Wednesday, 31 December 2008

New Year's Day Masses

Once upon a time, New Year's Day (the Octave Day of the Nativity) was a holy day of obligation, and often celebrated with a midnight mass. Alas, no longer in this country, where the bishop's have decreed that there shall be only two holy days of obligation other than Sundays!

Still, we should strive to do more than the minimum, so here are the masses I know about:

Adelaide – Mass on New Year’s Day at 6.30pm

Brisbane - December 31: 8.00 PM at OLV, Bowen Hills - Mass, Adoration Of The Blessed Sacrament. Midnight Mass followed by Adoration till the morning Mass. Thursday Jan 1, 2009: Octave Day Of The Nativity. 8.00 Am Exposition And Adoration Of The Blessed Sacrament.

Canberra – Mass 9am

Melbourne - Masses will be at 11.00am (Low) and 6.00pm (Solemn).

Perth: New Year's Day Masses:8.00 am, 10.30 am and 6.30 pm.

Sydney (Lewisham) - Octave Day of Christmas, 1st January 2009 - 10:30am Solemn Mass; NO 7:00pm Mass

Please let me know of any corrections or additions!

Seventh Day of Christmas - Commemoration of St Sylvester, Pope

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

The Church's duty to save mankind from self-destruction

I’ve been waiting (in vain) for the Pope’s widely reported speech to the Curia of 22 December to appear in an official translation, but since it still isn’t up, thought I’d make a few comments on it now anyway!

It has been widely (mis)reported in the media as an attack on homosexuality – interesting since he doesn’t actually mention the word homosexual once!

What the Pope actually said…

In fact, the Holy Father spoke on quite a range of topics, including some key points on the centrality of the Holy Spirit, one of the key themes he took up at World Youth Day.

He highlighted three particular events:

World Youth Day, at which he focused on the working of the Holy Spirit in the world, a topic;
His trips to France and the US, important to making the Church visible in the world;
The Synod of Bishops on Scripture.

Scripture as the answer to our individual concerns

On Scripture, he made some remarks that tie in nicely with the series I’ve just done on lectio divina, and says what I’ve been trying to get at so much better and more convincingly that so I can’t resist quoting them to you!

He said:

“That which in our daily living we have paid attention to, we have cultivated anew in all its sublimity: the fact that God speaks and answers our questions. The fact that he, albeit in human language, speaks in person and we are able to hear him, and through hearing, come to know and understand him. The fact that he enters into our lives and we can go out of our lives and enter into the vastness of his mercy. So we have been newly made aware that God in his Word addresses himself to each one of us, speaks to the heart of each one of us: if our heart is disposed and our interior hearing open, then each individual can discover the word addressed appropriately to him. But precisely if we hear God speaking in such a personal manner to each one of us, we understand also that his Word is present so that we can draw closer to each other; so that we can discover the path out of what is solely personal.”

The world as a gift

One of the Pope's key themes for the year, particularly during World Youth Day ,was highlighted once again in this speech, in the idea that creation is a gift to us. The Spirit hovering over the waters is a favourite image of this Pope, symbolising the continuing action of the Creator, and also the underlying order and rationality of creation that shape us.

The key point is that:

“The earth is not simply our possession which we can plunder according to our interests and desires. It is rather a gift of the Creator who has designed its intrinsic laws and with this has given us the basic directions for us to adhere as stewards of his creation.”

And that means that the Church has a concern for the whole created order, not just the message of salvation – including a duty to stop man from destroying himself.

The Pope in fact points to Humanae Vitae’s warning against treating sexuality as a consumer good – the contraceptive mentality – as the root of the problem, even as he talks about the need for an ecology of man based on the traditional marriage.

The demographic winter

The real issue the Pope is pointing to is, I think, the demographic winter faced by the West, with ageing and declining populations, fuelled largely by ideology – ideologies that include an aggressive, over-the-top feminism; by the assertion that homosexuality is a valid and legitimate ‘choice’; and above all by the view of a child as a commodity to be purchased or disposed of at will.

In many countries, Australia included, man will not die out of course - immigration will fill in the gap. But this can mean a fundamental change in the culture of the recipient country, as it has in England, for example, where Sharia law is now part of the formal legal system. Australia is already well down the same track - half of our population increase in the last decade has come from immigration, and an increasing proportion of migrants are coming from Muslim countries.

Is it too late for us?

Perhaps not – but we will have to work fast if we are to withstand the flood. We need to get serious about recreating Christendom, and make 2009 the year things changed!

Sixth Day of Christmas

Monday, 29 December 2008

Fifth Day of Christmas

Acceptance vs the struggle for perfection: work!

And finally the last stage of the schema I’m advocating for Lectio Divina, Work, or putting it all into practice.

Today it is popular to focus on acceptance – of ourselves and others. But this runs directly counter to our tradition, which recognizes that humans are imperfect and inclined to sin, and urges us to struggle for perfection.

We should recognize and even worship God present in others – but we also have to recognize and struggle against everything that makes us unworthy temples of the Holy Spirit.

In essence we read Scripture not just because it is interesting or entertaining – not because it ‘validates’ us - but because of its potential to change our lives, fostering our ongoing conversion. So as we do our Lectio, we should be listening out for the ways of putting what we have learnt into practice in our lives.

Models of behavioural change

One of the more useful models of behaviour change, points to a five stage process – the first is seeing our undesirable behaviour or flawed worldview for what it is. Most of the time we look at the world through the lens of a set of beliefs about what we are seeing and an image of ourselves. But it is not for nothing, that the psalmist urges us to pray that our secret sins might be forgiven. Seeing the mote in our eye can be the hardest step in changing.

The key to making major or minor changes in our lives is to realize that the costs of not changing are greater than those of staying as we are. And in this spiritual life this has to be a continual process, since we know we must seek perfection, even if we can never achieve absolute perfection in this life.

The third important factor in making changes is finding the tools to help us. Scripture provides us with both models and injunctions about how we should behave. You can compile up sets yourself as you do your lectio, or look at the distillations in both Scripture and the tradition - the Wisdom literature in the Old Testament, for example, can be particularly useful here. So to distillations of key precepts from Scripture such as the fourth chapter of St Benedict’s Rule, his tools of good works, which start from the commandments, work through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, the injunctions from the Sermon on the Mount, and other key sources.

Equally important of course is prayer, and God’s grace!

The fourth point to keep in mind is that making any change is hard work – it won’t necessarily come naturally. The challenge is to keep at, picking ourselves up and trying again after every lapse, until it does come naturally and is fully incorporated into our lives, needing only a brief review from time to make sure we are maintaining the standard!

And in conclusion….

So that wraps up the process: Read-Think-Study-Meditate-Pray-Contemplate-Work.

I do hope that this series has been helpful to you in seeing that lectio is not an essentially anti-intellectual process, or something sounding dangerously charismatic in flavour!

More importantly, do try some! Consider making a New Year’s resolution to do a little Scripture reading each day, or at least each week.

You could consider one of the following possibilities for your lectio, depending on your tastes and the amount of time you have to devote to it:

  • If you don’t have much time, perhaps take the Sunday Gospels from the Mass; or work slowly and systematically through the psalms (a verse or two a day);
  • If you have a little more time, add the other Propers for the Sunday Mass to your program.
  • And if you are really committed, consider a Bible in a Year program!

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Fourth Day of Christmas - Sunday within the octave and Commemoration of the Holy Innocents

Contemplation - one of the most overused terms around!

I’m continuing my series on lectio divina today, turning now to contemplation.

Contemplation is one of those terms heavily misused today - but before I get into that, a little revision first. The schema I’m proposing for lectio divina is as follows:

READ – Try to memorize the text, get it firmly lodged in your head.

