Thursday, 23 June 2016

Hexam & Newcastle Rachel's Vineyard Awaresness Afternoon

Text Version:

Rachel’s Vineyard UK will be running an awareness presentation to the priests, deacons and chaplains of the Hexham and Newcastle diocese on Thursday 7th July 2016 at St Cuthbert's chaplaincy, Durham City. It will take place 1 - 3 pm. Food and drink will be provided.

If you are unable to attend please feel free to nominate a lay representative.

Rachel's Vineyard provides weekend healing retreats for women (and men) suffering from post-abortion trauma. This trauma manifests in so many ways: self loathing, addictions, abusive relationships, PTSD symptoms, emotional and spiritual paralysis. The purpose of this presentation is to help give you insight to this ministry and to help you respond with confidence to those who are suffering in this way. You will be glad to hear that we will be running a weekend in the North-East for the first time this October and would like your help to reach out to those in desperate need. Your prayers for the continued success of this work are appreciated greatly.

For further details and testimonies from those who have attended the weekend please visit our website:

To book your place or for more information please contact Helen Salomon on 07786 505577 or email:

Sunday, 5 June 2016


I did not realise it was so long since I had posted anything or checked the comment box. Please accept my apologies. I am blogging today because I keep getting asked about Amoris Laetitia, and I want to make a comment on the wider situation.

First that footnote. This need not worry us, because AS isn't a teaching document nor a legal document; it is a pastoral document. Yes it may lead some to admit those in irregular unions to Holy Communion -which is wrong and dangerous to their souls of all involved- but let us not kid ourselves: such has been going on for years anyway.

Second, Francis himself. Yes the man gives conflicting messages and sometimes says things that are difficult (if at all possible) to reconcile with the Doctrine of the Faith (see where John-Henry Westen has recounted some of these for us) but vilification of the man is, I think, lacking in charity. And where charity is absent, God is absent, since God is charity: Deus caritas est. If we have a Pope who lacks theological astuteness, we cannot blame him for being a poor pope: we have to lay the blame with the enemy, who persuaded the Cardinals to go in the direction of Francis in the conclave.

What I see in Francis is typical of priests from the 1970’s onward; priests who tried to make everyone, including those in irregular unions, feel good about their relationship with Christ, even if it meant ignoring doctrine so as to admit such folk to Holy Communion. From my conversations with a number of priests, I think they did and do this on the basis that they are breaking man-made canon law. They do not see themselves as abandoning the faith. I think the same has to be said of Francis. The man clearly has a good heart; he just lacks theological sharpness –probably due to the formation the Jesuit received. Let us at least give the man credit for meaning well, even if we do have to confront him in charity, as Paul confronted Peter.

Sadly, the Jesuits and the catholic Church itself have an identity crisis that Francis is not going to be able resolve.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Health and Ministry

I apologise for the dearth of posts recently but I developed yet another infective exacerbation of my COPD for which my General Practitioner referred me to the local Consultant Respiratory Physician. Due to the frequent exacerbations and clubbing of the fingers (you can look that one up!) a CT of the chest was arranged. Thankfully no malignancy was detected but there is evidence of Bronchiectasis (look that one up too!). Culture & Sensitivity tests of sputum revealed two bacteria colonising the lungs, so I am to begin Azithromycin three times a week if my sputum is negative for AFB’s.

All in all, due to increasing breathlessness and coughing bouts during Holy Mass (and nothing to do with my coronary vents last years), being a vector for disease to the housebound who are already health-compromised, it was clear I was not well enough to continue in parish ministry and I have had to retire on health grounds. The hope is that being relieved of parish pressures will preserve what health I have (COPD is not a disease where recovery is possible; it follows a downward trend that at best can be slowed, but not reversed).

