Friday, 30 September 2011

The Chapel of the Oak


Some little distance, a few kilometres, from Chavagnes is the Chapel of the Oak - La Chapelle du Chêne. I'm afraid I do not know much of the about it. In fact, if I'm honest, I do not know any of its history. However, it is an oak tree, in the midst of which an altar as been placed, and a chapel has been built through it, to protect it.




You can see here the tree outside the walls, covered in ivy. The altar is flanked by St Anne, with the Child Mary, and by St Joachim.




The Altar is wonderfully busy with thanksgiving offerings. Well, stuff actually. Just loads of stuff. There are ex voto plaques on the wall, and petitions written on little pieces of paper which then have been left in the cracks of the Oak.


It is folk religion. And it is a good thing. Our English Catholicism can be so... well, so respectable! I like a religion that can have a broken snow globe from Lourdes (with neither snow nor water left) left as an offering to the Mother of God in a little chapel surrounding an old oak tree.

That's my kind of religion.

We can be very clever... but we all need a place to leave a clapped out snow globe to say thank you, or to make sure that nothing bad happens.

Our Lady of the broken snow globe in the chapel of the oak... pray for us.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Day the Flies Came

Chavagnes has been invaded! Not by troops, or soldiers, or even schoolboys with bows and arrows, but rather by some of God's lovely little creatures.

It is fly season, and there are loads of them. They hang around on ceilings and then they fall down onto the altar, and onto the floor, and they are such rubbish flies that they just sit there as you swat them, and do not even bother trying to fly away.

The photos are from the Chapel of the Venerable Louis-Marie Baudouin. The flies are real.




Click on the pictures to see the full horror of the flies. They only started arriving yesterday!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Mr Garcia's Mother's Tortilla



Our Spanish master, Mr Garcia, agrees with everything. I think it is a way of coping in an environment where the official communication is English, the boys in French and you yourself are Spanish.

So when the school was on the exeat weekend, we faithful few who had not fled were entrusted with keeping together the body and soul of two boys who stayed behind. I, of course, am in charge of the soul, so it fell to Mr Garcia to look after feeding the body. When asked if he could do this, he gave a Spanish shrug and said "yes". Brave man.



It later transpired, of course that he had never cooked a tortilla in his life, but "I watched my mother". So that was a little fraught, with hungry boys prowling round like roaring lions... (no, wait, that's something else).

It was, of course, wonderful. Very Spanish (or so he claimed!). And exactly as it should be (or so, again, he claimed!). Anyway he was very, very proud, as you can tell.

In Accordance with Your Will



After the Lord’s Prayer there is the invitation to the ‘Pax’ - the peace. You will notice that in the previous translation, the one that we have been using until now, a line had been omitted… “in accordance with your will”. What we ask for in accordance with the Lord’s will is: ‘peace and unity’. Apart from it being odd that we should miss out a phrase, why is it important?

There is always a danger with us human beings that we think that we are in charge and that the world revolves around us and that if we think hard enough, tinker enough, shout loud enough, then we will be able to do exactly what we like. The world does revolve around us, because we are the pinnacle of creation. We must think hard, because God made us as thinking creatures. And we should shout out against injustice and oppression. But even if we do all of these things, then there are simply some things which are beyond our control. The two things which the liturgy tells us about are ‘peace and unity’.

Peace may be the peace between nations, families, individuals or the soul and God. We work towards it but it is not the result of our efforts. It all comes down to the individual soul turning to God and to good, and through the action and work of the Holy Spirit, peace is forged, in accordance with His will. And ‘unity’? Well we think of the unity of Christians (not, you will remember the unity of the Church, for the Church is united, it is simply that people are not united with her). Again this is not in our gift. We can get together and pray, and work, and God forbid, set up working parties and sub committees, but we cannot bring this unity about. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, not us.

Our obligation in these matters, is not to do, think, or say anything that would stand in the way of peace and unity. We should not be a barrier to unity and peace. God then works within it, but it is not a result of our efforts, it is in accordance with His will.

So do not get dejected with the lack of peace in the world, in the family, in the individual heart, or the lack of unity among those who call themselves Christian, for it is God’s work, not ours. We must collaborate with Him, not run the show ourselves.

We must turn our hearts to Him and act in accordance with His will, for true peace and unity to come to the earth.

New Metal Galeros

An avid follower of this blog has sent me a picture of the new rails around the shrine to Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman in the London Oratory.

