Monday, 31 October 2011

What is possible...?

Chavagnes College Chapel
These last two Sundays have been quiet affairs. The boys are on half term, and the Sunday Masses have not been exactly packed.

I was always struck by the story of my own dear St Bede, that when a terrible disease struct his monastery, and only one monk and the Abbot remained, they did not do the very human thing of lessening the burden of the Office, but rather they said more.

The tempting thing to have done on these 'low' Sundays would have been to say Mass with no music. Our organist was not here either.

What we did was quite extraordinary. The first Sunday saw three people in the congregation with me saying Mass and Mr McDermott serving. Last Sunday the congregation doubled.

We sung Mass. On Sunday Mass is the Ordinary Form in Latin with English readings. We sung the Missa de Angelis, (Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei), the Dominus Vobiscum, prayers, preface and consecration.

And it was not difficult, it was not too much for us. At times all we had was one voice, but that is all you need. Too often I have heard, and I myself have believed, that this whole Gregorian Chant thing is too difficult, to hard to do, with hours of practice needed. It's rubbish.

You can do it, and do it easily. I'm memorising the Asperges and the Vidi Aquam, so that when I come back to the diocese even if no one knows it, I will blast it out to the rafters!


Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Exchange of Gifts


All the way through the liturgy we get references to a ‘holy exchange of gifts’. God give us things and we give them back to Him. Note that it always goes in that direction. From Him to us, and then back to Him again.

This is brought out in the new translation of the offertory prayers…

For through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you…
For through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you…

You see the exchange of gifts? We have received and so we give back. But as you can see that it not quite right. For we do not receive bread and wine. We receive wheat and grapes, and have the ability to take them and change them into bread and wine. As the offertory prayers say, through the ‘work of human hands’.

The exchange of gifts is not just a simple exchange, for what God gives us is the ability to do things. He gives us the skills and the opportunities and we in turn have to good. We have to take what He offers us and use it for His glory, and to the glory of honour of God. This may sound all very evangelical, but in reality it means not wasting the talents we have. If you can do something (and that something is not morally objectionable) then we should do it. And not only that, but we should do it for our good, the good of our friends and family and the good of the whole world. It is not enough that we receive wheat and grapes, we must take them and turn them, through our own deliberate action, into bread and wine, which then becomes a fitting offering to God.

The co-operation with God is at the heart of our lives and our relationship with God. We must work out our own salvation by our good deeds and actions, by our good use of the opportunities which God gives us. We cannot just think “Oh God loves me, everything is going to be alright” any more than a child can think “I’m a sweet little child I don’t have to learn at school, or at home, someone will look after me” because life is much greater than that. And we are instructed to be more responsible than that. In this we are like God, for we can take things and become co-creators with Him.

The Blessed Sacrament
Everything is His and everything comes from Him, but He demands our willing actions. We must give back to Him, the completed gifts which He offers to us.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

The Collegiate Church of St Peter

This is an incredibly impressive fortified medieval town called Chavigny. The Church, again is painted.

A little simpler than Saint-Savin, but the work on the pillars to mimic marble is, from a distance, spectacular. This is what our drab English Cathedrals would have looked like.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

New Plans for Clifton Cathedral

In Saint-Savin there is a beautifully painted Church. It is simply roughly plastered stone with them has been painted. I thought of my own home Cathedral (not Lucon!), how wonderful it would be if it were to be painted in such a manner.

Fontgombault Abbey

This traditional Abbey in the Solesmes congregation has been a beacon of Benedictine monasticism for many a long year. The Abbey is wonderful. Dark - so sorry about the pictures - but with a perfect 'feel'. I do not go weak kneed at the thought of monasteries, but it was a delight to say my office there.

Popular Religion

Also in Poitiers there was a statue of St Isidore the Farmer. Offerings had been made to him. This is popular religion. You may see a colourful leaf to the left. There was a prayer tree. I had to move it... For the picture, and out of good taste.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Strange Black Galero

Taken in a Church dedicated to St Lawrence on the way to Poitiers. Ten tassels each side and in black! I'm nonplussed.

Nonsense in the Cathedral

Hmmm. Least said, I think!

St Hilary of Poitiers

My main knowledge of Poitiers (which is nothing) is that St Hilary was there. His relics are still partly there in s church dedicated to him memory. And it is really quite fine.

Modern Cathedral Furniture

As seen in Poitiers Cathedral. Why you would want to sit underneath someone's armpit is beyond me.

Painted Churches

I'm on holiday in Poitiers, hence the picture of the Church. It is a wonderful example of a painted Church. This is what our English Cathedrals would have looked like. Much nicer than bare stone I think.
Sent from my iPhone
With the help of my Guardian Angels

Ste Marie La Grande in Poitiers

Friday, 21 October 2011

The Parish Monument to the Dead

In England we are used to the Anglicans monopolising all civic religion. They are, after all, the state church. This is, we have to say, a dubious honour when the state promotes killing innocent life, supports China's one child policy, will trade with anyone at all, as long as they have the cash, and seem to be Hell-bent on destroying the family, marriage and the stability that a child needs to flourish. I think I prefer to be in a Church which is not associated with such evil.

