Tuesday, 25 April 2017

I'm sitting here...

... minding my own business with my dog and my hawk.

So why is this priest taking my photo?

Monday, 24 April 2017


On holiday: this is how I want to live!

Binary choices

I hate these binary choices! Why is it not male/female/eunuchs for the kingdom?

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Through the Day with Our Lady

This is the image of Our Lady of Meritxell. As you can see it is a modern statue as the original one was destroyed in a fire in 1972. Originally it dated from the 12th century.

The devotion is from Andorra, indeed she is the patroness of the country. Her feast day is September 8th. 

In the late 12th century, on January 6, a wild rose in bloom was found by villagers from Meritxell going to Mass in Canillo. It was out of season and at its base was found a statue of the Virgin and Child. The statue was placed in the Canillo church. However, the statue was found under the same wild rose the next day. The statue was taken to the church of Encamp. However, as before, the statue was found under the same wild rose the next day. As in similar legends elsewhere, the villagers of Meritxell took this as a sign and decided to build a new chapel in their town after they found an open space miraculously untouched by the winter snows.

The best thing about it is that the name comes from merig, - meridiem - midday.

So she is 'Our Lady of Noon'.  

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Easter Ceremonies

Maundy Thursday

7.00pm Bellingham
9.00pm Swinburne

Good Friday

1.00pm Bellingham
3.00pm Swinburne

Easter Vigil

8.00pm Bellingham

Easter Sunday

9.00am Swinburne
11.00am Bellingham

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

I came, I saw...

I went away. I wonder if this is the same plane I came on?!!
A good few days, a certain teaching of maths and the Old Testament (not together). Together with despair at the continued belief that -1 squared is still -1, or 2, or anything really... But it's nice to get exasperation out of the system.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Vagaries of flight

Im n my way to Chavagnes. Flight from Newcastle to Southampton, then Southampton Nantes.
My flight was delayed so I arrived at Southampton with five minutes to go. Rushed through arrivals. Then security. Then departures. Just in time for the plane.
And then I thought... I asked the nice air steward, because I suspected something... And yes, I have just got back on board the plane that I had got off a moment before.
There is a moral to all this. I'm sure there is...

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

St Joseph's at St Joseph's

Fr Michael Brown, whose Church is dedicated to St Joseph, and who celebrated the High Mass in his patron's honour, has pictures of the event here.

Usual suspects indeed!

Thursday, 16 March 2017

St Joseph, the first of the usual suspects

There is a High Mass on Monday 20th March at St Joseph's Gateshead at 7.00pm. Fr Brown's post here.

I am pleased to be included in the usual suspects with such fine company. I hope I shall be able to celebrate him with similar splendour next year in Clifton Diocese.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

They will not defeat me.

Sitting as I am in the library in Durham (oh, how you can tell that there is less that six months to go before I return to the bosom of mother-Clifton) I find myself cowed and arraigned from all sides by sporty types of chaps. Now, although I can talk a good game of rugby as well as the next man (woman/transgendered ‘X’ – I can’t keep up, I really can’t), I find myself oppressed. Yes oppressed!

What has brought this about? I hear you cry! Is it the fact that they are fine specimens of young men at the peak of their physical prowess? Or that they have the nonchalance to walk from the library and leave their wallet behind, there on the desk! (I have lived in too many dodgy places to risk such a thing – I was in seminary for three years after all). Or think that they can get away with not shaving in the morning.

We, the nonchalant, shall cow you by our nonchalance
No I tell you, no. It is because they are studying maths, and it looks SO difficult that it took me a moment to realise that it was maths in the first place. Me, I’m a GCSE maths teacher, strictly quadratics and sample sizes. I get a frisson of excitement when thinking of solving simultaneous equations with matrices. But not these chaps. They laugh (I’m sure) in the face of translation vectors, the scorn (without doubt) the solutions to a quartic equation, and I dread to think how they would react if I suggested working out the angles in a circle.

