Monday, December 31, 2007

Chesterton on the New Year

"The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul......unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.....unless a man be born again, he shall by no means enter into the Kingdom of Heaven."

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Here's to starting "afresh about things!" A blessed and Happy New Year to all!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Red rag to the Polish Bulls

According to the Sunday Telegraph, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, has upset the Polish community in England and Wales with some ill-advised and thoughtless comments about their contribution to the Church in my home country. Instead of welcoming the renewing presence of thousands of young people, who are filling previously half-empty churches, the Cardinal feels they are not fitting in properly - like Tony Blair is fitting in, I suppose. So let's see: Right after the Papal election, Cardinal 'Top O' the Milk' says "they" elected Pope Benedict........then he launches a rearguard attempt to fight Summorum Pontificum.......then he welcomes Marini with bells and whistles as more of the anti-Benedict propaganda is launched in the Cardinal's throne room.......just when did he send in his resignation....?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Et Verbum caro factum est

Happy Christmas to one and all - no posting for a little while!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Blair Crosses Tiber

"Timor Domini initium sapientiae!"

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Vermont Wet Socks

My shoe has a hole in it. Not a good thing in Vermont,

Monday, December 17, 2007

An Effect of Benediction

"There is no home-coming like the home-coming into an English house in their windy dusk, and it is best of all when one so comes home from off the sea." Hilaire Belloc

I always find this time of year somewhat melacholy here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Memories come flooding back of the preparation for Christmas many years ago. Having not spent a Christmas with my family for fifteen years I find, as I get older, that I miss the English Christmas more than ever. Of course, the rampant commercialism is just as present as it is here, and England is now a bleakly secular and post-Christian land. But the celebration of Christmas has stayed fairly stable - people tend to have the days from the 25th to the New Year off, the turkey of Christmas Day becomes turkey pie on Boxing Day, turkey sandwiches and, a particular favourite when I was in the Order: turkey curry. People tend to visit one another and, even though they are all stuffed full of Quality Street (a particular candy consumed in vast quantities around Christmastide), the idea, if not the reality, of the Octave of Christmas still exists by the very fact that everyone is, in fact, on holiday. To allow the full level of melancholy to develop, I find that putting on a CD of the St. John's College, Cambridge Choir singing Advent carols, pouring a small (it IS Advent) warming glass of Applejack (poor man's Calvados) achieves the desired effect. Listening to Felix Mendelssohn's 'Ave Maria' sung so magnificently, as only an Anglican choir can, I find myself coincidentally - or not coincidentally at all, as my house guest of last week, the great Blessed George of Park Avenue writes in his new book (available from fine booksellers) - reading the music column of 'The Spectator.' Peter Phillips, who is, I believe, an Anglican, writes approvingly of Pope Benedict's concentration on the musical life of the Church. He makes the important, and over-looked point, that, in the present Holy Father we have the first Pope in many centuries who is a fine musician. With that coincidence dealt with, I return to my ruminating over Christmas past, not in the manner of Mr. Scrooge, more in the manner of Belloc. One of his finest essays, only available if you have an old copy of his 'Selected Essays,' is entitled 'A Remaining Christmas.' He describes a typical English Christmas as it would have been celebrated in his home between the Wars. He describes all the rituals; the meal taken on a table made "while Shakespeare was still living, and when the faith of England still hung in the balance." The children of the village come to receive their gifts, the three Masses of Christmas are said by the priest-guest in the private Chapel and the festivities begin. The Twelve Days of Christmas are kept, with decorations only coming down on Epiphany evening. Belloc continues with his description thus: "This, which I have just described, is not in a novel or in a play. It is real, and goes on as the ordinary habit of living men and women. I fear that set down thus in our terribly changing time it must sound very strange and, perhaps in places, grotesque, but to those who practice it, it is not only sacred, but normal, having in the whole of the complicated affair a sacramental quality and an effect of benediction: not to be despised. Indeed, modern men, who lack such things, lack sustenance, and our fathers who founded all those ritual observances were very wise."
In a "terribly changing time," perhaps what we need most is the "sacramental quality and an effect of benediction" which the ancient rituals of Christmas past encompass, and I, for one, am not surprised the melancholy is so strong at this time of year with the memory of what I once experienced - and maybe will again?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rutler for New York.....or Westminster?

