3 June 2023

Catholic Cornwall

The First and Last Anglican church in the land is at St Just. Happy memories: it was on the notice board of that ('Ebbsfleet') church that I first saw the news of the election of papa Ratzinger. Less happy memories are presented by churches which were once great Catholic shrines, back in the days when the Truro diocese had the reputation of being the most Catholic in the Church of England. Bishop Graham Leonard, the great praecursor of the Ordinariate, whose portrait hangs proudly in our Ordinary's study, epitomised that tradition. Ecce sacerdos valde magnus. But the last two or three bishops of Truro, obedient servants of the Zeitgeist, put paid to it all. So many Altars now with women; so many Tabernacles with cobwebs.

Sometimes impertinent people hijack our Patrimonial fathers and apply some condescending argument to the effect that the 'papalism' of those great figures was so conditioned by the circumstances of the time that it doesn't really 'count'. So the heroic Fr Bernard Walke of St Hilary, who had to watch his church being wrecked by a protestant mob, had the heroism of his witness neutered decades later by the disdain of the smoothly unpleasant Donald Allchin. But Walke's words are just as powerful and as relevant now as when he wrote them in 1935: '[I] was convinced that the Catholic movement in the Church of England, which began in the discovery of the Church as a divine institution, could have no other end but a corporate union with the Apostolic See of Rome. Outside that unity there could be no assurance of the preservation of the faith and morals of the Christian revelation'. This is indeed the conviction which has brought us into the Ordinariate.

Notice there the words and morals. Fr Walke did indeed begin his incumbency by immediately replacing Prayer Book Mattins with the Tridentine Rite; but he was not some silly 'smells and bells' but unprincipled high churchman. Not long before he wrote, the Lambeth Conference had begun, albeit tentatively, the long but unambiguous process of uncoupling Anglicanism from the common ancient tradition of historic Christendom with regard to sexual morality, by admitting the possibility of artificial contraception. Only, of course, in the rarest and most exceptional cases. Where would the liberal agenda be if wedges did not have such very thin ends?

I am sure Walke had this in mind, and how right his prognosis has proved to be. It is instructive to compare his words with those of Bishop Gore, in a pamphlet which can be found on PROJECT CANTERBURY. Gore, a 'non-papal catholic', was a good enough scholar to know that what had happened at Lambeth was a disaster, both ethical and ecclesiological, of major proportions. But, blind to the significance in the divine dispensation of the Roman Primacy, his paper, for all its erudition, quite simply flounders.

We must pray that the divinely instituted Roman Primacy may soon be again as great and unambiguous a bulwark against the World, the Flesh, and the Devil as it was in the days of Pope Pius XI ... and of Fr Bernard Walke and Bishop Gore. What is a decade of hiatus sub specie aeternitatis?

2 June 2023

Poor Poppet Pollock

 There seems to be some sort of silly rumour that the Catholic bishop of East Anglia might have banned the celebration of the Authentic Form of the Roman Rite in the Catholic Shrine at Walsingham. I can't find what seems to me a reliable account of what, if anything, has happened. Probably absolutely nothing has! That is my hope! So, in what follows, I unreservedly withdraw a radice anything which seems critical of his Lordship and which does not accurately describe the current situation. Vivat Episcopus!

Frankly, I have never liked the 'Chapel of Reconciliation' outside Walsingham; and the attached Slipper Chapel was, after all, never intended to be a 'shrine'. If we who are devoted to the Authentic Use of the Roman Rite were to be (constructively) banned from using that complex, this would cause me, personally, vastly little distress.

We have ... in a community sense ... been here before. Nothing is ever exactly like anything else in History, but I can't help recalling that the Bishop of Norwich once required the Vicar, Fr Hope Patten, to remove the statue and shrine which Father had set up in his (Anglican) parish Church. Father did so ... although the style and manner of the 'removal' may not have been exactly what the bishop, poor poppet Pollock, had had in mind.

