Monday, 30 March 2015


A good and holy reader of this blog has suggested that the name of the boy who wrote the post card in the post below is called "Bernard".

I think I am convinced.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

A Charming Postcard from Chavagnes

I do not know when this was written/sent, but it is quite charming. Obviously it is a postal card of the dormitory in Chavagnes. Actually it is only one of the dormitories, and I do not know how many were in use at the time.

The lovely thing is that there is a letter on the back. As far as I can tell, this is what it says (I have kept the original spellings):

Cher Parrain et Marraine
Je vous envoie cet carte qui, j’espere, vous fera bien plaisir. Depuis [mercredi] vendredi je suis bien rabituer. Samedi dernier on etait en retraite. Sur la gravure de cette carte il y a les 2/3 du dortoir. Il y a a peu pres 60 eleves dans ce dortoir. J’ai demandé au Luc Gandriau si vous ne lui aviez pas parler de moi et il m’a dit que oui. Les vacances de mardi gras sont dans un mois du 8 au 13. J’espere aller vous voir a Pulteau mais si je ne pouvais pas je vous écrierais.
Votre filleul qui prie pour vous
It translates roughly as:
My dear Godfather and Godmother
I am sending you this card which, I hope, will please you. Since (Wednesday) Friday, I have settled in well. Last Saturday we were on retreat. The engraving on this card shows two thirds of the dormitory. There are about 60 pupils in this dormitory. I asked Luc Gandriau if you mentioned me, and he said you had. The Shrove Tuesday holidays are a month away, from the 8th to the 13th. I hope to come and see you at Pulteau, but if I can’t, then I will write to you.
Your Godson, who is praying for you both.
I cannot make out the name of the boy who sent it. If you can read it, then send me an email.

I have another post card with a message on the back, which I will put up in a few days. It would be lovely if we could find out who this boy was.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Chavagnes en Autrefois

Here are some old pictures of Chavagnes, some of them have been on this blog before.

This  must have been mid twentieth century by the styles

An outside shot of the front of the College.

And Chavagnes in snow,

Of course there are other times when the snows came, here and here and here and here and here.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

I feel so ashamed...

The Cardinal has told me off. See here.

I shouldn't talk about upholding the sanctity of marriage in public.

I shouldn't have repeated the teaching of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

I shouldn't have signed up to what the Church has said for the last couple of thousand years.


I should have written into my Bishop with my personal reflections...

... he would have read them
   ... and considered them
      ... and reported them to the Cardinal
         ... who would have told the synod Fathers about them

Bad Dobby, Bad House Elf.
Bad Priests.
I am a bad Priest. I obviously wasn't ordained to tell the world what God told me. Nor was I ordained to tell the world what the universal witness of saints and scholars have handed on to me.

How silly of me to think that I could rely on Scripture, Magisterium and Tradition.

Proud to be a Member

I am proud to be a member of a group of nearly 500 priests who added their signatures to a petition calling on the members of the synod on the family to defend marriage and the teaching that comes to us from Christ. The Catholic Herald link is here.

How bizarre that this should even be called for, that we have come so far as to actually think that the teaching of Christ could be changed, and the practice of the Church could be ditched.

The Voice of the Family website (which defends the traditional teaching on the family) is here. Of course, exactly what difference this will make, when 'senior' (very senior) churchmen in England and Wales wanted it to be pulled as soon as he found out about it, it beyond me. But we cannot simply sit back and not raise our voices even in so muted a way.

So I am proud to be a member of this group.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The darkness

Although they old us not to take pictures of the sun, I could not resist.

It is just a stunning picture.

It made me think of this. I did sing the salve in my heart, but even there, it was not as beautifully haunting as this. In the film Farinelli, he sings the Salve to make the sun reappear.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

I am not a Donatist

Well, those are words which I never thought I would have to utter in my life, but there you go.

I am annoyed enough to have to make this statement after reading the Bishops of England and Wales "Reflection for the Clergy Document on Marriage and Family" (here) on the second half of that Synod.

In it, rather heavy handedly, the Bishops use "St Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo and Doctor of the Truth of the Church, offers us a way of looking at the Church from his age which is still relevant today." If you are going to use a parallel, then it must have elements which are easily corresponding to each other, otherwise the parallel does not work.

So here goes...

