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!

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Like my friend Fr. Dwight, I've been far from the blogworld for a good few days, but it doesn't seem to matter, because I think I've returned to 'bloganimity' - my new word which indicates the distinct possibility that one has entered that strange state where you are talking to a mirror - and that's your only audience! I was never one for a diary, I could never keep it up - and I wasn't really interested in my thoughts, or recording my daily life. So..... the house is now completely empty, boxes, clothes etc., in the new place. Just my faithful computer, enough stuff to get me through the weekend and then I fly home (it's still home!) for two weeks. While cleaning out my desk I found something written in pencil on a piece of paper. When I'm reading, I often copy out a chunk of something good to put in my little book of quotes, but it's usually in quotation marks - and has the name of the author. This doesn't, so I'm assuming that I wrote it (that happens when you get close to forty-four)! If I didn't write it - apologies, but I thought it was spot-on, given a recent comment of a local Funeral Director (Undertaker for those who speak the Queen's English). He asked me how I'd be "doing the funeral, as all priests do things differently." I told him I would do it according to the Rite, as written in the book..... and then I read my little piece from wherever: The tragedy of contemporary Catholicism is that we really have become a Protestant Church. The personality and liturgical 'fancy' of the priest dominates the worship - a priest can spend several years building up the worship of a parish - good music, fine art, obedience to the rubrics and liturgical norms and then he is transferred. The new priest has 'different ways.' Some people are very happy, some very unhappy, some are bemused, most don't care. They know that "every Church has different rules." They don't - but that is contempoary Catholicism. - if I didn't write it, whoever did knows what's going on - at least here in this part of the Colonies.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Society of St. James the Moor Slayer

Some priest friends have recently returned from a pilgrimage to Compostella. My one desire was that someone bring me back a statue of 'Santiago Matamoros' - St. James the Moor Slayer, the emblem of all those who refuse to bow before the idol of political correctness (and certain cultural suicide). I now have two statues. Some quotes from the great prophet, Hilaire Belloc:

"We have ....seen what was the main cause of Islam's rapid spread; a complicated and fatigued society......It is as a fact the most formidable and persistent enemy which our civilization has had.....The name of Lepanto should remain in the minds of all men with a sense of history as one of the half dozen great names in the history of the Christian has always seemed to me possible, and even probable, that here would be a resurrection of Islam and that our sons or our grandsons would see the renewal of that tremendous struggle between the Christian culture and what has been for more than a thousand years its greatest opponent."

As our society continues to grow more fatigued, I propose an online society - The 'Society of St. James the Moor Slayer' - to pray for the conversion of Islam and the re-awakening of Christendom. I suggest the Litany of Loreto at least once a week. Sign on .........

Sunday, June 10, 2007

New Martyr

Holy Martyr Father Ragheed, Pray For Us.

Pie Pellicane

A rushed and crazy week has come to an end - no posting, due to creeping insanity. I was meant to be packing, in between all the normal parish/diocesan duties. Of course, that has not happened yet. Although the rushing around has been exceedingly silly, there were two bright spots. On the real Feast of Corpus Christi - Thursday, I went with another priest to the Benedictine monastery of St. Benoit du Lac, about an hour and fifteen minutes from my parish, over the border in Quebec. After celebrating the Mass of Thursday of the Ninth week of the year, we arrived just in time for the beginning of Mass at St. Benoit. Although the monastery Church is a rather ugly modern building, everything else is as it should be. The monastery is doing rather well - at least 50 monks, novices, postulants etc. That is, in itself an extraordinary fact, given the terrible decline of the Faith in Quebec. Mass is chanted in French and Latin - how lovely to hear the sequence "Lauda Sion" chanted - and all the other appropriate chants. We had a little procession around the monastery grounds and then we repaired to a local restaurant to celebrate the Feast Day in an appropriate manner. The other high point in a week of 'packing denial' ( I wonder if I need to see a therapist?) was the Ordination yesterday of our two new young priests. A wonderful day! The Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, which seats 1100, was packed, the music was actually really good, the Bishop preached well - and our two new members of the true "Band of Brothers" looked as happy as the cat ( or cats) that got the cream. Reading the news of the martyrdom of Father Ragheed and the Deacons in Iraq, I preached for Corpus Christi Thursday Sunday on the tradition of the Divine Pelican, the "Pie Pellicane" as the 'Adoro Te Devote' addresses Him. I reminded the faithful of why and where Father Ragheed died: after celebrating Mass with his people. I concluded with the timeless words of Ronnie Knox "We shall see the doctrine of the holy Mass as a thing worth living for, if we can see is a thing worth dying for."

