Sunday, 30 November 2008

First Sunday of Advent

The first Sunday in Advent is the start of the new liturgical year for the Church, so a good time to make fresh resolutions and start afresh! It is meant to be a time of preparation through penance, recalling to us St John the Baptist's call to repent, confess our sins, thus renew our baptism.

We tend of course to think of Advent as preparation for Christmas, and it is, but the readings the Church puts before us this Sunday, from St Luke and Romans, also remind us that we should also be preparing for Our Lord's Second Coming, and the end of this world.

At Matins, the readings are from Isaiah Chapter One, which I have to admit is one of my favourites. It lays out for us the choice between St Augustine's two cities, the city of God, the New Jerusalem to come - or the city of man, akin to the diseased cities of Sodom and Gemorrah. In this chapter, God laments and rejects the sacrifices offered by those who do evil, but also promises the good things of heaven to those who are willing to obey Him.

Against this background, to me the key text of the Mass is actually the epistle, not least because the verses "The night is passed and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light" are used most days as the chapter at Lauds in the Benedictine Office!

In the Office, I generally tend to focus on the literal reference to arming ourselves for that particular day, particularly when I get the timing right and start Lauds at first light as the Benedictine Rule prescribes. But the extra couple of verses around it in today's reading point both to that daily struggle and to the larger context of the Second Coming, It starts: "Brethren, knowing that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer that we had believed..." And it concludes with an important and beautiful injunction that we might all do well to take due note of, to put aside contention and envy, and instead 'put on Christ'.

So do make sure you get to confession, and think of something extra to do by way of penance through this season....

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

A monastery returns to tradition

The German Trappist monastery of Mariawald has announced, with the permission of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, that it is returning to its pre-Vatican II liturgy and strict form of monastic life.

The monastery, founded originally in the fifteenth century, currently has 1o monks.

Trappists and tradition

The move is particularly significant in that up until now, while there are considerable variations between individual houses, the Trappists (including Australia's Tarrawarra) have been amongst those who have most strongly resisted any return to tradition.

The Abbot General of the Order for the last eighteen years - who stepped down only only a few months ago - for example wrote recently in a paen to spirit of Vatican II-style reform (A monastic vision for the 21st century Where do we go from here?, ed Patrick Hart) that:

"There is a special place reserved in purgatory for those monks and nuns of all ages who sin by being slavishly faithful to tradition instead of daring to be creative…"

Recovering the charism

New Liturgical Movement carries a translation of the monastery's press release on the subject. It is heady stuff:

"The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has granted to the abbot of the Trappist abbey Mariawald (diocese of Aachen), Dom Josef Vollberg OCSO, according to his petition, the privilege to return with his abbey to the liturgy and observance in the Ancient Use of the Order which was in force up to the reforms in the wake of the Second Vatican Council....

This so-called "use of Monte Cistello" was approved during the time of the Council in the years 1963/1964 as a preliminary step of reform. In a letter of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" of 21 November 2008 this papal privilege is granted to the Abbey. In it, reference is made to the personal decision of the Holy Father to accede in all respects to the privileges desired by the Trappist for a full return to the Ancient Use in liturgy and monastic life. This includes the return to the ancient liturgical tradition of the Order in the celebration of Mass and Divine Office as it was binding until the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council.

The project of reform in Mariawald and the petition of the Abbot concerning this can be regarded as a fruit of the efforts of Pope Benedict XVI for the renewal of the Church in the spirit of tradition. As the various postconciliar reforms not for yielded for the monastery the expected flowering in liturgy and in the life of the Convent, now the return to tradition links to the centuries-old tradition of the Order. Through the return to the ancient Gregorian liturgy and the stricter use of the monastic form of life, Dom Josef promises himself new spiritual impulses, also regarding new vocations for the abbey.

Worldwide, it can be felt that monastic communities, which cultivate the preconciliar Latin liturgy, can boast of significant numbers of vocations. Especially in France, on the background of a traditional interpretation of the rule of St Benedict and the Gregorian liturgy in Mass and Divine Office, there are flourishing abbeys. In Germany it has previously not been possible for vocations to the monastic life of a traditional form to join a corresponding community. With the papal privilege in Germany, too, there is now for the first time the possibility for young men to live the ancient tradition of contemplative life in the august forms of the classical liturgy and in the strict observance of the rule of St Benedict.

Dom Josef sees himself confirmed in his decision by the Holy Father, whose generously formulated privilege of all desired forms of return to tradition also bespeaks his personal desire that in the rediscovery of the ancient liturgy and manner of life, a renewal of monastic life as a whole may be stimulated. Thus, the abbot is convinced, the personal and direct action of the Pope for the Mariawald Abbey corresponds to the "Project of Tradition", which the Holy Father has initiated in 2007 by his Motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum" for the liturgy.