The Church in North Africa was ruptured in the early fourth century by the Donatist heresy. St Augustine spoke against this heresy in the Council of Carthage in June 411. The Donatists believed that they represented a ‘Church of the pure,’ uncontaminated by dissent from those who betrayed their Christian faith during a period of persecution. They alleged that the Catholic Church of Augustine’s day was contaminated by their ancient link with those who in the persecution a century earlier consigned the Sacred Scriptures to fire, ‘the traditores.’ 

We what we are talking about now is Marriage adn the Family in the 21st Century. So we are also in a parallel situation to the Donatist controversy. Someone must be pushing for a Church of the pure, with no contamination. St Augustine is a goody, so the Donastist are baddies, so if you are on the side of the Donatists (booo) then you are a baddy and also you want to put the Sacred Scriptures in the fire (!!! WHAT... If you don't want that conclusion to be drawn, then don't include it.) The Bishops are the goodies, so if you disagree then you must be... wait a minute, I know where this is going...

Augustine makes another interesting point: when the net is cast into the sea the fisherman has no idea which are good fish and which are not since they remain out of sight. That will only become evident when they are sifted on the seashore. What Augustine implies is that we are not in a position in this life to pass judgement on others. Only Christ can see the full picture and will reveal it on judgement day.
This is the whole 'who am I to judge' debate. Sorry it's not a debate it's stupid. If Christ tells me something is wrong, and I do not pass on that teaching to others then I am morally corrupt. Who am I to tell a child a flame is hot, or that it is illegal in Enlgand to drive more than 70 mph on a motorway? Just because experience, or the law has told me these things, who am I to sit in judgement on your actions and pass on the information? Much better to have you carted off to Accident and Emergency or the Law Courts and then a higher authority will pass judgement. Are they really telling us that St Augustine NEVER passed on judgement to anyone? Really? Honestly? Or is it just that you are cutting and pasting a Doctor of the Church to meet your needs? There is much in the St Augustine which we would not use, sucha as the bit in St Augsutine about unbaptised babies going to Hell.

The concept of charity is a hallmark of Augustine of Hippo’s whole theology. Can charity allow us to live with difference, without diminishing what is essential to our Catholic faith? The ancient dictum of unsure provenance breathes the spirit of Augustine: Liberty in what is doubtful, unity in what is essential, and charity in everything. 

I am not an Augustine scholar enough to assess the claim that charity is a hall mark of St Augustine's theology. I assume it is, he being a Saint and all, so let us live by the ancient dictum...

Liberty in what is doubtful - do we have the words of God made Man Himself, Jesus Christ, on the subject? Do we have the universal witness of the Saints and scholars throughout Christendom for 2000 years? Do we have constant Church teaching? If the answers to these are 'yes' then there is no doubt, only the doubt that you have sown.

Unity in what is essential - Marriage is the stable unit of society, throughout time and space. It is the unity of one man with one woman, open to life and until death. These are the essentials, so let us have unity there.

Charity in everything - just because you do not agree with me, do not call me a DONATIST!

Monday, 16 March 2015

Memento Mori

Visiting a Church Yard in Standish, Gloucestershire, (once a nice little Benedictine Priory, but obviously someone wanted the land more than a bunch of blokes praying) I saw some wonderful tomb stones.

Fat Cherub on one side, skeleton on the other.

This one has rather frightening faces on either side at the top.

Happy skulls (surely the name of a new band?)

REMEMBER that if you want Masses said then get in touch with FOSS (link in the middle of this post).

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The Curse

Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Eurovision Song Contest entry.

This is the one for the UK

And I like it. It sounds a bit like the one from the Jungle Book, but let's face it, what's not to like about a child deserted in the jungle singing with wild animals?

But beware, I have form in the choice of Eurovision songs. The ones I like are invariable not successful. What can I say, I just don't dig blokes with beards in dresses. It's just one of those things. But then again neither did the good people of Euroland, I believe the popular vote went to those nice washer women from Poland.

You see I liked France's entry last year,

It lost. 26th place. 2 points.

Sunday, 8 March 2015


Not ecclesiastical titles, or secular titles, but titles of theses.

This is my work today. Not specifically the title, but my proposed thesis outline. One of the reasons I am here in Northumberland is so I can do a doctorate. My subject is the relationship between Judaism and Catholicism, in the light of the documents of the most recent Ecumenical Council.

It is very exciting!

Having spent half a year or so of investigating, and digging, and general snooping, I am now at a point of putting specific, fleshed out outlines together. No more investigating, digging and snooping, no, now is the time for being academic and professional and putting my pen where my mouth is.

But I have always laboured under a terrible affliction.

