Friday, 24 October 2014

Welcome To Hell...

What's that, dear chap? You say that you shouldn't have fetched up in hell because some Cardinal told you it was ok to start off considering the good things about your life, despite your living in a state of mortal sin, as, that way, you would eventually move towards conversion...?

Sorry, old bean. In your case, I'm afraid, you didn't move towards conversion fast enough and you died in a state of unrepented mortal sin. Which is why you've fetched up down here...

You must have missed hearing the quip by St. Augustine (much quoted by St. Alphonsus) that "God promises us His grace, He does not promise us tomorrow."

Between you and me, it's always much safer to listen to what those Saints said, rather than some mere Cardinal. Especially if those Saints are also Doctors of the Church... There are even some rather good summaries of their writings on the internet, just in case you don't get to hear them from the pulpit...

Yes, I agree... the Cardinal's letter was misleading, and that Synod report wasn't so merciful after all, but there's no guarantee you'll be able to take it up with him here later. You see, we're not absolutely certain it was a mortal sin on his part... there has been some discussion as to whether he was awake during the lectures on sin at seminary... or whether they were on the curriculum at all...

Next, please...

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Over 8 Million Killed...

It's a ghastly statistic. Over 8 million babies killed in the 47 years since the Abortion Act was given Royal Assent... and that's just in Great Britain. Last year in England & Wales, we averaged 550 deaths a day.

The numbers are horrific, but they are difficult to grasp, and so we can ignore them. It helps to provide concrete examples. I teach Science in Secondary School (11-18yrs). In London, these schools generally have about 1000 students. So that works out as killing a school's worth of children every two days...

This was not what was envisaged when the parliament passed the Abortion Act 47 years ago.

There were supposed to be safeguards. The mother's health was supposed to be at risk before the awful step of ending a life could be contemplated. The signatures of two independent medical practitioners were required.

But now, an abortion is seen as a woman's right, and in some cases almost a duty.

The parallels with the drive towards legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide are striking. All the assurances of safeguards ring very hollow in the face of Britain's abortion statistics.

SPUC is inviting people to hold a minute's silence on Monday 27 October at 11:04am - the time Royal Assent was given to the Abortion Act by Queen Elizabeth II.
"SPUC invites everyone to hold a minute’s silence in honour of the children who will never be born and who will never know what it is to be loved in this life. We also remember the mothers and fathers who have made this tragic mistake which has also damaged them. We honour as well all those mothers and fathers who have withstood enormous pressures and have given their babies the best chance of life by respecting their right to be born."
If you can, support SPUC in its work to defend the sanctity of human life with a donation here.

Twitch of the mantilla to Rhoslyn Thomas, SPUC's Youth Officer, for this initiative.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Lead Kindly Light...

2014-10-18 19.35.53 Last night saw one of the official launch events for the latest DVD from St. Anthony Communications, Lead, Kindly Light, at St. Ethelbert's Church, Ramsgate.

The film resembles a pilgrimage following the life of Blessed John Henry Newman. In it, Fr. Marcus Holden and Fr. Nicholas Schofield visit many of the sites associated with Blessed Cardinal Newman, and discuss his conversion to Catholicism.

I have to confess that I am not a fan of Cardinal Newman - I didn't enjoy reading his Apologia, never got past the middle of The Development of Christian Doctrine, and get irritated by his hymns. I find his writing rather dry, and very heavy-going. I have no doubt that the fault is all mine - but, fortunately, we are not obliged to like all the saints of the Church. I much prefer the works (and especially the hymns) of Fr. Faber, one of Newman's contemporaries. Nevertheless, it was fascinating to find out a little more about Blessed John Henry's work both before and after his conversion to Catholicism. I would have liked to find out a bit more about the man himself, but I suppose that would require another film.

The new Parish Priest of Margate also attended the launch - and was happy to pose for a photo with Fr. Marcus Holden and his brother, Chris Holden...


