31 December 2023

Octaves ...

Our British Post Office has an absolutely fantastic idea for keeping the Christmass Spirit alive.

Simple: they delay delivering a a fair bit of Christmass mail until the week after Christmass ... what we Catholics call the Octave!!!

So it was several days after the Big Day that we finally got our card from the lads on Papa Stronsay (although they posted it in good time): twenty one signatures!! No wonder ... er ...

And the superb card from Stuart and Jill Chessman, who entertained me a few years ago in Connecticut.

Their card set me thinking ... in their Levantine travels, they had visited Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, and their card made use of the mosaic representation there of the Theotokos and her Child. 

And this is what I wondered.

That mosaic has the long-customary monograms for our Lady on each side of her: METER and THEOY

Now ... surely, the identitity of the Figure would be obvious to any worshipper. So ... why the need for a written designation?

Then the thought occurred to me: could this convention have originally had any connection with the didactic steps taken by Orthodox iconodouls after the restoration of Orthodoxy?

30 December 2023

Our Lady of Oxford (1)

What a splendid Magazine the "Friends of the Ordinariate" produce! Accessible and literate articles appear about Ordinariate matters, and often about what I think of as "the prehistory of the Ordinariate". The latter might contain fascinating information about Anglicans of earlier generations who became Catholics; and the current Winter 2023 number has a fine piece by Nicolas [note the correct spelling of this name] Ollivant about Hartwell de la Garde Grissell ... who founded this University's Newman Society and became a personal friend of Pius IX. He lived at number 60 in the High ... now, I gather, a forgotten victim of Road Widening.

Grissell amassed a magnificent collection of relics for his private Oratory in the High; and arranged for their preservation after his own death. His collection also included a painted picture of our Lady of Mercy.

On January 3, 1869, Pope Pius IX had blessed and indulgenced this picture of Our Lady of Mercy, to be the focus in a shrine of Our Lady of Oxford. On June 10, in the same year, the pontiff granted another indulgence ... were  Grissell and Pio Nono both Jacobites? Most of Grissell's relics were burned or otherwise destroyed during the ruthless Gestapo occupation of the Catholic Chaplaincy, but happily the picture remains ... in a smart new Relics Chapel in Saint Alyogger's church ... but I will write no more about this because it would be best for you to acquire a copy of Friends of the Ordinariate. It contains a photograph of a painting of Grissell. (Indeed, why not become a member of that admirable organisation?)

Pio Nono marked his appreciation of his own friendship with Grissell by making him, in 1869, a Chaplain of Honour to the Roman Pontiff. The image of our Lady of Oxford survived the Jesuits. Sadly, S Paul VI suppressed all those dear old ''partial indulgences" with periods of time attached to them, and this affected S Aloysius' Church as much as it did the rest of the suffering world. But the old Oxford indulgences have now been regranted, albeit in the misarithmic modern style: Salve Regina, (in the old days, this had merited 100 days); the Litany of Loreto (got you 300 days).  

The Saturday before the 4th Sunday in July is the liturgical commemoration of Our Lady of Oxford, piggybacking on Our Lady of Mercy. The Mass is the Common of the BVM with a proper collect; it is in some editions of the Appendix pro aliquibus locis but I can find no example of it on any of the old British diocesan calendars. Here is the Collect:

Deus, cuius misericordiae non est numerus: concede nobis, sanctissima unigeniti tui Matre intercedente; ut hanc misericordiam largiter in terris, et gloriam consequi mereamur in caelis. Per.

A bit odd, fixing the celebration for a time when the University is mostly Down? 

29 December 2023

S Thomas of England

So, today is the Festival of a martyred Archbishop of Canterbury, Titular of my last pastoral charge in the C of E. A little while ago, we had a jolly period in which within a few days we celebrated S Edmund of Canterbury and S Hugh of Lincoln and S Edmund the Martyr King. For the Divine Office on such occasions, I sometimes dip into a nice old 1874 Breviarium Romanum which has at the back of it Officia propria Sanctorum Angliae. (This supplement clearly goes back to before the decree authorising a distinct Calendar and propers for each of the Flaminian Gate dioceses.)

In my old Breviary, before each of the collects we are told where it comes from: again and again, Ex Missali Sarisburiensi. The Roman liturgical authorities had no desire to sit down at a lordly table and compose new collects for our English Saints. The dear old Sarum Rite was good enough a source to satisfy this need. And those collects continued in use until the period after the Council.

I haven't done a precise survey of this, but I have a distinct impression that the Diocesan Propers for the Novus Ordo largely dispense with those silly old medieval collects. Bright new Woolworths ... or do I mean Poundland ... collects take their places. Commonly, they have that verbose floridity and crude appetite to be clever which are such marks of modern English middle-class drafting. Moreover, I have been told that there still do not exist official Latin versions of the new collects. In other words, the English Hierarchy and the Roman liturgical authorities apparently expect the English clergy regularly to disobey Sacrosanctum Concilium paragraph 101 (1), which directs that the clergy are to recite their Office in Latin unless they have permission from their bishop to do otherwise ... and that permission can only be given "singulis pro casibus" ... on a one by one basis ... not as a general permission.

(To be fair, I should add that the Welsh dioceses do make full provision for observing the Welsh Saints in the Novus Ordo Divine Office in Latin ... we should congratulate the Welsh on being trilingual!)

Incidentally ... 'Jacobites' might be interested to note that in my 1874 Breviary, S George is referred to as "Patronus Regni". S George is patently the Patron of England ... Yes ... but not of Scotland, and so he is in no way the Patron of "the United Kingdom", that ghastly abomination the "Yewkay". Thus, describing him as "Patronus Regni" implies the position which was maintained by James III, Charles III, and Henry IX, that the "Acts of Union" of 1707 and 1801, passed as they were by an intruded and merely de facto regime without the authority of the de jure Sovereign, did not, in the view of the Holy See, truly extinguish the three Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland.


28 December 2023

New Year's Day?

 January 1 ... should it be the Circumcision or the Theotokos? I'm not going to 'explain' this again; the traditional propers for our Lady are the propers we used to call the Circumcision, so this is a question simply of labeling, not of realities.

Much more excitingly, I'm going to offer you a Third Alternative: Saint Scetha.

If you approached a significant Irish church on a Sunday morning during parts of the First Christian Millennium, the likelihood is that you would, as you grew near, hear ... singing. Singing which you would recognise as the Litany. And as it drew to its end, among the last three invocations, you would hear Sancta Scetha Ora Pro Nobis. And if, being a naturally inquisitive person, you sought further information about this lady, you might be told that her Feast Day is January 1. And you might remember that this Blog once gave you the information that in the Early Christian Irish World, inserting somebody into the Litany counts as what we would call canonisation. The Abbot might even ... during the chanting of the Litany ... send a message across to the singers instructing them to ad NN or MM to the list of those to be Invoked!

There would be likely to be members of the Congregation or the Christian Community who remembered the day when the holy religious lady Scetha was Put On The List ... i.e. canon-ised.