It is funny how these images and symbols will remain, even though the objects they depict are (temporarily) not in normal current usage.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Mass for the Scouts

This weekend was an exeat weekend, so there was no walk. Most of the boys had gone somewhere, and the Scouts had gone some 20 kilometres away to make camp and do scouting things. I was to go and say Mass for then this morning.


They made the altar, which was the right height and perfect for Holy Mass. Indeed it was more dignified than some other altars I have said Mass on.


The morning was misty and the sun weak. The air was chilled and clear. The Altar ad orientem, indeed facing the rising sun - the Son of God greeted by the great orb of light, one hanging by nature, its rays penetrating the lightening day, the other being hoist on high at the hands of man for the salvation of the world. The dignity and majesty of the words of Mass becomes real and joins heaven to earth.



Introibo ad altare Dei, an altar made by boys in a forest in France transporting us to the foot of Calvary. We are not in the realm of time, or the tyranny of space at Holy Mass. We are not confined by the creation, but rather liberated from it. These words echoing from all eternity, conceived in the thought of God from the beginning to call Him down to His creation. His imprisonment in the flesh is our freedom from it. His humiliation is our sanctification. He is dragged to us, and we are raised to Him.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

A note on the flags

I have been able to sense a great amount of curiosity in the flags in my office. The one on the left, of course is the Vatican Flag.

Vatican Flag

No self respecting chaplain's office would be fully equipped without it. The other is a little different.

Royal Banner of England
This is the royal banner of England. It has quite an ancient pedigree. Luckily I know almost nothing about flags, so will not be able to bore you with screeds and screeds about it. If it were divinised door deities with reference to Psalm 23, then you would never be able to shut me up.

The flag is also there because it is the central emblem of my College, Oriel. A fine and great establishment. None the worse for housing Blessed John Henry, Cardinal Newman and myself.

Floreat Oriel

Friday, 23 September 2011

The Chaplain's Office

I mean, the physical Office and not what I do. What I do is varied, from the obvious saying Mass, leading prayers, to teaching and catechising. Not to mention mooching around, playing with paper aeroplanes, answering questions about exorcisms, teaching boys to be thurifers, hearing confessions, praising the ability to throw a football over your head using only your feet (apparently very tricky and much to be desired!), learing how to throw a half full plastic bottle of water in the air so that it just misses a car, but falls on the ground and soaks the shoes of your friend.

These are priestly tasks.

But none of this is about none of the above. I have eventually got my office as I want it and can now hear confessions here, if the choir is in chapel and I cannot get access to the confessional, and also teach. I have a white board and desks, which are cunningly off shot.


As you can see I also have the wherewithal to take up my other job as a highway man, and in case a visiting Bishop has forgotten his zucchetto, I an help him out.

I like very much my office. (I have begun to speak in badly translated French).

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Missing Halos


From looking at the pictures of the marble figures on the front of the Altar, it seems as though at some time they had brass halos. It is always the most bizarre things that are no longer there. I wonder why, when the altar was kept in good repair, that the halos went. Perhaps they are being repaired somewhere...

And while I'm on the subject, whatever happened to all the maniples which were so cruelly snatched away from their chasubles? Humeral veils were turned into falls for lecturns, veils into covers for Missal stands (how could we ever have faced being in a Church with a naked Missal stand!), but the maniples... gone for ever.

Some say they were sent off to the missions.


Lucky missions.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The High Altar

Well, actually there only is one Altar, but as we saw here, the chapel was not damaged too much in the 'reforms'.

The front of the Altar shows Our Lord, seated in majesty, surrounded by the four Evangelists. I like very much the ones astride their animals!

The back of the altar was once its reredos, and two fine panels still remain.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Lord I am not worthy...


Going through the changes in translation, let us look at the reception of Holy Communion. We now say:

       Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,
       but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

Needless to say, this is actually what the prayer says, but let us look where it comes from.  We look at St Matthews Gospel, chapter 8. A Centurion comes to Our Lord and asks that his servant be healed. Our Lord says that He will come in person and do it, but the Centurion say that there is no need for Our Lord to come, as all He has to do is say the word and His servant shall be healed. It is a moment of trust and faith in the power of Almighty God.  Some of them might have thought think that Jesus ‘did’ something that was not from God, but from Him. Perhaps He was a healer, perhaps he was a trickster… as long as He ‘healed’ then that was OK, but by saying, as the Centurion did ‘no, do not come, all you have to do is say the word’ is truly a matter of faith. You say the word, and the miracle will happen. The centurion put his trust in the miracle that Our lord could bring about.

