31 August 2023


Almost at the very end of the press conference to 'present' Amoris laetitia, a young woman, who, I think, was sitting next to the erudite Professor Roberto de Mattei, was allowed to ask a question. Unlike most of the hacks and hackettes, Diane Montagna asked a question ... an appeal for "clarification" ... "everybody wants to know" ... which was very short and totally to the point. She just wanted to know whether there was anything in this new document which contradicted paragraph 84 of Familiaris consortio. The question went for answer to some Austrian called von Schoenborn. He repudiated strongly the idea that there could possibly be a contradiction. But he proceeded to explain that Doctrine develops.

The Austrian gentleman referred us instead to Blessed John Henry Newman's Essay on Development. I think anybody who wants to be up-to-the-minute should reread that brilliant tour de force. Remember, incidentally, that the Blessed did not write it as a guide to how future curial spokespersons, by a neat conjuring trick, could present Change as Non-change; but as an analysis of how in fact Catholic Doctrine had in the past developed while remaining true to type.

Newman shared with S Paul the advantage of not being an Austrian aristocrat.

When Pope Francis was later asked about the coherence of Amoris laetitia, he replied by referring us all to this 'Introduction' by von Schoenborn, whom he described as a great theologian and a former secretary of the CDF. (It is a mercy that Vatican I, in defining the Primacy and Infallibility of Roman Pontiffs, did not claim that they had good memories with regard to the Curricula Vitae of their associates.)

I have recently been repeating some previous posts making clear what the Church has formally taught about DEVELOPMENT, in a Magisterium which begins with a phrase of S Paul's which was then taken up by writer after writer, pope after pope, Council after Council, until our own time.

The phrase is

                                EODEM SENSU EADEMQUE SENTENTIA.

People ought to chant this at PF whenever he .... er ... 

New readers might like to read back over these old articles of mine, which I usually published at 5 in the afternoon.

30 August 2023


Gaudet Mater Ecclesia was the address to the Council on its opening day, the Feast of the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 11 October1962. Fr Zed, on his unfailingly fantastic blog, has pointed out that the Vatican website still does not carry an English translation of this important document. I can explain why ... indeed, I think I have touched on this topic before and more than once.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I will [shall?] begin.

This business goes back to a failed jesuit called Hebblethwaite, who regarded himself as an expert on the The Council. He promoted a story that the original text of GME as read out by S John XXIII contained a relativising sentence of questionable orthodoxy. According to Hebblethwaite, crafty conservatives then got together to substitute their own 'corrected' form of this passage. This narrative ... the tale of good, liberal pope John being subverted by wicked traddies ... then became the standard 'liberal' version of history. Basil Hume, incredibly, or perhaps credibly, accepted it and repeated it.

Until Professor John Finnis took matters in hand. By deft examination of the evidence (including a recording of S John XXIII reading the text, and the text as printed in Osservatore Romano the following morning), this dogged Oxford academic, a law professor, demonstrated that Hebblethwaite's narrative was comprehensively wrong ... from beginning to end. The Pope's 'official' words were authentically spoken by him in the aula and were accurately recorded by Vatican radio ... and the Failed Jesuit's account is ... whether intentionally or by accident or by virtue of the black-is-white-and-white- is-black trick  ...  mendacious. Smoke and Mirrors!

The crucial words as spoken by the pope were eodem sensu eademque sentententia. The holy Pontiff was emphasising the unchanging nature of the Faith. The Faith may be expressed in different ways, he said, as long as this is done keeping the same meaning and the same judgment.

Finnis explained all this in The Tablet, 14 December 1991 ... detail by detail, proof by proof.

What a glorious and heavenly hoot this simple, wholesome English story is! The authentic text of what the pope said in 1962 is still such a hot potato for the Vatican!! Ridete quidquid est domi cachinnorum ... Tee Hee, as Alison might have said ...

What is it that the trendies are afraid of? Still ... after all this time?

A five-letter Anglo-Saxon word?


29 August 2023

The Miraculous Medal

 A week ago ... well, August 22, to be pedantic ... Octave Day of the Assumption ... Pusey's Birth Day ... Saint John Henry Newman, weeks before his Admission to Full Communion in 1845, began to wear the Miraculous Medal.

Months later, his closest woman friend, Maria Giberne, painted a portrait of Newman and St John in their room in Rome, with Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal between them. 

There's a longish three-year-old article by me on Newman and the Miraculous Medal in the Archive of this blog; my intent is si vivo to reprint it in November at the time of the Festival of the Medal. 

But ... well ... I take this opportunity again to nag you to wear the Medal. If the practice was good enough for the finest mind of the nineteenth century, it ought to be good enough for us.


But I urge you also to remember blessed Edward Bouverie Pusey, a great (in Fr Aidan Nichols' phrase) 'Separated Doctor of the Catholic Church'. Like many 'Tractarians' and post-Tractarians, he wrote extensively on Typology: he may never have worn the Medal, but its spirit was in him. 

You won't have forgotten that Typology as a word comes from the Greek verb tuptein: what you do when striking a coin or medal or seal so that it has corresponding images on both the obverse and the reverse.

I wonder how Pusey, with his distinctively Anglican and Patristic mindset, would have explored the themes of the Miraculous Medal, and its Antitypology. For myself ...

... I might have attempted to begin through those haunting words in the last chapter of the Song of Songs: "Set me as a seal upon thy heart, for love is as strong as death" (htham ...leb; sphragida ... kardian; signaculum ...cor)

28 August 2023

Can Black really be white?

Are you up to date on Bulverism ... google it if you don't know about it. I suppose we could coin a cognate verb and say that PF was Bulverising when he waxed eloquent last year on the deep and dark psychological maladies of all those ghastly young people who have Incorrect and Unbergoglian Tastes in liturgical matters.

It seems to me a term with possibilities. One could say "Don't you Bulverise me, you ..." in a very hostile tone of voice.

A thing I do not quite understand is PF's purpose in quoting before Christmas from the Commonitorium of S Vincent of Lerins.

The passage he alluded to also includes, though PF did not quote it, the phrase eodem sensu eademque sententia. Derived by S Vincent of Lerins from the text of S Paul, it was used by B Pius IX, incorporated in the decree on the papal ministry at Vatican I, and contained in the anti-modernist oath. Very significantly, it was used by S John XXIII in the programmatic speech he gave at the start of the Council ... What the Council taught, so he laid down, was to be in the same sense, the same meaning, as the teaching of the preceding Magisterium. S John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor made clear that it applied to questions of morality as much as to those of dogma. Benedict XVI used this same sanctified phrase in his 2005 Christmas address to the Roman Curia about the Hermeneutic of Continuity. I have recently repeated a series of mine on this phrase which you could find via the search engine on this blog.

Eodem sensu eademque sententia: because the teaching of the Church cannot and does not change.

If this phrase means anything at all, it must mean that the teaching of Familiaris consortio (1981; paragraph 84) and of Caritatis sacramentum (2007; paragraph 29), that divorced people who, having gone through a civil form of marriage, are in an unrepented sexual relationship with a new "spouse", should not approach the Sacraments, cannot already ... in less than a decade! ... have metamorphosed or "developed" into its exact and polar opposite.

