8 February 2023

A New Bank Holiday?

 Yes, of course! Most certainly, today, February 8, should be a Bank Holiday in this Kingdom of England! (As everybody knows, England embraces Wales.)

For it is the Anniversary of the happy day (in 1550) when Pope Julius III was elected Successor of S Peter! Depromite ...

Julius, that great Papa del Monte who presided as legate over Trent (I hope all readers adhere closely to the Spirit of the Council ... that Council) and later sent Reginald Pole as Cardinal Legate to reconcile this Blessed Realm to the Petrine Unity!

May God hasten the day when another Monarch and the two Houses of Parliament (perhaps thinned out a trifle by some Acts of Attainder), on their knees, beg a Papal Legate to absolve the realm from heresy and schism!

I wish someone would re-issue the fine medal which I presume the Holy Father issued as on S Andrew's Day ... the medal with ANGLIA RESURGES; a benign pontiff stretching out his reconciling hand to a kneeling Anglia as Pole (beard, galero and all) presents her in the rejoicing presence of the Emperor, and of our late sovereign lord King Philip ... 

... I wonder if anyone could explain this oddity which has puzzled me for my eighty two years: for four centuries, lists of English monarchs never mentioned that we were fortunate enough to have a King Philip ...

... and, on the far right, our late sovereign lady Queen Mary -- I think, the first of the Four Ladies of that glorious Name to be de jure Queens regnant of England.

At this point, a moment of sadness intrudes: Her Majesty has her hand upon her swelling belly; signalling, I presume, the pregnancy that turned out to be ... not.

In the exergue, the words UT NUNC NOVISSIMO DIE pointedly allude to the actual day in 1554 of the legatine Absolution; the Day of England's Resurrectio.

[The medal is among the illustrations in Duffy's Fires, and is on the front cover of Urquhart's Ceremonies.]


7 February 2023

My Lord Mayor ... (2)

Chantry chapels were abolished by the Act of I Edward VI, cap 14: "The King shall have and enjoy such goods, chattels, jewels, plate, ornaments, and other moveables ... of every such college, chantry, free chapel ... ". The buildings in which the endowed Masses were offered stand stark and unused in many of England's Medieval Cathedrals.

It must have seemed to Augustus Welby Pugin a miracle of restorative grace when he was commissioned to design a magnificent Gothic Cathedral in South London. And when S George's Cathedral was finished and Pugin was dead, his son Edward Pugin was commissioned to build within it a chantry chapel for the offering in perpetuity of Holy Mass for Sir John Knill, Master of the Plumbers' Guild, and Lord Mayor of London. 

Just as many earlier Catholic Mayors, such as Sir John Percival, had provided for 'perpetuity', so now there was a Catholic Lord Mayor who could endow his own chantry in London's new Catholic Cathedral.

Sadly, the Devil had his own, characteristic and extensive, plans. The cathedral was largely destroyed in the Blitz. Lamentably, it was the Pugin magnificence of S George's which suffered, while the large church near Victoria Station survived undamaged. (Had I been an Abwehr agent in London, I would have ensured that the Luftwaffe authorities in Berlin had the red-brick minaret in Westminster on their list as an important military communications facility.)

The good news is that Knill's chantry survived. You can go and see it, together with the Petre Chantry. (Southwark Cathedral was rebuilt and reopened in 1958. But the Devil had not finished his hatred of this fine building: in 1989, the vandals broke in and "reordered" the Sanctuary.)


Chantry Chapels were endowed so that, in each one, there was financial provision for a priest to say Mass there daily. I wonder ... I would love to know ... if, in Southwark Cathedral, the daily Mass for Sir John Knill is still said in his gracious chantry. 

Or, like the dead and lifeless chantries neatly maintained by the Anglicans, is it left to the spiders?

6 February 2023

My Lord Mayor ... (1)

 I felt instantly guilty ... it was a tap upon my shoulder. The sort of tap which is likely to be followed by invitations to comealongame, and Not To Make Any Trouble, together with the chink of handcuffs.

I was about to start bleating about how I wasn't guilty; that it was the other bloke what did it, when I recollected that, in the archives of the City of London, my interlocutor was unlikely to be PC Plod or Inspector Knacker or even Dame Cressida, er, Dick.

As one enters those archives, one writes in a register the subject of one's researches. So I had written "Sir John Percival". The aimiable and erudite custodian had seen this, and had some news for me. 

In the City Church of S Mary Woolnoth, there had once been a manuscript, beautifully scribed and on display, in which Sir John Percival, Master of the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors, sometime Lord Mayor of London, detailed his benefactions, together with the provisions made to endow Masses (with chantries) for his soul. Percival was one of the closest circle of intimates of the Welsh Intruder, Tudor, known to History as Henry VII. Percival was one of the notable men of the new regime.

