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 ...

22 May 2023

Pope Benedict, The Mozarabic Rite, and the ultra-valid glue-pot

The 1755 Edition of the Mozarabic Missal ...

Yes; I thought that would encourage a fair number of you to move on fast, or fastish, to the other blogs on your daily lists.

That Missal, BTW, is a trifle odd. It was published in Rome, not in Toledo. Edited by, er, a Jesuit. Oddisher and Oddisher. 

On folio 230 ... I'll wait while the remnants of the readership find the page ... the Forms of Eucharistic Consecration are printed. In the Morarabic rite, that means Hoc est corpus meum quod pro vobis tradetur. And, a tadge down the page, Hic est calix novi testamenti in meo sanguine qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum. 

But Hang On: in the margin, printed in smallish type is the following: Forma ista ponitur consecrationis ne antiquitas ignoretur, sed hodie servetur Ecclesiae traditio. Vide infra.

What do you think that means? "This formula of the Consecration is placed [here] lest Antiquity be unknown [?ignored? forgotten?]. But today, the tradition of the church should be preserved. See below."

 At the foot of the page,  the Verba Domini are indeed printed, verbatim as in the Missal of S Pius V.

So the old Mozarabic Verba Domini count as "History", "Antiquity", and the forms of Consecration in the post-Conciliar Missal ... I mean by that, the post Tridentine Missal ... count as "the Tradition of the Church".

Well, if you say so, Lord Copper.

Did I mention that this Missal was Oddish?

Moreover, the Missal seems to be in two volumes. Unusual ... impracticable ... but most of the second volume is taken up with Notae. 

Even impracticabler. I'd better have a closer look. Yes!! There is Note about the page we've just been looking at. Get this: "Animadvertendum haec verba forma ista ponitur &c. quae modo in margine pag. 230. leguntur, & verba consecratoria Romana, quae ad calcem ejusdem paginae adjiciuntur, ab initio Missali Mozarabico typis edito apposita non fuisse, sed, ut quorumdam scrupulis satisfieret, postea glutine esse affixa, ut cuilibet codices aniquos inspicienti patet."

I.e. the first printed Mozarabic Missal did not contain the marginal note, or the Roman consecratory formulae, "but in order to satisfy the scruples of some people they were subsequently stuck on with glue. It's obvious to anybody who looks at the ancient books". 

Fascinating ... to watch a newer Tridentinish precision about exact Words of Consecration doing battle, via the glue-pot, with older, authentically Spanish, Tradition. 

And, yes, I do not think this Mozarabic Missal was ever meant for use at the Altar. It is a presentation, 'Library', edition.

As the Preface addressed to none other than Pope Benedict XIV doctissimus Maximusque Pontifex makes clear, this book has become incredibly rare and expensive ... so that the commodum and utilitas disciplinae liturgicae demand that the most ancient rites and ceremonies of famous churches should hide away no longer, propemodum ignotae, in the libraries of of princes and sumptuosorum hominum.

I wonder how many copies they sold.

The preface goes on to compliment Benedict who Eucharistici sacrificii ritus omnes omnemque oeconomiam, magna doctrinae sacrae copia, tribus Libris dilucide, eruditeque explicavit. 

21 May 2023

You may now Kiss the Bride.

Not long ago, I rewatched on the Beeb that sweet little ole film The Graduate. What fun the Sixties were. How elegant their nymphomaniacs.

In the very last sequence, the Hero rescues the Heroine at the very foot of the Altar (or whatever one has in the U S of A in proddy churches) just after the Minister has said "You may now kiss the Bride", and the Wrong Man has indeed just kissed the Heroine. 

It reminded me of what were, I think, the last nuptials I solemnised in the C of E. Or rather, of the rehearsal we did did beforehand.

The 'groom' was incredibly nervous. I couldn't make out why. I kept issuing all the customary reassurances ... "You needn't worry ... I'll tell you exactly what to say and do ... you don't have to remember anything ." ... but he still kept trembling.

When we had finished rehearsing, he spoke. "Father ... when do we get the bit about You May Now Kiss the Bride?" 

"You don't", I snarled. "It's a revoltingly naff American custom. We don't do it over here."

His relief was palpable (although I didn't actually verify this by stroking him physically). "Oh thank God for that", he cried. "That's the bit I've been dreading most".

He subsided into being a normal human being.

Weddings, weddings. My fave wedding memory is of the first one I ever 'did' ... when the Bride's Grandmother had imbibed far too much. In a brief pause at the Reception when other voices had chanced momentarily to subside, this discerning little old lady was heard to pronounce, with loud conviction, "Bloody Vicar's the only good-looking man here".

Not that I was a Vicar. I've never been a Vicar. Plura indicta relinquam.

20 May 2023

More on our Lady of Vladimir.

I apologise for a careless misreading on my part, which made a nonsense of yesterday's post ... which I have now corrected. Sorry; and thanks to those who commented.

 There is a certain pattern sometimes found among Ikons of our blessed Lady; the ikon of our Lady of Vladimir is a preeminent example. The academics call it eleousa. This is a participle from the one Greek verb that all Western Catholics know: every time we go to Mass, we beseech the Lord to have mercy.

Kyrie eleison: Kyrie is the vocative of Kyrios, which in Hellenic Christianity from S Paul onwards, does duty for HWHY, the tetragrammaton, the unutterable Name of God. Eleison is an imperative: Have Mercy. But eleousa  is a feminine participle meaning She who is showing mercy. (The Russian term is Umilenie.)

This design is unusual and enormously striking. The face of the Redeemer is pressed to his Mother's cheek. His hand clutches at her chin; with His other hand He holds the edge of her garment, the Maphorion or protecting robe which symbolises the Robe which was once preserved in the basilica of Blachernae in Constantinople. This ikon expresses the continuities, dynastic as well as political and religious, of Byzantine Chritianity.

