20 August 2017

Wiggery

In the passage by the Dining Room of the Clergy House attached to S James, Spanish Place, I noticed an engraving of a prelate carying the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance. I think the engraving had a date around 1792.

The prelate was wearing a wig.

I'm sure there are zillions of you out there who have the following sort of information right at your snuff-stained finger tips: did prelates eo fere tempore wear their wigs all through Mass? Even after their zucchetto had been removed as they approached the Consecration? When did Catholic bishops stop wearing wigs? (I think it went out of fashion in Anglican cicles in the 1830s.)

Changing the subject ... readers will have seen the splendid picture on Fr Tim's blog some time ago of the admirable Bishop Richard Challoner wearing his wig and blue choir dress. French and Irish bishops also wore blue ... illuminating comments?? A sign of Gallicanism? When did it cease?

We poor converts need all the help we can get in our struggle to become genuinely inculturated.

Good to see Fr Tim blogging again. Like all good Catholics, I check his blog daily.

18 August 2017

Fr Aidan Nichols, and the Amoris laetitia Crisis

Fr Aidan Nichols, OP, is without doubt the most considerable living theologian of the English-speaking Catholic World. For members of the Ordinariate, he is the great friend who helped and guided us during the years when we were planning, and then setting up, the Ordinariates. And he is as prolific a theological writer as Joseph Ratzinger (on whose theology he wrote a still normative guide, long before the election of Benedict XVI).

Now Fr Aidan has delivered a characteristic lecture on the crisis which has been precipitated by Amoris laetitia. I can't find the full text on my computer (can anybody provide a link?), but the Catholic Herald gives a report. And Fr Zed reproduces the Catholic Herald report. I urge everybody to read it; and to take it very seriously.

I would like to make two comment on my own behalf.

(1) Fr Aidan delivered his lecture at a meeting of the English Fellowship of Ss Alban and Sergius - largely an Anglican/Orthodox Society. Was this a good idea? Washing our dirty laundry in front of non-Catholics?

It was a thoroughly brilliant idea. You see, there are people who think that Pope Bergoglio's style of papacy may be somehow more "ecumenical" than that of some other popes. Bergoglio goes around kissing Patriarchs and begging their blessings; the man who insults his fellow-Catholics with such easy and iterated fluency can speak only well of non-Catholics. He is reported to have reopened the "Question of Anglican Orders"; he spoke ambiguously about "intercommunion" with Lutherans; made a fool of himself at Lund.

But, as you will forgive me for reminding you, I have often tried to explain on this blog that thoughtful Orthodox and Anglicans will not be attracted by a model of Papacy which can make any Roman bishop a self-obsessed tyrant propped up by an unhealthy personality cult; somebody whose least word or whimsy has to be accepted; who can, at will, change doctrine, morality, liturgy, and law. Such a papacy is not a papacy which the more open-minded Anglicans and Orthodox have ever been prepared to consider. There is no reason to think that they will be any more prepared to accept it when it comes with an Argentine accent and emphasis. Nor should they accept it, because it is not what the Catholic Church teaches.

Fr Aidan reminded his hearers that Vatican I in fact limited the papacy; and surmised "it may be that the present crisis of the Roman magisterium is providentially intended to call attention to the limits of the papacy [in regard to teaching]"

(2) Very naturally, there have been people, since Amoris laetitia, who have kept their heads below parapets; who have been cowed into acquiescence by fear of the noisy bully-boys, delatores, and sycophants who surround the current Roman bishop. The courage, and unambiguous words, of Fr Aidan Nichols might inspire them to show that parrhesia for which ... at an earlier stage in his pontificate ... pope Francis himself so often loudly called.

Just one more push!!! If we all get our shoulders to the task ... might this be the beginning of the end?

A Problem

Hmmmmph. A Problem. Some time ago I ran into a friend I had not seem for some time. In the course of conversation, he communicated to me the information that the Conclave for the election of the next Pope will take place in October. He was taciturn, but confident, about his sources.

Well, there you go. My own instinct had been that the present occupant of the Roman See would carry on as long as he could, so as to make his own particular agenda even more rigidly safe, and to make yet more of his wise appointments.

So, in an unwise moment, I advanced a reckless wager that my friend was wrong.

Now I've got Cold Feet. Suppose my friend knows something I don't know ...  What will he say when my cheque bounces?

Dear Readers, I desperately need the current pontificate to carry on at least until the early hours of All Saints' Day, Greenwich Mean Time.

I look to everyone to do anything they can to ensure this.

