Given the urgent situation, please see the following from the Fathers of the London (Brompton) Oratory:
This is in response to the following call to fasting and penance issued by His Holiness Pope Francis:
“On 7 September, in Saint Peter’s Square, here, from 19:00 until 24:00, we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace! I ask all the local churches, in addition to fasting, that they gather to pray for this intention.”
The London Oratory invites you to join the Holy Father in prayer for this urgent intention.
6.45pm-11.00pm Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the Little Oratory
Writers, politicians, journalists, academics — Norway’s Catholics seem an intellectual bunch. The Church in Scandinavia is on a slow but steady ascendant, and it’s telling (of both the rise and fall of many) that there are now more seminarians studying for the priesthood for the Nordic countries than there are for all of Ireland.
As a Norwegian acquaintance of ours was ordained for the Diocese of Oslo within the past year, I thought a little jaunt through a handful or two of Norwegian Catholics might be interesting. There are some I would have liked to included — the conversion of the former Lutheran ecumenist Ola Tjørhom provoked controversy and Wilhelm Wedel-Jarlsberg preceded Christopher de Paus as a papal chamberlain — but there is only so much time and space and effort.
Of those mentioned here below, only Sigrid Undset has achieved worldwide fame. Her work Kristin Lavransdatter is an absolute must for any serious reader of literature and was recently re-translated into English by Penguin. (more…)
THE HOLY VALLEY cuts down like a gash in the earth, with the cathedral city of Bcharré on the clifftop, almost hanging off of it. One almost wonders if you started building at the other end of the town, it might force St Seba’s Cathedral off over into the deep beyond. There is something almost Lord of the Rings about the setting, a Levantine Minas Tirith, if only Tolkein had been a Maronite.
The Qadisha Valley (Ouadi Qadisha, وادي قاديشا, literally the “Holy Valley”) takes its name from the Aramaic word for saintly and for over a millennium its natural caves have provided shelter for hermits seeking solitude as well as others seeking refuge and safety. Evidence of human habitation dates back to the Paleolithic era, and the Qannubin Monastery here is said to have been founded by the Emperor Theodosius the Great in the fourth century. While this is the holiest ground of the Maronite Catholics, hermits living in these caves and in these monasteries have been Melchite, Nestorian, Armenian, Syrian Orthodox, and Ethiopian. When the Monastery of St Maron was sacked by Antiochene Monophysites, many monks fled to the Qadisha Valley, strengthening the presence of this Eastern church which has always remained in communion with Rome. For over five hundred years, the Maronite patriarch made Deir Qannubin his seat. (Since 1830 the Patriarchate has been based at Bkerké above the pleasant Mediterranean city of Jounieh).
It was a hot summer’s day when we arrived and as chance had it we couldn’t even get very far into Bcharré.
“A man has died. We can’t go on,” the driver mysteriously intones. (A funeral procession is underway).
Very well. We carry on down circuitously weaving through the outer-lying portions of the town, through a small necropolis, and then finally into the valley proper. While the Qadisha valley attracts many pilgrims and travellers, this is not some easy tourist route, though nor is it difficult as hiking goes (unless, like us, you have a partially blind Paralympian among your party).
Up and down you go amongst small rivulets and meandering paths joining and divorcing from your own, led by a guide who speaks neither French nor English (thank God our Lebanese friends were with us).
Eventually, having passed a considerable way down, and then up a little ways, we are taken to a cave which has been segmented with stone walls into a chapel.
Much to my surprise, murals still survive in this exposed environment, protected by the overhanging rock.
The iconoclastic damage looked quite recent, and our guide explained it probably dated from as recently as the Syrian occupation (1976–2005).
Monasticism began in the East, of course, and Western monasticism is a slightly different kettle of fish. While hermits once lived in these caves, almost all of today’s Qadisha monks are gathered into the formal Maronite communities (Baladites, Aleppians, and Antonins) or into the other non-Maronite monasteries in the valley.