According to 'The Spectator', Munich, Westminster and New York are the three most important posts Pope Benedict XVI will have to fill during his pontificate. With Munich now filled, all eyes are turning to the two most prominent sees in the English speaking world. While rumours have been buzzing around for months about both positions, an intriguing new name has emerged as a front-runner for New York - but in the same breath, he is also reportedly a candidate for Westminster: the mystery candidate is none other than popular EWTN host, author, confidante of princes, potentates and presidents - Father George Rutler, pastor of the Church of Our Saviour in New York City. According to a senior source in the Congregation for Bishops, the Holy Father "knows who Rutler is," and "likes what he sees!" Already possessing a doctorate, which used to be a requirement for Bishops - Roman sources suggest it is Rutler's skill as an orthodox pastor and effective communicator of the faith that seems to have caught the eye of influential figures in the Vatican. Rutler's weekly show on EWTN, with a possible global audience in the millions would certainly give him name recognition way beyond any of the candidates suggested so far. While some might claim Rutler is an ethereal figure, who spends what little spare time he has painting water colours, his administrative skills are beyond question, having revived a moribund and bankrupt parish into a flourishing centre of good liturgy, financial stability and, very significantly for Roman eyes - a seedbed of vocations. In the last six years no less than seven Cardinals have stayed in the simple, yet adequate rectory, and Rutler's links with the great and the good in Gotham make him the underdog that may snatch the bone from all the other episcopal contenders. The intriguing part of this story, which is now receiving strong confirmation from across the Atlantic, is that Rutler's name is also being considered for Westminster. A former Anglican, Rutler was educated at Oxford (his tutor was Rowan Williams, the present Archbishop of Canterbury). A well-known anglophile, Rutler is often mistaken for an Englishman by people with inferior aural skills. A prominent London-based cleric, who insisted on anonymity said that Rutler is "exactly the kind of candidate who would shake things up in Westminster - and he's not part of the club." Rutler is known to be appalled by the very suggestion of ecclesiastical preferement but, if that heavy Cross were presented to him, he is a man of obedience and a loyal servant of the Church. Watch this space...!

Monday, December 10, 2007

New Papal Bottle Opener

Instructions: 1.) Monk with pre-Vatican II tonsure (corona) needed. 2.)Pick up said Monk 3.) Place corona under the cap of the bottle 4.) Flip the cap off the bottle 5.) Drink good Bavarian beer.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Ave Maris Stella

Felix coeli porta - Happy Gate of Heaven - pray for us!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Hope for Advent

I have to admit that the Holy Father's first Encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est" didn't do too much for me. I have read most of the books of the Pope that are in English, and they are filled with wisdom and beautiful insights. However, the new Encyclical, "Spes Salvi," released just in time for Advent, is quite simply outstanding. I read it late on Friday night on the Vatican website and was profoundly moved. I realized I didn't need anything else for Advent, both for personal meditation, or for a thread to weave through the Advent homilies, than this work of the Spirit. Father Richard John Neuhaus, discussing the document on EWTN, suggested that it be read "on your knees;" I know what he means. It is deeply scriptural, in fact, I would imagine this is a papal document that our separated brethren will welcome and find deeply satisfying. A number of the other blogs I check out have references to particular parts of the Encyclical that 'jumped out at them.' One of the sections that struck me was the pointed question the Pope asks each one of us - a question which would make a great basis for Advent reflection: "is the Christian faith for us today a life-changing and life-sustaining hope?" He says we must learn again what we hope for, what we have to offer the world - and what we cannot offer. We certainly cannot offer the world the answer to all its questions; we cannot offer the political solutions that will create Utopia. During Advent, when we are both preparing to celebrate the Feast of the Incarnation, and preparing for the Second Coming, the passage about the Kingdom is especially powerful and beautiful. The Holy Father says that Christ's Kingdom is not some imaginary hereafter, but that His Kingdom is present wherever "He is loved and wherever His love reaches us." As we pray during this time of Advent silence, perhaps our meditation should focus on: Where do we experience His love "reaching us," - and where is He loved? It strikes me that we most profoundly experience His love reaching us in the Sacraments - especially in the Mass and Confession. Advent could be a time to really focus on the incredible love shown us by the Lord each time we assemble to celebrate the Holy Mysteries. His love reaches us in a tangible and personal way as we approach Him in need of forgivness and healing. As the words of absolution are pronounced, His love heals, restores and forgives. Where is He loved? - in His Body, the Church - in His suffering members, especially the poorest and most vulnerable - and where charity and love prevail.

Speaking of St. Augustine, the Holy Father says: "renouncing his spiritual nobility, he preached and acted in a simple way for simple people." Although there is nothing simple about this Encyclical, it is certainly the product of a man of "spiritual nobility," a man who has managed to preach and act in a simple way - and to communicate in a beautiful and fresh manner, the overwhelming joy and hope found in knowing Jesus Christ.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Liturgical East

"Where a direct common turning toward the East is not possible, the cross can serve as the interior 'east' of faith. It should stand in the middle of the altar and be the common point of focus for both priest and praying community....Moving the altar cross to the side to give an uninterrupted view of the priest is something I regard as one of the truly absurd phenomena of recent decades. Is the cross disruptive during Mass? Is the priest more important than the Lord? This mistake should be corrected as quickly as possible."

