Friday, February 27, 2009

FOCA By Stealth

The Associated Press reports that President Obama intends to overturn the legislation introduced by President Bush to protect medical professionals who refuse to perform abortions, the so-called "conscience clause." So, in the first 100 days: promoting worldwide abortion with the reversal of the Mexico City policy, and now removing the right of a doctor or nurse who object to murdering a baby...... "change we can believe in....yes, we can!"

Monday, February 23, 2009

New York Priests Search Desperately for Cheese Head Gear

With the news that the famous cheese -product wearing Archbishop Timothy Dolan has been appointed as the new Archbishop of New York, it is reported that Chancery officials are searching desperately for the appropriate head gear. A hollowed -out Gouda cheese is considered ideal.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The End of the "dark" Mauriac Passage

For those who were depressed by the quote from Mauriac (they shouldn't be - it's profound and true) here are the last few lines - the 'reward' at the end:

"They have chosen to lose their lives because once Someone made them the seemingly foolish promise: 'He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.' And elsewhere: 'Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven.'

Friday, February 20, 2009

Tablet Attack Backfires

Over the last few days the blogosphere has been full of the news of the nasty hatchet piece on Father Tim Finigan, one of England's finest parish priests, and the writer of the much-viewed blog "The Hermeneutic of Continuity." The particular piece of gutter journalism was produced in 'The Tablet,' the leading liberal Catholic weekly in England, or perhaps the dying voice of an aging and defeated generation in the Church. The essence of the piece was that a small vocal minority in Fr. Tim's parish objected to the liturgical changes he had made over a good number of years. The fact that these changes are precisely the sort of things that Pope Benedict has been calling for is the real 'agenda' of 'The Tablet' piece. However, if the aim of the bitter rag's piece was to squash the reform of the reform, in Blackfen or any other parish, the opposite seems to have happened. Fr. Tim's blog, visited over a million times, has been overwhelmed with messages of support, from all over the world. In reality, 'The Tablet' is not read by many ordinary English Catholics, it is, however, read by many English bishops - that should tell you everything! To my eternal shame, many years ago, I wrote a couple of pieces for the bitter rag; luckily even in my silly and naive days in the priesthood, I wrote nothing heterodox, in fact, the last piece, written about six or seven years ago, was about the return of the sacred to a parish; as I recall, it was heavily edited! Every priest - and God - knows the hidden suffering which attempting to be faithful to the Magisterium can cause a faithful pastor. My non-Catholic friends are often astonished and truly scandalized when they hear of the cruelty of certain "faithful Catholics" towards their parish priests. I know of one priest who was viciously attacked for allegedly spending parish money on vestments and decorations when, in fact, he had not taken his salary for six months to try to help his struggling parish; he never spoke - but those people will be judged for their calumny. I hope Fr. Tim is not suffering too much; the support he has received should be a tremendous boost but, if he is, here are a few words from Francois Mauriac, in his wonderful book 'Holy Thursday:'

"The grace of Holy Thursday will be transmitted unto the end of time, unto the last of the priests who will celebrate the last Mass in a shattered universe. Holy Thursday created these men; a mark was stamped on them; a sign was given to them. They are like to us and yet so different - a fact never more surprising than in this pagan age. People say that there is a scarcity of priests. In truth, what an adorable mystery it is that there are still any priests. They no longer have any human advantage. Celibacy, solitude, hatred very often, derision and, above all, the indifference of a world in which there seems to be no longer room for them - such is the portion they have chosen. They seem to have no apparent power; their task sometimes seems to be centered about material things, identifying them, in the eyes of the masses, with the staffs of town halls and of funeral parlors. A pagan atmosphere prevails all around them. The people would laugh at their virtue if they believed in it, but they do not. They are spied upon. A thousand voices accuse those who fall. As for the others, the greater number, no one is surprised to see them toiling without any sort of recognition, without appreciable salary, bending over the bodies of the dying or ambling about the parish schoolyards. Who can describe the solitude of the priest in the country, in the midst of peasants so often indifferent, if not hostile, to the spirit of Christ? We enter a village church; we find only an old priest kneeling in the sanctuary, keeping a solitary watch with his Master. The words of Christ concerning priests are proven every day; 'I am sending you forth like sheep in the midst of wolves....You will be hated by all for my name's sake."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tavola di San Giuseppe

In preparation for our parish celebration of St. Joseph's Feast Day, during which we will revive the celebration of the 'Tavola di San Giuseppe' with an Italian potluck, after a Mass and blessing for our newly commissioned Icon of St. Joseph, I have been getting myself mentally and spiritually prepared by reading Waverley Root's 'The Food of Italy.' Tonight, two stunning discoveries: the tomato only began to be cultivated and used in Italian cooking in the 17th Century - and Yorkshire Pudding is the direct descendant of Pulmentum, an Etruscan staple, brought to York by the Roman Legions and the cousin of Polenta - which I hate. Our Icon is a true icon, written by the community of the Skete in Wisconsin, prepared in the traditional manner with gesso and egg tempera, the product of about eighty hours of prayer and painting. I am sure the presence of an Icon of St. Joseph, Guardian of the Church and Protector of Priests will be a great blessing for the Parish.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Clerical Attire

Fr. Z. and Father Dwight discuss clerical attire over tea at the Sabine Farm

Monday, February 9, 2009

Belloc on Blogging

I was thinking today whether Belloc or Chesterton would blog, if they had the opportunity. Chesterton, I think, even though his secretary would have to type for him, would certainly have used this rather odd idiosyncratic medium. Belloc would not. He needed to be paid for all his writing, or "hack work," as he called it and, unless you appeal, as some bloggers do, for PayPal donations, this is not a money-making business. But it would have been fun.

