Wednesday, August 26, 2009

On the Passing of "Great" Men

Scripture reminds us that it is a "holy and wholesome thing to pray for the dead." That, indeed, is the very purpose of a Catholic Requiem Mass. The eulogy, however, falls into an entirely different category. The Catholic Church was very wise to allow no place for such a dangerous form of speech for most of the last two thousand years. Save the stories for the Wake, which, unlike the contemporary bland "gathering" in a Funeral Parlour here in the US the night before the funeral, used to be in the family home and would involve "veritas" not from vino, but perhaps from Johnnie Walker (Black Label). We now have the contemporary eulogy, or eulogies, delivered by the new priesthood, who celebrate their liturgies via the medium of television. Truth, even in charity, or "caritas in veritate," is not a feature of the new eulogy. This night, a recently departed Senator; a "Catholic" Senator, was described on National Public Radio as a "champion of the oppressed and the needy:" however fifty million unborn Americans obviously did not fit into that Catholic Senator's list of "oppressed and needy."

In November 1997, Father George Rutler, no fawning eulogist or sycophant despite his friendship with Presidents, Princes and Potentates wrote a classic "crie de coeur" in Crisis Magazine, which is more than relevant on this day. Entitled 'Speaking Well of the Dead,' the full article can be found in the archives at, where Crisis now has its internet home. It is quite magnificent: a few choice morsels to whet your appetite in search of the piece -

"In the sanctuary where only truth is to be spoken, eulogies were discouraged in more honest days when even romanticized charlatans and avuncular Caligulas could be buried with the crepe of contrition."

This culture "mocks the imperatives of the mystery (of death) by applauding the guilty as cold-bloodedly as it destroys the innocent. Where the idol worshipped by a culture is one's public image, even candor must be sacrificed to it; and when only the self is celebrated, celebrity canonizes itself."

"In obedience to the Divine Mercy, speaking well of the dead may sometimes require not speaking good of the dead."

"In the moral order, one may not pass final judgment on another....our present problem is not the arrogance of damning souls to hell. The plague is of courtiers who subpoena charity to defend sloth and, having so dazzled the jury, proceed to judge publicly that their little lords are in heaven."

"If eulogies are not sensibly stopped, I do hope they will be more precise."

President Obama will deliver a eulogy on Saturday at the Requiem Mass for Senator Kennedy.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Parish BBQ

We had our Parish BBQ today, straight after the 10.30am Mass. The weather was hot and humid, but the rain stayed away. Parishioners and visitors were fed with free burgers, hot-dogs and chicken - they had to bring salads and desserts. It seemed to be a nice mix of young and old - but many people were wondering where my priest-Uncle was: poor Fr. John - they thought he was my Uncle - it's the white hair!

Friday, August 21, 2009


Father John, the blogging Parish Priest of South Ashford in Kent has been with me for a week. He leaves on the morrow at the extraordinary form time of 5.15am, having celebrated a private (Extraordinary Form) Mass at 4.30am. He has had wonderful weather for his week here and has done a number of 'Vermont things,' including both swimming in a pond and a river, biking up to Smugglers Notch and being fed by a number of my good parishioners. He will join his priest-brother, Fr. Stephen Boyle, in Marquette, Michigan, where they will stay with Fr. John's good friend the Bishop of Marquette, Bishop Alex Sample. Then they return for a few days in New York City - luckily English priests have a richly deserved proper vacation, something most of Catholic Europe understands, even if it isn't very Catholic anymore. It has been a great joy to have had Fr. John with me and, believe it or not, he finds the Church in this part of Vermont both healthy and impressive! I suppose it takes an outsider to see things we do not see (even if his spectacles are a little rose-tinted!)

The Tablet

The Tablet editorial team try and clean up their latest mess.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Catholic Man of the Year

Bishop Edward Slattery, of the Diocese of Tulsa, who has decided to offer all Masses in his Cathedral 'ad Orientem' - the Reform of the Reform continues!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Caritas Arrives

Caritas in Veritate, better known as Father John Boyle, arrived this evening after his long transatlantic flight. He arrived on what was, without doubt, the hottest day of the year, but seemed remarkably calm and collected. After a swift pint, we repaired to our local Italian hostelry for a Spaghetti alla Puttanesca. He came with the urgent supplies of Marmite, the lack of which was beginning to cause serious psychological problems for this writer. Tomorrow, the good Father, if the jet-lag is not too bad, will join me for the 10.30am Mass - I don't think he will make the 8.00am.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Newman Anniversary

Today, the feast of St. Clare of Assisi, is also the anniversary of the death of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman. This year's anniversary takes on a special significance because of the announcement of Cardinal Newman's beatification next year. I sincerely hope 'The Tablet/Bitter Pill' doesn't get its way and have the beatification turn into an absurd Anglicanfest, pretending that Newman really "didn't believe in all that conversion to the true Church business."

Father Rutler sent me an interesting email with the report from The Times (of London, of course) for August 12th. 1890. Although the tone of the report speaks of his greatness, it is interesting to note that the theme of the report is that Newman, great as he was, may not have been that influential..... "For the present a mighty man has fallen, yet we are much as we were."

"The truth is that the great Cardinal has occupied so exceptional a place in human affairs that, while he has largely influenced them, he has had himself to discover and even to recognize that they could go on without him...........Forty years have now shown that the Church of England can pursue its course without his guidance or his warnings; still more have they shown that it is not such men the Church of Rome most trusts and employs." One might almost say that was a Tabletesque hatchet job! Yet there is a line of prophecy which goes to show that the object of yesterdays hatchet job is, nearly 120 years later, going to be England's next Beati - and possibly a Doctor of the Church in good time: "It was his own choice to be Athanasius contra mundum. Whether from his ashes will arise the avenger, to do for him the work he has not seen done with his own eyes, and so reverse the judgment of time, is beyond even conjecture." Is it?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Welcome Back!

My good friend, and my Mother's most solicitous and caring parish priest, Father John Boyle, is back in the world of blogging. Formerly the notorious "South Ashford Priest," Father John's new blog is called "Caritas in Veritate" - I wonder if he got that idea from anyone important? Judging from the comments on other blogs, many people are very happy that he is back, this infrequent blogger included! Father John will be here with me in Vermont in a couple of weeks as he begins his vacation; unfortunately he can only stay a few days before he heads to another part of the USA to join his priest-brother, Father Stephen Boyle, for the rest of their break. Father John is a model parish priest and greatly impressed a number of my parishioners in my last parish when he visited. Welcome back, Father John!