Scetha has another festival, you might discover, on September 6 ... G F Warner will inform you that this second Memorial commemorates the arrival of her Relics at Tallaght. Dr MacCarthy tells us that Scetha was a Virgin; and that she was enshrined at Fert Sceithe in the County Cork, circa 622. If I've got this wrong, I hope somebody will instruct me: I think Fert(a) in early Irish means something like Place of Graves. 

Back in the eighties, Charles Doherty gave information on the Cult of Relics during this period, which I plagiarise. 

It was in the seventh century in Britain and Ireland that the cult of relics really began to develop. There was a great plague in 664 and diseases and famines in the closing years of the century; at the start of the eighth an increase in stress and disorder in society. We find this reflected in the amount of archival activity that took place ... and relics assumed an added importance against this background. The circuits of many different saints became common, especially after bad weather, diseases in men and cattle. Contemporary sources attribute 'the translation of relics' as a rsult of the increase  in the evils in society.

One collector of relics was so avid that he would not remain in a church which refused to give him some of her relics (remember that a corpse could be divided); Indeed, someone with a reputation for sanctity might be in danger of losing a limb while still alive. Armagh made elaborate arrangement to collect relics; the church of Ard Patrick in Limerick was a great ccollecting point for the tribute of Munster. The insignia of a saint ... his bells, books, and crosiers ... were used th demand tribute. The virtues of each relic were extolled and the power of eaxch was described by appeal to one extravagant miracle after another.

A well-known account of the basilica (relic-endowed church) at Kildare describes the enshrined bodies of bishop Conlaeth and of huius virginis florentissimae Brigidae ... on each side of the Altar ... vario cultu et argenti et gemmarum et pretiosi lapidis atque coronis aureis et argenteis desuper pendentibus ...

I wonder how sumptuously those lads at Tallaght provided for S Scetha, once they had secured, 'translated', her relics from North Cork to Tallaght.

In hoc anno novo dignare Scetha sancta orare pro nobis.

27 December 2023

A New Year's Resolution

I commend the old Anglican custom of bowing the head at the Name of Jesus.

Indeed, Catholic prescriptions include this, and also require a bowing of the head at the name of Mary.

Even Traddies commonly ignore the rules requiring these reverences.

These observances do mean that one has to stay alert ...

26 December 2023

The Sound of Mucus

 I expect there are readers who could enumerate exactly the matters upon which H E Bishop Richard Williamson, a Wykehamist, agrees with me. Two, in particular, occur to my mind:

(1) Despite, er, everything, Bergoglio is lawfully and canonically, Bishop of Rome; and

(2) The Sound of Music is corrupting mush.

This film is a most fascinating combination of genres. As I watched it on Christmas Eve, the opening minutes reminded me of nothing so much as Leni Riefenstahl's work in the '30s ... that long sequence of landscapes, as the late-comers to the cinema stumble their way to their seats. But Mills and Boon soon take over. Or rather, SOM turns out to be the grandest conceivable apotheosis of Mills and Boon. M&B offers us Humble Nurse Winning the Heart of Consultant ('Carbolic Soap Opera'). In SOM the last expiring sighs of Whiggery's Pamela, are metamorphosed into magnificence almost beyond belief by being transposed into the key of Novice Nun gaining the affections of Naval Hero Owner of Vast Swathes of Unmarred Mountain Scenery and Rococo Architecture. But, whereas Richardson's Pamela bore the message that the girl who makes deft use of her chastity wins through, SOM appears to teach that witlessness... ('femininity to the point of imbecillity', as Lord Feverstone described it) ... will always and rightfully displace the 'artificial' sophistication of a Viennese baronin

And, of course, Spontaneity is all. Children can spend their days shouting in trees and then turn out a perfectly produced musical performanance. Falling out of trees will never damage them; capsising their boat in the lake can never be more than a jape.

And, above all, Discipline and Duty must lack all and any emphasis. 

And as for Vocation ... we mustn't mention that.

The film of SOM emerged in 1965 (stage Musical in 1959). What a decade! The smooth elegance of The Great Escape (1963) had come two years earlier; by the end of the decade, the deification of revolutionary violence in If ... (1968) and the acid anti-war malevolence of Oh What a Lovely War (1969) had swept all  before them. Perhaps most significantly, Doctor No, introducing decades of strongly preached amorality, had in 1962 come from the pen of an Ian Fleming who, we are told, loved whipping a wife who (of course) loved being whipped. And that was the very same year as Lawrence of Arabia, which raised its own questions about homophobia and Masochism.

So Mills and Boon, the Thirties 'Tuppenny Library' of escapist fiction for women, and the military 1950s moral simplicities of The Dam Busters and Ice Cold in Alex and The Cruel Sea, both gave way to a culture which had not the faintest idea what it wanted, but wanted it good and stong.

As early as 1946, Waugh had described "the war" as "a sweaty tug-of-war between teams of indistinguishable louts". I suspect, indeed, that most years seen as the beginnings or ends of eras, must involve major oversimplifications, from 410 and 1066 onwards.

But I feel that 1965, Year of The Sound of Music, can stake a valid claim to have been quite pivotal.

25 December 2023


 This is addressed only to those who use or read the fine ORDO published by the English Latin Mass Society.

Last Sunday, Christmas Eve, the instructions given for Mass puzzle me. Has something gone wrong?

Marian Iconography

"... the beautiful alabaster carving of the Assumption in the church of Sandford-on-Thames suggests that this may once have been the dedication there. The present title of the church is St. Andrew; but at the time of the Norman Conquest Sandford was in the possession of the Abbey of St. Mary at Abingdon, and it is noteworthy that the Abbey seal, like the alabaster, carries the relatively rare device of our Lady both crowned and in an aureole. A review of the monastic seals in Birch's Catalogue of Seals in the British Museum shows that whilst our Lady either crowned or in a nimbus or aureole is a very common device, the combination of crown and nimbus is uncommon. The angels supporting the aureole in the Sandford alabaster make it quite clear that the Assumption is the the subject of the carving. It should be added that the Sandford alabaster may have originally adorned not the parish church but one or other of the the two monastic chapels which formerly existed in the parish. Each of these was dedicated to our Lady ..."

Sic Bishop Kirk, 1946. The Bishop is mistaken in describing the statue as alabaster; Pevsner made exactly the same mistake ... I wonder ... does the error have a common source ...

Given that Sandford Church is within feet of the ancient flood-plain of the Thames, in my view the statue could have been transported aquatically for miles.

What I am wondering is: "Crown+nimbus/aureole=Assumption." Is this correct as an account of the symbolism of representations of the Mother of God in the later medieval period? Especially when the nimbus-encircled Figure is represented as being physically lifted aloft by angels?

24 December 2023

Renouncing Heresy

 Recent Vatican statements have, I suspect, unsettled many people. 

If anyone wished to renounce any involvement in false teaching from foreign parts, I suggest the use of the following liturgical formulae, taken from the old Profession of Faith, which used to be made publicly by converts.

(1) Veni Creator, followed by the Collect for Pentecost Sunday.

(2) "I, NN, holding in my hand God's holy Gospels and enlightened by divine grace, [publicly] declare that I accept the Faith which is taught by the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church. I believe that Church to be the one true Church which Jesus Christ set up here on earth; to which I make my submission with all my heart."