THINK – Apply your intellect to the text to start working out what it means, and how you are going to approach it.

STUDY – Use commentaries and online tools to put the text in context, and understand its literal and spiritual meanings.

MEDITATE – directed reflection on the meaning of the text for you.

PRAY – Tell God what you have drawn out of the text in terms of messages for you, and ask for grace to make the changes necessary in your life.

CONTEMPLATE – the topic of today’s piece!

WORK – Put it all into practice!

What do we mean by contemplation?

There is a lot of confusion around about what contemplation really is today, not least due to advocates of practices such as Centring Prayer, who call things contemplation that really aren’t.

The first point to make about contemplation is that it is not something that can be manufactured from within ourselves, but is a pure gift of God.

The 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia defines contemplative prayer as:

“Mental prayer in which the affective acts are numerous, and which consists much more largely of them than of reflections and reasoning, is called affective. Prayer of simplicity is mental prayer in which, first, reasoning is largely replaced by intuition; second, affections and resolutions, though not absent, are only slightly varied and expressed in a few words…”

Traditionally, contemplative prayer was something to be attempted only after a long apprenticeship in asceticism and meditation, and under the guidance of a Spiritual Director who can assess whether or not the person is really ready. The problem is that the distaste for meditation that can be one of the signs of readiness to embark on contemplative prayer can also be a sign of acedie, or spiritual weariness!

At its higher levels, it leads to mystical union, and there are a number of different stages in it, starting from the ‘prayer of quiet’, a term which captures the essence of the experience at this level, up to the spiritual marriage of the soul with God.

Preparation for contemplative prayer

The key point really is that we can prepare for contemplative prayer through our spiritual practices, but if it comes, it comes in God’s time not ours!

There has been a lot written on contemplation and I won’t try and summarise it here, particularly since it won’t be relevant to most people. It is worth noting that contemplative prayer and mystical experiences can easily be manipulated both by ourselves and the devil, so expert discernment of spirits is necessary here!

The real tests are the fruits of contemplation. St Benedict writes:

“…the monk will presently come to that perfect love of God which casts out all fear; whereby he will begin to observe without labour, as though naturally and by habit, all those precepts which formerly he did not observe without fear: no longer for fear of hell, but for love of Christ and through good habit and delight in virtue.”

The aim is this:

“… our hearts shall be enlarged, and we shall run with the unspeakable sweetness of love in the way of God’s commandments..”


Saturday, 27 December 2008

Third Day of Christmas - Feast of St John the Evangelist

Praying and contemplating Scripture - Lectio divina part 6

So yesterday I talked about meditation. Today, to the next stages, prayer and contemplation.

The first and perhaps most important point to make is that we are not Pelagians, believing we can do it all ourselves, unaided by grace! Rather, we need God's help to hear his message and in order to allow it to transform our lives.

In this schema prayer comes a fair way down the list, but in reality it has to be part of every stage of lectio - as the part of the preparation we make before starting (as with every and any task!), to guide our thought and study, and of course our meditation. St Teresa of Avila described prayer as just like a conversation with a friend, and that is a concept to keep in front of our minds all the time.

At the same time, it will be pretty evident by this point I hope, that the kind of prayer that should emerge from lectio divina in my view is not just some spontaneous charismatic-style thought to 'share', but something considered.

Write down your prayer....

And it can often be helpful to try writing out your prayer, using it to summarise what you have taken out of the reading and linking it to the request for aid.

If you are looking for models on how to do this, go to the Masters! The psalms for example, particularly, those that reflect on the history of Israel. Or St Augustine's reflections on Genesis in the last few books of his Confessions.

Some of my most favourite Lectio style prayers though are those of Dame Gertrude More (a seventeenth century English Benedictine nun) and those of St Anselm. The latter for example says things like:

"St Mary Magdalene,
you came with springing tears
to the spring of mercy, Christ;
from him your burning thirst was abundantly refreshed;
through him your sins were forgiven;
by him your bitter sorrow was consoled.
My dearest lady,
well you know by your own life
how a sinful soul can be reconciled with its creator,
what counsel a soul in misery needs,
what medicine will restore the sick to health....

herefore, since you are now with the chosen
because you are beloved
and are beloved because you are chosen of God...

Ask urgently that I may have
the love that pierces the heart; tears that are humble;
desire for the homeland of heaven;
impatience with this earthly exile;
searing repentance; and a dread of torments in eternity..."

Our poor efforts won't be as worthy of preservation as these of course, but the discipline of writing them down - and being able to go back to them for reference purposes - can be useful at times!


The hope, of course, is that this active form of prayer will move to wordless contemplation infused by God. This is, however, a gift to be freely bestowed on us, not something we can achieve for ourselves unaided!

What we can do, though, is seek through our prayer to find an inner stillness where we push away all the distracting thoughts that pull us down, seeking an inner stillness that can be filled by God.

There are many books on this subject, so I won't attempt to say more on this here - my favourite though, which I would highly recommend, is the Cloud of Unknowing.

Read the next part in this series here.


Friday, 26 December 2008

Second Day of Christmas and Feast of St Stephen, Protomatyr

Meditating on Scripture...

I thought I had better get on with my series on lectio divina, and these days after Christmas might be a particularly good time to focus on this stuff as you think about possible New Year resolutions, so a little taster now, and more after Christmas!

So first, a brief refresher. You can find the previous parts of this series here:

Part I: Read - get the text you are using firmly fixed in your head.

Part II: Think - plan out how you are going to tackle it.

Part III: Study - make sure you understand the context, literal and spiritual meanings.

The other three stages are meditate, pray, contemplate and work (put into practice).

Today I want to talk about meditation....

Our Lady as a model of meditation

The first thing to say is that Our Lady is generally regarded as the model for lectio divina. Meditation in the Benedictine tradition follows that idea of Our Lady treasuring all those things in her heart, turning them over and over, and reflecting on their meaning.

In the post on study I suggested the kinds of things one can look for flowing out of the words of the text, but in reality there are many different methods of meditation, and I think you just have to find one that works for you. I prefer the idea of keeping going back to the text, and seeing what you can draw out of it. But the Ignatian idea of putting yourself into the Biblical scene and engaging each of the senses, for example, can be equally helpful depending on your personality!

Why we meditate

The key point to bear in mind I think is the purpose of all this.

First we have to be actively listening to what God is trying to say to us - open to having our view of ourselves and the world changed by imitating Christ and accepting the implications of the truths Scripture and Traditional reveal.

Secondly, seeing how we fall short of the Gospel ideal, seeing the cracks in our worldview when it is held up to the mirror of the Scripture is a necessary start.

But we also have to genuinely want to change, to constantly recommit ourselves to strive for perfection - and that means looking to Scripture for the reasons why we should embark on this path. Meditating on the joys of heaven, the happiness we can achieve now, the rewards Our Lord promises can be helpful too!

Finally, we need to look at Scripture to find the tools we need to change - through Advent, many of the readings have focused on the need for repentance and confession. There is a lot more there to be found and utilised though, if, for example, we look at how Our Lord taught the disciples, and not just in words!

So meditate

Meditation really should take up the bulk of the time you set aside for lectio divina - or at least the work you do in that time should set you up to meditate fruitfully on the text as you do other things during the day. Think about leaving the radio (or Ipod) off as you are do housework, drive to work, or go for a walk for example, and taking one of the lines of thought you have identified as you pursue these activities!
The next stage is prayer.


Wednesday, 24 December 2008

What is the future of the Church?

At the Adelaide ordinations on Saturday Archbishop Wilson of Adelaide made a comment in his sermon that while some people think the best days of the Church are behind us, he doesn't agree.

