Sunday, April 7, 2013

Catholic Medical Association Annual Symposium

An excellent opportunity for Catholic healthcare workers to network and to hear some excellent lectures. I feel so fortunate to be able to host this in my parish. Dr Treloar send the following message:
It is just three weeks now till the Annual Symposium of the Catholic Medical Association which will be on the 4th - 5th May, in Blackfen in South East London. We really do think that it will be an excellent day and we hope very much that to see you there for a really enjoyable weekend. The main conference is on Saturday. The AGM of the CMA will be on Sunday, and of course, it’s fine if you can only come for the Saturday.

Excellent speakers, answers to difficult questions as well as a great deal more. For details and how to book for the symposium go to Cost for the symposium is just £10 (although there is a suggested donation of £10-15 to cover lunch and refreshments throughout the day). The banquet MUST be booked beforehand. CPD certificates will be available for those who need them.

Please do circulate this to others who may be interested and also do please come along. Here is a link to the programme for the day.

It would be very helpful if you could let us know in advance that you are coming. To book your place just email us at In terms of payment we have kept the day as low cost as we possibly can. You can either pay us when you arrive on the day or send us a cheque payable to the Catholic Medical Association (UK), at 41 Parkhill Road, Sidcup, Kent DA15 7NJ

Dr Adrian Treloar
Kent CMA

LMS Pilgrimage in honour of St Margaret Clitherow

A National Pilgrimage in honour of St Margaret Clitherow on Saturday 4 May 2013.

There will be Solemn High Mass at 1.30pm at St Wilfrid's Church, Duncombe Place, followed by a procession to the Church of the English Martyrs via the Shrine of St Margaret in the Shambles.

At 4pm at the English Martyrs Church there will be Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and veneration of the relic of St Margaret Clitherow.

(Any further enquiries to

Little Way Association new website

The Little Way Association is a charity that aims to "help the poor, needy and sick in developing countries throughout the world." If you are looking for a good charity that does those things, you can now find out more at their brand new website. The name is of course an indication that the fact that the Association works under the patronage of St Therese of Lisieux.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Vatican Press Office response to the end of the world

Father Lombardi would keep his cool even if he had to announce the second coming, says Francis Phillips, the excellent columnist and blogger for the Catholic Herald. Her article got me thinking mischievously about what would happen if the second coming were scheduled.

First of all the Vatican Bollettino would announce several days in a row an "Avviso di Conferenza Stampa" (Notice of Press Conference). Two high-ranking prelates and a layman would be slated to speak. Given the importance of the occasion, we might expect Cardinal Burke of the Sacred Penitentiary and Archbishop Muller of the CDF, but it could be Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers and Cardinal Amato of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints since there might be need for emergency service and quite a lot of saints all in one go. For the laity, perhaps someone from the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences to talk on the astronomical implications.

Eventually the press conference would take place with three 20 minute speeches issued under embargo during the morning before it takes place, and then read out verbatim to snoozing reporters. These would discuss the theological and social implications of the forthcoming parousia, the positive attitude of the Holy See, and the teaching of the second Vatican Council, particularly the hopeful message of Gaudium et Spes.

In the meantime, various journalists around the world would ask whether Jesus Christ, coming on the clouds of heaven, would in fact approve gay marriage, women priests and an end to priestly celibacy. The Press Office would leave it to the bloggers to go in to bat on those questions, and would concentrate instead on scotching rumours from "informed sources in the Vatican" that Pope Francis had planned to take some homeless people and sit on the top of a mountain awaiting the Day. It would confirm that he intended to remain in the Domus Sanctae Marthae and put himself at the disposal of the Lord, particularly if He wanted breakfast.

On the Day, CTV would offer a syndicated feed, L'Osservatore would print a special issue (distinguished by having pictures of Jesus Christ) and camera crews from the world's media would impatiently wait for the yellow smoke. Liberal Catholics would be ensconced at the BBC to complain that the blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke, the darkening of the sun, and the moon turning to blood were relics of a medieval mindset that did not properly take into account the compassion of Jesus. At least one sedevacantist website would run pictures proving that the Jesus who was about to judge the world in fact had a different hairstyle from the Jesus on the Turin Shroud.