I do recommend the films produced by St. Anthony Communications. Produced and directed by Chris Holden (Fr. Marcus Holden's brother), they cover many important topics of interest to lay Catholics who wish to be able to understand and defend their faith. The films are very informative, and are packed with fantastic architecture, statues and paintings from our Catholic heritage. I must admit to being slightly biased here - in Faith of Our Fathers, some of my own photos were used. I happened to see a few of them on screen last night (clips of other DVDs were being played while the sound system was being calibrated) and I got quite a thrill.

St. Anthony Communications does not receive any money from outside bodies, so it is totally reliant on the sales of its DVDs in order to produce further films. Do visit the website to see what else they have to offer.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

I Think It's Time To Comment...

I've given this post a lot of thought, and prayed hard too. Originally I was reluctant to blog about the recent events at Blackfen, and, from the lack of blogposts, I think that other Blackfen bloggers must have felt the same reluctance. However, a few people unconnected with the parish (but geographically close) have recounted what they have heard from other sources, and it seems obvious that the whole story is being given a very definite spin.

I do not claim to be impartial. On the other hand, I'm rather good at analysing facts and being objective about it - I wouldn't be much of a scientist otherwise. So I think the time has come for me, as one of the people caught up in the events at Blackfen, to set down a few of the facts, and to explain my conclusions. You do not have to accept my conclusions, but I think they stand up to scrutiny. The facts, however, cannot be denied.

The first fact is that there was no conflict in the parish which needed to be "sorted out".

There had been some conflict in the past, but this was back in late 2008 - early 2009. That is over five years ago. A small group of parishioners had become unhappy that, following Summorum Pontificum, Fr. Finigan had introduced (slowly and with detailed catechesis) one TLM on a Sunday (out of four Sunday Masses.) They wrote to the Archbishop to complain. A parish survey was carried out. This demonstrated that, although there was a very small number of parishioners strongly opposed to the TLM, and an equivalent number of parishioners strongly in favour of the TLM, the vast majority of parishioners were happy for Fr. Finigan to get on with whatever he thought best for the spiritual needs of the parish.

The area Bishop, Patrick Lynch, chaired a meeting in the church to discuss people's concerns. After this meeting, which was one of the most shoddily-run meetings I have ever been unfortunate enough to attend, Bishop Lynch had to concede that the people opposed to the TLM were being less than reasonable in objecting to one Sunday Mass out of four being celebrated according to the usus antiquior. Having failed to make any headway, a small group of around nine parishioners wrote to the Tablet to complain. Contrary to intention, the article actually gave rise to widespread support for Fr. Finigan's implementation of Summorum Pontificum.

The people (a very small group) who really couldn't stomach the successful introduction of the TLM at Blackfen left the parish - but since Welling parish church is about 10 minutes away and Sidcup parish church is about 5 minutes away, this isn't particularly surprising, and quite a few people cross parish boundaries anyway because of convenient bus routes. Other people crossed over into the parish, attracted by the reverent style of worship at Blackfen (and not just at the TLM.)

This happened over five years ago. Things settled down. There was a stable congregation at the 10:30am Mass, but a sizeable majority of the regulars at the TLM would happily attend one of the Novus Ordo Masses if they couldn't make it to the 10:30am Mass. Some people regularly attended two Sunday Masses. There wasn't a division. Most people just went to Mass, even if they preferred one form over another.

The next fact is that the parishioners who were devoted to the Extraordinary Form were not antagonistic to the arrival of Fr. Fisher.

On the contrary, we were delighted that we were to have a parish priest who had celebrated the Extraordinary Form in the past. The first Saturday morning Mass was to be the usual Missa Cantata, and, since many servers and singers went to a local pub for lunch afterwards, we had invited Fr. Fisher to come along too, informing him well in advance (at least a month previously). He declared himself unable to attend, which was fair enough, but we had attempted to welcome him.

We had expected changes - a new parish priest will want to do things in his own way, but we were led to believe that the TLM would continue at Blackfen, and would do almost anything in our power to keep that going. The comment, made by Fr. Fisher, in the combox of Richard Collins' blogpost reassured us that there were no plans to change the 10:30am Mass...