If you think this is hard, then try teaching a French boy
that there is another way of doing long division
So I have done what any self-respecting Priest does when faced with such a terrible sight, I took out my breviary and started saying Vespers, muttering Latin for all I was worth. And with an open book of Unanswered Questions in the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue in front of me.

If in doubt, mutter Latin prayers

I might scribble down some meaningless algebra with a few squiggles of my own making, followed by a hovering question mark in a moment. And then ponder it, mid Latin Psalm, while muttering 
“surely Feuerbach’s hypothesis would never work in that matrix paradigm”
I will not be defeated! Never!

Tuesday, 14 March 2017


The Chavagnes Studium has an online magazine, called Eloquentia. Link here.

Have a look, its pretty interesting...

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Mass in Durham

Sung Mass (Missa Cantata) in the Extraordinary Form

Thursday 16th March at 7:30pm

at St. Cuthbert's Catholic Church,
Old Elvet, Durham, DH1 3HL


Celebrated by Fr Shaun Swales

Singing generously provided by a Schola drawn from the Student Body

All Welcome!

Refreshments Available Afterwards

Monday, 6 March 2017

Ahhh, the working of the Holy Spirit!

This is from Henri de Lubac Vatican Council Notebooks volume I, entry of October 26th, 1962:
K. J. Calewaert, bishop of Grand (who was put on the Preparatory Theological Commission by mistake: in Rome, he was mistaken for another man with the same name, dead these last few years, a great specialist in liturgy)...

Friday, 3 March 2017

Environmental Pope goes Electric

Following on from his firm commitment to the environment and the deep love and care for the earth's resources, the Holy Father has gone electric and started to use an electric car. The need to move in this direction is of course well documented, as are the Pope's green credentials.

It happened in 2012. The Pope was Benedict. The car was Renault. The link is here.

The media are completely blinkered and only ever mention the present Pope. So, Pope Francis I has followed in Pope Benedict's footsteps, but whereas Pope Benedict was only given two cars, Pope Francis has managed to wangle 10! Link here. Who says Argentinians aren't wiley!*


Matthew 10.16 "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves."

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Come Lent, Come Veils

St Oswald's Bellingham
Above is the sanctuary of St Oswald's in Bellingham. Well it is after I had moved a few statues around. Our Lord was behind the door at the back of Church and Our Lady didn't have a candle rack. Everyone knows that Our Lady loves candle racks. She can't get enough of them.

So with the beginning of Lent I try to make it all look a bit different. Just a bit. After all we cannot take away from the proper veiling on Passion Sunday. So away to the shops I went and bought 10 metres of purple cloth (10 yards, 2 feet, 9 1/2 inches : official post-Brexit measurements - other measurements should not be available.) Of course it was not enough. I have enough for the bits and pieces, the two main statues, the risen Christ (I know it's not a Crucifix - and I know as well that it is not my Church!) but there is also a small statue of St Catherine who needs to be hidden and I have run out of cloth.

So this is the 'first bit of Lent empurpling'

St Oswald's Bellingham at the beginning of Lent
it's a bit like a game of 'spot the difference'

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Solving the Vocation Crisis

Our Bishops are always banging on about there not being enough Priests.

(Hmmmmm, is that true? No,well, often they say that it is an opportunity for the laity to take their place, and rid ourselves of redundant churches. Strangely enough this was not well accepted when our local doctor's practice closed down and I offered to start treating Marjory's arthritic hip with a little concoction of my own invention - involving raw garlic and feet - because it was time for me to take my place in the medical world. Even though I'm not qualified, and accountable to no one, and not trained... I'm sick of these Doctors lording it over us lay people, telling us what is wrong with us, diagnosing us, telling us how to change our lives in order to get well again. WHEN WILL THEY STOP!!!]

Well, I have a solution. We can invite the Maltese Priests over. They speak English. And culturally would fit in very, very well. And we could have all of their seminarians as well. You see nowadays you can increasingly believe the most outrageous twaddle, but not what we have believed for the last few thousand years. Maltese Archbishop Scicluna wants rid of them. See here. We need them.