Brushing the dust of the Qadisha Valley from my shoes at the end of the day, I wondered if the first monks slapped their sandals together, discarding the very same sand sixteen hundred years earlier after they finished their Liturgy of the Hours for the day (though I somehow doubt it).
In the south transept of the Brompton Oratory is the altar dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, perhaps the finest altar in the entire church. It is a favourite place for getting in a few prayers and offering a candle or two or three or four. At the end of Solemn Vespers & Benediction on Sunday afternoon (above) it is where the Prayer for England is said and the Marian antiphon sung.
The Lady Altar was designed and built in 1693 by Francesco Corbarelli of Florence and his sons Domenico and Antonio and for nearly two centuries stood in the Chapel of the Rosary in the Church of St Dominic in Brescia. That church was demolished in 1883, and the London Congregation of the Oratory purchased the altar two years beforehand for £1,550.
The statue of Our Lady of Victories holding the Holy Child had previously stood in the old Oratory church in King William Street, and the central space of the reredos was slightly modified to house it. The Old and New Worlds are represented in the flanking statues, which are of St Pius V and St Rose of Lima — both by the Venetian late-baroque sculptor Orazio Marinali. The statues of St Dominic and St Catherine of Siena which now rest in niches facing the altar were previously united to it, and are by the Tyrolean Thomas Ruer.
The Church of St Nicholas of Tolentine dominates the busy intersection of University Avenue and West Fordham Road in the Bronx. The parish was erected by the archdiocese in 1906 and has been served by Augustinians ever since then. The present church is a modern gothic creation from 1927, and probably one of the most handsome Catholic churches in the borough — it is often nicknamed “the cathedral of the Bronx”. (Though that style is sometimes also ascribed to St Jerome’s in Mott Haven).
The church is of suitably grand proportions, but the effect is somewhat diminished by the unfortunate use of bulky wooden pews. They are ill-suited to such a large church, and detract from the spaciousness of the interior. This is unfortunately a very frequent problem in the United States, where clumsy pews crowd even great cathedral churches like St Patrick’s in Manhattan or the glorious Cathedral Basilica in St Louis. Regardless, St Nicholas of Tolentine is a splendid ornament in this borough of many churches. (more…)
Old hat already, but following the announcement of Benedict XVI’s abdication, the Los Angeles Times solicited opinions from eleven American Catholics — among them your humble & obedient scribe — what they would like to see in the new pope.
… But there is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the “dictatorship of relativism”, which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples. And that brings me to a second reason for my name. Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace. But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.
“For those tempted to draw an overly sharp distinction between Pope Francis and his predecessor,” John Allen reports, “the new pope offered a clear reminder Friday that he may have a different style than Benedict XVI, but on substance, he’s cut from much the same cloth.”
“In a speech to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See on Friday, Francis lamented not only the material poverty of the early 21st century but also its ‘spiritual poverty,’ meaning a rejection of God and objective standards of morality.”
Also, I found it interesting that the Holy Father noted that his background in an Argentine family of Italian origin impelled him in his role as bridge-builder. Naturally, as someone from an Estadounidense family of Irish origin, I feel a certain parallel kinship to this first American pope.
[Note: The boldface below is mine.] (more…)
The Vatican released information about Pope Francis’s coat of arms on Monday but the image they provided of it was very poorly drafted. Many of us were waiting for the Italian heraldic artist Marco Foppoli to craft his own rendering of our new pope’s arms, and he has duly released it today (see above).
The central motif is the emblem of the Society of Jesus — the Christogram with nails on a sunburst. The star represents the Blessed Virgin while the sprig of nard-flower represents Saint Joseph, the patron of the universal church. Thus the three emblems on Pope Francis’s arms together represent the Holy Family.
Shortly before his abdication, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI delivered an address to the clergy of the diocese of Rome. He reflected on his experiences as an expert at the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, and on that Council’s effects on the life of the Church. He spoke mysteriously of a contrast between the Council of the Fathers, meaning the proceedings that actually took place around the Pope in the Vatican, and what he called, a ‘virtual Council’, or a ‘Council of the media’. According to Pope Benedict, the real Council was firmly rooted in Catholic doctrine and aimed at renewing the Faith, while the ‘virtual Council’ as presented to the world through the media had a completely different, political, objective. Pope Benedict explained: “this Council [the ‘virtual’ one] created many calamities, so many problems, so much misery, in reality. Seminaries closed, convents closed, the liturgy was trivialised.” Pope Benedict even lamented that this ‘virtual Council’ was stronger than the official Council itself.
Whether or not we agree with this interpretation of the hermeneutics of the Second Vatican Council, we must acknowledge that the media in the world today exerts a formidable power over the information that ultimately determines how we think and live. (more…)
If God is an Argentine then, apparently, the pope is a Peronist. At least that, “a Peronist,” is how much of the local press has chosen to describe Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who on Wednesday was elected pope and took the name of Francis.
Bergoglio is a son of Buenos Aires. If you happened to stroll through Plaza de Mayo on any given day you could sometimes see Bergoglio preaching to his flock from the steps of the Buenos Aires Cathedral while life went on around him.
Plaza de Mayo has always been a historic place. Now visitors will want to take another look at the cathedral, which for years was the headquarters of who is now Pope Francis.
If Bergoglio’s appointment has redefined the way in which you will look at a building then imagine the effect it will have on the nation’s volatile politics.
Resident of Buenos Aires (aka porteño), now you know what global attention feels like.
The minute Bergoglio’s election was announced the telephones in newsrooms started to ring. (more…)
THE SACRED COLLEGE have elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, to be Rome’s new bishop and our Supreme Pontiff. He has chosen to take the name of FRANCIS.
One immediately recalls the words Our Lord spoke to Francis of Assisi in the great saint’s vision at San Damiano:
We pray that the Holy Father will continue the work of his predecessors in safeguarding the flock, and will do his part to fulfil the task given to his namesake, St Francis of Assisi.
The daily programme of events for the twenty-first Gardone Riviera Summer Symposium organised by the Roman Forum has been released and is worth taking a look at.
As usual, there are a wide variety of subjects to be covered at the annual event:
And many, many more! The overall theme of this year’s gathering is “The Divine Comedy Versus the Theater of the Absurd: Navigating a Path Between Scylla and Charybdis”. For more information, head over to the relevant page on the Roman Forum website.
I happened to stumble upon the Order of Malta church in Vienna while meandering down the Kärntner Straße in the middle of a snowy day. It’s a small and relatively simple church consisting of a Gothic nave with an organ gallery. The Order has occupied the site since 1217, though the bulk of the current church dates from the fifteenth century. In 1806, Commander Fra’ Franz von Colloredo had the façade remodelled in the Empire style fashionable at the time. The altarpiece, a painting by Johann Georg Schmidt depicting the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, is from a few decades earlier in 1730, and there is a splendid Neoclassical monument to Jean de la Valette including telamonic Saracens. The church is also decorated with forty coats of arms: five of grand priors, one cardinal, a grand commander, twenty-nine commanders, and one bailiff.
“You will always be with us. Thank you.”
The municipal authorities have put these posters up all around Rome.
with the Fathers
WEDNESDAYS at 6.30pm
20.Feb.2013 – Little Oratory
The Oratory Choir
The Three Lenten Tasks: tasks for all the year
27.Feb.2013 – Little Oratory
London Oratory School Schola
Adversaries of the Spiritual Life: The Flesh, The World, The Devil
6.Mar.2013 – Little Oratory
The Oratory Choir
Our Lord speaks to His followers before the Passion
13.Mar.2013 – The Church
Holy Hour during 40 Hours Exposition (Quarant’Ore)
20.Mar.2013 – Little Oratory
Oratory Junior Choir
Our Lady’s Dolours (texts from Stabat Mater)
27.Mar.2013 – The Church
Tenebrae in Cena Domini
There will be an Adoration Vigil (Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament) in the Little Oratory praying for the Church as we end the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, thanking God for all the graces during this pontificate and asking the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the cardinals as they meet to elect the new Pope.