Cardinal Ratzinger - better known as Pope Benedict XVI.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Infrequent Posting

I have hardly had a moment to even think about posting - and as posting about nothing would be exceedingly dull, perhaps a ten day - or even two week gap is a good thing. The other thing is that everytime I feel like posting, I have to write one of my columns for the newspaper, and that somewhat dulls the enthusiasm. The parish has had a tough week or so, - the death of an eighteen year old, killed in a head-on collision with a drunk driver. Very faith-filled family - very full Church for the funeral - but, as any of my priest readers will know, that kind of pastoral work is both distressing and amazingly draining. That funeral was swiftly followed by another one - then the visit of the Bishop to bless our new reredos. I am also organizing our next speaker for our Clergy Continuing Education - the world famous Father George Rutler will be coming in two weeks to give a day of recollection. During the last week, my good friend Father Stephen De Kerdrel visited from the Mull of Kyntyre in Scotland (picture above). He is a hermit, and we have known each other for 26 years, having studied together and been in the Capuchins. It was very nice to have a visitor from home - to talk about old friends - of course, now that he has departed, it makes me somewhat homesick and the house feels particularly empty. So far, I have not received many invitations into the homes of the parishioners, but given the silly schedule, I probably couldn't go anyway! There are all sorts of good things happening - I am very encouraged by the strong desire for adult education - more than 50 people every Thursday night for the RCIA - but plenty of 'challenges' - not to be described to protect the innocent! Talking with Father Stephen, it was good to hear that everything we might think of as unique to Vermont in the Church is happening at home - good and bad - and the encouragement of a man who spends six hours a day in prayer and has battled incredible trials over the last 7 years - helps one to keep going - especially with his profound historical understanding of the current battle in the Church between the dying forces of a decayed liberalism, as Cardinal George, the new President of the US Bishops recently said - and the truth of orthodoxy. More encouragement was given by the new Papal MC - and the Pope's recent words on music and the liturgy. Father Stephen drew my attention to the words of Archbishop Ranjiith, soon to be the new head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and a key BXVII appointment, about the "rebellion" of some bishops. Father Stephen believes that the schism is very near - possibly within the next year or two. Now, more than ever, reading some good Church history is essential.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Saviour of Catholic Spain

Today is the anniversary of the death of the saviour of Catholic Spain, El Caudillo - General Franco. The rumour is that the new anti-Catholic Spanish government wants to dig up his tomb in the Valley of the Fallen and turn it into a theme park.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Feast of St. Josaphat

Tomorrow, November 12th, is the Feast of the great saint of the Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church, St. Josaphat. It is also the thirteenth anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. Little did I know on that cold, wet day in St. Thomas' Church in Canterbury in 1994 that, thirteen years later I would be somewhere much colder (the first snow is expected tomorrow evening - what a joyful anniversary gift). Much has happened over those thirteen years - watching the Religious Order I joined implode because of heterodoxy, loose morals and loss of direction. Becoming a diocesan priest, accepting that service as a priest is not about the promotion of one's personal opinions - who cares? - but fidelity to the message of Christ, in season and out of season. Things I wish I had known when I was ordained? 1.) Courage and fidelity are more important in preaching than popularity. 2.) The only label that matters is orthodox or heterodox - and that a priest's salvation depends on it. 3.) The only mark of a successful priest is how many of his parishioners get to Heaven - not something measurable in this life - and that endless meetings, 'programs' (American English- sic), and being "busy about many things" are really subtle Pelagianism. 4.) That devotion to Our Lady and the Saints is absolutely necessary for the priestly life. 5.) As Fr. Richard John Neuhaus has said: "fidelity, fidelity, fidelity."

We haven't had one of those meme things for a long time - so, for any "ghostly father" readers - particularly Father John at South Ashford Priest, Father Justin at Nova et Vetera and the upside-down Father Dwight - what are the things you wish you had known at your ordination?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Bishop to celebrate Extraordinary Rite

Just found out the excellent news that our Bishop, Salvatore Matano, is going to celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The Mass will be at St. Joseph's Co-Cathedral in Burlington. Our Lady, under the title of the Immaculate Conception, is the Patroness of our diocese. If this Mass is anything like the first Mass that Bishop Matano celebrated for the Assumption, it should be standing room only. It also fulfills the Holy Day obligation, so any readers in the area should make every effort to attend. Bishop Matano has asked me to set in motion some training for the priests of the diocese who wish to learn the Extraordinary Form - as I'm one of them, I think the first thing to do is get the special kit that the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter is producing. We all need to get our 1962 Missals - Altar Cards - Server training guides - that's before learning anything!

I'm off on my annual retreat this week - totally silent - prayers please!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Their Wounds Were Swords

In honour of the Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War - some of the words of the great poet Roy Campbell, who witnessed some of the martyrdoms (including the simple parish priest who received him and his wife into the Church) - and barely escaped with his own life.

"Their wounds were swords - how bravely worth/the care the angels took to smith them!

We thought they took their victory with them/but they had brought it down to earth,

For it was from their neighbouring spire/the proud Alcazar caught the fire/Which gave that splendour phoenix-birth."

Holy Martyrs of Spain

Today in Rome 498 Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War were beatified. This makes nearly 1000 Blessed Martyrs from that terrible period of anti-Catholic persecution. An awful lot of nonsense is being said about the beatifications - from the extremely anti-Catholic government of modern Spain, which seems to want to revive the latent hostility against the Church in some parts of Spanish society. Anyone who wants to read an impartial account of what really went on in Spain during the Civil War should take a look at the chapter entitled "Spanish Holocaust" in Robert Royal's excellent book 'The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century.' To read the stories of nuns being dragged from their convents and shot, priests and monks lying dead in the streets and then listening to the politically correct version that they were "part of a corrupt regime" is sickening. Royal quotes British historian Hugh Thomas summing up the anti-Catholic dimension of the Civil War: "at no time in the history of Europe, or even perhaps of the world, has so passionate a hatred of religion and all its works been shown." Blessed Spanish Martyrs, Pray for Us!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales

Today used to be the Feast of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. I believe it's another of the feasts the English bishops have played around with, and now they are all lumped together with the Beatified Martyrs in May. Why can't we have two feasts for the Martyrs? I remember as a young man going on the pilgrimage to Aylesford for this feast - presumably that doesn't happen any more? As the Holy Father once said, "heedlessness leads to forgetfulness." It was a felony, punishable by death, simply to be a Catholic priest; it was a felony, punishable by death to aid or hide a Catholic priest. All the persecution was introduced, not by a tyrant or demagogue, but by carefully crafted legislation - the force of the law. Let us not imagine that it cannot happen again - it is already starting in Britain - and it is not far away over here. These great martyrs, priests, religious and wonderful laypeople - should be widely known - and greatly venerated - we will need their prayers!

Monday, October 22, 2007


I can't find any pictures of the 'before' with the Presidential chair in pride of place (I still can't get used to that - whatever happened to the Celebrant's chair - the Presidential chair is what Bubba parked his rear on.) The 'after' picture is, of course, on my last post.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Holy of Holies

"The profound connection between beauty and the liturgy should make us attentive to every work of art placed at the service of the celebration. Certainly an important element of sacred art is church architecture, which should highlight the unity of the furnishings of the sanctuary, such as the altar, the crucifix, the tabernacle, the ambo and the celebrant's chair." Sacramentum Caritatis: 41.

"In the consecrated species He is there and remains there. When a man experiences this with every fiber of his heart and mind and senses, the consequence is inescapable: 'We must make a proper place for this Presence.' .......the tabernacle is the complete fulfilment of what the Ark of the Covenant represented. It is the place of the 'Holy of Holies.' It is the tent of God, his throne. Here he is among us." Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 'The Spirit of the Liturgy'

We now have, through the generosity of one family in this parish, a setting for the tabernacle which encompasses the "unity of the furnishings" called for by the Synod Fathers in the Apsotolic Exhortation, 'Sacramentum Caritatis.' It is also a work of beauty, using materials from the church which had, thankfully, been stored in the cellar. Designed by myself and our wonderful carpenter, Ed Hahr, the brother of one of our young priests, Ed truly offered his services as a labour of love, working incredibly hard to restore damaged wood, hand carve various pieces, stain and paint. As our Bishop, Salvatore Matano said to me , "who could object to the Lord being the center of His church?" As we know, there was never a word in the documents of the Second Vatican Council about the removal of the tabernacle. It really should not be a polemical issue - especially now that we have clear direction both from our Holy Father and many, many bishops throughout the world. I truly believe that, if I do nothing else in whatever time I spend in this parish, the restoration of the "Holy of Holies" will be the most spiritually significant contribution I could make.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Love of the Church

"So too the Church in her teaching office does not arrive, does not hope to arrive, at a fuller revelation than the Revelation which was made once for all by the lips of incarnate Truth. It is only that her privilege of inerrancy enables her to interpret for every age the doctrine once for all delivered to her; what Christ began in Peter's boat, he continues from the slopes of the seven hills. And even the lives of the saints, in which Christendom mirrors the life of its Founder, the fortitude of the martyrs, the mortifications of confessors, the purity of virgins, in what power were they sustained, but by the power which His own merits have bequeathed to His Mystical Body?"

Monsignor Ronald Knox.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

"From the Church will come the reminders that mercy is being neglected or memory cast away, and not from the men who happen to make the next batch of rulers on this restless and distracted earth."

G. K. Chesterton

"Faith is the only beacon in this night, if beacon there be."

Hilaire Belloc

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Nativity Church

Fr. John, at South Ashford Priest blog, has been posting some pictures of Nativity Church which he took on his holiday here last month. He has started a little 'debate' about the suitabilty/unsuitablity of the Altar being lit by artificial light. Check out his blog and add your comments.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Thanks to all the kind persons who responded to my last post - more than ten people ARE reading it - you sad folks! I'm just finishing a nice glass of bubbly with my mother after evening Mass. I find that mental, spiritual and physical exhaustion tends to disappear the more frequently one drinks Champagne - I wonder if the Desert Fathers would disagree. Too bad!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Rumours of my Death

As Mark Twain once said, "rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated!" I have been in blogosphere Purgatory for some time; this new double-parish, and all the attendant expectations of what the new parish priest should be doing have left little time to get near the computer. I still have yet to find a proper routine, so physical, mental and spiritual exhaustion has been a problem in recent weeks. Given that my odd little blog is sometimes read by my parishioners, tactful silence about any issues in the parish is probably the best option, but it can be said, in the nicest possible way, that my predecessor was known for his non-availability - the expectation now seems to be permanent availabilty - a balance will be found! Many people have been very kind (no names to protect the innocent!), a beautiful shrine is being constructed in the Sanctuary for the Tabernacle, which is now back in its proper place, in the very centre of the Church, where previously the Celebrant sat, like Humpty Dumpty to be adored by the faithful. The shrine is being constructed by the brother of one of our young priests, an expert carpenter who loves to work in the Church. He is using some of the original wood and altar railing which was happily preserved in the cellar of the Church. To carve and construct what he is creating new, would be hugely expensive - the cost of the project has been donated by one fine family in the parish. At the moment, I have the great joy of having my Mother stay with me. She is only here for a week, so, in between parish stuff, I am trying to spend as much time with her as possible. I still don't know how to do one of those link things, but Father Jay Scott Newman has a report on his visit to Burlington on his blog. Given all my time constaints, I'm wondering if I will be able to continue the Owl of the Remove. This is not one of those shameless plugs for a response, but as I don't have one of those site meters, I really don't know if it is visited by more than about ten people - will people still come - even if postings are infrequent - or should I so something more useful, like read a book?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Tropical Storm Scott

