the true European identity; one that is not ‘natural’ but rather ‘supernatural’. The thing that binds Europe together is not economic success, or fear of war, or political influence, but faith… and by faith I mean Catholicism. True European culture pointed to God and was created for His glory. True European governance was through kings and princes for the good of those in their charge, but kept in check by the moral power of the Church. True European prosperity was the common good, where monasteries and convents were as valued as those who farmed and made goods. And the true European army defended these values when they were challenged or attacked. This is the history of our continent, and this history was informed by and fostered our culture, all underpinned by the moral values which come from God.

In the light of this Catholic lens, which Pope Benedict so wisely and clearly gave us, we can see that facile arguments about immigration and economics can become dangerous. The Church sent men from one part of Europe to the other. The Archbishops of Canterbury (the last being Cardinal Pole in 1558), included the Italian St Anselm, who came to us via the French Abbey of Bec. And how would the monks of Jarrow have learnt the latest chants, if St Benet Biscop had not brought back a chant master from Rome? The Cistercians advanced agriculture and farming methods throughout Europe by sharing their expertise, and when the call came to defend the Holy Places, nationality was put aside.

All of these things we can identify with, because faith transcends national boundaries. That smallest and most intimate unit, the family, my family, is repeated and grows through all my brothers and sisters in the faith, bound together not by a political will, nor an economic necessity, nor even a fear of the ‘other’, but by a common identity brought about by baptism in Christ. Europe is the privileged place where Ss Peter and Paul met their death, and in Europe that faith grew and spread, nurturing a culture and history in safety and truth brotherhood. All of this happened because it was founded, not on the sand of human desire, but rather on the supernatural presence of Almighty God in the Church which He willed into existence for His glory and our salvation.

Europe is something which has been made beautiful by her history and culture, but which can only remain beautiful by recognising God in her midst.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Catholic Youth Weekend

I'm very pleased to publicise this, it is difficult to keep your faith and so we need all the camaraderie we can get:

Young Catholic Adult Weekend @ Douai Abbey 28st -30th Oct 2016

Are you 18-40, do you want to deepen your knowledge of the Catholic  faith, learn its devotions and meet like minded people? Young Catholic Adults are organizing a weekend at Douai Abbey in Berkshire) led by Fr. Thomas Crean O.P. You’ll be able to hear catechetical talks, learn how to sing Gregorian Chant, say the Rosary, socialize and have fun. Book soon as places are limited!

This weekend is a unique experience, which brings the Catholic faith to a new generation!

To book goto:- https://v1.bookwhen.com/yca-douai-2016

For updates goto:- http://youngcatholicadults-latestnews.blogspot.co.uk/.
For more details goto:- http://www.youngcatholicadults.co.uk/events.htm.
Prices start from £12.

Friday, 12 August 2016


This becomes too groovy for words about 1 minute in

I've found a recording of Mfumue. This was sung at my Ordination by the choir (African) of my parish where I was on placement. The Parish is St Nicholas of Tolentino in Bristol.

It has been in the back of my mind for ages, and you know how these things are, you sort of remember then and you sort of don't. SO I was re-arranging the Chavagnes song book for the Chartres Pilgrimage next year, and decided that the tune is so cracking that I had to do something with it. So I did... made up some Latin lyrics (with the grammatical help of Fr Redman), and it will sound very very spiffy.

Just one thing... I didn't quite remember the tune correctly, and so I have completely eliminated one whole line. So if anyone on the Chartres pilgrimage hears a truncated version of Mfumue sung in Latin by a bunch of Scouts, I plead guilty now!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

I am your Father

This is not Durham
Travelling into Durham today to sit in a library and work (a revolutionary idea) there were a number of grandparents with little children.

I was most gratified when one of these little ones, looked at me, and without saying anything to his grandparents, said the two words

One of the few photographs of Darth Vader concelebrating.
He soon stopped this practice with the excuse that they no longer wanted him to wear black vestments.


Were he a Catholic and called named after one of the Evangelists, then I could have replied: "Luke I am your Father."

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Chavagnes Studium

The Studium's first Symposium, on the Blessed Virgin in Liturgy, Literature and Life, took place last week.

Fr Simon Henry has an excellent post about it all here, so with brotherly love, I direct you there.

It is quite a thing to hold an English speaking symposium of such quality in France, and so all who were involved should be congratulated. I'll let you know when the proceedings are published, then you can follow it all at home.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Will I never grow up?

It is only when you have hoovered the floor three times, had four cups of coffee, looked up the classic song “Wor Nanny’s a Mazer” and tried to learn the words, that you realise that you have other more pressing things to do, which have not yet been done.

I speak of course of the Chavagnes Symposium (link here), happening this week coming and at which I am giving a paper entitled “Our Lady the New Ark of the Covenant”.

And no, it is not yet finished. But so close, so very close, just a concluding paragraph to write.

It is sad that still, even in my lengthening years, I put things off until the last minute, waiting for the rush of adrenaline when I could have had it all done ages ago. Will I never learn? Am I destined to repeat this young man’s folly over and over again?

