31 October 2009

Mozart's Requiem Mass, so well-known to all, remains one of the most powerful and sublime among those ever composed (Fauré's a close second). Most apt music on this Hallow's Eve. My recommendation: as dusk descends and the wind rises and all becomes cold without, light the tealight in your jack-o-lantern, start a crackling hearthfire, and play the work at full volume while meditating on your mortality between sips of hot mulled wine.

Today begins the first of Hallowtide, three days devoted to the dead, and in particular, devoted to meditating on the perils of hell and how to avoid it. Certain souls in more fundamentalist circles like to object that Halloween is a pagan festival--which is, of course, an impossibility, as All Hallow's Eve is as Catholic a holiday as it gets. And the claim that Halloween stems from the Celtic celebration Samhain has about as much relevance as the claim that Christmas stems from the Druids' Yule. Some unfortunate, misled souls, of course, use the first of Hallowtide to practice abominations (thus precipitating themselves headlong into the inferno), while even more greatly misled souls use it as a day to celebrate the catalyst for the greatest religious schism in all of history.

All that nonsense aside, my dear Catholics, use this day to indulge in hearty repasts, imbibe refreshing tonics, and in general, to make merry--and for goodness' sake, don't hand out pencils or scapulars or the like when the children come knocking; give them nice fistfuls of candy while wishing them, in your cheeriest tones, a happy Halloween!

A Mirror of Shalott

Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror cracked from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.
Appropriate to the holiday, I shall be indulging in tales of the supernatural written and compiled by Fr. Robert Hugh Benson. A Mirror of Shalott is, as far as I know, the only work of tales of horror written by a Catholic priest (which will, naturally, ensure they will be especially frightening). If my readers know of others, I'd be interested in hearing about them.

26 October 2009

When was the last time you heard of a college consecrating itself to the Sacred Heart?

This past week an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was enthroned in the crowded Chapel of the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts and the College was consecrated to the Sacred Heart.
“It was important that my first year as president begin with this clear display of devotion,” said Dr. William Fahey, President of Thomas More College....It seems natural that our College, which is so focused on the humanities, should have this as a central liturgical moment in its academic year.”

The Mass celebrated was that of the Sacred Heart. Professor John Zmirak noted that the celebration took place on the eve of the 16th—exactly between the current and traditional dates of the Feast of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque—perhaps the greatest proponent of the devotion. “That is consoling and interesting given the emphasis that is now being made by the Holy Father on finding links and points of continuity between the long Catholic tradition and the Church’s recent developments and changes,” said Zmirak.
Faculty, staff, and students joined first in praying the ancient “Litany of the Sacred Heart” and then in offering the traditional prayer, pledging to the Sacred Heart to strive in “person…life…actions…pains, and sufferings… to do all things for the love of Him, at the same time renouncing what is displeasing to Him.”
Through the late 19th and early 20th centuries, whole states consecrated themselves to the Sacred Heart, including Ireland, Poland, Spain, Portugal, and Ecuador. In the United States certain schools and colleges, religious communities, and families would enthrone the Sacred Heart and make the act of consecration.

In 1943, one day in Chicago alone, 125,000 people made the act of consecration. In 1953, the Catholic University of America enthroned the Sacred Heart and consecrated itself to it. A large painting of the Sacred Heart once faced all those who entered the University’s central building, McMahon Hall.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart has nearly disappeared among Catholic academic institutions and the images have largely been moved or taken down.
After Mass, the College retired to the dining hall and enjoyed a feast of seafood and wine.

24 October 2009

Un Endroit Isolé

Santa Cova

Santa Cova is nestled 4,000 feet up in the Montserrat mountains, the fabled place where the miraculous Black Virgin, carved by St. Luke, was found.

A funicular takes one halfway up to Santa Cova; the rest of the way must be made on foot. Along the path one passes the gorgeously done Stations of the Cross.

Further up the mountain is the Monastery of Montserrat and the Basilica, which houses the Black Virgin and is visited by millions of pilgrims each year.

Superficial Preaching: Catholics Are Tired of It

22 October 2009

The Vatican opens its arms to Anglicans – and tightens its grip

Excellent summary by Damian Thompson:
"The faces of many Church of England bishops have turned as purple as their cassocks," said one commentator. They knew nothing about this Apostolic Constitution in advance: the first official notification was a letter from Dr Williams published yesterday, in which he apologised for the short notice but explained that "I was informed of the planned announcement at a very late stage".

This anger is widely shared by Catholic bishops of England and Wales – and not just because they feel that the Anglicans have been insulted by the Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI decided not to consult the English Catholic bishops about his dramatic offer. Indeed, the Vatican's own professional ecumenists in the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity were also kept out of the picture until "a very late stage".

But it is precisely the exclusion of liberal Catholic bishops that has delighted traditionalist Anglicans. It helps explain why, yesterday, Forward in Faith, the umbrella group for conservative Anglo-Catholics, welcomed the Pope's decision effusively.
At a conservative estimate, about 1,000 of the Church of England's 12,000 serving priests have seriously contemplated conversion to Rome. (Many years ago, before he was ordained, Rowan Williams flirted with the idea himself.) When you ask them why they have not taken the plunge, the most common response is: "The English Catholic bishops are more wishy-washy and liberal than our lot."

