31 January 2024

Holocaust Memorial Day

 Last week, there was an annual calendrical coincidence which I have never commented upon before because the matters concerned are very sensitive. Now I do so, but without any agenda or any implications. Comments offered will be very negatively moderated in the same spirit.

Saturday was Holocaust Memorial Day. It was preceded in our calendar by the Feast of S Polycarp. 

We have an eye-witness account of his Martyrdom. Its narrative repeatedly emphasises the local Jewish agency in these events. We are, by the way, in the mid-century.

 ... Ioudaion ton ten Smyrnan katoikounton akataskhetoi thumoi  ...

... malista Ioudaion prothumos, hos ethos autois, eis tauta hupourgounton ...

... hupoballonton kai eniskhounton ton Ioudaion ...

... ten ton Ioudaion genomenen philoneikian ...

30 January 2024

WHAT a Day!!

 Firstly: in the Church of England, Charles the Martyr: from 1662 onwards, the Prayer Book retained a service describing him as "Blessed Charles". In fact, by strict statute law it still keeps him on its Calendar, because when Queen Victoria's government decides to suppress the service, they forgot to suppress the corresponding entry in the Calendar.

Blessed Charles has, since 1649, had a cultus among certain Anglicans. I believe there is still a High Mass on the day of his Witness in the Banquetting House in Whitehall. And the formulae of the Mass contain an unofficial Sequence ... in Latin!!  It is in the same metre as the Stabat Mater. One of its stanzas paraphrases a piece of lyric verse from that century (neatly rendered into Latin by allowing apostrophic Second Persons Singular to express English indicatives: "Nihil vile tu fecisti/, Semper digne to gessisti/ Mirum per spectaculum/; Nil maligne proclamasti;/ Pulchrum caput inclinasti/ Velut super lectulum.

I expect Englit specialists will recognise the original.

But today is also the feast of S Martina. She was put onto the Calendare Romanum by Pope Urban VIII in 1635, really to commemorate his own rebuilding of a Church of S Martina in the Forum Romanum. He was a Horace enthusiast; and he perpetuated the memory of his own actions by, himself, composing three Office Hymns especially for this Day. And so as to be different', he used a Latin Metre which only rarely ... indeed, I suspect, only when Urban VIII has been doing some composing ... appears among the Breviary Office Hymns: Asclepiads and Glyconics. 

Urban VIII wants to beg S Martina to drive away the strepitus armorum et fera praelia to the lands of the Thracians. Brits may be entertained by the fact that, in a Horatian Model, Horace had desired the recipients of such attentions to be ... the Persians and the Brits!

One stanza in one of these three hymns also requests that the Turks may be expelled from Jerusalem: "Solymas nexibus exime,/Vindexque innocui sanguinis hosticum/ Robur funditus erue". 

The post-conciliar reformers', of course, turned their noses up at S Martina, Urban VIII, and Horace.

Special Latin Hymns both for King Charles in Whitehall and S Martina in the Roman Forum!  

Coincidences, coincidences!!

29 January 2024

Saintly Stuarts, from blessed Charles to Blessed Maria Christina

This is a post from 2014. Apart from its obvious topicality, I thought readers today might enjoy the thread. BTW: how does one celebrate Blessed Maria Christina on January 31? Last time I checked the Calendars, there seemed to be a Bosco in the way ... do we have a well-informed Neapolitan reader???

A sunny day, as I strolled down the High, past the University Church, past what is perhaps the oldest statue of our Blessed Lady, crowned as Queen, to have been erected in public in England since the Reformation. Nobody ought to pass that without an Ave. Or without a murmured beate Carole, ora pro nobis. Because it was in the reign of King Charles I that the statue was erected, at the instigation of his Archbishop, William Laud, who lost his head to a puritan indictment citing this very statue. You might almost be strolling past a church in Rome, given the great, baroque, 'salomonic' pillars, like those in S Peter's, above which the Deipara stands. (Lovely word, Deipara; it is used of her in a window put up during this same decade in Magdalen College Chapel.)

And it's no good some of you writing to complain that, since the cult of blessed Charles has never been sanctioned by a Vatican decree of beatification, I am being Inappropriate. You will notice that I carefully use a lower case b. A neat ecumenical compromise, yes? And ferocious Anglicans can put their pens down, too: in the forms of service used for some three centuries in the Church of England, he is never once called 'Saint'; he is always 'blessed'. So there was no precedent for the Victorian romantics (such as the Bateman in Saint John Henry Newman's Loss and Gain) who took it upon themselves to canonise him. In the seventeenth century, in any case, the old practice of local Western churches simply by a decree establishing liturgical texts beatifying their own for a local cult, was not quite extinct. So it is an ecclesiological question that we have here, rather like that concerning separated Oriental Saints canonised in the East since the schism. One may, surely, hope for an ecumenical and ecclesiological climate in which King Charles may achieve the style Blessed Charles; in which he will be regarded as the Ordinariate's Gift to the whole Catholic World. The King's weakness in giving his assent to Acts of Parliament under which Catholic priests were cruelly martyred ... to an Act of Attainder under which a loyal servant of the Crown was executed ... might be seen as analogous to such things as the authorisation by Emperor Charles of Austria of the use of poison gas. 

If it had not been for our blessed Charles, would there now be an Ordinariate?

But blessed Charles should be seen in a broader context than he so often is. In one of his purplest passages, Gregory Dix wrote of the Eucharist as "inextricably woven into the public history of the Western world. The thought of it is inseparable from its great turning points also. Pope Leo doing this in the morning before he went out to daunt Atilla, on the day that saw the continuity of Europe saved; and another Leo doing this three and a half centuries later when he crowned Charlemagne Roman Emperor, on the day that saw that continuity fulfilled. Or again, Alfred wandering defeated by the Danes staying his soul on this, while medieval England struggled to be born; and Charles I also, on that morning of his execution when medieval England came to its final end." 

We can set King Charles beside other monarchs ... S Charlemagne (canonised by an antipope); Louis XVI, who died (his obit only a few days ago) in the revolutionary holocaust of 1793 ... the Blessed Emperor Charles of Austria ... who evoke for us Christian Europe ... the real Europe; the Europe of the Christian Social Realm in which men struggled, not always successfully but not always unsuccessfully, to maintain the principle of the Kingship of Christ -- that Lordship emphasised by popes such as Pius XI in his Quas primas. This is Magisterial teaching which Vatican II, in its preamble to Dignitatis humanae, maintained when it decreed that it integram relinquit traditionalem doctrinam Catholicam, "leaves entire traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ".

By a chance, January 31 is the memorial, optionally, in Naples, of one of blessed Charles' descendants who was beatified on January 25 2014 in the Basilica of S Clare in Naples by Crescenzio Sepe, Cardinal Archbishop of Naples. Blessed Queen Maria Christina of Savoy was the daughter of Victor Emmanuel (de jure King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, 1819-1824) and sister of Maria Beatrice (de jure Queen Mary III and II of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, 1824-1840). Blessed Maria Christina was married to Ferdinand II, King of the Two Sicilies, and mother of Francis, last King of the Two Sicilies before the Piedmontese usurpation. Her Eulogy describes her as 'a prudent counsellor of the King and a true Mother of the poor and needy'. She was also a woman of great modesty, who by her influence prevented the use of the Death Penalty. She died in childbed when she was only twenty four. Here is her Collect, discovered by Fr Andrew Starkie, a learned priest of the Ordinariate.

Deus, qui in figura huius mundi beatam Mariam Christinam prudenti ardentique caritate decorasti et artificem in augmento Regni tui effecisti: tribue nobis, eius exemplo et intercessione; ut de vero amoris tui thesauro benefacientes accipere valeamus. Per.
(O God, which in the figure of this passing world [I Cor 7:31] didst adorn [Isa 61:10] Blessed Maria Christina with a wise and burning charity, and didst make her a worker in the increase of thy Kingdom: grant to us, by her example and intercession; that by doing right [I Pet 2:15] we may be able to receive of the very treasure of thy love. Through. (This rendering takes account of the Italian version, which is not exactly the same as the Latin, and of the Italian Commentary which accompanied the texts.)