Dom Josef finds himself and his abbey sustainably motivated by the Holy Father and his immediate and direct papal juridical act, to implement the tradition-oriented reform of the monastery with new spiritual vigour for the sake of its future. The Abbey assumes in this a pioneering role worldwide to renew the monastic life out of the spirit of tradition and to counteract the decline of monastic life, which especially some Trappist abbeys have had to experience in recent years.

In the field of economics, the monastery has in recent years already put an emphasis on its focus on organic agriculture. Now it is the spiritual content of contemplative life which is to receive new stimuli from the great tradition of the Order and its classical Latin liturgy.....

Josef Vollberg, O.C.S.O., abbot"

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Ordination photos

Apologies for the break in transmission folks, just doing a bit of reorienting of this blog. In the meantime, Mr Kwok has posted a lot of superb photos from the ordination, of which a selection here (not in order of events).

Frs Fongemie and Webb watch as then Deacon Rehak vests:

The splendid altar frontal, showing of the recent cathedral renovations:

The then deacons process in:

A few shots showing off the cathedral:

Imposition of hands:

For more piccies, go take a look at Thomas Peregrinus.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Piccies of the ordinations and first masses...

Hopefully more photos of the various ceremonies will arrive soon, but in the meantime, a few piccies to tide you over. First from Marty this nice shot of Fr Rehak (left), Archbishop Coleridge and Fr Popplewell after the ordination yesterday.

And this splendid shot of Archbishop Coleridge kneeling on the steps of his cathderal to receive a first blessing from Fr Rehak.

And from Catholics Down Under a couple of shots of Fr Rehak's first Mass at Garran.

The Assistant Priest was Fr Berg, Deacon was Rev Mr Sumich FSSP, Sub-deacon Fr Rowe. A few priests in choir, the Ganmain Dominican sisters (on my good Australian religious list along with the Conventual Friars!) as well, which was nice to see.

I'm sure that someone was also taking pictures at Fr Popplewell's first Mass over at Hall today, but in the meantime go take a look at the rest of Marty and Catholics Down Under's collections...

Friday, 21 November 2008

Pro Orantibus Day: creating oases of prayer and the ascetic life

Today is Pro Orantibus Day - for those who pray; set to coincide for the feast of the Presentation of Our Lady in the Temple, since Our Lady (who spent her early years as a vowed virgin in the Temple) is the model for cloistered religious, especially women.

The decline of religious life

The time since the Reformation has seen a gradual erosion of the idea of specialization - most societies, once they get past the nomadic hunter/gatherer stage gradually become more specialized, with a division between those who work, those who fight and those who pray.

There is a good reason for this - for as civilisations develop they must acknowledge ever more strongly, in line with the gifts they have been given, their dependence on God. Thus, in the Old Testament, when God bought his people to the Promised Land, he instituted the priesthood.


The existence of a priesthood, ascetics living in the desert, or the Temple virgins (or their equivalents), doesn't of course let the rest of us off the hook when it comes to praying. But it does signal the importance that a society places on God.

So the dramatic collapse of religious life, decline in priestly vocations and the prevailing view that we don't need these institutions simply reflects the Enlightenment attempt to exclude God from our lives.

It also reflects the idea that anyone can do everything equally well - we can all be pseudo-ministers, we can all be 'contemplatives' even in the world - without the necessity of sacrificing anything. Except when it comes to sport (and even their the repeated drug cheat scandals are evidence for my point), we've lost the sense that excellence requires self-sacrifice and total commitment, and that we don't all have to do everything - rather we are part of the mystical body of the Church where each has a particular, distinct and specialized role to play.

So pray today for a renewal of religious life

If we want to restore Christendom, we must restore the balance in our society; so please do pray today especially for those who live the cloistered religious life.

The problem of course as we all know is that most cloistered religious today don't actually pray, at least liturgically, all that much - none of Australia's Benedictine monasteries for example, as far as I know (I'm not sure about the Tyburns), manage the psalter in a week that St Benedict decreed as the bare minimum necessary to avoid accusations of sloth (Rule, Chapter 18). Nor, one suspects, does asceticism play a huge role in the lives of many Australian (or other) monasteries.

So really we must pray for those few monasteries that are truly committed to their vocation, and for the true renewal of religious life, in line with the Pope's comments yesterday, that:

"...monasteries may increasingly become oases of ascetic life, where the allure of the nuptial union with Christ is felt, and where the choice of the Absolute ... is immersed in a climate of constant silence and contemplation".

More particularly, please pray for the restoration of traditional religious life - especially for new foundations and vocations.

And of course, don't forget to pray for the deacons set to be ordained tomorrow in Canberra, Messrs Rehak and Popplewell FSSP...