Our Lady of Vladimir is on 'Slavic' but not Greek calendars: The Encounter of the miraculous iikon of the Mother of God at Vladimir, May 21. (Constantine, and my own concivis S Helena, occur on the same day; Byzantines, wisely, have no problems about this sort of thing.)

The Vladimir ikon of the Theotokos appears to have been a gift from the imperial family in Constantinople to Kiev in 1130. A few years later, it went to the new capital in the north-east of Russia, Vladimir on the Klyasma. After spending a few years in Moskow, it remained in Vladmir until 1480, after which it was housed in the Cathedral of the Dormition/Assumption in the Moskow Kremlin. After the Revolution, it was kept in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moskow. Go to Wikipaedia for an account of the circumstances of its display today!

Ekaterina Gusseva, who wrote extensively about Orthodox religion (I plagiarised her in the information above), observed that "Moskow icon painters made copies of icons credited with miracles. Some of these in turn produced miracles". 

It would be lovely if future historians were able to wax lyrically about the floods of miracles which resulted from our Lady's intercessions in Warwick Street! 

Domina da pacem.

There is a fine copy in the Russian Orthodox Parish in Cardiff, commissioned by a member of the Ortdinarate. 

19 May 2023

OUR LADY OF VLADIMIR (CORRECTED version; my apologies, and thanks to those who corrected my carteless error)

 A great weekend is imminent! On Saturday (May 20), a copy of the IKON OF OUR LADY OF VLADIMIR will be installed in the Ordinariate Church in London, Our Lady of the Assumption in Warwick Street. At 10.30, there will be a talk about Bishop Ceslau Sipovic, of the Belorussian Greek Catholic Church. Then, at 11.00, an Akathist will be celebrated.

The ikon has been commissioned by the Society of S John Chrysostom, a Catholic Society devoted to Eastern Catholicism and to Orthodoxy; and to fostering good relations between the Two Lungs of the Catholic Church. After the Akathist, which will have been celebrated standing up because that is what "Akathist" means, there will be refreshments and wine.

I plan, Deo volente, to write more about our Lady of Vladimir tomorrow; meanwhile, I invite readers to chase her up on Wikipedia. Don't fail to admire the ingenuity with which the (original) ikon in Moskow is kept both in a Museum and simultaneously in a church!!

Our Ordinariate prehistory, in the 'Papalist' Anglican tradition, is marked by a strong affection for Byzantine Christianity. Fr Fynes Clinton loved Eastern Orthodoxy: he advocated the return of Hagia Sophia to the Patriarchate of Constantinople! He and others gave sanctuary and help to Russian refugees from the 'Revolution'; the College in which I taught welcomed exiled members of a Russian princely family, who were generous in their gifts to the Chapel.

And Sunday is one of the three festivals of our Lady of Vladimir!

Blessed Mother, mercifully pray for us all!

18 May 2023

Word Play on Ascension Day can get you to heaven

The chairman of the coetus charged in the 1960s with revising the Breviary Hymns, Dom Anselmo Lentini, was convinced that 'word-play' ["nimius lusus verborum", as he put it] was out of place in texts for modern use. So he disliked two superb lines in an Ascension Day fifth century Office Hymn

culpat caro, purgat Caro,
regnat Deus Dei Caro. 

In his first draft Hymnale he deleted them; then he re-admitted them but bowdlerised them.

[literal crib: "flesh sins, Flesh cleanses, God rules, the Flesh of God." The Anglican Fr John Mason Neale produced a fine rendering into English verse: that flesh hath purged what flesh had stained / and God, the Flesh of God, hath reigned.]

Unbowdlerised, these seem to me two of the most sublime lines in Latin poetry, whether sacred or profane, during the last two and a half thousand years.

Visitors to the Cathedral at Cefalu in Sicily will have seen the same sort of word-play pressed into the service of the same shattering, profound truth. In this Norman church, built by King Roger II and adorned with a purely Hellenic mosaic Pantocrator of about 1141, a Latin elegiac couplet [hexameter + pentameter] goes round the arch of the apse and reads:

Factus Homo Factor hominis factique Redemptor
     iudico Corporeus corpora corda Deus.

["Made Man, I, the Maker of man and the Redeemer of what I have made, judge, as God Embodied,  bodies and hearts."]

Lentini was a learned and able and civilised man. He was a far better latinist than ever I could claim to be. It is telling, in my view, that even the very best of those who hacked away at the Liturgy during that most terrible decade could have been so blinded and limited by the fashions of their age. 

Proof, indeed, that Liturgy should only ever evolve organically and without ineluctable ideologies.

Praise to that redeeming and triumphant Flesh!

17 May 2023

1937... Jorge Bergoglio ...

 "The two men [Viscount Copper, the Press magnate, owner of The Beast newspaper, and Mr Salter, his Foreign Editor] dined alone. They ate parsley soup, whiting, roast veal, cabinet pudding; they drank whisky-and-soda. Lord Copper explained Nazism, Fascism and Communism; later, in his ghastly library, he outlined the situation in the Far East. 'The Beast stands for strong mutually antagonistic governments everywhere, ' he said. 'self-sufficiency at home, self-assertion abroad.'

"Mr Salter's side of the conversation was limited to expressions of assent. When Lord Copper was right he said 'Definitely, Lord Copper'; when he was wrong, 'Up to a point.'

" 'Let me see, what's the name of the place I mean? Capital of Japan? Yokohama, isn't it?'

" 'Up to a point, Lord Copper.'

" 'And Hong Kong belongs to us, doesn't it?'

" ' Definitely, Lord Copper.'".

When Evelyn Waugh wrote these lines in 1936 or 1937, Jorge Bergoglio was only a few months old.

