Saturday, March 30, 2013

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to all! I'm safely back home (and had dinner, and the first Easter chocolates), after our Easter Vigil at St Francis, Riverside. We did start rather early (at 6:00 pm), but some of our parishioners had to drive in from Beaconsfield, 40 km away; and our esteemed parish priest is 79 (though hale and hearty, thanks be). The Vigil – at which yours truly was thurifer (and, rather unexpectedly, extraordinary minister of the chalice! at least I was vested) – took just on an hour and forty minutes.

The Triduum has been beautiful, and promptly carried out: Holy Thursday Evening Mass took an hour and ten, and the Solemn Commemoration of the Passion on Good Friday an hour and a quarter. Neither seemed rushed, nor did the Vigil, and at all three liturgies there was plenty of good music; Fr Allan used the Roman Canon at the two Masses, so there was no skimping on the Eucharistic Prayer either: evidently, being a wise and experienced priest, he simply knows how to celebrate the sacred mysteries with devotion, but without tardiness.

I feel spiritually recharged, and look forward to celebrating Easter – all fifty days of it. Surrexit Dominus vere, alleluja.

Thirteen Clerics or Thirteen Poor Men

Why were the feet of women not washed of old (and still should not be, according to the rubric, whatever of a certain diocesan bishop's self-dispensation therefrom)? – surely, for reasons of modesty. Consider for a moment even the attitudes of people just a century ago, in Edwardian times: would not it have seemed quite scandalous to them to behold a priest or bishop not merely washing the feet of women, but kissing them? And in any case, the removal of stockings beforehand would have seemed to people of that age awfully erotic (truth to say), making it hardly fit and proper.

In the licentious West in our own time, "anything goes", and so feet are not quite so erotically-charged as they were down to modern times (let alone their close relations ankles and legs!): hence, there is not quite the same unseemliness associated with washing them. But I do wonder if those delighted by the washing of female feet are too uncritically accepting of current Western norms: I suspect in many cultures (those of the Islamic world, for example) it would be totally outrageous for a man to wash the feet of a woman to whom he is not very closely related.

Touch, after all, not to mention the customary kiss of the foot – not required by current rubrics, but still carried out by many, including at least one bishop ordained since the reform of the liturgy in the 1960's – is of its nature quite intimate. To better illustrate this, consider for a moment the problems inherent in carrying out this rite in a chapel of a nunnery: it would seem disquieting, I argue, to see a priest wash the feet of religious sisters or nuns, since their persons are consecrated to the Lord, and are thus sacred and untouchable by males. Rather, in such a case no doubt the abbess or prioress would be the better choice of person to perform this ritual – which would therefore be better done separately from the Mass of Holy Thursday, as a private intramural function.


In the past – down to the preparatory liturgical reforms of the Roman Rite in the 1950's, which issued in the Novus Ordo – this ritual foot-washing was prescribed to be carried out after the Holy Thursday Mass and also after the stripping of the altars, and was compulsory only in cathedrals and collegiate churches, being optional and apparently rarely done in others (such as parish churches). Furthermore, the rule was that the prelate or superior who officiated at the Maundy or Mandatum (this being the name for the ceremony of the foot-washing or pedilavium) washed the feet of either thirteen clerics or thirteen poor men. (Apparently Pope St Gregory the Great set out to wash the feet of twelve poor men, but a thirteenth of striking appearance mysteriously joined them, and as mysteriously disappeared afterward before any could determine who he was: Gregory believed him to be an angel; and since that singular occurrence, thirteen, not twelve, became the accepted number of persons for the Maundy.)

Now, if thirteen clerics – priests, or, as at Rome until 2013, bishops – have their feet washed, then they most aptly represent the Apostles, who had been ordained priests of the New Testament at the Last Supper by Christ Himself, when, after first transubstantiating bread into His Body and wine into His Blood, He bade them "Do (offer) this as My memorial." It was the feet of His new priests that Our Lord laved.

But of course His command to them was to wash each other's feet, intimating thereby that they ought serve each other in charity and love; and this command was not merely for His Apostles to fulfil, but for all Christians to do likewise. We need not each one of us literally wash the feet of all Christ's disciples, but we do need to serve and aid and help each other, and not just as the pagans do and as unaided reason teaches us, but in a Christian spirit of Christlike, sacrificial service. Given this significance, it is thus entirely right and proper for a priest or bishop to wash, not the feet of representative members of the clergy, but instead humbly to lave the feet of those most in need of Christian charity – that is, the poor.

For the reasons I have detailed above, until our own age in the West, it would have seemed quite improper for a man to wash a woman's feet, given the sensual nature of such contact; but it may be argued that the former frisson of excitement inherent in such has largely dissipated in modern Western culture, given the greater degree of casual and non-sensual contact between the sexes in everyday life: and so the former rule restricting the Maundy to men may, if competent authority so legislates, be laid aside.