The Vigil will begin Thursday 28 February at 9.30 in the evening and conclude with Mass at 7am the following morning.
Just went to venerate the relics of Don Bosco, which are doing a UK-wide tour organised by the Salesian order. There was quite a crowd waiting for the Saint’s earthly remains to be unveiled at 2 o’clock — suprising for early afternoon on a workday. Before the relics were even made viewable there were pilgrims huddled around the veiled reliquary, whom the organisers eventually had to shoo away in order to organise some proper veneration.
The faithful are able to venerate the relics at Westminster Cathedral from 2:00pm to 8:30pm today and tomorrow only, after which they will spend the next two days at St. George’s Cathedral in Southwark before returning to Italy.
The bishops of England & Wales cunningly arranged for the Feast of the Epiphany to fall on the actual Epiphany this year. We had a great big festive lunch at our favourite little Italian place in South Ken, but the night before I went out to Hertfordshire, where I witnessed the tradition of a door being CMB’d with holy chalk for the new year (above).
Those unaware of this tradition can read a bit more here. The C+M+B stands both for Christus mansionem benedicat (“Christ bless this house”) and the names of the Three Magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar.
Christmas was marked by a return to the Abbey Basilica of Saint Gregory the Great at Downside for Midnight Mass. The abbey church always has a splendid feeling at night. One of the best points at the wedding of the century was in the evening when, after a fair bit of dining and drinking, a whole slew of guests slipped into the church where the monks who a few hours previous had sung the nuptial mass were singing compline and joined in their prayers.
Doubtless you will recall last year’s Christmas diary documenting my holiday with Garabanda, Ming, und Familie. In the time since then, my own parents have very wisely moved onto the same landmass as I, and — even better — moved to nary a half-hour’s drive from Downside, so this Christmas was spent in blessed Georgian comfort with my own parents and all the delights of that particular patch of the West Country. (more…)
IT IS A LOGICAL TRUISM that good habits are good. But good habits — well and fine as they are — can also produce ancillary habits that, while not ‘bad’, might perhaps also be worth denying the dignified title of ‘good’; they are ammoral rather than immoral. Hearing mass on Sunday is a good habit — indeed it is an obligatory good habit binding upon all the Faithful. Some people express their habit of Sunday mass at varying locations — an attitude which I find surprising, which itself is surprising given until very recently I varied my Sunday mass locale myself.
In New York, it was easy: there was only one real place to hear Mass and that was the Church of St Agnes on 43rd Street. Of course, some dangerous rapscallions dissented from this point de vue and attend the Church of Our Saviour on Park Avenue. I remember one Sunday on Lexington Avenue seeing the group of lads who serve the 11 o’clock mass at St Agnes come down the avenue while the like gang who did the same at the Church of Our Saviour were coming up it on the same side and it was like seeing the Sharks and the Jets meet in “West Side Story”.
In London, I used to go here and there; mostly dividing my Sundays between the Oratory and the Cathedral but every now and then sneaking in Holy Redeemer in Chelsea. But for a year or so, I have been an Oratory regular, and now look strangely upon those who, when the insouciant inquiry at a dinner party or over drinks or such is made “Where do you go to Mass?”, reply “Oh, you know, sometimes here, sometimes there, sometimes I even go to the local parish.” (I never believe the last assertation; I, for one, have only been to my local parish twice: once this past St Patrick’s Day to pray, in vain, for an Irish victory at Twickenham, and lastly on one of those lesser-remembered Holy Days of Obligation.)
But the ancillary (ammoral) habit to the (moral) habit of hearing mass on a Sunday is the custom of sitting in the same place. If one is new to a particular church, one can sit here and there for quite some time, but eventually you find a bit of the church and you realise one Sunday “Ah! This is just right!” and from that day forth you have “your” seat. The chaps who do the collection obviously must have their proper places. The one-legged lady in the wheelchair who shouts at people has her usual spot. A certain sturdy Knight of Malta enjoys sitting in more or less the same location every Sunday, and one friend of mine inexplicably likes sitting in the middle of the row towards the middle of the first section of seats beneath the dome. Inexplicable to me because I cannot abide having to climb over people to get to and fro at mass.