PS First Masses

First masses will be Sunday in Canberra (soon to be Fr Rehak) and, rumour has it Thursday in Sydney (soon to be Fr Popplewell).

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The ordination ceremony for a priest

For those who have never attended an ordination ceremony, particularly a traditional one, I thought it might be useful to put up a few notes on it.

Presentation of the candidates

First it should be noted that an ordination is a public ceremony, traditionally specifically involving the people (although hopefully through supportive silence in the main!).

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia (noting that some of this ceremonial may have been modified in the 1962 books, although it certainly lines up reasonably well with my memories of the last one held in Australia!), the ceremony starts with the candidates presenting themselves in the church in clerical dress, carrying the vestments of the order to which they are to be raised, and carrying lighted candles.

They are all summoned by name, each candidate answering "Adsum". After the Tract of the Mass the candidates, vested in amice, alb, girdle, stole, and maniple, with folded chasuble on left arm and a candle in their right hand, go forward and kneel before the bishop who asks their sponsor (in this case I presume Fr Berg of the FSSP) whether the candidates are worthy to be admitted to the priesthood. The bishop, then charging the congregation and insisting upon the reasons why "the Fathers decreed that the people also should be consulted", asks that, if anyone has anything to say to the prejudice of the candidates, he should come forward and state it. The bishop then instructs the ordinands on the duties of the Office they are about to assume.

Then comes what I consider one of the most moving pieces of the ceremonial, the singing of the Litany of the Saints while the candidates lie prostrate before the altar.

The matter and form of the ordination

The crucial step is the laying on of hands on the ordinands by the bishop, followed by all priests present, and the saying of various prayers by the bishop, inviting God's blessing to come down on the ordinands.

After this follows the bishop says the Preface, and then crosses the stole over the breast of each one and vests him with the chasuble. The chausable is actually arranged so it hangs down in front but is folded behind. More prayers, and then the bishop intones the "Veni Creator", and whilst it is being sung by the choir he anoints the hands of each of the newly ordained with the oil of catechumens. The bishop then hands to each a chalice, containing wine and water, with a paten and a host upon it.

Concelebration of the Mass

The Mass then continues, and this is the one time priests traditionally concelebrate:

"When the bishop has finished the Offertory of the Mass, he seats himself before the middle of the altar and each of those ordained make an offering to him of a lighted candle. The newly-ordained priests then repeat the Mass with him, all saying the words of consecration simultaneously.

Before the Communion the bishop gives the kiss of peace to one of the newly-ordained. After the Communion the priests again approach the bishop and say the Apostle's Creed.

The bishop laying his hands upon each says: "Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained." ... The chasuble is then folded, the newly-ordained make a promise of obedience and having received the kiss of peace, return to their place."

The singing and ceremonial

There will of course be lots of singing (largely Gregorian chant) and ceremonial, beautiful vestments, multiple servers, assistant priests, deacons, etc. Expect all the stops to be pulled out in terms of solemnity, so lots of colour and light throughout, hopefully making for a very beautiful ceremony.

Be warned though - the sacring of a priest is not a short ceremony - count on at least two to three hours if you are planning to come this weekend (or next in Auckland).

Saturday, 15 November 2008

On the upcoming FSSP ordinations

The next two weekends feature three ordinations to the priesthood for the FSSP in Australia and New Zealand, so I thought it might be a good thing to use this week to ponder a little the nature of the priesthood, and its implications for us all. But first a few practical issues...

Pray for the ordinands

First of all, I want to urge everyone to pray especially hard for the ordinands - Revs Marko Rehak, Dominic Popplewell and Antony Sumich FSSP - this week (and next for the last named), since that last stretch before the big day can often be a time of intense spiritual warfare!

So say a Veni Creator or some other suitable prayer for them each day!

Get to Canberra (or Auckland) if you can

Secondly, if you possibly can, do make a point of attending. Those who have been privileged to attend previous ordinations, particularly in the traditional rite, will know what a truly wonderful experience an ordination is. This is a very ancient and powerful ritual indeed, and not to be missed under any circumstances, and I'm sure the source of much grace for all attending as well as those receiving the sacrament of Holy Orders.

Get that first blessing....

The third issue is to make sure you receive a first blessing from the new priests! A priest can give the special first blessing any time in the first year of his priesthood, so you do have some time, but remember to prepare a little - it comes with a plenary indulgence if you meet the usual conditions. Attending a new priest's first Mass (the only information I have on the FSSP one's is that the Rev Rehak's is scheduled for Sunday November 23 at 11.30am in Canberra) also has a plenary indulgence attached to it.

Pray for vocations

Finally, as we come up to the ordinations, it seems appropriate to ponder again the question of vocations. Vocations to the religious life and priesthood are probably the best measure of the health of a community that there is, and certainly the number of priests and religious is the most important measure of the state of the Church it seems to me. And although there has been a slow trickle of vocations, we desperately need more traditional priests and religious for Australia if we are going to rebuild a Catholic culture!

