Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Missa Cantata Durham

Here is a video of the Missa Cantata organised by the hopeful Juventutem group in Durham for the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, as referred to in Father Dickson's post below. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Tax Collectors and Prostitutes: Who Am I To Judge?

‘The Church of Nice’ is those catholics who reduce the faith to simply being nice to everyone; not correcting them on their lifestyle choices but rather telling them that God loves them ‘as they are’ and ‘where they are at’; that they have a friend in Jesus.

In today’s Ordinary Form Gospel the Lord tells us ‘tax collectors and sinners are making their way into the kingdom of God’ before many a religious soul. This must be a favourite text of the Church of Nice, which wants to say that no matter what a soul’s  treacherous activity towards their own people; no matter how immoral they are in sexual activity, such souls are making their way into haven, so ‘Who am I to judge?’.  Another text much loved by the Church of Nice is ‘I do not call you servants any longer, but friends’. These texts, along with ‘Do not judge, and you shall not be judged yourselves’, allow the Church of Nice catholic to reduce Catholicism to simply being nice to people and ‘non-judgmental’; it allows them to be humanists with a religious veneer.  But it allows it only because they take these texts out of context; to the loss of the fullness of their meaning.

Take today’s Gospel. Why is it that Tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the Kingdom of heaven? It is, Our Lord says, because they listened to the message of John the Baptist and believed in him; they repented and did not continue actively indulging in treachery or immoral sex. Rather, they converted and left their sinful ways behind. This is conveniently forgotten by the Church of Nice.

As for the texts on friendship, remember this: ‘you are My friends if you do what I command you’ (Jn 15v14) –and there are Ten Commandments to be followed, including Thou shalt not steal; Thou shalt not commit adultery and Thou shalt not kill. Yet the Church of Nice refuses to call cohabitation, contraception, re-marriage after civil divorce and same-sex activity sinful. That would not be nice. Instead, they tell such folk that Jesus loves them ‘where they are at’; that they ‘have a friend in Jesus’. No reference to Our Lord’s rejoinder ‘you are my friends if you do what I command you’. That would be harsh; it would be to judge.

Yet even ‘Do not judge’ is not the full story. We are actually called to take the plank out of our own eye first, so that we can see where to help our neighbour: “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother's eye’. This text is not a proscription against judgement; it is a call to judge ourselves so we can help others see their sins.

It is true that God alone judges a soul (He knows far more about each individual soul than we do) but He does not forbid us to judge if our own life is in order, and He actually requires us to judge circumstances and acts. He tells us both when to judge (after having taken the plank from our eye) and how (‘judge with right judgement’). Most people know ‘do not judge’ but many are shocked to hear that Our Lord also said to ‘judge with right judgement’: it isn’t much heard from pulpits today –if at all.

The Church of Nice is in reality the handiwork of Satan; it refuses to call a spade a spade; to call sin ‘sin’ and call souls to conversion of lifestyles and attitudes. It takes a truth and distorts it, just as Satan took the truth in the garden of Eden that we are made in God’s image to say we can be more like Him if we eat of the Tree of knowledge. Thus the Church of Nice leaves sinners acting in ways and situations which are deleterious to their eternal salvation, which is not ‘nice’ but the work of the devil.

Judging must be carefully done. I tell the folk when they hear theft, violence, deceit abortion, contraception, homosexuality etc, discussed, to stay with “I” statements: ‘I couldn’t do that’; or ‘I can’t accept that’, because these statements judge no one but invite the question ‘Why not?’ We can then give the answer that proclaims the Truth while judging no one. We have, on the other hand, stood up for the Faith and proclaimed Truth –which has a power of its own. It is not enough to destroy false argument; the Truth must also be proclaimed.

Sadly, the folk of the Church of Nice judge no one and nothing except those that uphold the Truth –when they become decidedly not nice and very condemning. I often wonder if it is because they have such sin within themselves or their own past (which of us does not?) that it is easiest to proclaim ‘no judgment’. And while they may say every Sunday ‘I believe in Jesus Christ...He will come again to judge the living and the dead’, can they be putting their heart into it? And can they put their heart into saying they believe in One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church? 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Annunciation to The Nativity for Children and Adults

We are often told that Catholic children prior to Vatican II didn’t know the bible. These very young children from the inner city of Dublin in the 1950’s show this assumption to be quite wrong. In fact, the stories of the scriptures were made very much alive for them by their inspirational teacher, Miss Peg Cunningham, who recorded their story telling on a then new-fangled reel-to-reel tape recorder, saying the children were on the radio. This was a ploy but fifty years later the tapes were discovered and were indeed played on the radio, which brought film makers to add cartoons and realise them –and for which they won an academy award. 