So there you go, problem solved.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

You don't visit, you don't write, you don't 'phone

Before the advent of mobile phones, when I went to university there was one public telephone in my college. It was at the bottom of my staircase and was often empty. We didn't feel the need to be in touch every moment of the day.

So when I went away, I kept in touch with my mother by letter. I would post her a hand written letter once a  week, telling her of my doings (well a version of them anyway), and she would type me back. This was not because we were terribly formal, just that she was a typist, and used to do it at work.

I guess nowadays that seems very odd. Keeping in touch by in/frequent letter, and typed at that.

So, I am saddened that Cardinal Zen writes to the Pope about the persecution of the Church in China, and he does not get a reply. Link Here. My mum would have been gutted if I had not replied to her. I would have been a bad son. Unthinking and hurtful. I would have been showing thoughtless disregard for her.

But it would only have been about University.

Of course, we are still waiting for the Pope to get back to the Cardinals about the Dubia. Perhaps he doesn't like letters. Perhaps he has epistophobia.* Perhaps he doesn't have any fingers, so can't type a reply. Perhaps he doesn't have a voice so can't dictate one either. Poor Pope. I hate it when I get letters and can't be bothered to reply to them. But mine are usually from Specsavers. Or a publishing house trying to sell me that interminable "Walk with Me" stuff. All of this applies to the Pope not replying to Cardinal Zen. But it is just a little bit different. because it is not 'what I was doing last week', this is about the lives and faith of countless Catholics. Cardinal Zen says that he thinks the Pope is 'naive'.

I think Cardinal Zen is very charitable.


* I think I just made this word up.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Is this an end to it?

The headless Cardinal of Doom
Cardinal Muller, of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, seems to have settled the question of Amoris Laetitia, of the reception of holy communion for the divorced and remarried. Here.

Actually it is a much deeper question about whether we can simply ignore Church teaching. Or if we can change the teaching of the Church, or even of Christ.

Baby Cardinal Bird
Mouth open to receive the truth or God
or whatever
All without the response of the Pope. So that is good. No one loses face. And the Church and truth wins.

So I'm waiting for the German Bishops to withdraw their statements at any moment. And the Maltese. And certain Americans. And Argentinians. I expect Cardinal Nichols and all of our Bishops to make a clear statement to follow Christ, the Church and Muller.

The Cardinal Avenger
rooting out injustice and bad doctrine
After all, if Muller is not right, the Pope should immediately sack him and make everything clear.
And if he is right then all this nonsense of 'but this is what the Pope really wants [going against Christ, 2000 years of Christian theology, the plain teaching of Saints - St John Paul II springs to mind]' has to stop.

Phew. So that's settled.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Newman Society

Tomorrow I'm talking to the Newman Society at Oxford, entitled:

What is the Church saying about the Jews?
Before, during, and after the Second Vatican Council.

I put in the 'Oxford Comma' especially! I usually panic and think that I do not have enough to talk about and then realise that I have wittered on for 20 minutes just defining who I am talking about.

And of course it is 2000 years of history, the weird and wonderful goings-on at VAT II, then my mystic Meg guesses for the future!

It'll be great.

Monday, 6 February 2017

That looks terrible!

Me with Boy Bishop.
Boy Bishop has a mitre, and hair.
I have neither
There are many wonderful things about not having much hair left. God in His wisdom has taken it away, and so I am most thin on top. I tend to think of it in terms of St Etheldreda, who had a goiter on her throat in later life, which she put down to enjoying wearing sparkly necklaces when she was young. In my youth I enjoyed my hair far too much.

Neck covering must be hiding the goiter
I would gel it, and back comb it, and dye it black. I treated it terribly badly, and took far too much delight in it. So I think that one of the reasons for the current lack-of-hair business can be traced back to that. Of course there are some (ha!) who would spuriously claim that years of treating my hair badly may have led to its not being present any more... but I laugh at such a simplistic explanation and prefer to think of God sending celestial beings whenever I am asleep and cutting off my hair with heavenly scissors. This, I am sure, will be mystically returned to me at the general resurrection of the dead.