" ... a procession with over a thousand people walking, each bearing his or her lighted taper; many women in blue veils, little children in white casting their flowers; dark-habited religious, nuns and monks; over a hundred priests in cassock and cotta; the mitred Abbot of Pershore and Bishop O'Rorke. Behind streamed the many hundreds of other people, all singing the glories of Mary, and in the midst of this throng, high and lifted up upon the shoulders of four clergy in dalmatics, and under a blue and gold canopy fixed to the feretory, sat the venerated figure of our Lady, crowned with the silver Oxford Crown, and robed in a mantle of cloth of gold."

Hope Patten had constructed a replica of the Medieval Holy House in the village; and here the 'removed' statue "was enthroned in the niche prepared above the altar ... ". 

If any attempt were ever to be made to discourage the use of the Authentic Form in the Catholic Shrine, which God forbid, what would be the obvious remedy? The old Anglican Catholic solution which would have been urged by the Fynes Clinton generation would probably have been the provision of a Modest Private Facility in the village, containing perhaps a couple of altars, safe from the prohibitions of the bishop; clergy could book to celebrate the Authentic Form in the Modest Facility but use the Anglican Shrine, or the Priory ruins, or both, for ancillary devotions. 

But perhaps this is just that tadge too red-bloodedly Nineteen Thirties??

Deipara numquam exstirpanda, ritus Romanus non exstirpandus. 

1 June 2023

Octaves, High Priests ...

In the palmy days before Venerable Pius XII, Mondays and Tuesdays within the Octaves of Easter and Pentecost, rather as in the Book of Common Prayer, were incredibly Doubles of the First Class. But for the rest of the week, the days were semidoubles and not nearly as pompous (when did you last wake up and cry "It's a semidouble! I'd better put a bottle of Cava to chill to have with my breakfast!"?).  

So Wednesday, yesterday, you would have commemorated S Angela Merici!! Even if you were not on the exquisite shores of Lake Garda!

And, in those verily antique times, you could, Father, say (or at least commemorate) a Votive of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Priest, on the first Thursday of most months ... like today. 

Gracious! PF and his minions have put OLJC Priest back onto the Thursday within the Octave of Pentecost as a Festum! Like today!

How can anybody deny that the Supreme Calendarist and Capital Ordo Compiler in the Heavenly Places has and demonstrates a sense of humour?

Proper Last Gospel, of course. I wonder if PF is aware of that refinement.

When I was a callow curate in the 1960s, and the then 'experimental' rite of the C of E contained the phrase "Seeing we have a Great High Priest ...", I was once approached by a rather troubled lady who said "I don't like to think of Him as a High Priest  ... I prefer to think of Him as just an ordinary person ..."

I was completely non-plussed. I just mumbled some completely useless piece of information like  "Well., it's in the Bible ...". 

After all, it was hardly entirely my fault that a lifetime in the C of E had left her uninstructed in the Letter to the Hebrews.

31 May 2023

Mediatrix of All Graces: the importance of being ecumenical

If you look in your ancient but admirable English Missal, you can find our Lady as Mediatrix of all Graces in the Appendix of Masses Proper to England and Wales. This is because in Durham, Northumberland, the West Riding of Yorkshire, Herefordshire, and all Wales, this feast was on the Calendars of the corresponding RC dioceses. The date is May 31, except that in later editions of the English Missal, printed after the institution in 1955 by Pius XII of the feast of the BVM, Queen, on May 31, the older feast of our Lady, Mediatrix, had to be shuffled onto June 1. (The Mass can, of course, be said as a votive any day when votives are permitted.)

What, before Pius XII, happened when a Double of the First Class occurred on a Wednesday etc. of the Pentecost Octave? Did we have to transfer it?

Happily, one of the Office Hymns of this beautiful Feast appears in the Liturgia Horarum. In the Common of the BVM, it is the hymn at First Evensong; and it may be used at the Office of Readings as an alternative to Quem terra pontus aethera. Its first line is Maria quae mortalium.

Sadly, for those who say the Office in English, it is not available; it is one of the many hymns for which ICEL decided not to bother to commission English translations. (Whereabouts did Sacrosanctum Concilium mandate this wholesale disparagement of the treasures of Christian Latin Hymnography?) It may be found, with an English version, in versions of the Monastic Diurnal for the Feast of our Blessed Mother of Perpetual Succour. Its (nineteenth century) author is not known.

