Thursday, 30 April 2015

Where's my megaphone?

I need it to lend to a certain high up clergy man so that he can shout all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. I speak of course of the need for Cardinal Nichols to give us helpful advice and his desire that priests never say anything that he does not approve of – here the fact that we should follow Christ and defend marriage (here).

It is good that we have limited spheres of influence. I am not a priest of his diocese, so though I always listen attentively to men in red, I have no need to pay him the slightest heed. Now if Bishop Lang (whose courage we have had cause to mention before, here, etc.) were to say anything, then I would immediately write to him, because he is my Bishop. However I credit Bishop Lang with a more sophisticated and diplomatic appreciation of the faith than others I could mention (he is, after all, the Minister in charge for Foreign Affairs).

So I am not entirely sure how our American cousins are going to react when Cardinal Nichols starts telling them to shut up, as he thought he could do with all the ordained in England and Wales. Link here. He will have to issue a statement, of course. Those naughty Americans! Standing up for the teaching of the Church and in solidarity with little old us! It would be wrong to give advice to those outside his diocese here in England and Wales, and not to give his advice to those in America.

So I am going to hunt around and dig out a megaphone. He could try the old Jonah trick and preach quietly, hoping that no one makes a fuss.

A megaphone to the waves should do it.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

I say nothing

but I do think that this whole ensemble works!

It just works.

The coat of arms was painted for me by two of the boys in my school, see here.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015


I am pleased that Pope Francis I has said that priests should not be like peacocks. Here.

I agree for  a number of reasons. Peacocks dress like that to get peahens. Catholic priests are wedded to celibacy. We do not need to prance or preen: we do not need to attract a mate.

Fancy clothes are expensive. A cassock lasts about five or six years and cost £180, and is suitable for all occasions. One pair of Hilfiger Jeans costs £100.

If you're wearing something trendy or noticeable, then it needs to be changed to keep up with the fashions. A cassock has been trendy for about 500 years. Down with modish clothes, down with fashion shirts!

Damn these peacock men with their swanky clothes!
We should always be clean and presentable, so Fathers clean of that egg from your sleeve, but that's about it. What we wear for ourselves should be sober and unremarkable, so that what we wear for God at the altar of His Son's sacrifice should shine forth in resplendent majesty. When we are alter Christus at the Holy Mass, then we are the Pavo Christatus, reflecting the all-seeing nature of God and the immortality of the soul.

Monday, 27 April 2015


Further to yesterday's post, I re-read the Bishops' guidance of things to think about when deciding who to vote for. I know that many people commented on this when it came out. You can see it here.

This thing that sticks out, of course is the shocking statement in the introduction...

Voting in a general election should seldom, if ever, be based on a single issue. Elections involve a whole range of issues, some without doubt more central than others, particularly those concerned with the dignity and value of human life and human flourishing. 
Respectful as I always am of their Lordships' guidance on all matters, as teacher of the faith and successors of the Apostles, this statement is dangerous and wrong. The problem is that we have grown accustomed to living with evil.

It is rather like someone who lives in terribly substandard housing but after years of nothing changing simply gets used to it. They become habituated with the situation, When someone comes and visits them and sees the terrible state of affairs, and is shocked and disgusted by it, then hopefully something is done. Of course you can see how it can become all too easy not to notice the reality of things.

This is what has happened. The dignity and value of human life is not "more central", it is the heart. You can have no human rights, no dignity, no flourishing, no honesty, no integrity if you support the killing of the weakest in society. Of course we should protect the rights of the disabled (but let's not mention that we could have killed them on the way to the delivery suite if only we'd found out), and there should be equality between men and women (but we are not going to be too bothered if we kill girls in the womb, because you can't really defend a difference between "we do not want this child because she is a girl" and "we do not want this child, because... well we just don't") and of course we should help those in the world in need (but they don't get the cash unless they let women abort their children - hideous cultural imperialism anyone?) and we should promote free health care (contraception?) to all people (made to feel guilty when they are old). And on, and on, and on.

I am not an all or nothing person. I will vote even though all the parties support an attack on the lives of the weakest  and most defenceless. But please do not tell me that it should not be, even theoretically, the most important issue that there is. Do not become so dazzled by conformity to this world and society's acceptance that we no longer see the joy and burden of the Gospel.

If you want to see how your MP voted on pro-life issues, then go here.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

A Guilty Secret

BBC Sunday programme. I do not know how to add a link so click on the one below.
Listening to "Sunday" on the BBC this morning (link here), I heard a delightful piece about whether or not voters are going to take their religious views into the ballot box with them. You can hear it here. It is 14 minutes and 50 seconds in.