It is often claimed that the high level of vocations before Vatican II was an aberration. I'd argue that it was actually just a recovery to the norm represented by the middle ages and eighteenth century before the ravages of the Enlightenment hit. In seventeenth century Florence, for example, there were actually more nuns than married women! In our day, I think there is a strong case that what we need first and above all are those who pray. But it is also important to keep in mind that in the past, religious sisters provided the infrastructure in the form of schools, hospitals and other services that made it possible for the laity to live a catholic lifestyle.

So we all have a duty to pray for vocations both to the priesthood and religious life, and this time seems a particularly appropriate to do so. In fact this Friday (November 21) is Pro Orantibus Day - a day set aside by the Church to pray for those who pray on our behalf (especially those in cloistered religious communities), so you might want to think about how to mark that occasion.

Secondly, those who are parents should be thinking about whether they are doing enough to encourage their children to consider a vocation - are their teenage boys, for example, acting as altar servers?

Finally, all of us need to ponder afresh whether we ourselves might have a vocation. Discernment is something very neglected in our day - but in fact we all have a duty to test out our capacity, short of any obvious impediments or contrary indications, to pursue the priestly or religious life. The problem is that such a life requires sacrifices. And today many are reluctant to make the considerable sacrifices involved in faithful married life, let alone a vocation involving that demands a total surrender of self to God.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Ecclesia Dei Commission activitism

There have been a couple of interesting responses to queries from the Ecclesia Dei Commission that are worth noting.

First, Rorate Caeli report that the Latin Mass of England submitted a question to the Ecclesia Dei Commission in Rome on the right to celebrate feast days on the days assigned to them in the 1962 Calendar - even where the bishops conference has moved the celebration to the Sunday in the Ordinary Form. The response was that the right to use the 1962 liturgical books also includes the right to use the 1962 calendar - so feasts such as the Ascension can actually be celebrated on their proper date. That's good news.

The compromise in the advice is that where the bishops have moved the celebration to the Sunday, it is suggested that it would be 'appropriate' for the external solemnity to also be celebrated then too (ie two Ascensions). That isn't an ideal solution in my view given that it interferes with the propers specified for the Sunday after the Feast of the Ascension (for example) but I guess it is a reasonable compromise.

The second response, relating to Church music issues, is up on the New Liturgical Movement, and hopefully finally puts to rest the claims of those who would wish to exclude women from the schola cantorum. The original questioner noted the pattern of legislation that allowed women to sing with men prior to 1962. The response notes that 'custom and usage in the course of more recent decades' have further modified some of those stricter requirements. It basically urges a commonsense approach...and points the questioner to the musica sacra website and a recently released book on the subject.

Good to see a pragmatic but balanced approach being adopted, treating the TLM as part of the Church's living liturgy, not something fossilised in 1902 or some other magical point in time, while at the same time protecting it against the attacks of the liberals....

A new bishop for Bathurst...

I'm out of town at the moment, with a very slow internet connection, so blogging will be a bit sparse this week (and comments might take a while to appear), but I couldn't resist this item.

Remember the story of Fr Dresser, priest of Bathurst Diocese, whose heretical book denying the divinity of Jesus was circulating via St Mary's parish in Brisbane?

I commented that one might have anticipated that his bishop would have long since taken action on the matter.

Well, it seems someone has taken action - yesterday's Vatican Information Service includes an item stating that the Pope has accepted the resignation of Bishop Dougherty 'upon reaching the age limit'.

An excellent signal.

Let's hope a few other Australian bishops take note.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

On dialoguing with Muslims

One of the major achievements of Pope Benedict XVI has to be the reshaping of inter-religious dialogue with Muslims, taking it from the realm of wishy-washy platitudes where we 'explore our commonalities', to tackling some of the hard issues about whether and how the two religions, two civilisations at loggerheads with each other, can co-exist without killing each other.

The Vatican Meeting last week

Sandro Magister has written a nice piece on what was and wasn't included in the Charter of Rights signed by the Vatican and Muslims last week.

On the plus side, hard-won formal recognition of the right of individuals and communities to practice their religion publicly and privately. If it were to be implemented, it would be a big step forward for Christians in many Muslim countries. Also a formal statement that violence and terrorism in the name of religion are inappropriate.

But this was very much a first stage - the charter is silent on issues such as the right to convert.

Stage managing the message

But one of the things I liked most about this whole event has been the careful stage managing of the Vatican's approach to Islam. It was surely no coincidence that in the week before the meeting, the Italian journalist that the Pope baptised back at Easter, Magdi Allam, warned that Islam is inherently violent.