If they become "Romans", they have reasoned, they will no longer be able to worship God with the solemnity He deserves. On the south coast of England, in particular, Catholic bishops treat their own traditionalists with snooty disdain, and an influx of ex-Anglicans with similar tastes is the last thing they want.

Which is why Pope Benedict has effectively cut his bishops out of the picture. As Cardinal Ratzinger, he made friends with High Church Anglicans; he is the first Pope in history to understand their concerns. He watched in dismay as liberal Catholics and liberal Anglicans engaged in ecumenical dialogue that led nowhere: the Church of England voted to ordain women priests in 1992, and now seems certain to ordain women bishops, too.
The rest is here.

21 October 2009

The Privilege of Being a Man

The Catholic Church makes men . . . Of such she may also someday make soldiers. — Hilaire Belloc
By Mitchell Kalpakgian
A man discovers a great cause, feels moved by a noble ideal, falls in love, or desires a great good that appeals to him. St. Benedict acts and founds his illustrious, enduring rule and monastic order that preserved Western civilization; he takes the first step that begins a chain of events that God and nature assist as a small mustard seed grows into a great plant.
A second privilege of being a man is a physical and mental strength to accomplish difficult things and to endure heavy crosses that demand patience, perseverance, and endurance. Yes, there are weak, ignoble, and cowardly men, but that is not the true mark of masculinity. Strong men depend on themselves — on their own will power and hard work, on their intelligence and resourcefulness, and on their self-reliance and imagination to manage their affairs or to carry the burdens and responsibilities of others who need their protection.
Strong men do not beg for slaves to do their work or whine about doing their duty. They value the privilege to serve women and children and others who depend upon them.
Men possess an enormous sense of humor, laugh easily at themselves and at the folly of others, and enjoy teasing and being teased with a light touch.... What great comedians and wits we have in witty men like Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dr. Johnson, and G.K. Chesterton! Chaucer is unafraid of ridiculing hypocritical, avaricious and lustful priests. In "The General Prologue" he satirizes the friar: "He knew the taverns well in every town, and cared more for every innkeeper and barmaid than for a leper or a beggar." Shakespeare mocks silly conventions like courtly love and grimly grave characters like Malvolio ("Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?"). Dr. Johnson unmasks pretentious language and exaggeration he calls "cant." In response to David Hume and Samuel Foote who boasted they were not afraid of death, Johnson remarked, "it is not true, Sir. Hold a pistol to Foote's breast, or to Hume's breast, and threaten to kill them, and you'll see how they behave." Chesterton makes the famous remark that "Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly."
You can read the rest here.

Oxford Newman Society Has a New Blog

The first Speaker Meeting of term got off to a cracking start with around fifty people packing the Blue Room to hear Fr. Thomas Crean OP speak on the subject of ‘Incoherencies of Atheism’. Fr. Crean is an Oxford alumnus and is well know for his stance against Prof. Dawkin’s celebrated book ‘The God Delusion’. In his talk Fr. Crean identified a number of philosophical inconsistencies in modern atheistic thought. Belief in God, he said, provides us with the answer. Those wishing to find out more should read his book ‘A Catholic Replies to Professor Dawkins’, which is available from Family Publications. Some of Fr. Crean's sermons can be read here.

Among those attending the talk it was good to meet two old friends of the society, Fr. Marcus Holden and Fr. Andrew Pinsent, the co-authors of the Catholic Truth Society’s excellent catechetical project ‘Evangelium’. Fr. Marcus is a Past-President of the Newman Society (the picture from his term as President hangs in the Chaplaincy’s Meeting Room) who is now serving as a curate in the Southwark diocese. Fr. Andrew, another old member of the society, has recently taken up a position as Research Fellow at the Ian Ramsey Centre for Religion and Science at Oxford University.

In other news, HRH the Duchess of Kent has agreed to become patron of the Society. The Duchess was received into the Church in 1994, which attracted national attention as she was the first senior Royal to do so publicly since the Act of Settlement of 1701. In a graceful swipe at the Anglican Church, she said during a BBC interview, "I do love guidelines and the Catholic Church offers you guidelines."

In certain (rather more intimate) social circles, she prefers to go by the moniker, "Poor Mad Kate Kent" (making light of her diagnosis of depression).

20 October 2009

Pope Benedict opens door to Anglicans

The new canonical structure will allow former Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Church while “preserving elements of distinctive Anglican spiritual patrimony,” said Cardinal Levada. Addressing the status of married clergy, the cardinal said that married Anglican clergy would be allowed to be ordained as Catholic priests just as takes place in the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Similarly, following the same tradition, those priests will not be allowed to be ordained bishops.

These ‘Personal Ordinariates’ will be formed, “as needed, in consultation with local Conferences of Bishops, and their structure will be similar in some ways to that of the Military Ordinariates which have been established in most countries to provide pastoral care for members of the armed forces and their dependents throughout the world,” the cardinal prefect said.
Technical details still need to be worked out, and these Personal Ordinariates may vary in their final form, Archbishop DiNoia said. Full details of the Apostolic Constitution will be released in a few weeks but today’s press conference went ahead because it had been planned sometime ago.

17 October 2009

Fr. Jenkins Re-elected

01 October 2009