I will, however, re-iterate what often seems forgotten (though a bishop late of Buenos Aires knows it well): if a priest chooses not to wash the feet of clerics (which is one way of instantiating Christ's washing the feet of His chosen band), then it is better not to select members of the parish council, nor various members of the typical middle-class parish, but to go out to the slums and hospitals and hospices, and wash the feet of those who really and truly are poor. That is why – leaving aside any dispute over that word viri in the rubric – the actions of the former Cardinal, now Pope, are so truly evangelical and moving.


The words of the Vatican spokesman in response to criticisms of Francis, Bishop of Rome, are quite pointed, and I think truly point out what is more important here: the evangelical and astoundingly powerful witness to Christ's Gospel that he bears in performing these actions (which he does so, dispensing himself, implicitly, as not merely a bishop empowered to do so, but as the Supreme Legislator on earth, from what is the otherwise-binding rule):

In response to the many questions and concerns raised over Pope Francis washing the feet of 12 young people at the Roman Juvenile Detention Centre on Holy Thursday evening, especially that two were young women, Fr. Lombardi has sent me the following information to be shared with you. 
One can easily understand that in a great celebration, men would be chosen for the foot washing because Jesus, himself washing the feet of the twelve apostles who were male.  However the ritual of the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday evening in the Juvenile Detention Centre in Rome took place in a particular, small community that included young women.  When Jesus washed the feet of those who were with him on the first Holy Thursday, he desired to teach all a lesson about the meaning of service, using a gesture that included all members of the community.  
We are aware of the photos that show Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires, who in various pastoral settings washed the feet of young men and women.  To have excluded the young women from the ritual washing of feet on Holy Thursday night in this Roman prison, would have detracted our attention from the essence of the Holy Thursday Gospel, and the very beautiful and simple gesture of a father who desired to embrace those who were on the fringes of society; those who were not refined experts of liturgical rules.  
That the Holy Father, Francis, washed the feet of young men and women on his first Holy Thursday as Pope, should call our minds and hearts to the simple and spontaneous gesture of love, affection, forgiveness and mercy of the Bishop of Rome, more than to legalistic, liturgical or canonical discussions.

(I do in humility beg His Holiness to dissuade others from being led into an antinomian spirit, as they could be by his actions and these quoted words, rather than wisely to perceive his use of the powers inherent in him as bishop and Pope given the circumstances mentioned, by using his power to change the word viri to homines in the rubric governing the washing of feet in the Holy Thursday liturgy. In this way, no one would feel either pressured to do what the law seems to exclude, nor guilty about ignoring it.)


One unfortunate aspect of the present contretemps is that the age-old restriction of the laving of feet to those of men parallels the fact that the Apostles given the fulness of the New Testament priesthood at the Last Supper were men, and men only, and that the Church has always understood her Master to have imparted authority to His Apostles to confer the ministerial priesthood on men only, and to pass on that power to their successors the bishops of the Church, so that all Christian priests are men (just as, recall, all the Aaronic priests were, and indeed all priests of God Most High, whether under the Law or before the Law, according to Scripture). Now this is true – and a scandal to some.  

Therefore, those who still pertinaciously dissent from this orthodox Catholic rule are precisely those who most agitate for the washing of feet to involve women also – since they regard it as a symbolic inroad into the "male-dominated" priesthood, just as they crowed over the permission given some decades ago whereby girls may act as altar servers: in both cases, the extension of involvement in these activities is perceived as preparing the way for the uncatholic and antiscriptural dream (or rather nightmare) of obtaining purported ordination for women.

(It goes without saying that it is entirely risible to assume that His Holiness is anything other than totally orthodox in his faith, as all credible reports confirm, so to fondly imagine his actions each Holy Thursday convey some gnostic significance is a vain thing.)

I recommend that those in conscience convinced that the Church is heinously wrong in restricting ordination to men earnestly strive in prayer to reconcile their heterodoxy with the truth; and, if they cannot, then perhaps they ought go somewhere where all their desiderata are won, and they can see how well they work – that is, go off to the Anglicans, where one can have all the heterodoxy one likes, and plenty of latitude in matters of morality too.  Leave those who actually want to be Catholics and believe in Christ's religion to practice their Holy Faith in peace!


Another pertinent question arises: did not Christ's command to us to wash one another's feet, particularly in the literal rather than the metaphorical sense, apply only to Christians, or not? Obviously Christians should do good to all; but should Christians in a Christian liturgy wash the feet of non-Christians, even of unbelievers? If I were a Muslim, for example, let alone a female follower of Mahomet, I would hardly wish to join the infidel Christians for their attempts at worship, nor really understand why a man in white was so eager to wash my feet – but perhaps his humility would prepare my heart for conversion to the truth, as is devoutly to be hoped. I invite comment...