But I digress...

I am struck by this lack of civic religion in the Catholic Church in England and Wales because it is something which is very important. It is one of the few places in most people's experience, where any form of religious expression touches their lives. I cultivated it in Warminster because it is something which I believe we need to take over. Please do not get me wrong, we should not get into bed with politicians, political systems and definitely not weird ideologies.

War Memorial in Chavagnes Parish Church
This comes to mind because in the Parish Church here in Chavagnes, there is a monument to those who have fallen in war. We have very few of these in our English Catholic Churches. Perhaps in places we avoided it because it seemed too 'Anglican' or perhaps because we were too 'Irish', or even from the seventies onward, we became so bizarrely pacifist, beatnik that we could not have anything to do with such things. Whatever the reason, it is a lack in the life of normal English Catholicism - in my humble opinion (not that I have many of them).

The Pieta 

So I was very pleased to see this in Chavagnes. And I must remind myself of this post when I eventually come  back to Angleterre.

If they bothered dying for us, the least we can do is to honour them and pray for them.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Bishop Comes Good

Not a real Bishop, of course, but a Chavagnes Boy Bishop. He has just applied to Cambridge. Bit of a pity that, Cambridge and all, but I'm sure he'll do well if he gets in. After all, he could always go to Oxford afterwards for another degree!

Read all about it here...

He is a thoroughly nice chap is Paul.

How even Stranger

When I came back from London, I came back on the same aeroplane (unless all Dash Q400 are now called Kevin Keegan).

Even the call number, name, thing is G - KKEV.

I count this as very strange.

If you have forgotten how much I like the Dash Q400, then follow this link.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

How Strange

I've just been on an aeroplane from Nantes to Gatwick which was dedicated to Kevin Keegan.

Monday, 17 October 2011

The Parish Church

The exterior of Chavagnes Parish Church

Right opposite the school gate is the Parish Church. It is quite fine, with a wonderful acoustic. Thankfully the French have not yet succumbed to the version of Catholicism which demands that a Church must look like the inside of a middle class sitting room, with potted plants, wall to wall carpets and comfy chairs.

The organ is also excellent, but I have not heard it yet. There are a series of picture to follow.

You can see from the outside that it has been recently cleaned. We had a very Catholic Mayor who decided, for purely civic reasons you understand, that a number of millions of Euros of local taxes had to be spent on sprucing up the edifice.

The holy water stoops of the Church are wonderful shells. One of the reasons that I like them is that they do not really fit in a 'church' environment. Why would you have massive shells as you come in. What is the symbolism, the sign? They obviously have not been designed with the whole of the building as a catechetical experience in mind. I think why I like them so much is that they would never be included if it had been designed by a 'church architect' or, heaven forfend, a liturgist!

They are part of the creation and so can be bent to the worship of their creator. And they are wonderfully exuberant. And our faith is as well.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

A Lazy Sunday Afternoon

Chavagnes in the morning mist

What do you do when the sun in high in the sky and the day has turned out to be delightful? And even more so for the beginnings had been so poor. The mist had not risen, and the cold in the air was wet and clinging. I'm not sure if the orb in the sky in the photo is the moon or the sun - so weak were its rays, and so feeble its strength.

So how joyful it is when the sun shines and the day begins to bake.

A fine afternoon, and a beautiful day. Some of the boy were down by the lake, swimming, others on the Sunday afternoon walk (sorry, I meant that they were sitting indoors in silent reading because they decided that I wouldn't mind if they didn't come along on my Sunday afternoon walk - when will they learn??!)

And others decided to make a paper aeroplane with a two metre wingspan.

These boys are just fantastic. A little worryingly mad perhaps, but fantastic all the same. When asked the question "Max why are you building a paper aeroplane with a two metre wingspan?" the impeccable answer was given "Because someone told me it could not be done."

I'm sure that others have made bigger and longer and better aeroplanes, but this is a Sunday afternoon, and he used photocopier paper and pritt stick.

It was simply the most impressive thing ever! And the most enthralling. I even cut my silent reading punishment short, because I simply could not bear the thought of the aeroplane being launched and me not being there to see it. Boys crowded round it and offered absolutely useless advice. Max had explained to me the whole principle of the thing (I nodded and thought of where a thurifer should stand during a missa cantata) but, honestly, it was all beyond me.


A metre or so, but it flew.

So, that's what you do on a lazy Sunday afternoon, when the sun is high in the sky. You build a HUGE paper aeroplane.
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