It seems so, as I am writing this blog post instead of my final remarks. Ho hum…

Saturday, 30 July 2016


Paint the whole world with one of these
over this thing you can weigh pies. It was just getting dark and there was a sudden downpour (what at the end of July in the North East of England? Surely not!) when a rainbow appeared in the sky.

I particularly like the fact that the sky appears to be a completely different colour within the rainbow.

Here is another rainbow

Knowing the promises of rainbows, namely cold hard cash (oh and God covenant stuff) I went looking for the pot of gold at the end, but just found some dodgy, beardy man wearing green. That's no good at all. As my grandmother used to say "never trust a man in a beard" - wise words indeed!

So I shall look to the sky and enjoy the sight, and not to the ground.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Do we still believe in Royalty?

On the 11th June this year I poured a glass of something rather nice and raised a toast to Her Britannic Majesty, as she celebrated her official 90th birthday. Of course she had her being-born-birthday on April 21st, but you really can’t begrudge her another one (I myself keep a three day celebration for the feast of St Bede). No matter what, she has been a great example of steadfast service to her country – a life dedicated to the role she inherited and did not choose.

Occasionally you hear rumblings of republicanism, or criticism of Prince Charles for being too political, and you can even sometimes hear dark murmurs of Jacobite claimants to the throne, but in the United Kingdom, for the foreseeable future, Royalty seems here to stay.

This does not, of course, mean that the Church approves of it. Simply because something exists does not mean that it is good or that it should be preserved or promoted. In fact, one of the strengths of the monarchy throughout the ages has been that even though you can get good Kings or bad Kings, it is the monarchy which stands or falls. The principle is Kingship, not this or that individual King. In this way it is rather like the Papacy. You can have good ones, and terrible ones… but this does not abolish the institution.

So what about the Church and Kingship? And here I mean monarchy in the sense of monarchs wielding political power, even to the small extent that our beloved Queen does. Well in one way, the Church does not really bother herself too much with systems of government, except, of course, when they go wrong, or are elevated to a position which damages the people put in their care. In this, it is always worthwhile re-reading Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum of 1891. It does not tell you much about political theory, but then again you would not expect it to. We have seen in recent history the dangers of atheistic Communism, and new forms of truth being proclaimed by Parliament, we have seen dictators ruling by power, and also by popular acclaim. In industry we have examples of small collectives and large multinationals, we have private companies ruled by the will and strength of an individual/founder, and organisations run by representative board members. Is one better than another, does one tend to good and another to evil? Should we promote this one and decry that?

Obviously (I hope!) the answer is “no”. Some may be better in certain situations than others, and none is essentially right, and none essentially wrong. For example, is it better to have a benign dictator ruling you or voting in a democracy which then goes on to allow the killing of innocent life. Would you prefer a hereditary, all powerful Queen who governs fairly with justice, or a series of collectives which cannot defend you or your loved ones?

This is not some paean of praise for the British Parliamentary Democracy, simply a small reminder that the purpose of government is prescribed, and the form of that governance can change. We creatures of God are called to live in community in harmony and peace, and to do that effectively there must be organisation and structure, but as to what that is… well it changes according to individuals and times. We are not progressing in some Marxist way, from one to another – the mentality that says “in the olden days we had kings and Princes because we were not advanced or civilised enough to govern ourselves”.

There is one thing which is essential, and it is this: all Kings, Presidents, Dictators, First-Citizens, whoever, must realise that they are under the authority of the Kingship of Christ. Any government which violates the law of God, of which the Church is the guardian and exponent, is not worthy of its high calling. In Queen Elizabeth II, we see a woman who knows her obligations under God, and on the final day she will stand before him, as a Queen. And I have no doubt that she will acknowledge His Majesty, for she is a woman of faith.

So we do believe in Royalty… for Christ is our King.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Fr Mawdesley's First Mass

Chapel of the first Mass
Here with are some photographs of Fr Mawdesley's first Mass in Wigratzbad. I know that it happened ages ago, but you know... I've been busy...

It makes me remember my own first Mass. But that's a whole different story...

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Ordinations new and old.

Fr James Mawdesley just after his ordination
Earlier this month, a confrere (the noteworthy Fr Redman) and myself went to Germany for the ordination of (now) Fr James Mawdesley. He is a member of the Fraternity of St Peter (link here) and studied in Wigratzbad. As a group they celebrate exclusively the traditional rites, and it must be said, are doing very well indeed.

It was the first time that I had attended an Old Rite ordination, and I could go on about the beauty and symbolism. I could also critique the morphing into the new rite, and what has been lost and try to suggest why the changes came in. But actually what struck me most forcefully was that this was not the ‘extraordinary’ form of Ordination at all.

Let me clarify that. I know that it is the Extraordinary Form. Pope Benedict gave us this language. What I mean is that this is not extraordinary in the sense of being refined and restricted. Well at least it wasn’t. This is what would have happened in every Cathedral in every Diocese, until the recent revisions. And it would have been ‘performed’ well in some placed and not so great in others, but it was normal.

Rather like Mass really. We have to remember that the Old Rite (Latin, Tridentine, Extraordinary – whatever you want to call it) was normal. This was Mass. If anything (pace Pope Benedict) it is the new Mass which is extraordinary…

First blessings
Anyway Fr James’ ordination was splendid. Splendid indeed.

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