The wonderful thing was the first woman who describes herself as a "Christian" and who then explains why she is going to vote Ukip. She does so eloquently and from an unreservedly Christian standpoint.

I have to admit that I was quite shocked. Not, I hasten to add that I was shocked that she was voting Ukip, but rather that she admitted it!

If you do not follow the UK election, then look it all up, you can see the parties online. Conservatives here, Labour here, Ukip here, Liberal Democrats here, Greens here, Scottish Nationalists here, Plaid, Cymru here, etc. I have not included the Northern Irish parties, but there is a link here.

The interesting thing is that in May 2014 a little over 27% of the public voted for Ukip in the European elections, and yet it is eschewed not only by the political class, but also by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. The Bishops latest "how to vote document" is cleverly constructed so as not to support one or other party, but remember the just over a year ago, in the self same European elections, the spokesman for the Bishops of England and Wales (reported here in the Tablet) said

I am not at all convinced that the policies that Ukip are proposing are the best things for the poor and underprivileged... and of the EU... I honestly believe we should be members of the EU. I just don’t see what the alternative is for a country like the UK.
Their collected Graces and Lordships
Please let me make it clear that I am not publicly supporting or endorsing Ukip. Their policy on restricting Child Benefit is a straight attack on the theology of Catholic families. I am just saying that I was caught short when a Christian publicly endorsed Ukip on the radio. I know of many Catholics who will be supporting all of the various political parties, including Ukip, but the latter is always mentioned sotto voce, secretly, when they know that they will be not be judged (presumably by Bishops disguised as trees or postmen or the like).

Rather like enjoying an occasional cigarette or having a cream cake day, has voting Ukip become a guilty secret?

They used to say that the Church of England was the Conservative Party at prayer, well we could add to that, that Labour is the Catholic Bishops dispensing Earl Grey tea on the picket line. But Ukip... what would the Bishops say??!!!

You see, there was something so straight forward about that young woman on the radio...

Thursday, 23 April 2015


Why will no one ever tell me what these walls are like? They are a mystery, a conundrum, a puzzle. I tried to go and visit them, to see for myself what they were like, but I couldn’t find them.

I am unconvinced that they mean the “Welsh” walls. We are miles away from Welsh-land. As far as I can tell, Wallish Walls is a farm. But this doesn’t help with the question of the walls.

Please note, this wall, which in my opinion is quite wallish, is not a wallish wall from Wallish Walls
I just have to conclude that those pesky walls are wallish.

Friday, 17 April 2015

When I retire

My mother's pension went up 58p a month this week. So I have been wondering what will be in store for me when I retire.

We no longer have good nuns to look after us. That's not strictly true as we have the Little Sisters of the Poor who run an care home where some of our chaps go when they need care. These sisters are excellent. There is an article on them in the Bristol Post here.

Little Sisters of the Poor - they are excellent
And we do have some retirement apartments in Bath. But they are means tested by the Diocese. Hmmm.

So I need to get loads of cash. That's the answer. Then I can buy a little house for me to live in during my twilight years. (If everyone of you in Internet Land buys about 72,000 copies of my books, that should work).

I think this would be a nice retirement house
And this is the one I have in mind.

The different roof is the Chapel
You should aim high. That's what I think.

My new front door (perhaps)
This is a little Castle in Alnwick. It belongs to the Duke of Northumberland. They still live there when the tourists are not around. I think that I could happily spend my latter years sipping a pina colada on the lawn. It has a little chapel as well.

Nice place for a procession
It would be lovely for Eucharistic processions. I don't think I'd ever have enough money to spend the rest of my life in a hotel, but I might just afford a tiny little castle.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Merciful Confessions

Pope Francis I, delivering the Papal Bull
There is a fascinating article by Michael Sean Winters at the NCR, link here, about the Papal Bull of Pope Francis I declaring the year of Mercy. One thing caught my eye, mainly because as a Priest on the ground I am deeply concerned with the practice of the Sacrament of Confession. I've even written a book on it, here.

He quotes the section of the Bull dealing with Priests hearing Confessions:

May confessors not ask useless questions, but like the father in the parable, interrupt the speech prepared ahead of time by the prodigal son, so that confessors will learn to accept the plea for help and mercy gushing from the heart of every penitent. In short, confessors are called to be a sign of the primacy of mercy always, everywhere, and in every situation, no matter what.

And then he asks the questions:

If every confessor really did behave in this way, would more people avail themselves of the sacrament? If every confessor really did behave in this way, would more people be committed to spreading mercy throughout their lives and their relationships? If every confessor really did rush out to greet the prodigals in their parish, would those parishioners be more deeply rooted in what really matters in the life of the Church?

