Friday, 29 August 2008

Other Dates for your Diary.......

Sunday 31 August, 6.00pm., at St. George, Warminster, Wiltshire, High Mass.

Saturday 13th. September, 12.00pm., Our Lady, Magdalen St., Glastonbury, Sung Mass.

Sunday 14th. September, 11.30 am., St. Joseph, Fishponds, Bristol, Sung Mass.

Sunday 14th. September, 10.00am., Our Lady and St. Michael, Abergavenny, High Mass.

Sunday 28th. September, 11.30am., St Francis Xavier, Broad St., Hereford, High Mass.

Sunday 28th. September, 6.00pm., Milton House, Milton, nr. Albingdon, Oxfordshire, Sung Mass.
Saturday 4th. October, 10.30am., St. Peter, St. Peter Street, Cardiff, High Mass.

Sunday 5th October, 3.00pm., St. Mary, Harvington Hall, Warickshire, Sung Mass.

Saturday 25th. October, Blackfrairs, St. Giles, Oxford, 11.00am., High Mass, as part of the L.M.S. Pilgrimage. Also 2pm: Procession and unveiling of Martyrs' Plaque and, 3.30pm.: Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Sunday 2nd., November, 3.00pm., St. Mary, Harvington Hall, Warickshire, Sung Mass.

Monday 17th. November, 7.00pm., Sung Requiem for Cardinal Pole, Magdalen College Chapel, Oxford.

All of these Masses are in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

There is also a First Friday Mass at SS. Gregory & Augustine, Woodstock Road., Oxford at 6.00pm., which is usually sung. Also there a great many Low Masses throughout the region, details of which may be found on the Latin Mass Society website. It is good to note that so many of these Masses are now at reasonable times and intergrated into the life of the parish much more than before Summorum Pontificum.

An Another.

This time at Wigartzbad, for the F.S.S.P.

Now Gloriously Reigning

I just couldn't resist this photograph of Cardinal Ratzinger about to offer the traditional Mass in 1999 in Weimar.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

A date for your diary.

On November 17th at 7.00p.m. a sung Requiem Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite will be offered in the chapel of Magdalen College, Oxford, for the repose of the soul of Cardinal Reginald Pole, the last Roman Catholic Archbishop Of Canterbury and father of the Council of Trent.

The celebrant will be Fr. John Osman and the preacher will be Fr. Aidan Nichols O.P.

Monday, 25 August 2008

The Edge...more on our glorious English Summer.

I happened to have reason this morning to drive along the very Western Edge of the Cotswolds. The escarpment here is abrupt and dramatic, sweeping straight down in to the Severn Valley. In the first photograph you can see the Tyndale Monument on the right hand hillside. It is a familiar sight to any motorist who travels the M5 between Cheltenham/Gloucester and Bristol. You can click on the first image to enlarge it if you wish.

Not a lot is known for certain about William Tyndale's early life but it is though that he was born somewhere near the location of the monument in about 1494. He studied at Magdalen in Oxford and while there was ordained. Having taken his MA he went on to begin a course in Theology and was scandalised to find that it did not include any study of scripture. It is believed that he organised private reading groups of fellow students to study the Scriptures. He was a great linguist reading Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, Italian, German and Spanish. But he was already beginning to cause controversy by his opinions and after a short time as a chaplin in Old Sodbury he journeyed to London to seek permission and assistance in translating the Bible into English. This was not forthcoming and he left England secretly in 1512 and completed his translation of the New Testament which was eventually published in Worms and Antwerp in 1526. These books were then smuggled into England and circulated. In the same year he was condemned as a heretic by Cardinal Wolsey. Strangely enough Tyndale condemned the divorce of Henry VIII on Scriptural grounds and this may have been the main factor in the personal interest the King took in Tyndale's arrest and execution.