Tropical storm Father Jay Scott Newman blew into our annual priestly gathering last week. The majority of our priests greatly enjoyed his profound reflections on the truth of the Gospel, beauty and the liturgy. A small minority took great offence at his prognosis of the problems in the Church. A large man, in every sense, Father Newman offered, in my view, one of the most profound reflections I have heard of the reasons behind the steep decline in Mass attendance in the Western world and, from his own experience, what can be done to reverse that decline. He was deliberately provocative, but extremely open to debate and discussion. Constantly using Church documents to back up his points, his great success in his parish in South Carolina is evidence of the truth of many of his propositions, and the number of vocations emerging from his parish is supernatural vindication. The weather obliged by providing two end of Summer days, the 'Limoncello suite' was filled both nights of the assembly with most of the younger priests in the diocese - our speaker and Bishop both partook of Father Dan's famous home-made Limoncello, Lime/Limoncello and the rare as the Siberian Snow Tiger 'Pampacello' - grapefruit cello. Chips were also provided.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

He Da Man!

With only ten minutes for my connecting flight from Newark airport to Burlington, I needed a miracle to get my bag on board. Luckily, I had placed a holy card of St. Anthony in the bag and said the special prayer, asking for a miracle. I promised him that I would let everyone know if he did his work: he did - He da man!!

Wedding in New York State

Been away from the blogosphere for a little while -entertaining the good Fr. John, who is now safely back in England and then travelling to the Finger Lakes area in New York state for a wedding. Fr. John's visit was a great joy, discussing the different issues in the Church in England and the USA. I think he left with a slightly rosy picture of life here - but he had a good rest! My quick visit to New York state for the wedding was a delight - I stayed in the beautiful town of Skeneatles, which has the second cleanest lake in the USA. It really is a most beautiful area and the lake is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. The water is crystal clear and drinkable, which is pretty rare these days. Now I am rushing to get ready for the annual gathering of the priests of the diocese. I pick up our speaker, Fr. Jay Scott Newman tomorrow and he will speak to our gathering on Beauty, the Liturgy and Parish renewal. Pray for our meeting!

Sunday, August 26, 2007


This is just an opportune moment to post a picture of one of England's greats - Terry Thomas - the archetypal 'cad' - the "absolute rotter!"

Catholic Father of Eleven

Yesterday was the Feast Day of St. Louis of France, who is the Patron of my second parish, four miles down the road from the larger one. At Mass today, some of the Knights gave a little history of the good king, but as the statue we have of him is a little effeminate (even though he's got a nice sword) I had to remind the people that, apart from all his other good works, he also sired eleven children, so he wasn't quite as wimpy as his statue makes him out to be! I am still busy burying the dead - apparently that's the way it's going to be from now on around here, but we did have the joy of a nice Baptism at Mass this morning, the first one at Mass here in many years. I am enjoying having Father John Boyle with me, and introducing him to the subtle - or not so subtle - differences in US/English culture. Last night he had some difficulty understanding the young waiter in the restaurant, and we were reminded of Mark Twain's phrase: "two nations divided by a common language!" He's off exploring at the moment, in the horrible humidity of this strange Vermont summer. Tomorrow, after another funeral, we will go down south to visit the charming town of Woodstock and spend the evening with the good pastor of that parish, before returning on Tuesday for evening Mass, Adoration and Confession. Check out Fr. John's blog at South Ashford Priest.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Blogger visit

Fr. John Boyle, better known on the blogosphere as South Ashford Priest, is about to arrive in my parish. Actually, he's not about to arrive, because, in a typically British way, he decided to travel from New York, where he has been for the last five days, by train. I tried to tell him that no-one in America travels by train - but he's English. Consequently, his train is already two hours late and it looks like I will be picking him up from one the less salubrious parts of downtown St. Albans at around midnight. Fr. John is actually my mother's parish priest, so it will be a great joy to give him a little hospitality while on his much-needed vacation. I think I have cleared out the fleas for him, and we have a nice new bed in the visitors room. Posting has been a little light due to a large number of people dying over the last few weeks. I hope it's not something I said.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Once again, I should be writing my column, but I would much rather tell you about the wonderful celebration of the Rite of Blessed John XXIII last night at St. Joseph's Co-Cathedral. On an extremely humid night in Burlington, I thought we might have three or four hundred people at the Mass. St. Joseph's holds eleven hundred and I would guess that we had nearly one thousand people present. It was extraordinary: many young people, young families, a real cross-section. Bishop Matano really did well, preaching with great passion. His comment,"if this is what it takes to fill our Churches, so be it," has echoed around the Web, judging by a few sites I have visited. It was more than twenty years since I had last attended an Old Rite Mass, my first time as a priest in Choir. Apart from having extremely sore knees (good penance, as one of my priestly brethren pointed out) and sweating like a small suckling pig, I suddenly realized why the Holy Father has liberated this extraordinary rite from the artificial shackles imposed in the past. My insight is neither profound nor original, but it was powerfully experienced: the Old Rite is entirely TRANSCENDENT, "Sursum Corda - Lift up your hearts" - it is profoundly THEOCENTRIC, not anthropocentric. It is worship......I get the feeling things will never be the same!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Hunt for the Lesser-Spotted Alb