Even Jesuits, even the Austrian aristocracy, whether or not adorned with umlauts, cannot really expect to get away with black being white, with non-X and X being identical. Come off it, chaps ... Magnum Principium stat non contradicendi!

27 August 2023

Four Words

Recently, attempts to change the Church's Teaching have been justified by appealing to some words of S Vincent of Lerins about development. 

I have been writing about this subject since at least 2009. Henceforth, I shall repeat some of these old posts, with threads.

Four words of S Vincent of Lerins: 'Development' in the Christian Church and in her Doctrine: Development must take place eodem sensu eademque sententia [keeping the same meaning and the same judgment/opinion]. (In the Liturgy of the Hours the whole passage can be found in Vol IV.)

This phrase has a big place in the Conciliar Magisterium. It appeared (para 62) in Gaudium et Spes, and even before that it lay at the heart of the address by B John XXIII at the start of the Council. But here it is necessary to avoid a dangerous tripwire. In the popular English paperback collection of Conciliar documents (Chapman) edited by W M Abbott, a misleading paraphrase of this speech is given in which the phrase is totally omitted. This became the occasion of an important correspondence in the Tablet in December 1991, in the course of which Professor John Finnis of this University demonstrated conclusively that Peter Hebblethwaite's Pope John XXIII (p 432) is guilty of gross errors. Hebblethwaite, a failed Jesuit, fabricated a story about how some 'brave' and liberal words of John XXIII in his adddress to the Council were distorted, in a curial plot, by the later addition, in publication, of the words I quote. The papal address did not, according to Hebblethwaite, originally contain them. This gross distortion of events promptly became part of the mythology of the 'liberals', being cited as fact by Basil Hume and [the later Bishop of Guildford] Christopher Hill.

This passage by S Vincent lies at the heart of Newman's Essay on Development, which straddles his life as an Anglican and as a Roman Catholic (Chapter 5 Section 1). Its presence in the post-Conciliar Liturgia Horarum marks it as a part of the Conciliar documents which remains the everyday Magisterium of the modern Chuch.

26 August 2023

Blessed Thomas Percy

 Today, in those Northern Catholic English dioceses which experienced the Northern Rising of November 1569, is the festival of Blessed Thomas Percy, nobleman and English magnate beheaded in York on August 22, 1572, after the Tudorette's hatchet men had suppressed the Rising. Fr Thomas Plumtree, of Corpus Christi College in this University, chaplain to the insurgents, had been executed in Durham in January of 1570.

Both of these were among the English Martyrs whose portraits, with emblems of Martyrdom, were painted in the church of the Venerable English College in Rome in 1583. This provided a legal basis for Leo XIII to beatify them equipollently per modum cultus.

Interestingly, the Masses Proper to England and Wales provide Bl Thomas with the same Mass (mutatis mutandis) as Bl Adrian Fortescue: Venditum iustum. I wonder if anybody has evidence as to for which of the pair of them this very elegant Mass was first composed ... was it produced in Birmingham or Hexham?

There is a sweet little window of Bl Thomas in the former, sweet little Regency, Catholic Church in Alnwick, under the shadows of Alnwick Castle (the church was sold off, of course; the Catholics bought instead a former Anglican church; dereliction has also visited the adjacent convent).

Sadly, the Percys, Earls of Northumberland, did not persist in recusancy. 

But foreign tourists to this land can visit their Castle at Alnwick  ... crammed full of wonders. The Percy Family continues from generation to generation, deserving as ever of our respect because of its incredible uninterrupted antiquity ...

... or, rather, it doesn't. The Percys failed in the male line in the mid-eighteenth century. An heiress was scooped up by a Yorkshireman called Smithson, who changed his name to Percy, and his Arms accordingly. An ancient Earldom was not good enough; the government eventually created a "Dukedom of Northumberland" for him.

There is an anecdote that Smithson ("Percy") asked George III for the Garter, observing that he was the first Percy who had not been given it. 'Farmer George' is reported to have commented that he was the first Smithson to have asked for it.

American visitors to these shores should not be taken in by our grand old English aristocracy. Nearly all these families are parvenu and, in any case, a fair number of them are people people of poor taste and shallow culture.

And their "castles" (Windsor; Arundel; Alnwick ...) nearly always turn out to be largely Victorian.

Whenever these folk are short of cash, they either (a) marry an American heiress; or (b) sell off yet more heirlooms (often to America); or (c) both. 

But I bet Blessed Thomas, Martyr, faithfully prays for us all.

25 August 2023

The Revd Bartle Starmer Hack

A century ago, you might have noticed a  very large clergyman in Oxford, pretty well any day of the week,  hurrying along the Broad Street and then down the Cornmarket; books under his arm.

He will have been in transit from 53 Broad Street to the Boots store in the Corn. 53 Broad Street was the last private residence in the Broad, squashed between Trinity and Blackwells (Trinity bought the Vicar out by providing instead the present Mags Vicarage in Beaumont Street). 

No; this was not Dr Jalland and so the books did not relate to Jalland's researches on S Leo the Great or the Papacy. And the cleric was not heading for pharmaceutical reliefs; because, until 1966, Boots the Chemists maintained a Lending Library. (One might, of course, have ordered up anything one chose to read in Bodley, but both Town and Gown found Boots very handy.)

On my own shelves, I have a First Edition of Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night, with the evidence of it having been in the Boots Library. No; there is little point in burgling me and liberating the book; it has been so intensively used as to be totally disintegrated and without monetary value; indeed, it was rebound while still owned by Boots. But considering the Oxonian themes of the novel, I cherish it. 

And I feel pretty sure that it must have been handled by Fr Hack.

He was Vicar of my own S Thomas's; and subsequently of Mags. He is still remembered for observing, as he walked in either direction along the Broad, "This hill will be the death of me"[it is totally flat], and for hating to be called 'Father'. He affected 'Tractarian' mannerisms; he always wore a frock coat on the grounds that it was improper for a priest to show his bottom. (I shall not enable indecorous comments.)

He felt that the role of women in Church was to be on their knees praying or scrubbing; he felt it important for "Children's corners" to be equipped with birch rods. 

Quite rightly, he took food seriously. And he had an agreeable habit of leaving his churches more baroque than he had found them.

24 August 2023

I invite your comments ... your elucidations.

Can it be that, as nuptial fidelity declines throughout society, Matrimonial Ritual becomes ever more complex?

I have recently read a newspapaer account of the 'wedding(s)' of a 54 year old woman and a 49 year old man. I will conceal them behind the names Jack and Jill.

They had their "legal ceremony" in a Town Hall; their "big wedding" later and in a "creative space".

Jill had twelve bridesmaids, "Three had been bridesmaids at her first wedding".

A friend "sewed a ribbon with the names of Jill's single friends on to the hem of her wedding dress. "Some people were newly single so I added their name in pen", says Jill. 

I suspect that "newly single" may not necessarily mean widowed/widowered.

'The couple wrote their own vows' (I presume this refers not to the "legal ceremony" but to the "big wedding").

There were "six groomsmen". They made a formal musical entry.