Friday, March 29, 2013

One a Penny, Two a Penny

For brunch this Good Friday morning (thank God for some extra hours of sleep – work has been very tiring, including meetings in the evening; with that, and choir, and an invitation to a talk, I've been out late every workday this week): two hot cross buns, buttered, with a cup of coffee. (I will have fish for dinner this evening.)

It amuses me to calculate the price of these buns (bought yester-day, but baked in Hobart, at the excellent Jackman and McRoss bakery – the shopkeepers who sold them on to me told me they had had to have a second truckload sent up, since the day before they had sold thirty dozen packs!): each pack contains six buns, for a total cost of $9.95; so the two buns I ate had a value of $1.66.

I see that a 1733 almanac mentions that hot cross buns indeed were then sold for one or two a penny; inflation – that wicked thing – has seemingly turned the price of one penny for one or two buns into $1.66 for two.

This, however, is on closer analysis not too bad: for when King Offa of Mercia introduced the silver penny into circulation in the eighth century, its mass was 22.5 "Tower" grains, equivalent to 15.8 troy grains, or almost exactly 1 gram; and one gram of silver costs 87 Australian cents. Hence, the price of a (silver) penny for one hot cross bun is actually about right, taking the long view.

(En passant, it would clearly be wicked to eat thirty, let alone sixty, hot cross buns, since their cost would amount to thirty silver pennies – the wages of Judas.)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hoc est, Hodie

To-day, Holy Thursday, for the Evening Mass in Cena Domini, there are several proper insertions into the usual form of the Roman Canon: to my mind, the most moving of them occurs at the start of the Institution Narrative, whose opening words Qui pridie quam are at once supplemented by pro nostra omniumque salute, and whose next word, pateretur, is augmented with a further phrase, hoc est, hodie – that is, in literal translation, between "Who the day before" and "He suffered" the words "for our salvation and that of all" are inserted, and then "that is, today" added. In the new ICEL translation, this is rendered "On the day before he was to suffer for our salvation and the salvation of all, that is today".

"On the day before he was to suffer... that is, today". The Sacraments always make present hic et nunc, here and now, the power of Christ, His healing touch. This evening is special because, being the anniversary of the institution of the Eucharist, on the eve of His Crucifixion, we are reminded that this really happened, these mysteries were first set forth this very day. 

Of old, a heretic asked, What have we to do with a Christ Who died at Jerusalem? – the answer is, that same Saviour indeed died, but more, He rose again, is alive for ever and ever, has the keys of death and of hell, is present everywhere in His Divinity, ever imparting His grace to souls, and in His sacred humanity is truly with us in His Body and Blood consecrated and offered on every altar, applying the all-sufficient power of His Passion in the Sacrifice and Communion, by which we are made one with Christ and given the foretaste of eternal life. To-day Christ is with us, Emmanuel, mighty to save.

Earlier in the Canon of the Mass on this, the night of His Last Supper, the Communicantes begins with "Celebrating the most sacred day on which our Lord Jesus Christ was handed over for our sake, and" (et diem sacratissimum celebrants, quo Dominus noster Jesus Christus pro nobis est traditus: sed), while the Hanc igitur has a long insertion "which we make to you as we observe the day on which our Lord Jesus Christ handed on the mysteries of his Body and Blood for his disciples to celebrate" (quam tibi offerimus ob diem, in qua Dominus noster Jesus Christus tradidit discipulis suis Corporis et Sanguinis sui mysteria celebranda).

What a play on words! Christ hands over the Mysteries of His own Body and Blood as Sacraments to His disciples; and Judas hands Christ over into the hands of His enemies.  But in His betrayal to torment and death is the vicarious suffering that wins salvation for us and all: a supreme sacrifice whose anniversary is to-morrow, and re-presented sacramentally to us this evening, to-day, as once on the evening of His Last Supper He prefigured the events of Good Friday, giving Himself with His own hands (se dat suis manibus).

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mary Untier of Knots - and Pope Francis

Years ago, I found a booklet about an Argentinian devotion to Our Lady as Untier of Knots.

Last year, when I was in Augsburg visiting a priest friend, he took me to a chapel – dedicated to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots. By her obedience to grace, she unbinds  for herself, and all her spiritual offspring, the knotted bonds of sin that Eve entangled for herself and all her children; and even in temporal affairs she assists the faithful to solve knotty problems that try them.

File:Mary-Untier-of-Knots-1.jpgHow did this devotion cross from Bavaria to Argentina, and when?

A certain Fr Bergoglio, S.J., who was studying in Germany, saw the image, and brought a copy back to Argentina... where propagation of devotion to Our Lady under this title has spread far and wide (even to Australia).

And some wretches complain about our new Pope!

I look forward to reading an encyclical of his in honour of the Mother of God, to whom he is entirely devoted, whose Rosary he daily recites (fifteen decades, as is traditional), to whose sacred icons, paintings and statues he pays due relative reverence, and whose patronage he eagerly invokes for all Christian people.