I had an "interesting" "conversation" recently with a Christian who told me that before the Reformation reading the Bible was forbidden and the church told people what to believe. Some of this old protestant propaganda dies a very slow death. As far as I see the issue with the bible was not so much one of forbidding everyone to read it but a great worry about the effect of allowing more than one version of the text to exist. Also of course it is the Church's role to interpret scripture for us. When I read of the result of everyone interpreting the bible for themselves and in their own way, I can not understand how some protestants feel so strongly that this is a good thing; everyone can not be right at the same time. When the only version of the bible available was the Vulgate we had the exact same bible in every land, just as we had the exact same Mass.

This shot is taken about a mile North of the first and what you don't really see is the precipitous drop immediately beyond the information sign. But what you can see in all these photographs is our continuing appalling weather. This morning was cold, damp and windy:

Thursday, 21 August 2008


I am very fond of the little, ancient Church of Saint Nicholas of Myra at Ozelworth. Of any of the churches I've described here this is probably the most isolated and difficult to find but well worth it.

The church consists of an octagonal Norman Tower, which originally functioned as the nave, and a square-ended chancel. In Victorian Times a more conventional nave was built beyond the tower.

The churchyard has been tidied up a bit more than it used to be, which I think is rather a pity. That said there were some large white field mushrooms growing there yesterday.

There is a nice medieval porch which has helped preserve a good richly carved 13th. Century door surround. The porch is inhabited by numerous swallows, so if you visit please close the main church door to prevent them gaining entry and being trapped inside.There is not much to be said for the Victorian nave except that it makes for rather more convenient accommodation than the base of the tower, but it is rather dark and fairly featureless. It is now furnished by really bad modern, (cheap), chairs, but once had some more acceptable pews. ( I've seen a photograph of the nave with those in place).

The view up into the tower is impressive, especially when you think that this is a very quiet tucked away corner of the world.

There are two arches between the Victorian Nave and the chancel both Norman. As you can see the first if very heavily carved in a fairly unusual deeply undercut toothed design. There is an arch in Saint Mary's gate in the precincts of Gloucester Cathedral with very similar carving.

The chancel furnishing is mainly Victorian but has a medieval atmosphere. I like the long panels of red material. There is some half decent stained glass and everything is in commemoration of members of the Clutterbuck family of nearby Newark Park, which is now owned by the National Trust.

To find the church: I think the best way is to branch off the A46 at the Calcot traffic lights, ( which is a funny set of traffic lights right out in the countryside). Take the road towards Wotton-under-Edge, and watch for signs to Newark Park, N.T. Take the left turning towards Newark and continue down the lane for about 1 1/2 miles, past the telecommunications mast, past the entrance to Newark Park, ( quite simple), and about 1/4 mile further on , on the left, you will come to a set of gates with stone eagles. Go through the unpainted wooden gate to the left of the main gates. You will shortly come to a drive, turn left along the drive. You are now skirting Ozelworth Park, a fine and substantial regency house, ( a bit too scrubbed up, I think). Go through the gap in the beech hedging on the right and cross the stable yard. The church is in front of you. There are sign posts but they are almost invisible.

BTW the churchyard is circular and may well mark the sight of a pre-Christian religious site.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Reform of the Reform.

I get myself to the Birmingham Oratory as often as I can. It's about an hour or so at least by car but I have never found liturgy done so well anywhere else. Everything is the very best it can possibly be. Time and time again I have found myself wondering that it exists at all and terrified lest it should cease to be. And the music is stunning; a superb choir who sing the great music of the church with conviction.

So I was very interested to read the following:

I had never even thought of having the Novus Ordo Penitential Rite said quietly during the introit. Ah, now that's enrichment.
I don't have a photo of the interior but you will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

This Weather is Getting me Down!!

"My" Church.

This is my local Catholic Church. It was converted from a slaughter house in 1934 but looked a little different then. It was hit by a bomb in 1941 and remained a ruin for some years until it was rebuilt as you see it today.

Inside there is a screen of stone columns which came from Stinchcombe Park a large country house very near Evelyn Waugh's Piers Court which he always called " Stinkers".

There was originally a flat East end, ( liturgically East, the church faces South), with, of course, the altar against the wall. There was a deep ledge above the altar which held the tabernacle, candles, flowers, etc.

As you can see we are privileged to have the Blessed Sacrament reserved. It is a pity that the tabernacle is off centre but were it to be immediately behind the altar there really would not be enough room for the priest to celebrate versum populum. There is an obvious solution but I'm not holding my breath.

The candles stand on the floor either side of the altar, Sarum style, and they are not usually short and stubby as you see them. These have burned down are are due to be replaced. The sanctuary lamp is alight but the camera did not pick it up. As you can see there is plenty of space for the Extraordinary Form.

I should mention two things; we are aware that the pointing and stone work of the altar is rather crude to put it kindly. This is being attended to. Secondly the whole interior is due to be repainted in October so you are seeing it look at its tattiest.

Oh, and of course it's a miserable overcast wet day here so you don't have the effect of sunlight flooding the interior which is when it looks its best.

Lovely English Summer's Morning.

The weather is really beginning to get me down. I remember from my childhood in Ireland prayers being said at Mass for fine weather for the Harvest. Not a bad idea.

That's Gloucester with the Malverns in the distance. And here's one with The Hound in.

Monday, 18 August 2008


Just a quick snapshot of a little shrine in my house. The ivory crucifix I found in a junk shop in Holyhead and the stole in a shop in Bath. In the corner is a small icon of the Dormition of the Virgin.

Homer Simpson Moment!

I bought a new camera. It would not upload the images to my PC. I spent 5 1/2 hours on the telephone, even had the computer reset to factory settings, and then eventually someone said "have you tried connecting your camera to the USB port on the front of the computer rather than the back?"

Anyway Oliver Badcat has the honour of going first. He's a bit bored by our glorious English Summer and tired from his hunting expedition, ( three mice yesterday).

N.B. Before any smartypants brings it up the book on the shelf behind is about the Dreyfus Affair.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Warning: includes A Shocking Picture of Immature Faith.

I had to bite my tongue this morning when our parish priest announced that he was organising a course for people who are still stuck in the faith which they learned about at school many years ago, " who never developed a more mature, adult faith, the faith of Vatican II".

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Confused of Gloucestershire.

When I visited the Prinknash exhibition I was taken by a very fine Arts and Crafts High Mass set of black vestments. They were referred to as The Gerontius Vestments though no one really seemed to know why; which is annoying as that is one of my favourite pieces of music. They featured embroidered panels with suppliant figures and angels. I was amused to note that at least one of the tailors dummies upon which they were displayed was obviously female. One of the monks explained that he had great difficulty dissuading one visitor of her belief that they were for the celebration of the Black Mass. He felt it was quite clear when the notice described them as " Black High Mass Vestment Set".
That isn't the vestment in the pic btw.

I like this very much indeed....

"All Great Works of Art are an Epiphany of God."

Nothing more to add really.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

One Day Left..

There is only one day left to visit a very interesting exhibition at Prinknash Abbey in Gloucestershire. The Benedictine Monks have just completed a move from their modern, (1972), Abbey back to their original old, ( 1520s), Abbey. They have taken this opportunity to put on display some of their treasures. I visited not once but twice it was so interesting.

The exhibition is open from 10am. to 4pm. and I have to thank a kind reader for drawing my attention to it. A full press release is here....

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Oh, and also......

I also attended the closing Mass of the Oxford Conference only one word... GLORIOUS.

I didn't have a moment afterward to meet anyone and even then I found a parking ticket when I got back to the car.

It gives a new meaning to the word extraordinary.

Our Heritage.

This morning at Mass I noticed that our priest was using a different chalice to the usual one. When I enquired afterwards at the sacristy I found that our usual chalice had been lent to an exhibition because of its links to the Jesuit martyrs of the recussant period. This was the first I have ever heard of it. Our little church has a congregation of between 50 and 80, ( at eighty its standing room only), and we usually have but one chalice, even though communion is given under both species. I have taken communion from that chalice most weeks for several years and, while I observed that it was very old, nobody has ever mentioned this connection nor could anyone in the church this morning enlighten me. I've got to do some digging and will update.

In the process I discovered the following. I don't know if this is the same exhibition but it looks very interesting indeed...

Update: A kind reader has brought to my attention that there is an exhibition called Treasures of Prinknash at Simon Chorely Antiques on Prinknash Abbey Estate, Gloucestershire. This is most likely where our chalice has gone, as it quite near. I will pop over to the exhibition tomorrow to find out more.

Further Update: The chalice is at Prinknash and the exhibition is really super. I did not have time to linger so I'm going back tomorrow. The chalice is described as a Gunpowder Plot chalice as it probably belonged to one of the Jesuit priests who heard the confessions of those executed for their involvement in the plot and were themselves tortured and martyred for refusing to break the seal of Confession. The exhibition continues only until Thursday inclusive and is open from 10.00am to 4.00am. It includes all sorts of historic vestments, chalices, reliquaries, etc., and some very funny cartoons of the building of the monastery by Heath- Robinson whose son was a monk at the abbey.

Saint Barnabas Society.

Last Sunday we were delighted to find that rather than a homily we were to be addressed by Dr. Cyprian Balmires from the St. Barnabas Society. This Society has as its mission the support of those former clergy of other Christian denominations who he taken the step of converting to Roman Catholicism.

Dr. Balmires in a charming, witty and quite moving talk explained to us the difficulties pertaining to that special situation. He himself had been for all his working life a minister in the Anglican church but eventually found he could not deny the call to come home to Rome. He explained to us in some detail the problems in which both he and many others found themselves. The decision to convert has to be taken as an individual, not as a clergyman. In other words he converted as an ordinary Catholic. Any question of his status or role within the Catholic Church had to be put aside until after his full conversion. The question of priestly status is decided on an individual bases by the bishop if the convert wishes to go down that route afterwards. When you think about it that is a very sensible approach to take but very difficult for the convert.
He spoke a little about the emotive issues involving family, friends and former colleagues and congregations and how matters are made worse by misconceptions of what it is the Catholic Church preaches and believes. He himself is married to "a Belfast Protestant" and has several children. He mentioned in particular the cases of at least two female ministers who had come to feel that they had to convert and the extra difficulty of their situation.

Dr. Balmires decided not to seek ordination within the Catholic Church but found along with many others that he was essentially unemployable. After several very difficult years he is now employed by the St. Barnabas Society to help those who find themselves contemplating conversion and those who have converted.

A book is available from the St. Barnabas Society of essays from a number of clergy converts incl. Fr. Dwight Longenecker of the Standing on My Head blog. The St. Barnabas website does not really provide a lot of info but they obviously do great work behind the scenes...

He has also written a truly excellent booklet for the Catholic Truth Society on the subject of Protestantism and what it is they believe, both about themselves and about Roman Catholics. It is well written, level headed and very enlightening and as you read it has the marvelous effect of clearing the mind. I was somewhat surprised on clicking on the CTS website to find a great number of highly interesting publications available at very reasonable cost. They would appear to have reinvented themselves splendidly. Have a look...

Saturday, 9 August 2008

St. Wulfstan of Worcester.

