Saturday, 22 August 2015

Do we still believe in ... hand missals

It is highly ironic that as one thing loosens another tightens.

When there was only the Latin Mass, Priests were constrained in how they said it. Everything is laid down exactly: the space between the hands, the grade of bow, the dimensions of the signs of the cross etc. Now, of course, go to a new Mass and you will see everything… absolutely everything! Some are allowed by the new liturgical books, other are simply the winds of change elevating the alb of common sense and exposing the bottom of silliness!

For Christ’s lay faithful, on the other hand, there used to be genuine freedom. Some said their rosary, some read their prayers; others followed in their hand missals, still others lit candles. Come the reforms, come the straightjacket of ‘participation’. In the new form you must stand and sit when directed. You must make the responses in unison with the rest. You must sing a communion hymn. You must be gathered into a worshipping community by an entrance song or chant. You must, you must, you must…

The Priest’s individuality has been raised, and the people in the pew have been reduced to a uniform mass in which the individual response is sacrificed. It is so difficult to say a prayer nowadays during Mass, it is so crowded by demands – say this, do that, sing the other… but whatever you do, don’t do anything different from anyone else!

It would, then, be a pity if we imposed these things on the Latin Mass. There is a vogue in certain circles that everyone must follow everything that the Priest is doing and saying. The informed traddie must know not only the responses (a laudable goal) but also the Priest’s silent prayers. They must follow every word, every gesture. And the hand missal is essential in this. Or at the very least, the red Mass book and a handout of the readings.

I am not saying that these are not good things. They are. It is excellent that we have the resources for people to follow the Mass, especially now that people have to learn the Mass from the start. And it is excellent that the parts of the Mass that change, readings and prayers and the like, are on hand so that we know that the Mass is not an indistinguishable holy mutter, but is exact and specific. I always provide them whenever I say Mass.

But they are not the only way to be at Mass. They never were and we should not make the traditional Mass into a gulag where everyone has to juggle a missal, a sheet, their reading glasses and have a keen ear for Father’s pronunciation of the eternal language.

We should chill! Only the Priest has strict rules of what to do. Enjoy the glorious liberty of the children of God… and say your prayers.

If you want to use a hand missal – go for it!
If you want to say the rosary, and not move from your knees – then the knees are yours!
If you have beautiful prayers to say during the different movements of the Mass – then pray them with all your heart!
And if your soul is so sorrowful and distressed, even to the point of death – then no one should tell you to stand or sit or speak or sing.
Use hand missals when it is profitable for salvation, but do not be limited by them.

The point is to pray.

Printed in the Latin Mass Society Magazine

Friday, 21 August 2015

The Sunset Magnificat

Fr Tim Finigan on the Hermeneutic of Continuity, asks the question why the Epistle is not chanted. He gives a warning at the end...

...there could be new chants composed, especially for the bits with lots of compassion and "mothering" images, that might make the prophet Hosea sound like a cross between the Carpenters and Dolly Parton. I disclaim all responsibility for any such consequences now or in the future, anything to the contrary notwithstanding.
This led me to remember my own time at Seminary, ahhh those happy, happy days.

At one point I was choir master and riled against some of the settings we had for various parts of the Mass and Office. And who could forget the setting of the Benedicite commonly called "Green Things". There was a line "Green things praise Him, Alleluia!" Say no more.

Well, one lazy afternoon as an essential part of my seminary formation, having binged on the above clip of a friend's DVD on loop, I decided that the Magnificat MUST, simply MUST, be set to "With one look." And so I set to work.

Another friend recently turned up the offending setting of the canticle. To my knowledge it has only ever been sung once. There is even music with it.

Herewith the words...

Sing, my soul, the praises of the Lord.
Sing, my spirit, of my saving God.
He has cast His eyes on me!
Lowly though I am, 
I will worthy be.

Age to age will call me greatly blest.
God's true love through me is manifest.
Fear Him! Holy is His name!
He will cast the proud 
from their thrones in shame.

Raising up the lowly from the earth
He will feed them, He will give them worth.
Timeless is His gen'rous deed
unto Israel's sons
unto Ab'ram's seed.

Raise your voices to the Heavenly Host.
Praise the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
One in might and majesty!
Consubstantially reigning eternally!
Amen. Amen.

Dear Fr Finigan, I am so sorry.

(Though I am inordinately proud of the line "consubstantially reigning eternally")

Thursday, 20 August 2015

The wonders of the liturgy of the word

Jephthah meeting his daughter
Again and again I am struck by the bizarre choices of the new rite of Mass, and especially the lectionary. I have mentioned it before, here.

Today (Thursday in week 20 of Ordinary Time, year 2) we had the wonderful account in the book of Judges of Jephthah and his daughter.

The daughter of Jephthah bewailing her virginity
You remember it (Judges 11): Jephthah promises to God that if he succeeds in the battle against the Ammonites that he would sacrifice the first person he saw on returning home as a holocaust to the LORD.

Issue one: does God want a human sacrifice? If He does, does He want it to be one of his own people and not an enemy?

Jephthah wins the battle and goes home, but there the first person he sees is his daughter. Jephthah explains the promise he has made, his daughter accepts it and goes off into the hills for a couple of months with her maiden companions to bewail her virginity.