In the videos the children tell the tale of John The Baptist, and that of the Annunciation, the Visitation and the Nativity (all quite suitable for Advent). The children speak of St Elizabeth's house being “further away than Oliver Plunkett’s head –further than the whole excursion!”. This refers to the fact that the teacher had taken them on pilgrimage to see Oliver Plunkett’s head and in those days travel took longer. The Nativity story focuses on the shepherds, the wise men and the ‘shocking holy temper’ of Herod. A whole series of these films is available on DVD from I highly recommend them not only for their entertainment value, but as a demonstration of how to make the stories of the bible come alive for children.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Missa Cantata for the Immaculate Conception

Yesterday evening I attended the Missa Cantata for the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception organised by the Durham Chapter of Juventutem. It was celebrated, with permission from the local Dominicans who have care of the Durham parish of St Cuthbert, by Father Bede Rowe of ‘A Chaplain Abroad’.

I and others I spoke to were impressed by the proficiency of the servers who had no practice at all, and the quality of the singing, the singers having had but scant practice just before Mass. Both he serving team and the singers included members of the Durham Juventutem group, the singers also having members of  the student body of Durham University. They were aided and supported by a fine young organist. There was a good number in the congregation and the Buffet afterwards was enjoyed by all, along with great company! I sat in choir for the Mass, along with Father Paul Tully, Catholic chaplain to the local Durham Hospitals.

Having seen how these young people love what they were doing, and the older members of the congregation supporting them, I have to say that for the life of me I cannot understand why there is continued resistance to the Church’s ancient liturgy. Several young people spoke to me in the following Buffet saying they had never attended an Extraordinary Form Mass and asked why it was not more commonly available. One young lady however, had the same reaction I did many years ago when I first attended a TLM: it was all done on the sanctuary and the people did little or nothing. I told her my own story of having only come to appreciate the TLM only after several attendances by which time I had come to value the silence and the permission it gives to pray in my own words from my own heart rather than make programmed responses. She did, however, say she liked what she saw (she had an advantage over me in that my first few attendances were at low Masses said in a hotel room back in 1980!)

I think it is time that the EF was not be simply allowed by the Church but actively promoted in order that we allow the Holy Spirit to show us which Form allows Him to reach the human heart more readily. It is not enough to permit the TLM: permission can be a neutral stance. What we need is for the Church’s liturgical treasure be valued and positively promoted, rather than grudgingly tolerated.

The photographs were taken by Mrs Susan McDowell and Mr Michael Wee.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Clergy, the Youth and The Traditional Mass

Ever since coming to this parish I have instructed First Holy Communion children on the how and the why of to receiving kneeling and on the tongue. They happily follow this for a while then suddenly begin to stop to receive standing and on the hand. I don’t think this is because they think it is the adult method, because a number of adults receive kneeling and on the tongue. Rather, I suspect it is instruction from parents and grandparents who do not like to receive on the tongue ‘de-instructing’ the children. That they cannot humble themselves to ‘stick their tongue out’ as they describe it, nor bend the knee, is an attitude they should not be forming their children in. But there is much prejudice about all the Traditional liturgical forms.

It is possible to invite clergy to attend the Extraordinary Form in choir and to receive a polite ‘no thank you’ simply because they have had a prejudiced view of the Extraordinary Form given by the seminary. In our time we (late eighties, early nineties) were told ‘the Old Mass was priest-centred; a nonsense in that the priest was saying something quietly while the choir was singing; bad to have one’s back to the people and use a language they didn’t understand’. These prejudices were then handed on to the people, and still thrive.

Why was the Traditional Form the subject of such negative, disparaging talk? The answer is simple: when you have had something you have extolled for nigh on two thousand years it has to be criticised in the sharpest of terms in order to justify putting it in the bin. Now if the New Rite is so superior to the Old it would have naturally displaced the Old; I believe that the New Form was imposed because they knew it would not be chosen freely at the time. It is also true that the Church could not forbid what she had declared sacred for century upon century without saying she cannot be trusted liturgically, for by saying this she automatically undercuts promotion of her new liturgical form too.

The criticisms levelled against the Old Form are in fact completely wrong: the new form is much more priest-centred in that he faces the people, engages with them as an entertainer -even his chair replaces the tabernacle at the apex of the sacred space. As for saying something quietly while the choir was singing, this provides for the Mass to be a symphony of voices, while ‘having one’s back to the people’ is actually leading from the front, like a Drum major uniting the band behind him. As for using a language the folk did not understand, most Catholics did know Latin: they learned it at school, and in any case, use of a sacred language for worship is a mark of the great religions: Judaism using Hebrew; Islam using Arabic, Christianity using Latin.