In view of subsequent events, one might question whether the specification of the time of Mass rather than the form was deliberate. After all, Mass continues to be offered at 10:30am on Sundays, just not in the Extraordinary Form.

The suggestion that the cessation of the TLM at Blackfen was planned in advance is given further credence by a couple of other incidents.

Fr. Fisher arrived in Blackfen on Wednesday. On the next day Fr. Fisher cancelled the schedule of extra Masses which had been planned for some Marian and other feasts. He explained that this was because it was not permitted for a priest to binate (to say two Masses) on a weekday. In fact, for pastoral reasons, a priest can binate - and one might speculate that a stable group requesting a Mass for a feast of Our Lady in a parish dedicated to Our Lady might qualify as a sufficiently pastoral reason. Nevertheless, it was always possible that Fr. Fisher felt that he was already over-committed, or that he just didn't wish to celebrate extra Masses, which was his right. Therefore an offer was made to arrange for other priests to celebrate the Masses instead. This offer was refused. No parish priest is obliged to allow Mass to be celebrated in his church, but it is difficult to comprehend why he might not wish to do so, especially if he is not expected to do anything other than allow it to happen.

On the third day of Fr. Fisher's tenure, he told a parishioner that these extra Masses would be stopped, and when she expressed regret at the removal of evening Masses he stated that he had had hours of meetings with Archbishop Smith and Bishop Lynch to discuss the direction the parish would be taking, and he declared that Blackfen was a Novus Ordo parish.

He had already introduced changes at the weekday Masses. The speed of change was a little unexpected but things would probably have continued quietly if it hadn't been for one major turning point. During his first Sunday Extraordinary Form Mass, after the Domine, non sum dignus and, holding Our Lord prior to giving Communion to a server, Fr. Fisher stopped and declared loudly to the congregation that there had been considerable confusion expressed over the correct way to receive Communion at the TLM, and that, according to the 1983 Code of Canon Law, Communion could be received kneeling or standing, on the tongue or, in England and Wales, in the hand.

That is untrue.

Universae Ecclesiae, the Instruction on the application of the provisions of Summorum Pontificum, issued by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei states quite clearly that:

"by virtue of its character of special law, within its own area, the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum derogates from those provisions of law, connected with the sacred Rites, promulgated from 1962 onwards and incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in effect in 1962."

In other words, if it wasn't allowed in 1962, then it's not allowed at the Extraordinary Form. That applies to Communion in the hand, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion and female altar servers, for example.

Now, it is possible that Fr. Fisher was not aware of this.

Nevertheless, this statement caused a great deal of scandal to members of the congregation, especially because of when it was made, and the manner in which it was made. The inappropriateness of the timing and manner of the announcement was really shocking. After Mass, several people expressed their feelings, and there was much discussion of the laws concerning the rubrics of the Mass.

If the rubrics concerning Communion in the hand were to be ignored, then that begged the question of what might follow. The intention of having Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion at all Masses had already been indicated in the newsletter. An Extraordinary Form Mass in Wales had been cancelled because of a failure to observe the 1962 rubrics, and there was, understandably, speculation that this might happen at Blackfen. Quite a few people wanted to know how things were going with the new parish priest. News travels fast, and bad news travels even faster...

Unfortunately, Fr. Fisher did not appreciate the criticism.

On his second Saturday morning in the parish, at the Extraordinary Form Low Mass, he delivered a strongly-worded address to the congregation, telling them that the people at the TLM at Blackfen were toxic and uncharitable, and the cause of major division in the parish. He stated that two friends of his (he referred to them as his "spies") had been shocked at the views expressed by people on the previous Sunday after the Old Mass, and because of this, he was going to cancel the Extraordinary Form Mass from the end of the month, and would hold a Novus Ordo Mass at that time instead. He also pointed out that someone had "denounced him" to the editor of the Spectator magazine, and that to discuss private parish business with outsiders was gossip and a mortal sin.