But his desire for the Mayorality had attracted so little support among the other livery companies that one of Tudor's heaviest enforcers, Bishop Savage of London, had needed to explain realpolitik to the City Fathers.

As everybody knows, the Great Fire of London was to destroy pretty well every single one of the old churches, together with every tiny bit of their contents. Usefully, earlier writers had recorded Sir John's text, together with the information of its certain demise in the all-consuming flames.

Except that, um, it hadn't demised. After Wren, vir nonnunquam laboriosus, had rebuilt all those churches in the style which some snooty people refer to as Impure English Baroque, the ms had (wisely) taken refuge in a ... doubtlessly 'Wren' ... cupboard. 

Where it had recently been noticed, just in time for my researches!

Y'know, I do rather wonder whether the Great Fire was as determinedly catholic in its destructive embrace as we used to believe. Did Old S Paul's, with its sleek new Inigo Jones facade, really have to be dynamited away?

5 February 2023


 Lead us, Evolution, lead us /Up the future's endless stair; /Chop us, change us, prod us, weed us, /For stagnation is despair; /Groping, guessing, yet progressing, /Lead us nobobody knows where.

The erudite Fr Simon Heans has sent me the first stanza of a Sacred Lyric which C S Lewis composed and sent to D L Sayers. Possibly, someone who knows how to do such stuff might care to put all six stanzas onto this blog's thread.

The Humnos seems to be conceptually linked with Lewis's opposition to a particular 'humanist' fad whereby immortality might be sought for the human race by enabling it to mutate through evolutionary means as it spreads through the Universe. Videte the passage near the end of Out of the Silent Planet (1938), where, as instructed by the Ousiarch of Malacandra, Ransom is translating the vapourings of Professor Edward Rolles Weston, FRS.

But this stanza ...

Ask not if it's god or devil, /Brethren, lest your words imply /Static norms of good and evil /(As in Plato) throned on high; /Such scholastic, inelastic, /Abstract yardsticks we deny.

... calls to mind the elastic ethical systems of our own days, in which morality is endlessly mutable. Neatly refuted in Veritatis splendor of S JP2.

Knox could have turned this sort of stuff into Latin elegiacs at the drop a a hat. I can't. Take

Bulbous-eyed or square of stern.

Whatever would that be in metrical Latin?

4 February 2023


Tomorrow Traditionalists begin the observance of the three Sundays, instituted probably by Pope S Gregory I, the Great, at a time of enormous tribulation for Rome, Italy, and the World: Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima.

On these three Sundays, Pontiff and Clergy and People went out in turn to the three great basilicas outside the City walls, dedicated to S Lawrence, S Paul, and S Peter - which stood as mighty fortresses of prayer and of divine power defending the City. 

There they prostrated themselves before the Lord and sought Mercy, in the times of floods, pestilence, and war. 

Strangely, they refrained from asking interesting questions about how the catastrophes which hung over them could be reconciled with the existence of a Loving God!! (Indeed, were you to ask me, I would hazard a guess that they would not even have been able to understand the terms of such a question, let alone its overweening hubris.)

That sort of stuff ... sometimes called Theodicy ... is a neat device of the Enemy.

I hope you will, on Septuagesima Sunday, begin reading, in accordance with the immemorial Tradition of the Latin Church, the Book of Genesis. You can do this liturgically in an old Roman Breviary, or in the"1961" Lectionary of Church of England Anglican origin, now happily authorised for use in the Ordinariates. 

Or you could just read it in your Bible!!

If you want a 'poetic' commentary on 'the Fall', I commend Perelandra, aka Voyage to Venus, by C S Lewis. 

Jam-packed full of thought-provoking theology!

3 February 2023


Well, Thank You to those offered me help with my queries about the propers for the Fourth Sunday and Week after Epiphany. This morning was the last occasion many will have used Green in the Usus Intactus of the Roman Rite, until after Trinity Sunday.

I think this proper was overtly devised for the place it very often has: immediately before the Gesimas.

As it appears in our current Missal, it shares the psalmody of the III, V, and VI Sundays after Epiphany, just as (when it is used to supply a Mass for Sundays just before Advent) it shares the psalmody for that adjacent period. So Collect and Gospel are left to make its point (on Epiphany II, the chap who arranged the Epistles got us into Romans 12 sqq.)

The Collect, clearly, was designed for the penitential period which we enter around this time of the year; ideology and phraseology closely follow the euchology of Gesimatide and Lent. Indeed, in some sources it is offered for use on the Lenten Ember Saturday.

The Collect teaches that Sufferings of body and soul are condign punishments for our sins ... but, O Lord .... Hence the Gospel reading about the Ship (to ploion) which would have sunk ... but the Lord intervened.