I particularly invite elucidation of the following detail:

"In 2016, Jack gave Jill a commitment ring but marriage was not on his horizon until last year".

If marriage had been on Jack's "horizon" I suppose a 'traditional ' "Engagement Ring" would have been appropriate?

But what does a "commitment ring" symbolise? Is this now a common modern custom, a common piece of nomenclature?? Since when?

23 August 2023


" There is a story of some Bishop or important person who got his way in Rome rather unexpectedly over an appeal, and when asked by his friends how he did it, replied, Fallendo Infallibilem".

RAK, 1927.

Is this a well-known anecdote? 

22 August 2023

The Evocable One

I don't suppose many people nowadays read the Sermon of S Bernard given in old breviaries for the middle nocturn today, the Octave Day of the Assumption ... but I was struck by this bit: Mary is "digna plane quam respiceret Dominus, cuius decorem concupisceret Rex, cuius odore suavissimo ab aeterno illo Paterni sinus attraheretur accubitu."

Daring stuff, eh?

And, in today's Sarum Sequence, " ... propitiationis agnum, regnantem coelo aeternaliter, revocamus ad aram mactandum mysterialiter."

Even S John Henry Newman, possibly, thought it more reverent to leave such talk dramatically on the lips of 'Willis': the Mass "is, not the invocation merely, but, if I dare to use the word, the evocation of the Eternal. He becomes present on the altar in flesh and blood, before whom angels bow and devils tremble ...".

That He Himself should so set Himself at the beck and call of humans ...


21 August 2023

My Breviary??

 So what did Fr Faber, what did Dr Newman, do after opening their breviaries each day?

Firstly, I think, they must have reached for their spectacles. Victorian breviaries were often only 3 1/2 by 5 1/2 inches and your spectacles in those days were less vast than today. 

So, bespectacled, you now turned to the end of the volume, where there would be a fine section headed Officia propria Sanctorum Angliae. I suspect this may have dated from after the Restoration of the Hierarchy.

But, as you leafed through the relevant quarter ... let us say, for the month of October ... what next?

Each Sunday in October had a special Mass of our Lady. Sunday 1: The Holy Rosary (that, in fact, was printed in the main body of the breviary); then Sunday 2: the Maternity of the BVM; Sunday 3: the Purity of the BVM; Sunday 4; the Patronage of the same Virgin. These three latter celebrations were simply marked by the notice omnia ut in fine brev. and you found them in the earlier appendix headed Supplementum pro aliquibus locis. I.e., they were only for the places for which they had been granted by indult. 

Clearly, they had been so granted for England.

Then you could get on with your Office. And, in October, you did not, in England, say the Sunday Office on a single one of those Sundays in October. During these last decades of the nineteenth century, after the election of Papa Pecci in 1878, you had the great age of Rosarian devotion: pretty well every year, the Pontiff issued a new Encyclical encouraging devotion during the Rosary Month of October.

So these were the great days of what I rather loosely called recently ... I think, on August 16 ...  "High Triumphalist Baroque".

I estimated its length at about 175 years.

Those were days which came to an end when Fr Adrian Fortescue's prayer "for such a pope who will give us back more of our old Roman Calendar again" was answered. Because, around the turn of the century, S Pius X did restore more of the old Roman propers (and made iffy changes to the Order of Christian Initiation: but that's another matter.)

Those changes lasted all of half a century, until they were all smashed up again in the 1960s and the old Roman propers snatched away again. Just to make sure we noticed what they were up to, the b*ggers smashed up thesanctuaries of churches at the same time asthey did the liturgical texts. 

Now, it's another half century since the 1960s, and the poor silly poppets ... the PFs and their Roches ...  wonder why the liturgical scene has grown restless again.

Liturgical fad don't last for ever. Not even if some liar has stuck a label saying "Made at Vatican II" on a title page. Anybody who thinks they do is ignorant of liturgical history.

The PFs and the Roches and their dim acolytes should try to grow up into big boys. 

They should ask Mummy to put them into long trousers.

20 August 2023

D L Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh ... a 'thirties and 1998 philological detection (2)

 In 1998 Jill Paton Walsh 'completed' the unfinished Sayers novel Thrones, Dominations. The text published declines to say where the 'join' between the two writers occurs; but cover blurbs make claims such as "The first thing to be said about this extraordinary book is that it is impossible to tell where Dorothy L. Sayers ends and Jill Paton Walsh begins".

I think that is mistaken.

On page 114 of the paperback edition (Chapter 7; see also page 213), an upper servant says "May I recommend, your ladyship, that the gentleman does not sit too close to the fire, for fear of chilblains, your ladyship, and that I should bring a tot of brandy immediately".

I contend that the vocative would normally be "my lady"; and that "your ladyship" in thirties contemporary usage does not generally function as a vocative but expects with it a third-person verb (e.g. "Your lordship will bear in mind that we are conveying the port?" in Busman's Honeymoon). I presume that is why, in modern Italian, the third person singular has evolved into being used as a second person singular.

In Busman's Honeymoon we find Sayers anxious to be precise about usages which give clues and pointers to class-distinctions; for example, the gardener says in Wimsey's presence "It's all one, I daresay, to my lord.", which the hypercorrecting Miss Twitterton corrects to "to his lordship".

Does this matter? I think it does. Sayers' novels are fascinating windows into the language and the underlying fashionable preoccupations and assumptions of the 1930s (for example, Eugenicism). I think it is unfortunate that we have, very probably, been deprived of accurate, unexpurgated texts of what she wrote.

Just how wokiefied is Paton Walsh's edition?

In my view, Sayers' text has expired before page 114.

I am suspicious.

19 August 2023

D L Sayers ... a 'thirties philological question (1)

In Gaudy Night (1935), there are different conventions about how College Servants address their female 'superiors'.

Annie Clarke and the Warden's Maid say "Madam".

Other servants, including the Porter and Emily and Carrie and the Christ Church Porter, say "Miss". 

(A local variant: "Madam Dean, Miss"; "Madam Warden, Miss". I am reminded of the address "Mr 'Un'icke Sir" in my undergraduate days.)

Sayers was a careful writer with a considerable concern for linguistic nuance. What is she up to here?

In Chapter 18 (page 384 in the first edition), where Annie is on the 'phone pretending to be the Warden's maid, she uses (three times) "miss". 

In the denoument, Annie complains "It would do you good to learn to scrub floors for a living, as I've done, and use your hands for something, and say 'madam' to a load of scum ..."

Do readers familiar with these texts and with the style of Sayers and with 'thirties English idiom have any ideas about linguistic registers which might account for these phenomena?

18 August 2023

A most wonderful man

 With the retirement of Mgr Andrew Wadsworth as boss of ICEL, the Chuch has lost, at least to some degree, the talents of a very fine priest and scholar. Fr Andrew is a polymath and a polyglot and a warm and loving pastor.

He has ministered through difficult times. No sooner had the New Translation of the Novus Ordo been completed, and accepted by the relevant Episcopal Conferences, than somebody in Rome set up a committee called Vox clara which made large numbers of unnecessary changes to the agreed texts. In his letter of resignation, Fr Andrew very rightly says that this mess needs now to be cleaned up. 