Leaving parish ministry has been a very hard decision to make; not being in direct parish ministry is not an easy thing with which to live. I became a priest to support the people of God in their crisis moments; provide them with a liturgy that was God-centred, and teaching that was faithful to the Magisterium.  To have left this work for the people of God behind is a real bereavement for me. I struggled with the idea of a younger priest retiring from parish work as I have the belief that we should ‘die with our boots on’, but when you one is carrying in one’s respiratory system more than one bug which can be passed to the housebound and vulnerable, one becomes a threat to the health and welfare of those one is attempting to support, so my own desire to struggle on took second place.

While my Bishop is probably pleased to be relieved of a priest who became a maverick simply by holding to the red of the Missal and the letter of the catechism, I have to say that he has been most supportive, and I have no doubt about his genuine desire to seek the good of his priests and the people of the Diocese. I continue to say Mass privately where my cough bothers no one but me and any server, so Masses to which I have committed myself are still being offered; what I cannot do is say on which days I will be offering Holy Mass, since some days the breathlessness is worse than on other days.

Monday, 18 April 2016

True Romance: chastely does it

At the weekend I heard an excellent homily in which the priest spoke frankly and with insight and orthodoxy about the necessity and benefits of chastity, both spiritually, practically and interpersonally.  One of the points which resonated was that a lack of chastity in any relationship, be it a marriage, dating or within single/consecrated life, will poison it and stunt its growth – sometimes permanently, I hazard to add – by marking a point at which we cease to see one another as persons whom we long to know and be known by in increasing fullness and integrity and, asserting that we’ve passed the turnstile and  ‘begun a romantic relationship’, all but cease seeking to deepen our ‘knowing’, and begin unwittingly[?] treating each other as objects; entities whose persona is irrelevant, for “gratification comes first”.

But what do I mean by a lack of chastity? After all, surely we all know to avoid such things as fornication, lustful thoughts, speech, pornography, inappropriate touching etc. ...  Indeed we hopefully do; and we would probably never convict ourselves of using the body of another for our own selfish means, or of lusting after him/her.  But what if it occurred in a manner, and under the belief, that it appeared to be a ‘good’?  Isn’t that how Satan tempted our first parents, by suggesting they would become more like God in whose good image they were created?

Isn’t that what many can do but have been conditioned not to recognise, and even to see it as a good to be aspired towards?  As with any good and holy thing in this world, the Father of Lies will attempt to distort the development of love between a man and a woman in an occult, subtle way.  He seldom tempts an honest man with an impulse to rob a bank, or a chaste spouse to leave his family in search of a mistress.  Faced with such glaring temptations, he knows we would immediately recognise them as wicked and reject them.  So instead he corrupts our will in piecemeal fashion; gradually tempting us toward lesser sins in increasing gravity until our wills are so weakened and damaged that, like a snowball rolling down a debris-strewn slope, we numbly assimilate anything that approaches.  And since we can only love another to the degree that we know and recognise them as persons, what better way of undermining the strength and love of a marriage than by impeding spouses’ knowledge of one another?  But only a fool would expect success by nicking away at a well established marriage: an oak grown thick and sturdy under the nourishment of grace.  Instead, why not poison it as a sapling?  Why not impede relationships at their earliest point: friendship and dating?  How?  By introverting our gaze; the essence of all sin: the turning towards self.

Now, almost all of us have probably experienced the excitement –albeit of lesser frequency in the current spiritual climate– of meeting new persons with whom we see eye to eye on matters of The Faith and whose personality we initially strike a rapport with: each person enjoys the spiritual and intellectual stimulation and the germinating bond that comes with sharing who they are: their pasts, presents, future aspirations; their joys, struggles, tastes and dislikes.  Conversations can seem endless; joint prayer, enriching.  And it is upon such foundations that grace works to produce a solid bedrock of mutual respect, admiration and love; a base which, though injury, sickness or distance assail and impede physical contact, cannot be fractured, for it is a union of persons, whose minds and hearts know and embrace one another with strength, and a willed permanency no hug or kiss could match.