Here is Cranmer's translation from 1549:

God, whiche knoweste us to bee set in the middest of so many and great daungers, that for mannes fraylnes we cannot alwayes stande uprightly; Graunt to us the health of body and soule that al those thinges which we suffer for sinne, by thy helpe we may wel passe and ouercome.

I have marked in red phrases additions (very characteristically) made by Cranmer ... my suspicion is that he feared lest the naked concision of Latin originals might often hurry past the ears of congregations before they had properly woken up!

In 1662, somebody (one naturally suspects Bishop Cosin) revised the text.

O God, who knowest us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: Grant to us such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations

I have marked in blue the alterations made in 1662. 

Unfortunately, these changes rather tend to obscure the 'Last Week before the Gesimas' spirit of the original

2 February 2023


 This is a historical day for me, since I am about to enter the dear old Anglican controversy about How Many Candles On The Altar.

Back in the good old days when such things were deemed to matter, dear old C of E was divided between (1) Evangelicals who regarded any candles in the same way as their modern successors view sodomy: as pretty well the ultimate sin. (2) Moderate Men or 'the High Church', for whom it was an article of Faith that Two Candles should stand on every Holy Table. The main evidence for this conviction seems to have been the 1547 Tudor Injunctions, the real point of which seems to have been graciously to allow parishes to retain two candles after the government had looted the rest. (3) Six candles ... beloved by 'Romanisers' ... how one's heart lifted as one entered a strange church if its High Altar were thus adorned ...

Dix p420 exploded these sacristy orthodoxies by listing the generous variety of customs which, in reality, existed in and before the England of 1548 (the year when, by a pedantically precise reading of the 1549 Prayer Book, the ornaments of the churches and their ministers were fixed and frozen in perpetuity).

But just notice Dix's words: "There appear in fact to be instances from medieval England of every number of altar candles from one to twenty, except seventeen and nineteen."


Did you spot that? ONE! How asymmetrical!

In what follows, I am being horrifically anecdotal. But it is up to you to bring me to my senses.

I am suspicious of rubrical sources which give numbers. I suspect them of giving us information about what was done in great churches. I am far less convinced thatat side atars and in chantries, this convention existed.

For some time, I have been noticing, without ever making records, pictures of Low Masses in medieval English manuscripts, in which the altar appear simply to have one candle; at the South ('Epistle') end of the Altar. Another example arrived in my post yesterday: D H Frost's magnificent Sacrament an Alter. An expensive book (£80/$109) but vital reading for anybody interested in Recusancy, the 'Marian Reaction', Tudor History, the Cornish Language, Bonner ...

On the front cover is an illustration 'from a Book of Hours, Sarum Use, c1440-c.1450' (BL, Harley 2915, folio 84).The priest is elevating the Host; there appears to be one candle on the Altar; the Clerk, whose left hand lifts the foot of the chasuble, with his right hand holds aloft two candles.

1 February 2023

Mathematics and mathematicians

Some wykehamist has argued that all young people should be forced to study Mathematics until they are 18 years old. 

What nonsense.

I've nothing against Mathematics or mathematicians. On the contrary: the subject seemed to attract the same analytical minds as Latin and Greek. So very often, sensible young people chose Greek-and-Latin-and-Maths for their troika of subjects. They revisited the College years later, their faces distended by the exertions of London's clubs, with their tales of dangerous life in the distant and arid wastelands of the Treasury or the Foreign Office.

But if 'too few' of the young opt for Mathematics, the guilty women and men are ... not the poor young people themselves, but teachers who fail to make their subjects compelling or even tolerable.

In our current debate, bouncy people keep getting interviewed on TV (for a fee?) and rabbit on about how totally fascinating Mathematics is. Perhaps it is is for them; but why, then, are their former students queuing up in such vast droves to opt out of the subject?

Last time we had this same national discussion, we were told that those prepared to teach Mathematics should be paid more. (Why, if it's such fun?)

I can think of nothing more subversive of good Common Room relationships (both personal and professional) than this. How are the rest of us expected to feel, seeing crass and ineffective fools whose students attain lamentable grades in public examinations, being paid more than us just for "being Mathematicians"?

In principle, teachers who consistently show poorly in the public examinations of their students should be invited to move on and to take the fascinations of their subject elsewhere.

31 January 2023

Blessed Queen Maria Christina

Here, purged of a couple of misprints, is the Collect authorised for this Stuart Beata, who is placed in the Roman Martyrology for January 31, in Naples.

Deus, qui in figura huius mundi beatam Mariam Christinam prudenti ardentique caritate decorasti et artificem in augmento regni tui effecisti: praesta nobis eius exemplo et intercessione; ut de vero amoris tui thesauro benefacientes accipere valeamus. Per.