Quietly in the background, Mgr Marini would arrange a Pontifical Celebration Pro Fine Huius Mundi with whatever vestments he had been asked to put out this week. (His courteous warning about the flammable nature of polyester would go unheeded.)

Pro-Life PCS Union exec committee candidate

Pro-Life campaigner, Peter Hunter from Blackpool, is standing for election to the National Executive Committee of the Public and Commercial Services Union, the fifth largest union in the UK.

For many years, the PCS has been affiliated to the pro-abortion organisation Abortion Rights. As a consequence of this, it goes beyond its remit to campaign for a woman's "right to choose" abortion.

Peter Hunter is seeking election to the National Executive Committee on a pro-life stance. He is Catholic and a fearless campaigner for the right to life. Members of the Union are encouraged to support Peter's candidacy.

I received this information from the Trade Union Pro-Life Group and obviously want to bring it to the attention of any Catholic or other pro-life members of the PCS Union.

For further information, please email Peter.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Abstinence and Friday of the Easter Octave

Must we abstain from meat on the Friday of the Easter Octave? In my "Catholic Dilemmas" column in the Catholic Herald of 29 March 2013, I said that we should. This has created a larger correspondence than any other of the columns that I have written in the past six years. So I thought I should address the question further here.

First of all the law concerning abstinence. The relevant canon of the current Code of Canon Law says:
Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday... (Can. 1251)
So the question is whether the Friday of the Easter Octave is a solemnity. In the 1969 document Calendarium Romanum, we read the following in the Normae Universales de Anno Liturgico et de Calendario:
Octo primi dies temporis paschalis constituunt octavam Paschae et uti sollemnitates Domini celebrantur. (n.24)
(The first eight days of paschal time constitute the octave of Easter and are celebrated as (or “in the same way as”) solemnities of the Lord.)
(The same wording is repeated in the Caeremoniale Episcoporum n.373)

"Uti" is a variant of "ut" and is used in the sentence here as what Lewis and Short term a “relative adverb of manner”, equivalent to “eo modo quo” which can be translated “in the same way as which”, or simply “as.”

So the most straightforward reading of the sentence would take it to mean that the days of the Easter Octave are celebrated “in the same way as solemnities of the Lord – even though they are not in fact solemnities.” A less convincing but, I think, arguable alternative would be to read it to say that the days of the Easter Octave are celebrated “in the same way as solemnities of the Lord – because they are in fact solemnities.”

The former interpretation seems more probable to me not only on linguistic grounds but also because it makes sense for the feast itself to rank higher than the days of its Octave. In the older calendar the weekdays of the Easter Octave used to have the rank of semidouble. This was changed before 1962 in a simplification into three classes which introduced a lack of nuance we continue with in the present system.

Unfortunately the somewhat hasty reform (and re-reform a few years later) brought with it anomalies in the observance of feasts. One example in the Easter Octave is that the Creed is not now said on the weekdays of the octave – surely it should be said, whether the days are solemnities themselves or just treated as such?

On reflection, I was perhaps too definite in my answer in the Catholic Herald. It would be tempting just to leave the question alone – but it was a genuine query which I have also since had repeated from a parishioner who did not see my column in the paper.

So what should I answer to the question “Should we abstain on the Friday of the Easter Octave?” I suppose, unhelpfully, we just have to say that there are two legitimate interpretations of an ambiguous provision in the calendar.

However I will certainly be abstaining from meat tomorrow. (Let's be honest, it's not that hard.)