I was a little puzzled about what he was getting at, and talking to someone else later it seems I was not alone. The sentiment basically sounds right to me - but I'm not at all sure that I am on the same page as the Archbishop in terms of the reasons for this!

So I thought a little speculation on where the Church is headed might be a suitable lead up to Christmas when we not only celebrate the Incarnation of Our Lord, but also look forward to his coming again!

End times?

One view - quite popular amongst some traditionalists, fed by numerous (mostly non-approved) visionaries - is that the second coming is very imminent indeed.

We can all certainly agree that we are living in the end times - but frankly speculating on the timing seems to me as fruitless now as it was amongst the early Christians who literally expected Jesus to return before they died.

We have to live as if we could die, or face the Second Coming at any moment - but also continue to work for our won salvation and the kingdom in concrete ways until it really does happen.

The Spirit of Vatican II vision

A second school of thought, still alive, I suspect, in the minds of a particular (ageing) generation is that of a broader, more inclusive and loving Church where everyone is saved really, regardless of what they believe or do. It's the South Brisbane/Acatholica model that focuses on social justice and ecumenism at the expense of doctrine and liturgy.

This is a view that seems to me pretty hard to reconcile with Scripture (remember all that stuff about entering by the narrow gate!). And you would have thought that the evidence was pretty overwhelming that this style of religion was a failure in terms of appealing to the masses - declining congregations, the shortage of priests, and closing churches say it all. But somehow what seem to the rest of us as blatant evidence of the lack of fruit coming from this approach, is somehow or other often regarded by insiders as a sign of virtue...

A smaller Church?

A third view is that the Church will be much smaller in the future, but more fervent, and that may be an objectively better situation.

The reality is that the current Pope has suggested that the Church is already much smaller in reality than many seem to think it is! The Gospel story of the wheat and tars being sorted out at the time of the harvest is a salutary one that all cafeteria Catholics might usefully reflect on....

But that doesn't mean we should be satisfied with that situation!

The Church is surely healthiest when it aids the maximum number of people in reaching heaven. We down here of course can never know when that is. But prima facie, a Christian society where a high proportion of people practice their faith actively, attending mass frequently and participating in religious exercises of all kinds regularly - as was the case for example in the High Middle Ages in many places - seems more likely to be serving the purpose of salvation than a minority faith in a society practicing a culture of death.

Of course we have to look to our own salvation first, even as we celebrate the coming of the saviour of the world on the Feast of the Nativity.

Missionary zeal

But we should also be looking forward though, to Our Lord's last instruction while on earth, namely to go out and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to observe all that Christ commanded.

So perhaps a new great missionary age is dawning. And if that was what the Archbishop meant, a very appropriate message for ordinations for a religious order such as the Dominicans founded to convert by preaching!

In any case, with all the wonderful liturgies about to be celebrated over the Christmas period, do a little preaching of your own, and do your best to entice along any lapsed or uncatechized family and friends to Midnight or another Mass, and hope it marks the start of a return (or discovery) of the saving truth for them this Christmas!

And I wish everyone a happy and holy Christmas as we celebrate this Vigil of the feast today.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Following the breviary over Christmas....

Hopefully the various entries and exchanges on the breviary have fired you up for the Office! So just a few footnotes to the discussion really...


First, someone did suggest I say something about the (novus ordo) Liturgy of the Hours - but I'm afraid I'm just too rusty on it to be able to say anything much useful!

For those looking for something short and in English only, and mainly attend the novus ordo, it might be worth thinking about. But if you use the traditional calendar, I would suggest that the task of trying to reconcile feast days is just too challenging!

Reconciling calendars

In fact I thought it was worth noting that if you are trying to use the Benedictine Monastic Diurnal, there are differences to the 1962 Roman calendar - while the seasonal calendars are generally identical, there are differences in the number and level of saints days. It is reasonably easy to align them though if you choose - just use the Common of the Saints (and/or the collect from the relevant Mass) for any missing feasts!

In any case, for the next couple of weeks, simply follow the proper of the season at the front of your breviary - all the relevant saint's days are there upfront with full rubrics!

Sing Matins for Christmas!

And if you are in Sydney or Melbourne for Christmas, you can participate in the Office as it should be done, sung in a group in Church, since both are doing matins on Christmas Eve as well as a few other hours over the period of the Nativity and Epiphany).


December 23 - O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Juventutem CD - update on availability

Some good news for international supporters of Juventutem - the CD is now on sale here:

Due to the fact that this online shop cannot handle 2-CD sets (only single CD's), international customers will get a slightly reduced version of what the Australians get, but at 80 minutes worth of music, it is completely full, so definitely worth it.

December 22 - O Rex Gentium

Back to the Dominicans:

O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Adelaide Ordination and mini-blognic

Last night the Australian traddie caravan (including myself!) hit Adelaide, unusually not for a traditional rite event, but for a novus ordo one, the ordination to the priesthood of now Fr Mannes Tellis OP, and Br Vincent Magat (to the diaconate) by Archbishop Wilson.

The event itself was nicely done - a very good selection of hymns, the ordinary sung in gregorian chant, some truly excellent organ playing, and a very pretty motet influenced by the French school (Tu es Sacrerdos) composed by choir member Ronan Riley.

But I have to admit, those of us who attended last month's traditional ordination in Canberra couldn't really help but lament the loss of the rich symbolism and beauty that has been stripped out of this most important of sacraments.

Timing alone will give you a flavour of just how much has been removed from the beautiful traditional ordination rite under the reforms - last night's novus ordo ceremony took one and half hours. The Canberra traditional ordinations last month took three. The ordination of Fr McCaffrey FSSP by Archbishop Wilson a couple of years back, in this same cathedral, took three and half!

Still, one of the features of the ceremony that I did particularly like was the customizing of the litany of the saints for the occasion - lots of Dominican saints of course!

Now I know some people are very uncomfortable about bi-ritualism, but Fr Mannes has a long association with the traditionalist community here, so it was nice that a large proportion of the local traditionalist congregation attended. And a very nice gesture of solidarity to see Fr Rowe and Fr Terrance Naughtin(and some fellow Franciscans), as well as the locally based traditionalist priests attending in choir. Good also to see the Australian Dominicans out in force!

The choir for the event was made up largely of Sydney (with a few local) traddies, and I gather was also singing for Fr Mannes' first Mass today.

There were also more than a few familiar faces from Brisbane, Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth in the congregation.

I see it as a nice sign of the growing confidence of the traditionalist movement that events we might once have eschewed in protest are now being attended (in force even). Somewhat to the discomfort, in fact, of those who are uncomfortable at the Holy Father (and the new Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship's) promotion of a more traditional approach, including things such as the reception of communion kneeling and on the tongue!

Nice too, to be able to have a little mini-blognic afterwards, with Roman from Et Clamor Meus (with his cassock and surplice getting a work out, so there Cooees!), and Joshua from Psallite Sapienter on his way to Tasmania.

Mr Kwok was also present taking photos, so hopefully some high quality piccies will shortly be available to supplement my rather less than expert efforts on a borrowed camera!
In any case, do keep Fr Mannes and Br Vincent in your prayers.

December 21 - O Oriens

For today's version of the Antiphon, go over and listen to Fr Z! He has two versions of it up, one from the North American College's students, one his own!

The text is:

O Day-Spring, Brightness of the Light everlasting, and Sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Juventutem - The CD!

First, a big thank you to Chris who has sent me my first blogging present, a two CD set of the music from Juventutem!

And it is definitely something you will want to acquire too, perfect for Chrissie presents for fellow traddies, anyone who attended Juventutem as a souvenir, or actually, anyone who likes good music!

Basically, it provides a selection of the music - from three Pontifical Masses and Solemn Vespers - from Sydney's traditional World Youth Day Masses.