The Mass and Office for our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces were authorised in 1921 by Pope Benedict XV, and among the countries for which they were authorised was Belgium. The Feast had been requested by that dear friend and  supporter of ecumenical dialogue with the Anglican Patrimony, Cardinal Mercier, Archbishop of Malines, him of the 'Malines Conversations'. Perhaps we ought to make Mercier and Malines more prominent in our recollections of the pre-history of the Ordinartiate!

I have a suspicion that Papa Pacelli, not one of my heroes, in 1955 deliberately put Maria Regina on May 31 because his own Marian preoccupations had other priorities which rather overshadowed her title as Universal Mediatrix. Did he wish to  discourage the growing enthusiasm among dioceses and countries to petition for this feast? But Wales and the ancient See of Hexham had got in first!

So the whole Latin Church has now ended up with either Maria Regina (EF) or the Visitation (OF) today, the last day of the Marymonth. I feel the Pius XII (EF) propers are a trifle unsophisticated; they emphasise the old literary topoi of Royalty. No harm, I suppose, in that ... 

... But the older liturgical understanding of Mary's glorification, in both West and East and Further East, connected it with her role as Mediatrix for all the Church. The only element in the Pius XII office which directly relates to this theme is lectio ix, where S Bonaventure proclaims Mary as the New Esther and as the aquaeductus through which the Grace of God comes to us.

On the other hand, the Benedict XV propers very neatly and ecumenically brought the Semitic, Hellenic, and Latin traditions of Christianity together, especially in the Second Nocturn (a lection each from S Ephraim, S Germanus Patriarch of Constantinople, and S Bernard). And their use of Typology is richly suggestive; very much in line with the Mariological perspectives which S John Henry Newman came to discern in his last weeks as an Anglican.

S Gregory Palamas, I believe, would have agreed with me!

30 May 2023

Mags, Martyrs, and Memorials (2)

 When Oxford's Martyrs' Memorial, commemorating Archbishop Cranmer and bishops Ridley and Latimer, was planned and put up, the drawing-room tastes which animated the 1777 design had been dethroned by the Gothic Revival: this implied a far closer copying of actual medieval precedent than the late rococo gothick-as-superficial-decoration which preceded it. An up-and-coming architect still in his twenties secured the commission: Gilbert Scott. He produced (as his commission prescribed) a restored, enlarged version of the Eleanor Cross at Waltham. He opined that his own cross "was better than any one but Pugin would have produced".

It is one of the ironies of architectual history that, around this time, Pugin was fighting, unsuccessfully, for the big Balliol contract. To Pugin, of course, the project of commemorating publicly the three Protestant 'martyrs' who had been burned just outside the Master's door at nearby Balliol, was anathema. The reformers were "vile, blasphemous imposters pretending inspiration while setting forth false doctrine" and the subscribers were "foul revilers, tyrants, usurpers, extortioners and liars."

Since then, many millions of Japanese tourists, and thousands of Americans, have carefully ptotographed Scott's Memorial, in some cases probably unaware of who the three bearded old gentlemen were, why they died, and how ferocious the ecclesiastical politics of the 1830s were. Indeed, undergraduates in the 1920s and 1930 may have been a tadge sketchy on some of these questions. The Martys' Memorial must have inspired much more laughter than  prayerful recollection.

There is an Oxford tradition, too ben trovato to have any chance of being true, that tourists are informed ... and believe ... that the Memorial is the tip of the spire of an underground Cathedral. Much closer to truth is the ...

Oops; you need some background here.

Before modern plumbing reached Oxford (which was certainly later than 1960 when I went up), every male undergraduate had a 'scout' (servant) and ... a Chamber pot. One of the scouts' many duties  was to empty the Pots of the men on his staircase each morning (you will like to know that my scout was a Mr Hosier.

These universal and ubiquitous Pots were a source of some merriment. When Undergaduates drank and became drunk, one of their simple adolescent joys was to place a Pot on the highest pinacle of the Martyrs' Memorial. 