Readers will remember how, after the unalloyed evil of traditionis custodes spread its dark and cruel shadows over the Latin Churches, Father reacted in one brief public cry of anguish. Because: he is a man who, paradoxically, worked for much of his life at enabling vernacular, Anglophone, liturgy, yet knew where ... far deeper in the old Roman Rite ... his own strength and mainstay lay.

When the Ordinariates were set up, Mg Andrew was my own 'mentor'. This was not an easy role. It had become known that I favoured the Forma Authentica of the Roman Rite, which, indeed, I had regularly used, in Latin, in my last Anglican post. Although I know of no canonical or juridical provisions in Anglicanorum coetibus giving the the English hierarchy a veto over who was admitted to the presbyterate of the Ordinariates, it appeared that, de facto, they did possess such a veto and were more than willing to use it ... on me.

I was informed of this veto in Holy Week the day immediately before our scheduled admission to Full Communion. I remember the scene in the piazza in front of Westminster Cathedral as, in a state of very considerable distress, I ran up to Fr Andrew and shared with him what I had just been told. He folded me in his arms ... somehow or other, we worked through those next painful fourteen months while I was made to feel in fullest measure ... blow by blow ... the punishments the hierarchs deemed due to my preferences. If there is one thing at which the then English Bishops were dab hands, it was the construction of hoops through which their victims had to jump. I have never felt so desolate in all my life. The first hint that it is possible to be happy despite being in Full Communion with the See of S Peter came when Andrew invited me to his Birthday Party (in the Common Room at Harrow School) and put Pam and me on the same table as Mgr Bruce Harbert (previous ICEL boss) and some other Good Eggs.

Thank you, Fr Andrew, for everything.

17 August 2023

'Elder Brother' ? (2)

 The episode of 'Bragg' to which I am refering gives little additional spectacular detail  to what we already knew concerning the Qumran manuscripts. Indeed, with regard to Cave7, the mss in which are in Greek, I would welcome up to date facts. If that Cave really did contain a piece of the Gospel according to S Mark, this is of no little interest.

A fact I did not know is that Luke 1:32-35 employs terminology which we have now found at Qumran. I am convinced that there are things to be discovered about the 'Third' Gospel which 'Modern Biblical Studies' have concealed from us. But of broader, and broad, interest is the extent to which the Dead Sea Scrolls illustrate the very considerable diversity ("richness") in the Judaism of before AD 70; and, in illustrating this, give our biblical texts a fascinating contextuality. For example: there were beliefs recorded at Qumran concerning the replacement of the Temple cult ... and suggestions that in the last Days God would build a New, a Third, Temple.

And it is certainly thought-provoking to hear that the parts of the Old Scriptures which massively interested the Qumran sectaries ... the Psalms ... Isaiah ... Genesis and the rest of the Pentateuch ... were those also which meant a lot to Christians. 

Think of that, Fathers, as you open your breviaries and wonder (if you do!) whether the day's pensum of psalms is rather a heavy burden!

16 August 2023

S Joachim's travels

 So is today the Festival of S Joachim, Father of the Theotokos

Well, Yes, er, and, er, No. I offer here a broad canvas to those who like their amusements liturgical.

SS Anna and Joachim suffered during the Counter-Reformation. Being 'unbiblical', they did a bunk to prevent the proddies claiming that the Catholic Church was mired in superstitious legends. Silly, in my view: after all, our blessed Lady did have parents, so I can't see any problem in affixing honorary names to them. 

But, in any case, they were allowed back in by Gregory XV in 1622.

S Joachim really takes off in 1738, when he was placed on the Sunday within the Octave of the Assumption as a Greater Double. He stayed there from 1738 until 1913. More than a century and a half. And this was the great period of baroque liturgical magnificence and assertion. When Benedict XIV, most learned pontiff in more than half a millennium, paused his dictation and picked up his Breviary, S Joachim was there on that Sunday. As the Church battled with Revolution and Buonaparte, S Joachim lent a hand as the Papal states were regained and then relost. Throughout the long pontificate of Pio Nono, the Latin clergy celebrated S Joachim on the Sunday after his Daughter's Assumption. He was lurking in Nicolas Wiseman's Breviary as his Eminence composed and sent forth his letter from the Flaminian Gate. S John Henry Newman, admirer from his Anglican days of the Roman Breviary, had Joachim in his coat pocket as he preached on the Second Spring. As the Oratory Church rose from the ground in Brompton, Father Faber never knew a form of the Divine Office in which S Joachim did not occupy the Sunday within the Octave. And Dom Gueranger ...

And the Fathers of Vatican I took him into the Conciliar aula as the skies thundered and they so wisely and presciently voted that the Roman Pontiff has no authority to invent new doctrines. The days when S Joachim was observed throughout the West on the Sunday after August 15 included those great formative decades of the modern Catholic Church and of the renewed English Catholic Church. Within that period, popes as well as priests and people were born, lived their entire Christian lives, and died. 

I wonder how widely and deeply the cult of S Joachim reached. Pope Leo XIII, who finally sent the galero to S John Henry, had Joachim as a baptismal name, and, in 1879, raised the Saint's Festival to the rank of a Double of the Second Class.

This was no mean period of Catholic life and liturgy: it still demands our respect. It came to an end in 1913, when the excellent motive of rescuing the use of the old Roman Sunday Masses led to S Joachim moving to August 16.

But a relic remained of the older customs. Those were times when clergy rather felt that warmly to encourage their people for decades to do X, Y, or Z ... and then, overnight, to ban it ('before breakfast tomorrow morning') ... was a Bit Off. 

So, if you consult your St Lawrence ORDO, you will find that, although S Joachim does rest upon August 16, there is a gentle and understanding note permitting, on the Sunday within the Octave of the Assumption, one Mass that day of S Joachim.

Civilised days.

15 August 2023

Lex supplicandi legem statuat ... er ...

 Veneranda nobis Domine huius diei festivitas opem conferat sempiternam, in qua sancta dei genetrix mortem subiit temporalem, nec tamen mortis nexibus deprimi potuit, quae filium tuum dominum nostrum de se genuit incarnatum.

'Gregorian'; Leofric; Sarum. The Sarum Secreta (and cfr 'Greg') explains the purpose of the Assumption: 

Grata tibi, quaesumus, Domine, munera nostra efficiat Dei Genetricis oratio, quam etsi pro conditione carnis migrasse cognoscimus, in coelesti gloria pro nobis apud te iugiter orare sentiamus.

She died; she could not be held down by the bonds of Death; in heavenly glory we know that she never ceases to intercede for us.

This used to be expressed in the Roman Secret for the Vigil: "the precise reason why You transferred her from this present aion was so that, with complete confidence (fiducialiter) she might intercede for our sins". (idcirco de praesenti saeculo transtulisti, ut ...). The delicious concision and precision of this formula actually survived Pacelli; it was the vandals of the 1960s that did for it. 

Vatican II (Sacrosanctum Concilium 23) had required that there be NO LITURGICAL CHANGES (ne fiant ...) unless the vera and certa utilitas of the Church demanded it: "exigat" [enforces; compels] ... ... But ...