I was impressed by the music at the time - but listening to it again, this is amazing stuff. The CDs provide a very nice mixture of chant, polyphony, hymns and organ music actually sung in the context it was meant to be heard, a real live liturgical service, not a concert!

The sound quality of the recording is generally excellent - because it is live, there are a few audience noises in various places, but they've done a good job in eliminating most of this, and it really doesn't detract from the recording, just reminding anyone who was there of the wonderful atmosphere.

And hearing the rather nice interpretations of the chant and polyphony really makes me wish once again that I'd gotten my act together and joined the choir for more than the one mass I did actually sing in! Mind you listening then and now is a real pleasure that more than makes up for that.

In fact the choir (made up from people from across Australia and around the world, and conducted mostly by Scott Turkington, with Hugh Henry for the Palestrina Missa Brevis) seems to me to do a really excellent job on some classics of the chant and polyphonic repertoire.

If you are in Australia, you can get hold of the set from the Central Catholic Bookshop (Tel: 03 9639 0844) in Melbourne. I gather they haven't worked out how to handle overseas distribution yet, but I'm sure that will come shortly!

This is essentially a cost recovery exercize at the moment - but any surplus will be distributed to youth groups in the main traditional communities across Australia, so a worthwhile cause at least potentially!

December 20 - O Clavis David - and O Ipod!

You can listen to today's O antiphon below, but first, thanks to an alert reader, Matt, who pointed me to an article in the Age that will be of interest to all those interested in the office - the official Ipod version of the (I presume Novus Ordo) breviary!

iBreviary apparently brings a complete missal, with options for Spanish, French, English, Latin and Italian. It has been officially approved by the Vatican and can be down loaded through itunes! Can the traditional version be far behind....

Today's O antiphon is from Cantuale Antonianum:

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Friday, 19 December 2008

December 19 - O Radix Jesse

Today's version comes from Croatia!

The translation is:

O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Christmas and New Year Masses

Thanks to all of those who have sent in Christmas and later Mass details - I'll put up the New Year and so forth Mass details I've been sent after Christmas!

There are a few locations for which I'm still missing details however, and as I'm getting a few requests for them, please do take a look at the sidebar, and if you know of a Christmas TLM that isn't there, let me know!

In particular, if I have any readers (and I know I have!) from Hobart, Wollongong, Albury-Wodonga and the wilds of North Queensland (I'm just going on places that have regular if not every week TLMs, but if there may well be others), let us know if you do have any TLMs scheduled over the Christmas period (or even if not so the rest of us can pray for the situation to be rectified next year...).

December 18 - O Adonai

Today's O antiphon is O Adonai (Lord):

O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

The winds of changing are blowing...and some are blowing with it!

Here is a little collection of news from the last week or so that may be old to some, but I thought was so positive in flavour as to be worth highlighting as we move to the close of another year.

New Vatican appointment

First the appointment of Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, Archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain was to succeed Cardinal Arinze as Prefect of the the Congregation for Divine Worship. Known as the 'Little Ratzinger', the new Prefect has a reputation for conducting sumptuous liturgies and a strong theological background. Fr Z and others have been enjoying posting piccies of him in cappa magna etc, so how can I resist?


Secondly, the fruits of the Pope's recent visit to France are showing, with Cardinal Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris celebrating Mass in the extraordinary form at Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois on Gaudete Sunday. He will also celebrate the feast of Sainte-Geneviève in the parish of Saint-Eugène on January 4. The picture below comes via the New Liturgical Movement.


Thirdly, the Archbishop Prendergast of Ottawa has ordered people in his diocese to kneel through the Eucharistic Prayer (quelle horreur!). Previously, there was a wide range of practice...You can read all about it over at Fr Z!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Where are you all from?

When I first started blogging I have to admit I became totally addicted to the statistics from my webcounter, absolutely fascinated by where people came from, how long they stayed on the blog and so forth. I'm afraid while I enjoy writing, I wouldn't really bother if I didn't think someone was reading - every now and then I start keeping a diary, for example, but I never keep going very long!

These days though I'm much more relaxed about the stats, only taking a peep every now and then, to reassure myself that either I haven't turned everyone off, or you are all still reading in fascinated horror!

I do still review the stats a bit more thoroughly occasionally though - it gives me some clues, albeit indirect, as to whether or not I'm hitting the mark or not (not that I necessarily am moved by this!). Some types of stories, for example, always cause a jump in the stats - the ongoing Brisbane saga for example - but I'm not necessarily inclined to make them regular fare! Other types of posts, such as on lectio divina, seem to be a bit of a turn off for some - but those who do read seem to stay a bit longer than usual, so are presumably reading it carefully, and that makes the effort of putting together material like that (writing doesn't necessarily take that long; but finding matching pictures etc can take a lot of time) seem worthwhile!

One of the most interesting parts of the stats reports is where people come from. I like to see all the Oz locations - this is after all my main target audience! But do also get a thrill from seeing the interesting places some of my readers come from!

I took peek this morning...and here is what I found in terms of the locations of my last one hundred visitors. Sorry if your location doesn't appear - depends on when you looked at the site as to whether or not your location made the list! Also the location indicator can sometimes aggregate people to larger cities - I once had someone from Nelson NZ show up as Christchurch, nearly a thousand kilometers away!

With that in mind....

Birmingham, United Kingdom
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
Nashville, Tennessee
Derby, United Kingdom
Plano, Texas
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Lons-le-Saunier, Franche-Comte, France
Norwalk, Connecticut
Pompano Beach, Florida
Perth, Western Australia
London, United Kingdom
Melville, New York
Hsinchu, T'ai-wan, Taiwan
Caboolture, Queensland
Perth, Western Australia
Melbourne, Victoria
Wollongong, New South Wales
Thatcham, Berkshire, United Kingdom
Sydney, New South Wales
Melbourne, Victoria
Melbourne, Victoria
Brisbane, Queensland
Sydney, New South Wales
Sydney, New South Wales
Melbourne, Victoria
Sydney, New South Wales
Hobart, Tasmania
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Acton, Massachusetts
Maryborough, Queensland
Melbourne, Victoria
Holy See (Vatican City State)
Melbourne, Victoria
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Melbourne, Victoria
Senlis, Picardie, France
Perth, Western Australia
Melbourne, Victoria
Sydney, New South Wales
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Melbourne, Victoria
Indianapolis, Indiana
Sydney, New South Wales
Split, Splitsko-Dalmatinska, Croatia
Sydney, New South Wales
Sydney, New South Wales
Melbourne, Victoria
Sydney, New South Wales
Saint Louis, Missouri
Sydney, New South Wales
Brisbane, Queensland
Adelaide, South Australia
Sydney, New South Wales
Sydney, New South Wales
Houston, Texas
Voorhees, New Jersey
Dallas, Texas
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Washington, District of Columbia
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Perth, Western Australia
Brooklyn, New York
Wollongong, New South Wales
Melbourne, Victoria
Washington, District of Columbia
Brisbane, Queensland
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
United States
Perth, Western Australia
Brisbane, Queensland
Denton, Nebraska
Melbourne, Victoria
Adelaide, South Australia
United Kingdom
Newcastle, New South Wales
Adelaide, South Australia
Sydney, New South Wales
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Oxford, Oxfordshire
Durham, North Carolina
Sydney, New South Wales
London, United Kingdom
Sydney, New South Wales
Ulverstone, Tasmania
Melbourne, Victoria
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Sydney, New South Wales

Thanks for reading!

December 17 - Ember Day and O Wisdom

The liturgy enters a new level of intensity from today, with a new set of antiphons for each hour of the Divine Office every day from today, and the singing of the wonderful 'O' antiphons at Vespers.