(3) The 'Apostles' Creed' used to follow; while, surely, the 'Nicene' or 'Athanasian Creed' might suitably now be used.

(4) Then EITHER ... "I believe that seven sacraments were instituted by Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Holy Order, and Matrimony.

"I believe that the Bishop of Rome is the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, that he is the supreme visible Head of the whole Church, and that he teaches infallibly what we must believe and do for salvation.

"I also believe everything which the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church defines and declares that we must believe. To her I give my whole allegiance and I reject every error and schism which she condemns.

"So help me God, and these His holy Gospels which I touch with my hand."

OR ... "I profess that I believe: One only God in three divine persons, distinct from and equal to each other--that is to say, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

"The Catholic doctrine of the Incarnation, Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ; and the personal union of the two Natures, the divine and the human; the Divine Maternity of the most holy Mary, together with her most spotless virginity; and also her Immaculate Conception; and her bodily Assumption into heaven.

"The true, real and substantial presence of the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ, together with His Soul and Divinity, in the most holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. 

"I also believe in Purgatory, the resurrection of the dead, and everlasting life. 

"The primacy, not only of honour, but also of jurisdiction, of the Roman Pontiff, successor of St Peter, prince of the apostles, Vicar of Jesus Christ;

"The veneration of the Saints and of their images;

"The authority of apostolic and ecclesiastical traditions, and of the Holy Scriptures, which we must interpret and understand only in the sense which our holy Mother the Catholic Church has held, and does hold, to whom alone it belongs to judge of their meaning and interpretation; 

"And everything else that has been defined and declared by the sacred Canons and by the General Councils, especially by the holy Council of Trent, and by the Council of the Vatican."

(5) "With a sincere heart, therefore, and with unfeigned faith, I detest and abjure every error heresy and sect opposed to the said Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church. So help me God, and these His holy Gospels which I touch with my hand."

(6) Finally, the Te Deum and the Collect for Trinity Sunday.  

Although these formulae are traditional, and in the 1956 English edition of the Rituale Romanum, it is in a personal capacity that I suggest this use of them.


23 December 2023


As Christmas approaches and you look for last-minute presents along the shelves of 'Church' bookshops: a word of advice. Don't buy anything from the shelves in the section labelled 'Celtic'.

Historians have decisively abandoned the concept of the 'Celtic' and especially of a supposed distinctive 'Celtic Church'. In a recent major scholarly work on this subject, Professor Charles-Edwards' Early Christian Ireland (Cambridge, 2000), the distinguished author writes dismissively of 'that entity - beloved of modern sectarians and romantics, but unknown to the early Middle Ages - ''the Celtic Church'' ', and surveys in a footnote the scholarly work of the last thirty years which has established this.

'Celtic' is the sexy religious thinggy because the 'Celtic' saints are distant figures in the past who , when they were alive, were rather combative old people but pose no particular threats to us now because they're dead except in in books and so they can easily be moulded to our own fads by suppressions and misrepresentations. And because 'Celtic' Christianity is in the past, people with hangups about the actual real Christianities available in the present day can invent their own 'Celtic Christianity'. Commonly such DIY constructions are all about being rather Mystical in pieces of remote and beautiful countryside, and about being 'close to nature'. If you are tempted to buy their books, check carefully whether the contents actually are sourced somewhere ancient or are merely the author's own compositions 'in the Celtic Spirit'.

If the 'Celtic' industry really had any serious interest in the Christianity of the 'Celtic fringe' during its first millennium, they would be rather keener to revive use of the earliest surviving Missal from these islands, the Stowe Missal, which dates from the 790s but was copied from an original which must have dated from before the changes made in the Mass by Pope S Gregory the Great in the late 500s. It is of southern Irish origin. I published a little academic something on it a few years ago. Its Eucharistic Prayer is almost entirely identical with the current Roman 'First Eucharistic Prayer', except that it contains rather more saints and describes the Pope as 'thy most blessed servant N our Pope, Bishop of the Apostolic See'. It has a lovely Prayer of Humble Access, so much more mystical and uplifting than Cranmer's, which includes beautiful (if possibly politically incorrect) phrases like 'I am unworthy because I filthily adhere to the mire of dung and all my good deeds are like a rag used by a menstrual woman'.

See if you can find it on those bookshelves!

22 December 2023


I am grateful to all who have sent me cards, gifts, and messages; and promises of Prayers and Masses.

I will say Masses for all my benefactors.

My medical advisers have given me less 'negative' news than they managed in August! I get the impression that they are surprised I am still here to receive any 'news'! If a merciful God is moved by Prayer, Glory to Him! Glory, anyway!

Thank You all; and may God bless you all.

21 December 2023

Iudica me Deus

A Puritan narrator (writing about Canterbury Cathedral) recalls "An ordinary Cathedral-turne-Preacher, who in his morning service (as is directed in the Masse Booke) used to sing, Psal. 43. And when they sung Then will I to thine Altar goe, he presently went out of his seat, and did goe up, ducking, to the Altar, to read the Service there."

The Puritan had some familiarity with the Missale Romanum, and apparently suspected that the prebendary did as well. 

Also from the 1640s, we read that "there being a crucifix in the window over the altar, he useth to bow towards it , and would not suffer it to be taken down, notwithstanding the order of Parliament for it . ... John Mountford, D.D., rector of Anstey, Hertfordshire, hath introduced into his said church and other churches, a turning of the Communion-table altarwise; and having a great crucifix and picture of the Virgin Mary in the east window over the said Table, used bowings and cringings before the said Table and crucifix set altarwise, and caused the said Table to be railed in, and the Jesuit's badge [IHS] to be set upon the carpet there ... and, in his going up to the Table to read second service, usually caused that part of the 43rd Psalm to be sung, viz. 'Then shall I to the altar go, of God, &c.".

It was claimed of a Bedfordshire parson that he did a lot of bowing and falling down on his knees before the altar, with his eyes on a crucifix, "being in the next window over it".

When the glass was being eliminated at Canterbury, it was at the point when the vandals started smashing the crucifix in the glass that the devout wife, good woman, of one of the Cathedral clergy began to "shriek ... viraginously". 

20 December 2023

Eucharistic Window

In my last Anglican church, S Thomas's in Oxford, there is a 'Eucharistic Window', put into the church by the great fifty-years-a-vicar-here Canon Thomas Chamberlain. It teaches the doctrine of the Eucharistic Sacrifice by having, at the bottom, a priest facing versus orientem vested in alb and chasuble lifting up a chalice to the level of the Pierced Heart of the corpus on the altar crucifix portrayed in the window. On each side are saints, male and female, local and national, kneeling in adoration. Above is the Lamb of God from the Book of Revelation, blood flowing from His Most Sacred Heart into a chalice, with a selection of the four-and-twenty elders worshipping on each side.

This not only inculcates the desirability of versus orientem, vestments, and altars with crucifixes and candles (things all of which were dangerous innovations in Fr Chamberlain's time), but the unity of the Eucharistic Sacrifice with the Sacrifice of the Lamb at the heavely altar. Not surprisingly, it became the object of a law suit.

In Steeple Aston church, there is a later (between 1896 and 1918) window by Eden working exactly the same theme. At the top is the Lamb of God; lower, the Redeemer ('He ever liveth to make intercession for us'); at the bottom a priest saying Mass at an altar with an open Missal (the crucifixion scene on the left page suggesting that he is just starting Te igitur being slightly subverted by the conjoined thumbs and forefingers). Other tableaux show 'righteous Abel' sacrificing, and Melchizedek; demonstrating a devotion to the Canon Romanus. This window is at least a generation later than the one in S Thomas's (1860), and shows the same teaching transposed into the more 'Roman' idiom of the later Anglican Catholic generation. I suspect that Rector Brown had seen Canon Chamberlain's window. Incidentally, there is another 'Eucharistic Window', of 1888, in Bicester church. Less 'advanced' than Chamberlain's or Brown's, it shows the rector, indeed versus orientem and accompanied by servers, but still wearing an Oxford MA hood. (Tradition has it that Chamberlain smuggled the first chasuble into the usage of S Thomas's by gradually lengthening his MA hood until it had metamorphosed into a red chasuble.)

Fr Brown at Steeple Aston probably also got hassled about his churchmanship. As late as World War II, his successor was accused of being an enemy agent and of deliberately subverting the blackout regulations ... by keeping a light burning before the Blessed Sacrament!

(Any readers know any more Eucharistic windows?)

19 December 2023

Dangerous bookshops

The Narrator is lurking at the back of a bookshop.  Now read on.

"[Charles] heard the shop-door open, and, on looking round, saw a familiar face. It was that of a young clergyman, with a very pretty girl on his arm, whom her dress pronounced to be a bride. Love was in their eyes, joy in their voice, and affluence in their gait and bearing. Charles had a faintish feeling come over him: somewhat such as might beset a man on hearing a call for pork-chops when he was sea-sick. ... The shopman returned. 'Oh, what a sweet face!" she said, looking at the frontispiece of a little book she got hold of; 'do look, Henry dear; whom does it put you in mind of?' 'Why, it's meant for St. John the Baptist' said Henry. 'It's so like little Angelina Primrose,' said she, 'the hair is just hers. I wonder it doesn't strike you.' 'It does--it does, dearest, said he smiling at her ..."

I find this quite exquisite ... the way that Romantic Love and its literary conventions are subverted by the evocation of vomiting on ship-board.

And ... what do you think, dearest ... are there hints of the sexual ambiguities in early Victorian art ...?

18 December 2023

The Feast of the Expectation of the Childbearing of the Blessed Virgin Mary

"This Feast ... owes its origin to the Bishops of the tenth [Spanish] Council of Toledo, in 656. These Prelates having thought that there was an incongruity in the ancient practice of celebrating the feast of the Annunciation on the twenty-fifth of March, inasmuch as this joyful solemnity frequently occurs at the time when the Church is intent upon the Passion of our Lord, and is sometimes obliged to be transferred into Easter Time, with which it is out of harmony for another reason;-- they decreed that, henceforth, in the Church of Spain there should be kept, eight days before Christmas, a solemn Feast with an Octave, in honour of the Annunciation, and as a preparation for the great solemnity of our Lord's Nativity."

However ... Dom Gueranger goes on ... in time the Spaniards realised that they ought to keep the Annunciation on the same day as the rest of the world, and so they returned to celebrating it on March 25. But long habit had made the People so keen on their December 18 celebration that "it was was considered requisite to maintain some vestige  of it."

Hence today's celebration ... kept originally in the dominions of the King's Majesty of Spain, but, by Gueranger's time "in almost all the Churches of the Catholic world". 

A random browse in the internet confirms Gueranger's suspicions. 1573, Toledo; 1695, Venice and Toulouse; 1702, the Cistercians; 1713, Tuscany; 1735, the Papal States. That is the natural, organic way in which the Calendar ... and the Liturgy in general ... used to evolve before the Gestapo took it over.. In my own happy visits to the Traditionalist Carmelite community at Lanherne, I have noticed this celebration in their liturgical books (Duplex minus primae classis). 

In the old Appendix pro aliquibus locis (duplex maius), and thence within this Kingdom of England, the second and third nocturns are graced with particularly fine Readings: from S Ildephonsus (too little of his stuff survives): forceful, terse, elegant. And from S Bede the Venerable, who is never afraid to display knowledge of Semitic or Greek vocabulary. 

I bet S John Henry and his associates at Littlemore and Oscott enjoyed these passages, despite the Hispanic origins. Dr Wiseman, of course ....

How very suitable that observance was and is to this particular liturgical and human moment. Any woman who has given birth, and her male possessions, will recognise the nervous anticipations as the Day draws closer. God Bless anybody reading this blog who ... ...

17 December 2023

O Bampfield, O Newman

In the 1854, a a young clergyman called George Bampfield had reached that moment of decision. Nathaniel Woodard, down in Sussex, had moved him on from his post schoolmastering in the College of Ss Mary and Nicolas at Lancing, because of his attack of Roman Fever. So he spent a few weeks in Oxford, with Canon Chamberlain the Vicar of S Thomas's, known as England's most advanced parochial clergyman  (he wore a chasuble for the Lord's Supper, confected of two Oxford red silk MA hoods sewn together) and as a marvellous physician in cases of Roman Fever. But Chamberlain knew that "all was lost" one morning when he went into Bampfield's room and saw a Totum on the table. He was dead right: within days the young man was knocking at Fr Faber's door ... and receiving a warm welcome.

A Totum was an edition of the Roman Breviary in just one volume. And while this may seem odd to us, the evidence is that keen young Tractarians and Ritualists immersed themselves in the Breviary long before they had familiarised themselves with the Missal. It was, indeed, considered a less Romish volume.

While he was yet an Anglican, John Henry Newman had also become familiar with the Roman Breviary. And Newman was particularly haunted by the great "O" antiphons which we sing at Vespers during the last great ferias of Advent. They are, surely, the quintessence of Advent; invocations of the the God who led and guided and saved his people Israel; who even bestowed his Presence in burning bush and pillar of fire ... Type of that Antitype whose Real Presence we encounter in the Blessed Sacrament.

In his semi-autobiographical novel Loss and Gain, Newman pictures a convert, Willis, describing the wonders of the Mass by quoting from the Great Antiphons: "And as Moses on the mountain, so we too make haste and bow our heads to the earth and adore. So we, all around, each in his place, look out for the great Advent, waiting for the moving of the water. ... It is wonderful! Quite wonderful! When will these dear good people be enlightened? O Sapientia, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia, O Adonai, O Clavis David et exspectatio gentium, veni ad salvandum nos, Domine Deus noster."

And in the climax of the book, when its 'hero' Charles Reding is present for the first time at Benediction, "the truth flashed upon him, fearfully yet sweetly; it was the Blessed Sacrament - it was the Lord Incarnate who was on the Altar, who had come to visit and to bless His people. It was the great Presence, which makes a Catholic Church different from every other place in the world; which makes it holy as no other place can be holy. The Breviary offices were by this time not unknown to Reding: and as he threw himself on the pavement, in sudden self-abasement and joy, some words of those great Antiphons came into his mouth, from which Willis had formerly quoted: O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in rubo apparuisti; O Emmanuel, Exspectatio Gentium et Salvator earum, veni ad salvandum nos, Domine Deus noster".