Type of scissors reputedly used by angels
in the nightly activities to punish wayward ex-Goths
for an over fondness for their hairstyles
in their younger days.
So, with not much hair, I need not worry about 'bad hair days'. I need not worry that it is all sticking up, making me look like a toilet brush. Or that it is strangely flattened at the back, meaning that the offender has just woken from sleep. And there is never the worry of whiplash caused by an over eager comb-over.

This is EXACTLY what I used to look like with bed hair.
I have no need to worry about such things.

Of course I can still have an unfortunate photo taken, even if my hair is fine.

So I feel sorry for the Pope, because those naughty men who put up all the pictures of him in Rome were really mean and used a terrible photo.

Terrible photo. They should have used one of him which was all smiley.
Do you know, I wouldn't be surprised if they even did it on purpose.

Still, his hair's OK.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Happy Oriel Day!

The Coat of Arms of Oriel College
three leopards (lions)

Happy feast day to you! Happy feast day to you!
Happy feast day, dear 'The House of Mary, the Blessed Virgin in Oxford'!
Happy feast day to you!

Front quad of Oriel College
All over the world, old Orielenses celebrate this day, our college feast day. For although as a college, Oriel is know as Oriel, its correct title is that found above, 'The House of Mary the Blessed Virgin in Oxford'. As an Oriel man I am proud both of my institution, which I was privileged to attend for both my MA and MPhil, but even more proud to have been educated in a college dedicated to Our Lady.

The Purification of the Virgin
'But', I hear you cry, 'you're a Castleman now'! And indeed as a member of University College Durham I am a Castleman, but it's rather like your first love, you never quite forget her... So I am both/and, not either/or!

University College Durham
'Castle' - my present alma mater 
Rejoice with me on the Purification of the Blessed Virgin. Rejoice at the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple. Rejoice on the great feast day...

Our Lady of Vengeance
destroying heresy and evil
protecting the Church from malice
...and may the Blessed and Most Holy Virgin Mary, protectress and co-redemptrix, guard our Holy Church for all the wiles of Satan, may she stand victorious with St Michael and all the Angels and Saints.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

For goodness sake...

...will someone please tell me what is happening?

We have the Bishops of Malta saying that the divorced and re-married can receive communion, link here, and now we have the German Bishops saying the same, here.

Cardinal Muller, head of the CDF
And we also have the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith,  Cardinal Muller, link here, saying that this is simply impossible, that unless the couple are living as brother and sister they cannot receive communion.
This is the substance of the sacrament, and no power in heaven or on earth, neither an angel, nor the pope, nor a council, nor a law of the bishops, has the faculty to change it.
This is not just some Cardinal having an opinion (we know that Cardinal's can be completely ignored nowadays) but the head of the Church's Doctrinal body. Is this the Pope's response to the Dubia? Or is Muller about to be axed, in a Franciscan manner?

Behold the axe of mercy
So do we believe the Maltese Bishops? Or the Germans? Or the head of the CDF?


This is fine if you're a bishop, living in your palace, or a bunch of them playing at local government, or even if you're a Pope who lives in a suite of rooms in a hotel, none of whom have to sit down with real people, or know what is going on in their lives. They all seem to have forgotten the laity, who have no idea, or at best a half idea, of what is going on. And of course, they have forgotten the priests (as usual) who have to try to explain this dog's breakfast, and even more worryingly, have to administer what could be "judgment upon himself." (I Cor 11, 28)

And our own Bishops? Thankfully they have not said anything yet.

And no one has the faintest idea of what is going on. But don't worry,  because it only concerns the sacraments of Marriage, Confession and the Eucharist, oh and the salvation of souls.

I was going to say it is like fiddling while Rome burns. But it's not, it's like playing with petrol and matches and then realising that the little game has got a bit out of hand and has now engulfed the world.

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