17 August 2017

Apologies

Ten days ago, we whizzed off South for a break, rendering me yet again incommunicado. I have just got back; I have, I think, enabled all the comments I received (and may I say how much I enjoyed them; not a single nastiness). Regretfully, I have to decline to answer some really pertinent queries, because I now have hundreds of emails to dispose of, as well as snailmail, and some unwritten papers which are creeping up on me, with catlike tread ....

It would be great if learned readers were able to look through the now enabled comments of the period 6 August to 17 August, and turn up one or two answers.

I do apologise to readers, who do me the kindness of reading this blog, and have thought me discourteous over these few days. I think I have been.

The Octave of the Assumption ...

... does not, of course, exist, either in the OF calendar or in the (already heavily reformed) books of 1962. Except vestigially; the old Octave Day was made the Feast of our Lady's Immaculate Heart in 1944 by Pope Pius XII. One of the changes made in the post-Conciliar Calendar which I find very attractive is the movement of the Feast of our Lady, Queen, originally placed on May 31 by Pius XII in 1955, to this slot. The reasons for associating this observance with the Assumption cycle are too obvious to need spelling out. The great fourteenth bishop of Exeter John de Grandisson (whom old lags in the reading of this blog will remember I have mentioned several times) arranged to have his enthronement on August 22 and (although it was not the anniversary of his death) to have his obit kept on the day following (is such a practice common?). Naturally; he was a devoted client of our Lady, particularly under the title of Mater Misericordiae, and his devotion seems to have been very much along the lines of that recommended by S Louis Grignion de Montfort.

I suppose an unofficial repetition of the Assumption Mass on the days within the Octave is contrary to current rules both in OF and EF; votive masses of events in the life of our Lord and his Mother are, with the exception of the Immaculate Conception, not allowed. One could, however, say ordinary votives of our Lady. I would like to see restored, as an optional Votive, the old Gaudeamus mass of the Assumption, the one superseded in 1950. It makes an important point about the Assumption: that we ought to see that mystery in terms of our Lady's mediatorial role. The Collect: it is Mary's intercession we need to be saved; the Secret: she has migrated so that we may sense her intercession in heavenly glory; the Postcommunion: it is by her intercession that we pray to be delivered a cunctis malis imminentibus.

16 August 2017

The English Catholic Hymn Book and Emily Clarke's not very Pindarick Ode to Bergoglio

Here is a piece I originally wrote when I was still pp at S Thomas's. I added the last bit in early February after being sent a link to Emily Clarke's unbelievable ditty. I include also some of the original thread.

When I took over the Church of Sancti Thomae Martyris iuxta Ferriviam Oxoniensium, I found a lovely pile of small green hymn books, apparently dating from the 1930s, in a cobwebby cupboard. The English Catholic Hymn Book  is full of absolute gems, recalling the triumphalist Anglo-Catholicism of the Age of Martin Travers. The numbers start at 800, so as to render it practicable to use it together with the English Hymnal. 936 begins 'The happy birds Te Deum sing,/'tis Mary's month of May./Her smile turns winter into spring,/ And darkness into day' (Alfred Gurney, I think). It goes nicely to the tune of 'O little town of Bethlehem'. Then there's 928, 'O Mother! will it always be,/That every passing year,/ Shall make thee seem more beautiful,/ Shall make thee seem more dear'. That, of course - no prizes - just has to be by the greatest of the Romantic poets, Fr Faber. How could the tedious Mr Wordsworth possibly compare with him? I used it at S Thomas's to the tune of  'It came upon the midnight clear'.

We were once visited (anonymously) at S Thomas's by a chap writing reviews of churches (he wrote in his report of us that he would have given my homily 9/10 had I not ended with a ringing account of the Battle of Lepanto which, he thought, reduced it to a 5/10). He was scathing about the singing of 'I'll sing a hymn to Mary' to the tune of the Eton Boating Song ... a marvellous idea which I had picked up from the late, mighty Fr Melrose of S Giles in Reading (whom I think of every time I take up my beautifully printed 1940s Breviarium Romanum to say my Office, or one of my sticks to go for a walk .... all formerly his). But ... great heavens ... this is just the sort of plundering-for-God, robbing the Devil of his best tunes, that Faber, and the Wesleys, performed. It is the New Evangelism at its most joyous.

The only unhappy gap in this diverting little book seemed to be its lack of Cardinal Wiseman's 'Full in the panting heart of Rome', with its rather unEnglish manipulation of the English language. This got me wondering about producing an Anglicanised version celebrating the infallible magisterial Organ of the poor old Church of England: 'Full in the panting Synod halls /Within Church House's peeling walls/From pilgrims' lips that kiss the ground/Breathes in all tongues one only sound/ God bless our Synod, great and good.'