After a month in my new digs, and still with several boxes to unpack, the long lost alb has been found. It was in a chest which once belonged to my parents, and my mother shipped over to me a couple of years ago. It is a beautiful piece of furniture, dark wood, around 1790 (almost as old as the rebellious Colonies!). Obviously - or not - I had not opened it since I arrived, it was sitting in the bedroom that I will be moving into when I get a bed. Well, the bed arrived, (mattress this week, hopefully) - so I opened the chest. Lo and behold - alb, my biretta, saturno and my police hat - with assorted other goodies. That was a good end to the week of flea bites and a Fed Ex big rig (lorry to readers of the Queen's English) backing into my car and smashing the front. Thanks to the kindess of my Undertaker, I am currently driving aound in a big, black, Funeral Home Cadillac, looking somewhat akin to Don Corleone. The big event of the coming week is the first celebration of the Rite of Blessed John XXIII in the Diocese by our Bishop, on the evening of the Assumption. I will be attending in Choir, so it's lucky I found the biretta. It will be interesting to see what the turnout will be - a party is going from my two parishes. More news later!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

What's happened?

Help! I just did a new post - with picture - pressed 'publish post' - it said "your post has been published" - but it's not there - what do I do?

A little parting gift

Yesterday, while changing before Mass, I caught sight of a vision of myself in the mirror (always a terrifying sight). I had an unpleasant rash on my side, below my rib-cage. It looked like shingles and, as I have been under a little strain lately, I thought I should do something about it. As I don't have a doctor, I had to take myself to the Emergency Room, my first visit to such a place in nearly eight years in the Colonies. Well, I was told, it could be shingles - or, joy of joys, it could be flea bites! That made sense. The former incumbent of this place had a mangy old dog and, according to the web, when pet and human live together, the fleas usually just chow down on the pet but, when the host is removed, as it was here - the fleas go into a feeding frenzy when a juicy new meal appears ( yours truly). It appears that it is the mattresses, because, luckily, all the carpets were taken out - so now we have to get new mattresses. I wonder if someone has one of those little voodoo dolls of me and are, at this moment, sticking pins in it - or fleas!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Can I have a Monsignor Ganswein?

Feeling a little sorry for myself, and unable, as yet to have : a) found my alb. b) moved into my bedroom. c) read a book . d) done any exercise. e) found any system yet of managing my day...... it suddenly struck me ..... what I need is a Papal Secretary, in fact, I need Monsignor Georg Ganswein. He will keep mentally ill people, who think they are long dead Native American tribal elders, at the door. He will not only find my alb, he will make sure it is pressed and ready for action. I will not have to manage my day, because he will manage it for me. He will not, I'm afraid, be able to write my column for the Vermont Catholic Tribune (due today and not yet done - and don't ask trick questions like "how come you can do this silly blog but not your column?") The best thing about having Msgr. Ganswein beside me, will be that when I start to feel sorry for myself, he will remind me of another Benedict who is over eighty years old, has the weight of the world on his shoulders - and doesn't complain.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Five Things

Father Dwight, who spends a considerable amount of his time upside down, has tagged me for 'Five Things I Love About Jesus!' A little strange, I have to admit, because reasons 1,2,3,4 & 5 would be - "He's the Second Person of the Trinity,"......but here goes:
1. He is the image of the unseen God
2. He was entirely consistent
3. He left us His Body and Blood
4. He challenged and comforted
5. He gave all those who believe in Him the hope of everlasting life (thanks, St. Paul!)
I tag Fr. John the South Ashford Priest and anyone else who is interested.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Magnificent Pope

Having been a little "out of the the loop," as they say, I had missed the words of the Holy Father to the gathering of priests on his holiday. These spontaneous question and answer sessions are becoming one of the characteristics of this magnificent Pope. He just continues to amaze me - and fill me with admiration; not just because he's got white fluffy hair and is holy - not even because his name is Benedict (a good enough reason to like him), but his analysis of the Church and the World, from the Regensburg address to these Q&A sessions, are just always so right! Yet everything is delivered in his inimitable gentle and winsome manner. I don't know how to do one of those link thingys (help!), but if you go to (oh, that's how you do one of those link thingys - it just happens, like magic) - if you go there, you can read his response to ten questions posed by the local priests. His response to a question by a priest who felt saddened that his dreams of Vatican II had not been realized is stunning! Papa Benedetto has said, for the first time, I think, what so many of us born during or after the Council have felt - and especially those ordained in the last ten or fifteen years: "the periods following a Council are almost always very difficult.....after the Council of Nicea" there was a "genuinely chaotic situation." Having been ordained during this "genuinely chaotic situation," and having ministered in the same "situation" for the past 12 years, it is so heartening to hear the Holy Father's words - his historical perspective, which is so often missing in all the invective - and his wonderful humility and optimism. If, as my friend, Blessed George of Park Avenue, has written, we are living in the most serious crisis of the Church since the Arian heresy of the Third Century, how wonderful that we have a Pope who is truly, as George Weigel described him, 'God's Choice.'