And now, in the week after the meeting the Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue has warned that 'there are now so many efforts to improve relations between Christians and Muslims that they risk overlapping and creating confusion'.

It is a timely warning, as every man and his dog were showing signs of jumping on the Christian-Muslim dialogue bandwagon, and mostly missing the point about what it is all about. Dialogue with Islam is not about finding common cause on some issues, about defending each other from extremist attacks or the like. There may be room for some of that. It is true that both Christianity and Islam are inherently opposed to secularism and that can give rise to strange bedfellows on some issues.

But the real issue is trying to find ways of managing the growing presence of a religion in Western society that is inherently opposed to Christianity.

I've heard the argument made that Islam is essentially where Christianity was four hundred years or so ago. That may well prove true. If so, the challenge is to move it quickly into the twenty-first century because that is when and where we are all living.

And in the process, maybe Catholics can learn something too - some of us also think that it wouldn't be a bad thing for Catholicism to recover some of the missionary vigour and commitment to practice that Christianity had four hundred years ago! There are things to admire about Islam, not the least of which is its commitment to a holy language and the transmission of its culture.

But let's remember that this process really is fundamentally about negotiating a modus vivendi with the enemy, not about trying to make new friends.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Turnbull the Turncoat

CathNews today carries the story of Mr Malclom Turnbull, the Leader of the Federal Opposition, and nominally at least a Catholic, speaking at the Australian Christian Lobby Conference last week, in support of abortion:

"Mr Turnbull said women had the right to end an unwanted pregnancy.

"It is their choice," he said."

I trust we shall shortly see his bishop speak up and, in line with the better US bishop's, deny him communion unless he changes his position.

It is, of course, far too soon to think about what this means in an election context. Still, it should be a wakeup call for Liberal (non-cafeteria) Catholics to start organizing...bring on the mad monk (aka Tony Abbott)!

Thursday, 6 November 2008

All Saints' Solemn Mass at St Anne's, Bondi

Suzanne has sent me some lovely pictures of the All Saints Mass at Bondi Beach. Unfortunately none show the baldechino which is a remarkable feature of the church, but next time, and in the meantime, the pictures do give a sense of the Church's splendid architecture!

Around 65 people made the Mass, and apparently a good number stated that it was their first Latin Mass for over 40 years, and wanted to know when they could attend another. We need more of these kind of events around the place to get the word out...

In the meantime, enjoy!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

And Obama won....

Well the good news is that the election is over and other topics will presumably soon be discussed again on the US blogs (after a fair amount of gnashing of teeth I imagine). I'd been getting really really sick of the campaign, notwithstanding its importance for us all!

The bad news is, well, Obama won.

Bad from a Catholic perspective because he seems set to be the most aggressively anti-life President yet, and his election ends any prospect of overturning Roe v Wade through appropriate appointments to the the US Supreme Court.

Mind you, I have my doubts about whether McCain would have been dramatically better, his own track record was rather spotty, and who knows how much influence Palin would really have had...

Crikey reports for example, that in Colorado, proposition 48 -- personhood beginning at conception -- was defeated 75 to 25. The only positive is that proposition 8 -- banning gay marriage in California -- is leading 56 to 44.

OK, that's the bad news. Those hoping for a pro-Republican slant should stop reading now (you have been warned).

The good news is that Obama won...

We shouldn't really be surprised that in the end, economics and the hip pocket effect proved more potent than cultural and moral issues, or at least the cultural and moral issues we think people should care more about! The reality is that the arguments and tactics being used today by pro-life forces are simply not having the impact needed. We haven't been able to persuade even the majority of nominal catholics that abortion outweighs all other issues, so how can we hope to succeed more widely? Some serious rethinking is needed.

In any case, I heard one commentator claiming that McCain lost the election when he fluffed the question of what to do over the economic crisis, and I think that is a fair call.

I don't think we can blame all those voters as acting solely on the basis of greed. In fact Obama has been proclaiming a more community oriented, mutual-support ethos in response, and I think that has some merit.

And I have to admit that while I have major reservations about President-elect Obama, and not just on life issues, I have a strong sympathy with those who got to vote and wanted change.

The reality is that the Bush administration has been a disaster for both America and the world, failing to lay any groundwork for America's changing role in the world, and serving only to create increased tensions internationally. Relations between Russia and its neighbours make the risk of a nuclear conflagration more possible than at any time since the end of the cold war. The Iraq War has proved disastrous for the Christians who once lived there, and doesn't seem to have solved a thing. Tensions with China have escalated. And McCain couldn't really articulate how he would be very different.

On economics, the conservative paradigm that we should just let the markets work has been well and truly proven wrong once again. The worrying thing is the way the bailouts, guarantees and, in Australia's case interest rate cuts, are being structured in such a way as to perpetuate some of the underlying problems rather than solve them. How can it be helpful, for example, to allow the banks to use the proceeds from interest rate reductions to swallow up their competitors, rather than pass the full cuts on to consumers? Doesn't this just lead to more foreclosures?

