Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Christmas Mass Times

St Mary's 
Great Swinburne

Christmas Eve: 9.30pm (Carols) Holy Mass 10.00pm
Christmas day: 9.00am

St Oswald's

Christmas Day: 11.00am

It is advertised via the LMS that there will be Latin Mass (Tridentine) at noon in Swinburne. I did not change this in time. I will be back in Swinburne by about 12.20pm. If there is anyone around I will say Mass for them. 
Many apologies for the confusion.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Untold Disasters around the Corner

The blood of Saint Januarius has failed to liquefy. The Catholic Herald has an account of it here. We all remember that it only partially liquefied last year in the presence of the Pope. Disasters bound when the blood remains solid.

Yikes. I though that enough had happened already. I dread to think what is around the corner.

It might be a natural disaster or perhaps supernatural. Cardinals about to issue formal acts of correction and Popes ignoring their saintly predecessors affirmation of the teaching of Christ, are up there as well.

So I have decided to try to help the situation and appease St Januarius. I am going to have a new catch phrase: "By the blood of St Januarius!"

It will be like "By the power of Greyskull", but religious.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

I’ve just discovered J

NO this is not some ghastly drug, which leaves the recipient comatose and open to all manner of suggestions: like… it’s better to have the liturgy in English, Vegemite is an acceptable replacement for Marmite, watching Youtube in the library counts as work (yep, I’m in the library and that is exactly what the chap opposite me is doing. OK, OK so I’m writing a blog post but sheesh! Youtube, really?!)

Rather it is a mystical drive. It is a place which exists and yet doesn’t exist. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury… no hang on that last one is a lime from Macbeth. It is a J drive.

This is something which my beloved university, by the grace of God, Durham, provides for people. You do something to your computer and it finds the J drive, then you put copies of your work there and its safe, even if your computer is eaten by a wild mountain goat, and your USB key finds itself in the inner parts of a wallaby. Yes even then, your work is safe. Safe as houses. Safe as houses all called ‘J’.

I mention this for it would have been good to have found out about mystical J before I lost my USB key and all of my work. Yep, all of it. I had to go seriously Zen. I lost it for about three weeks.

Eventually I found it in the mud, soaked through, next to the place where I park my car, and mirabile dictu, even after being out in the elements for three weeks, it worked.  And so, dear reader, I married it. No, that’s not right. And so dear reader, I made myself the promise never to do anything so mind numbingly stupid again.

And now I have found J and my life is complete. J will help me. J will be my friend. J will look out for me when times get tough and I’ve lost my way (and all my PhD work).

And do you know what? J is the first letter of the German translation of the vocalised transliteration of the Name of the LORD in the Old Testament.

WHO can believe in coincidence after that????


Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Do we still believe in Maniples?

By this title I do not mean the Roman army formation which came into common practice during the Second Samnite War in 315 bc (though its importance cannot be underestimated). Rather I mean those little bits of cloth that some Priests wear over their left arm when saying Mass.

The history of the maniple is quite interesting. It is common in the liturgy of the West from about the sixth century onwards, and probably came about much earlier than this from the practical need of the Priest to wipe his face and hands when celebrating Holy Mass. This may sound a little strange to us in the frozen North, but around the Mediterranean in the height of summer, with no air-conditioning, a priest would have been glad of a small piece of cloth to mop his brow – his body being encased in binding vestments for the offering of the Divine Sacrifice. So by the 6th century, the maniple had become a liturgical garment corresponding to the colour of the other vestments. Although in shape and style it developed at various times in various ways, it retained its place on the left arm, and always with something of its original meaning. A translation of the prayer which the Priest says when he puts on the maniple is “May I deserve, O Lord, to bear the maniple of weeping and sorrow, in order that I may joyfully receive the reward of my work.” With weeping comes the need to wipe the face, and balance of sorrow and happiness typify the Priests’ offering of his life in sacrifice and joy.