Friday, July 27, 2007

Still alive!

Finally, after days of confusion, my computer is working. The hunt for the missing alb continues - CBS will soon make it into a mini-series, starring George Clooney as Fr. Owl. Many boxes remain unopened - the frenetic pace of life in these two parishes is somewhat overwhelming - add to that it is in the 90's with extreme humidity. I actually haven't read a word in two weeks, other than my Office and daily Scripture - and the Web, of course! Reading requires concentration and, at the end of the day, eating supper at 9.15pm, I find I have no concentration - it's so easy to turn on fast food for the mind - the tv. Something will have to change! I am also arranging our annual Priests Conference at the beginning of September - I'm looking forward to meeting our speaker, a fellow blogger, Fr. Jay Scott Newman who will speak to our priests about the renewal of the parish through beauty and liturgy - he was featured in George Weigel's excellent book, 'Letters to a Young Catholic.'

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Up and Running?

Still no internet in the Rectory - and no time! Today is the first chance to do any posting - the first weekend went well - everyone was very nice and welcoming - some of my new parishioners even read this blog! I will have to be very polite about my new parishes! The house is a mess of boxes, and, of course, I can't find things I'm looking for, even though I marked the boxes. We are currently engaged in the search for the missing alb - it sounds like a Fr. Brown story. The diocese is in a sort of 'Motu Proprio frenzy' after Bishop Matano's letter, which seemed to get a lot of reaction on the web. Old Latin dictionaries are appearing, birettas are being dusted off - the Bishop is "all systems go" on this one! Meanwhile, I can't find my alb.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

St. Benedict and travel!

My trip home finishes on my Feast Day! Due to the unbelievable traffic in England now, I have to spend the night at a hotel in the airport, before flying back to Vermont tomorrow. The time of visiting family and friends always goes quickly and when I return, I start the new challenge of pastoring two parishes. I presume posting will be non-existent for several days - or weeks! I ask any readers for prayers as I begin this task and I trust in the help of Our Lady, the English Martyrs and St. Benedict.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hendred House

The high point of my trip home, which I intended to have something of the feel of a pilgrimage about it, happened yesterday. We visited the beautiful and ancient village of East Hendred, specifically to visit Hendred House, the home of the Eyston family since 1443. The house, which is not open to the public, is mainly 15th Century, but the Chapel - St. Amand's, was built in 1256. It is one of only three chapels in England built before the so-called Reformation which has never been used for Protestant worship. Mass was celebrated in secret throughout Penal times, and, although the Chapel was desecrated by Cromwell's soldiers, the ancient stained glass was not destroyed. Mass is still said in the Chapel (ad orientem - of course!) weekly. We were guests of the present Lord of the Manor, Edward Eyston, who kindly showed us around. We were able to visit because two of the Eyston girls are nuns in the Sisters of the Assumption - and my Aunt is an Assumption nun - so she came on the trip. (Really sharp readers will remember that it was for Assumption girls that Ronnie Knox wrote books like 'The Mass in Slow Motion' during the war.) The Eystons can trace their ancestry directly back to the family of St. Thomas More and it is because of the incredible relics the family own that I really wanted to come on this pilgrimage. Yesterday, I held in my hands the drinking cup of St. Thomas More, the staff of St. John Fisher and kissed a locket containing a good amount of the hair of Bishop Richard Challoner. In addition we saw an original document signed by St. Thomas More, a book given by Cardinal Newman and signed, to Mrs. Eyston - and several wonderful portraits, including one of St. Thomas More in the Tower. The family could not have been more charming and we were most grateful. The local Anglican Church, a minute or two away, is well worth a visit, with parts dating from the 13th Century. The Chancel screen in the Eyston Chapel (yes - the whole village belongs to the family!) is 15th Century. The treasure is a 13th Century Lectern in wood, with a Crusader's foot treading on a three-headed dragon. There is also a charming little Catholic Church, again on Eyston property, built in the 19th Century, but very traditional in style, with Chancel screen etc. Sadly, no resident priest - if things don't work out in Vermont, I may apply for the living! We then repaired to the Eyston Arms, the village pub, for a good old-fashioned pub lunch. Whenever I think of the English Martyrs, especially St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, I am reminded of the incredible heritage that the Catholic Church in England possesses - and then I read of English Bishops objecting to the Holy Father's Motu Proprio, changing Holy Days of Obligation and courting the 'establishment.' - I suppose there was only ONE John Fisher!