We say the same thing. Exactly the same thing. All we do is change ‘my servant shall be healed’ to ‘my soul shall be healed’. It is trust for the miracle to be applied not to a third party, but to me, to my soul.

The Centurion stood in from of Jesus and looked Him in the eye and said ‘I trust you, completely. Just say it and it will happen.’

At Holy Mass we kneel and look at the Sacred Host. This is Jesus. This is truly the Flesh and Blood of Our Saviour. We look Him in the eye and say ‘I trust you completely.’ And the frightening thing is that it is not for someone else (it is always easy to accept the consequence for someone else) but it is for me.

My soul shall be healed… come into my life… transform me… heal my sinfulness, my pride my jealousy…
burnt from my heart the consequences of sin and created me anew.

Only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Freaky Dragon Boys

The eventual fate of the poor boys of Chavagnes
We have had an epidemic of boys slowly being transformed into dragons. It is a strange affliction. I assume that soon they will be covered completely in scales and be able to breath fire through their noses. At the moment the cruel metamorphosis has begun with hands, or more specifically their fingers. They have turned into claws. See the terrible picture below for proof of this awful affliction.

A hand almost transformed
They are called 'talons' or I think more correctly 'claws' (les griffes).

All I can say is that the we are a dead cert for the boys, under 15, origami competition!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

I Live


Just in case you did not think that I was alive, and was just a figment of your fevered imagination, here is a recording of an off the cuff homily about St Etheldreda on the Ely to Walsingham pilgrimage.

hat tip, Smeaton's Corner, via That the Bones You Have Crushed, and Juventutem London.

Monday, 12 September 2011

The Lesser Spotted Galero

Following on from the Galero post, some months ago (Link here) in my latest jaunt to Stonyhurst to marry my friends Mr & Mrs Allanson, I came across this depiction of the Galero in the stained glass window on the main staircase.

Cardinal's Galero in Stonyhurt College
And also this rather fine Galero in the flesh. It belonged to Thomas Cardinal Weld, who was the eldest son of the donor of Stonyhurst College. In 1796 he married Lucy Clifford, the sister of Charles Lambert Clifford, the first boy to reach Stonyhurst. They had a daughter, Mary, but his wife died when Mary was still a little girl. Once Mary was married, Thomas handed his estates over to his younger brother Joseph, and then in 1821 was ordained a priest.

At first he worked in the poor areas of Hammersmith and Chelsea, but then was called to Rome where he was created the first English cardinal since the Protestant Reformation. He spent the rest of his life in Rome.

he became known as the 'seven sacrament Cardinal' as he was one of the few to receive all of the sacrament. This is his hat.

The Galero of Thomas Cardinal Weld

Sunday, 11 September 2011

A Sunday Afternoon Walk

When I visited the school the Headmaster, Mr McDermott, asked me my what my hobbies were. I had answered that they were all religious. Because they are. I remember that in Seminary this was thought to be an odd thing... so I believe I made up something for them. I can't remember what exactly. Definitely not sport, as I could not, and still cannot, bluff my way through a conversation about sport.



So Mr McDermott put on the web site that I was a keen walker. Proof of this slight of hand is here. His evidence for this was that I did the Paris to Chartres Pilgrimage. Doing one ridiculously long walk per year does not make you a keen walker, but never mind.

This 'keen walker' business means that I am down to take the junior boys on walk on Sunday afternoon, and this was the first afternoon. I took ten out, and brought twelve back, and two (I think) 'avoided' the walk by being terribly involved in something else.

Chavagnes International College from a distance

It was not too far, though the speed of the boys ranged from lightening fast to foot-draggingly slow. It was a hoot.

It is blackberry season, so we picked and ate them as we went along. Then, with a spark of inventiveness, one boy decided that you could carry many more, and thus eat many more, if he put them in some sort of carrying thing. He hooked up the front of his tee shirt and used that.

The tee shirt was white. Blackberries are not! I dread to think what is going to happen when Mme Gilbert (who does the laundry) finds out.

Blackberries and white tee shirts do not make a good combination


We prayed at a chapel where Our Lady appeared to a little girl, and at a wayside crucifix to gain an indulgence. The boys seem to be trying to see if anyone is hiding behind the Crucifix. I'm not entirely sure why.