16 December 2023

A very big window

 Here is part of a Protestant account of the spoliation of Canterbury Cathedral in 1642. Incidentally, it indicates how much there still was to despoil there ... and how unwilling those in charge of England's principal Metropolitan Cathedral (the narrator terms them 'the cathedalists') were to endure that spoliation.

" ... a more orderly and thorough reformation in that cathedral ... began on the 13th day of December last [1642] ... in comes a prebend's wife and pleaded for the images there, and jeered the Commissioners viraginously; but when she saw a picture of Christ demolished, she shrieked out and ran to her husband, who came in and asked for their authority to do those things; and being answered that there was an ordinance of the King and the Parliament, he replied, 'Not of the King, but of the Parliament if you will'. ... And then that work of reformation went on. The Commissioners fell presently to work on the great idolatrous window, standing on the left hand as you go up into the quire: [Interjection: I think I am about to describe and discuss possibly the most important piece of late-medieval art then in England]for which window (some affirm) many thousand pounds have been offered by outlandish papists. In that window was now the picture of God the Father, and of Christ, besides a large crucifix, and the picture of the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove, and of the twelve apostles; and in that window were seven large pictures of the Virgin Mary in seven several glorious appearances, as of angels lifting her into heaven, and the sun, moon, and stars under her feet, and every picture had an inscription under it, beginning with Gaude Maria, as Gaude Maria sponsa Dei ... there were in this window many other pictures of popish saints, as of St. George, &c. But their prime cathedral saint, Archbishop Thomas Becket, was most rarely pictured in that window, in full proportion, with cope, rochet, mitre, crosier, and all his pontificalibus. And in the foot of that huge window was a title intimating that window to be dedicated to the Virgin Mary ... that window was the superstitious glory of that cathedral ..."

Lovely vocabulary ... 'to jeer' as a transitive verb; 'outlandish' ; 'rarely'; but, above all, 'viraginously'!


Gaude ... I have not been able to find the exact words our Puritan chronicler cites, but I think he may be remembering words found also in a hymn in an Hours of the Blessed Virgin ad Usum Sarum, in which every stanza does begin with Gaude. Here is the second stanza: "Gaude sponsa cara Dei/ Nam ut lux clara diei/ Solis datur lumine/ Sic tu facis orbem vere/ Tuae pacis resplendere/ Lucis plenitudine." And the seventh, final stanza is "Gaude Virgo mater pura/ Certa manens et secura/ Quod haec septem gaudia/ Non cessabunt nec decrescent/ Sed durabunt et florescent/ Per aeterna saecula." 

That our Lady should have seven, not merely five, Gaudia goes back at least to the Ordinale of Bishop Grandisson of Exeter, in the arrangements he made for the daily liturgy in the Lady Chapel of his Cathedral Church at Exeter. The Mass on Sunday varied seasonally, but on weekdays it was to be ... Monday of the Annunciation, Tuesday of the Nativity, Wednesday of the Worship of the Magi, Thursday of the Purification, Friday of the Compassion, and Saturday of the Assumption. He added this explanation: "Totum autem tempus saeculi praesentis per septenarium currit. Et ideo voluit idem pater [i.e. Grandisson]de preacipuis gloriosae virginis gaudiis memoriam in eius capella singulis recenseri hebdomadis, ut quicunque eidem virgini devotus fuerit, habeat recententer unde specialiter contempletur".

15 December 2023


According to the edition which I use of the OED, 'pope-holy' is to be be derived from a French Papelard, anf commonly has a sense, or undertones, of 'hypocrisy'.  It certainly does in the period before the 'reformation', but I wonder if it might have acquired this more polemical sense during the political controversies after 1533.

I have met this lovely term in an account of a skirmish in the penultimate decade of Tudor Minor, aka Henry VIII. The port authorities at 'Trewrew' wished to search a ship "called the Maudelyn ... thorough the Counsail of thre priest[s], fayning a poope holly pilgrymage to a pardonne in Brytayn ..."

The 'pilgryms' resisted, but were able to kidnap one of the royal officials ... who, in Treguier, got knocked around a fair bit in the strets. Splendid! But I am wondering if there were political or religious reasons for their fate ... or whether the 'pilgrymage' was a hypocritical pretence to cover unreligious activities. Perhaps the presence of three clerics does suggest religious motivation ... but, well, the 'reformation' had not, in 1537 gone very far, had it?

Little more than a century later, a prod account of the spoliation of Canterbury Cathedral in 1642 tells us that "the stones of the pavement ... of that shrine were worn with the kneeling of the idolatrous people, which came on pilgrimage to offer there to that pope-holy saint".

Does this suggest 'hypocrisy' of some sort on the part of Archbishop Becket, or has the term changed into mere abuse of traditional, or papal, religion?

14 December 2023


 I think, some three decades ago, Dr Simon Cotton drew attention to a most intriguing coincidence ... if coincidence it is ... in Cambridgeshire. I leave his questions as he posed them himself.

"The factors which led to the choice of a patron saint for a church were varied. Can any be traced to an early evangelisation? One of the most unusual is that of St Remigius at Water Newton, one of only seven [English] dedications to that saint (five are in Norfolk, and one at Long Clawson in Leicestershire). The location suggests a link with Remigius, first Bishop of Lincoln, but he was never canonised, and it must presumably refer to Remi (Remigius), the Bishop of Reims who in 496 baptised the pagan Clovis, King of the Franks. 

"In 1975, the Roman settlement at Water Newton (Durobrivae) yielded a hoard of late Roman Christian silver, probably of the fourth century, which indicates that there was a Christian community here even before that. Did a sub-Roman Christian community persist here? Was Remigius an import of the Saxon period, or could he have been the patron saint given to an existing church by eleventh- or twelfth-centuryy Normans?"

Durobrivae is a spot in Cambridgeshire where the Ermine Way interacts with no fewer than five other Roman roads.

13 December 2023


 "Were the Pope to command anything against Holy Scripture, or the articles of faith, or the truth of the Sacraments, or the commands of the natural or divine law, he ought not to be obeyed, but in such commands is to be passed over (despiciendus)."

(1) Whose words are these?

(2) Who quoted them in a well-known letter?

(3) To whom was that letter addressed?

(4) Who has used this quotation in a recently published book?

(5) What would be your preferred translation of despiciendus?

12 December 2023

S Philip Neri

 The Italian original of the following received an Imprimatur from Cajetanus Angilella CO in Rome on 26 May 1958.

PRAYER customarily said in Rome before the tomb of SAINT PHILIP NERI

O God Almighty and Merciful, who for the benefit and comfort of thy children didst raise up in the Catholic Church in difficult times sweet Saint Philip Neri, and madest him Apostle of Rome, exemplar of the priests, patron and teacher (maestro) of the youth, receive the prayer which we make to thee, spiritually united with him (here before these mortal remains which were the instrument  of his great spirit to achieve so much good); and grant us the grace, through his intercession and through the merits of Jesus our Lord, to imitate his purity, his charity, his holy ardor in every good work, his filial devotion towards the Most Holy Virgin, to the end that we also may glorify thee and enjoy thee (goderti!) together with him and with all the Saints, in the blessed homeland of Paradise. Amen. 

11 December 2023

Happy times!

 Happy times!

The 2024 Calendar has arrived from the Redemptorist House on Papa Stronsay, in the Orkney islands. It is, as always, truly magnificent. Here we have a thoroughly modern house, but with the liturgy and piety of the days before the Wreckovation. They are now also present in New Zealand an America, and there seem to be a lot more of them than when I went to lecture on Stronsay a few years ago.

When they showed me round, and opened a large heavy farm gate for me to walk through, one of the young men observed "Bishop Fellay just jumped over that". I was assured that the guest bed I was occupying had been slept in by his Lordship, and, more recently, by Fr Aidan Nichols, when he was there to help with the canonical rectification of the Community's situation. (I hope, by the way, that lots of readers have benefitted from Apologia a Memoire, in which Father brings the story of his life down to the present with his account of his treatment under the Pope Of All Mercies.)

Among the spendid photographs in the Papa Stronsay 2024 Calendar, I particularly enjoyed the picture of Fr Seelos Maria being ordained to the Sacred Priesthood. Ordinations are such wonderful, joyous occasions, aren't they? The picture, I think, captures the moment when he is receiving the second laying on of hands ... when the Bishop tells him that whosoever's sins he remits are remitted ... a ceremony which the wreckovators, of course, eliminated in the 1970s. (When I received the Sacred Priesthood in Oxford's Anglican Cathedral Church of Christ in 1968, the Anglicans still kept it, and the Cathedral Chapter imposed hands together with Bishop Carpenter.) A few pages later, we see Father offering his first Solemn Mass. (I am just a tadge surprised that S Patrick, whose statue is  few feet to South, looks perhaps a trifle disapproving.)

Please don't say that you already have 17 Calendars for 2024. I bet you won't find the masses of material in any of them that you will be given in the Papa Stronsay Calendar. For example: July 24 will be the the 800th anniversary of the Passing of of S Christina the Astonishing. I gave up reading that after the first few lines ... but was much edified to read that in 2024 we get the 1400th anniversary of the transitus of s Mellitus, first bishop of London, third Archbishop of Canterbury; commemorations of S Columba's biographer Adomnan, Abbot of Iona; and of S Angela Merici, product of that magical piece of real estate, Lake Garda; founder of the Ursulines.

I can never think ofMother and her 'Ursulines', without recalling Waugh's account of the escape of Mr Scott-King, a dim Classics Master in a dim English Public School, during the European confusions just after the end of the War. " ... a large and antiquated saloon car was bumping towards the sea. In it sat in extreme discomfort seven men habited as Ursuline nuns. Scott-King was among them."


Golgotha Monastery Island 


KW17 2AR

United Kingdom 




10 December 2023

Pio Nono, Papa Pacelli, and Liturgy

 Intermittently, the 1854 propers for December 8, the Immaculate Conception, have worried me. 

You see, dumping a whole structured day of liturgical propers is so Pacellian, Moniniian, Bugninian; so anti-traditional.

And one has to admit that this, precisely, is what Pius IX did do.

But ... the propers for her Conception were so similar to those for her Nativity that all we need to do is to recover those First Vespers for her Nativity (of course, they were lost during the slashburnandslaughter liturgical policy of the mid-twentieth century).

And, perhaps, there are arguments for retaining what was put in place during the 1850s. These formulae responded to a liturgical culture which had grown up over more than half a millennium of piety, prayer, and art, both private and public. Everybody knows about Duns Scotus and his campaign for the Immaculate Conception; I am quietly confident that everybody knows the poem by Fr Gerard Manley Hopkins about the Duns Scotus "Who fired France for Mary without spot". All readers of this blog will remember the piece I published last October 10, about how Edmund Lacey (Bishop of Exeter 1420-1458)  provocatively preached a sermon to a Dominican Chapter (he subsequently transcribed it into his episcopal Register) in which, with no hestation or indecision, he required those who besmirch her Conception to Shut Up.

[Things are, of course, rather different with regard to the formulae put in place after the Definition of 1950. Hitherto, the teaching of the Assumption was that the Heavenly Woman should be the great Intercessor. Under Papa Pacelli, this was replaced by a determination to demonstrate that her Immaculate Conception logically required her immunity from death.]

9 December 2023

Treading the Serpent underfoot

Dom Gueranger commends, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Hymn Ante cibum by Prudentius. I didn't inflict it upon you yesterday because I didn't want to put you off your food. 

But ... if it's a matter of finding early 5th century verse ... well written ... to go with baroque and rococo art ... say, with Tiepolo or Rubens  ... Prudentius is indeed your one-stop place to visit. modo cernua femineis/ Vipera proteritur pedibus. The stuff of a thousand counter-reformation paintings, and hymns! All good mega-triumphalist fun. But ... he takes the imagery further, and describes the Serpent and its vomit: virus inerme piger revomit/ Gramine concolor in viridi. If you don't know Latin, follow your nose, follow your instinct ... revomit means ... yes ... And Gramine means grass and concolor means same-colour-as.

Prudentius moves on from Serpentine Vomit to other animals. The Wolf ... trepidat. And why should a Wolf be terrified? Because of the sweetie little flocklet of white lamblets ... they are so dangerous. They are impavidae, so the mournful wolf blunders (obambulat) about amongst them ... and obambulat is an interesting word.

Prudentius has Vergil in mind: Geo iii 538. But what about Ovid: in Met ii Juppiter, disguising himself as a bull so as to ravish Europa, mugit et in teneris formosus obambulat herbis. What a good thing that the beast is sexy and the grass so soft! And in book XIV, the blinded Cyclops totam fremebundus obambulat Aetnam/ praetentaque manu silvas, et luminis orbus /rupibus incursat, foedataque brachia tabo, in mare protendens gentem execratur Achivam ...

Yes; for Naso the verb suggests slapstick; and blind-man how-amusing-you-bumped-int-that rock-slapstick. Nasty?And so on. A nice picture of the lambs bossing around (imperitat) the lions.

Enough of pre-lapsarian images. In the next day or two, I hope to explain to you why I have sometimes been a bit doubtful about what Pius IX did to the Immaculate Conception Liturgy.


Authentic Anglicanism

"You bade me read the Anglican divines; I have given a great deal of time to them, and I am embracing that creed which alone is the scope to which they converge in their separate teaching; the creed which upholds the divinity of tradition with Laud, consent of Fathers with Beveridge, a visible Church with Bramhall, a tribunal of dogmatic decisions with Bull, the authority of the Pope with Thorndike, penance with Taylor, prayers for the dead with Ussher, celibacy, asceticism, ecclesiastical discipline with Bingham. I seek a Church which in these, and in a multitude of other points, is nearer the apostolic Church than any existing one; which is the continuation of the apostolic Church, if it has been continued at all. And seeing  it to be like the apostolic Church, I believe it to be the same. Reason has gone first, faith is to follow."