The hope now has to be that we will see some out of the box thinking in the US and elsewhere occurring on a wide range of issues, and that not of all of this will prove bad.

Obama certainly gave a pretty nice acceptance speech (a few PC moments aside).

Well, we can pray.

FSSP in NZ: Juventutem workshop on the TLM

I came across a report on a workshop on the TLM for the laity run by Fr Define, regional superior of the FSSP, while in New Zealand in October. Father was relieving for Fr Rizzo, who was, I gather, off attending the Fraternity's twentieth anniversary celebrations in Rome after a stop-off in Boston, pictured below).

Juventutem Christchurch

Juventutem Australia, alas, seems to have died, but a chapter has been established in Christchurch with the support of Bishop Barry Jones and under the guidance of Bishop Emeritus Basil Meeking.

In October, they ran a weekend workshop to give people a chance to learn more about the TLM, with talks on the history and structure of the Mass, how to serve the traditional Mass, the laity's role, the direction Pope Benedict is taking the Church in and much more. It all sounds great - I'd love to hear how it went if anyone knows.

And wouldn't it be great if a similar weekend could be run here over in Oz in a few key centres...There are a few Brisbane parishes in particular that would benefit from a little exposure to the Extraordinary Form as a way of addressing their liturgical and other problems?!?

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Action in Brisbane at last? **updated**

Cath News from Monday reports that Archbishop Bathersby has finally set a time limit - of 1 December - on St Mary's Brisbane - by which it must conform or action will be taken. The story is short on detail as to what this actually means, but still it seems a distinct step forward.

Of course, one step forward, one step backward seems to be the way of things at the moment, as Bishop Patrick Power, auxiliary of Canberra-Goulburn, came out making noises of sympathy with the parish in question, suggesting that theirs is the way of the future.

The Cath News story also notes that no action has been taken against Fr Dresser of Bathurst Diocese in relation to his heretical book denying the divinity of Our Lord.

Bishop Power's 'clarifying' statement

Cath News reports that Bishop Power (presumably under pressure) has issued a statement saying he didn't mean to undermine Archbishop Bathersby...Here it is with my comments:

"The Canberra Times report (3 November) of my comments on the South Brisbane parish might have appeared as my undermining Archbishop Bathersby's role in a very complex and difficult arena. [Indeed. Just why did the bishop feel the need to make public comments about a situation in another diocese? One can only speculate...]

In fact, in my conversation with the journalist, Graham Downie, I sought to do the very opposite. Part of the report read "Bishop Power described Archbishop Bathersby as Australia's most open and accommodating archbishop, who was committed to dialogue." [Indeed, we already knew that AB Bathersby is in fact in the same liberal camp as Bishop Power and is only being forced to act by virtue of appropriate action by Rome.]

I also expressed my understanding of the archbishop's insistence on compliance with the universal church's regulations on such things as the wearing of liturgical vestments, the use of authorised Eucharistic prayers and the restriction of the homily at Mass to priests and deacons.

At the same time, I gave voice to my admiration for parishes, such as St Mary's South Brisbane, for their reaching out to homosexual people and other groups of people who often feel marginalised by the Church and mainstream society. [The problem is that they are reaching out inappropriately - instead of calling them to repentance, they are encouraging them to continue sin. There is nothing admirable about this.].

I think that all would agree that many people who find a haven in St Mary's are close to the heart of Jesus. [Well, in as much as Jesus came to heal sinners, yes. In as much as heretics, schismatics and those in a state of mortal sin are cut off from God, no.]

Trying to find a balance in such matters means walking a fine line. [Hmmm, I don't think so. What is needed is clarity and insistence on the truth.]

It is my hope that in all such situations the will of God can be found through dialogue, mutual respect and a humble search for the truth. [The tired old cliches coming out yet again...]

Bishop Pat Power"

You might by the way, want to check out the Biblical text to which the picture above refers (Ezekiel 34, which providentially came up in my Scripture reading plan yesterday. It is a text that the Fathers generally see as a warning to bishops.

SSPX Rumours

The SSPX launched a new rosary crusade a week or so ago - from Lourdes itself - this time praying for the lifting of the excommunications on their four bishops.

Now rumours have been reported on New Liturgical Movement that a decree lifting the excommunication is sitting on the desk of the Pope, awaiting the bishops' petition that they acted in good faith in seeking consecration, due to a state of necessity.

I have to admit my reaction to the prayer crusade was that it was a bit cheeky - after all, the Holy See set out five very reasonable conditions for reconciliation several months back, and the SSPX, as far as can be ascertained from their public pronouncements, refused to accept them.