The banquet which followed the Beatification, hosted by the de jure King of the Two Sicilies, was, by all accounts, a very ancien regime occasion ... Golden Fleeces wall to wall ... I bet the Holy Father would have loved to have been invited ... I wonder how many of the descendants of blessed King Charles, through his prayers, are within the Church's catalogus Sanctorum et Beatorum. 

A reader wisely suggests the good sense of considering today the Eikon Basilike of blessed Charles. If you do this on Wikipedia, it might help you (since the translation given there of the Latin is erroneous gibberish) to have a transcription and rendering of the main sentence about the Three Crowns, which is divided up into different places on the eikon. The word coronam/crown is not expressed in the Latin because it was thought to be sufficiently indicated by the iconography. For ease, I have inserted it in square brackets.
Beatam et Aeternam Caeli [coronam] Specto; Asperam et Levem Christi [coronam] Tracto; Splendidam et Gravem Mundi [coronam] Calco.
I behold the blessed and eternal [crown] of Heaven; I handle the rough and light [crown] of Christ; I trample the splendid and heavy [crown] of the World. The three crowns are respectively labelled Gloria; Gratia; Vanitas. 

The iconography and ideology of the eikon are in the spirit of a Jesuit work published in Antwerp in 1627 and reproduced in English as the Emblemes of Francis Quarles in 1635: which became very popular, and about aspects of which I published a paper in 1993. For just one happy decade or so, under that monarch, England and Scotland, especially their Recusant Gentry and Nobility, were part of the mainstream of Continental, Baroque, Counter-Reformation piety.

28 January 2024

Holy Charles(es?)

 Dom Gueranger indicates that, on January 28, we should observe "The Blessed Charlemagne Emperor"

Charlemagne was canonised by Pope Paschal III, in 1165. Or was he? Paschal III is now classified as an Antipope. That is why Charlemagne has never been 'properly' canonised, or entered upon the Roman Martyrology. But Rome has tolerated his 'cultus'.

Gueranger, for whom I have a considerable admiration, makes a spirited defence of Charlemagne's saintly status. Personally, I rather feel that the 'lady' is complaining a tadge too much. And not terribly plausibly. He cites Bishop Bossuet, who lived rather a long time after the Emperor. And rather a lot of his arguments are along the lines of "If his life had been dissolute, would he done/said XYZ?" "If his matrimonial arrangements had been questionable, would people have said ABC?" Among the bewildering plurality of women Gueranger names, we find this slightly desperate rhetorical question "this Prince's plurality of wives has never been proved to have been simultaneous"[Gueranger's italics].

"Granted that this great Prince had sinned, we must allow that it was only in the early part of his reign ..." "It would seem from the letter of Pope Stephen IV, that the marriage with Himiltrude was suspected, though falsely, of nullity ..."

Quite so, Lord Copper. Astutely argued. But I can't help feeling a sympathetic preference for another Charles, who was King of England, Scotland, France  and Ireland; executed on January 30 and accorded a cultus in his kingdoms from 1662 onwards.

27 January 2024

Digging into the psalms of the Divine Office (3)

 " ... Christ Jesus, who , though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the Name which is above every Name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father."

I have taken a liberty here, both with the text S Paul wrote to the Philippians and with you, dear reader: I have written LORD in capitals, although S Paul is writing in Greek ... so this can't be an example of an Anglican seventeenth translator expressing the Hebrew Tetragrammaton by English typographical conventions.

Christian devotion has often naturally assumed that, by the phrase Name which is above every Name, S Paul means the name 'Jesus'. But the academic consensus is undoubtedly correct: what S Paul is saying here in Philippians is that the Father bestowed on Jesus the Name which the old Hebrew Bible expressed by the Tetragrammaton but which Greek-speaking Jews expressed by the Greek term KYRIOS, the Greek stand-in for YHWH

S Paul is saying that the Man from Nazareth is none other than the god the Hebrews had always, and did, worship as YHWH or -- in Greek -- the LORD.

When we come across Kyrios or Dominus or Lord in our Greek or Latin or English Bibles, we need to be ready to spot a writer with a Hebrew mind-set who (even if he is using Greek or Latin or English) is really talking about the Hebrew Almighty God. Kyrie eleison!

Just as S Paul is doing here.

Of course, we've been here before, as we so often have ... we in our capacity as membersof the immemorially ancient Faith-community of which we are members. When our admirable kinsman Boaz went out from Bethehem to check up on his reapers, he said "The lord be with you!". Or rather ... as you have discovered if you use a Hebrew Bible or a translation in the Anglican tradition ... he said (Ruth 2: 4) "The LORD be with you". 

Just as Father Whatsit does at the start of Holy Mass ... meaning, of course ... "YHWH be with you!"  And Father says later (in the Preface) how right it is to Give Thanks to DOMINUM, by which he clearly means YHWH!

26 January 2024

Digging into the psalms of the Divine Office (2)

There is a thematic grouping of associated words and ideas which we certainly do not find in every psalm, but which is noticeable in quite a lot of them. It is based on the facts that YHWH is the Name of the Hebrew God; that his Name expresses in a powerful way his presence; and that this presence is to be recognised in his City, and especially his Temple, in Jerusalem, Sion.

Remember that I am writing about when the Jewish deity is called or addressed as 'LORD', not about when he is called 'God'.

So I will select exempli gratia psalm 121 (this is how Christians have always numbered it; 'Masoretic', rabbinic Jews and Protestants number it as 122; the same difference apears in the numeration of other psalms). In the older editions of the Roman Breviary it was appointed to be sung at Vespers on Tuesdays; since the changes made under S Pius X, we use it at Monday Vespers. (In the Liturgy of the Hours, it is appointed on some Sundays.)

I was glad when they said to me "Let us go to the house of the LORD!" Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem, built as a city which is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the Name of the LORD ... Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! "May they prosper who love you! Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers!" For my brethren and companions' sake I will say "Peace be within you!" For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.

Or consider psalm 137 (138): 

I will give thee thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I will sing thy praise; I bow down toward thy holy temple and give thanks to thy Name for thy steadfast love and thy faithfulness; for thou hast exalted above everything thy Name ...

Sometimes the mix is enriched with a mention of the Priests, or the Temple Servants and slaves of YHWH, who serve him by night as well as by day. 

25 January 2024

Digging into the Psalms of the Divine Office (1)

It would gratify me much if most readers do not need to be given the following preliminary information!

The Jewish God has a name, and always has had. It is written YHWH, because the Hebrew alphabet in its primitive state has no vowels. The Catholic Latin Church, happily, now forbids attempts to articulate and to utter this word: there was a gruesome period during which callow youths and youthesses used to prattle cheerily on, encouraged by a gruesome "Catholic" "translation" of the Bible, about yarway. I hope this vile nastiness is now completely dead.

Those charged with reading the Scripture aloud in Jewish worship ... however ... needed to say something when they got to the YHWH word (known sometimes nowadays as the Tetragrammaton). So what they neatly and craftily did was to utter instead the entirely different Hebrew word which means 'lord'.

When Jews found themselves in the exciting Hellenophone cosmopolis created by the conquests of Alexander the Great, they wanted, needed, Greek (and other) translations of Scripture. But what to do about the Tetragrammaton ... remember, they were not allowed to say yarway.

So they developed the custom of uttering it as the word in their own languages which means 'lord': Kyrios in Greek and Dominus in Latin. And, in the written forms of those languages, Kyrios and Dominus entered the written texts as stand-ins for YHWH. 

And then, at the Reformation, Anglican Scripture translators translating the Hebrew Old Testament, when they got to YHWH, inserted "the lord". But, to show that they were stepping aside from the actual real Hebrew, they wrote 'lord' in capitals: "the LORD".

This usage continues in Anglican-based modern English Bible translations; it is highly useful because it makes clear to readers without much Hebrew, where, in the genuine Hebrew originals, YHWH is the real text. 