However, I think such a real and truly good enjoyment of another person has been undermined by the subtle introduction of secular ideologies and praxes into Catholic dating.  Though many laugh and scorn historic courting practices like chaperoning and avoiding ‘unnecessary’ touching in favour of ‘modern’ courtship, I cannot help but see their comprehensive rejection as detrimental.  Rather than esteeming the increasing rapport and growing understanding of one another’s needs and preferences (and the discernment they facilitate, not to mention the ability to show true –affectionately charitable– ‘romance’) that come with conversations and activities shared, many seem to have ascribed a huge and unhealthy importance to things like beginning to hold hands, cuddling whilst watching a movie, and ‘the first kiss’, as though they were intrinsic to love or dating relationships with mutual affection.  Even to the point of acting contrary to their own personality because of pressure from unwritten rules to be ‘forward’ lest they appear lacking in confidence or feelings of attraction, or come across as is pejoratively termed, ‘puritanical’ or ‘prudish’.  Many men and women seem led to believe that without romantic kissing ASAP, “They’re just not that into you”.

And so a man’s gaze can be diverted practically by focusing on choosing the ‘right moment to make a move’ in order to secure his date and assert his manhood, rather than enjoying dialogue; and spiritually because the life of grace in his soul risks being undermined as concupiscent lustful appetites are fed rather than mastered.  Whilst a woman’s gaze can equally risk being diverted spiritually; and practically, by seeing the absence of kissing as either a lack in masculinity, confidence (noted as a major attractive quality) or a slight against her value and beauty as a woman.

But is a kiss during dating truly necessary and a sign that we care for and respect another person, or simply a way in which both parties enjoy carnal delight.  I suspect the latter.  After all, the joining of lips is not necessary in order to express affection or to get know a person.  And let’s not kid ourselves that saintly selflessness and purity are the driving forces: true, people may indeed come to admire and esteem one another highly, but the ivy of lust can grow alongside such goods and strangle them. 

It seems to me both more charitable, holy and fruitful for dating Catholics to agree to abstain from romantic kisses.  From prayer and discussion, I believe it will preserve and foster the virtue of chastity and self-mastery and prevent us seeing one another as simply members of the opposite sex to be enjoyed.  That it will prevent hastily-formed emotional bonds which are painful when broken, and instead allow focusing upon the development of mutual interpersonal knowledge without the emotional fog which follows in the wake of seizing upon a tangibly defined ‘romantic relationship’ before coming to know one another as individuals and discerning whether each actually wants to consider courtship towards marriage.  That it will allow for development as individuals in our ability to gain pleasure from innocent things like conversation and shared activities; and that it will ultimately benefit our marriages and families, because marriages can be entered with persons who are known and valued independently of the contours of their bodies or sensations experienced, and with whom both can be shared greater certainty of being ‘well-suited’ for the Pilgrimage to Heaven: for raising holy families and growing in sanctity and love in the presence and assistance of one whose company is truly enjoyed and treasured.

And of those who would insist that kissing whilst dating remains a romantic necessity, I would ask,  “Is it really asserted from a convinced conscience as a requirement; or rather because, ‘I want to.’ ? Because isn’t that the essence of self-will we’ve discussed: “I will do this, because I want to”?  There are numerous ways to demonstrate affection and be romantic without it: opening doors, genuinely asking how the person feels in given situations, ensuring they are warm/comfortable, buying treats that they enjoy, learning about their hobbies and interests, listening to their stories or name but a few.  And let’s not forget the spiritual aspect of praying together; or of praying privately for the person; offering sacrifices and penances for them and their intentions, howsoever small the act may seem.  It may be giving up a biscuit; allowing your shirt/blouse sleeve to stay, unbeknownst to anyone else, in that irritating ruffled position when you put a jumper on; pausing your music in the car until you’ve passed the next on-ramp; not savouring that last little bit of jam that fell from your scone onto the plate...because when united to Christ’s Precious Blood, even the smallest good things gain infinite value.  Let’s not forget that St. Therese’s motto of ‘Doing little things with great love’ is not a flowery, dilute way of resigning oneself to offering shop-soiled sacrifices to God, but a way of great heroism and trust that, as Fr. Dickson has often said, “For every mile we walk, God will walk three”.  We do worship a God who multiplied a few loaves and fish to feed thousands!