Apparently a silver chalice, to be the gift of the people of the Argentine ("Silver") Republic to Pope Francis, shall bear a representation of the Blessed Virgin under this title; just as the former Cardinal himself gave a chalice emblazoned with the same glorious image to Benedict XVI.

Note, gentle reader, that Pope Francis is quite content (as was St Francis) to give and receive such precious gifts intended for the service of the altar.

Prayer to Our Lady Undoer of Knots

Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exists in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exist in my life. 
You know very well how desperate I am, my pain and how I am bound by these knots.
Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of his children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life. 
No one, not even the Evil One himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone.
Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with Your Son and my Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot (...). I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once for all. You are my hope.
O my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives me, the fortification of my feeble strength, the enrichment of my destitution and with Christ the freedom from my chains.
Hear my plea. Keep me, guide me, protect me, O safe refuge!

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

What a Preacher!

Listen to our humble Pope as he leads us to meditate on the mercy of God:

Bl Oscar Romero, Bp & M?

According to Mgr Delgado, on several occasions the future Pope Francis assured him that, should he become Pope (per impossibile, as the then Cardinal Bergoglio assumed), he would very soon beatify Oscar Romero, who was murdered in odium fidei on the 24th of March 1980.

Thirty-three years after his death (and, we pray, his heavenly birthday), it seems incredible to me at least that that holy and orthodox bishop, who was unafraid of State terror and sought to defend the poor (in the image of several sainted hierarchs of old, be it said), is still uncanonized, let alone as yet not even beatified.

May we hopefully expect good Pope Francis to give the world a new exemplar of holiness by raising Bishop Romero to the honours of the altars in time for Holy Week, or at the least within the first year of his supreme pontificate?

Philistines and Mockery

Too many are rather cruelly contrasting the simplicity of Pope Francis – especially his sartorial restraint – with what they caricature as the frippery of Pope Benedict's wardrobe: my ears had the nasty experience of hearing the latter described on SBS News this evening as a sort of ecclesiastical Barbie doll by their SBS Rome correspondent, who went on to mock poor Mgr Marini, a learned, devout and dedicated M.C., by claiming that, when Marini offered him the Papal mozzetta to wear for his first appearance, Francis replied (supposedly) "No more carnival attire".

Such a cruel remark would surely be unworthy of our new Supreme Pontiff, who by all accounts is humble, not rude; the offending phrase rather reveals more about those who delight to repeat it (I mention it in anger and sorrow only).

Australians of all nations are given to Philistinism, and scoffing at the appropriate and traditional vesture proper to officials of all sorts.

It is the sin of Judas to say "such and such should have been given to the poor", whereas it was for Christ Himself rightly to testify that the costly nard expended upon the veneration of His Sacred Body was a kindly and justified act given the special circumstances. The latter-day Judases who would celebrate the sacraments in rags tend not to be similarly self-denying in their secular lives; too often, they are self-satisfied middle-class liberals posing at playing poverty, and care not enough about God to expend much if anything when adoring Him.

Holy Church requires that the chalice and paten, as also other items used in divine worship, be of a certain quality, despite the cost thereof: for in determinate circumstances, it is justified and no sin to spend money on sacred things (and similarly in all the circumstances of everyday life).  St Francis, far from despising money spent on the upkeep of churches and on the liturgy, insisted upon careful regard for those things – while always serving the needs of the poor. One can – one ought – do both.

There is no absolute duty always and everywhere to give every last cent away to those needier than oneself – but in certain circumstances, there is indeed a duty to spend very much to help others, even at great cost to oneself: prudential judgement comes into play here. In general, it would be madness to sell all the goods of the Church, so that they fall into private hands and are never more seen by the public, in the false belief that to do so would (for a time) raise funds to advantage the poor, but – when prudence dictates – the sale even of the most valuable treasures may indeed be justified in particular circumstances, so as to satisfy pressing needs.

St Lawrence gave away the treasures of the Church to the poor, lest the pagans seize them; St Chrysostom reminds us to give alms to the poor, lest in giving a costly chalice we forget the beggar at church door; but neither the one nor the other would claim that the Church cannot morally possess good things, nor accept even precious vessels, provided the needy be rightly and fairly helped and aided.

But for a truly insulting display of mockery and hypocrisy, one need only glance (once is enough, I will not reproduce them here) at the twitterings of horrid Cardinal Mahony (how has he escaped prison?) – who maladministered his former archdiocese by sheltering pedo-priests, and thus occasioned payouts of hundreds of millions of dollars to their many victims (as fulsome online documentation reveals), rather than stop those evildoers before they molested, and with the money saved help the poor – a smug prelate who yet unblushingly affects joy at the "low church" arriving in place of the "high church" (the use of Anglican terminology is revealing in itself), and prophesies the disappearance of lace et al. 

If only such asinine whited sepulchres as himself would disappear! Hopefully the rumours about such proud and lying prelates being ordered to do penance in a strict monastery prove true.