An Indulgences Crucifix with added boys

So our walk is complete, until next Sunday. And then we will go on our way with speed and slowness, and we will pray and sing, and talk nonsense and eat blackberries.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

The Joys of Laundry



One of the things that the older books say is the duty of the priest is the laundering of the Altar Linen. What usually happens in parishes is that there are a team of good people (usually, it has to be said, good women) who take the linens away, and then they come back all neat and tidy.

With the widespread practice of Communion under both kinds and the miraculous multiplication of Altar Chalices, the Linens can be extensive.

Here in school, the Linen had been done in the past by Mrs McDermott, but I'm afraid I have stolen her job (I do hope she doesn't mind too much) and started to do them myself.

It all went perfectly well of course. I had my bucket (un seau), and I soaked the Linen in it. The Linen then went into the washing machine, while I went to try to find out what the word for a handle was. As you can see from the picture my bucket was not really a bucket but rather a plastic waste paper bin. The boys really became quite confused when I asked them the word for a bucket - at this point I did not know that it was un seau - and pointed to a waste paper basket. "But fazer, it is une poubelle"! The only way to try to rectify this was to ask what the word for a handle was, so that I could try to say "mais c'est quoi, une poubelle avec un ... "

This took quite some time as I made the mistake of asking some of the younger boys, for whom the whole world seems a little confusing at times, and the sight of a priest walking around with a waste paper basket in his hand, claiming that it is something completely different and asking the French word for a handle, when A BIN DOES NOT HAVE A HANDLE, was really just too much!

Anyway (oh, the word for a handle of a bucket by the way is une poignee), the laundry was eventually done. The water has been poured on the ground in the shape of a cross, and all is now right with the world...

... except the ironing. That takes ages.

Friday, 9 September 2011

The New Altar Arrangement

Have no fear, there is nothing terrible happening at Chavagnes! I have not crept into the chapel in the middle of the night and taken a crowbar to the Altar and put in its place a circular coffee table and a number of comfy chairs.
Chavagnes Chapel circa 1959
Chavagnes Chapel 2011


Here is a picture of the Altar arrangement as it now is and as it was at sometime in the past (I think from 1959). You can see that the reredos has been taken down and that the flooring has been altered. The tabernacle is still on the Altar, though I believe that it was for a while on a plinth to the side. The central cross has also been replaced.

The current Altar arrangement is quite fine. The Altar is a little too deep, because the reredos was used to make a 'back' of the Altar and to extend it. I'll put a picture at another time.

An unfortunate result of dismantling the reredos is that it is terribly distracting if the door to the incense sacristy comes open during Mass!

You can see, however, that Chavagnes Chapel survived remarkable well.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Beating your Breast and Bowing

Je confess a Dieu

These are the final sections which I prepared for the back of the bulletin in my old parish. They are to do with parochial life in England, but many of the problems facing the Church are the same where ever you are. 

So let us return to two old favourites… beating your breast and bowing.

The ‘I confess’ provides a place for you to ‘strike their breast’. Think of it not so much as a handy hint, but actually what it is… a liturgical instruction.  We have other liturgical instruction… standing for the Gospel, sitting for the readings etc. So why we seen to have  a problem with striking our breast or bowing during the Creed is quite beyond me.

We are human beings, we have bodies. If you have a grin on your face, are not looking at me and have a party hat on and then proceed to say how sorry you are to me, then I will sense a disconnection between what you are saying and what I believe. If you take the hat off, look me in the eye and swipe the grin off your face and then say you are sorry, then I will believe you. I read your body language. I would say also that if it is me who doing the apologising and doing the latter (taking the hat off and looking you in the eye) then I myself will believe what I say more.

During the ‘I confess’ take your right hand and strike your breast as an outward sign of what you mean… that you are sorry. There is nothing embarrassing about it, so why don’t we just do it? Just decide and follow the liturgical action. I have always found it quite bizarre that people do not do this.

The Holy Father bowing during 'Et Incarnatus est'
And bowing at the moment of the Incarnation during the Creed… don’t even get me started! God becomes man for us, and this will lead to His suffering and death for our salvation. To honour this action we are told to bow. In the Latin Mass we have to kneel. This is fitting and correct. He does this for us, we bow and strike our breast for Him.

Let us worship our God with our bodies. Let us teach the children in our midst by our example that we should show that we are sorry, and that we should bow down before God. Small actions, but a wealth of meaning.