8 December 2023

Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompei

 The Italian original of the following prayer received an Imprimatur from the Milan Curia on 11 Jun 1913.

O Virgin Immaculate and Queen of the Holy Rosary, Thou, in these times of dead faith and of triumphant impiety, hast wished to set thy place of Queen and of Mother upon the ancient land of Pompei, dwelling place of dead pagans. And from this place where the idols and the demons were worshipped, thou dost today, as Mother of the divine graces, scatter upon all the treasures of the mercies of heaven. I pray thee! From this throne where thou dost reign in mercy, turn, O Mary, your kindly eyes upon me also, and have mercy on me, who have so great a need of thy succour. Show thyself also to me as thou hast shown thyself to so many others, as true Mother of Mercy: Monstra te esse Matrem, as I with all my heart salute and invoke thee as my Sovereign and Queen of the Most Holy Rosary.

Salve Regina, Mater

7 December 2023


 So often one has a brilliant idea which, if one runs it to ground and digs it up, turns out to be totally illegitimate and wrong. I would like to share an idea of mine ... and if the philologically literate shoot it down in howls of mirth, I shall simply be grateful that my education is continuing. Honest!

As fanatical reders of this blog will know, the Catholic Church in Clacton on Sea, the town where my parents and I spent years when I was small, contains a beautiful Shrine of our Lady of Light. The Revd Cyril Wilson published a very useful (except for its lack of footnotes) little book in 1953 in which he gave a lot of the 'back-history' of that Shrine and that devotion ... which is Cornish and involves  S Louis-Marie Grignon de Montfort. He gives the title of one Breton shrine as INTRON VARIA AR SKLERDER.

The first stage in my dodgy(?) hypothesis involves textual emendation. Yes; sneer if you must! My knowledge of the Breton language is minimal; but my little (2002) Breton Dictionary leads me to the belief that the N in INTRON is a typo. Without it, the word means Lady. So: ITRON. Yes??

From what I do know of the "Celtic" languages, in which weird things can happen to some consonants (not least M) in some positions in a word, I am convinced that VARIA is a 'mutated' form of MARIA.

But the word SKLERDER interests me most. That little dictionary suggests that SKLER- and SKLAER- carry the meaning LIGHT. I recall reading somewhere that, as far as Breton is concerned, a initial S may be etymologically insignificant.


When Pam and I spent quite alot of our time in Cornwall, we read (the whole of) the surviving Middle Cornish literature; I was constantly surprised by how much Middle Cornish vocab appears to be derived from highly 'evolved' late Latin terms (I'm not referring to medieval loan-words, which also proliferate whether via French or English). 

I think KLERDER is a corruption of CLARITATE. Readers will recall how often, in the Vulgate, terms with clarus for their root seem more popular than those from gloria.

While browsing around on the feast of All the Saints of England, I found myself looking at one of Canon Doble's calendars of Cornish saints. He lists, on November 4, S. Cleder Conf., and adds 'Clarus, P & M'. He cites in a footnote Baring-Gould, and adds the information that "S Clarus, P & M in Normandy, is honoured on 4 November (also on 18 July.) N.R. may have identified S Cleder with S Cleer."

Cleder, Clarus, Cleer ...

My case rests!! Is it a pure-bred fox, or ...

6 December 2023

The dangers of the Adonius

That great mass of fine Neo-Gothic buildings which you pass in the train or along the A27 just by Shoreham's exquisite Art Deco Airport, is dedicated to the Assumption of the Mother of God, and to S Nicolas, despite its local nickname Dracula's Castle. It is very punctilious about retaining a proper spelling of NICOLAS without the H. These things matter. Don't ask me Why ... but they do.

When the College Office Book was reissued in 1914, it contained two new English hymns for the Co-Patron, both in the Sapphic metre. The first was composed by the Wykehamist Adam Fox, Master at Lancing 1906-1918, subsequently Warden of Radley College, Dean of Divinity at Magdalen College and Professor of Poetry; finally Canon, Archdeacon, and Sub-Dean of Westminster Abbey.

I had no success in urging upon my then colleagues the restoration of his hymn to regular use. It was the adonius at the end of this stanza

Teach us to honour Nicolas of Myra,

Foeman to error in the Church's Councils,

Lover of sailors, and above all other

     Lover of Children.

which raised their trembling eyebrows, poor poppets. 

The second hymn was by Athelstan Riley. In his hymn, the adonius was again the problem; in this case, the adonius which concludes the following stanza which, around the time of  'Princess Di's' demise, wrecked my passionate crusade to get it back into the repertoire:

Rouse thee, great goddess of th'Ephesian temple,

For, lo! the offspring of a greater Virgin

Armeth his servant to destroy thine oak tree

     Dumb, dead Diana. 

Fr Fox had kippers for brekker, lunch, and tea. Not many people know that. We live in a world rife with culpable ignorance.

He had wanted his memorial in Westminster Abbey to read "A Fox gone to Earth", but his executors had as little humour as my one-time colleagues.

Jocosity ... mere jocosity ... I do not really criticise or sneer at either Fr Fox's Executors or my former colleagues; or, indeed, at the People's Princess alias Queen of Hearts.


5 December 2023

ACTUOSA PARTICIPATIO ... bring it back ...

"Reding thought he never had been present at worship before, so absorbed was the attention, so intense was the devotion of the congregation. What particularly struck him was, that whereas in the Church of England the clergyman or the organ was everything and the people nothing except so far as the clerk is their representative, here it was just reversed. The priest hardly spoke, or at least audibly; but the whole congregation was as though one vast instrument or Panharmonicon, moving all together, and, what was most remarkable, as if self-moved. They did not seem to require anyone to prompt or direct them, though in the Litany the choir took the alternate parts. 

"The words were Latin, but everyone seemed to understand them thoroughly, and to be offering up his prayers to the Blessed Trinity, and the Incarnate Saviour, and the great Mother of God, and the glorified Saints, with hearts full in proportion to the energy of the sounds they uttered. 

"There was a little boy near him, and a poor woman, singing at the pitch of their voices. There was no mistaking it; Reding said to himself, 'This is a popular religion ... How wonderful ... that people call this worship formal and external; it seems to possess all classes, young and old, polished and vulgar, men and women indiscriminately; it is the working of one Spirit in all, making many one.'" 

4 December 2023

Benedictus XVI Revisited

 Pathetic ... but I discerned a suggestion of a tear as I looked through the Winter Number of  Mass of Ages, the free magazine of my country's Latin Mass Society. There were pictures of Pope Benedict. Memories; memories.

And how Anglican some of it is. The Pope is shown carrying a cross, of a type which will be most familiar to 'middle-of-the-road' Anglicans. At the extremity of each of the Cross's four arms, there is an emblem of one of the Four Evangelists. And in the middle, instead of the Figure of the Lord, there is the Lamb of God. Even today, there must be hundreds of Anglican churches where it was felt that a Crucifix would be too high church, too popish. So a cross such as I have just described found a place upon the altar instead. 

Not so extreme!!

Those interested in the niceties of liturgical garments will be interested to see Benedict wearing a fanon over his amice ... the fanon was a simple covering garment ... did it, perhaps, originally, protect the collar of the chasuble from a pontifical wig?