A Bellocian Quasi-Limerick:

I wonder if Belloc would blog?

I suppose that the question is odd.

He would say: "not today, because there's no pay,

Can you pay for a pint at the pub?"

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Bellocian Wisdom

I have been reading, for my delight and delectation, Robert Speaight's collection of Belloc's letters. They are a constant source of great quotes and wonderful descriptions of places that no longer exist, due to the horrors of war. I can't quote his description of his visit to the United States in case it upsets the delicate balance of the Universe (remember he married an American, so he loves you really!), but here are a couple of goodies:

On visiting the United States - to Mrs Raymond Asquith, March 11th, 1923:

"It is like living in an amiable and quite pointless lunatic asylum................the nightmare of false similarity." "In the United States the half incomprehensible language is the main shock: like a machine dressed in human clothes."

To Mrs Raymond Asquith, October 26th, 1922:

"There should be persecutions. The Faith never grows properly without them at due intervals."

Alternatives to the Faith - to Mrs Raymond Asquith, July 16th, 1921:

"The alternative to this doctrine is, for noble minds despair, and for ignoble, puerilities. Neither are true. Despair is false because the universe is one: it is an equation with roots, not a mere pluralism and chaos. Puerilities stand self-condemned."

To Major-General Guy Dawnay, March 8th, 1932:

"Our civilization will suffer grievously through the rapid division of men into Catholic and Pagan - especially as the Paganism will not be the glorious Paganism out of which we came, a Paganism of birth, but a Paganism of death."

Monday, February 2, 2009

What is on the Horizon?

We were called, by the Second Vatican Council, to be "alert to the signs of the times;" but the difficult question is always, 'how does one interpret those signs?' One man's interpretation is another man's prejudice. St. Vincent of Lerins would tell us a "sure and certain way:" - the "teaching of Sacred Scripture and the Tradition of the Catholic Church." I have been struck, in recent weeks, how a whole series of "signs" seem to be converging; some distinctly local, some national and some international. On the local stage is the news of the latest Gallup poll which designates Vermont the "least religious State in the Union." For many, that is hardly news. What is interesting is that all the other "least religious States" are in New England. What we are observing, as a "sign of the times," is the rapid secularization of the North-East. The story that is not really being faced by the Church is that this decline is principally because of Catholics leaving the Church. No interpretation so far..... Link this with the number of Catholics - Mass-going and 'former,' - who voted for Obama - the most pro-abortion candidate who has ever stood for the office of President in US history. No interpretation so far.....Link this with the increasingly hostile and vicious attacks on the Holy Father as he tries to reconcile those groups who have been out of communion with the Church for some considerable time. Link this with priests, "prominent Catholics," and even bishops who are openly hostile to the whole papacy of Benedict XVI.......No interpretation so far.......

No interpretation, but some questions: 'ad intra' - are we actually experiencing the long predicted and long gestating schism - which is actually not a schism, because the heretics do not break away, but try and take over the Church - cf: 3rd Century and Arius? 'Ad intra' - in the North-East: while we try and entice people back to Mass (one deanery in a North-Eastern diocese even suggested "more guitar music" - like, far-out, man - circa 1971 - that really worked!) have we any sense of the urgent need to re-evangelize those already IN the pews, long before we bring anyone back. Not only that - but will we bring them all Benedict is really trying to bring - the "reform of the reform" - quality in EVERYTHING - music, preaching, beauty, transcendence? - or do they come back to everything they left in 1996 - or '83, or '77? 'Ad intra' - the Obama vote? -Preaching and teaching office of Bishop, Priest and Deacon - enough said!

'Ad extra' - the growing secular hostility : some words from my friend Hilaire Belloc, in one of his letters to Mrs Raymond Asquith, December 17th, 1927:

"They of the Faith are not supported. We are rare, few and alone. It adds immensely to the difficulty of the defence. For, to have a society about one is to breathe an air. From that air we are cut off, and we lack its sustenance. The more glory. Remember that this holding of the outposts is not only a great task but also by far the most fruitful one."

Sunday, February 1, 2009


It seems that the Russian Orthodox Church overlooked the Patriarch of Stowe and Moscow, Vermont, for some chap called Kirill. I hope he's not an ex-KGB agent like the last one. I, on the other hand, was once turned down by MI5 - happily, otherwise I might never have become a priest. I think I might start wearing one of those hats, as the rightful Patriarch of the only Moscow under my jurisdiction.