It is also an ember day - traditionally a day of fasting and partial abstinence in preparation for the coming festivities - and a traditional time for ordinations!

It seems appropriate, therefore, to start of the cycle with a group of English Dominican students singing, as we pray for the two Australian Dominican ordinands for this Saturday!

The translation is:

O Wisdom,who proceeds from the mouth of the Most High, reaching out mightily from end to end, and sweetly arranging all things: come to teach us the way of prudence.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Dignitatis Personae

I've been meaning to get around to talking about the new instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith on bio-ethics issues, but there is a lot in it, so I thought at this stage I'd just put up a link and a bit of a summary.

This is an important document that everyone should read.

The framework and past teaching reviewed

It reviews briefly the ethical and moral framework in which we must view human life and marriage.

It then reviews the Church's position on fertility treatments, in vitro fertilization, and other related practices. The three guiding principles it articulates are:

"a) the right to life and to physical integrity of every human being from
conception to natural death;
b) the unity of marriage, which means reciprocal respect for the right within marriage to become a father or mother only together with the other spouse;
c) the specifically human values of sexuality which require “that the procreation of a human person be brought about as the fruit of the conjugal act specific to the love between spouses”.

Genetic manipulation

The last section deals with genetic manipulation. It finds that:
  • gene somatic therapy, that seeks to eliminate or reduce genetic defects on the level of somatic cells, that is, cells other than the reproductive cells, is licit in principle, but the risk of harm to progeny for 'gene line therapy' (genetic changes passed on to children) is still too high given the current state of research;
  • cloning, whether reproductive or therapeutic, is always immoral;
  • stem cells can be used only where they are obtained by appropriate means (ie from adults, umbilical chords, or fetuses who die of natural causes).


One of the topics covered by the Instruction that I know will be of immediate import to many parents is the case of vaccines derived from illicitly obtained material and the problems of cooperation and scandal. In general, the Instruction calls on researchers and producers of vaccines to take a tougher stance. But it also notes that there are degrees of co-operation, so that:

"Grave reasons may be morally proportionate to justify the use of such “biological material”. Thus, for example, danger to the health of children could permit parents to use a vaccine which was developed using cell lines of illicit origin, while keeping in mind that everyone has the duty to make known their disagreement and to ask that their healthcare system make other types of vaccines available."

Do go have a read.

Anonymity, gossip, and the internet

Someone wrote to me last week wanting to know more about the 'Terra story'. I took it as a compliment, but declined for a variety of reasons.

But I have to admit that in thinking about it, there are real questions about anonymity, privacy and the internet perhaps need more discussion.

What is gossip about?

Firstly the request did remind me that as humans we bond and form connections on the basis of who is doing what and why stuff - in short gossip! Gossip has a negative connotation these days, but the word actually derives from 'God sibb' - a close friend or companion related to one in God. The more positive view of it sees it as ways of building relationships and groups, teaching and reinforcing shared values, and resolving conflict.

Some of the research on gossip is intriguing. Firstly it suggests that it is a myth that women are the gossips - men gossip just as much as women. Secondly, most gossip - 95% of it - is not actually negative. And most negative gossip is actually about building or negotiating on shared values, deciding what behaviour and opinions are and are not appropriate/acceptable.

The difficulties arise firstly when the gossip is about things that are actually sinful as opposed to ordinary action (detraction); when things move from gossip to rumour (with the potential for culumniation); from commenting on opinions or actions to judging the person; and from essentially constructive to destructive.

More fundamentally, there is a real problem when the discussion isn't, at some appropriate point, brought to the attention of the person who is the subject of the gossip.

The internet

So how does this all fit in with the internet? Well of course, blogs, facebook, youtube, forums and much more provide a lot of vehicles for gossip (or more positively, newsharing, discussion and critique). It can be pretty brutal at times.

But if you think of it as a testing out process, aimed at aiding our progress in creating a new catholic culture, then what can sometimes appear carping and negative takes on a different perspective.

Of course it is repetitive and irritating when people repeatedly attempt to assert their view as the norm, or find fellow true-believers - but it can equally lead to others forming or modifying their opinions, choosing new and better paths.

On anonymity

Perhaps the biggest issue around the internet is that information that might previously have been restricted to quite a small circle is spread far and wide by pseudo-anonymous people such as myself! We like to think of ourselves as reporters, our identity nothing more than a by-line in a newspaper.

But as with 'real' journalists, there is a certain asymmetry in the process that can generate some resentment...Of course, the simple solution if you don't like what you are reading is either stop reading, or to start your own blog, and get your own view out!

The demand to know

One of the curiosities of the web from mmy point of view is the frequent demand that people sign with their own name, or reveal their identity to moderators of email groups. In an environment where a name will mean little to most people, I don't understand the insistence on it.

It is worth pointing out is that the extent to which people reveal who they are has varied historically dramatically. Think of all those centuries when gregorian chant was composed - we know only a handful of the names of composers prior to the fifteenth century for example, but the name and something about the vast majority of composers whose music has survived from the seventeenth century onwards. There are similar cycles in writing.

Ande on this, one of the things that fascinates me is the way the internet is changing our attitudes towards privacy. Think about Benedictine monasticism for example. At times in the past, individual monks and nuns have become quite well-known - St Hildegard of Bingen was famous in her own lifetime, doing the twelfth century equivalent of speaking tours; so to of course her contemporary St Bernard of Clairvaux. In the seventeenth century, the English Benedictine Congregation monasteries published the works of Dom Augustine Baker and Dame Gertrude More in part in order to defend themselves against attacks on their approach to spirituality from the Jesuits.

But in the last few centuries, virtually no one outside the monastery and immediate relatives knew the names of monks of a particular monastery. If the monk wrote a book, it was published as 'a Benedictine of x', at least until after they died.

In the contemporary world, traditionalist Le Barroux has continued to follow this practice to some degree, only recently revealing that a number of books they published were by Dom Gerard Calvet (although at least one of his books was published under his name during his lifetime).

But other monasteries have gone a long way in the opposite direction. The Abbot of the thriving Christ in the Desert monastery, for example, has been sharing little bios of each of his monks in his newsletter as the basis for asking us to pray especially for that person that week. His newsletters are very frank and open about his own travails as well as those of the monastery and the monks. I have to admit I found it shocking at first, to read things like that Fr X of monastery y was visiting to try out his vocation as he was looking for a more contemplative lifestyle. But while I wouldn't personally want that sort of information out in public if it was about me, I have increasingly come to appreciate the rationale for sharing information of this kind.

We lack examples....

In an earlier age where catholic culture was entrenched, this kind of information didn't have to be shared. Because the shared consciousness already knew what people needed to know.

People knew, for example, that monks did - albeit rarely - swap monasteries. They knew the vocation stories of their own relatives and friends. They knew at least something of the day to day struggles of living the catholic life.

The problem we face today however, is that most of these exemplars and the tacit knowledge that went along with them is missing. Many of us didn't grow up in fervently practicing catholic households - indeed a very high proportion of traditionalists are converts. Today, for example, we are lucky if we distantly know of one religious brother or sister - and we are mostly unlikely to know how they ended up in the monastery, let alone how they have found it once there...

Sharing information about the progress or struggles of friends and fellow travellers - vocation stories of priests, information on special events and visitors to our shores, and who is doing what - helps all of us, I think.

The internet, provided it is used wisely, is in a way perhaps recreating those old tight knit communities in many ways, and helping rebuild our culture.

But at the moment we are in a point of transition. Some of us retain an old-fashioned reluctance to chronicle our every move on facebook, or be judged on the basis of what we have done previously rather than what we say now, even if we avidly read and respect those who are much more comfortable in sharing the details of their lives with others! And we are all still feeling our way, I think, on what it is and isn't appropriate to share and/or comment on.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Lectio Divina 3: Study (for Gaudete Sunday)!