The parishioners at the Sunday morning Latin Mass were given the same speech instead of a homily.

Yes, to be fair, I suspect that people had been less than complimentary the previous week - remember that they themselves had been shocked and scandalised by the announcement about Communion in the hand. Even so, cancelling the TLM as a result of a few unpleasant remarks seems somewhat extreme.

One might even be led to speculate that the announcement at Communion the previous week had been made on purpose, especially recalling that on at least two occasions previously, deliberate disregard for rubrics had led to the cessation of the Extraordinary Form Masses. I wouldn't like to think that this could be the case.

UPDATE: It would appear, from one of the comments I have received, that something along these lines was the case. Fr. Fisher has declared in the parish newsletter that he had not intended to end the Extraordinary Form Masses and was surprised by the fall in numbers... however, in view of this drop, he is going to have to consult with the Parish Council. Since the chairman of the Parish Council, appointed just over a week into Fr. Fisher's tenure, is known to be strongly opposed to the TLM, the outcome is predictable. Be that as it may, the intention to cease the TLM provision from the end of September had been announced from the pulpit on Fr. Fisher's second Sunday.

On Fr. Fisher's third Saturday in the parish, Mass was offered in the Ordinary Form instead of the usual TLM. It was explained that this was because there wasn't a server who was able to serve Low Mass, and therefore all Saturday Masses from then would be in the Ordinary Form.

If there isn't a server, it is permissible for someone to make the responses from the pews for Low Mass... or even for the celebrant to make the responses...

So, the result is that, after seven years, the usus antiquior is no longer celebrated at Our Lady of the Rosary.

It was suggested that parishioners affected by the changes should write to the Bishop and Archbishop to complain, citing Summorum Pontificum. There isn't really any point - if, as Fr. Fisher said, he has discussed this over many hours with them already, this was probably planned from the beginning. After all, there was nothing to stop the Archbishop from moving Fr. Fisher to Margate rather than Fr. Finigan.

And this brings me to another point: it has been suggested that Fr. Finigan was moved to Margate as a promotion. I find that rather hard to believe.

I doubt very much that Fr. Finigan thinks in ecclesiastical careerist terms. If he did, he might consider that being sent to Margate was very much a demotion. A brief look at the Southwark diocesan directory indicates that the parish of Margate, although geographically bigger than Blackfen, has a much lower Mass attendance. Being in a deprived area, the income of the parish is correspondingly lower. In addition, there is far more work, with two churches and a busy hospital to look after. His blogposts indicate that he is, despite this, very happy in his new parish.

Finally, no-one is suggesting that Fr. Fisher, as parish priest, doesn't have the right to make whatever changes he wishes in his parish. But to make so many changes so rapidly suggests that this was carefully planned from the outset. I think that the most upsetting aspect of it all is the lack of honesty. We were deliberately led to believe that the usus antiquior would be allowed to continue as before. And since Fr. Fisher did not arrange to move himself to Blackfen, then one might reasonably conclude that Archbishop Smith and Bishop Lynch have orchestrated the whole affair.

If that is the case, it suggests that honesty and integrity are as lacking among the hierarchy of Southwark as they were in Arundel and Brighton.

Please pray for everyone concerned.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Kitty News Update...

I'm sure you're dying to know how the Cardinal and Monsignor are getting along...

No? Well, you'll need to skip this post.

Cardinal Furretti is as affectionate and indolent as ever. She seems to spend the majority of her time asleep, but likes to do so in my company - and preferably on my lap. She is also displaying a jealous streak towards Miaowrini. I haven't seen any overt violence, but there must be some subtle form of communication going on.

The process goes something along these lines: Miaowrini finds a comfortable spot, and starts to spend more time there. Suddenly, Furretti is seen spending time there instead, so Miaowrini has to go elsewhere. Finally Furretti returns to her favourite spot (on my bed) but Miaowrini seems unwilling to go back to reclaim her spot.