Frankly, it is one of Oxford's miracles that no undergraduate (to my knowledge) ever fell and killed himself. 

But the two Proctors, charged with maintaining discipline among the youff, knew that something had to be done. At a meeting between the Proctors and the Vicar of Mags, the latter gentleman suggested that a Gothick Revival Potty should be firmly and perrnanently affixed to the top of the Memorial.

Laymen ...

Let me generalise here ...

Simple laymen such as the Proctors never go for a down-to-earth practical solution. Things remained unchanged until, with the arrival of coeducation in the colleges, inebriation became an occupation which retreated from the public forum and became simply a prelude to private unchastity.

And the plumbing was improved. You can't expect girls to put up with ...

29 May 2023

Vivat Rex!

A happy Oak Apple Day to readers throughout the world! A glass with you to the Glorious Memory of our last de facto King to die within this Kingdom in the full Communion of Catholic Christendom.

And prior notice of an important London liturgical event.

On Sunday, June 11, the Sunday in the Octave of Corpus Christi, there will be a public celebration of the Universal Kingship of Christ, in the Most Holy Sacrament of His love. 

About 3.00 the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament will set off from the former Portuguese [later Bavarian] Embassy Chapel, the Church of the Assumption in Warwick Street (think Ordinariate), concluding just before 6.00 with Benediction in the formerly Spanish Embassy Chapel of S James, Spanish Place.

Such formerly Embassy chapels were, of course, the only places in London during the penal days where with impunity Catholics could enjoy superb public Catholic worship. Of the three strands out of which English Catholicism was mainly composed ... the Converts, the Irish, and the old Recusant families ... the Embassy Chapels embody rich and holy memories of this last; of the Age of the Vicars Apostolic and and of angry Protestant mobs. S John Henry Newman once thus sketched this community: "There, perhaps an elderly person, seen walking in the streets, grave and solitary, though noble in bearing, and said to be of good family, and a Roman Catholic."

How very gratifying it is that both of these churches are, today, so liturgically exemplary and richly furnished.

They deserve warm and enthusiastic support ... after all, the resident Catholic population of central London is smaller than it once was.

These things matter. And "Canonise Challoner" sez I.

And Christ is King, Universorum Rex.

28 May 2023

Speaking with tongues for the New Evangelisation: Pentecost homily

'They spoke with tongues'. You and I can speak with tongues: can go out of church and speak in an unusual language: if we let the Spirit empower us; if we let the Spirit take over the way we speak. And the language we can go out and talk is a dialect the World does not know; a dialect I would like to call 'Talking Christian'.

Talking Christian is what we do in church. The Scriptures and the Liturgy are written in Christian. Inside church, we all talk Christian, even sing it, without the least hesitation. But we're most dreadfully shy of Talking Christian once we step outside.

What do I mean by Talking Christian? Well, for starters, there's the word 'God'. Inside this building we can hardly open our mouths without using it. But out there, in the world God made, among men and women he created and loves and redeems, do we ever use the word? If our faith means anything, it means that God pokes his nose into everything, is concerned about everything, has, so to speak, a line on everything. But God is a word the World hates. It doesn't mind us doing our God-talking in church, but, the message is, just let them catch us doing it outside and we'll have all Dr Dawkins' spaniels snapping round our ankles.

Then there's 'Sin' and 'Repentance' and ... well, you know how I could go on. But you might ask what the point is in speaking to the World in Christian, if Christian is a dialect the World doesn't understand. It would be a fair question. After all, the Apostles did indeed talk at that first Pentecost to all the nations in the language which each did understand. There is a serious point here to which this is my serious answer: 1600 years ago Christianity converted the Greek and Roman worlds and did so very largely by converting their languages. It invaded, it walked ruthlessly into, the languages of Greece and Rome, creating Christian dialects of, and ways of speaking, both Latin and Greek. In effect, it was a Christian cultural takeover. For us, I am convinced, the task is to reChristianise the English language so as to reclaim our culture for Christ.