Simply put, the negative ‘Frame of Reference’ used by those who disparage the Old Form of Mass needs to be challenged and corrected. 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Another Juventutem Chapter in H&N (Hexham & Newcastle)...

Three years ago Andrew (the ‘Tie’ of this blog), two teenage girls (Rachel and Miriam) and a young man from Durham University, were ready to establish themselves as a Juventutem Chapter. Seeking a Church with good access they contacted the Cathedral, well supplied by bus routes, trains and the Metro system. Sadly the Cathedral was unable to accommodate them by reason of ‘lack of resources’ and because they ‘already have a prayer group catering for the youth’. They then requested the chapel in the Metro Centre shopping mall which was offered and accepted. They were just about to go ahead when the Diocese closed the chapel. They decided to wait until clergy moves were made before trying again.

In August this year, commenting on a post on  a post on Fr Brown’s ‘Gateshead Revisited’ about a possible Juventutem chapter in Gateshead, I noted that that Andrew was planning another attempt and wondered if we should get our young men (Andrew and Philip Dillon) together. Philip saw this and contacted me via this blog. Gateshead also being well supplied with bus routes and the Metro system Philip, along with Mr and Mrs Armstrong, saw the possibility of establishing themselves as a group with support from the LMS Reps (Mr and Mrs O’Neil) and Fr Brown. For the glory of God and the good of the youth their chapter was thus established. Our Diocese being long in length however (stretching from the Scottish Border to Middlesbrough) it makes good sense to have two Juventutem chapters, one for the more Northern in Gateshead, and one in Durham for the more Southern end of the Diocese. As such Andrew and Paul Duffy, another of our Thornley parishioners, arranged an enquiry meeting at St Cuthbert’s Durham, to set up a Chapter there. Seven people came together to form the core group and it has now met three times. We are thus a Diocese blest with two Juventutem Chapters, one in the County of Tyne & Wear and one in Durham County. It remains possible for more Chapters to be established within parishes, but this requires more active support from the clergy than is generally found.

That we have two Juventutem Chapters in the Diocese must say something about the attachment of young people to Traditional Liturgy, Spirituality and Catechesis. Besides H&N, perhaps only The Westminster Diocese is at present likely to have multiple chapters, but I’m sure that at more will achieve it as the movement grows. That H&N has two chapters in two of its counties is a great witness to those folk (and to those Bishops) who, in regard to ministering to the youth, dismiss the usefulness of the TLM and the Church’s liturgical and spiritual Tradition. This unfortunately leaves many of our youth in a position of being unable to gain awareness of or access to their liturgical and spiritual heritage.

Andrew’s post describing the beginning of the Durham Juventutem Chapter is linked below for your edification. You will see that the group not only promotes the Traditional Liturgy but that its members are active in their own parishes and dynamic in the corporal works of mercy -as has ever been the practice of the Catholic Church. I reproduce one paragraph here:

While Juventutem is geared towards youth who are attached to or attracted to the Traditional Liturgy (which we seek to promote), our group, by working with the homeless, fundraising for the Developing World and active in our parishes, illustrates the fact that the vision of such young people is much wider than is supposed by those who disparagingly speak of devotees of the Traditional Mass as ‘odd’ or ‘eccentric’; as ‘engaged in a passing fad’ or as ‘only interested in Latin and Lace’. Devotees of the Traditional Mass are in fact people with a social conscience involved in everyday parish life who simply value the Tradition of the Church and wish to see it promoted. Read the whole thing here.

This sounds a very rounded and active group to me and deserves to be applauded for that fullness, and despite the fact that Andrew has been mainly a background voice so far, I am proud of his efforts and achievements in all of this, as I am of Paul who has entered into it despite the pressures of running his own business and moving the family home. May God bless all our young people, especially our Juventutem chapters in the North and the South of this Diocese of Hexham & Newcastle.

I should finish with a poster for the  Missa Cantata arranged by the group for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception...

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Our High School Mission

Our local Catholic High School has just this month completed a week-long mission led by the Diocesan Youth Ministry Team.  The Mission sought to involve the high school students, their families, the school staff and the parishes, which prayed for the Mission at Mass each day of the Mission. The programme is reproduced below, (click on picture to enlarge). It is different in tone to what I think of as Mission but the idea was not to catechise the youth but rather to give them an experience of God that might spark off a deeper faith in the future. God Bless those who lead the Mission and those who took part. 

Having attended preparatory meetings I can tell you there was much enthusiasm and an obvious care for the youth among the organisers, but the nebulous 'experience of God' aim meant my own suggestions for Doctrinal talks and Adoration were somewhat beyond the goals set. Let us pray that the given experience does indeed induce the life of faith in those worked for by the Team.