Today I’d like to continue my series on Lectio Divina and talk about the study stage of lectio, and to give you a flavour of how you might tackle it, I’m going to take a practical example, in the opening verses of today's (Gaudete Sunday) Gospel , John 1:19-20.


Remember first of all that the first stage is to read it. Here is the Vulgate:

“Et hoc est testimonium Iohannis quando miserunt Iudaei ab Hierosolymis sacerdotes et Levitas ad eum ut interrogarent eum tu quis es. Et confessus est et non negavit et confessus est quia non sum ego Christus”

If you want to have a listen to what it should sound like, Fr Zulsdorf has actually made a recording of this and all the Propers for this weekend over at his site, well worth a listen to.

Now have a look at the English version:

19. And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who are you?

20. And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.”

I suggested trying to memorize this is possible (either in English or Latin). Normally I’m not very good a remembering Gospel’s for more than a day or two, but actually this one is imprinted on my brain forever in English at least courtesy of participating in a (memorable for a variety of reasons!) performance many years ago of Orlando Gibbon’s wonderful version setting of this – have a listen, it might help you too!


Remember that this is mainly about working out how you are going to tackle the study of the passage, as well as gathering preliminary ideas on where your meditation might focus.

Context: Bear in mind that St John the Evangelist was a disciple of St John the Baptist, so was in a pretty good position to record John’s testimony!

Literal meaning: If you aren’t familiar with this Gospel, go read the text set for this Sunday, or even the whole of Chapter One to get the context. But I think that John’s baptizing efforts, just before the start of Jesus’ public ministry will be pretty familiar to most! The Navarre Bible and Ignatius Study Guide also provide useful maps and explanations of the literal meaning of the text.

Haycock's Bible is an old but good online resource for this. On this particular passage it says:

“Ver. 19. The Jews sent, &c. These men, who were priests and Levites, seem to have been sent and deputed by the sanhedrim, or great council at Jerusalem, to ask of John the Baptist, who was then in great esteem and veneration, whether he was not their Messias; who, as they knew by the predictions of the prophets, was to come about that time. John declared to them he was not….”

Spiritual meaning: One approach is to look at the Scriptural cross-references to this passage, or use a Greek concordance to dig into the meaning of the passage in depth. But personally, in order to get started at least, I think you really can’t go past the Church Father’s on this, and I want to recommend a few good resources.

First, if you are looking online (it is out of print and/or extraordinarily expensive in book form, much as I'd love to have it), the Catena Aurea of St Thomas is a wonderful resource which I’ll talk about more below. Secondly, Biblia Clerus brings together a number of patristic commentaries and magisterial references.

In terms of real books, I love the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series - an ecumenical project designed to counteract the historico-critical school believe it for not, but one I can truly support (even though in using it you do have to keep in mind the occasional bit of protestant bias in translation and selection of texts)! Another Catena style approach, for each section it provides an overview of what the Fathers have to say, then selected extracts from their commentaries by verse.


OK, So let's get down to it! As I've said, there are lots of different approaches you can take to this task, but one of the most useful tools for lectio I’ve found is the Catena Aurea compiled by St Thomas Aquinas, as it almost always both answers the questions on the literal meaning of the text, and gives some good jumping off points for the spiritual. Take a look at a couple of extracts for these verses for example:

“ORIGEN; The Jews of Jerusalem, as being of kin to the Baptist, who was of the priestly stock, send Priests and Levites to ask him who he is; that is, men considered to hold a superior rank to the rest of their order, by God's election, and coming from that favored above all cities, Jerusalem. Such is the reverential way in which they interrogate John. We read of no such proceeding towards Christ: but what the Jews did to John, John in turn does to Christ, when he asks Him, through His disciples, Are you He that should come, or look we for another? John, as it appears, saw from the question, that the Priests and Levites had doubts whether it might not be the Christ, who was baptizing; which doubts however they were afraid to profess openly, for fear of incurring the charge of credulity.

He wisely determines therefore first to correct their mistake, and then to proclaim the truth. Accordingly, he first of all shows that he is not the Christ: And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. We may add here, that at this time the people had already begun to be impressed with the idea that Christ's advent was at hand, in consequence of the interpretations which the lawyers had collected out of the sacred writings to that effect.

Thus Theudas had been enabled to collect together a considerable body, on the strength of his pretending to be the Christ; and after him Judas, in the days of the taxation, had done the same. Such being the strong expectation of Christ's advent then prevalent, the Jews send to John, intending by the question, Who are you? to extract from him whether he were the Christ.

GREG. He denied directly being what he was not, but he did not deny what he was: thus, by his speaking truth, becoming a true member of Him Whose name he had not dishonestly usurped.

CHRYS. Or take this explanation: The Jews were influenced by a kind of human sympathy for John, whom they were reluctant to see made subordinate to Christ, on account of the many marks of greatness about him; his illustrious descent in the first place, he being the son of a chief priest; in the next, his hard training, and his contempt of the world.

Whereas in Christ the contrary were apparent; a humble birth, for which they reproach Him; Is not this the carpenter's son? an ordinary way of living; a dress such as every one else wore. ….And observe the wisdom of the Evangelist: he repeats the same thing three times, to show John's virtue, and the malice and madness of the Jews. For it is the character of a devoted servant, not only to forbear taking to himself his lord's glory, but even, when numbers offer it to him, to reject it. The multitude indeed believed from ignorance that John was the Christ, but in these it was malice; and in this spirit they put the question to him, thinking, by their blandishments to bring him over to their wishes."

How to use it

As you go through it, highlight the things that strike you, and jot down the things that flow from them in terms of possible topics for meditation. The important point to bear in mind here is that the objective is not to write an essay on Scripture, but to identify the message of the text for you.

Here is a bit of a list (by no means complete) to give you some idea of the types of possibilities you might come up with as you read a good commentary on the text, or think about it yourself:

  • You can start at the ‘macro’ level, on God’s providential plan for our salvation, and how that can be reproduced in our own lives this Advent.
  • Or think about St John’s asceticism, one of the reasons why he was held in such esteem, and how we stack up on this front.
  • About the need to stand up for and preach our own faith and beliefs, correcting error and proclaiming the truth, even we know that any acclaim we win is likely to be very shortlived, and there will be scoffers!
  • About the strength of St John’s conviction about his own charism, which clearly had not been endorsed in advance by the religious establishment.
  • About the way St John fulfilled Jewish expectations of what a holy man should look like and do – in contrast to Our Lord!
  • About the motives of the Jewish authorities, who perhaps stand for all worldly authorities when confronted with holiness that challenges the status quo!
  • About St John’s humility in knowing his own position relative to Christ, and the contrast with some early false messiahs.

Next comes meditation and prayer

Hopefully as you study the text and commentaries, the most important issues for you to pray and meditate on will become evident as you look at what you have jotted down. But if not, don’t worry, just pick one or two things to take to the next stage, which we will talk more on next time,


Feast of St Lucy

Friday, 12 December 2008

Pope to meet world's Benedictine Abbots and Abbesses....

New Liturgical Movement has the following intriguing story:

Next Ascension Day, May 24th, 2009, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI is going to visit the great Abbey of Montecassino, Italy, the cradle of the Benedictine Order founded by St Benedict himself in AD 529, and where he also died and is buried.

As announced yesterday by the Abbot of Montecassino, dom Pietro Vittorelli, not only will the Holy Father sing Mass at the foot of the abbey in the morning, he will also celebrate Vespers in the Abbey Church.

For this occasion, he has asked dom Pietro Vittorelli to call together all Benedictine Abbots and Abbesses of the world, to pray together at the tomb of St Benedict.This will certainly be a momentous event in the life of the Benedictine Order, and since that order has always been so closely connected to the cultivation of the Sacred Liturgy, it is to be hoped that fruits in that direction will also come of it.

Source: Il Messaggero via the Papa Ratzinger blog."


Benedictines are in more than a bit of a mess around the world at the moment - there are some very good houses (both with TLM and NO), particularly amongst the newer ones, but an awful lot of them have become nothing much more than pleasant gentlemen or ladies heresy clubs that maybe get up a little earlier in the morning than most. I imagine though that the Pope might have some strong messages to send...and in part, about evangelising I suspect!

Feast of Our Lady of Guadelupe

You might say a special prayer for the FSSP's seminarians in North America today, as she is the patroness of the seminary!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

News titbits

A few news items of interest....

Counting down to the demise of the Religion Report...

I happened to turn on the Religion Report yesterday, and got sucked into listening to a story on the role of religious organisations in running labour market programs for the government, quite a good topic to discuss I thought. Only to find myself outraged yet again as the presenter, David Rutledge (normally one of the show's producers, but substituting for suspended Stephen Crittenden), attempted to utterly misrepresent Catholic social teaching, claiming it opposed the very notion of their being a 'labour market'. I actually stopped listening, but take a look at the transcript, there are some equally outrageous comments and question directions such as on Japanese Catholic 'conservatism' in the item on the Japanese martyrs. The sooner this show ends the better.

Campion College graduation

Over at Friends with Christ Fr Alladic's has a report on Campion College's first graduation ceremony. Campion is Australia's only liberal arts college, with a curriculum stressing Catholic theology and philosophy, and the contribution of Christianity to Western civilisation. Students study some of the great literary works of all time, as well as their particular disciplines.

New Springtime

The latest issue of the Catholic Student's Association's online journal is online, and includes some nice reflections on World Youth Day, including one by Br Mannes which points to the positive effects of the event on evangelical fervour, the failure of catechesis over the last forty years and how to counter it, the value of traditional devotions, and vocations. Good stuff!

Ordo for 2009

I haven't seen the hard copy Ordo for Australia around yet (if anyone would care to provide me with contact details so interested people can obtain one, please do), but a friend sent me a link to a UK version that might help tide people over!

Human Rights Bill?

Fr Frank Brennan SJ has been appointed to head a panel to recommend whether or not we need a human rights charter. Pretty sure that he wouldn't have been my choice, but in any case, time to mobilise folks.

More evil Victorian legislation

God's been smiting Brisbane recently for reasons most of us would see as obvious, but its less clear why Victoria has escaped (so far). The Latin Mass Melbourne site has a nice article on the latest assault, the Assisted Reproductive Technologies Amendment Act, passed last week.

Christmas Mass (and New Year) times

Thanks to those who have sent me mass details so far - I'm putting those for Christmas in the side bar, but if you want to include other masses up to New Year that is fine, I'll probably do a post immediately after Christmas to remind people of these and any special events around that time.

In the meantime, if anyone can help on times for Adelaide, Parramatta, Wollongong, Brisbane or any others I've missed, please do send them in...

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Cardinal Pell in Rome

Thanks to the Coo-ees for alerting me to these piccies of Cardinal Pell at the FSSP's Church in Rome on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (whose parish priest is Australian Fr Kramer), from Orbis Catholicus!

Now I know some down-under have a bit of an allergy to lace, but I like it in a liturgical context (I don't personally own any lace beyond a mantilla!); somehow the very unexpectedness of it makes the wearer look very manly. So get a load of this:

I'm assuming that the white biretta is for a Norbertine:

Lectio Divina Part III: continued: thinking!

Last time I talked about reading – which in a previous era really also included what we would think of as learning it and studying Scripture. I suggested you need to thoroughly lodge your chosen text in your head! Now I want to turn to thinking about it (cogitatio). Bear in mind, of course, that while I’m talking about each of these stages as if they were separate entities, in reality they don’t necessarily happen in a linear sequence!

A lot of lectio guides suggest you should read a text over until something leaps out at you, or the voice of inspiration strikes. Sometimes that does happen.

But as Mother Cecile Bruyere, first Abbess of Solesmes said:

“It is absolute presumption to expect to obtain, by immediate light from God, that knowledge which we can and ought to acquire for ourselves as part of our work in this world. We must not voluntarily rest satisfied with vague notions about the truths….”

I see the contemporary emphasis on direct inspiration as part of the general dumbing down of our faith.

Approaches to thinking about the text

When you are doing lectio, you are really looking for what God is trying to say to you personally – what you need to think about, change about yourself, or understand. It is also a jumping off point for meditation and contemplation. So as you go through the lectio process, my suggestion is to jot down a few notes as you go to help structure your thinking.

I like to think of the ‘cogitatio’ stage of approaching the text as in large part working out what I need to fill in by way of study (the next stage), and what I’m going to focus on in meditating on the text.

Do remember though that the point of lectio isn’t to produce an academic understanding of a text (well, OK, it can be, but that won’t be the objective for most of us!). So make sure that the bulk of the time you have set aside for your lectio each day doesn’t get sucked up with purely intellectual approaches to the text – at least half your time should be spent on meditating, praying and contemplation!

So in thinking about it, the aim is in part to work out where to focus. There are really three key strands you can look at:

§ Understanding the context of the verses under consideration;
§ Understanding the meaning – literal and spiritual – of the text; and
§ Identifying themes or ideas that are important for you personally.


In terms of context, I’m talking about both things about the text itself (like the genre, the human author, time it was written) and the context of the events being described (for the Gospel, what part of Jesus’ life, is it a parable, a discourse or description of events, etc). If you aren’t familiar with this, you might need to take a quick look at a commentary (such as the Navarre), or an ‘Introduction to the Bible’ book (there are several around – the ‘Inside the Bible’ by Fr Kenneth Baker is one of my favourites, and he covers much the same ground in an EWTN TV series which you can download for free if you prefer!).

Literal and spiritual meaning

The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes a nice medieval couplet that summarizes the four senses of Scripture: The Letter speaks of deeds; Allegory to faith; The Moral how to act; Anagogy our destiny.”

Throughout history there has been something of a tug of war between those who focus primarily on the literal sense of Scripture, and those who focus primarily on the spiritual. At the moment the literal is winning. It does need to be in there, being the foundation for all the other senses of Scripture. But I won’t spend much time on it. I’ll just note that the Ignatius Study Guides (and there are other similar resources around) provide useful notes on people and technical terms, as well as maps (as recommended by commenter Felix yesterday), and these are tools designed to be used for lectio!

Felix also suggested using a Child’s Bible if necessary, just to get the storyline. One book I quite like (but I know Felix may not), is Krecht’s Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture (reprinted by Tan Books). It is a bit out of date now in places (having been written in the 1890s), but provides a reasonably straightforward summaries of key parts of the Bible (and for the Gospels, gives one amalgamated version of each key event, parable, etc), and in each section gives a very helpful summary of the doctrinal points it illustrates (with a nice cross reference to catechism). It is also very good on the spiritual meanings, particularly typology.

So in summary….

The cogitatio stage is about working out how to tackle the text, which gaps in your knowledge need to be plugged the most! And above all, on starting to pick out the things that you might meditate or pray on.

For the next stage of the process, study, go here.


Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Christmas Masses and related events

Given that now is the season when Australians take to their cars, planes or whatever and head home for Christmas. So I thought it might be useful to put up a list of Christmas EF mass times, particularly for the convenience of travellers.

So if you look in the sidebar, you will see what I've been able to find out so far. But if you are a priest whose Masses (or other special events) I haven't mentioned as yet, or a member of a congregation with some info I haven't got as yet, please do tell, simply click on the word 'comments' below, or email me at!