And the pallium ... Benedict XVI changed the colour of the crosses from black to the original papal red. Francis I promptly changed it back! 


And Anglicanism gets its elbow in again as Mass of Ages advertises a reprint of Enid Chadwick's My Book of the Church's Year.

Chadwick was an Anglican artist who did most of the artwork in the Anglican Shrine at Walsingham. This little book is a very fine example of where Anglo-Papalist popular art had got to in the 1930s. Children be ... er ... damned; you'll enjoy this little art-history gem yourself!

Joining the British Latin Mass Society is a splendid step you can take in these hard times to uphold the Faith. I beg you to do so ... or, if your membership has lapsed, to renew!

3 December 2023

Books and Voices

 It is such a natural and universal thing that we do not notice it; although Catherine Pickstock wrote a fine book on it. I mean: the essentially oral rather than literary nature of Liturgy (After writing. Blackwell 1998). Although we know that the officiant is, almost certainly, reading from a text, we accept as normative the fact that he doesn't keep on telling us this. Nor, usually, does he inform the addressee of his book-references, or belabour him with source-information.

Most readers will also be aware that, before the drastic reduction in the number of prefaces in the 'Gregorian Sacramentary' to about 10, many if not most Uses offered at least one preface for every single Mass. In the Corpus Praefationum (Brepols 1980), no fewer than four are provided for S Birinus alone.

S Birinus? He is a local saint who is currently in my mind because his festival is approaching. It used to be on December 3, but now it comes on December 5, and S Francis Xavier has sole possession of December 3. He ... Birinus ... set up his episcopium  at Dorchester on Thames, in the remains of a Roman town which sits astride the confluence of the Thames and the Thame, and the Roman road linking Calleva (Silchester) and Lactodurum (Towcester). 

It was in the Thames that S Birinus baptised King Cynegils of Wessex (635).

Incidentally ... or BTW ... the nut-cases who 'reformed' the Roman Rite in the 1960s chose to lay it down as an unbreakable rule that the Preface must never contain a request. Most earlier prefaces, however, did precisely that ... of the four prefaces for S Birinus, three contain requests. 

I give now the text (and a partial translation) of a Preface which seems to me to put a (red) 'literacy' toe inside an 'orality' door.

"VD ... aeterne Deus. Qui beatum Byrinum confessorem tuum nobis doctorem donare dignatus es, per quem a tenebris ignorantiae liberati, aeternae lucis fieri filii meruimus. Qui, quod ore docuit, exemplo monstravit, cuius vita moribus effulsit egregiis, atque miraculis illuxit. Quae etiam antiquis libris leguntur inscripta, etiam nova cotidie videntur in facto*. Cuius praesenti patrocinio gaudentes, tuam super nos praedicamus gratiam abundantur effusam. Per Christum."

[*Miracles read written in ancient books, even now are daily seen in deed.

A nice piece of Latin, yes? Deftly deployed alliteration?

The area had a significant Recusant population: Fr John Osman has beautified a tiny Victorian gothic church down by the river; you would need to travel far to find anything as lovely.

2 December 2023

Slaves and Togas

 So there I was, in the CODRINGTON LIBRARY, peering down at a Renaissancevolume, the Lumen Animae by Matthias Farinator. Not that I had theleast interest in that: I was more taken by its owner.

But I am jumping ahead rather. Why should I be in the splendid CODRINGTON LIBRARY of All Souls College? My quarry was Master Patrick Holyborton, Rector of Lifton in the Diocese of Exeter, whom I was researching and who had owned the book. You (and I) would probably spell his name Haliburton. And why am writing about him now, decades later?

two or three weeks ago, the Saturday Times Newspaper suggested some jolly, autumnal, walks; and it caught my eye that one such walk was Gullane and Dirleton, East Lothian. And Dirleton was the seat, centuries ago, of a minor boble family, the Haliburtons of Dirleton. Andso Dirleton was where Master Patrick came from! And I had never been there!

Well, I'm too old and ill now. But things stick with one. Master Patrick was a follower of the Ninth Earl of Douglas, who had to flee to England after his defeat by James II of Scots. After an advantageous marriage to an English heiress, Douglas found himself in the upper circles of Yorkist England, and was able to reward adherents ... such as Haliburton. And the volume (one of only two identified volumes from Haliburton's library) revealed that he had been Archdeacon of Totnes. This was new information: the records of the Diocese are rather lacunose at this point. The next Archdeacon was collated in 1491 ... so what happened to Master Patrick, who seems to go absent about thenfrom the Chapter records?

Here I had another spot of luck. An Exeter Cathedral inventory survives of 1506: and it lists "two sudaria of violet or purple colour, of the gift of Patrick Holyborton, which he brought (portavit) from the Holy Land Jerusalem". [I think sudaria means humeral veils.]

So that's where he was during the missing year.

And here was I, musing occasionally on the statue of SIR CHRISTOPHER CODDRINGTON, who was presiding over the whole splendid architectural extravaganza dressed like a member of the Roman elite.

CODRINGTON ... I don't think I 've mentioned this ... is currently under a bit of a shadow. His fortune was, we are informed, based on the Slave Trade. I'm not sure if his library still bears his name. Or, if it does, how much longer it will be allowed to do so. If you go to admire is Library, I hope you you will keep mentioning his name ...

BTW: It's only a (slightly long) Stone's throw to the Oriel statue of Rhodes, and his Chronogram.

1 December 2023

The Holy and Blessed Martyrs of Oxford

In the handlist of the English Martyrs, I have counted some 58 whose witness honours this (now apostate) University. Today is their combined liturgical commemoration; the day having been chosen because it was on December 1 1581 that three of them were martyred at Tyburn: S Edmund Campion, scholar and fellow of S John's College and Public Orator; S Ralph Sherwin, fellow of Exeter College; and S Alexander Briant, of Hart Hall, now represented by own college. 

[I think it right to regard this day as a Greater Double, or Second Class feast, because, since it was entered on the Calendars of some English dioceses, many Beati have been canonised.]

"We have no slight outfit for our opening warfare. Can we religiously suppose that the blood of our Martyrs, three centuries ago and since, shall never receive its recompense? Those priests, secular and regular, did they suffer for no end? or rather, for an end which is not yet accomplished? The long imprisonment, the fetid dungeon, the weary suspense, the tyrannous trial, the barbarous sentence, the savage execution, the rack, the gibbet the knife, the cauldron, the numberless tortures of those holy victims, O my God, are they to have no reward? Are Thy Martyrs to cry from under Thine altar for their loving vengeance on this guilty people, and to cry in vain? Shall they lose life, and not gain a better life for the children of those who persecuted them? Is this Thy way, O my God, righteous and true? Is it according to Thy promise, O King of Saints, if I may dare to talk to Thee of justice? ... And in that day of trial and desolation for England, when hearts were pierced through and through with Mary's woe, at the crucifixion of Thy body mystical, was not every tear that flowed, and every drop of blood that was shed, the seeds of a future harvest, when they who sowed in sorrow were to reap in joy?"

S John Henry Newman.