Goodness me, what an unwholesome gang of unscrupulous crooks those men were ...

But look eastwards: there is Good Stuff in Lossky (1903-1958): "Like her Son, she was raised from the dead and borne up to heaven--the first human hypostasis in whom was fulfilled the final end for which the world was created ... She has crossed the frontier which separates us from the age to come. This is why, freed from the limitations of time, Mary can be the cause of that which is before her; can preside over that which comes after her. She obtains eternal benefits. It is through her that men and angels receive grace. No gift is received in the Church without the assistance of the Mother of God, who is herself the first-fruits of the glorified Church."

S Gregory Palamas (c1296-1359), Archbishop of Thessalonica, calls Mary's Passing a Metabiosis, 'a radical change of life'. We recall our Western term Transitus. Perhaps these are more fruitful words than either Koimesis or Assumptio. She has 'Passed Across' into the Eschaton. For Palamas, "she alone is the Boundary (methorion) of Nature both created and uncreated; and nobody could come to God except through her so as to be verily enlightened".

In Byzantium, August 15 is preceded by a 'Little Lent', and it is then a week before the faithful 'bid farewell' to the Feast; in our Latin West, the Day once had a penitential Vigil and was then honoured by a following Octave. The latter decades of the twentieth century, effectively, put the stoppers on all that sort of business. 

But this humble writer would willingly trade in the flowery Marian rhetoric of Papa Pacelli and his associates for the ancient, venerable, beautiful prayers of the Latin Churches; and for their (theologically significant) millennial liturgical arrangements honouring the Passing Across of Mary.

14 August 2023

Elder Brother? (1)

I don't think you will find many criticisms of Pope S John Paul II in this blog. Indeed, I regard him as an important and laudable figure in the reconstruction of orthodoxy and orthopraxy in the post-Conciliar decades. His Veritatis splendor, in my view, constitutes a full, perfect and sufficient refutation of both the premises and policies of the whole Bergogliolatrous project of this pontificate.

But I feel uneasy about a phrase associated with JP2. If it is rooted in Tradition and marks the writings of the Fathers and the Schoolmen and the Manualists, then I will very willingly withdraw this indication of my doubts. 

So you can help here!

The phrase is "our Elder Brother", describing 'Judaism' in relation to 'Christianity'. 

If kind readers ... you can help me here! ... are able to point to uses of this phrase in the Scriptures, the Fathers, the Schoolmen, the Manualists ... then I will instantly withdraw this expression of my unease!

I dislike the phrase because it suggests that Judaism came first; and then, for better or for worse, had Christianity as a successor. 

This is not how I see Heilsgeschichte. In my view, it is a matter of one very pluriform culture and tradition splitting up ... round about the year dot ... into (at least) two. These respectively coalesced into the Rabbinic Judaism which followed Jamnia; and Catholic Christendom. I do not regard Rabbinic Judaism as any more the 'elder' brother of Christianity than I would describe Christianity as the Elder Btother of Rabbinic Judaism.

I was put in mind of my nagging unease when listening to a programme on the Beeb called In our Time, run by a chap called Lord Bragg. So, colloquially, it is known as "Bragg".(There are hundreds of episodes on every academic field ... in history, literature, the Natural Sciences. Their format is always three dons and his Lordship in the chair. Some examples are better than others, but listening gives one opportunities of checking and verifying what is new in academic thinking in a wide variety of different subjects. )

A few weeks ago, they did The Dead Sea Scrolls. You could beam the episode up and listen to it on BBC Radio!

To be continued and concluded.

13 August 2023

Bless me Father for I have sinned.

I invite readers with sharp critical noses to consider the following hypothesis.

"Much of the humour of Dom Gregory Dix was an expression of lateral thinking accompanied by an affectation of innocence."

An example:

Dix was in argument with an archdeacon who was trying to get confessional boxes removed from a church.

Dix argued that such furnishings were required by the XXXIX Articles.

Videte Article XXV, final paragraph, first eleven words.

11 August 2023


No; this is not another discussion on Tucho Ferdinadez' best-known book. Unlike his Almost-Eminence, I, not being an Argentinian high-flying curial careerist, have no advice to offer about how far down your partner's throat your tongue etc.etc..

Instead, I want to offer some observations about a subject which has been out in the academic world since the 1990s; Orality and Literacy: the interaction between the written and the orally transmitted word  in the times of Classical Antiquity.

I referred to Orality in my piece a few days ago; arguing in favour of the synthetic account, first fully presented by S Gregory the Great, of S Mary of Magdala. Before that, I had written a piece on the evolution of the Words of the Lord in the Canon Romanus, where I described the processes of 'magnetic' agglutination which lie behind the traditional Roman liturgical text of His Words.  

Authors who have influenced me have included, in the field of Classical Studies, Ros Thomas; New Testament Studies, Loveday Alexander; Liturgy, Catherine Pickstock. The last of these, although a Cambridge Anglican, wrote very positively about the Authentic Roman Rite, demonstrating how bankrupt and ridiculous were the cultural pinnings of the Novus Ordo.

What a shame ... and how curious ... that "Professional Liturgists" of the male gender refer so little to such work by women academics, just as so many of them ignored the wide implications of Christine Mohrmann's demolition of the Bea Psalterium. What are the Chaps so scared of ...

Aidan Nichols discusses Pickstock's book After Writing (1998) very positively in his Looking at the Liturgy. I would commend After Writing more warmly if it were not so full of neologisms ... new technical terms invented in Greek, which can make it slightly hard going. But here's a good, and clear, bit from it. 

She refers to a

"characteristically oral type of supplementation, namely , the bardic tradition  of narration, according to which, there can be no definitive account of a particular story, but each performance of a tale constitutes a supplemented 'origin' in its own right. Thus, the liturgy reflects the oral character of the NewTestament itself, for the Institution Narrative in particular is perforce derived from three gospel and one Pauline accounts: none of these is more original or authentic ..." She cites the accounts of Ss Matthew, Luke and Paul; one might add the version in the Qui pridie, not to mention the variant forms in so many other rites.

Alexander writes about  

"a social context where a living teaching tradition, conservatively preserved and yet constantly adapted to changing circumstances, has priority over written school texts."

If readers desire ... DIY ... to peruse an example taken from the New Testament text itself, try comparing Acts 9:1-9; Acts 22: 6-11; Acts 26: 12-18.  

Each account is crafted to suit its own context.

10 August 2023


 Everybody knows that Catholic bishops hve to offer their resignations when they reach the age of 75.

But they don't.

Canon 401 para 1 says simply "rogatur".

I am waiting for a bishop who has balls enough to announce that, after much prayer and consultation, he has decided not yet to do this.

In the Church of England, Bishop Eric Kemp was appointed before retirement ages were brought in, and so, under the English legal doctrine concerning Vested Interests, he was able to ignore the new arrangements. He simply put his area bishops formally 'under obedience' to tell him when they felt he could no longer effectively discharge his ministry. Of course, age brought its constraints. I remember a day Eric arrived at Lancing to sing Pontifical High Mass ... and his chaplain whispered "Like the Holy Father, we now preach sitting down ...".