I have to admit that it is much much easier with children. You ask them to do something and they do it. All priests preside in the Ordinary Form in a different way. The boys here simply adapt to the new circumstances. Perhaps it is something about getting old, stuck in our ways, and thinking that we are too important to be told to do something new that transforms something as easy of these liturgical actions into something very difficult.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Teaching the Boys



I have to admit that I still only really understand the educational system that I was brought up with all those years ago. This means that I constantly think in terms of First, Second etc. Lower Sixth, Upper Sixth, instead of year seven, eight etc. Now I have a new system.

Here in Chavagnes, years 7, 8 & 9 (old system 1st 2nd 3rd year Senior) are Junior 1, Junior 2, Junior 3. Years 10, & 11 (old system 4th 5th year Senior) are Senior 1 and Senior 2.

Basically from the beginning of secondary school, up to GCSE, in Chavagnes they are called Junior 1, 2, 3, Senior 1, 2.

Everyone clear? Good. I will resist the temptation to set homework and a short test (you see I am getting into my teacher mode).

The reason for this long peroration about year numbers is simply to report that I have now taught all of the years except Senior 2.

The Juniors use the series of books from the Faith and Life series (Link here), which are quite fine, and I will see how user friendly they are as we go along. There is a progression from year to year as to what the boys are expected to know, and, more importantly their depth of knowledge. They take seriously that the faith must be taught - that there is objective knowledge to be imparted. Then, they can reflect on it and hopefully integrate it into their normal attraction to and knowledge of God.

The Seniors are a different matter. While you can free wheel a little with the Juniors, the Seniors are taught to the exact syllabus. I have to say that I was more worried about the Seniors. Of course I have taught in schools before, but much more on the lines of the Juniors. But I have to admit that the S1 class were delightful, even with homework and the promise of a test at the beginning of every lesson. I actually find it OK to teach to an expected amount of information. You know what it is taht you have to impart and then you have to check that they have picked it up. 

However, I have the older ones on Friday, so let’s not count our chickens yet!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The First Days



Boys are wonderfully resolute.

You could see them when they were dropped off by parents going through a whole array of emotions... individuals in a new environment, and yet so very soon they become social beings. They fit in and start new routines with little problems.

In recent times we spurn the trapping of what could be called 'Victorian' traditions in school: the outward signs of belonging, of initiation etc. Of course in the Church we understand and value such things, are not the Sacraments themselves 'outward signs of invisible grace'?

So our boys were given their ties and told to uphold the honour and traditions of the school and to do their best. The traditions may not have lived long (but then again these boys have not lived long yet either!), but their sense of identity and belonging is marked the outward sign of conformity - something as simple as a tie.

And if the word 'conformity' makes you shiver with horror, then remember that our lives are called to become more and more like Christ - to be conformed to His image and likeness.

A very lovely thing... as I sat in the Chapel this morning before breakfast, two boys, at different times, quietly came in and said their prayers and then went on their way. It may be that that prayer by one of those boys was destined to change the world.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Arriving in media res



Everything went swimmingly, all connections made and picked up wonderfully by Mr Francis, a maths master. I arrived in Chavagnes to see all the boys arriving, with parents in tow. The boys are great, though there are lots of faces and too many names. It will take time, and even though there are not too many of them, I do not have  a great track record of remembering names. 


In a fortuitous way, I had not said Mass yet, so when I arrived and deposited my things, it was a good opportunity to offer the Sacrifice officially in my Chapel. I'd said Mass there before of course, but it is a little different when you're there officially.


New rite Latin, and the boys are going to need a little brushing up (but then again so will I. I usually say the Extra-Ordinary Form in Latin, and the Ordinary is different in places, and it does trip you up.) But the lovely thing about it was the ease. In the new rite, the servers have to learn the idiosyncrasies of the Priest, and they do not know that yet, so every movement was accompanied by sotto voce instructions 'genuflect, give me my biretta, go back to your seat'. And we forgot to light the altar candles and to bring out the communion plate.


But the great thing was that it was just all a bit rough and ready. Not on purpose for that would not be fitting for the Divine Sacrifice, but as happenchance. We learn together. This is the beginning of term, and they can see that we strive for perfection but do not always get it. It does not matter that they did not pick up the Mass booklets, they did not know they were there. They will next time. And next time, I will remember the candles! Or better still teh servers will!


Together, pray God, we will do great things... a little unsteady at the beginning, but just rusty, that's all.


I have people again!
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