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.