We exist in a Church where the assumption seems to be normative that, when a bishop of a diocese hits 75, he might very well be past 'it', but that the Bishop of Rome can go on for as long as it suits him.

You might have thought that the burdens and responsibilities of the latter were greater than those of the former ...

This pontificate has revealed just how corrupt this system is or can be. Manifestly, the current Roman Pontiff is clinging on to his status so that he can make changes and appointments which may constrain or direct his succession.

Most indecorously, the present system encourages journalists to speculate on how much the Pontiff disliked a particular bishop, as indicated by the speed with which his resignation was accepted.

And the system of papal nunciatures aids the corrupt system. I can understand that it has value in facilitating consultation; in hurrying up curial responses when necessary ...

... but it is essentially a system of control and might very well be a system of spying and of enforcing a party line.

There was something very proper in expecting a bishop, 'wedded' to his Particular Church, to carry on until death. The system was humanely operated: when necessary, a bishop could ask for, and receive, a coadjutor.

It is my view that all the high-falutin' Conciliar and postConciliar rhetoric about the Bishops as Successors of the Apostles mumble mumble, mumble mumble, is de facto nullified so that each diocesan has a status analogous with that of a District Manager of Waitrose.

9 August 2023


Hopping is, of course, a traditional English past-time. Readers will doubtless recall the episode in 1764 when a couple of young Englishmen doing the Grand Tour, realising the daunting extent of the Uffizi, decided to abandon all that Art;"their impatience burst forth, and they tried for a bett who should hop first to the end of it". Could this become an Olympic sport, just as the 'Marathon' has done?

And the Noble Art still, apparently, survives. I noticed recently two local Notices inviting Hopping

The first invited readers to "hop" into a travel centre; the other advertisement listed places where one could "hop off" a coach.

Naturally; I was partly amused by the activity suggested and its bizarre, dangerous, athleticism; partly puzzled by how the authors of these restrictive instructions planned to police the apparently necessary exclusion of us practising and unrepentent bipedalists.

But illumination struck me as I recalled the fine description of the Monopods in the Navigatio Auroram Petentium, Capitulum XI (what follows is not my own translation).

"The little bundles which had lain at the bottom of the stalks were heads and bodies. The stalks themselves were legs, but not two legs to each body. Each body had a single thick leg right under it and, at the end of it, a single enormous foot--a broad-toed foot with the toes curling up a little so that it looked rather like a small canoe. She saw in a moment why they had looked like mushrooms. They had been lying flat on their backs each with its single leg straight up in the air and its enormous foot spread out above it. She learned afterwards that this was their ordinary way of resting; for the foot kept off both rain  and sun and for a Monopod to lie under its own foot is almost as good as being in a tent. ... Of course, these little one-footed men couldn't walk or run as we do. They got about by jumping, like fleas or frogs. And what jumps they made!--as if each big foot were a mass of springs. And with what a bounce they came down ..."

I hope our Oxford Monopods will be allowed to be full members (Rhodes Scholars?) of the University. What a splendid summer spectacle it would be, watching the Monopods, capped and gowned of course and in subfusc, hopping processionaliter down the High Street to Sir Thomas Jackson's 'Jacobethan' Examination Schools. 

8 August 2023

Una cum papa communicantes

There is sometimes discussion on the internet about the idea that being in communion with the Church or Bishop of Rome has an inherent connection with 'being a Catholic' or 'belonging to the Church'. 

I rather feel that some people who bullishly demand patristic references to such a concept may in fact be polemically asserting that such an idea did not exist in the early centuries. I am not interested in such. 

But for any who ask the question genuinely seeking an answer, I commend the following article, which argues ... in my view, convincingly ... that the Communicantes in the Roman Canon originally followed on from the reference to the Roman Pontiff in the Te igitur

It is written in German but includes a good simple summary in Latin for those who, like me, are germanically challenged.

"Te igitur" und "Communicantes" im Messkanon, Sacris Erudiri VIII, 1 (1956).

I found pp 26-35; 53-54; 65-67 particularly helpful.

7 August 2023

The Battle of Belgrade and S Xystus

August 6; the Transfiguration; an oriental feast brought into the Roman Calendar by Calixtus III in 1457 to commemorate the defeat of the Turks at the Battle of Belgrade in 1457 (rather as the Feast of the Holy Rosary commemorates the Battle of Lepanto ... whatever would we do without all those defeats of the Turks?). Late Medieval England developed a great devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, especially with the encouragement of the Lady Margaret, mother of Henry VII. So here in England, the following day became the Feast of the Holy Name. A good idea, in my view. Just as Corpus Christi needed to be extracted from Maundy Thursday and given the opportunity to be celebrated at a time not preoccupied with the progress of Triduum (call it duplication if you like), so the Holy Name can do with being extracted from the Christmas/Circumcision/Naming sequence and given space to stand alone. What a shame the Ordinariate Calendar missed this opportunity. Actually, if you follow the Novus books, you could say a votive Mass and Office of the Holy Name on August 7.

What went under, what got lost in all this, was poor old Xystus. One of the martyr-popes in the Canon Romanus; the Pontiff whose own martyrdom preceded that of his own Archdeacon, S Lawrence, a few days later. The story is a poignant one: the arrest of the pontiff while preaching from his cathedra; his leading away to 'sacrifice to the gods'; his refusal. He was then brought back to be martyred at his own altar, together with two of his deacons; as he was being prepared for death, Archdeacon Lawrence said "Why do you abandon me, Father, you who never offer the Holy Sacrifice without your deacon?" "You will follow me in three days", said S Xystus. S Lawrence is one of three great patrons of the Roman Church; Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima being dedicated, as their liturgical propers demonstrate, to SS Lawrence, Paul, and Peter. Celebrating S Xystus on the 6th and S Lawrence on the 10th is both elegant and moving.

But, in the Novus Ordo, you can't. The novel fad for confining one day to one theme, unknown to the classical Roman and Byzantine rites, led the reformers to move S Xystus back off the Transfiguration (on the 6th) to the 5th and then to change their minds and move him to the 7th. I can only say that I consider this a great shame. What on earth is wrong with the old custom of keeping the Transfiguration on the 6th with a commemoration of S Xystus? He's much more likely to be noticed there than as an optional memorial competing for attention ... and on the wrong day.

6 August 2023

The Transfiguration

A bit odd. The LMS ORDO indicates that, today, Feast of the Transfiguration, the Preface is of the Most Holy Trinity. I've never really understood "the 1962 Missal". I think I'll just use the Incarnation Preface, as one always has in the past. In fact ... come to think of it ... perhaps that's what our beloved Holy Father was really getting at in Traditionis custodes ... "Now look here, chaps, I don't care which Editio Typica you follow, just as long as it's not 1962." He expressed himself rather strangely, but then, I'm only a poor convert and I don't really understand all this curial stuff, not like proper cradle Catholics such as Mr Ivereigh.