He may not yet have learned to lithp with hith pretty lipth the witticisms of our great Anglophone satirists. He may yet have been innocent of the strategems we Anglo-Saxons deploy to negotiate our relationships with  those who are so far above us that they will not like to hear us suggesting that they might be, er, not quite right.

In that distant Southern Land of the Generals and of the Desaparecidos, an Argentinian may, even in his eighties, be innocent of the distancing mechanisms inherent within "Up to a point, Holy Father."

He may not be able recognise the careful wording by which we so often prudently come at least  half-way to meet the Great Man: "You are completely wrong" or "I totally disagree with you" may not be phrases which commonly re-echo through the Marbled Halls of the fabled Santa Marta.

So it may not always be obvious to a Latin American Pope that he is not receiving whole-hearted assent. 

In addition, there may be those, careerists or sycophants or perverts, who do not always express themselves honestly.

Right at the start of this pontificate, I felt ... genuinely ... sorry for the new pontiff when he vigorously demanded complete frankness ... Parrhesia ... from the "synodal Fathers"; only to find himself being shouted at! He had a definite view of what it was that the bishops were just  longing to say, if only the poor fellows were not so scared of Cardinal Mueller, red (as ever) in tooth and claw. But, inexplicably, they missed their chance to say it.

I blame the individuals who had been whispering into his ear what they conjectured he wanted to hear.

Similarly, with the questionnaire which was sent to the bishops and which, so he dishonestly claimed, led to Traditionis custodes.

Did I say dishonestly? That was wrong. While I completely accept the fruits of Diane Montagna's researches, I do not think PF means to be a liar.

When a Big Boss is approaching the end of his period of omnipotence, he loses ... without realising it ... a great deal of de facto authority. You can watch it just slipping away ... but he is so accustomed to deference ...

These can be particularly dangerous times, in which the big stick is brandished yet more disastrously; ever more painfully both for the brandisher and for those whom he threatens.

I think that this is the point we have now reached. The marks of it were all over TC.

Even grosser papal mistakes may very well be in the pipeline, as imaginative or devious diocesan chancellors per orbem continue to murmur to their bosses crafty sentences beginning with phrases such as "Well, bishop, something you could do is ..."

A pope who can hem bishops in with minutely pettifogging prohibitions, might even order them to clamp down on bloggers!!

16 May 2023

Pontifical Pomposities

I apologise to regular readers for this first quotation from Dom Gregory Dix which I know I have used before ... its style ... its elegance ... its malevolence ... leave me helpless.

" ... even the best and most energetic of bishops will one day have to rest from his labours and the lance of his successor often delivers the diocese from the menace of some different windmill. ..."

But here is an episode from a different Anglican papalist religious, Fr Raymond Raynes, sometime Superior of the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield.

When he returned from South Africa in 1943 to become Superior, the Bishop, Campbell Hone of Wakefield, interviewed him and asked whether "my liturgical requirements were being observed in the chapel". This riled Father, who had been away for ten years and had no idea what was being done. Hone then produced a wad of typescript from which he began to read. Raynes became increasingly impatient and soon said: "There's no need to go on, because from what I've heard I can tell you that these things are being done, but I can also tell you that speaking for myself and most of the community we find them extremely vexatious."

The Bishop said smugly: 'They are my requirements for the whole diocese', and Father angrily remarked: "I can't see what that has to do with our religious life. You may die tomorrow and then we shall probably have another crackpot with another set of ideas". Hone got up and remarked "I'm not accustomed to being spoken to like that". 

Raynes replied with some additional observations about 'the whims of elderly eccentrics.'

15 May 2023

Dressed to kill

 Here is part of an account of a former head master of a school called Cranleigh.

"He hated women who wore scent and would clap a handkerchief to his nose drenched in eucalyptus while he marched ahead leaving them to totter behind on their high heels as best they could, which was torture for mothers who had 'dressed to kill'."

It puts me in mind of one of the hazards of Guest Night at the High Table of Magdalen College in this University.

Guests are invited to get from High Table to Common Room by an open-air journey across the roof which includes walking across an area 'paved' with wooden slats. 

I wonder how many women guests have gone over in the dark, perhaps dramatically breaking their Heels as they do so. 

The wraith of Dr Routh ... not to mention the Bishop of Madaura ...

14 May 2023

The Coptic Martyrs

A few weeks ago, I published the following. Naturally, therefore, I welcome the recent, reported decision of the Roman Pontiff to incorporate the New Coptic Martyrs in the Roman Martyrology.

I devoutly hope that PF may be a big enough man to permit liturgical texts in honour of these martyrs to be sanctioned for those of us who use the Authentic Form of the Roman Rite.

In the fine CDF documents Communionis notio and Dominus Iesus, the Church's Magisterium clarified the position of those Christian bodies which possess true ministry and Sacraments. This clarification most certainly not imply, as some people have foolishly argued, that "the Orthodox Church" is a "sister Church" of "the Catholic Church". Nor does it mean that "the Moskow Patriarchate" is "a sister Church" of the "Latin Church".

By "particular Church", what is meant is a Church constituted organically with a Bishop, his presbyterate, his diaconate, and all the holy People of God. That is a true Church by divine right, and, incidentally, this is why from time to time it becomes necessary to remind everybody that Catholic ecclesiology has no place for "national Churches" (or even sinicisation); and views with justified suspicion any movements towards giving Episcopal Conferences anything other than minimal and practical functions. As Cardinal Mueller once wisely said, we must never think of the Chairpersons of Episcopal Conferences as any sort of vice-popes. Nor, as he made clear, must Conferences and their bureaucracies come between the Diocesan Bishop and the Bishop of Rome, each of whom (unlike the Conferences) is iure divino.