Saturday, July 7, 2007


I promised that when the Postal Order finally arrived, Bunter's great cry would echo around the Blogosphere - "yarooh!" Like many at Greyfriars, most of the members of the Remove doubted whether the Postal Order even existed, despite the Fat Owl's insistence that one day it would come. Now - 7/7/07 will always be remembered. Everyone is down at the Tuck Shop ordering Sherbert Dib-Dabs, Crunchies and Gobstoppers (in fact, Bishop Trautman has ordered a hundred Gobstoppers). The Fat Owl will end the day with a large glass of Bolly, in the company of another fine blogger - South Ashford Priest.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Phone line

Little posting - busy - and phone lines in our village cut by vandals (I don't know if they were Muslim vandals, hearing that the founder of the Society of St. James the Moor Slayer was in town!) I'll have to take the Crusader flag down from the parapet.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Rochester Cathedral

This morning we visited Rochester Cathedral. Despite having lived in Kent since the age of six, I had never visited either the old town, or the Cathedral, even though it's only about thirty minutes away. It's odd how often we don't go to places in our own backyard. The Cathedral is really quite sweet - I was really interested in going so that I could walk the same stones that its most famous Bishop, St. John Fisher himself trod. The entrance to the Choir has a set of eight statues of "heroes" of the Cathedral - St. John Fisher is the last on the right. Interestingly, they have the first real fresco in an English Cathedral in 800 years - in iconographic style, very fresh colours. Then a little visit to a couple of book stores - two Penguin editions of Belloc found: 'The Cruise of the Nona,' and 'Selected Essays', for £4.oo - not bad! Weather still showery and blustery - so much for coming home earlier this year for better weather!

St. Peter and St. Paul

"Rejoice, O Rome, this day; thy walls they once did sign

With princely blood, who now their glory share with thee.

What city's vesture glows with crimson deep as thine?

What beauty else has earth that may compare with thee?"

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rue du Bac

Pilgrimage completed to the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal. Eurostar whisked us smoothly across the Channel for a pre-lunch visit to the Shrine. It certainly is a pilgrimage site, not a tourist spot, with a nice group of French schoolchildren celebrating Mass, and the Church filled with many of the immigrant Catholics from the French diaspora. My two new parishes have been put into Our Lady's hands - so She's the boss! Then we met my French godfather and his family for a delightful lunch at La Coupole, one of the most famous restaurants in Paris, where Picasso and Hemingway used to eat. For those interested: Pate, followed by a seafood risotto, washed down with some refreshing red. Tomorrow the 'pilgrimage' theme of my holiday at home continues, with a little visit to Rochester. We will go to the Cathedral (St. John Fisher's, of course) and then check out some of the second-hand book shops, so I can return to the Colonies with even more books. However, as my namesake, Big Ben, has a personal library of 20,000 volumes, I feel no guilt! Found this great quote on Zenit from Cardinal George, easily the most intellectually able of the US bishops: "Ideological conflict in the Church destroys the unity necessary for mission. We can't live and act together if we are divided on essentials of faith and morals, or if some decide they don't have to obey the bishops unless they govern the Church according to their particular expectations. Some groups operate as a kind of fifth column in the Church, convinced of their own righteousness and willing to weaken or destroy the Church if She doesn't change to suit them." Apart from being absolutely spot-on regarding our own situation, it indirectly addresses a question that I have been pondering for some time: if we can't "act together if we are divided on essentials of faith and morals," can a Catholic priest legitimately turn up at all these ecumenical 'gatherings' that are part of parish life - especially with the Episcopalians? We are truly divided on the essentials of faith and morals and so, I would argue, isn't it more than disingenuous, perhaps even the cause of scandal, to 'stand together' in one another's churches, pretending that all is well? I know the Russian Orthodox pulled out of all ecumenical contact with the Episcopalians after the whole Gene Robinson fiasco - is that the honest thing to do, in a spirit of charity? Thoughts/observations welcome!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Back in Blighty

After an easy flight, I'm back in the garden of England (the county of Kent) where, of course, it is the wettest June ever. The place is populated with cheerful, chirpy, cockney chappies who all sound like Dick Van Dycke. Everyone is riding around on bikes, drinking warm beer, and playing cricket. Laughing bobbies are everywhere and the number of old maids heading for Evensong is a definite traffic hazard. Actually.......Gatwick airport now looks more Third World than the airport in Fiji I passed through 20 years ago. The immigration official who greets you is wearing a burkha, with two little Muslim eyes peeping out. The roads are in a permanent state of gridlock..... but at least there's the warm beer! My mother has been treasure hunting for me over the last few months: among the treasures - a First Edition (illustrated) of Belloc's 'Hills and the Sea,' two other First Editions: 'Stane Street,' by Belloc and 'Sanctions: A Frivolity,' by Ronald Knox. I also have some Maurice Baring, and Chesterton's 'Charles Dickens,' 1907 edition - yarooh, as my nom de blog would say! Meanwhile, news of the impending arrival of the Postal Order is once again hotting up. Apparently, when the school hols come, and Big Ben goes to the lakeside, the Postal Order will arrive just as term ends. Tuck will just have to be eaten at home washed down with all the Bolly that's been on ice for months. Tomorrow we head for Paris for the day - and the Rue du Bac to ask for some help from Our Lady for the new parishes.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Magnificent Martyrs

St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, pray for us!