Pope Paul VI, famous simplifier of vestments

The maniple was an obligatory part of the Mass vestments until 1967. In that year the Sacred Congregation of Rites issued the decree Tres Abhinc Annos, which stated “the maniple is no longer required.” So Priests threw them away. Or sent them to the missions. Or used them for goodness knows what. They even said that it was wrong to wear the maniple as it was no longer ‘required’. Well, we know that that is not true: just because something is not required does not mean that it is forbidden. It seems to me monstrous and wicked that sets of vestments were ravaged and torn asunder by the destruction of the maniple.

So why am I banging on about this? Well, as I am writing this I have just celebrated the New Rite feast of Ss Margaret Ward, Anne Line and Margaret Clitherow. St Mararet Clitherow was a convert whose brother was a Priest and who sent her son abroad to be educated in Catholicism. She harboured Priests and provided a place for Mass to be said. She cried out against the new religion and refused to go along to the state-sponsored services, and as a result was imprisoned. Her third child, William, was born when she was locked up in gaol. When in March 1586 her house was searched, the Queen’s officers found Mass vestments, and the possession of these was enough to have her pressed to death in the most foul and cruel way.

Cardinal* Burke wearing a maniple.
(Title of cardinal correct at time of writing.
As many know, Cardinal Burke has asked a question, and so might be punished)

Let me reiterate, she died because they found vestments in her house. I can imagine this holy saint looking down from heaven and crying out “I died for that cloth which you so easily put aside and destroy” as modern Priests scorn the maniple and other holy garments. Though I am sure that it was not just for the possession of a maniple alone that St Margaret was humiliated and tortured at the age of 33, leaving three children motherless, yet I am convinced that a maniple would have been there among the vestments which were mocked by ‘lewd men’ at her so-called trial. She died for the faith, and the faith is the Mass, and the Mass needs the Priest, and the Priest needs his vestments.

Naughty maniple

And in 1967 at a stroke “the maniple is no longer required”, and the Priest stopped saying: “May I deserve, O Lord, to bear the maniple of weeping and sorrow, in order that I may joyfully receive the reward of my work.”

I will be your knight and fight for your honour

I firmly believe in the maniple. It would be a great thing if Priests would take up again this holy garment in celebrations of both forms of Holy Mass, just as a knight of old would take up the token of his lady before going into battle. St Margaret, the ‘pearl of York’, could be our mistress and our defender in heaven, and her handkerchief, our maniple, will be that very token.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Advent Calendars 2016

Its Advent time. In the past I have tried to mirror the true meaning of Christmas, and I believe that I have managed to continue the tradition. here, here, here, probably somewhere else.  

Mr Simpson is well know as a sign of giving and love, and who could not help but love animals and the like.

Sadly the chocolate in the animal one is foul, Simpsons not too bad.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Formal Act of Correction

Look at this!!! "Cardinal Burke: we will make ‘formal act of correction’ if Pope doesn’t issue Amoris clarification"

I think when I was teaching in Chavagnes that I used to issue formal acts of correction.

They were usually written in red ink. When I was doing my PGCE we were told that red ink was aggressive and that some of the pupils would react badly to it, and it was setting up a confrontational attitude. Personally I think factorising x squared plus five x plus 4 incorrectly deserves and act of aggression, and I would expect them to react to it - hopefully with shame. If their reaction was 'bad' and they stuck to their incorrect result, then it would have to get confrontational.

Think what would happen if factorising went wrong! Actually it would be horrendously serious, not that technology and algorithms run the world.

So my formal acts of correction were justified. Always polite (except when the boy refused physically to listen to me) and always clear (even when they refused to accept the blatant truth of the laws of factorisation... and so lengthy explanations ensued until they finally got it). And always with a red pen.

I wonder if that is why Cardinals wear red??????

Thursday, 3 November 2016

All Souls

One of the many wonderful things about the Old Rite is that on All Souls day the Priest can celebrate three Masses without leaving the Altar. It gives an excellent idea of Mass as the Priest's work, and although it is nothing compared to physical labour, it is supernaturally tiring.

Anyway. This year I said the Masses at Bellingham, and these are pictures of the inside of the Church set up for the Masses.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

This could be yours

This was my view this morning as I went down to say Mass.