Anyhow, needless to say, I have my preferred seat at the Oratory on a Sunday. It is not even a neighbourhood of seats, or a small vicinity, it is a specific seat and I am loathe not to have it. This is because it is at the confluence of the various important factors. It is not so close to the front that you are mistaken for the religious fanatic, the overly pious, or Princess Michael of Kent. Yet it is not so far to the back that you have to walk a mile to receive Our Lord in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar come communion time. (And have you ever sat towards the back at the Oratory? Barely anyone says the responses! The Fathers should set up a specific mission towards the last twenty-odd pews at the 11:00 on a Sunday — I suspect they are unbaptised the lot of them).
Furthermore, there is a duality to the mode of seating at the Oratory: the first two sections, comprising about the first third of the church, are actual seats, whereas the last section is composed of hard, uncomfortable wooden pews. (Perhaps they don’t say the responses because they’re embittered by discomfort?). Also, I dislike being in between the pulpit and the sanctuary, thus necessitating that you have your back turned to the priest when time comes for him to preach. And I prefer to nip up to communion rather swiftly, so I can return and get all my prayers in and not spend half the time standing in a queue awkwardly awaiting the reception of the Eucharist. This, therefore, necessitates that I be directly on the aisle.
“My” seat — I will not reveal its specific location within the Oratory Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Brompton, for the obvious reason of inviting competitors — “My” seat is thus located in precisely the perfect location. Needless to say, I’m used to the others who have found that “their” seat is adjacent or nearby (though I’m glad that one chap who objects to dogs being at mass has given up and gone elsewhere). I feel we all implictly know and understand each other without actually intercommunicating, in that way that researchers who frequent the same stacks in university libraries feel a certain affinity.
About a month ago, we received a new regular to our midst: a white-haired lady in what might be described as late middle age, hebdomidally clothed in a red overcoat. She began to take the seat next to mine. Very well. Pas de problème, etc. Then one Sunday, a slow-moving Italian family attending the previous mass were lingering in “our” row and both she and I assumed positions ready to take possession of our regular seats. Imagine my surprise, then, when the Lady in Red, in full knowledge of my presence, took my seat! Friends were in from the country that week and said they watched the entire scene in detached amusement from the other side of the church. Needless to say, I was reduced to taking the next seat over, usually the Lady in Red’s seat.
What did this fresh assault upon my dignity betoken? I knew not. But I was determined that, in the immortal words of an American president, this aggression would not stand. The next Sunday I made sure to arrive extra early and secure my seat succesfully but untriumphantly. (Triumphalism is a tiresome bore in others and a poor reflection upon one’s self). The Sunday following that she appeared in pole position to usurp my place yet again, but then she didn’t: she let me have it. This, of course, was really a back-handed triumphalism. Haha! See! I shall be the better Christian and let you have the seat to which you have been accustomed since time immemorial! Look ye mighty upon my works and despair!
“Very well!,” I thought, “two can play at this game!” I was determined the Sunday following to arrive early and to deferentially allow her to have the place to which I had grown to know and love so well. But, friends, the best-laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley. This past Sunday I arrived a mere minute or two before mass was to start, and thus I was forced to sit in the north transept instead. What’s worse, the Lady in Red wasn’t even sitting in my seat: she had ceded it to a mantilla’d Filipino lady.
This raises a fresh quandary. If this past Sunday was “my” week to defer to her, but I failed, and she deferred to someone else, does that then mean that I must defer next week, and the rotation begins anew? Or do we stick to the previous rotation of her week / my week? I know not, but I must be off now, as my French flatmates are wailing, and I suspect there may be a mouse for me to kill. Abientot!