And of course, if you haven't any particular place to be, it is not to late to decide whose liturgy is looking the most exciting! Some though competition this year, what between Matins in Melbourne on Christmas Eve, a first EF Solemn Mass in Adelaide (I believe), and a truly dawn mass in Sydney (I'm assuming you just don't go to bed after Midnight Mass...)!

Monday, 8 December 2008

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

"The fact that the Virgin Mother of God had at the moment of her Conception triumphed over the foul enemy of man, hath ever been borne out by the Holy Scriptures, by the venerable tradition of the Church, and by her unceasing belief, as well as by the common conviction of all Bishops and faithful Catholics, and by marked acts and constitutions of the Holy See.

At length the Supreme Pontiff Pius IX, in compliance with the wishes of the Universal Church, determined to publish it as a truth of faith, on his own absolute and unerring authority, and accordingly, on the 8th day of December, 1854, in the Vatican Basilica, in presence of a great multitude composed of the Fathers Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, and Bishops from all parts of the earth, he, with the consent and jubilation of the whole world, declared and defined as follows :

That doctrine which declareth that the most blessed Virgin Mary was in the first instant of her Conception preserved, by a special privilege granted unto her by God, from any stain of original sin, is a doctrine taught and revealed by God, and therefore is to be held by all faithful Christians firmly and constantly."

Sunday, 7 December 2008

The Priests....

I may be a little slow, as I only discovered this group a few days ago, but you've got to love it - a three tenors style (well, OK, two tenors and a bass) presentation of some of the religious musical classics.

With the hook being that the three singers are actually (Irish) priests, wearing dog-collars moreover.

They sound great, and their CD has just been released. Do go over to YouTube for a sample of some of their other stuff, and in the meantime, enjoy their version of Pie Jesu!

Memorize those Sunday Gospels!: Lectio Divina II, Reading

I said I'd write out some thoughts on how to make lectio divina a more substantive thing, and here is the first of my series, on reading.

This doesn't pretend to be a complete 'how to' guide, rather it provides some ideas designed to act as a counter to what I consider to be rather simplistic formulations of lectio that are popular at the moment.

Lectio in context

There are lots of Scriptural references on its importance.

Think of Our Lady treasuring all these things in her heart; that conversation on the road to Emmaus, when Our Lord explained the meaning of Scripture to some of the disciples, so that their ‘hearts were burning within them’; or the Beroeans studying Scripture to test what St Paul was saying (Acts 17). The purpose of lectio is to effect our personal transformation through the Word of God by feeding the soul.

But the systematic practice of lectio in the Western tradition really has its origins in the monasticism of late antiquity and the middle ages. So to understand what St Benedict, Guido II (the Carthusian who wrote probably the most famous tract on lectio divina) or others in this tradition meant by lectio, we have to understand something about the way they understood the terminology and approached the task. Only then can we think through the implications for our own practice.

So today, on the first stage of my list: read (next comes think -study - meditate - pray - contemplate - work).

1. Lectio divina took place in the context of the liturgical year

In theory, you can use anything you like for lectio divina - Scripture, the Fathers, or later spiritual works by saints can all be suitable starting points. In practice, the medieval tradition was largely grounded in the liturgy.

St Benedict, for example, sets aside some time each day for those who need to study (read learn off by heart) the psalms and readings in the liturgy, especially Matins (which contains at least three Scripture readings for half the year, and a mix of Scriptural and patristic readings on feasts and Sundays). In the monastic tradition, what was missed read from the Bible at Matins was read aloud at meals or in the evening. Following this pattern is a good way of ensuring that we read with the mind of the Church, focusing on texts relevant to the season or feast.

There is value in working through large chunks of Scripture relatively quickly first, so you have an overview that you can fit your specific lectio into. But really lectio divina should be slow and unhurried, aimed at milking all the juice our of a particular verse or two. It takes as long as it takes to read a particular book or chapter!

My suggestion: Start with the Sunday Gospels, then the epistles and other parts of the Proper. You don't have to do much - a verse or two of the Gospel (or a psalm verse from the Introit etc) a day is normally enough for a half hour session. Once you have worked through a cycle or two of that, consider turning to the Scriptural readings set for Matins! On the first day, read the whole story or section you are going to work over. Then over the rest of the week, take it a verse or two at a time each day.

2. Reading can mean hearing

Another key point to note is that lectio was born in an oral culture. Books were enormously expensive, something to be shared amongst several people, and literacy was in short supply. Accordingly, as the fourteenth century Cloud of Unknowing puts it:“All is one in manner, reading and hearing: clerks reading on books, and lewd men reading on clerks when they hear them preach the word of God.”

Even when people were literate, they remained immersed in a culture that was primarily oral. St Benedict in his Rule, for example, prescribes 2-3 hours a day of individual sacred 'reading'. But he also prescribed reading at meals and in the evening before Compline. And all on top of the several hours in choir for Mass and Divine Office.

My suggestion: Start by reading (use your missal) and if possible listening to the text in Latin a few times before you turn to the translation, so that you will recognize it when you hear it at mass next. You can find recordings of the vulgate (albeit with a spanish accent) here.

3. Reading meant memorization

The consequence of an oral culture is that memorization of texts was the norm. Books were laid out in a way to aid memorization, and a large part of the aim of set times for lectio divina was to supply the person with a text to chew over during the rest of the day - some of the images used are of a cow chewing her cud, or putting a grape through a winepress.

There is also a fair amount of evidence that in many times and places throughout the so-called dark ages, even people were illiterate could recognize the key texts - such as the Sunday Gospels - in the liturgy (in Latin), know what they were about, and possibly recite them by heart. Daily mass goers in the traditional rite might recognise the phenomenon - after a while you simply don't need (or want) to look at your missal as you hear yet again the reading about the foolish virgins, or that ye are the salt of the earth, for example!

Wouldn't it be great if could recover this kind of familiarity with Scripture, and do away with the need for the Gospel and/or Epistles to be read out in the vernacular at Mass - or even eliminate the need for those Proper sheets (OK so not everyone will agree, but I do hate having the texts repeated or the Latin supplanted in the traditional liturgy)!

Suggestion: Before you do anything else, try and memorize the verses you are going to work on for the day. If you are anything like me, it will go out of your head again in a few days, but in the meantime you have something fixed in your head to work over!

4. Reading was hard work

The monk was mostly working in a second language (Latin) in which he might have varying degrees of fluency. And the book he had in front of him wasn't easy to read even if he was fluent in the language. We tend to think of the nice clear, beautifully illuminated texts as the norm. In fact, however, deciphering most medieval books was a laborious process, constituting hard physical work!

It is pretty hard for us today to reproduce the effort that a person in earlier times went through to puzzle out the text and its meaning. Curiously, though, the internet does in a way allow us, at least potentially, to get a little closer to that experience than readers in the more recent past.

Take a look at a site like the Blueletter Bible for example. For each verse it offers multiple translations to compare, dictionaries of Biblical terms, a Greek/Hebrew lexicon which enables you to cross-reference word use to other Scriptural citations, background material on the text, maps, and much more. Working through your verse using some of these kinds of tools (taking due care with protestant commentaries however!) is not a bad place to start.

5. Reading also meant study

It is particularly worth flagging at this point here that reading meant much more than puzzling out the words of the text - it also meant thinking about it and study of it. Guido II the Carthusian wrote, for example, “Reading is the careful study of the Scriptures, concentrating all one’s powers on it.”

It is really because 'reading' has a much narrower meaning to us than it did to medieval people that I prefer to separate out the 'thinking' and 'studying' phases of lectio as something separate.

Anyway, more on this here in Part III of this series, when I will move on to consider the next stages of lectio.