This could be yours (if you are a priest in good standing etc... see previous post)...

Wednesday, 26 October 2016


As I will be returning to my Diocese in September 2017,  the good family here at Swinburne will again be without a chaplain.

If you are a priest in good standing, with permission from your Bishop, and would be free to serve from September 2017, then please get in touch and I can give you more exact details of what being here entails.

I've had immense fun, if that helps!


Saturday, 24 September 2016


Update: From next weekend (Sunday October 2nd) Masses will be as follows

Swinburne 9.00am
Bellingham 11.00am

I will sort out the Latin Mass a few weeks after that once I know what the whole Sunday schedule is working.

Please keep Abbot Cuthbert Johnson in your prayers.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Temporary/Semi-permanent change

My neighbour in Bellingham is not too grand at the moment, so please pray for him.The upshot is that I am covering his Sunday Mass, so for the moment


in Swinburne. As soon as possible I'll reschedule it... I am saying private Latin Masses, but they are a bit as-and-when. I am hoping that in a few weeks, things will settle back down, and I'll let you know what is up.

If you are in the region, then email me (address to the right) and I'll fill you in.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

The Great North Run

Today is the Great North Run. It is a fantastic thing which takes over huge chunks of south Tyneside. As a boy we used to go and watch them running past... after church of course.

Those of you know know me will find it very surprising indeed to know that I once did the Great North Run. Actually it was the junior Great North Run, but as allergic to activity as I am, let's not quibble. I remember lots about it. I used to try to practice (not too much I seem to recall) by going for a run in the evening. I would listen to Aha on cassette which I played through a cheap version of a Walkman. "I've been losing you" takes me immediately back.

I cannot remember much about the run itself, but it definitely happened as I have a medal.

It was 1987 and I was still 16. A whole life ahead of me.

It is a strange thing, time.

Brinkburn Pictures

A wonderful Mass, in a spectacular place.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Brinkburn Priory Mass

If you're around Northumberland today, then there is a Sung High Mass at noon at Brinkburn Priory.

Come along.

And if you're not around... then why are you not in Northumberland?

Friday, 9 September 2016

Time for a new religion

What follows is not real, and I don't believe it… just saying.

I'm wondering if we should revive the prophets of Ba’al.

As you know these were the chaps who Elijah so wondrously destroyed in I Kings 18. With historical hindsight we can see that the way they were presented in the Old Testament was very much from the ‘history is written by the victors’ school. In many ways we should see them as an indigenous religion which came into contact with nascent Israelite worship, and then subsequently came not into contact but rather into conflict with it. So the Israelite religion changed from being inclusive (taking the best from Ba’al worship, such as their fertility practices) to being restrictive (blaming the stranger in their midst for external pressures and defeats – ‘we were exiled because we were not strict enough to keep our exclusive faith in God’).

We cannot deny that Ba’al worship touched a psychological need in the people of the time. The little we know of the religion speaks of the need of the individual and the society to seek order in a disordered universe. The climatic changes that we see in the present day fit in much better with Ba'al worship, ‘appeasing’ a deity so connected with the uncertainty of weather systems. Of course, we should not speak of ‘appeasing’ the deity, but rather the response of the individual to apotropaic rituals (things that we do to avoid evil or bad results – such as throwing salt over the shoulder, or touching a lucky object). In this we can see that both the individual and society generally could benefit from ritual actions connected with a deity (in this case Ba’al) who is exclusively connected with an uncertain climate.

Some of the imagery of Ba’al is already current in our society. By this I do not mean the facile ‘satanic’ images, but rather the classic bull iconography. We can see examples of this in the great financial districts, notably New York. This symbol works on many different levels, from the strength and assertiveness of the individual, to the capitalistic economy which drives the world’s wealth. The individual nature of the bull, however, also shows  his limitless power to break from the oppression of man. Just as with the storms which he represents, Ba’al the bull cannot be controlled by the power of human action. It would only be through its destruction, the destruction of the bull/Ba’al, that man could assert his dominance. And with the world’s ecosystems, in the conflict between the storm clouds (Ba’al) and man, were man to win, it would necessarily bring about the annihilation of the other. The storm would be averted, the bull killed, but in the process humanity would bring about its own destruction. Ba’al and mankind live together in a harmonious symbiosis in which the human being finds his place with respect for the ecosystem, the storm, the bull-god Ba’al.

Ba’al also speaks to our present questions of self-identity and trans/gender. Although the main iconography is the bull, Ba’al is also intimately associated with his consort Asherah (Athirat) and his sister Anat. The latter, through self-harming knife rituals, tries to appease the god Mot, who represents death (the death of the individual and the world through the enslavement of the fertile Ba’al). Anat, through surgical modification finds for herself true peace. Asherah, through fertility rites and no modification, similarly serves her ‘god’. For his worshipers, then, they may be Anat (physical modification bringing about a new state of being) or Asherah (finding within themselves identity bringing forth fertility in whatever form).

We know that now we reject nothing that is good in any religion, and so it would seem to be perfectly permissible to revive a religion which existed successful for so many years. It is not manufactured as it was a real response of the human soul to God, that yearning of the human heart which asks the deep, fundamental questions. It could well be that a full presentation of Christianity is too much for people, especially with cultural differences and the negative connotations which some societies have for the faith of Christ. Surely it would be better to have any response to God, than none at all? And perhaps, dare I say it, something which has had no connection with Christianity, and so no allegations of suppression or conflict.

So perhaps a reviving of Ba’al worship is the way forward.

Then we can have a dialogue with it, and learn from it.

Wouldn’t that be nice.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

New Project

Following the great success of Our Lady's vestment, (see here, here, here) I am now embarking on one for Christ the King. It will be a version of the picture at the top of this post. It comes from a priestly ordination card and I have not seen it elsewhere. I made a set of Altar Cards in a kind of an Art Deco style (I'll take a photo at some time) with the same image on, and thought that it would be spiffy indeed to have a chasuble. Also I have some edging the same as the stuff on the Marian vestment but in a kind of pink, so that would be groovy, and if I use the same material and style, then they'll both look as if they came from the same place.

I'll keep you up to date...

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Council Joke

There is a story going the rounds of a journalist who wanted to crash the secret sessions [of Vatican II]. He borrowed a cassock and clerical collar, attached himself to a Bishop, explained that he was a a priest who wanted very much to get into the Council for just one day. The Bishop finally got him in as hid official chaplain. After Mass the reporter’s conscience began to get the better of him and so he finally said, “Your Excellency, I have a confession to make. I’m not actually a priest, I’m a newspaper reporter.” To which his companion replied, “Well, one confession deserves another. I’m not actually a Bishop. I’m a newspaper reporter too.”

From : Brown, R. A., Observer in Rome: A Protestant Report on the Vatican Council, London, 1964, p.31.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Septenarium Time

The Septenarium of St Nicholas of Tolentino

The Feast of Nicholas of Tolentino is on the tenth of September. There is a devotion to this holy saint as a patron of the Holy Souls in purgatory. During his life St Nicholas had visions of the suffering souls, and since then his prayers were asked to ease their purification.

There is a devotion to him called the Septenarium, seven days of prayer for the Holy Souls before his feast. As with the novena to the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, it ends on the feast day iself.

The Septenarium begins TODAY, and continues until the ninth (the day before the feast on the tenth).

Here is a prayer to be recited daily for the intentions of a holy soul.

O Lord, God of holiness and light
You do not allow any shadow of darkness or evil 
in Your sight and so in Your mercy 
You grant to those who have left this world 
burdened with sin, a time of purification, 
applying to them the spiritual treasures of your Holy Church.

Hear my prayer 
and through the merits of Christ, 
the Blessed Virgin Mary, the saints 
and all Your faithful people 
bring to an end this time of waiting 
for our beloved dead, especially for N. (insert the name here).
In Your providence 
You have chosen Saint Nicholas 
as a special intercessor on behalf of the departed; 
hear also his prayer for those 
whom I recommend to You 
through his intercession.

Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

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