YAROOH!! Since I wrote all that, I have (4 Feb 2017) been directed to a four-minute Youtube clip showing some elderly chanteuse in a very obviously Irish church, singing an extremely sickly song actually invoking our dear Holy Father! As if he were a numen or ad minimum one of the mighty ones in the militia caelestis exercitus! At least Nicolas Wiseman didn't invoke Pio Nono!! Or is the song a coded cry for Santo subito? It includes lots of shots of pictures of the Sovereign Pontiff exposed in the church for veneration and framed for the camera by candles. And the poor chap isn't even dead yet!

The lady seems to have changed her dress after every few words of her ditty, so I presume an original full, unexpurgated fifty-minute video must somwhere exist showing her multiple strip-teases.This blog will preserve her aged modesty by not providing a link.

The full breadth and depth of Bergoglianism and its sugary personality cult continue to disclose themselves!!

15 August 2017

Sol in Virgo [sic]

Medieval calendars quite often inform us that the Sun is in the constellation Virgo on August 15. I wonder if it has ever been suggested that this astronomical fact has anything to do with the selection of that day to celebrate our Lady's Assumption.

Which Collect is preferable on August 15? Certainly not an Anglican one: they all seem rather sad examples of modern Anglican collect writing: a couple of wordy banalities shoved together, and all the time a sense that the writer is looking over his shoulder fearing that he might be deemed too "extreme". The Pius XII composition is preferable ... but I'm not over-enthusiastic about it quite simply because one of the older collects it replaced is, in my view, quite exquisite. I don't see how anybody whose affections are excited by the old collect Veneranda, and by the teaching of S John Damascene, and the explicitness of the Byzantine Liturgy about the glorification of Mary's wholeness, can dislike the Pius XII collect for doctrinal reasons. But minimally conceived 'doctrine' does not exhaust the content of 'Tradition'.

My own hesitations about features the 1950 definition relate not to what it said, to which I of course very cheerfully subscribe ex animo, but (1) to what, by not saying, it appeared to imply could be forgotten - such as the edifying common legends which informed piety and art in East and West for centuries and about which Blessed John Henry Newman spoke so sympathetically; and (2) to the fact of our Lady's mediation of all graces. This was clearer in the older traditions of East and West, but in the West has more recently been overshadowed by preoccupation with the idea, true in itself, that the Assumption is the logical consequence of her preservation from all sin.

Mary, in History, mediated all graces to humankind by giving birth to the Redeemer; her Assumption means that what she was in History she is ontologically and for all eternity. In her, function and ontology are fused into one.

I would feel more cheerful about the 1951 liturgical texts if they could be supplemented by a definition of our Lady as Mediatrix of All Graces. It could be phrased in the elegant Greek with which S Gregory Palamas explained this truth! Pius XII, for all his Marian devotion, was opposed to the concept of our Lady's Universal Mediation. Now is the time for Pope Francis to recalibrate the balance!

14 August 2017

William Penn the Papist?

In 1687, our late Sovereign liege Lord King James VII and II visited Chester. His host, Bishop Thomas Cartwright wrote:

Sunday 28 August He walked thro the City (the Mayor, bareheaded carrying the Sword before him) to the Castle and heard Mass in the Shire Hall. 

He went into the choir of the Cathedral at nine o'clock where he healed 350 persons. After which he went to his devotions in the Shire Hall, and Mr Penn held forth in the Tennis Court, and I preached in the Cathedral.

His Majesty left the following day for the great and royal Catholic shrine at Holywell to pray for the birth of an heir. He was presented with the shift which his great-grandmother Mary Queen of Scots wore when she was beheaded. He was, indeed, granted an heir: our late Sovereign liege Lord King James VIII and III.

I presume 'healed' means that he touched for the King's Evil.


Bishop Cartwright was one of those Anglican bishops who supported the King's principled desire to allow Toleration to all, Papists, Anglicans, Quakers, and the rest. He published the Declaration of Indulgence, was one of the Commissioners for the reform of Magdalen College; and, after the Dutch Invasion, followed the King into exile. He died in Dublin in 1689.

I presume Mr Penn was that same Quaker William Penn who had dealings in North America and who accepted as sincere the King's policy of religious toleration.

The visit to Chester must have been one of those truly 'ecumenical' occasions which happened in England during this reign, before the Great Treachery of 1688 put a stop to them.

It is surprising how little we hear about this particular little corner of History.