"the LORD" = "YHWH".

24 January 2024

S Joseph and an Irish Bishop

I have a little Prayer Card ... how these things do accumulate with the passing decades ... encouraging devotion to S Joseph. It indicates 200 days of Indulgence; and bears the Imprimi potest of + Joannes Carolus Archiep. Dublinen. Hiberniae Primas Dublini, die 11a Februarii, 1958. I wonder who on earth he was, and whether the date has any significance.

'Tween ourselves ... and I hope I'm not upsetting too many readers ... I find the Prayer somewhat ... laboured. It is based on the Ave Maria, but, frankly, such things do not always come off.

The English version is: Hail, Joseph, so abundantly endowed with the grace of God, thou whose arms did enfold the Infant Saviour and whose eyes did gaze on Him as He advanced in years, how blessed art thou among men, and how blessed is Jesus Christ, God made Man, the Son of Mary thy Virgin Spouse.

O chosen one, Saint Joseph, fosterfather of the Only-Begotten Son of God, intercede for us through all the days of our life in the midst of our many cares of home and health and toil, and graciously come to our aid at the hour of our death. Amen.

And, in Latin: Ave Joseph, gratia Dei abundantius praedite, cuius ulnae Salvatorem parvulum portaverunt et oculi crescentem aspexerunt: benedictus es inter viros, et benedictus filius almae Sponsae tuae Jesus.

Sancte Joseph, qui Unigenito Dei in patrem es electus, quamdiu in terris inter familiae valetudinis laborisque curas versamur, ora pro nobis et morte imminente nobis subvenire dignare. Amen.

Interesting, that the author of the English version felt the need to interpolate God made Man. But I hope the writer is not under the impression that alma and virgo are synonyms. I think one often gets the best out of alma by remembering that its roots are in the verb alere.

Has anybody any information to share about these formulae?

23 January 2024

S Joseph, and the English Bishops

 In my trusty 1874 breviary, I read the following in the Officia Propria Sanctorum Angliae for January 23: In Festo Desponsationis B. M. V.:

'Omnia ut in fine Breviarii sine commemoratione S. Josephi.'

I expect yours is the same.

What on earth is going on? 

Back to the Appendix pro aliquibus locis, the 'finis Breviarii'.

"The feast of the Espousal of the Blessed Virgin Mary with S Joseph". And, yes, there are Commemorations of S Joseph at First Vespers, Lauds, and Second Vespers; but the rubric says that, where it is granted, before the other commemorations there is to be a commemoration of S Joseph.

So the English Vicars Apostolic had sought ... and received ... permission to use this Proper. But ... if they also sought permission to commemorate S Joseph, they had not received that.

The liturgical Espousals of our Blessed Lady had been observed for some time, on different days and in various places. But it was in the Diocese of Arras that this Feast was instituted (1556) to be kept on 23 January. And from there that it spread. Liturgical provsion was drafted by a Dominican, Pierre Dore (obiit 1569), Confessor to the Duke of Lorraine.

Originally, it was a Festival of Blessed Mary; it did not immediately and universally spread to be a Feast of the Engaged Couple. S John Henry and his English contemporaries were, I presume, not accustomed to include S Joseph. Except if they were in Dublin founding Universities, and if the Irish arrangements differed from the English. In which case, Irish clerics would have needed care as they boarded the packet at Holyhead.

What a complicated subject Liturgy is.

I wonder what is going on here ... conservatism (resistance to the introduction of S Joseph, as a new and major devotion) ... some species of liturgical sexual politics ...

22 January 2024

Doubly tearful (2)

Did Mr Cheesemeadow, the great Victorian architect, ever stray from Barsetshire into the Diocese of Oxford?  Mgr R A Knox would know ... but I am pretty sure he did. The High Altar of Dorchester Abbey bears all the signs of his attentions. Behind the mensa there are the words Ecce panis Angelorum Factus cibus viatorum. I suspect that these words will be familiar to most readers.

I wonder why it is that Lauda Sion can move me almost to tears. Perhaps it has something to do with the way, towards its end, that the stanzas become each a line longer ... almost as if Holy Mother Church plangently and clamantly piles on more rhymes and more rhetoric as she hurries to her conclusion.

So I could not but notice that, to the North and to the South of the Altar, there are some more words from the same sublime Sequence: to the left, Bone Pastor, Panis vere; and to right, the South, Iesu nostri miserere. But then I stopped. Quite apart from their context within the hymn, I have seen these lines before.

Please forgive me as I step back a little. For some years I weas fortunate enough to run the Latin Summer School organised by the admirable Latin Mass Society. And, for some years, we met annually in a Franciscan House in Flintshire, North Wales. There are good things there: a statue of our Lady which A W Pugin sent to the great Exhibition; some characteristically mega-wonderful Harry Clarke glass ... how the fortunate Irish should pity us poor English because they have so much of his work, and we have so little. 

In the early days after the Restoration of the Hierarchy in 1850, that part of North Wales was within the Catholic Diocese of Shrewsbury (pronounced ShrOwsbury by the cognoscenti). And the first Bishop of Shrewsbury, Dr James Brown, did quite a lot of building there ... most of it now converted into nice remunerative little flats. My former Fellow Seminarian, Fr Mark Elvins, is buried in the cemetery. And so is Dr Brown. And, on his solidly Victorian grave, there are lots of Latin quotations and inscriptions. "Ah", I cried, "just the stuff". So I incorporated lots of the Latin into my teaching. The students (weather permitting) had to discover the Latinity ... and translate it.

You know what I'm going to say:  Bone Pastor, Panis vere, Iesu nostri miserere is, if my recollection does not deceive me, among the crowded episcopal pieties.

The sentiments, in Dorchester, accompany a despoiled Anglo-Catholic milieu, in a place where, in happier times, the Faith was strong. 

But, as the Franciscans in Pantasaph themselves wind down, I wonder if a depressing parallel could be discerned.

21 January 2024

Doubly Tearful (1)

Sunt lacrimae rerum ... and especially when one enters a church in which there are manifest signs of the elimination, at the Reformation, of Catholicism and of Catholic worship. S John Henry deftly allowed the physical and the metaphorical to throw light on each other with his words "Oh, that miserable day, centuries before we were born! What a martyrdom to live in it and see the fair form of Truth, moral and material, hacked piecemeal, and every limb and organ carried off, and burned in the fire, or cast into the deep! But at last the work was done. Truth was disposed of, and shovelled away ..."

 Yes indeed ... shovelled so literally away ... but for those of us who have emerged from the 'Anglican Patrimony', the nastiness is sometimes redoubled. We've had to experience it twice.

Dorchester Abbey near Oxford offers an example: despoiled at the 'Reformation' ...the shrines demolished, the August Presence ejected, the signs of the care of the Most Holy Mother of God destroyed. But, in the course of the Catholic Revival, it all came back. A succession of faithful priests, and of faithful congregations, put Truth back into her place. Fr Poyntz, who loved to be in Brittany especially in order to witness the Corpus Christi processions, wrote "we must not be surprised therefore if often we find our religion is very much like the Roman Catholic religion ...". During those days, "the whole or main part of the Canon of the Mass, according to the Roman or Sarum Use"was kept on the Altar"for private devotion". 

Wht a blessing it was for the Tractarian clergy, that the Canon was, in the Catholic Church, said secreto: the Anglo-Catholics could plausibly subsume it under the heading of Priest's Private Devotions!

Closely associated with the Abbey was the Missionary College, training clery for Mission. Jolly photographs survive showing students and clergy, many of the latter in birettas, in long processions. Fr Darwell Stone was for a while Principal of the College; later he became Principal of Pusey House, Oxford's Anglo-Catholic Library, Chaplaincy, and House of Studies, and it is recorded that, at the Altar there, he interpolated the Canon memoriter. What a shame that, since 1970, the Canon Missae has almost totally disappeared from the use of the mainstream Latin Church. Especially as, de facto, it has been shamefacedly replaced by the Second Eucharistic Prayer, with its spurious origins ... and with its Brevity its only seedy advocate!