Meanwhile, to attempt to "worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness" is but to do as Pope Francis himself has said: it is to promote through the media of vesture and music, precious metalwork and rich tapestry the True, the Good, and the Beautiful – since God is all these in Himself, to try and reflect such is evangelical and God-pleasing, be it done unselfconsciously, without conceited self-regard or odious self-love. It would be vile to accuse the recently-retired Benedict XVI of falling into such traps.

Dear Holy Father, please justly punish all ecclesiastics who have by deed or negligence gravely harmed the little ones of Christ, and don't worry too much if your M.C. lays out vestments not entirely to your taste (though of course you may properly insist upon sobriety in their style). I am sure you would agree that the latter trial, if fault it be, is but an imperfection easily to be borne, whereas the former  duty incumbent upon you is most pressing, given the grave scandal it occasions, let alone the demands of justice that compels it.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Ipse harmonia est

Yester-day, while addressing the College of Cardinals, Pope Francis spoke thus of the Holy Spirit and His gifts of grace to all the different members of the Body of Christ:
He, the Paraclete, is the supreme protagonist of every initiative and manifestation of faith. It’s interesting and it makes me think. The Paraclete creates all the differences in the Church and seems like an apostle of Babel. On the other hand, the Paraclete unifies all these differences – not making them equal – but in harmony with one another. I remember a Church Father who described it like this: “Ipse harmonia est.” [He Himself is Harmony.] The Paraclete gives each one of us a different charism, and unites us in this community of the Church that adores the Father, the Son, and Him – the Holy Spirit.”
Now, I have been trying to find who exactly it was who spoke and wrote of the Holy Spirit in those words “Ipse harmonia est” – that is, He Himself is harmony or concord, He the Holy Spirit is harmony itself. There are so many repetitions of these words of the Holy Father themselves online that so far I have not had a chance to locate the original reference, but I do see in these words the idea that the different graces given by the Spirit result in a wonderful symphony.

In any case, these words are beautiful and worth much prayerful consideration; the last line refers I think to a phrase of St Cyprian, as repeated in the Catechism (n. 810), itself repeating Lumen Gentium: "Hence the universal Church is seen to be 'a people brought into unity from the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit'" (LG 4 citing St. Cyprian, De Dom. orat 23: PL 4, 553).

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Il Papa che parla

“Only someone who has encountered mercy, who has been caressed by the tenderness of mercy, is happy and comfortable with the Lord,” Bergoglio said in 2001. “I beg the theologians who are present not to turn me in to the Sant’Uffizio or the Inquisition; however, forcing things a bit, I dare to say that the privileged locus of the encounter is the caress of the mercy of Jesus Christ on my sin.”

Building upon what my friend the former Lutheran David Schütz has said of Benedict XVI as the Pope who best understood the theology of Luther (both as to its evangelical strengths and its deviations from orthodoxy), does this not sound, while eminently Catholic, not toto cælo distat from an evangelical outlook, in the best sense of that term, both ecumenically and in sober verity?


Whilst some Traddies whined on about His Holiness not wearing the Papal mozetta for his first appearance on the loggia last evening Rome time, early this morning in Rome residents and schoolchildren near St Mary Major's were surprised to see the new Pope arrive to pray there (just as he had promised in his first speech), accompanied by a very small entourage.

The Holy Father prayed for half an hour before the altar of the Virgin Mary, doubtless imploring her aid as Salus populi Romani.

Does not this say something?

Viva il Papa - and Down with Rudeness

What has upset my joy this day?

The appalling, downright rudeness, the veritably vomitous spewing-forth of bile that I have read on some of the very blogs that would most pride themselves on their orthodoxy.

And against which enemies of Holy Church, which imps of Satan have they raged?

Against – imagine! – the Vicar of Christ.

Pope Francis was only elected ten or so hours ago, and in that time the insults that have flown against him are already legion; from atheists, anti-Catholics and the like I would expect such, but from those who pose as the most Catholic such offences are all the more disgusting and hurtful.

Already all manner of things said and done in the past have been dragged up and minutely dissected: as he lived through the military dictatorship in Argentina,  one can expect much digging out of unhappy incidents from those years in order to impugn his good name. It will be alleged that as a Jesuit superior he did this, he didn't do that, and whatever he did in that difficult time will be commented on in the worst light imaginable.

That I can understand, for such is the way of the scoffing world.

But do the Traddies care about those times, when suffering struck many; or do they care about other issues dearer to their hearts?  Apparently as Archbishop of Buenos Aires he was less than enthusiastic about Summorum pontificum, be it noted; but now he has become one of the Supreme Pontiffs, would it really be likely that he, the successor of Benedict XVI – whom he supported and for whom at the last Conclave, it is said, he begged those voting for Bergoglio then to vote for Ratzinger instead – will abrogate and suppress this grant?