13 August 2017

Drip drip drip

It must have been a schoolmaster that wrote the Quicunque vult. A parson couldn't have written it; parsons address their docile congregations Sunday by Sunday and are often complimented and sometimes disagreed with: each of these phenomena conceals the brutal fact that they aren't actually understood. It is the schoolmaster who endures the painful learning experience: the students leave his study or seminar room; he is happy in the sure and certain knowledge that he has just had one of the best, most learned, most interesting teaching sessions of his life ... and he discovers, when he reads the essays or marks the examination scripts, that the group falls into two groups: two thirds of them, who clearly hadn't the faintest idea what he was talking about; and the other third, who did understand, but have forgotten it three weeks later. Or do I mean one week?

The parson feels the need to make sure he never bores the folk, so he never says the same thing twice. If you preach what is essentially the same message ... just dressed up a bit differently or put the other way round ... clearly they will notice your repetitiousness. So you don't do that. And this means that the poor people never get anything straight. Because with humans you just have to lay it out as simply as possible, elementary stage following elementary stage, and then just keep repeating it. Drip drip drip. And a few years later, just a few might start to grasp a bit of it. This is the truth that teachers find out very fast and preachers rarely do.

Cranmer may, as a good Protestant, have disapproved in principle of 'vain repetitions' but he had a dash of the schoolmaster about him. He understood drip drip drip. Not so Bugnini. So Cranmer ordered that the 'Athanasian' [it wasn't actually written by S Athanasius] Creed should be used once a month, but Bugnini, blindly and mechanically following the suggestion of the Council that repetitions should be reduced, expunged it from its last toe-hold in the Liturgy of the RC Church.

Just try reading it. You'll find it on Trinity Sunday in the 1962 Breviary, but before Pius XII started meddling, it was said on every Sunday where the liturgy was not lengthened by a Commemoration. In the Church of England, it was ordered to be said twelve times a year. It is printed after Evensong in the Prayer Book. "Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet there are not three eternals, but one eternal. And also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet there are not ..." Yes; even Bloggs Minimus, your most gamma minus student, will be starting to get the point. Drip drip drip.

'It's unsophisticated. People won't put up with being condescended to in this patronising way'. You can perfectly understand why the Modern Parson, and the Modern Liturgist, heave a sigh of relief as they shovel Quicunque vult into their rubbish bins; something that Pusey and Newman, Aquinas and Benedict XIV weren't ashamed to recite prayerfully and humbly as they said their office. It is my impression that most modern clergy are either Unitarians or Modalists, and (what is worse) they are so unwholesomely pleased with themselves about it.

The omission of QV from the Office of the clergy, for nearly two generations now is, in my view, one of the main causes of the de facto total disintegration of Trinitarian belief in Western Christendom. We've lost that Threefold drip drip drip. But there is another such loss: the use of the Preface of the Holy Trinity on most Sundays of the year ... the Green Sundays, Advent, and the Gesimas . Of course, when one uses repeatedly a liturgical formula, one does not think profoundly about the fulness of the sense of each phrase every time one says it. But ... drip drip drip ... it becomes part of you. Drip drip drip.

12 August 2017

The Cult of the Blessed Sacrament (3)

Continued from the previous two posts.
The Blessed Sacrament, as the Body, not of the dead but of the living Christ, became a focus for devotion, not surprisingly, around the same time as personal devotion to Jesus became common; the revolution by which public liturgical prayer in the Latin Church continued, in the classical formulae, to be to the Father through the Son, but was accompanied by a vivid devotion of the individual directly to the Son. This is also the age in which the Elevation of the Host began its rise to the status it possessed at the end of the middle ages as the principal focus of lay devotion. And this was the age when some fashionable cosmopolitan intellectuals apparently started to view with disdain a number of features in the inherited cult of relics. The massively wealthy Avignon nominee to the See of Exeter in the 1320s, John Grandisson, appears to have suppressed there an embarrassingly crude popular hymn which was sung annually at the Exeter Procession of Relics. And in the vast lists of benefactions which he made to his Cathedral and to his collegiate foundation at Ottery and to the beneficiaries of his will, I have found not one single mention of even one single relic. But he possessed and donated monstrances of fabulous wealth and beauty; he ordered that country parsons should bear the Sacrament to the sick with proper dignity and not just carry It any old how. I have no doubt that his instinct was: relics are all very well, but the Sacrament is the living Body of our Maker and Redeemer.