Monday, June 4, 2007

Is Rome Burning?

Ronnie Knox, preaching the panygeric at Belloc's funeral, described Belloc's particular gift as a prophet. He was, he said, such a man as saw what he "took to be the evils of our time in a clear light." Obviously, as we go back through the mists of Church history, the great figures who emerge, or who have survived, are also men - and women, who saw the evil of their times in "a clear light." Just like Belloc, they usually had to endure ridicule, hostility or even persecution for this clarity of vision. The darkness abhors the light. Just this very evening, I happened, by some sad error of judgment, to turn on CNN for a few brief moments. A presidential hopeful, I forget the name of the nonentity, apparently a 'Catholic,' was being quizzed by the toothy Paula Zahn about his 'faith.' How could he reconcile support for civil unions and abortion? Well, the political dwarf said, there are differing views - even the Pope doesn't really speak for the Church - my first duty is to my constituents. When the dreadful Day of Judgement comes, which may be soon, these men (and women) will stand together with Eichmann, Himmler, Stalin and Mao. Violent and intolerant rhetoric? No - clarity of vision. Anyone with even a modicum of historical knowledge can see that we are in the dying days of a decadent culture. Yet, many will think that statement insane - the darkeness abhors the light. It is time for Bishops, priests and lay people to cast the light of Christ on the evils of our time. The "culture of death," as John Paul the Great said, is now the dominant force in our culture. It is now the absolute duty of the hierarchy, clergy and laity, to exercise their prophetic role - to see, and name, these evils - for that, they may well receive, as Knox said of Belloc, a prophet's reward. Perhaps a lion is emerging in Scotland?

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Is an acquired taste worth acquiring?

The glass of Guinness pictured is surely one of the most beautiful sights the world has ever known. It is right up there with the Pieta, the view of St. Peter's through the keyhole of the Knights of Malta and a Kentish field on a November morning. The trouble is, I can't stand the stuff. It tastes like a milky, watery, yucky medicinal drink the school Matron would serve to a boy who was suffering from lack of iron. It's obviously an acquired taste. The question is: is an acquired taste worth acquiring? Will the effort be worth it, will it be of longterm benefit. This deep philosophical question must be answered. Even though it's not really a meme - I welcome thoughts - and I tag the Roving Medievalist, Mulier Fortis and the Hermeneutic of Continuity.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Light Posting

Posting is a little light at the moment - and even a little 'lite' - due to extreme funk over packing, etc... I started to take pictures off the wall today, after one of my priestly friends told me last night, "you had better start, it's the 1st of June and you only have 20 days before you go to England!" If you are feeling in a funk, it's a very bad idea to read anything about the state of the Church/Liturgy - well, my Mother always sends her copy of the English 'Latin Mass Society' magazine when she's done. Funk deepens....! Luckily, I have the Anglo-Irish ability to laugh when your leg gets blown off in the trenches. Tomorrow I give the invocation at the 51st Annual 'Dairy Days Parade' here in Little Siberia. It's a wonderful example of small town America - a parade of tractors, cows, fire trucks, kid's marching bands - all to celebrate the dairy farming industry. I gave the invocation in 2003, my first year here - and now in 2007, my last.