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

The Law and the Liturgy

At today’s Novus Ordo Mass we were reminded that Our Lord did not come to abolish the Law but to complete it; to perfect it. Thus he says, “You have heard it said ‘You shall not kill’, but I say this to you: anyone who is angry with His brother will be subject to judgement”. He thus pushes the law further; He does not demolish it.

It struck me that law got a very bad write-up in the 1960’s and 70’s when it was commonly presented as opposed to charity. Thus grew the idea that ‘laws are meant to be broken’ –but God did not give us the Ten Commandments in order that we should break them; He gave them to us so that we would be aware of when we were breaking them (breaking the natural law). Even in family life, we don’t make family rules such as “stay out of your sister’s bedroom” to be broken; we expect them to be kept. Law being ‘reason devoid of passion’ (Aristotle) it seems to me we only abandon law when to give free reign to our passions. Whether it is the Man in the Pew or the Pope, the breaking of law is not to be encouraged since law protects justice, without which there is no charity.

I am often asked why I am exacting about liturgy. The answer is, when I go before God I cannot offer Him a perfect life; I will stand before Him with my short temper, the criticisms I have made of others, my laziness etc. But if I obey the rules of the liturgy then there may be at least one area of my life I can offer to Him unsullied by my passions. Why is it that people refuse to strike their break at the Confiteor, or to bow during the Creed? Whatever their reason, it seems to me it stems from pride; a pride that has made them lord and master of the liturgy rather than its servant. And that is not good. and there are many liturgical norms that are frequently broken, such as allowing appeals to be made from the lectern and omitting the Communion plate, for example.

So when we hear law castigated as contrary to the Christian life (be it castigated by the Pope, a Bishop, a Presbyter or the Man in the Pew) we can know their humility is on the wane on that they have become lord of the liturgy rather than its servant. 

I hope to see a return to a healthy respect for the Church’s laws and norms that we may retain our humility. To break the law is to place oneself above the law of God and of Holy Mother Church. And pride is a deadly sin. Surely we have enough sins to answer for without adding to them what is simple and easy to do? There is nothing simpler to do than follow the laws of Holy Mother Church in our worship of God. 

Sunday, 21 February 2016

The Glory and Power of Latin Liturgy

I believe that every person, man woman or child, can be at ease with the Latin parts of the Mass which pertain to them, such as the Confiteor, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Pater Noster and Agnus Dei. By reciting these every Sunday at Mass (as required by Vatican II, in fact) with an accompanying English translation, they easily get to know what they are saying. They do not need to know Latin Grammar. They do not even need a word-for word translation; many of us happily sang Frère Jacque in primary school without knowing its translation, and at a recent Christmas Carol Concert by primary school children they sang one Carol with a different language for each verse: German, French, Spanish, Italian and English. No Latin of course -this was a Catholic school.

The New Liturgical Movement posted an article of great interest the other day by David Clayton. It was entitled ‘ The devil Hates Latin, says Exorcist’ (see here).  it is worth a read. Yesterday I came across a post by an anonymous Caremlite nun on the Usus Antiquior site entitled ‘Why Latin?’ (see here). I was struck by the simplicity of Sister’s words, and have already put them into the Bulletin. Sister begins by asking,

Question: “Does the Devil hate Latin?
 Answer: Yes.
Question: Why?
Answer: Because Latin is inherently divine? No, it’s a human tongue. Because it is intrinsically superior as a language?  Maybe not.  It is certainly beautiful in its unique way, and there are prayers, hymns and sequences that are only as effective as they are because of the succinct Latin drumbeat in which they are composed (e.g., Lauda Sion Salvatorem, Dies iræ, Victimæ paschali laudes, Corde natus ex parentis), to say nothing of the mind-opening secular works of Cicero, Ovid et al.