May we not at least wait and see, rather than rant and rave in the most disgraceful and abysmal fashion?

I accuse more than one commenter at Rorate Cæli, the NLM, and other prominent blogs of behaving crudely and viciously, neglecting the elementary precepts of good behaviour they ought each have learnt at their mother's knee, let alone the Commandment to "Honour thy father".

The Holy Father ought not be insulted by those who would pretend to be his very best and brightest children.

Habemus Papam - Pope Francis

The Lord bless him, and give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not into the hands of his enemies!

God bless Pope Francis – formerly Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, S.J., Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

I was awoken to the news breaking via radio, and raced to turn on the television, hear the Habemus Papam, and then watched him come forth, listened to him speak, and received his Apostolic Blessing. I was moved by his evident piety, in asking for prayers for Benedict XVI, leading the crowd in a Pater, Ave and Gloria, and then asking all to pray for him – which the vast host did, falling silent in prayer – before he gave all the world his blessing.

He certainly looks a Pope, humble and kindly.

At Mass at Carmel this morning, my parish priest offered the Sacrifice for our new Pope, and reminded us that Our Lord doubtless says to His Vicar what He once said to St Francis of Assisi: "Rebuild My House, which is falling into ruin".

His radical choice of name speaks of the voluntary poverty and humility and evangelizing zeal and love of Christ and His Church that was the mark of St Francis; and it refers also to the great Jesuit missionary St Francis Xavier.

His episcopal (and now papal) motto, miserando atque eligendo, "lowly and yet chosen", has certainly come true! It apparently derives from St Bede the Venerable's Homily 21 for the feast of St Matthew the Evangelist:
Vidit ergo Jesus publicanum, et quia miserando atque eligendo vidit, ait illi, Sequere me. Sequere autem dixit imitare. Sequere dixit non tam incessu pedum, quam executione morum.

(For Jesus saw the tax collector, and because he saw one who needed mercy and to be chosen, he said to him “Follow me”. And he said “follow” meaning “to imitate”. He said “Follow” not so much with the movement of the feet, as by the practice of life.)
God grant that this son of St Ignatius in all things work for the greater glory of God: for what we need now is holiness, the only cure for the ills of the Church and the world.

His Holiness has asked our prayers – pray therefore:
Almighty and everlasting God, have mercy on your servant Pope Francis, our Supreme Pontiff, and direct him, according to your loving kindness, in the way of eternal salvation, that with your help he may ever desire that which is pleasing to you and accomplish it with all his strength. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lord Jesus, shelter our Holy Father the Pope under the protection of Your Sacred Heart. Be his light, his strength and his consolation.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Participatio Actuosa

Our fortnightly choir practice falling to-night, how better than to sing and pray what a few hours' hence the Cardinal electors shall chant as they advance toward the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo's Last Judgement before their eyes, begging God the Holy Ghost inspire them to choose a fit successor to St Peter? 

After first practising, then we sang in supplication (though not in procession) the Litanies of the Saints and the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus (with added versicle and Collect from a popular Novena), before concluding with the Sub tuum præsidium (appointed for use at the close of the first session).

This was our true, because inward and spiritual, participation in the Conclave, by prayer asking, seeking and knocking, a prayer also outward and vocal, sung "in the beauty of holiness", since we are a complex unity of soul and body.

As we commented later, how terrifying it must be to the Cardinals to enter upon the Conclave, what a weighty responsibility, and how the solemn moment must drive vain and ambitious fancies from any reasonable heart. They need our prayers, and above all him who shall be elected, and in a short time enter the Room of Tears to vest in the Papal clothes.

It was a pleasant surprise to have Bp Robarts of the TAC (a friend of our choir and our priest) join us for prayer and a cuppa afterwards; as cantor, I was stuck by how apposite the petition was that we sang, among so many other invocations and obsecrations:

Ut ómnibus in Christum credéntibus unitátem largíri dignéris, te rogámus, audi nos.
(That thou wouldst deign to grant unity to all who believe in Christ, We beseech Thee, hear us.)

God grant us, not the Pontiff our sins and indifference deserve, but such a most merciful and faithful High Priest as shall stand in the holy place, purge out all the corruptions into which Holy Church has fallen, and by his true preaching save many souls, to the glory of God.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Anglican Use in Sydney

As mentioned, I was all set to go to Low Mass at St Mary's Cathedral when a chance remark by my host alerted me to the proximity of the local Ordinariate group – so I ended up attending their Anglican Use Mass at the chapel of Lady Davidson Private Hospital, just near the entrance to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park (where I'd been for a short bushwalk the day before).

The Ordinariate Mass is held there at 9:30 am, which has been their time slot for some years, well before their group came into full communion late last year (they had been members of the Traditional Anglican Communion); the local Anglicans who belong to the Sydney Diocese (notoriously low, more Puritan than anything else, and quite anti-Catholic) hold services there also, before and after, and having to share use of the premises has been less than ideal, since all has to be carefully set up and then packed away every week.