Catholic restoration might sometimes meet resistance. But if a hostile witness could claim that "nearly half the parishioners were deterred from attending church" by these illegal Roman practices ...well, is this not an admission that more than half the congregation were not deterred?

To be concluded

20 January 2024


Embarrassing, this. We do not relish hornets or their nests. But I think there is a lost bit of Tradition here which deserves at least mentioning. 

We have enough bother upholding the negatives in our Christian sexual Tradition. "Thou shalt not" seems to be the whole of the law. Denouncing Fornication and Adultery seems as far as we go in suggesting that the Spirit of the Age needs denouncing ...

Moreover, I do not have a neat or worked-out 'line' to take on this subject. 

Oh dear.

But here we go, or I go, with some tentative musings on one of the subjects that few of us grasp.

Tradition makes it clear that 'the gift of Continency' is an admirable state. Virginity ... have I got this right? ... is indeed superior to other Christian callings. 

Let me put before you some unusual remarks from a liturgical source few of us often approach. 

Before the number of 'Proper Prefaces' in the Roman Rite was severely cutailed aound the turn of the millennia, the Commune of a Virgin Martyr naturally had its own Preface. The Common for a Virgin Martyr in Leofric begins by suggesting that it is 'from the example of Blessed Mary that all Holy Virgins have despised the voluptates et delicias of 'the present age'. It is by God's gift that after 'the Virgin 'proceded from 'the Virgin' (Christ from Mary), the 'sexus fragilis' was made strong. It had had the 'peccandi facultas'; now it has the 'vincendi felicitas'. 

As we look back on the narratives of the Fall, we are reminded that the 'antiquus hostis' was proud to have defeated the human race through the 'antiqua virgo'. But now 'through holy virgins who are followers more of Mary than of Eve, he is defeated, so that the weak sex is now victorious'.

It is through their intercession who 'have defeated both their sex and the Age' that we pray to deserve to defeat the unseen Enemy, and to adhere to the Father's only-begotten Son.

I wonder what a Christian of this Age can derive from such a narrative? So what is the ecclesial function of the ordo virginum?

19 January 2024

Democratic appointments

 We have been having a lot of news about questionable goings-on in our British Post Office. Private Eye reports that 

"Former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells is an ordained priest in the Church of England. Until April 2021 she was non-stipendiary assistant minister in charge of St. Owen's Church, Bromham, in the diocese of St Albans.

     "She was also on the shortlist to be the Bishop of London in 2017 -- an extraordinary step for a person who had never actually been employed by the church. Vennells missed out on becoming a bishop ..."

Is such a story conceivable? 

I began by thinking No. But I do find myself imagining this following scenario:

As the London vacancy drew closer, I can imagine the Great and the Good putting their heads together. "We'd better make sure we take this opportunity of putting a woman into the Church's top management. But it had better be a woman with a proven record of managing a nation-wide institution ..."

Which, of course, might help to explain why Dame Mullarkey, ex-head-nurse, got the job.


18 January 2024

A truly terrible pope

 Giovanni Pietro Caraffa, otherwise known as Pope Paul VI, did the churches of this Kingdom of England no favours.

When  Queen Mary I, and Reginald Cardinal Pole, both died, the former was in  state of war with the Pope, and the latter was stripped of his legatine powers and summoned to Rome on charges of heresy. Caraffa appears to have referred to Pole's "Lutheran household"; the jolly little 1958 CTS pamphlet THE POPES From St Peter to Pius XII, usually a trifle nervous about being too critical of those who have occupied the papal throne, summarises his "ferocious character. He was actuated by a violent hatred of Spanish influence in Italy and an over-mastering dread of concessions to the Reformers". 

It is argued that Bloody Bess, "Elizabeth I", found it all the easier to subject this poor Kingdom again to heresy because Caraffa, deliberately, had left so many English sees unfilled.

Caraffa himself died in August of the following year, 1559, when news was beginning spread of Elizabeth's deprivations of surviving members of the clergy left in place by Good Queen Mary. But not before he had promulgated a Feast of the Cathedra of S Peter at Rome for January 18. The point of this commemoration was obvious, you may feel, in the context of Caraffa's character and politics. 

But there is, I am sure, a lesson for us here; especially for troubled souls inclined to sedevacantism by aspects of the current pontificate. Yes; things are bad, but they have been bad before. Neither that, nor anything else, can change the fact the George Bergoglio is truly and lawfully the Successor of S Peter.

The 'reformers' of the Pacellian period, needless to say, suppressed the Feast of January 18 (but before the Council: so don't blame the Conciliar 'fathers') on the grounds that it wickedly duplicates the Feast in February of S Peter's Cathedra in Antioch.

But I value Caraffa's January Feast of S Peter's Cathedra at Rome as a valuable reminder of the status of iffy popes, and of our dutiful obligation to accept with humility the reality of their pontificates.

17 January 2024

Canonisation 'by Acclamation'

Who canonised S Brendan? Or S Colman moccu Loigse? I can tell you: S Columba. Supernaturally enlightened, he ordered extra ordinem a celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist, and, in the case of S Colman, ordered the chanters during the actual celebration itself to include the newly-departed Holy One.

During the first Christian millennium, the custom arose of seeking Papal agency in canonisations; my impression is that this was mostly in order to enhance the solemnity of the procedings ... and hence, of the Saint ... and hence, of a sponsoring political entity. 

But Canonisation by popular acclaim never quite disappeared. I have on several occasions drawn your attention to King Henry VI (obiit 1471), and the shrines and pilgrimages associated with this never-canonised Saint; and Michael Hodges's magnificent recent The Golden Legend brings together information and raises new questions. 

In 'East Anglia', Hodges lists eight paintings of Henry VI; of those, two have readable inscriptions, and, in each case, the words are Rex Henricus Sextus. 'Sanctus' (or Scs) does not occur. Three of the paintings show Henry with a halo.

This suggests to me that artists and worshippers were well aware that the King did not have the formal status which would have secured the title Saint. But a halo, surely, does suggest sanctity. 

This record also lists four examples of Sir John Schorne ('Sir' is the form by which the medievals addressed and referred to a priest who was not a graduate). A never-canonised parish priest of North Marston in Buckinghamshire, Schorne died in 1313.

Michael Hodges lists four representations of Sir John: I cannot see that any of them bears a text enabling us to discern whether he is addressed as sancte or described as sanctus. But three of them, I think, have haloes.

I'm not quite sure where these snippets of pointers leave us.

(I was uncertain whether to be irritated by the fact that Michael refers to Essex as part of East Anglia. As a determined Essex Man, I had always thought I might count as an East Saxon, rather than as an Angular. But since childhood, I concede, I have seen myself as a citizen of the Roman Colonia Claudia Victricensis Camulodensium, rather than of any terrible group of invading Teutons. So it must be OK.)

16 January 2024

Here we go again ,,,

I wonder if we shall have bombs again in London this time round.

Who will be the first politician to say "We shall leave no stone unturned ..."?

15 January 2024

Extraordinary Form ORDO, and Ordinariate directions, for the Chair of Unity Octave

The Chair of Unity Octave ("Unity Week") starts on Thursday January 18 and ends on Thursday January 25.

This observance was begun by Anglo-papalists in the early twentieth century specifically to pray for the Unity of all Christians in communuion with the See of S Peter and S Paul. It was encouraged by a succession of Roman Pontiffs and endowed with indulgences (see below).

At a time when PF has launched a relentless attack upon Tradition within the Latin Church, it is surely even more important to pray for Unity. Surely, in the front of our minds ought to be, not the old 1960s-style Ecumenism of ecclesiastical bureaucrats from different ecclesial bodies cosying up to each other, but the urgent need for Unity to be restored within the Latin Church herself. 

The Chair of Unity has itself been converted into a sign and instrument of disunity: in this dreadful crisis, may God keep us and guide us.

                                              EXTRAORDINARY FORM

Before the 1960s, January 18 was the Feast of the Chair of S Peter at Rome (while February 22 celebrated his Chair, that is to say, his episcopate, in Antioch). The Feast of the Conversion of S Paul on January 25 still survives, even in the Novus Ordo.

In the Good Old Days, the Wantage Sisters ... who now comprise our Ordinariate Sisters ... the praying heart of the Ordinariate, as our Ordinary puts it ... used to publish an annual ORDO  "in strict accordance with the Use of the Western Church". This was widely used both in Anglo-Papalist churches and in Anglo-Catholic churches generally. The latest one was probably that of 1969, which I still have. Before January 18, the following information is printed:

                                               CHURCH UNITY OCTAVE BEGINS

Ad lib, during the Octave: one 2cl Vot M For the Unity of the Church. Cr (on Sunday only), Common Pref (pref Trin on Sunday). P[urple]

This will undoubtedly have been lifted from what was authorised for Roman Catholics in England, Scotland, and Wales on the very eve of the liturgical alterations of the late 1960s. What it means is that it is lawful to say daily one Mass of the Votive for Christian Unity (Ad tollendum Schisma if your Missal, like mine, is pre-1962; but the texts are the same in the 1962 Missal) on the Sunday within the Octave); and also on each of the weekdays (because they are all at the most "3 class").

[Incidentally, in the fine 1939 ORDO provided by the Saint Lawrence Press, both the Chair of S Peter and the Conversion of S Paul are Greater Doubles ... an identification which usually translates into "2 Class".]

No Gloria, of course. Only one Collect; Secret; Postcommunion; is said ... in other words, no commemorations.

My own practice is to start the Octave with a (perfectly 'legal') Votive Mass of the Chair of S Peter on January 18 (Mass as on February 22 except that the Alleluia is said; the colour is white) and to conclude with the Mass for S Paul on January 25. It was the idea of linking up the two Roman Apostles which gave rise to the Octave.

Alleluia for the Chair of S Peter outside Lent and Septuagesima: Alleluia, alleluia. Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam. Alleluia.

I have thought it worth while providing this information because I do not think it is in the available Authentic Use ORDOs in Latin, English or French.


In the current Encheiridion: Plenary under the usual conditions for a Catholic who shall have taken part in any functions in the week; and shall have been present at the conclusion of this week (i.e. on 25 January). Partial for whosoever shall have devoutly recited an approved prayer for Unity.

                                      ORDINARIATE 'DIVINE WORSHIP' MISSAL

The same Mass for Unity, of course, is provided for use in Liturgical English in the Ordinariates. The rubrics make clear that it can be said on any day except Solemnities, the Sundays of Advent, Lent, and Easter, All Souls, Ash Wednesday, Ember Days, Rogation Days, weekdays of Holy Week and of the Easter and Pentecost Octaves. Such votives ARE allowed BUT ONLY FOR "a real necessity or pastoral advantage" on Obligatory Memorials and the weekdays of Advent, Christmastide, Lent, and Eastertide. Pretty permissive, eh?

14 January 2024

A Day the Devil Hates

January 15 is the Anniversary of the Erection of the Three Ordinariates. 

What commemoration, however, to select? Thanksgiving, of course!! 

And for Thanksgiving, the Missale Romanum advises a votive of either The Most Holy Trinity or the Holy Spirit or Blessed Mary the Virgin or Any Canonised Saint; with the Collect, Secret, and Postcommunion added (under One Conclusion) which are printed right at the end of the Votive Masses section of the Missal.

It might naturally occur to reverend Fathers to offer a Votive of our Blessed Lady or of her Holy House; or of S John Henry Newman. It seems, however, to me that a Votive of the Holy and Undivided Trinity has a lot to be said for it. This Mass was habitually used (before the cataclysm) on occasions of great Thanksgiving. If you want a more delicate reason, here is one: The Collect is the one provided in Anglican liturgical books since 1549, even in Common Worship; so it could in itself be seen as a sign or prolepsis of Unity.

Additionally ... S John Henry held a very high opinion of the Quicunque vult, otherwise known as the Athanasian Creed. He described it as "The most simple and sublime, the most devotional formulary to which Christianity has given birth." Whether included as an element in the Divine Office, or used as a stand-alone devotion, it is difficult to think of anything more suitable.  

1549 ordered that it shalbe song or sayd ... It would be immensely jolly to hear it chanted coram Sanctissimo at Solemn Benediction.

13 January 2024

Big Women (2)

 Once upon a time ... are you sitting comfortably? ... once upon a time, there was a couple called the Percivals. They were very wealthy;  Sir John owed much to judicious matrimony. and perhaps even more to the surge in the wool trade at the end of the fifteenth century ... and to mercantile acumen. He owned land in Cornwall, Devon, and Kent. He lived in London and rose through the ranks of the Company of [Merchant] Taylors to be its Master. Through his personal connections, he received knighthood and, after personal interventions by the newly-crowned Henry VII, became Lord Mayor of London.

After his death. his widow and collaboratrix, Dame Thomasina, continued to run the business and to train the apprentices. His will endowed chantries in significant places and provided for for good deeds in places both conspicuous and inconspicuous; he founded the (still existing) school in his native Macclesfield.

Not to be outdone, Dame Thomasina, before she died in 1512, founded a school in her native Cornish St Mary Weke. Together with the King's Mother, Thomasina was thus one of the first women to make such a foundation.

We should note Sir John's Christian name: the Merchant Taylors were intimately connected with S John Baptist, who had remarked Ecce Agnus Dei. And Dame Tomasina's chantry at Weke was dedicated to the Baptist. She endowed a daily anthem to S John to be sung at the Percival church in London, S Mary Woolnoth, and a taper to burn before his image in the chapel where both Percivals were to be buried.

Percival had risen to the very top of the mercantile aristocracy. He desired to associate himself with the new Tudor regime, and hissupport was acceptable.

His first duties as Lord Mayor were to preside over ceremonies to honour young Prince Arthur who, but for his early death, was destined to be the first monarch of a great new Arthurian dynasty.

When Percival died in 1503, the first monarch of the House of Tudor was in the process of an elaborate attempt to embellish his tenuous ancestral claim to he throne. The steps leading up to his rebuilt Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey were endowed with the same generous indulgences as the Sancta Scala. And, as she approached death, Dame Tomasina provided for the endowment of a chantry nearby, near the tomb of the king's mother who was also the foundress of a school. She also provided for the preachers at Paul's Cros to rehearse the names of herself and her husband, and of Geoffrey Boleyn and his wife. 

It seems clear from the records of their lives that the Percivals, Husband and Wife, shared status and shared the administration of the their considerable empire. They were intimates and associates of the great merchant princes of London as they sat together in the capital and did the deals which built up their estates all over England; and spent money they on churches, monasteries, and schools in the last half-century before the bankruptcy engendered by the Tudor government's warlike foreign policy led to the looting of the churches, the suppression of the monasteries ... and the imposition of a crippling tax on sheep.

Thomasina is a powerful example of the sort of mulier fortis described in the Mass of S Helena. In the lection of Proverbs 31, we should not miss the (exiguous!) reference to her Husband. We learn practically nothing about him except that he is nobilis in portis quando sederit cum senatoribus terrae

I do not think that the womenfolk of medieval England were demure or retiring or insignificant. I suspect that, as their menfolk sat grandly in Council (or livery companies!) and made big decisions, their women fulfilled the daily duties of commercially viable enterprises. They were not all as grand as Dame Thomasina Percival, but I suspect that Abendon held enough women, big fish in their own pool, to estimate fairly accurately their own economic importance.

And to understand the roles of mulieres fortes.

12 January 2024


 It was not every 'townscape' that delighted the eye of our beloved 'Bauhaus' Pevsner. But he was able to begin his 1966 Berkshire volume with 'Abingdon'. And to say some kind things. (By the way: the historical evidence I have seen suggests strongly that the name was truly "Abendon" or "Abendonia', depending on which language you speak. From me, you will get the older spelling but the English language. It will be Latin you will get if you open the Breviarium Romanum.)

"Abendon owes its existence to the Abbey founded in 675. ... The Abbey extended along the Thames. So did the town, with the church at the far end. It makes a very fine view from the bridge, in spite of the bloody-minded insistence of the gaol on its own presence. The prosperity of Abendon was first that of the abbey, later of a flourishing woollen trade. ... The steeple rises splendidly at the South end of East St Helens. It is a C13 steeple, which is surprising considering the rest of the church. ... Part of the East wall still remains, but the rest was remodelled when, in the C15 and C16, Abendon built itself an exceedingly spacious new church with double aisles North and South."

And the church, of course, is dedicated to S Helen.

Er ... regular readers will sense that I have a theory ro deploy. Here we go.

Dr Cotton gives us some approximate figures for Dedications to S Helen: Yorkshire: 34; Lincolnshire; 28. And Bishop Kirk offers a chatty account of the Wool Trade in this part of Berkshire: "Berkshire also had once a great wool and cloth industry. Archbishop Laud himself was the son of a Reading clothier; John Wynchcombe--the famous 'Jack of Newbury', who rebuilt the fine parish church of St. Nicholas in the sixteenth century--was a rich master-clothier; of Abendon, Leland writes: 'The town stondeth by clothing.' ... East Hendred--now a village of about 600 inhabitants--was famous throughout the Middle Ages for its cloth industry and the annual fair held on the Golden Mile--the 'green road' which runs up from the village to Scutchamore Knob on the downs; several fifteenth-century cloth merchants have their brasses in the village church. As regards the earlier stage of the industry--that of sheep-breeding and shearing--it is enough to notice that until living memory East Ilsley sheep market, held every fortnight from April to Easter, was the most important in England; whilst ...  a 'Tadpole Revel' (tod = 'cleansed' wool) was held on Milton Hill on the day following the village feast. ..."

I am going to suggest that S Helen was popular in Woolly areas and especially among women.

The passage from Proverbs (31: 10-31) often used at Holy Mass on the feast of S Helen suggests that 'the Strong Woman' is a competent and robust business-woman. She has sought wool. She has considered and purchased land. Her lamp never goes out; her spindle never rests; she gives alms generously; there may be snow outside but her household is warm; her staff are well covered; linen and purple are her own garb. She sells what she has woven; and produces a girdle for passing foreign merchants. She has planted a vineyard ...

And that's not the half of it!

Were the English Middle Ages really awash with women who matched these specifications?

To be concluded tomorrow.

11 January 2024

The Miraculous medal, S John Henry Newman, and the Anglican Patrimony

In our Ordinariate Church of our Lady Assumpta and S Gregory in Warwick street, there is a statue of our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. See below for an account of S John Henry's devotion to the MM. I do not believe in coincidences. I think that this devotion ought to be more vividly understood as part of the Ordinariate's patrimonial, God-given, devotional inheritance.

On Saturday 27 November 1830, a young French nun, (S) Catherine Laboure, beheld her second and third visions of the Mother of God in the Sanctuary of her Convent Chapel in the Rue du Bac in Paris. Our Lady appeared to her, radiant, standing on a globe, and with her arms stretched out in a compassionate gesture. From her fingers rays of light fell upon the globe at her feet. An oval frame then formed around her with gold lettering that read: O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Our Lady promised great graces to those who wore this design with confidence; she showed the Saint the design which now appears on the back of the Miraculous Medal: a large M surmounted by a bar and cross, with two hearts beneath it, one crowned with thorns, the other pierced with a sword, all encircled by twelve stars.

In 1836, Abbe Desgenettes, who had taken over the Church of Our Lady of Victories (a church degraded and desecrated during the Revolution and with a minute congregation), dedicated his parish to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and founded a Confraternity of Prayer, which had the Miraculous Medal as its badge. In the days before S John Henry Newman's conversion, intense prayer was offered for him in this Church by the members of that very same Fraternity. Back in Blighty, it was on the Octave Day of the Assumption in 1845 (a very patrimonial day: it was also the birthday of blessed Edward Bouverie Pusey!) that our great Saint first began to wear the Miraculous Medal.

Yes! The greatest intellect of the nineteenth century! Like the sort of simple peasant whom a snooty English protestant might despise, he wore a miraculous medal! Is there a sobering message here for our supercilious North European cultural pride? With his customary sweet irony, blessed Benedict XVI once observed that the devotion to our Lady's Immaculate Heart can be "surprising" "for people from the Anglo-Saxon and German cultural world"!  

Should we each be a little more thorough in rooting out of our own minds the sordid dregs of Enlightenment superstitions? 

I stand by my mixed metaphor!!

Now, please, we go back two or three years, to January 20, 1842. On this day, a wealthy Jewish banker called Alphonse Ratisbonne had, in the Church of S Andrea delle Fratte in Rome, a vision of our Lady just as she appeared on the Miraculous Medal. Shunt forward ... please ... to 1847: S John Henry and St John (who, after their reception, had visited the shrine in Notre Dame des Victoires in thanksgiving for the prayers offered for him there) found themselves now awaiting admission to the presbyterate of the Latin Church, lodged in the Collegio di Propaganda in Rome. Newman makes clear in a number of letters that their windows looked down on the Church of S Andrea delle Fratte; it clearly made some considerable impression upon him.  

On June 9 1847, his long-time intimate woman friend, Maria Giberne, painted a picture of Newman and his friend St John in a room at Propaganda, with our Lady, as she appears on the Miraculous Medal, between the two of them.

In the 1962 Missal, in the Appendix pro aliquibus locis, November 27 is the feast of Our Lady Immaculate of the the Miraculous Medal. As Michael Hodges' splendid new edition of the Warwick Street History and Guide makes clear, the Immaculate Medal statue is not an innovation in Warwick Street: in the mid-1870s, a statue of this design was put into the Church, and when Bl Pius IX granted copious spiritual prvileges to the same Church, his Grant carefully mentioned "the Church dedicated to God in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary assumed into heaven, and the statue of the Blessed and Immaculate Virgin Mary which is placed in that church ... to the faithful who, being sorry for their sins, at least visit the church and statue aforesaid ... May 15 1877, the thirty first of our Pontificate."

Let us hope that this commemoration, already lawful as an option in the Extraordinary Form, will one day make its way into the Calendar and praxis of the Patrimony!

10 January 2024

The Magisterium of Pio Nono ... three queries

In Mr Hodges' magnificent new version of the Guide To and History of the Church of our Lady of the Assumption and S Gregory in Warwick Street, there is a splendid text (do I rightly assume that it is a translation?) of a decree of Bl Pius IX, granting multiple indulgences, many plenary but some whopping great Partial Indulgences (Seven Years!) as well, to those performing certain exercises in that Church. 

At the end of the Decree, the Blessed Pontiff writes: "These Presents to be valid in perpetuity, notwithstanding whatsoever may be done to the contary."

Remember that I am only a poor ignorant convert, unlearned in Canon Law. Once again, I need help.

My questions: (1) What does 'valid in perpetuity?' mean ? 

(2)  What does 'notwithstanding whatsoever may be done to the contrary' mean? 

(3) How does this legislation marry up with the rules issued by S Paul VI?

9 January 2024

It All Came True!

This comes from a fairly recent newspaper report; I merely have changed a few details out of Delicacy. The report relates to a couple of 'women priests' who planned to be blessed together in church.

"For Moneypenny and Krebs, it will feel 'very special'. Both have two children in their twenties from previous marriages to men and bonded over their shared faith and love of boxing and and mud-wrestling. They said that 'some of our friends found it very hard' when they first got together. 'We had to be courageous', Moneypenny said." 

[I have always deeply envied the innumerable journalists who know so accurately how other people will 'feel' in certain contingent future situations.]

Back in the eighties and nineties, we were constantly told that, when we got women priests, we would realise the wonderful but very different gifts ordained women would bring to priestly ministry. With what curiosity did I wonder what those mysteriously esoteric gifts would be! 

How glad I am to have lived long enough to find out! 

What a romantic shared life: "Well, Darling, have we got time for a quick Courage before the PCC?"

8 January 2024

Our Lady of Oxford (2)

I wonder who composed this Prayer; does it date from 1869 when Hartwell de la Garde Grissell promoted the cultus of our Lady of Oxford, from his lofty residence at the bottom of the High?

"O Blessed Virgin Mary, whom we venerate in this thy Sanctuary under the sweet title of Mother of Mercy: thou who wast of old so loved and honoured in this University and City, look with mercy on those who are now without the fold of thy Son, and obtain for them by thy powerful intercession the gift of faith.

"O Mother Immaculate, make this place the special object of thy solicitude and care. Thou who art the Mother of the Eternal Wisdom, and the seat of Wisdom, who didst bear in thy blessed arms the Source of all Knowledge, ask, we pray thee, the grace of faith for those who come here to seek it, that they may be brought to bow their intellect before that one Truth, which was foretold of old by the Prophets, and preached by the holy Apostles.

"Obtain also for the Catholics of this land, that their light may so shine before men, that their separated brethren, seeing their good works, may glorify God, and be brought to the one Fold under one Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord."

I wonder how you judge that. Moi, I'm not sure it quite reaches the heights of a Beta Minus. It reminds me of the fussy, cluttered Victorian Front Room which my maternal grandmother Kept For Best ... and not least, of the great glass dome there which protected a colourful exuberance of fruit (all made of wax). I think I am probably a bit of an Art Deco man. 

This Prayer also reminds me of the ethos of that earnest Prayer for the Conversion of England which (I think) Merry del Val composed. 

But ... good heavens ... short decades after the Definition of 1854, such a Prayer as this does, surely, deftly allude to an unraveller who did sway our spirits to peace ... who, from this grey beauty, did fire France and England for Mary without spot. 

And 'Wisdom', reiterated, can be taken as a reference to the University motto:


Because those two words, a not rivalled insight, are what was written in the book on the University's Shield of Arms, before, in the decades after the "Reformation", they mysteriously mutated into Dominus Illuminatio Mea.

7 January 2024

Phos aprositon

"At the voice of him that cried out in the desert Prepare ye the way of the Lord! thou didst come, O Lord! taking to thyself the likeness of a servant, and, thou that knowest not sin, asking for Baptism! The waters saw thee, and trembled. The Precursor trembled, and exclaimed: 'how shall the lamp give light to the Light? How shall the servant impose his hands on his Lord? O Saviour! that takest way the sins of the world, sanctify me and the waters.'

"His right hand trembled, for, though Precursor, and Baptist, and Prophet greater than all prophets, he saw before him the Lamb of God that washes away the sins of the world: oppressed with anxious doubt, he exclaimed:"O Word! I dare not put my hand upon thy head: do thou sanctify and enlighten me, O merciful One! for thou art the life, and Light, and peace of the world'

"... Thou didst bend thine Head to thy Precursor; thou didst crush the heads of the serpents. Thou didst enlighten all things that they might glorify thee, O Saviour, thou Light of our souls!

"He that is clad with light as with a garment, deigned, for our sakes, to become like unto us ...

"The Precursor, the herald of Christ, exclaimed: 'Who is there that has seen a spot upon the sun, the orb of bightnesss! And how shall I, that am but as grass of the field, baptise thee thou brightness of glory, and image of the Eternal Father? How shall I dare touch the fire of the Divinity? for thou art the Christ, the wisdom and the power of God.'

"Christ , the great Light, has shone on Galilee of the Gentiles, the country of Zabulon, and on the land of Nephthalim; to them that sat in darkness there has appeared a bright Light in Bethlehem the bright. But, the Sun of Justice, the Lord, has risen from Mary, and shown far brighter rays on the whole earth. ... thou art come, O Christ! to be the clothing of the naked, and the Light of them that are in darkness. O Light inaccessible! thou hast appeared to the world."

Dom Gueranger, reproducing the Greek Menaia.

6 January 2024


Megaboringly, I often explain that "Textual Criticism" doesn't mean anything like what most people assume, but refers to the attempt to rediscover what an 'original ' text said, before the process of manuscript copying changed it.  

Today, I offer you another bit of 'textcrit'.

 During this Epiphany period, we consider tria mysteria, the Magi, the Wedding at Cana, and (possibly, most anciently) the Lord's Baptism. In S Matthew's account of the third of these, there is an intriguing addition between verses 15 and 16 of chapter 3. Some early witnesses add: "And when he was baptised, a gigantic light shone all around from the water, so that all who had come were full of fear".

Obviously not original ... it is to be dumped. But there is a little problem about the dumping.

The insertion is very old indeed. And it seems to receive some some support from a now-lost Jewish-Christian Gospel, the Gospel according to the Ebionites, and from S Justin. And vide the Homily at PG 10: 858-862.

Obviously, we have here a tradition which goes back to an early time when the distinction between Orality and Literacy was far from rigid; to a time when the traditions were fluid. 

With a keener eye, you will discern in our immeasurably ancient Roman Liturgy hints of this tradition, in which Light streams from Water. In our Mass for the Epiphany, we urge Jerusalem (Lectio et vide  Graduale) to be illuminated, because her Light is coming. And in the Preface, there is that wonderful phrase nova nos immortalitatis suae luce reparavit.  

I have sometimes wondered whether the Leading Star of the Magi became associated with the Festival of Baptismal Light so as to give us our combined Western Festival of Light.

At nearly every Mass, we Latins splendidly conclude with the Johannine prologue, which ... think about it, look at it ... intrigues us by playing with the the notion of the Life being the Light of men; the Light which shines in the darkness which cannot master it. S John instructs us who is not, and who is, the Light. The identity of the incarnate God is one of S John's greatest themes; perhaps we think too little about it. Barrett's Commentary on the Greek Text of John has been helpful to me. And I suspect that, just as S John teaches us about the Eucharist in chapter 6 rather than when the Last Supper is in our minds, so he explains about the Light at the beginning of his Gospel when those ancient traditions about the Lord's Baptism were still alive and fruitful.

5 January 2024

The Glories of Mary

When the End comes, we may finally hear the full tally of the graces received in the Universal Church through the Ministry of S Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, including the prayers of his Sons. Not least shall we know what, in our own dark days, the Community on Papa Stronsay have done for us all by their prayers, sufferings, and good works.

The Sons published, some years ago, the first part of The Glories of Mary, which is a beautifully rich commentary on the Salve Regina. This work of S Alphonsus is far from modern! But be instructed by C S Lewis, who, in his essay on Reading Old Books, points out the advantages of reading the writings of ages not our own. It is not, argues Lewis, that another age will have been infallible, but at least any errors will not be the same mistakes as we, in our age, make. This is alone capable of validating Old Books.

If this is true of the merely secular literature of which Lewis writes, how much more true will it be true of the devotional labours of as great a Saint, filled with the Holy Ghost, ardent in his love for our Most Holy Redeemer, activated by passion for the Immaculate Mother of God! But it certainly does take us to another age; to the beauties and profundities of baroque devotion. S Alphonsus was immensely widely read, and stories, anecdotes, evidences of Divine Grace, from all the previous ages of the Church, abound . One is led from page to page by striking accounts and illuminating episodes.

And, not least, the pages are full of awareness of the presence, and the maleficent power, of the Evil One. This alone would make it an important document for our own age, in which Satan's strategy is to go in subtle disguises. In two millennia, he has never been so successful in deceiving the worldly wise! Even now, I gather, he has not ceased to attack the Redemptorist communities which found their charism among the Sons of Papa Stronsay.

I don't know if the Sons still have this book on sale. But they certainly have Good Stuff still available!

The Desert Will Flower Press
Golgotha Monastery Island
Papa Stronsay
KW17 2AR
Orkney Islands,
United Kingdom

4 January 2024


 Patriarch + Sviatoslav's document repudiates the latest novel Occidental Bergoglio/Fernandez dogmas about Blessings. This is perhaps the most significant theological divergence to arise between Catholics of the East and West since the Fall of Constantinople and today. It means that while Western Catholics are, apparently, obliged slavishly to follow Bergoglio-Fernandez, this burdensome obligation does not rest upon the happier shoulders of Ukrainian, Byzantine Rite, Catholics.

The idea that Blessing may properly be given to those who fully intend to perform or to continue to perform immoral actions without Penance and Absolution, has massive consequences. 

Those who intend to persist in genocide may be blessed and encouraged to continue. House-breakers and embezzlers ... rapists and paedophiles ... liars ... murderers ... "Go for it Sunshine" is the message from the Seven Hills.

Bergoglio/Fernandez have opened their door to every conceivable evil. I appreciate that this is all really a smart dodge to find a way around certain aspects of Catholic teaching, particularly in areas of sexual morality; but that, frankly, does not make the policy any less disastrous or any less thoroughly wicked.

Importantly for all of us, His Beatitude makes clear that (whatever may apply within the poor, cowed Latin Churches) Bergoglio/Fernandez pronunciamentos are not  part of the teaching of the Universal Catholic Church founded by Jesus of Nazareth.

Some years ago, Fr Aidan Nichols caused outrage among Bergoglio/Fernandez enthusiasts by giving a lecture about what a future pontificate is going to need to do to re-establish Catholic teaching. It is interesting that His Beatitude + Patriarch Sviatoslav ... Lux  indeed ex Oriente ... has started to pencil-in where that 'future pontificate' will need to go, and what it will have to do.

Stables ... ... Augean ...

3 January 2024


A kind Ukrainian-Rite friend sends me materials which relate to that Byzantine Catholic Church; among these documents I have found an important Teaching Document from His Beatitude Patriarch +  Sviatoslav. In this well-argued communication (Given in Kyiv and dated December 22 2023), His Beatitude deals with the DDF (i.e. Bergoglio/Fernandez) document which redefines blessings in such a way as to make it licit to bless couples in 'same-sex' relationships ... Fiducia Supplicans.

The Patriarch points out (with many references) that Canon Law upholds the distinctive liturgical, theological, canonical and spiritual heritage which all the Ukrainian faithful are obliged to observe and cherish. He points out that the meaning of the concept of 'blessing' in the UGCC differs from the teaching of the Latin Church.

Blessings cannot be reduced only to circumstances and needs of private piety. "According to the traditions of the Byzantine rite, the concept of 'blessing' means approval, permission , or even an order regarding a certain type of action. It is obvious that the blessing from the priest ... cannot in any way contradict the teaching of the Catholic Church about the family as a faithful, indissoluble and fruitful union of love beteen a man and a woman, which our Lord Jesus Christ raised to the dignity of the Holy Sacrament of Marriage. Pastoral promptness prompts us to avoid ambiguous gestures, statements and concepts that would distort the Word of God and the teachings of the Church."

To be concluded.



2 January 2024

Betsie Livingstone (2)

 Why on earth did this University never honour Betsie with an honorary Doctorate? I am not part of the inner workings of the academic bureaucracy; but it is my strong suspicion that the narrow biases of dominant secularism were already powerful. At Encaenia, honorands for the degree of Doctor of Divinity (Sacrae Theologiae Professor) are unknown (well, not quite; such a degree was conferred upon some American woman called Jefferts ... see what I mean ...). But, in the end, Archbishop Rowan Williams conferred a Doctorate by virtue of his Primacy: the capacity to do this, I think, is a surviving remnant of the powers of medieval Archbishops as legati nati of the Apostolic See. Time, absurdly, was, when all undoctored diocesan Bishops got one automatically.

Betsie was very much a Christ Church person ... as Dr Cross had been. She was a daily communicant. And, when the Church of England purported to ordain women to sacerdotal ministries, this meant, for Betsie, a recurrent problem.

She remained in the C of E until her death. And she managed this by making arrangements to avoid the Cathedral on those mornings when this regime operated. This meant, of course, finding churches in Oxford where the new dogma was not enforced. And this was what brought her in my direction at S Thomas's. 

By this time, she was living in one of the fine Georgian Houses in St John Street. S Thomas's was built originally in vile slums (now redeveloped and expensive properties) around the Railway Station. For a woman in her seventies to walk down to my church early in the morning must have been a duty and a discipline, even when the weather was good. And she did it, if necessary, when the weather was far from good ... indeed, dangerous underfoot. This was when Pam and I got to know her.

She was an acerbic conversationalist with a devastating wit ... and she was extremely hospitable. Although Macular Degeneration was already taking its toll of her eyesight, she provided us with very many lunches. When family matters took Pam away from Oxford, Betsie made sure that I never lacked a lunch. As reading became increasingly difficult for her, I was able to give some small amounts of help with her continuing academic work. It was not difficult to look forward to the food and conversation behind the Georgian architectural facade!

I had better not conceal that we often gossiped about mutual acquaintances, by no means avoiding members of the University! And she was ... well ... merciless. I suppose it would be bad manners to pass on her views about still-living persons. I will misbehave only to the extent of revealing that, after a less than complimentary but convergent exchange of judgments, Betsie would ... not infrequently ... observe "But have you seen his Wife?"

Eius animae propitietur Deus.

1 January 2024

Betsie Livingstone (1)

 Today, January 1, is the first obit, Year's Mind, of Betsie Livingstone. She died in a care home in Iffley.

Betsie was one of the most considerable people I have known. Not that I had the privilege of knowing her intimately for most of the decades of her long life. I first 'knew' her from a very respectful distance: during my visits to the Patristics Room in Bodley, she would be occupying a table set aside for her, swathed in old-style galley-proofs of the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, with Bodleian attendants bringing her books she had ordered up. We did not know each other; awe ... on my part ... was our relationship.

Elizabeth Anne Livingstone was, at first, a research asistant of Dr F L Cross, Student of Christ Church, originator ... editor ... compiler ... of the ODCC from 1939. I don't know how he came to discern her genius: she once said to me that he did not formally offer her the role "until I had shown that I could do something"; i.e. had got her First. She soon became the research assistant. As he wrote, "No problem that arose could be allowed to rest until it had been pursued to its limits, whether by research, correspondence, or personal interviews, and in somecases by all three means ... The drafting of the bibliographies is almost wholly due to the same collaborator. There are relatively fewof the books or articles cited which Miss Livingstone has not handled, or, where this has proved impossible, pursued to an unimpeachable source; and, it need hardly be said, there are a vast number of others which, though examined, have been passed by unrecorded, either through the exigencies of space or  their want of permanent interest. This task has involved the consultation of what must be almost, if not quite, a record number of books in public libraries ..."

Betsie, like not a few of the English professional classes of her generation, was born (1929) in India. She matriculated in 1948 at St Anne's College, when it was still "St Anne's Society" and when its senior members were products of the days when it had been the "Society of Oxford Home Students" with origins back in 1879. The bookplates in the older  volumes of its Library included words, I think, something like Societas Mulierum Oxonii Privatim Studentium! She became Artium Magistra  in 1955. She, and my Wife (St Anne's, matriculated 1960), were able to exchange and compare reminiscences of that very distinguished institution! It is, of course, no longer single-sex ... the young men, I fear, think it amusing to refer to it as Stans.

She was also the begetter and organiser of the Oxford Patristic Conferences (and of the later Oxford New Testament Conferences), which brought scholars from all over the world to exchange brief papers ... which, naturally (but however did she find the time?), provided her with the labour of handling the publication of very large amounts of very diverse material. I recall the first day of one such conference: Bodley had just introduced a requirement that you had to show a card in order to be admitted. The Quadrangle, inevitably, was thronged on the first morning with foreign scholars who, vainly, had hoped to Verify the References in their Papers before having to read them!

Some readers of this blog may be interested in one tiny detail: Michael Moreton's paper Blepete eis tas Anatolas first appeared in those volumes, demonstrating that, contrary to the superstitions of the 1960s, Christians in the early centuries had faced East in order to worship.

To be concluded.