I have a soft spot for today's Festival, because it is, of course, the Titular of Oxford Cathedral. Happy memories of ordination there to the Diaconate and Sacred Priesthood ... my own, and, of course, those of Saint John Henry Newman, blessed Edward Pusey, and so many others. I sometimes wonder if the old English dioceses still exist in some sort of semi-Platonic heaven. It's easily checked: in the legislation which erected the Westminster hierarchy, did Blessed Pio Nono explicitly suppress the medieval dioceses, or did he just leave them ... as it were ... hanging on the peg unused?

This year, perhaps some edge is taken off our joy today by the damage done to the Cathedral Church of the Transfiguation in Odessa. God bless the clergy and people as, yet again, they face the labours of reconstruction.

[Another query. We are supposed to observe the Dedication Festivals of our Cathedrals. I have looked everywhere I can think of to find the date of the Consecration of our splendid Warwick Street church, but without success. Was it ever consecrated? Somebody must know!]

5 August 2023

tes theias phuseos koinonoi

As we look ahead to the Feast of the Transfiguration, invested with such rich teaching within the Byzantine tradition*, I recall the ancient Western Preface for the Ascension, preserved even (although with an alternative) in the Novus Ordo. One reason for my affection is the prayer that, through the Lord's Ascension, we may become Partakers of His Divine Nature. Because that, of course, is a preoccupation that sets us at one with Byzantine Christianity, and not least with the Hesychast Tradition. Both 'lungs' here breathe a harmonious doctrine!

Poor proddy Dr Cranmer couldn't take this heady dose of participatory Christianity; he replaced it with an aspiration that we might also zoom up into the clouds (a bit of a dash of Rapture here?). I have no problems with images of a three-decker Universe in Liturgy, but I don't see why we need to drag them in, particularly not when the classical Roman texts prefer a more sophisticated alignment with Athonite verities! And, of course, this ancient Roman and biblical formula is centuries older than S Gregory Palamas, and the Palamite Councils of the thirteen hundreds.

Old ICEL toned these words of the Preface down to 'sharing in the divine life'. Happily, Mgr Wadsworth's ICEL gave us back a literal transklation. Unhappily, the Ordinariate prefers Cranmer's unfortunate bowdlerisation.

*For Byzantine teaching on Theosis and Light, perhaps the most accessible book by now is Lossky's The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church. Probably out of print is The Ascetical and Theological Teaching of [S] Gregory Palamas by Archbishop Krivosheine, reproducing his article from The Eastern Churches Quarterly, 1938. George Florovsky gave a good lecture in Thessalonica, on the 600th anniversary of the Dormition of S Gregory Palamas in 1959 (Sobornost Series 4: No.4. Timothy ("Kallistos") Ware wrote well about the eschatological aspects in Sacrament and Image 1967.

4 August 2023

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

There appears to be a consensus that there is no evidence for the Our Father being in the Mass anywhere in Christendom before about 350. Before that, it was a non-liturgical prayer used, perhaps several times a day, either privately or among groups of the Faithful. And the evidence is that during this period, when Christians shared the Our Father, they concluded it with a kiss of peace. The earliest evidence I know for this is in Tertullian (c160-225; see de Oratione PL 1 1176-9). A custom had grown up of people omitting the Peace after the Our Father when they had been fasting. Tertullian disapproves of it because it includes an inclination to boast publicly about fasting, contrary to Matth 6:16. He calls the kiss the signaculum orationis; the sealing (as a document might be sealed) or finishing-off of the prayer. Rhetorically, he asks: 'What prayer is complete when the holy kiss has been torn from it? Whom does the Peace impede as he is doing his duty towards the Lord? What sort of sacrifice is it, from which people go away without the Peace?' And a couple of paragraphs earlier, speaking about the ending of the prayer, he uses the phrase assignata oratione; 'when the prayer has been sealed'. Similarly, Origen (c185-254) , commenting on the Kiss of Peace referred to by S Paul in Romans 16 and elsewhere, describes it as happening 'after the prayers' (PG 14 1282). Since S Paul never specifies where the kiss is to be given, Origen's 'after the prayers' presumably reflects the usage of his own time.

It seems highly likely that what happened is this. When the Our Father was introduced into the Mass, it brought with it its concluding signaculum, the Kiss of Peace. Thus the Pax in the Liturgy is not, in itself, a reconciliatory preparation for Communion, but a 'signing off' from the Our Father and the Eucharistic Prayer. We find this situation reflected in the Letter of Pope S Innocent I to the Bishop of Gubbio in 416 (PL 56 515). Troublemakers in Gubbio had been saying that it was better to follow the custom of another Church as to the position of the Peace rather than that of Rome; the Pope responds ' the Pax has to be done after all the things which I'm not allowed to mention to show that the people have given their consent to everything which is done in the mysteries and celebrated in Church, and to demonstrate that they are finished by the signaculum of the concluding Pax'. The fact that he employs the very term signaculum which had been used by Tertullian suggests that we are dealing with conventional usage widespread enough to be common to Rome and North Africa and over a period of at least two centuries.

Thus the Roman position of the Peace appears to have a meaning and logic which go even beyond the introduction of the Our Father into the Mass, back to those early days when Christians met in little groups to say the Lord's Prayer together. That logic was the communal and corporate assent of God's People to the Lord's own Prayer. Of course, this does not exclude the notion of the Peace as a gesture of reconciliation among those who, as one Body, are just about to receive in the Eucharist the one Body and the one Cup of the Blood of the Redeemer. That theme is itself suggested by the last few clauses of the prayer, concerning mutual forgiveness.

But I wonder if there is a slightly different alternative narrative which might be valid here. Might the passage I have quoted from Tertullian relate not to the extraliturgical use of the Lord's Prayer among Christians, but to its use within the Mass? He does seem to be talking about something more corporate than merely a semiprivate prayergroup. And note the phrase 'What sort of sacrifice ...?' And there is a paragraph nearby where he criticises the habit of sitting down after the Peace; if the Peace simply concludes a little prayer meeting, why should the participants not be allowed to sit down once it was over?

Another And ... Having criticised his fellow Christians for witholding the Kiss so as publicly to flaunt the fact that they had been fasting, he goes on ' ... on the day of the Pasch, on which there is a rule of fasting which is common to all and as it were public, we rightly drop the kiss, because we don't care about hiding the thing [i.e. fasting] which we are doing with everybody else'. Those familiar with the traditional Roman Rite will recall that, to this day, we do not exchange the Sign of Peace at the Good Friday Mass of the Presanctified, nor at the Mass of the Easter Vigil (even though the celebrant has said the words). This is because we are all deemed to have been fasting.

Questions arise: if the Our Father was within the Mass as early as the time of Tertullian, what does this do to our understanding of the early history of the Liturgy? How are we to fit in the apparently second century evidence for the Peace coming at an earlier point in the Mass? Why should those fasting consider it appropriate to withold the Kiss? What is the relevance of all this to the Eucharistic Fast, first witnessed in North Africa at the end of the fourth century? And does the evidence we have considered derive support from Dom Gregory Dix's compelling theory about the Mass of the Presanctified (i.e., that the third century practice of Christians communicating themselves privately on weekdays from the Host which they had reserved at the Sunday Mass, and blessing by the recitation of the Lord's Prayer and then drinking a cup of wine as an 'antitype' of the Blood of Christ, is found as the Communion Rite of the traditional Roman Good Friday liturgy, simply transferred from the private to the communal context)?