The altar, readied for the Sacred Mysteries (note server on the right). 

My friend (who's been there before), myself, and another cradle Catholic (he tells me he now always goes there) joined the Ordinariate group for the liturgy; Fr Warren Wade (ordained as an Anglican in 1961, and as a Catholic in 2012) kindly introduced himself to Mike and me before the service, while the altar was being readied by the server and members of the congregation, with crucifix, six candles, an altar stone, and all other needful items.

Mass was celebrated ad orientem, with incense, kneeling for Communion (under both kinds), and "the playing of the merry organ"; however, their lack of a choir that can assemble and practise beforehand – they travel from all across greater Sydney to come to this Mass – precluded more than the singing of four hymns. (I recalled that the Capuchins had the immemorial custom of using incense at their conventual Low Mass.) 

For the record, they used the New English Hymnal, from which they sang:
  1. Introit Hymn "And now, O Father, mindful of the love" (NEH 273);
  2. Offertory Hymn "Shall we not love thee, Mother dear" (NEH 184);
  3. Communion Hymn "Wherefore, O Father, we thy humble servants" (NEH 313);
  4. Last Hymn "Love Divine, all loves excelling" (NEH 408, to the tune Blaenwern).
I would have liked to join in in good voice, but I had never sung the first three, and knew a different tune to the fourth! Ah well.

The readings were those of the modern Roman Rite for this Sunday; the homily was very good, the highlight for me being Father's retelling of his visiting a dying parishioner, who was fearful as to whether his sins had really been forgiven him by the Lord: raising a crucifix before his dying eyes, the good priest had reminded that man not to think on sins past, but on the power of Christ Crucified.

Within their Mass booklet, as part of its adaptation for Catholic use, a copy of the Roman Canon as given in traditional language in the Catholic Church's Anglican Use Book of Divine Worship was inserted, and this was prayed.  Earlier, drawing on their own heritage, they had used the prayers of the faithful as drawn up for use in the Anglican Catholic Church of Australia, with suitable adaptations, such as special prayers for the Pope emeritus (how strange that still sounds), the Cardinals, and the new Pope soon to be elected.

As in my earlier experiences of Anglican Use worship, it was most fitting and right to pray the Collect for Purity and the Prayer of Humble Access: Fr Wade told me afterward that several Catholics have asked him for copies of the latter, that they might use it privately in preparation for Holy Communion – that indeed is the sort of cross-fertilization that Holy Church rejoices in, now that the long-sundered Anglican Patrimony is brought back into the fold, reunited to the Western Church from which it sprang.

One amusing detail: given the following of the Order of Mass in the Book of Divine Worship, the offertory prayers, the Orate fratres, the Prayer over the Gifts (Oblations) and the words of consecration were still in their old ICEL version, since the BDW is currently in process of being updated to match the new translation.

Mass concluded, several devotional prayers were appended: the Last Gospel, the Ordinariate Prayers drawn up by Bp Elliott, the Angelus, the Salve Regina with Collect, and then the recessional hymn. I rather too cheekily joked later – forgive me – that Catholics might be put off by the fact that the service ran for just over an hour!

After Mass, while enjoying a cuppa and a biscuit (by ill chance the simnel cake ordered for "Mothering Sunday" had gone astray), I remarked how – given my long acquaintance with the Latin Mass – the service felt quite familiar to me (for instance, before Mass proper began, as a sort of preparatory devotion, the priest and server said Psalm 42(43) alternately in a low voice, etc.); one of them explained how they had long used the English Missal (a translation of the Missale Romanum by Anglo-Papalists), and hence their manner of celebrating Mass is influenced by the older Catholic forms. Fr Wade remarked that he still has to get used to various changes in the wording, and apologized for an innocent mistake he'd made because of this.

I am very glad to have joined these good people to "worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness" and hope to do so again, when next I am in Sydney. May they continue to share their Patrimony, including the dignified and reverent celebration of Holy Mass, with the wider Church, and may their ongoing efforts to grow and evangelize bear much fruit.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Sydney Long Weekend

Time to enjoy an extra day off, and to visit Sydney, and a friend... I will catch up with a former flatmate of mine from when I lived in Perth, Western Australia. Rather than brave the horrors of Mass in the diocese of Broken Bay, I plan to hear Low Mass at noon on Sunday at St Mary's Cathedral, it being a little difficult to make it to Lewisham for High Mass.

Please pray for a safe journey for all travellers; for in this life, we all of us are but pilgrims, and shall not pass this way again.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Change the Cut-Off Age?

Pope Sixtus V fixed the number of Cardinals at seventy in his bull of 1587; Bl John XXIII first exceeded this limit in 1958. In 1970, Paul VI established a cut-off age of 80 for Cardinals, above which, while retaining their Cardinatial rank, they could no longer vote in a Conclave; and in 1973 he limited the number of Cardinal-electors to 120.