Rome gave a good lead a few years ago in Liturgiam authenticam when it told its committee responsible for translating liturgical texts to use the full and rich panoply of terms handed down by Tradition: words like Grace and Redemption and Mercy and Almighty and Majesty and Humility; rather than dumbing down the language of prayer. There had been a fashionable assumption that avoiding such language and opening to the World a window of linguistic banality - Daily Mirror English - would get the masses pouring in. But firstly: that was tried and it didn't work; and, secondly, Rome rightly judged that if you throw out both babies and bathwater, the World can hardly be blamed for concluding that you have nothing really to say. So that is why we got that new translation of the Mass ... a translation which, unlike the previous one, really does 'speak Christian'. 

The New Evangelisation means taking the battle culturally to the World instead of hoping that if we just retreat far enough and cringe submissively enough, the World will somehow rediscover Christ. That is why I suggest that Talking Christian may be our duty; and that the Holy Spirit of Pentecost is able to give us the power to speak in that strange dialect, if only we let him. He can touch our tongues as he touched the tongues of the Apostles.

27 May 2023

Going Shopping in North Oxford

I took myself off shopping. Nowadays the old Radcliffe Infirmary site in North Oxford, enhanced with the much grander title of the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, is 'redeveloped'; so one can walk though from the Woodstock Road to Walton Street with, to ones North, the perfectly exquisite Tower of the Winds, built by Andronicus of Cyrrhus a couple of thousand years ago while he was paying one of his flying visits to Oxford ... or have I got my details a bit muddled here ...

It was a gloriously sunny spring day, and the Oxford sun, quite different from any other known sun, was shining directly onto the golden sandstone of the Tower, picking out the carvings of the Winds and of the Zodiac: can there be a lovelier architectural grouping than this? I fought Distraction down by comforting myself with promise of walking back the same way; and by recollecting how, when we were undergraduates, the Gazette carried this annual notice: The Director of the University Observatory gives notice that on fine and clear Thursday evenings in the Michaelmas and Hilary Terms between the hours of eight and ten celestial objects will be shown through the telescope to members of the University and friends accompanying them.  I wonder if still does. Male undergraduates used to make the usual sort of adolescent jokes about which women undergraduates might qualify as celestial objects.

While the Tower was being built, Andronicus, so our venerable paradosis has it, took his meals up Walton Street at the nearby Greek Taverna and Deli to which I was heading: Manos's. Spetsofai, Melitzanosalata, you name it: I stocked up with a couple of days' worth of goodies. It was while I was returning that Disaster struck, as she so often does. Had you noticed this?

You know how it is when you are retracing your steps in an opposite direction. Things strike you ... visually, I mean ... which you hadn't spotted on the first leg of your walk. What now caught my eye, to the South West of the Tower of the Winds, was a most singular structure; something like cheeses piled untidily on top of each other and covered with glass. Do you think that Aristophanes, in one of his more skittish moments, might have called it the Hyalotyropyrgoma? I investigated. It was called the Blavatnik School of Government. Callimachus might have been driven to add a fifth book to his Aitia in order to account for such an improbable edifice.

Ronald Knox would probably have won a bar to his Gaisford by picturing Andronicus perched on the carving of the wind Lips and gazing across at the Blavatnik through his telescope while uttering plaintive but perfect Greek elegiacs. I wonder how that poor young Jesuit, Gerard Manley Hopkins, if he had wandered across from Alyoggers, would have described it in his poem about Oxford ("Glassy Towery city and Yank-surrounded"?).

I'm sure the Blavatnik will fulfil its cunning ploy of seducing architectural aesthetes (as well as wealthy foreign students) away from the Daughter University. Why waste precious time visiting the Fens to marvel at Cambridge's History Faculty Library when you can come to Oxford and boggle at the Blavatnik?

26 May 2023


I've received a magazine from the college I taught in for three decades, and it contains this paragraph:

"What a wonderful place ... The Downs, the sea, the site, the setting ... and the Chapel, that towering edifice that mixes opulent indulgence with beauty and form. It is the greatest chapel in the land. Strangely, my memories ... are not coated in recollections of hours spent on my knees. ... liberal ...  progressive ... Chapel was merely a part of life."