Still, we can certainly hope that the rumours are true, and that the prayer crusade will have the effect of softening the hearts of the bishops concerned and of their supporters. I wouldn't hold your breath however. Fr Tattersall of Melbourne has commented on NLM that:

"...While of course I hope and pray that the SSPX's rupture with the Church can be healed, my own extensive experience in dealing both with the SSPX clergy, and with many former adherents of the Society among the laity, would support Daniel's [another commenter] concerns. There are deep seated theological and spiritual problems in the SSPX movement. We should not be blind to this, as that ultimately is of no help to the SSPX...."

Monday, 3 November 2008

Feast of All Souls

On purgatory and hope

My paternal grandmother was a Presbyterian, and I can still remember being utterly shocked attending her funeral many many years ago because there were no prayers offered for her soul. I went rather reluctantly, persuaded that someone had to, as my father was in hospital and unable to attend, and other family members were in short supply for various reasons.

But it had a brittle, fake feeling about it because to Calvinists, by the time of the funeral (and indeed obvious long before where you were headed), you were either in heaven or in hell, and there was no more that anyone could do for you. And as there was a fairly strong suspicion amongst most there that she hadn't gone straight to heaven, everyone was on edge. It certainly made the whole funeral rather a pointless process as far as I could see, and left me traumatised for quite some time afterwards until I worked out what to do about it, notwithstanding the sensibilities of my Calvinist indoctrinated father...

Dying a happy death

There are of course some happy few who go straight to heaven, having lived a holy life and died a holy death. St Benedict is the classic example of such a saint - he knew the day and time of his death in advance, received viaticum and then died while propped up between his monks in the chapel, praising God. We should pray every day for the grace of final perseverance and a happy death, of which St Benedict is the patron saint.

But the reality, as the Pope pointed out in Spe Salvi, is that happy death or not, most of us will not go straight to heaven, but will end up doing some time in purgatory along the way.

The Scriptural basis of purgatory

Purgatory is one of those doctrines that does have a strong Scriptural basis, as well as in early Christian (and pre-Christian Jewish) practice, but where the theological terminology and full implications of what Scripture says have only gradually been fully articulated. Cardinal Pell has a piece on this in yesterday's Tele, where he points to the famous texts about praying for the dead in 2 Maccabees, as well as the 'less explicit' references in 1 Corinthians and Matthew Chapter 12.

And in fact Archbishop Hart of Melbourne has also written a very nice exposition of the doctrine of purgatory, based on the Pope's last encyclical Spe Salvi, in the latest edition of Kairos, which expounds 1 Cor 3:12-15 and 1 John 1:9. The encyclical itself also points to the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) as a direct reference to an intermediate state between death and resurrection.

Praying for the dead

In the medieval period, the necessity of praying for the dead, our duty toward the Church Suffering, was fully realised. The literature of the period is filled with stories of the dead coming back to beg the living for masses and prayers to free them from the suffering they were undergoing in purgatory, and urge those still alive to live better lives so as to escape a similar fate!

Mourners would be hired for funerals, so that there would be more people to pray for the deceased; people signed up in advance to have the Office of the Dead and Masses said for their souls through monasteries and confraternities; and those who could contributed to or established chantries in Churches, hiring a priest to say masses for their soul on anniversaries etc.

The Reformation (aided by the Counter Reformation due to some, in my view, unfortunate decrees of the Council of Trent) destroyed most of this infrastructure, and the loss of any focus on transcendence over the last forty years or so has seen the triumph of protestant ideas in Catholic practice, with those instant beatification funerals featuring white vestments. It is nice to see, though, that inspired by our current Pope, our two leading Archbishops trying to do something to restore the balance around this subject.

Remembering death is important

Indeed, we should all remember St Benedict's injunctions to 'keep death daily before one's eyes', 'to dread hell', and 'to desire eternal life with all spiritual longing'.

And that includes worrying about the eternal happiness of others including praying for the dead regularly - for our family and friends, but also those who have no one else to pray for them - especially in this month of November, traditionally set aside for this purpose. The Benedictine Office actually includes a daily memento of the dead, with prayers and the De Profundis offered for the deceased members, friends and benefactors, as well as the short prayer for the faithful departed at the end of each hour. That's a good model for others to consider!

In fact, Melbourne actually has a Guild of the Holy Souls, something other traddie communities might want to consider establishing.

In the meantime, the Office for today is the Office for the Dead, and saying one or two hours from it is something anyone can do - you will probably find a copy in your missal, but if not there are several places you can find it on the net, including nicely laid out here at Breviary Net.