What this definition of "Particular Church" does mean is, for example, that the ["Orthodox"] Diocese of S Petersburg, and the diocese of Brentwood, are true sister Churches; it being understood that the Diocese of S Petersburg is a true particular Church but "wounded" by its separation from the See of S Peter; and the Diocese of Brentwood is wounded by the schism which hinders the Catholic Church from realising and manifesting the complete fulfillment of her universality in history.

This, I think, is why we need have no hesitation in recognising those Coptic peasants who, murmuring the Name of their and our Redeemer, had their throats cut on that Mediterranean beach, as being truly "our" martyrs.

13 May 2023

The Third Secret of Fatima

"Beneath the arms of the cross angels gather up the blood of the martyrs, and with it they give life to the souls making their way to God. Here, the blood of Christ and the blood of the martyrs are considered as one: the blood of the martyrs runs down from the arms of the cross. The martyrs die in communion with the Passion of Christ, and their death becomes one with his. For the sake of the body of Christ, they complete what is still lacking in his afflictions (cf. Colossians 1:24). Their life has itself become a Eucharist, part of the mystery of the grain of wheat which in dying yields abundant fruit. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians, said Tertullian. As from Christ's death, from his wounded side, the Church was born, so the death of the witnesses is fruitful for the future life of the Church. Therefore, the vision of the third part of the "secret", so distressing at first, concludes with an image of hope: no suffering is in vain, and it is a suffering Church, a Church of martyrs, which becomes a sign-post for man in his search for God. The loving arms of God welcome not only those who suffer like Lazarus, who found great solace there and mysteriously represents Christ, who wished to become for us the poor Lazarus. There is something more: from the suffering of the witnesses there comes a purifying and renewing power, because their suffering is the actualisation of the suffering of Christ himself and a communication in the here and now of its saving effect."

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 2000.

12 May 2023


 A good day, liturgically: two  ... er ... what we now call "trans" people. And S Pancras! I once put into the Anglican ORDO I compile a suggestion that S Pancras should be "in the Railway Station, Double of the First Class with a common octave".

The point was made that this is non-inclusive because it affords no place to women clergy or to London's fine Underground network. How about "si episcopa [flaminica?] praeest, processionaliter descenditur ad imos manes seu Plutonis ipsius regna ..."

In North America, one could have nice alliterative rubrics starting "In Magno Malo ..."

Fatima (2)

The Fatima visionaries, poor little peasant mites, are unlikely to have known this; but, in the first millennium, May 13 was sometimes a festival of our Lady within the Roman Rite. 

I incline to share S John Paul's view that in the workings of Providence there are no coincidences, so to me, naturally, this seems interesting.

This is how it happened. In 609, Pope S Boniface IV dedicated the old Roman Pantheon, built originally by Marcus 'Actium' Agrippa but subsequently rebuilt after a fire, as the Church of Sancta Maria ad Martyres. He did this in collaboration with the emperor Phocas.

Phocas donated an Ikon of our Lady which is still enthroned above the Altar of that Church; and the relics of many of the martyrs were disinterred and brought into the church; hence its name. This was the period when Marian Ikons, and relics of Saints, used to be processed round the wall of Constantinople when barbarian enemies appeared on the scene; I rather suspect that  Pope S Boniface had in mind to construct a defensive powerhouse in Old Rome rather than merely to stimulate pious devotion. Pre-modern, and particularly First Millennium, Christianity has a very practical and down-to-earth side to it. Possibly Pope and Emperor may even have had in mind the idea that, just as Actium had (according to the Augustan PR machine) saved Rome, so the Theotokos and the Martyrs might do the same in their own Christian time.

In the early centuries of the English Church, this festival on May 13 seems to have been important. The Leofric Missal, the Altar Book of the early Archbishops of Canterbury, based on texts brought to England by S Augustine, includes it and, interestingly, demonstrates the continuing relevance of this festival by including in the text later scribal additions and adaptations. Perhaps the Church of S Mary in Canterbury emulated the mother church in Rome. Something similar appears to have happened in Exeter (to which the Leofric Missal was later taken), where a Saxon church of Sancta Maria ad Martyres lay, I think, West of the present Cathedral and on the same axis.

Two of the Exeter liturgical formulae indicate that the celebrations on May 13 were accompanied by the carrying of many lights.

I am sure that the suggestiveness of the ad Martyres will have struck readers. The Third Secret of Fatima is full of the theme of Martyrs and Martyrdom; indeed, we are still living in an Age of Martyrs which rivals any earlier such age. 

I would draw the attention of those who do not know it to the official CDF documentary collection of 2000, The Message of Fatima, and especially to the fine and elegant exposition by Cardinal Ratzinger.

11 May 2023


 Our Lady of Fatima graces this coming Saturday. In my view, this is very much the sort of festivity the CDF had in mind when in 2020 it facilitated the observance of festivals from the Novus Ordo in the Authentic Form of the Roman Rite. It doesn't quite fit squarely into the new rules; but I wouldn't mind betting that it will be covered in the Novum Supplementum which the CDF promised. (Some delays occurring here??)

S Robert Bellarmine, on the Calendar for May 13, is not among the 'privileged' commemorations which we are forbidden to over-ride because the they are too important.

If we do find ourselves celebrating our Lady of Fatima on Satuday, the CDF rules enjoin us to use a commune. The common idea that, on such occasions, we can just use the Novus Ordo collect/propers is excluded: I think, wisely, because there are cultural and terminological differences between the two Forms of the Rite. (The most frequently occurring of these is the need felt in the NO continually to tell God that Saint X is [e.g.] a 'presbyter', instead of referring to him as 'confessor').

But, for those of us who do simply borrow Novus propers into the Authentic Form, here is the Novus collect for our Lady of Fatima: Deus, qui Genetricem Filii tui Matrem quoque nostram constituisti, concede nobis, ut, in paenitentia et oratione pro mundi salute perseverantes, in dies valeamus regnum Christi efficacius promovere.

I don't think there's much wrong with that, although, if pressed, I will offer this observation:

The traditional Euchology of the Roman Rite tends to steer clear of asking God that we may achieve high-level results in august absolutes; that is, in mega areas such as the Salvation of the World and the Promotion of the Kingdom. It prefers wisely to stick with asking for grace to achieve (what a critic, a cynic, or a Screwtape might consider) the small, everyday victories of the Christian life.  

Please do disagree with that and dig up some counter-examples!

And I do rather like those first-millennium collects in the communia of our Lady. I'm not too fine a gentleman to employ them!

The NO reading is a nice piece of S Ephraim. Whither would Latin Rite devotees of our blessed Lady turn if they didn't have Syria? Swooping Eastwards from occidental Porugal they loot the Patristic literature of the Orient!!

10 May 2023

That Coronation

We can't really know, but, surely, there is a nice fat chance that this was the first Coronation an important feature of which ... the oath business ... had to be changed less than 24 hours before the event because the Archbishop of CAnterbury had, welbilically, made a booboo during the drafting. 

Oh dear. 

So much for Fossil Fuels being a Safe Pair of Hands.

But this disaster was the product of a more deep-rooted cultural problem.

The Order of Service, prepared long beforehand (well, they had seven decades to prepare for this event, didn't they?) was kept secret from the public, and only revealed ... detail by teasing detail ... bit by bit. This meant that, by the time anybody had the opportunity to scrutinise the drafts, it was almost too late to eliminate the error. 

Let us hope that, before any similar event, this condescending mind-set may have passed.

When I was a boy, I somehow picked up (I suspect at an old-book sale) a copy of the Coronation Service in 1902 of Edward VII ... 'Edward the Caresser' as the irreverent called him. It is a Book of Common Prayer with the Coronation elegantly printed and stitched in. (I bet this was published more than a week before the doings).

Comparing this with the texts in Saturday's Times, the thing that strikes me most, of all the welbifications, is the absence of the Litany. In the Pontificale Romanum, and in liturgical books of the earlier Christian centuries, the Easter services of Initiation, the services of Ordination of Bishops, priests and Deacons, Coronations of Monarchs, Papal Inaugurations, Dedications and Consecrations ... you name it ... they began with the Litany. Indeed the earliest example we have of Western or British liturgy, the Stowe Missal, demonstrates this.

You can just imagine the Committee which put together the welbified rite gleefully calculating how many minutes would be "saved" by cutting our the Litany. But with it, exited a liturgical instinct that if something is important ... if you want something rather a lot ... you pray for it humbly and ... quite a lot. As the Byzantine Rite admits, 'eti kai eti ... ' "Again and again let us pray to the Lord ...".

As I read the texts, I found myself wondering quite where that starkly odd stuff about "I am a faithful Protestant" comes from. I can't find it in the the Order of Coronation  which satisfied the Caresser. (He simply swore to maintain the Protestant Reformed Religion established by Law, and the set-up of the Church of England.)

Archbishop Lefebvre would, I am sure, have been as saddened as I was by the omission of "When you see this Orb set under the Cross, remember that the whole world is subject to the Power and Empire of Christ our Redeemer."

I notice the absence from Saturday's service of "Receive this Ring, the ensign of Kingly Dignity, and of Defence of the Catholic Faith". In the welbified service, "Kingly Dignity" does indeed survive  but "the Catholic Faith" has, I fear, done a runner. Also missing is the old Offertorium sung by the choir, with its appropriate references to Incense and Sacrifice. Saturday's was not a belle epoque service!

In the hymn  Angularis fundamentum: Text:  trinum Deum unicumque. Neale's translation: God the One and God the trinal. 

Welby: God the one, in threefold glory.

Dunno about you, but that sounds to me just a weeny tadge Modalist.

But I'm not worried. At heart, I'm just a crypto-Modernist. There's nothing about Sabellianism that couldn't be expiated by a formal auto da Fe in Parliament Square. 

[Hint hint: good idea to gag Welby before dragging him to the stake.]

{Of course, that 'threefold glory' comes in fact from the New English Hymnal, not a product I quite trust. I'm not sure that the Trinality of the Christian God is a matter of doxa. Ancient and Modern offers 'God the One in Three adoring'.}

9 May 2023

Sophie Scholl

Here is a piece I published last year. I am repeating it because of a recent news item revealing that the guillotine has been rediscovered in Munich which was used for the killing of Sophie Scholl and so many others who resisted Nazism. I feel that such items are particularly topical when the tyrannies under which we currently live have such interesting parallels with Nazism.

[May 9 is] the Birth Day of Sophie Scholl, executed under the German National Socialist Regime for High Treason. She hobbled to the guillotine on crutches, because her leg had been broken during interrogation.

I pray that I and every reader of this blog may be a whole-hearted and courageous High Traitor to the Zeitgeist of our own time. Not least when, in its 'soft' version, it is impertinently packaged as 'British Values'.

When such High Traitors are brought before the equally distinguished jurists who, in every age, uphold the dark precepts of the Zeitgeist, I pray that they may speak as boldly as Sophie did to Roland Freisler.

Now there's a real example of Parrhesia.

8 May 2023


A former post which has accumulated information like a glacier over the years.

 It's interesting how these nice old feasts, so calamitously suppressed during the Great Rupture, have a bit of a tendency to get their foot back in through the door. Admirable feet! Today's feast (previously a double major) features in the calendar of the Anglican diocese of Truro (which encompasses Cornwall) entitled, I think I recall, S Michael, Protector of Cornwall. I presume this goes back to the researches and imagination of Canon 'Patrimony' Doble, and has not a little to do with the former monastery on a dramatic island called S Michael's Mount. I am told that the 1962 Missal has this feast in an appendix. I presume that the new CDF dispositions with regard to the Extraordinary Form put this festivity back onto the general menu of the Old Mass.

Lectio v in the old Breviary reveals how, at Gargano in Apulia, a certain bull wandered off from his cows. (Wotta Mistaka t'maka.) After a long search, they found him stuck (haerentem) in the entrance of a cave. Someone fired an arrow, which - a common occurrence - rebounded upon the archer (who was presumably an Australian), so of course they went off to consult the bishop of Sipontinus. As one does. He ... it's what bishops are for in the Analecta Bollandiana ... ordered a triduum of fasting and prayer to seek God's will. After that, S Michael, as he tends to, appeared and explained that the place was under his protection and that (well, he would, wouldn't he?) he wanted (Yes! Yes! You've guessed!) cultus in that very spot. They found the cave was shaped like a temple (you were expecting that, weren't you?), and so of course they used it for worship. Ut saepe fit, miracles followed.

As a result of a query I posted earlier, my friend and benefactor, the erudite Professor Tighe, sent me the following reference and text. Other friends also very graciously helped. What would I do without the learned people who read this blog?

I have, probably foolishly, rendered the Middle English orthography into something a little more modern, and indicated (+-+) the bit which stymies me. I will submit to correction with my customary humility, and I welcome elucidation..

Mirk's Festiale ... Part 1 , ed. Theodor Erbe (London, 1905)

[S Michael] appeared also to another bishop at a place that is called now Michael in the Mount in Cornwall, and bade him go to a hill's top that is there, where he found a bull +tent wyth theves+, there he bade [them] make a church in worship of him. But because there were two rocks, one on either side [of] the church, that the work might not up for them, S Michael bade a man in a night [to] go thither and put away the rocks, and fear nothing. Then went this man thither, and set to the rocks his shoulder, and bade them in the name of God and S Michael to stand aside completely, and so they did, as much as need was."

UPDATE I am indebted to Mr Nicholas Rogers FSA for a resolution of the main crux, which seems even to have been perceived as a crux in the Middle Ages. Jacobus de Voragine had written: ubi taurum a latronibus absconditum inveniret. Two variants exist in English: simply a bole tied; and a bull stoppid with thornis. " So 'theves' meant thieves, but was taken by at least one copiest to mean 'theves', or thorny thickets," concludes Mr Rogers. 

7 May 2023


Next Tuesday, May 9, could be a Day of Decisions for Reverend Fathers. 

Y'see, on the old ... unreformed ... Pre-Vatican II ... Calendar for the Archdiocese of Edinburgh and S Andrew's, May 9 is the Feast of the Translation of the Relics of S Andrew.

Celebrating feasts of Translations of Relics is one of so many things that link the liturgical instincts, and calendars, of Latin and Byzantine churches. East and West both take seriously the Resurrection; which means taking seriously the cult of Relics. Suffused with the Glory of the Risen Christ, these powerful objects help and guide the people of God in via. It is not surprising that sometimes unedifying details worm their way into the history of Relics and of their Removals; perhaps S Andrew was originally in Patras until you-know-who translated him to Constantinople; perhaps we are not too proud of the events of 1204 which led to the onward journey of the Saint to Amalfi. My assumption ... correct me if I am wrong ... is that May 9 was the day in 1879 when a piece of the shoulder of the Holy Protoclete was moved by Archbishop Strain to the new National Shrine of S Andrew in Edinburgh.

Does the feast of the Translation (a "greater Double") still edify the Faithful of Ediburgh, and visiting Pilgrims, on May 9? I devoutly pray that it does. Even in the possibly discreditable details of the continual peregrinations of such relics there is, surely, a Providence.

But stay! Here is another Translation, this year celebrated in Birmingham on the Tuesday after the IVth Sunday after Easter: the Translation of the Relics of S Chad, originally in Lichfield, were moved to the new Puginesque shrine in Birmingham. My assumption ... please coreect me if I am wrong ... is that this Day commemorates the Translation of 1841.

Perhaps there is an intriguing detail here. Perhaps the Feast of the Translation was fixed onto a particular day of a particular week, rather than onto a day of a month, in order to prevent it from ever getting entangled with Ascension and Pentecost etc.. There are at least two ways of liturgically dating significant events!

I expect some reader will know what happened. Diocesan Propers in backs of old Missals and Breviaries can be useful sources of information.

I do hope to be corrected where, in this piece, I have let  my speculations run away with me!                    

6 May 2023

Political Subversion at the heart of Oxford!

I suspect that, in these days of spring, back in the year 1749, there may have been quite a lot of nervousness in this University. Remember that only four years previously, the Prince of Wales, bearing a Commission of Regency from the King his Father, had led his forces into the very heart of England. 'Smug Herrenhausen' had loaded ships with loot so as to be able to make a swift gettaway from London if that became necessary. 

His Royal Highness was, of course, destined a couple of decades later, upon the death of King James VIII and III, to become King himself of The Three Kingdoms, our late Sovereign Lord King Charles III.

And Oxford had more reason to feel queasy than most other places. On the Ides of April, 1749, Dr William King had delivered a rousing speech in the Sheldonian Theatre to mark the 'Dedicatio' of the 'Bibliotheca Radcliviana' (the large round library in the middle of Oxford ... whenever the Meejah nowadays want a typically 'Oxford' picture, they source a photograph either of my own college's 'Bridge of Sighs', or of what the young people now call the "Rad Cam").

In 1749, all the great and the good of the "Jacobite" world were gathered; Dr King dedicated his speech to men who, in the eyes of the Whig oligarchy, were disloyal or of questionable loyalty. The University honoured them with honorary doctorates. Their names included that of the famous Welsh baronet Sir Watkin Williams Wynn. And their womenfolk were there too: Ut foeminae omnes sint quam simillimae praestanti huic Nympharum cohorti, si non specie et pulchritudine oris, at pudicitia et sanctimonia, at corporis cultu, at morum elegantia!

What made this speech so incendiary and so politically dangerous were the six sections at the end, each beginning with the word REDEAT. Y'see, "May he/she/it return" was a motto engraved upon the drinking glasses of loyal families, often beside an engraved image of Charles III. It was a suspect motto of the feared Stuart dynasty. 

In Dr King's speech, however, this Latin Subjunctive was technically, grammatically, syntactically, linked with such baroque abstract virtues as Astraea nostra ... Justitia ... Christianissima virgo, si non genetrix, certe equidem custos virtutum omninium! And with "magnus ille Genius Britanniae".

Dr William King was ... just about ... legally covered!

The gathered loyalists showed that they loved it, cheering to the Sheldonian's ceiling every reiterated REDEAT.

But ... suppose some intemperate enthusiast were to market an English translation in which King's careful syntax were sundered ... REDEAT could easily be given "the Pretender" as its subject! That way might lie, for William King, the block and the axe ...

So, at the start of the printed version King included a careful request that nobody should translate his speech "me invito ... in sermonem patrium '''!

I rather think that nobody ever did. But what they did do ... the "Jacobite" drinking classes ... was to commission a new generation of toasting glasses throughout the Three Kingdoms with the engraved likeness of Charles III accompanied by ... the words Magnus ille Genius Britanniae!!

I so lament the tragedy that King Charles III was never crowned! 

How different the Histories of these Three Kingdoms could have been, God bless the three of them!!! 

No Yewkay!!

5 May 2023

Punch ups and the Coronation Service

A letter a day or two ago in The Times ... from a Fr Timothy Radcliffe, OP. An Important Dominican. I bet he's internationally famous.

The context is that it has just been revealed that the 'Coronation' will be accompanied by OATHS! Yeah! British subjects will be invited, as they watch the Stephanosis on their machines, to join in an act of swearing Allegiance.

(Personally, I had rather wondered about this anyway ... oaths are, surely, meant to have a formal, public, even juridical aspect to them. I'm not sure what my views are about millions of people murmuring at their flickering little screens and thinking it actually means something. 

And it seems to me likely that the whole idea may come from the mind of that vapid litle man, the Welby. If this be so, that aitia in itself does incredibly little to to warm me to it.)

BUT ... just imagine neighbourhood pubs in vibrant yet distant places. Places where there still remain culturally diverse communitities ... Belfast, perhaps, or (London)Derry. Or a Liverpool sanctified still by the Aura of the Warlock and his Cricketing Chum.

Imagine over here, a cohort of imbibers, culturally 'Unionist'; Paisleyite. They are fiercely determined to take the oath, as an assertion of their own Scottic, Williamite, roots. At heart, they are (to a man) Apprentice Boys (or Girls or Trans ... ... ). The Sash Their Fathers Wore still animates them.

But, over there, you will discern a different group (although visually similar); equally fiercely determined, as a meaningful act of political repudiation, not to swear, not ever even to allow to be sworn, any such oath or act of allegiance. 

This latter group is always on the look out for some passing Blacks'nTans to beat up... 

Spiritually, they 'identify with' the Tird West Cork Brigade of the IRA (what a song; what a tune!!).

I can visualise the most totally incredibly wonderful punch-ups developing between two such highly principled groups ... leading to street brawls ... tear gas ... the entire panoply (in the etymological sense of that term) ...

I do think Fr Wozzname OP is a bit of a mangy old spoil-sport to want to deprive so many diverse communities of such glorious and traditional rituals. He'll be banning the Boat Race next.

(Of course I write with irony. But I am genuinely puzzled that nobody on that committee had the sense to speak against this divisive innovation.).

4 May 2023


A lovely day ... I presume its origins (in the English Catholic propers for the Blessed Martyrs of England and Wales) lie in the fact that on May 4 1535, the primitiae of the English Martyrs, the Carthusians of the London Charterhouse, died at Tyburn.

Originally, today's commemoration referred only to Blessed  Martyrs. Of course, the Carthusians were among the sixty three who were beatified equipollently by Leo XIII (29 xii 1886 and 13 v 1895). They were then canonised on October 25 1970 by S Paul VI. (I think 'equipollently' means that, since the Holy See had tolerated the set of portraits of these martyrs, with symbols of Holy Martyrdom, being venerated in the English College in Rome ...)

I don't detect a problem as between sancti and beati. Sharp eyed readers will have noticed that, in the Authentic Use of the Roman Rite, beati is (invariably?) used in the collects, irrespective of status. The custom has survived since the time before formal beatification introduced a distinction. But as far as labelling does matter, I suppose we should now talk about them as the Holy and Blessed Martyrs of England and Wales ... or simply as the the English and Welsh Martyrs. 

Rank of this Festival? The current English RC Calendar, and the Ordinariate Calendar, call this Commemoration a Festum. In pre-decimal currency, that would probably mean Greater Double or possibly a Double of the Second Class.  (It was a Greater Double before the Great Confusions; but the subsequent canonisations, and the greater number of commemorands, may suggest promotion.)

English Anglicans observe, on May 4, "English Saints and Martyrs of the Reformation Era". And, in Oxford's University Church, Catholics and Protestants are listed promiscuously together. I know people, dear things, mean well, but I don't like it. I prefer the wit involve in mixing up the relics of S Frideswide with the remains of a Protestant lady ... proclaiming that here are buried both superstition and true religion ... and leaving us all free to reduce the formula to our own precisions. Far more Oxonian.

Some day, I must tot up how many of these Martyrs had Oxonian connexions.

3 May 2023

Some Liturgical Goodies

(May 3) Perhaps the most upsetting loss which the Pacelli/Bugnini alliance inflicted upon the Roman Calendar. The Festival of the Invention [Finding] of the Holy Cross is so valuable, not, principally, because of a particular episode in the history of the Relics of the True Cross, but because it is a festival of the Lord's Passion in Eastertide. We see His glorious Sufferings and Triumphant Wounds in the light of His glorious Resurrection. It is true that, in Holy Week and on the September Festival of the Exaltation of the Cross, we are indeed fully aware of the fact that He Who suffered is the One Who rose again. That, as the Byzantines make clear, One of the Trinity suffered upon the Cross. But the perspective is different on May 3. In this day's Easter celebration we look upon the Cross from an unambiguously joyous and (Yes! Yes!) triumphalist viewpoint. An important Festival to celebrate!

(May 5) S Pius V ... think Lepanto (and read G K Chesterto's poem) ... think 'Tridentine' Rite ... Don't forget that there is a magnificent statue of this great pontiff in the Brompton Oratory, just to the right of the Lady Altar. Is this the only one in England? Shame on us!

 (May 6) S John before the Latin Gate ... this festival, like the Invention of the Holy Cross, is still on the Calendar of the statutory Church of England Rite! As I have explained before, we keep it in the Ordinariate because it marked the beginning of the secret plotting and scheming which led to the formation of the English Ordinariate. 

A most jolly celebration of the magnificent ecumenical initiative of the Unity Pope, Benedict XVI!

2 May 2023


 The pp "had a great gift of harnessing sentiment to the objectivity of the Catholic religion and often there was a soloist in the gallery singing something like Gounod's 'The Holy City' at Benediction  while the May Carol was always sung to the jolly tune of 'the Lincolnshire Poacher'."

Of which long-closed Oxford Anglican church was that written? Which Marian hymn was the 'May Carol'? I am far from being a musician ... I am hardly even a metrician.

So when a couple of decades ago I went to S Giles Reading to preach a Marymonth sermon for the admirable Fr Melrose, I arrived to be astonished by hearing the choir practising the Eton Boating Song (I'll sing a song to Mary, The Mother of my God). (Eton is a large school near Slough.)

But, when I got back to S Thomas the Martyr, I did my best to play the game of matching up 'ultra-Catholic' hymns to well known 'Anglican' tunes. My English Catholic Hymn Book (1930s) still has the pencilled notes which remind me of that period of my priestly ministry.  It came upon the midnight clear, even on the warmest May mornings, enabled my congregation to sing Fr Faber's O Mother! will it always be ... . 

Once in Royal, wrested manfully by me from the choristers at King's, facilitated our rendering, at Corpus Christi in June, of When the Patriarch was returning. (Since Abraham pops up each morning in the Canon of the Mass; and twice daily in the Gospel Canticles of the Divine Office; why does he feature so rarely in our popular Catholic devotion?)

And O my tongue the praise and honours Of the Mother-Maid rehearse, rather surprisingly, went nicely to the tune of Through the night of doubt and sorrow.

Even in October, you might have heard us using the tune of The Day of Resurrection to sing Queen of the Holy Rosary! O bless us we pray.

Last year, Philip Egan, Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth, encouraged the use in May of The happy birds Te Deum sing  'Tis Mary's month of May ... superb old Anglican hymn.

That's what I call real Ecumenism.   

1 May 2023

Let me very tentatively ...

 ... run this past you. A doctrinal matter. 

The solemnity of S Joseph Opificis instituted under the Venerable Pius XII seems to point in the direction of an exaltation of 'Labour'. But how biblical is the concept of the Dignity of Labour???

According to Genesis, Labour is a consequence of the Fall. God situated humankind in a 'Paradisus voluptatis', a description taken up in the Liturgical Responsorium. But through his disobedience, Man was ejected from Paradise and told that the very Earth is "maledicta in opere tuo". To give credit to the liturgical functionaries responsible for the Breviary propers issued at that time, we should remember that, for lectio iii at Mattins, they did include Genesis 3:17-19 & 23-24.

But I do not detect a full integration of this biblical structure into most of the propers. The middle nocturn, taken ex actis Pii pp. xii, lays emphasis on the pope's determination to remove odia ac jurgia and encourage civium pax by tweaking the Calendar.

The strategy appears to be: steal Mayday from the Marxists by exalting 'Labour' ("... labor nobilitatur atque evehitur"). In the last resort, this seems more like an echo of the politics of Pacelli and Spellman and the Cold War; of Will Italy Go Commie more than of theological rigor. Indeed, the theology of Genesis 3, considered in itself, might have suggested a penitential trajectory more proper to Lent than to Eastertide (May 1 must perforce come within that window which is in every year unavoidably Paschal). Perhaps this perception was in the mind of the hymnographus Evaristus D'Anversa who, in his hymn for May 1, wrote "victus cibique copiam/mensuret una parcitas".

Once when I was teaching II Thessalonians (3:6-12) it did occur to me to wonder if the Thessalonian Christians who were refusing to work had been led into this comfortable theologoumenon by the realism of S Paul's own teaching that, washed in the regenerating waters of Baptism, they were no longer subject to the consequences of the Fall.

That is speculation. What is, embarrassingly, clear is that the ideology of this feast seems incredibly distant from the ecological preoccupations of the current pontificate. 

Pacelli's"terram subjiciant atque oeconomicae prosperitati consulant" is not very Laudato si, not terribly Amazonian, is it?

Popes come and go, don't they, bringing their delightful whimsies with them? Pretty poppets, but I wish we could have a nice run of three or four incredibly boring old popes whose motto was Quod accepi tradidi.