Not exactly a hostile review; so why do I find the 'merely' so grating? 

25 May 2023

Our Lady's hair

I have occasionally noticed that late Medieval representations of our most blessed Lady often show her bare-headed and with her hair over her shoulders and arms. I think of the Marian banner in St John's College (reproduced in Duffy Fires); of the statue of the Assumption in the church at Sandford upon Thames.

And the Roman Pontifical, describing a Queen approaching her Coronation, says that she comes crine soluto. The records of the Coronations of Good Queen Mary and of Bloody Bess agree: she wears her hair loose and 'decently let down on her shoulders'.

One of the 'Horatian' poets of Urban VIII's  renascimento wrote:

Tu [his friend Rosa] rerum dominam canes,

     Et sparsam Zephyrorum arbitrio comam

Nudis ludere bracchiis,

     Et nimbos volucrum fundere crinium ... 

Medieval precedent, I think, going hand in hand with baroque movimento. 

24 May 2023

May 24 ...

... is the feast of our Lady Auxilium Christianorum, commemorating the return of the Holy Father Pius VII from Napoleonic captivity to Rome.

This festival used to be on the unified Calendar for the Dioceses of England and Wales (duplex maius), while there was such a thing. When separate calendars and propers were granted for each individual diocese, it disappeared except in Menevia and Shrewsbury. In the latter of these, it remained as a double of the first class with an octave because our Lady Help of Christians was the titular of the cathedral and patron of the diocese ... which in those days penetrated deep into Wales (the first Bishop built his Episcopium at Pantasaph and is buried there). 

In Menevia, where our Lady under this title was Patron of the diocese, she retained this title with this rank. (In Cardiff ... I knew you were wondering ... May 24 was the Dedication Day of the Cathedral and so our Lady doesn't get a look-in.) 

Is there something going on here ... I mean, was there perhaps in those western regions a Bishop or a Vicar Apostolic who, out of a great devotion to our Lady Help Of Christians, or to the Temporal Power of the Papacy, or to both, spread this Patronage and this festival far and wide? Baines, possibly? or Ullathorne?

And then, of ourse, there is Australia, where our Lady Help of Christians is Patron (Solemnity in the Ordinariate of the Southern Cross). And ... BTW ... the Mass in the Ordinariate Missal is a translation of the Latin Mass in the Appendix pro aliquibus locis of the old Authentic Roman Missal. Another indication of the authentic liturgical spirit of the Ordinariates. Hands off, Roche!

Incidentally ... is our blessed Lady still Patron of New Zealand sub hoc titulo?

Purely pragmatically: our Lady is eleousa on Byzantine calendars, and Misericordiae in her propers as Auxilium Christianorum. But those who this year felt the loss of her last Sunday ... well, there is today. And those who this year feel the loss of Cardinal Mercier's feast of our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces ... well, there is today! The Supreme Ordo Compiler hasn't left you comfortless ...


Does anybody know anything about the Brandimarte who, according to Google links, wrote the delightfully, exuberantly, Baroque Office Hymns for this feast? The Sapphic metre does fit this sort of thing rather well, doesn't it?

23 May 2023


... in the Market have closed. This is terrible news for those who, for half a century, have relied on Fellers. And it will be a loss for passers-by who, every December, could relish the Rubensian cascades (you're right: Snyders deserves a mention) of deer, game birds, game animals looping exultantly round the shop. We used to get our venison and our pheasants from Fellers. Our younger son, when he went Up, was agreeably surprised by the cheapness of the pheasants ... cheaper, he explained, than convenience food!

Perhaps the modern undergraduate does not arrive here trained by Mummy to phuck a pleasant. (Many of them have probably never even heard of Dr Spooner). Instead, we have that drooling fool Sunak with his horrid wyccamical vowels (and I bet he's PPE) and plans to force everybody to suffer mathematics until eighteen years old! No girl or boy etc.etc..

Rumour has it that much of the game shot at Blenheim nowadays is burned or buried: which I think is horrible to the point of sacrilege.

What a world ...