Issue two: Jephthah is about to sacrifice his daughter. He cannot reason with God, either that he meant 'man' and not 'virgin daughter', or that it was the heat of battle and he would have promised anything, or that it was just unfair that his innocent daughter is about to be slain. Even though Abraham bargained with God in the destruction of Sodom. 

Issue three: Jephthah's daughter simply accepts the situation. 

Bewailing over, a spot of sacrificing to be done
Jephthah's daughter returns and is sacrifice as a holocaust to the LORD.

Issue four: this is represented in the Old Testament as something eminently edifying. The daughter has upheld her father's promise and the father, though I'm sure sad, has defeated the Ammonites.

And the reader says "The Word of the Lord" - and we all say "Thanks be to God".

If you were at Holy Mass this morning and heard this reading, did the priest mention it at all? Did he try to explain it? Did he preach about what it could possibly mean? Why it was in the Bible? Why it was being proclaimed at Mass? How it related to Christ and His Church? If God wanted Jephthah to sacrifice his daughter? What God out of it? If this is anything to do with our faith?

If you are a priest, did you just ignore it? Walk out thankful that no one had mentioned it? Shrug it off?

The men who devised the Lectionary decided that this story of the sacrifice of Jephthah's daughter was to be included in the readings of Holy Mass on this very day every two years for... well, I'm not entirely sure for what reason.

I have no idea why it has been included. It is not for the edification of the people, or the enhancement of Holy Mass. Sure it can scandalize the faithful, detract from the liturgical action that is about to take place, and cause pointless consternation, but that cannot be the reason why it is included.

I am at a loss. Simply at a loss.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Happy Feast Day, June

On behalf of Catholics world wide I wish a happy feast of the Assumption to June Osborne. She is the lady who is in charge of Salisbury Cathedral. You can see its Wiki entry here.

I am sure that there will be rejoicing today in the streets of Salisbury as they celebrate their patron, the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the title of the Assumption. Although the documents call the Cathedral "the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary", they sort of forget that it is her Assumption that is being celebrated.

I eventually found a reference to it in a sermon on the Salisbury Cathedral website, but it is not front and centre. If I had a cathedral dedicated to me, and they and they made no reference to it, I'd be furious... just saying.

June, in her welcome, says "The beauty of the building and its setting is awesome. We are inheritors of the most extraordinary vision which could imagine and build something of this scale and majesty. There is so much here which makes us marvel, admiring human ingenuity and the faith which motivated it."

They are not really inheritors because to inherit, then person has to be dead. The Catholic Church, built it and an English King, Henry, took it from us. At the last sight, we are not dead, so no one can inherit it. 

Serial adulteror and wife killer, Henry
But there you go.

You can hire the Cathedral if you like (here, for funerals, weddings, art shows, concerts, lectures), so the building is being put to good use. A friend of mine, a Catholic Priest and parish priest of Salisbury at the time, asked June if he would say Mass on St Osmund's altar in the Cathedral. 

St Osmund, he couldn't ordain women
June said no, because we don't (actually can't) ordain women.

Well, we may not be able to ordain women (actually no one can) but at least today we can sing the praises of the greatest women who ever existed, and can pray to her, and put ourselves under her love and protection.

I bet Our Lady even looks down her Cathedral today in Salisbury. She now lives in heaven, and no one can inherit anything from her!

Friday, 14 August 2015

Vestment Finished

The photos were taken in St Dominic's Church Dursley. I will be in Warminster to perform a baptism tomorrow on the Feast of the Assumption, and I finished Our Lady's Vestment in time, some four months early. The material I bought from Wippels and is called 'Glastonbury'. The edging I bought about twenty years ago in Southall in London. 

I made it for the glory of God and the honour of His Blessed Mother. May she look down upon all priests who wear it and fill them with love for her and devotion to her Son.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015


I've found Cry Jubilee!!!

It's not the faint hearted (I think it is the maracas). You have been warned...

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The Hymn of Mercy

The official hymn for the year of Mercy has been chosen and promulgated. You can get the English music and words version here.

It is Latin chorus "misericordes sicut Pater", with an recited sentence and then another repeated refrain "in aeternum misericordis eius". Music by Paul Inwood and text Eugenio Costa.

I have to say that it is fine. It is all a bit too Taize in feel (so with neither the glory of plainchant melodics, nor the singability of metrical hymnody) but I can see it being used effectively in large liturgical settings. You still need a choir which means that it will actually be difficult for smaller churches to use, but the chorus is catchy in the same way that Taize can envelop you in the duvet of meditation.

It is infinitely better than that ghastly "Cry Jubilee" thing that we had for the year 2000.

Friday, 7 August 2015

The back of Our Lady's Vestment

This has now been finished. And it looks quite spiffy.

From the bottom: the lowest panel shown Ss Simeon and Anna, who prophesied when Our Lord was presented in the Temple.

Above them are Ss Joachim and Anne, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. You will notice a certain coat of Arms (!!!).

Above this is Our Lady of Sorrows.


The angels are on either side of the nativity scene.

The roof is the roof.

The Birth of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

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