Now, bishops are required to submit their resignation to the Roman Pontiff when they turn 75, and he may choose to accept these resignations (indeed, he may himself choose to abdicate, as recent events have demonstrated). So it seems somewhat odd that a Cardinal may still vote to elect a Pope, when that same Cardinal, though under 80, is over 75, and has submitted his own resignation from whatever other ecclesiastical office he may hold (such as Archbishop of a see, or head of some curial department), let alone if that resignation has been accepted.

Would it not, then, seem more reasonable to drop the cut-off age for Cardinals by five years, so that, when the Roman See falls vacant, only those not yet 75 years old may vote? This would have an additional advantage, in that all the pairs of Cardinal-electors, one of whom holds a position, and the other held the same position but is now, for instance, Archbishop or Prefect emeritus, would cease to exist.

Furthermore, a simple calculation demonstrates that such a reduction would reduce the number of Cardinal-electors at present to 66, within the old limit of seventy that endured from Tridentine to modern times. It may be argued that 120 is too unwieldy a number.

The main problem with this change would be that it would clear out all but one of the Cardinal-bishops, and all of the holders of the seven suburbicarian sees. It would be necessary to make a new provision, whereby Cardinal-bishops of those sees who pass their 75th birthday should thereafter become emeritus holders of those titles, while the Pope could create new Cardinal-Bishops to have the title of the suburbicarian sees. Similarly, rather than the clumsy rule whereby the Dean and Vice-Dean of the College of Cardinals hold office indefinitely, and – as this year – neither may be eligible to attend the Conclave, they too ought resign their positions when they turn 75, and new ones be chosen.

I am conscious of the fact that Benedict XVI would have been ineligible to attend the Conclave of 2005 under these rules; but the Cardinal-electors are under no obligation to choose one of their own, and the Italian newspapers have seriously suggested that in this upcoming Papal election the Cardinals could elect one of the non-voting Cardinals.

A smaller, slightly younger Conclave could well represent the sort of sane, conservative reform measure that the next Pope may consider implementing. It would not represent a major shift, but could send an important signal.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

New Use for an Old Missal

I took an old altar missal – the gift of my former parish priest – to Hobart with me, since the altar missal that Fr Quinn has hitherto used is rather too large for the missal stand, and, worse, it has an alarming tendency to turn its pages of its own accord during the Canon, much to the consternation of his M.C.

I find inscribed in the front that it cost £13/6/- when purchased (in London, I believe) in the last years of the fifties or perhaps the first of the sixties; it was printed at Tournai in Belgium by Desclée, and given the all-clear by the bishop of Tournai, dated 9th December 1958.

Readers will no doubt be relieved to learn that, despite being an immediately pre-1962 edition of the Missal, the 1962 rubrics were adhered to (as is the express decree of His Holiness, given motu proprio), and in the text of the Canon the words added by Bl John XXIII, (et beati Joseph, ejusdem Virginis sponsi) were long ago written in.

The Canon with the necessary omission required at present indicated by brackets. 
(The stains visible are, I think, marks left by some temporary ribbons previously kept in this missal, which were evidently not colour-fast.)

I was pleased that this obviously well-used (not to say worn) altar missal has now returned to regular use, that being its raison d'être after all. At present, we are all sede vacantists, until the new Pope be elected: so I pencilled in brackets around the phrase to be most sadly omitted: una cum famulo tuo Papa nostro N. Again, I can assure students of liturgy that these words were correctly left out by the celebrant.

I had wondered if the slightly smaller size of this altar missal would occasion eye-strain for our celebrant, but he assured me afterward that it was fine, and in fact an easier edition to use than the larger, newer and more-inclined-to-turn-its-own-pages version he had used previously – certainly I (as M.C.) noticed there were definitely fewer page turnings to be made during the Canon and so forth, which was a real improvement.

From now on, this liturgical experiment having been a success, I will bring this older missal with me for the greater convenience of our priest: as usual, "the old is better".

Saturday, March 2, 2013

To Hobart for the 3rd Sunday of Lent

The first Sunday of the month has come round again, and so this afternoon I'll head down to Hobart, stay the night, and then assist at our State's monthly Missa cantata (held, as always, at St Canice church, Lower Sandy Bay, at 11:30 am). I must remind Fr Quinn to omit the words una cum Papa nostro N. during the Canon; God willing, by April we will have a new Supreme Pontiff.

Which reminds me: the first Sunday of April is Low Sunday (not Easter Sunday as I mistakenly thought – March has five Sundays this year, and the 31st is Easter Sunday).

I have been finding the driving to and from Hobart increasingly wearisome: if only we had an EF Mass up here.

Next weekend, I will be in Sydney... will the Conclave have begun by then? How long until we have a Pope? Thank God we do, since without the Roman centre of unity, the Catholic Church would have quite broken down into an Anglican-style mess.