I never cease to be surprised at what I find whenever I delve back into the history of the venerable and wonderful Roman Rite. 

I preserve a comment from an earlier post on this subject.

3 August 2023


Oxford was not always Oxford. Once upon a time, it was Oxenford, from which it gets its Latin name, Oxonia (can anybody explain why the locative seems always to have been Oxonii?).

That was in the days when the site of Oxford was the lowest point at which a muddy oxherd could chivvy his recalcitrant oxen across the ford in London River. It was paired with nearby Swinford, the lowest point at which a muddy swineherd ...

Is 'swineherd' a real word? Or should we say 'Hog-ward' or even use its later form 'Howard'?

Anyway, back in those mud-encrusted days, Abingdon, a few miles South of Oxford, was far more culturally significant. BTW: in my reading, the name appears historically to have been Abendon, because it was latinised as Abendonia. 'Abingdon' looks to me like gentrified 'correction' of the name.

A few yards from the River, was Abendon Abbey.

In the Martyrologium Romanum, August 1 includes S Ethelwold, later bishop of Winchester. He had previously been the restorer of Abendon Abbey, which had fallen upon poor times. He died in 984 on August 1. In the Novus Ordo calendar of the Diocese of Portsmouth, he is optionally observed in Winchester and Abendon on August 3.

I'm not sure that S Ethelwold would have approved of me. Like most monastic reformers in the Anglo-Saxon Church, he was not keen on married clergy.

Of his Abbey, not one stone survives upon another. 

May he pray for us all, in our own new Dark Age.

2 August 2023

Are you loafing at Lammas or dancing at Lughnasa?

Ronald Hutton may not be doing either. Ronald Hutton is the scholar who wrote a splendid debunking book in 1996 called The Stations of the Sun. What he exploded was the old nonsense dreamed up by anti-Christian students of 'Comparative Religion' in the first half of the twentieth century, led by Sir James Frazer. Those people enjoyed 'showing' that most Christian festivals were ancient pagan festivals very thinly disguised, and that Christianity so failed to leave its mark deep in the psyche of the common folk of the British Isles that many pagan rites survived the official triumph of the Pale Galilaean. An example:

At Padstow in Cornwall, two hobby-horses dance their way through the town each May Day. In the 1930s some daft people called the Folk-Lore Society persuaded themselves that this was a relic of a pagan sacred marriage between Earth and Sky. (Hutton gives a witty and hilarious account of the antics there of one of these nutters, called Violet Alford, who was very angry that the locals failed to realise the massive cultural significance of male transvestites.) The town council cheerfully assured prospective tourists that it was a Celtic custom 4,000 years old ... well, they would, wouldn't they? But modern scholarship, Hutton demonstrates, shows that there is no evidence for the custom going back beyond the late eighteenth century and very good reasons for being confident that it did not.

At the beginning of August, in many parts of Ireland, the country people climbed mountains and indulged in bonfires and jollity in honour of the God Lugh ... or did they? Hutton ... spoil sport ... gives good reasons for doubting whether these customs really have anything at all to do with the 'Celtic' god Lugh. They celebrated the opening of the cereal or potato harvest. And, as such, they were broadly parallel with the Anglo-Saxon celebration of 'hlaef-mass', loafmass, Lammas. It was the custom to reap the first of the ripe cereals and bake them into bread which was blessed in church upon that day; quaint things were sometimes then done to it to make the barns into safe repositories for the grain about to arrive in them.

Hutton leaves it an open question whether there is any link beteween the Lammas ceremonies and those of Lughnasa. But he does see both as "a reminder of the excitement which once attended the ripening of the corn across the ancient British Isles" (what my Irish readers call "the Atlantic Archipelago").

The popular play 'Dancing at Lughnasa' constituted a particularly nasty, more modern, example of the manipulation of any silly old heathen superstitions that can be dragged along to rubbish or ridicule the Catholic Faith ... a potent cultural icon, in effect, of post-Catholic Ireland and its sad vacuity.


 I received what I can only call an explosive comment on my use of some such phrase when I was singing the praises of our Holy Martyrs the (glorious) Maccabees.

I think the writer should consider prayerfully the opening paragraph of chapter 9 of Romans.

This heritage is the inheritance of every Christian, whether Modern Rabbinic Judaism likes the idea or not.

I am unwilling in future to give consideration to any comments which may be offered by this source.

1 August 2023


An advantage in the the current Roman legislation regarding the "Extraordinary Form": it is currently legal, on August 1 to say Mass of the Maccabees.

This is very important. This celebration was the only relic on the Roman Calendar of the old principle that the History of God's People, "Old Testament" and "New Testament", is a continuum. There is no break. Abraham, as the Canon of the Mass insists on 363 days of the year, is our Patriarch; our great forefather. Lauds and Vespers both proclaim his importance in their 'Gospel Canticles'.

There is no theological reason against having "Old Testament" figures on a Catholic Calendar. The local Calendar of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has them ... because, there, they are local Saints. One of the joys of helping out at Lanherne is that the old Carmelite Calendar provides "Old Testament" figures in large numbers. Then, of course, there are the Eastern Christian Calendars.

So why the dearth of "Old Testament" names in the Calendar of the Church of Rome? Because, in the earlier centuries, Church dedications so often related to relics (a reason why there are so few churches dedicated to our Lady from before the Council of Ephesus). And the relics of the Maccabees are, indeed, in Rome.

"But the Maccabees were not martyrs for Christ". But they were. They were martyrs for the Torah, and the Man from Nazareth was, is, the Wisdom and Word of God, which means, the Torah. "Christ now stands on the Mountain, he now takes the place of the Torah", as Rabbi Neusner interprets S Matthew. "Jesus understands himself as the Torah -- as the word of God in person ... [he claims to be the] Temple and Torah in person", comments Joseph Ratzinger. (I have emphasised before the importance of the middle volume of his Jesus of Nazareth, pages 103sqq, Ratzinger dialoguing at length with his friend Rabbi Jacob Neusner).

Witnessing to the Torah in those days before the Torah stood among us Incarnate, the Maccabees are His martyrs. Secondarily, of course, they are the perfect paradigms of the numberless martyrs of the early Christian centuries ... and of our own.

The confectors of the Novus Ordo frankly admitted that the Feast of the Maccabees is of extreme antiquity, and, indeed, universality. But they wanted to put S Alfonso on August 1, and they bound themselves by their own silly fetich not to have "Commemorations". So they left the Maccabees "to local calendars".

Oh yeah?

You might think, therefore that in the Novus Ordo local calendar "Pro clero almae urbis eiusque districtus, typis polyglottis Vaticanis MCMLXXIV" might have the Maccabees. Er ... No ...

You'd never guess whose name appears at the bottom of the Decree authorising this supplement. It begins with B.

I think it's time somebody raised a great cry: "The Novus Ordo is anti-semitic".

It deprives us of a vivid reminder of our glorious Jewish heritage.