I would say in fact that this is exactly what we have already had in parish after parish, with very bad results. We have had

   "Just say the most important thing that is on your conscience"
      "Just mention one sin"
         "We will have a general absolution, so say your sins in your heart"
            "That is not a sin, that is for you to decide"
   "The Church doesn't want to know what happens in you bedroom"
      "I don't want a list"
         "You should just come to confession once a year"
            "I am more concerned about the good you have done than about the hard things"
   "We don't believe in mortal sin any more"
      "No you don't need to go to confession to receive Holy Communion"

I'm afraid what has happened is that people no longer go to Confession. It is not an everyday part of their lives. That is the difference between a Confession made when someone has been away form the Sacrament for many years, and then one does rush out to them, console them, throw the love of God's mercy around them. But that is not the only moment of Confession. Confession is a part of the daily grind of the examination of ourselves before God, striving for holiness in the everyday.

If I have spend time, effort, and heart searching to examine my conscience. If I have prepared it as part of my spiritual life. If I have bothered to go to Confession If I have done all these things are more, then how dare the man behind the grill interrupt me and say "stop now, stop, say no more. The mercy of God is here!" I know it is, but I NEED to speak it, to bring it into the open and to hear the words of absolution for the sins I have confessed. I need his advice, his counsel. I need him to take my confession seriously.

When this does not happen, then the practice withers and dies in the soul of the individual. If the priest won't listen to me, then I will stop speaking. Stop patronising me. I know God's mercy is there, that is why I am here at seven o'clock at night after a long day's work.

Perhaps I am overreacting, and we are only speaking of sinners estranged for many years. In which case : Excellent.

If not... then not excellent.

Monday, 13 April 2015

From Emmanuel Pillet

This is the final postcard I have of Chavagnes and like the one below, this one has a message on it, and it is much more specific. It is from Emmanuel Pillet and was sent to M. and Mme. Pierre Friou, Rue des Torts, Sartrouville (Seine et Oise). We, of course, have no idea what happened to Emmanuel. It is just about possible that he is still alive. I will say a Mass for him.

Chavagnes le 1e octobre 1933

Mes chers Counsins ma chère Counsine
Merci de votre aimable letter qui m’a bien fait plaisir. Je vous répond un petit mot, car je n’ai pas le temps. Je suis entré le Séminaire le 26 septembre, J’espère que vous vous portez tous très bien. J’ai reçu une letter de Maman, toute la famille se parte bien. Il ne faudra pas vous étonner si vous ne recevez pas souvent de mes nouvelles, car je n’ai pas beaucoups de temps. En vancances je vous écrirez plus longuement. Je vous quitte tous en vous embrassant de tout cœur.
Votre cousin qui vous aime et qui ne vous oublie pas. Emmanuel Pillet.

My rough translation...

Chavagnes, 1st October 1933

My dear cousins [a number of male cousins and one female cousin]
Thank you so much for your lovely letter, which made me very happy. I will only send you a little note, because I do not have much time. I came to the Seminary [not place for training Priests, but one stage before, for educating boys] on the 26th of September. I hope that you are all very well. I got a letter from my mother, and all the family are fine. You will not be too surprised if you don't hear from me [my news] too often, because I will not have much time. During the holidays, I will write to you all much more. So I will take my leave of you, embracing you with all my heart.
Your cousin, who loves you and who does not forget you. Emmanuel Pillet.

I find this little postcard to be so lovely. 
I shall remember Emmanuel Pillet. Say a prayer for him.

Chavagnes Chapel revisited

Chavagnes chapel circa 1959
In this post card we can see the collegiate style pews on either side of the chapel, and in the distance the high altar. The following picture shows it much more clearly.

Chavagnes chapel circa 1933
I will put up also a picture of the altar at the moment:

Chavagnes chapel circa 2011
We can see that the gradine has gone and that the throne and stone tabernacle have been removed (needless to say before the school moved in). In 1933 there was also a hanging tabernacle lamp, three steps to the altar and proper seats at either side of the altar, which were presumably removed when the sanctuary was remodeled.

A close up of the hanging tabernacle lamp - now lost.
All told, however, it has survived very well. But then again, how terrible that we can say that a church and an altar 'survived' catholic iconoclastic vandals.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

How the world reads us

Mr Ambassador, you're spoiling us
The following is taken from the BBC coverage of the "gay Ambassador" thing, (link here).