In addition, Furretti sulks if I pay attention to Miaowrini. She actually turns her back on me, and moves away if I try to stroke her. Therefore I have to be careful to stroke Furretti first, if the two of them are present, or stroke Miaowrini when Furretti isn't watching...

After I've been away, Furretti does her best to show her disapproval by sulking. The problem is that she's such a "needy" cat that she has a really hard time doing this. She comes running towards me to greet me, then stops herself, turns her back on me and stalks away. That lasts all of two minutes, and then back she comes, eager to be petted and made a fuss of.

Monsignor Miaowrini, when I first got her, bolted whenever I turned to look at her, something I attributed to her experiences as a rescue kitten. Gradually she became less nervous, but she was a difficult cat to approach, and she hated to be picked up. She spent most of her time outside, and I vaguely wondered whether she was spending time in another house. Then, earlier this year, she had her accident, and was caged up for a few months. After that, she became far more affectionate, and of late she has started to run towards me to greet me when she comes home - she's also home much more than before. In addition, she now frequently allows herself to be picked up for a brief cuddle and head scratch.

I am moved by the fact that, despite the dreadful injury to her leg, Miaowrini had made her way back home, even though she must have had real difficulty getting up the kitty steps to the catflap. She obviously considers it a place of safety.

Miaowrini has been catching lots of mice and bringing them in, and, if I'm at home (and awake), she miaows loudly until I come to see what she's brought back. She has a very distinctive miaow for this purpose - almost triumphant. Furretti loves to chase whatever Miaowrini brings in, but I have only seen her bring in a mouse of her own on one occasion, so I assume that Miaowrini is responsible for most of the kills.

At the moment, I'm having one or two problems with feeding. The cats are being fussy. They have Purina One dried food available all the time, but both cats like (demand) wet food in the morning and in the evening. I've tried giving only dry food, but then the cats seem to throw up more frequently, and I'm not too keen on clearing up cat vomit.

Both of them dislike Felix, and they only like certain flavours of Sainsbury's own brand. They both like Purina One wet food, but that is prohibitively expensive, and the portion sizes are ridiculously small. Iams was initially received well by Furretti but not by Miaowrini. Whiskas has to be generously laced with (expensive) Felix cat treats before either cat will consider it. Furretti will often eat stuff if it is in Miaowrini's bowl, but Miaowrini won't eat stuff from Furretti's bowl. Both cats really like tinned tuna, but, as well as being expensive, and despite it being the variety with spring water rather than brine, it is apparently not good for the cats to have too much of it...

Don't waste time telling me that the cats will eat whatever there is if they're hungry enough. They don't. And cat food that has been left out for a day smells horrible. And I'm too soft to let them go hungry...

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

This Blog Isn't Dead Yet...

2014-09-07 10.45.08Work commitments mean that I haven't blogged for ages. I will do so soon.

I don't wish to comment on anything concerning Blackfen at the moment, other than to say that the accounts I have read on the blogosphere to date have been very restrained.

In the meantime, your prayers for all concerned would be greatly appreciated.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Help Desperately Needed...

The Good Counsel Network has posted an impassioned plea via Facebook. It seems that the organisation is so short of funds that they have been unable to give out food vouchers to some of the mothers they help, and they have been unable to pay their staff.

The Good Counsel Network is doing vital pro-life work, giving advice and, above all, practical help to mothers who might otherwise have an abortion. They don't receive any government assistance at all. Things are tight for everyone, but the Summer is apparently a really low point donations-wise at the best of times, and clearly they are up against the wire.

If you can, please consider going to their donations page - there are lots of options on how to get the money to them. And if you can't, then please pray for them to receive the support they need in order to be able to continue supporting mothers and their children.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

In The Sacristy...

As a bit of a trad, I am aware that the laity, and especially lay women, should not handle the sacred vessels for Mass. I am also fully cognizant of the Old Testament passage which records the unpleasant fate of the two men who - albeit from the very best of motives - touched the Ark of the Covenant. Unfortunately, in my role of Assistant Sacristan, it isn't always possible for me to avoid handling the chalice and paten, especially when there aren't any servers around. So I try to use a purificator, but this hasn't always been practical. And yes, I know that I have been "permitted" to handle things by my parish priest, but I'm not entirely comfortable doing so. And the sense of unease has been growing.

It occurred to me that museum curators wear gloves when handling precious manuscripts, and I wondered whether this might provide a solution. I happened to mention it to a few of the senior servers (partly to test whether they thought I was Upton Park*) and today Mattheus brought me a present:

I strongly refute the suggestion of the Senior MC that this is the first step in getting the relevant vestments sorted for my new appointment as a womyn bishop.

Now I just have to find out if there's a blessing for gloves...

*Two stops short of Barking.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

No Contest...

On Sunday, Fr. Finigan gave an excellent sermon, with much food for thought. One thing which really hit home was the information that the hymn by St. Thomas Aquinas, Adoro te devote, was added to most missals as part of the priest's thanksgiving prayers because of the beautiful way it encapsulates our faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

It struck me that the same cannot be said of the majority of "modern" hymns (I use quotation marks as the term is generally applied to hymns written back in the 1970s and 1980s... this hardly qualifies as "modern" after forty years!)

"If I was a wiggly worm" doesn't quite cut it...

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Corpus Christi...

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Maybe I am being uncharitable, but, when the Bishops of England & Wales decided to cancel (sorry, transfer) the Holydays of Obligation, I'm sure that they didn't realise that this would result in so many Extraordinary Form Masses happening instead...

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You see, the usus antiquior follows the traditional calendar, and the various Holydays are therefore celebrated on their proper days... and, since the extra Masses (which would have been held to allow he faithful to fulfil the obligation) are no longer being celebrated, there are plenty of priests around who are only too happy to oblige the more traditionally-inclined members of their flock by offering a TLM.

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This is the case in Blackfen. Since the obligation of Corpus Christi has been transferred to the Sunday, we were free to hold an extra Mass on Thursday. And since, in the usus antiquior, Thursday was the Feast of Corpus Christi, we had a Missa Cantata with all the trimmings: and, as the weather was rather fine, that meant an outdoor procession.

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I have to confess to a slight trepidation as the procession passed the Parish Club - quite a few people were inside watching the World Cup match between England and Uruguay, and I did wonder what might happen if someone scored...

There are a few more photos over on Flickr...

Forty Hours...

Blackfen celebrated the Forty Hours a week ago, but, although I managed to load up my photos, I was first too tired and then too busy to blog about it.

We started off with a Solemn High Mass...

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I had to work on Friday, so couldn't stay long on Thursday night. I did manage to take a quick photo before I left...

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However, after Mass on Friday evening, I was free to spend some quality time with Our Lord...

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And the Quarant'Ore finished with Mass, the Litany of the Saints and a Procession (and Benediction) on the Saturday morning.

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There are more photos over on Flickr, including one or two of my more "arty" shots, so do go and have a browse.And, if you should be in a parish which puts on the Forty Hours' devotion, do make the effort to attend, even for a short while - it's definitely a spiritual booster!

Kitty Killing Spree...

Some of you might be wondering about how Monsignor Miaowrini has been getting on since her accident. I have to confess that I thought she would find it slightly more difficult to catch mice, and almost impossible to catch birds. That knee was pretty badly wrecked, and she limps quite badly when the weather is damp.

One look at the Kitty Kill Count in the sidebar should give you a clue. Cardinal Furretti is happy to chase mice when they are presented to her, but she seems to be rather indolent, and rarely spends time outside. The majority of live captures (and therefore, I assume, the majority of kills) are down to the predations of the feisty Monsignor.

I don't know what is happening, but she seems to be ramping things up. It's a rare morning when I don't discover a little something left out for me to find. Fortunately Miaowrini likes to leave things by the front door, so I haven't been unfortunate enough to tread on the offerings as I stagger barefoot and bleary-eyed to the bathroom. One night I rescued a live mouse from under her nose, and the next morning I found two birds and another dead mouse. On Thursday morning I found three dead mice.