Here is the section I quoted and noted in the Bulletin:

I quoted: 'Satan hates Latin because Latin promotes unity, especially the unity of the Church, Christ’s mystical Body.  Unity among the members of His Body on earth, yes, but also unity of the past, the present and the future—in fact the whole Communion of Saints.  Disunity is what the Devil is all about: he divides, scatters and confuses.  His very title means just that (devil, diabolo, from the Greek dia ballein, “to throw apart”). As Screwtape might have taught, anything that serves the principle of unity, especially unity of faith, should be resisted, opposed, undermined..” 
I noted: Let us not resist, oppose or undermine Latin then,  it is for the sake of our unity in God that we should value, support and promote Latin, not side with the devil by opposing and resisting it.

Sister also says, “As members of secular society, we are willing to put tremendous effort into learning second languages, or requiring our children to learn them, and for the sake of mere commerce and recreation. But we are members of Christ’s Body first, and the unity for which He prayed does not exist where His members do not—because they cannot—worship together.”

I recommend readers to read sister’s post and to reflect upon its insights.

I am no Latin scholar. In fact, in our seminary in the 1980s/90's we went through six years of seminary without any training in Latin (contrary to the teaching of Vatican II in Optatam Totius and to the Code of Canon Law, Canon 249). In order to celebrate the Usus Antiquior I and Andrew McDowell, the ‘tie’ of this blog, attended a one year course in Latin basics so as to become at least ‘idoneous’. 

Sunday, 14 February 2016

First Sunday of Lent

So, Lent has begun. As every year, I am reminding folk that Lent is not about bashing ourselves over the head for our sin; we ate not meant to damage ourselves. Rather, Lent it is about weeping and mourning, as Ash Wednesday reminded us; weeping and mourning for having offended God who loves us so much. When we hurt someone we love, such as our child, our parents, our brother or sister, we hurt for them, do we not? We make up to them by doing something nice for them; by actively showing our love. This is a good way of handling Lent: doing something beautiful for God, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta would say. Those beautiful things are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The first two relate directly to God, the third to our neighbour.

Our prayer is our way of speaking to God and listening to His response in our conscience; our heart. We cannot have a good relationship with those with whom we never converse, and this is as true of our relationship with God as it is true of our relationships with those around us.

Fasting is not about giving up sugar or our favourite TV show for Lent then going back to them when Lent is over; it is about changing who we are by our way of life; about getting rid of old bad habits and developing new, good habits. It is about giving up all those things that, even though they may be good in themselves (such as sporting events, time with family etc) can become distractions from our religious duties (how many of us choose to play in a sporting event than attend Sunday Mass?) getting our priorities right: putting God first, not the glories or comforts of the world: as Thursday reminded us, what gain is it to have won the whole world yet lost or ruined one’s very soul?

Almsgiving is the social aspect of doing something beautiful for God, and fixes our attention on the acts of corporal and spiritual mercy; it is about taking the time to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, tend the sick, visit the imprisoned, pray for the sinner, instruct the ignorant etc.

We will all fail as we struggle through Lent -and through life. We came into this world handicapped by sin; we came into it broken people, and we cannot expect the broken to work perfectly. This is where the need to have ‘broken hearts’ rather than bashed heads is important: Christ equates sin with sickness of soul, saying He has not come for the virtuous but for the sinner; the healthy have no need of a physician, it is the sick who need him. And we are sick. All of us are sick in sin to one degree or another; all of us need Christ. Lent is a time for refocusing on our relationship with Him. The devil may show us the comforts and glory of the world with its relativism and subjectivism. We have to be strong. We have to worship not the things of the world or follow passing political correctness; we have to put God before worldly glories, and adhere to the truth, which is Christ, because it is only the truth which sets us free.