It is widely thought that Pope Francis is more tolerant of homosexuality than previous popes after remarking "who am I to judge?" in 2013.
His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, signed a document in 2005 that said men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests.
But Pope Francis has said gay clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten.
However, he suffered a setback in 2014 after the Catholic Church synod abandoned plans for wider acceptance of gay people.
The new serving staff will be quite a change!
Now, ignoring the issue at the heart of this, this is how the BBC sees the current situation.
  1. Pope Francis' off the cuff statement is taken to be official doctrine.
  2. The Church's position on homosexuality was thus different.
  3. Pope Benedict was bad and he was anti-gay.
  4. Pope Francis is good, and forgives gay clergymen.
  5. The Synod was going to change Church teaching.
 Again ignoring initial reactions about how we know that all of the five statements are incorrect, this is how the situation is being reported.

We can bang on about many things, but this is what the world is saying is true. And, yes, the BBC has a certain slant, but many, many people read it and get their information from it - me included.

This is what we are battling against.

Friday, 10 April 2015

What Cardinals get up to...

Cardinal Bird. Never been told off by one of these.

We saw the reported intervention of Cardinal Daneels trying to get the King of the Belgians to sign the abortion law, here. We should not be so surprised. He is of course the same chap who tried to get an abuse victim to keep quiet, link here.

If we are supposedly trying not only to do the right thing but be seen to do the right thing, then why exactly is this man still around? Why has he not been shoved off into a monastery somewhere, or as we have with Cardinal O'Brien, why has he not given up his trappings of Cardinal hood? Am I missing something?

Cardinalfish. Never told a King to sign an abortion act.
And then we have the story of the Vatican (Pope Francis) blocking the proposed French Ambassador for being gay. Story here.

What's the link between the two? Well the report says

Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris reportedly interceded personally with the Pope to back his nomination. La Croix newspaper said Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the former Vatican foreign minister who is currently president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, also supports the appointment.

So we have Cardinals asking Kings to sign abortion laws and Cardinals asking Popes to recognise gay Ambassadors.

Arizona Cardinals. Never asked the Pope to have a gay Ambassador.
The next terrible thing is not only that these people do these things (completely against the plain teaching of the Church) but that once they have been caught out and exposed in the media, to the scandal of the laity and clergy alike, then nothing happens.

All I have to do is say the Pater Noster in Latin on a public Sunday Mass and I'm sure that my own Bishop, or the vast majority of Bishops of England and Wales, would have me in.

This lot? God knows.

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Happy Easter

Next year, instead of eating lamb, I'm going to have rabbit.

Happy Easter.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Ecce homo

He was despised and rejected. A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

Behold... the Man.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Advice to St Thomas More

Cardinal Nichols in his homily at the Chrism Mass in Westminster makes this statement...

May I add here that your prayer is really needed at this time as the Church prepares for the next Synod of Bishops. It is wrong, in my view, to think or speak of this Synod as a battle, a battle between contesting sides. Battles have winners and losers. And often ‘collateral damage’ is the most tragic consequence of hostilities. No, this Synod is a time of prayerful discernment, discernment about how we are to bring the love, mercy and truth of God to all people in need, in so many different and difficult circumstances. So please do pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
And in theory I agree with him. Battles do have winners and losers and there is collateral damage.

However... It would be easier to agree were it not for Cardinal Kaspar's words "We should all pray for it because a battle is going on". And because of Cardinal Nichols' actions in trying to silence before and rebuke afterwards, the priests who signed the affirmation of faith. Here.

And the fact that our life is a battle, "Holy Michael Archangel defend us in the day of battle..."

And that it is difficult to think of a way of putting forward the clear teaching of the Lord and His Church without there being conflict at certain times (I think it's called persecution, martyrdom and stuff like that).

The call to turn from sin, metanoia, conversion, is just that. It is a battle between the old man and the new. It is "go and sin no more".

If it is not a "battle between contesting sides", then why is it presented as such by the Cardinals? Why am I told off if I do not agree? Why will there obviously be clear winners and losers? When the things at stake are so clear, so important, should we not fight for it? Should we not enter into a battle?

My Dear Thomas More,
I know that you think that this divorce between King Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon is really important. And we commend you for it. It is very good that you pray about it and try to discern the will of God. But the correct channel is, of course, to inform your Bishops, and when they get together in Synod, they will decide. It is wrong, in my view, to think or speak of this Synod as a battle, a battle between contesting sides. Battles have winners and losers. And often ‘collateral damage’ is the most tragic consequence of hostilities.
So please pray for your Bishops, because they will discern the will of God in his matter. You may think that it is a battle between good and evil, right and wrong, but have faith! We'll sort it out.
Yours in Christ

Sorry. I think it is a battle. I wonder if I am allowed my opinion, of whether I should be told to "hold my tongue".

Our Lady's Vestment in April

This is April's progress.

March saw it like this.

February started as this.

I am quite pleased with the progress. And also that I have not spilled tea on it. Yet.

Progress links, here, and here.

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