I'm considering loaning her out for a small fee...

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Storming Heaven...

Blackfen's annual celebration of the Quarant'Ore, (Forty Hours') Devotions starts this Thursday evening. We kick off with a Solemn High Mass at 8pm, followed by a Blessed Sacrament Procession and a Litany, and then Our Lord is left exposed on the altar for forty hours...

It really is a wonderfully prayerful experience, and there is something incredibly moving about adoration during the "silent watches of the night." In fact, after the end of the Quarant'Ore, there is a palpable sense of loss as Our Lord is reposed in the tabernacle. I imagine that a similar sense of loss would have been experienced by the disciples after the Ascension.

There will be Missa Cantatas on Friday (8pm) and Saturday (10:30am) but the church will be open for people to come and spend a little time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament right through the Forty Hours. Not everyone is in a position to be able to watch through the night, but most of us can spare 20 minutes at some time during the day...

If you feel the need to recharge your spiritual batteries, then directions to Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen can be found here. If you'd like to know a little more about the devotion, then Zephyrinus has a great post on it.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Papal Award At Blackfen...

2014-06-09 19.31.56The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has awarded the Benemerenti to one of Blackfen's parishioners (we are now a three-Benemerenti parish!) and we had a Mass to celebrate the occasion and make the presentation.

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Bishop Pat Lynch celebrated the Mass, and presented the medal and citation to Hilda, who has been a stalwart of the parish for more years than it would be polite to mention...

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In an interesting twist, Hilda had to help the bishop out by figuring out how the pin fastening actually worked...

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Warmest congratulations to Hilda on such a very well-deserved award! You can see more photos on my Flickr page.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

A Little Night Music...

Actually it's an evening of French, German and English organ music, played by local organists, at St. Mary's Chislehurst. The evening is to celebrate the 160th anniversary of the church, and all proceeds will go to charity. It starts at 8pm on Saturday 14 June, and there will be refreshments during the interval. £5 payable at the door (£2 for children)...

Wednesday, 28 May 2014


2014-05-28 09.30.34When St. Bernadette was a baby, she had to have a wet-nurse for a while, as her own mother was unable to breastfeed her after being badly burned in an accident. Later on, when the family were suffering dire financial hardships, Bernadette was sent back to her former foster-mother, partly to reduce the number of mouths to feed in the family, and partly so that she could benefit from good food and clean air.

Bernadette was to work for Marie Laguës, looking after the sheep and helping with Marie's own children, and, in return, Marie promised to allow Bernadette to attend school and help her learn her catechism so she could make her First Holy Communion. Bernadette's ill health following a cholera outbreak and her family's poverty had prevented her from attending school in Lourdes, and so, at the age of 13, she was still unable to read or write.

With all the work she was expected to do, Bernadette never got the chance to attend classes in Bartrès, despite the assurances which had been given. Marie herself didn't have much patience, and St. Bernadette found it difficult to learn her catechism. When the priest at Bartrès announced that he was leaving to enter religious life in a monastery, Bernadette realised that she had no chance of making her First Holy Communion if she remained at Bartrès, and she decided to return to the family home in Lourdes. Three weeks later, St. Bernadette saw Our Lady for the first time at the Grotto of Massabielle...

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We were very privileged to be able to visit the parish church at Bartrès this morning, and to celebrate Mass according to the usus antiquior, the form which St. Bernadette would have experienced. The High Altar is basically the same as the one Bernadette knew, as is the tryptich of St. John the Baptist, but the church was just the single nave.

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After Mass we were able to venerate a relic of St. Bernadette, and to see an example of her handwriting practice from when she was learning to write...

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Sadly, the farmhouse where St. Bernadette stayed with the Laguës family was closed. I assume that they don't usually get many visitors on a Wednesday morning, as that is when the International Mass is celebrated in the Pius X Underground Basilica, and the vast majority of organised groups attend. However, I did remember that the stream where the village women would gather to wash clothes was around the corner, so we went along to have a look...

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