Today and over the next week we also have the opportunity to earn plenary indulgences for the dead (see my post from Friday) - do it if you can!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

News round-up

  • Coo-ees Priory (yes, some of the original boys have come back, yay!) report that on 8th December Cardinal Pell will preside at a Pontifical Mass from the faldstool at Ss.Trinità dei Pellegrini in Rome. This is the parish of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, served by Australian Fr Joseph Kramer FSSP as parish priest;

  • There is, apparently, an upcoming FSSP ordination in Auckland as well as the ones in Canberra - presumably the Rev Mr Antony Sumich FSSP.
  • And on which subject, no details have yet been made public as far as I can find, on vital details such as times and places for the Canberra Ordinations and first masses would be helpful. Curious that the diocesan website (including newspaper) has nothing on the event.

  • Br Mannes Tellis OP is also scheduled to be ordained shortly in Adelaide. Perhaps someone could enlighten us as to the date for that one too...

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Modelling the communion of saints in the liturgy

Today is the twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost in the Extraordinary Form, and All Saints in the Ordinary Form, in Australia at least.

The feasts of All Saints and All Souls serve to remind us that the Church is not made up just of individuals living in the here and now, but of the Church Militant on earth, Church Suffering in purgatory, and the Church Triumphant in heaven, all linked by deep bonds of charity.

Mirroring the heavenly liturgy

Related to this, the visions of the heavenly liturgy in the Book of Revelation which are read at Matins for All Saints (from Revelation 4&5) tell of the crowds of angels and saints thronging around God's throne, so that that liturgy is a communal act, not an individual one. Our earthly liturgy is meant to mirror that.

Related to this subject, I want to point you to two nice posts by others around this subject.

Every man his own liturgy

The first is by Joshua over at Psallite Sapienter , and points to a nice very early patristic quote, from Pope St Clement, pointing to the different, hierarchically ordered roles of priest, ministers and laity in the liturgy:

'[For] Unto the high-priest ( = the celebrant-bishop) his special "liturgies" have been appointed, and to the priests ( = presbyters) their special place is assigned, and on the levites ( = deacons) their special "deaconings" are imposed; the layman is bound by the ordinances for the laity.

Let each of you, brethren, make eucharist to God according to his own order, keeping a good conscience and not transgressing the appointed rule ["canon"] of his "liturgy" [, in seriousness].'

Joshua draws attention to a summation of this message by famous liturgist Dix in The Shape of the Liturgy, who draws on the idea of 'every man his own liturgy':

" ...the eucharist [sic] is emphatically a corporate action of the whole christian [sic] body, in which every 'order' from the layman to the bishop has its own special 'liturgy'…"

Interdependence and interaction

One would not, of course want to take this point too far - we are after all, supposed to be participating in the same liturgy, albeit in different ways. And on this Fr Blake over at St Mary Magdalen has a nice post on the way in which vestments traditionally emphasised the priest's dependence on his assistants:

"One of things I like about the older rites is the dependance of clergy on their assistant ministers, the vestments of the Pope for example the long faldo and and papal cope meant he couldn't even move without assistance, the same with a cardinal or bishop wearing a cappa. At High Mass Pope, Bishop or Priest were all dragged about the altar by their vestments, without assistants they could do nothing. I am sure it was all meant to underline the importance of the particular cleric but it underlined too that he did nothing on his own, his very movement was dependant on others....

Our present liturgical practice is much more individualistic. This morning I celebrated Mass without a server, forty years ago, though it happened, it would have been rare and considered an abuse. Nowadays it would possible to celebrate for what passes as "High Mass" with just a priest and a congregation, and most probably a reader...What I am saying is that as important as the celebrant was the older liturgy emphasised his function within the the Church, his dependance on others. Post-councilliar liturgy is in comparison much more individualistic."

Individualism vs ordered roles

One could I suppose argue that the different ways of hearing Mass that we've been discussing for the laity are a reflection of that individualism, but the counter I think is firstly that the idea that the laity should follow along the words of the Mass in missals is a very recent innovation indeed, largely a product of the liturgical movement in the twentieth century (notwithstanding the fact that missals did exist before then). Rather, methods of the laity hearing the mass that are distinct to them have the weight of tradition behind them...

In any case, do go over and read both of these excellent posts in full....

All Saints

The Feast of All Saints is one of those great feasts intended to remind us that we are all called to be saints. There are of course many canonised saints who don't get a guernsey in the calendar, as well as many who do but whom we can't celebrate enough!

But I always think of this feast as focusing our attention on the many thousands of uncanonised saints, the unsung heroes who pray for us in heaven.

Think of the thousands of monks and nuns who attained sanctity hidden in the cloister over the centuries. People in positions of authority and everyday life who helped made it possible for us to attain faith and live it. Our family members and ancestors who quietly worked for God in their own way, perhaps did their time in purgatory, and now live with God in heaven.

So rejoice in the hope of salvation, and seek to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect!