Thursday, 27 May 2010

Moseley Old Hall

Anna and I spent a fascinating day at Moseley Old Hall recently.

It was built around 1600 by a recusant Catholic family (ie a family regularly fined for failing to attend the new, compulsory, Protestant services).

Not only did they fail to attend the Protestant services, they built a concealed hiding place into the structure of the house, so that they could hide a Catholic Priest there. He said Mass for them and other local catholics in the attics of the house. This was at severe risk to himself, the family and anyone who attended. Imprisonment or execution for treason were all too common in such cases.

Moseley's other claim to fame is that it sheltered the future king, Charles ll, after his defeat by Cromwell's army at the battle of Worcester (pronounced Wooster, like Bertie) in 1651. The king was hotly pursued by Cromwell's men and only just escaped, eventually fleeing to France, before his return in 1660 following Cromwell's death.

The house and gardens are both fascinating, and a great reminder of our Catholic heritage in days when persecution seems nearer than for some time in this country...

Sunday, 23 May 2010


We all (except Ant who is at University) went to the EF Mass at Lancaster Cathedral for the feast of Pentecost. The Schola was a bit depleted this morning; some of the chant sounded lovely, but some a little hesitant. However the organist was fantastic, particularly his improvised fantasia on Veni Creator Spiritus after Mass.

As ever, struck by the beauty and prayerfulness of the traditional 'Extraordinary Form' of the Mass. It is a shame that there were so few people in the congregation.

The kids and I (but not Anna) are sad that we are not on the way to Chartres this year: many friends are and we wish we could be with them, but we are beset by exams... They will have had their Pentecost Mass at a makeshift, but very beautiful, altar in the woods. And as I write, they will be finishing the 35 or so miles they have walked today, and be collapsing into the campsite.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

An Altruistic Straw Man

I just heard a brief snippet on the Radio 4 Today programme.  An Oxford researcher was saying he'd disproved altruism.

This was important (at least to him and the BBC) because so far they have failed to find an evolutionary explanation for altruism.

However, all he had done was to demonstrate that people (presumably picked  at random) do not (in a controlled lab experiment) necessarily behave altruistically.

To leap from that to 'there is no such thing as altruism' which was the tenor of the piece ('you're going to upset a lot of people', gloated the presenter; 'I'm afraid I'm going to sound very controversial' preeened the prof) would be a fallacy that my Oxford professors would have had on toast for breakfast!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

No wicked men, no blasphemy....

We had it again at Mass today. That bowdlerised version of 'I'll sing a hymn to Mary.'

The last lines of each verse should be:

When wicked men blaspheme thee,
I'll love and bless thy name.

But in our hymn book they are now:

Oh may I imitate you
And magnify God's name.

A worthy sentiment, perhaps, but why change it?

Are there no wicked man any more? Do we no longer even believe in wickedness? Is there no longer any sin of blasphemy? (For to say simply that there is no blasphemy is clearly ridiculous).

And above all, why credit the lyrics to John Wyse without acknowledging that Thos Bowdler or his heir has got at them!

Ascension Day

Happy Ascension Day to all!

Here in England and Wales, the celebration of the feast, and the attendant obligation to attend Mass, have been transferred to Sunday.

I think this is an unwise decision, pastorally. It erodes our Catholic Identity, and the sense of a special feast. Also at a psychological level, I think that lessening the demands our Faith makes on us weakens our Faith.

We will be celebrating the feast today, and indeed going to Mass today.

Ascendit Deus in jubilatione, et Dominus in voce tubae!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

A good read

In fact 'a good read' is understating it.

I have been re-reading Mons Ronald Knox's sermons on Our Lord's parables and have been bowled over: his insights are so profound and challenging - and parables that I thought I knew well (and some that one almost passes over as one-liners) take on whole new depths of meaning. The worrying thing is that I am RE-reading, and have clearly forgotten everything I learned first time around... Live and don't learn, that's my motto.

(Also re-reading PG Wodehouse Golf Stories - less spiritually rich, perhaps, but wonderfully crafted!)

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Scowl, me?...

Following my contributions to his blog (though who can say whether it is post hoc propter hoc) Val F. has closed his blog to comments from any but team members.

He wants to ignore 'the scowling "Soldiers of Orthodoxy" as they (I?) 'rant and lampoon me as they may.'

Given I only visited his blog at his invitation (an univited spam email in my inbox - see my previous post) I feel that's a little ungrateful.

Also given that the headline on the blog is:' Life: Better when we engage', I am surprised at his reluctance to engage with ideas other than his own.

But his portrayal of me (if it is me) as scowling is a miss, a palpable miss: I was laughing like a drain. Perhaps he meant Berenike (whose picture, it must be said, is scowling a bit...)

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Humpty Dumpty redefines 'tradition'...

I received an email the other day, that castigated a friend for not concealing the recipients' addresses of a round robin email, but then spammed all recipients, (who were not all known to the spammer) at the same time, using the original 'to' addresses.

It directed me to Val Farrel's blog, so I thought I'd drop by to see who would do such a thing.

The blog is really rather silly. Inter alia, it seems to be trying to redefine 'tradition' to mean the opposite of what it means.

According to the Catechism, tradition is the apostolic tradition, handed down from Our Lord to the apostles, and their successors. See paragraphs 75 ff.

According to Val Farrell, 'In the language of the Church, TRADITION is the way the community responds to the presence of God as,how and when, he reveals himself. That response can be expressed in devotions, creeds and rituals, but it is always an agreed community thing, not an individual whim.'

Val continues: "The teachings of Jesus were received and passed on to us by people with very different mindsets (moulds) from our own. And after them came other bearers of the message who used still other moulds witgh (sic) which to receive the message according as the times in which they lived were different from the earlier ones.

"Eventually the message reached us. We can do either of two things with it.
We can fail to allow for the mould into which our predecessors received the message and try to force the mould as well as the message into entirely new recipients. Inevitably this makes for ill-fitting reception of the message and sadly can make the message itself unbeliveable by the new recipients. People who insist on doing things that way often call themselves TRADITIONALISTS, but in reality they are more likely to be ATAVISTS. (Look it up)

"But we can also do something different. We can receive the message with reverence, as a gift for us in our time and lovingly set about helping our own generation to understand the message with the mindset of our times. Those who adopt this approach are true TRADITIONALISTS because they are willing to forego the old familiar mould if that is what it takes to understand the message in the mindset of their own time. This also equips them to better pass on the message to the next generation who will no doubt arrive on the scene with still different moulds into which to receive the truth.

This reminds me of Humpty Dumpty: when I use a word, it means what I want it to mean.

Elsewhere Val refers to 'offering it up' as 'some kind of down-payment on a heavenly reward,' which suggests an infantile education, if that's all his understanding of offering it up, and posts an article on the need for women priests with which he sympathises although he feels the writer overstates her case.

Val is, or claims to be, a Catholic priest.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

The Real Bigot Scandal

A couple of aspects of the Bigot scandal that I think worthy of mention:

If Brown really did think she was swearing and suggesting the repatriation of foreign students, he should have confronted her to her face (or better still, checked whether he'd heard correctly first...); but no, he wanted her vote, so he saved his outrage for the privacy of his car.

And Cameron and Clegg won't condemn this, because, I suspect, each knows that he could easily be caught on mic saying similar things.

A disgrace, all three of them!