Titles. I love titles of things. Once I have a title, then I'm fine and off I go. I remember De Arca Foederis: concerning the mysterious appearance and disappearance of the glorious Ark of God. which was a very pleasant thesis. And who could forget The Concept of Synodality in the Ecclesiology of John-Marie Tillard and John Zizioulas and its implications for Catholic/Orthodox Ecumenical Relations.?

Ok, ok, I'll admit it, for the second one I went for the most boring title I could think of. Actually it was worse than that, because it was a competition between us seminarians for the longest STB extended essay title we could get away with. I won.

But now, what is my title to be? I'm feeling blocked without something as wondrous as De Arca Foederis.

I don't know... I have just spent an hour thinking. Even a working snappy title would be good.

The best I have come up with so far is Voluntas Domini, with a groovy sub title. I'm not giving you the rest of it, just in case someone snaps it up and trademarks it and then hunts me down like the dog I am and demands royalties.

There's a lot of paranoia in academia. I'm going to stick with Voluntas Domini for the moment.

Titles, darned titles, tricky things...

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Do we still believe in...

Do we still believe in Pilgrimages??

Of all of the things that have been downplayed or modified post Vatican II, I suspect that pilgrimages do not figure much on the list. There is an abiding affection in the minds of the laity and priests for travelling to pilgrimage sites, and I strongly suspect that there has been no reduction in numbers of those who go. So do we still believe in Pilgrimage? “Yes”. Next question please.

Hmmm, but I think that we can do a little better than that. So let’s make it a bit more challenging.

This country used to be a honeycomb of shrines dedicated to saints, and much more to the Blessèd Virgin. Wells, holy sites, places of apparition, saints’ tombs, all of these things studded our land as constant reminders that God was present in the everyday of our lives. We needed, and still need, the presence of the holy next to us where we can go for inspiration and intercession.

We can still see some of the relics of the past in place names and in the few pilgrimage sites that remain. Of course there are the well-known ones, such as Walsingham and Canterbury, but there are so many more. One of the lovely things that has happened in recent years is that pilgrimages to these places in our country have been revived. But there are many, many more pilgrimage sites, and what is better, they are not too far away. In fact they are near to you, to where you live, to your everyday life.

Of course pilgrimage has always been something of a religion holiday, and I would not want to decry that for one minute, because every pilgrimage has its own feel. Lourdes shows the universal Church honouring the Virgin Mary in song and procession. The Chartres Pilgrimage thrust a young, vibrant, traditional faith onto the landscape of France. Rocamador comforts addicts of drink and drugs. Rome stands for the pillars of our faith. But it would be so much better if it were part of the fabric of our country again.

One of the lovely thing about returning to the North East of England, and especially studying in Durham, is that I am next to my bones. My holy and Venerable Saint Bede lies in the Galilee Chapel of Durham Cathedral. I go in as often as I can and kneel next to his tomb, to kiss it and press my rosary against it and to say my prayers. This is greatly to the bemusement of the Anglican Vergers. And that is one of the reasons why I do it! But to this I could add the Shrine of Saint Cuthbert, St Aidan’s Well, Our Lady of Mount Grace, Holy Island, St Hilda’s Abbey, Our Lady of Jesmond… I could go on and on and on. And this is just one small part of Northumberland. And I am only scratching the surface.

My saint, my pilgrimage site is just here round the corner. And so when I say that I still believe in pilgrimages I mean that I still believe in making frequent visits to holy places where my faith is strengthened and I am inspired by the countless pilgrims before me who have trodden the same path. In my small way, by praying at the tomb of my Holy Patron, I am restoring a pilgrimage in my land. I am showing that we should be what we once were – a land of saints, the dowry of the Blessèd Virgin.

Look around you and find the holy places where you live. Visit them and pray at them. Remind the saints that they are not forgotten and that their intercession for the conversion of our country is needed as much in our own time as ever it was. Plant your pray into the soil of these shrines and it will spread into the hills and valleys, the cities and towns of this country.

And we can again live in a land of pilgrimages and pilgrims.

(Published in LMS Magazine)

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Our Lady's Vestment in March

Looks a bit like a floor plan of a Cathedral
So you can see here how I started this vestment for Our Lady, and I have been beavering away.

The south Gospel side is done, I will just have to do another couple of rounds when I eventually finish the whole thing to stabilise the shape.

All of the material is terrible scrunched up, But that should be OK in the long run.

This side is completed. It looks fine from a distance. Close too work is not excellent, but I also have a day job!

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