I feel that the lack of an explicit accusative object with accipere valeamus sounds a little odd.

Here is an English rendering:
God, who in the passing fashion of this present world hast adorned blessed Maria Christina with a prudent and ardent love and hast made her a worker in the advancement of thy kingdom: grant by her example and intercession; that we, active in good works, may receive from the true treasury of thy love. Through.

I was unsure how to render in figura huius mundi. In the end, I have over-translated it in the light of its Pauline original. I Corinthians 7:31 finds S Paul arguing that those who use the World (kosmos) should do so as if they are not using it; because the skhema of this World is passing (or will pass) away. The Vulgate and the neo-Vulgate render skhema as figura; and English translations in descent from the AV have 'fashion'.

I presume the phrase in the context of this Collect relates to how the Beata left behind the adequacy and pomp of the Royal Court of the Two Sicilies in order to perform works of charity among the lowliest.

May she pray for us and for our Ordinariate.

Publishers of the abortive Book of Common Prayer of 1928 used to print in the front this sentence: "The publication of this Book does not directly or indirectly imply that it can be regarded as authorized for use in churches". In the same generous spirit, I point out that there is no authority whatsoever for celebrating Blessed Maria Christina with the Mass Cognovi in the Extraordinary Form and using this Collect. Indeed, she is not entitled to any liturgical commemoration whatsoever outside the limited areas named in the Decree of Beatification, let alone throughout the entire territories of the European Community as constituted at this precise moment.

30 January 2023

Datum sed non concessum (2)

 So here are the words of King Charles after he was 'condemned':

"And, admitting, but not granting, that the people of England's Commission could grant you [this pretended power to judge and condemn a monarch] I see nothing to show that; for certainly you have never asked the question of the tenth man of this Kingdom ..."

Shipwrecked on the rocks of Bergoglianity?

 Normally, when commenting on a day's liturgy, the Prudent Blogger will have got his line sussed well beforehand. But it was only as I actually read yesterday's propers, for Epiphany IV, that I started wondering. Let me share with you my work-in-progress.

In the Gospel, we had the Disciples, poor poppets, panicking about the storm as they baled out the boat. Earlier, we had those words in the Collect " ... nos in in tantis periculis constitutos ...".

You see, those dangers facing the Boat ... they reminded me of Boats in Danger in Classical Greek literature ... Homer ... OK ... but, more in particular, Alcaeus, a symposiast/political poet on the island of Lesbos. For him, the endangered ship may symbolise the imperilled political community (see Page on Z 2). Commentators here sometimes reach for the cliche 'Ship of State'. (There is an imitatio of this motif in Horace; Odes I xiv and see NH.) 

Are we supposed to make a connection between Epiphany IV's "so great dangers" and this literary tradition? And what about those paintings of ships in the catacombs?

Two points.

(1) It is rarely obvious that the mind which selected a Gospel was the same mind that provided the same day's Collect. But it is one of the characteritics of the Gesima Sundays ... what we now rather poshly seem to have been renamed the Pre-Lent Season ... that the two are related ... just as they are here on Epiphany IV. (2) And the theme of this Collect is strikingly similar to that of Gesima propers: that all these calamities are punishment for our sin; and we throw ourselves upon Divine Mercy. Compare, particularly, Epiphany IV Collect with that for Septuagesima.

I have found Sr Dr Haessly's pages suggestive here, especially 38-40 and 130sqq.

So, as far as Collect and Gospel are concerned, Epiphany IV has for me the curious appearance of a Gesima-outlier. As the 1970s blunderers and blusterers got to work, naturally it had to disappear so as to make the liturgy 'enriched' enough for Arthur Roche.

Anybody got a line on any of this, preferably rooted in the liturgical tradition? 

Anyway, a most appropriate proper for the Church in temporibus his Bergoglianissimis.

29 January 2023


Recently, I explained ... not for the first time ... the phrase Argumentum ad hominem. I was concerned to refute the idea that it means using personal abuse to attack an idea that someone has put forward.

It doesn't ... or, it it does, it does so only by being a mistake which has now confusingly deceived so many poor souls that we are expected to accept it on the ground that usage is prescriptive. (If enough people are firmly convinced that the word water means "coloured orange", we shall eventually, regretfully, have to accept the judgement of Usage.)

I think it might also be useful to deal with the phrase datum sed non concessum

Literally, this means "Given but not conceded".

As commonly used in discourse among the educated classes, it was employed very usefully to mean something like this:

"Proposition X has been advanced to support idea Y which you trying to persuade me to accept. I don't think that proposition X is true; but, in order to enable our argument to continue, I am prepared to treat X as if it were true. This is, frankly, because even if X were true, Y would still be complete nonsense."