Grandisson was the protege of the (undervalued) pope to whom, under God, we owe the Feast of Corpus Christi and the immense devotional riches, for Latin Christians, of the Cultus of the Blessed Sacrament. We are often told that this all started with the bull Transiturus in 1264. Forget it! That 'legislation' had not, as far as can be discerned, been followed* even in the papal chapel itself. But Transiturus was repromulgated probably* at the council Vienne in 1311 and then incorporated in the collection of decretals called the Clementines which was changed and corrected by Pope John XXII. He, in 1317, sent it to the universal Latin hierarchy, and set an example himself by instituting Corpus Christi processions (which had not in fact been envisaged in Transiturus). His initiative spread like wildfire. Nobody quite knew how to do these new things; in 1320 a Council at Sens naively gave up the attempt to legislate for appropriate ceremonial and left the arrangement of this "apparently divinely inspired innovation" to the devotion of clergy and laity.

It was clearly a devotional initiative whose day had come. We Latins can be modestly proud that it was through us that the Lord showed the richness of this wonderful treasure.

This series is now completed.
___________________________________________________________________________

* In those days before printing, there is nothing very remarkable about a papal liturgical initiative directed at the Universal Church being pretty well universally ignored. Nor - although this will surprise and disquiet superconciliarists of all sorts - is there anything strange in the fact that we are far from sure exactly what happened at several ecumenical councils, including Vienne. Ecumenical Councils, as Joseph Ratzinger rather liked to point out, have often done more harm than good. And this is not the first time I have had occasion to point out the crucial significance of printing in the history of Liturgy and - indeed - of Theology.

11 August 2017

Ming the Merciless

Somebody Who Should Know told me that our beloved Holy Father is sometimes known among his Curial fellow-toilers as Ming the Merciless.

The term suggests to me flickering black-and-white adventure movies from the 1930s, long fingernails, improbably droopy moustaches, unimaginable oriental cruelties, opium dens, and all that. Am I on the right lines?

One simply cannot imagine Oriental Cruelties, or even Opium-fuelled Orgies, in Pope Francis' Rome.

Incidentally, apparently the Holy Father, to show that he is not a luxuriating Renaissance Prince, is spending a humble and abstemious August in the Domus Sanctae Marthae. Does anyone know whether or not the air-conditioning (vide Laudato si Paragraph whatsit) is on?

Is there any truth in the rumour that the cooler and papally-vacated Castelgandolfo has been made exclusively available to clerical bloggers and their wives?


10 August 2017

The Cult of the Blessed Sacrament (2)

Continues:
Bishop, however, exaggerates when he talks about the cult of the Blessed Sacrament as absent through the whole middle ages. The thirteenth century shows a dawning awareness of something more profound. A 1260 ordinarium from Zurich finds it necessary to explain that it is "contrary to reason ... altogether absurd" that "the Eucharist, which is the true living Body of Christ, should represent his dead Body". In the same century a conventual ordinal preserved in Dublin ordered the Sacrament to be "honourably reserved for the use of the sick", but less than a century later another hand feels it necessary to add to the manuscript "and for the devotion of the choir".

[There is a red herring to be disposed of here. Dix, engaged in tweaking the tails of Anglican bishops who attempted to issue 'regulations' banning Corpus Chisti processions, loved to point out that the first records of Processions of the Blessed Sacrament were in Palm Sunday processions at Canterbury. Fair enough; the Anglican bishops of Dix's day included a fair number of bigots, who deserved what they got from his versatile and merciless pen. But Dix is perpetrating, in my view, a genre confusion. On Palm Sunday, Christians in many parts of the Latin West desired to actualise ritually the Lord's Entry into the Holy City. They used, sometimes, a wooden statue of the Lord on a donkey; or the Book of the Gospels; or ... sometimes, the Sacrament. The genre is Drama and so the question is: We are doing a dramatic representation of a historical event, the Lord's Entry into Jerusalem: therefore how shall we represent the Figure of Jesus? But the genre of the Corpus Christi Procession is not Drama but Adoration: and so the question here is; We possess the true body of the living Christ: therefore how should we worship Him?]

Once you stop thinking of the Sacrament Reserved as the real but dead Body of Christ which the Faithful need to receive when sick or dying, and begin to see it as the living Body of the living Christ, you will see it not as a supremely potent but dead relic but as the locus for a direct, lived, relationship between believer and Lord. We see this transition in the development of some of the very rare, early, processions of the Host before the end of the thirteenth century. The host was processed together with the other most potent relics of the Church concerned. But, over the next fifty years, such practices became much less common, and eventually disappeared.

And this revolution led to a change in the vessels used for Reservation. No longer were they made of ivory, but of precious metals. No longer were they designed to represent the Sepulchre at Jerusalem. Above all, no longer was the Sacrament to be reserved in the same vessel as the Holy Oils*.

One more piece should conclude what I want to say about this topic.

__________________________________________________________

*In the first millennium - remarkably, to our minds - the vessel blessed to be a container for the Sacrament was often called the Chrismale!