And, in the hope of saving some time, let me quote a part of the short article:
Doubtless some will consider this all very nitpicking and legalistic, and protest that we should be concerned with the “spirit” of fasting rather than calendrical minutiae. Yet the point of days of fasting and penance prescribed by the Church is so that we can share together, as a communion in Christ, in a common practice of penance. Observing canon law does not prevent us from prayerfully fulfilling the spirit of penance as well.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Pastoral thoughts on the oil of gladness

2013-03-31 10.05.50
Photo credit: Mulier Fortis

Many years ago when I was a newly-ordained priest, an evangelical Christian stopped me in the street to ask me why I was looking so miserable. He said that I should be happy because Christ had risen from the dead. I explained to him that I had just come from the hospital where I had visited a young woman who had taken an overdose of paracetamol. During the course of the next day, she had realised that it was a foolish thing to do and that she did not want to die. Then her liver and everything else packed up and I had just administered the sacraments to her before her now inevitable death.

When we celebrate Mass, we do so for a variety of people. Most of them will be happy to be there, glad to know that they have done something good by offering God due worship, glowing with the joy of their families or with seeing the young children of others playing happily outside after Mass. As a priest I am usually able to rejoice in greeting people and laughing with families and their children. (And who knows? Maybe they liked the sermon.)

Some of the people who go to Mass might not be so happy because their husband has just walked off with another women, because their child has died, because they have lost their job, because their business is struggling and they can’t see how they can keep up with the mortgage, or because they are in the midst of a bruising feud with a family member. Unfortunately, this might be on their minds on Easter Sunday or the day of Pentecost.

Still they may be anointed with the oil of gladness and deep in their soul know that Christ triumphs over everything: but it may not be so easy to see that at the moment. Externally, they may not look as though they have heard “Good News.” If the priest lives with the smell of his sheep, his experience might teach him that the more comforting thought for one person is that we are also at the foot of the cross with Our Lady of Sorrows, the consoler of the afflicted. Within seconds he may need to rejoice with someone else because they have had a new baby, or they have a free day to spend enjoying the company of their family, or they have recently got engaged. The suddenly he may himself be challenged by someone who thinks he is a heartless collector of antiquities who has a taste for fine fabrics (for the vestments in which he offers worship to God for the people.)

Fr Cantalamessa proposed on Good Friday that our problem is the residue of past ceremonials and other debris, and that our pressing need is to return to simplicity and linearity by knocking down partitions, staircases, rooms and closets so that we can reach out existentially. I don’t want to be unfair: it is true that sometimes habits need to be changed and there are non-essentials that can be dispensed with if necessary. What I object to is the idea that this is our main problem today. To keep at an existential level, I would put it like this: the parish Church is a room in everybody’s house. If we go knocking things down and clearing them out to create a brutal, minimalist space, we take away something from the poor – both the materially poor and the spiritually poor. At a deeper level, that statue of the Sacred Heart or that image of the Divine Mercy or the Infant of Prague may be a great comfort to the sheep among whom we live. The sacramentals which so much enrich the daily life of the faithful, the blessings, the processions, the waving of hankies to say goodbye to Our Lady Immaculate, the scapulars, medals and holy pictures, relics and indulgences, give skin and breath to the faith of the people.

Let us not brush them away in yet another era of plain concrete machines for assembling in. We priests can discuss among ourselves some of the more enthusiastic practices but we should never be so proud as to deprive the people of the love and devotion which they wish to show for the Lord though the five senses. We might think that we are ushering in a brave new world of simplicity through ever-so-tastefully understated polyester, that the people will hear the “Good News” when we drone an endless Liturgy of the Word through a microphone with enthusiastic references to the sitz im leben of modern man, and that somehow this will solve the problems of the woefully inadequate catechesis we have presided over.

Let’s keep the staircases, rooms and closets, and find in every nook and cranny the different sheep with different smells and different needs, and serve them in this glorious edifice which is the Catholic Church with all its beautiful accretions sanctified by the work of the saints through the ages. This great, fascinating, and inspiring building, the Catholic Church, is our home. Sometimes we need to clear out some junk. But whenever we do so, we are sure to find something that was loved of old, something we have forgotten, something that will bring a sparkle to the eyes of the young who do not yet know that it is presently unfashionable. Who knows? It may be the way that they come to be anointed with the oil of gladness and hear the “Good News.”