I spent what spare time I had over the last week at the Three Choirs Festival which this year was held in Worcester. The festival was already being organised in 1719 by the choir masters of the three great cathedrals of this part of the west of England and takes place yearly, alternating between them: Gloucester, Worcester and Hereford. There is a tremendous sense of history, so many great English pieces of music were composed especially for the festival, incl. in 1899 The Dream of Gerontius by Elgar, and in 1905 The Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis, by R. Vaughan Williams. Most of the concerts take place in the cathedrals, which for the week have all their pews replaced by special seating, some of it raked, and usually more comfortable than the pews. There is a Festival Club in a huge marquee on the Cathedral Close, with bars and food and a few other enterprises incl. a really excellent second hand music book and CD shop. ( I ended up buying several CDs incl. Byrd Masses, John Dunstable, Hildergard of Bingen, and more. I was very tempted by a lovely 1929 Roman Catholic Altar Missal of the Mass for the Dead, beautifully produced and preserved. It was rather sad to see it sitting on a bookshelf unrecognised by most of those browsing. I could have put it aside for use at my own funeral, I suppose.) Not alone are there approx. 4 or 5 concerts a day but the music provided at cathedral services is particularly fine, with visiting groups and sometimes all three cathedral choirs providing the music. While I will not attend a non Catholic communion service I have no difficulty attending such a service as Evensong, which can be very beautiful. Evensong is a conflation of the Catholic services of vespers and compline; thus it has the recitation of one or more psalms and the singing of the Magnificat as has Roman Catholic Vespers but it also has the Nunc Dimittis, which for us belongs to Compline.

However on one evening Evensong was replaced by the singing of Vespers using the Worcester Antiphonal which dates from the C13th. The vespers were in commemoration of St. Wulfstan. Each of the psalms had a special antiphon recounting the life of Wulfstan and even a hymn specific to Worcester and the Saint. The whole thing was sung in Gregorian chant and very finely by a group called Opus Anglicanum.

I knew little about Wulfstan until a dear Anglican friend explained.

St Wulfstan was the third abbot of Worcester and the second to bear the name Wulfstan. He was born in 1008A.D. and was the nephew of Wulfstan who was archbishop of York. It appears his family were impoverished by the arrival of the Normans, but that he found nonetheless a common ground with them. Having studied at various monasteries he was ordained in 1038, and very quickly rose through the priory attached to the cathedral at Worcester to become Bishop. With the coming of the Normans, Wulfstan was the only Anglo-Saxon bishop who was not required to relinquish his seat. He was a great builder and organiser, whose prime interest was always the pastoral care of the people and the growth of the church. He was known on occasion to argue the just cause of the Anglo-Saxons against the presumption of the Normans. He is credited with the rebuilding of not just Worcester Cathedral but Great Malvern Priory, among many others. He seems to have balanced the building culture of the Normans, who saw the Church of God as a network of great and majestic Cathedrals, priories and churches, with the more mystical, less materialistic vision of the church which prevailed under the Anglo-Saxons. He died in 1087 and was canonised in 1203 and his grave became a place of pilgrimage until it was plundered and desecrated at the reformation.

While the vespers were sung in Gregorian Chant and were very beautiful, it must be said that it did fall short of our vespers, ( done at their best), in having no "action" at the altar and being essentially a "Choir service".

On the 14th. September, ( an easy date to remember!), there will once again be Vespers of St. Wulfstan sung in Worcester Cathedral at 4.00p.m. and the preacher will be the Most Reverend Vincent Nicholls Archbishop of Birmingham. It is part of an afternoon of commemorative activities which do sound a bit " happy-clappy, ( eg. street theatre, etc.,), but the service itself is bound to be very dignified as usual in an Anglican Cathedral and a special welcome is extended to Catholics for the occasion.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Not Dead ...Only Sleeping.

Apologies to anyone who noticed my absence over the last while. Contrary to rumour, I have not been the subject of a plot between Oliver Badcat and Sydney Hound. Something quite major cropped up which took most of my free time, ( not a negative something), and just about the same time my internet crashed. After several long calls to BT, I gave up until I had the time to deal with it.

Anyway, some new posts over the coming days.

My apologies to anyone who left comments which are very late in appearing.