Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pope Benedict at First Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God in St. Peter's Basilica

In his Meditation, the Holy Father again made an appeal for more people to give their 'whole being' as priests or in living the consecrated life. (Translation of the relevant paragraph can be seen at Fr Z's blog 'What does the Prayer Really Say?') The Pope's exhortation was particularly fitting I thought. A New calendar year is about to begin but the Church is now at the heart of the Year for Priests.

More security men were in evidence, and in the processions the group immediately surrounding the Pope seemed more tightly formed that has been the case for some time.

I will keep an eye on the news and post if there is pressing need, but otherwise may give myself a couple of days break from blogging.

May Our Lord answer our Holy Father's prayer for more vocations and may He continue to bless, defend and strengthen His vicar on earth and grant him a peaceful and happy New Year . May Mary, the Holy Mother of God continue to spread her mamtle over our beloved Benedict XVI.

Consistory 2010? And an unexpected New Year's gift

Our Holy Father is set for another busy year. In an article outlining the events already in his diary, Catholic News Service considers the possibility, if not probability of a Consistory in 2010. See the article's last three paragraphs here You will note that CNS only considers the possible American candidates for 'the red hat'. Had they thought about the English situation, it may have encouraged them to speculate that Pope Benedict may choose a date before the summen holidays rather than waiting until November, when there would be 19, rather than 12 vacancies in the college of those eligible to vote in a conclave. Were it not for this difference in number, I would be praying for a 'red hat' for Archbishop Nichols at the earlier rather than the later date, and for reasons which I may post about later. However, the possibility of 7 more 'Benedictine' appointments to the voting body at the next conclave, must be regarded as having considerable significance as to its potential outcome, and therefore to the choice of date for the next Consistory. Pope Benedict's age and medical history will make the decision more difficult for him, unless he knows how much longer he is going to live! We can be confident that as with all his decisions, he will make this one only after long and profound prayer. That is why in all my Rosaries, I unite myself to his prayer intentions, published or not, rather than framing my own.


New Year's Eve in St. Romain
My husband went across the road to the village shop this morning to buy milk and the newspaper. He came back with two gifts from the Patron and his assistant. These were a set of 6 tall whiskey glasses bearing the J&B logo, and two miniature cups and saucers for the imbibing of cafe cognac!

What a lovely gesture as a way of saying thank you for our custom and conveying New Year's greetings. I went across straight away to express my thanks and wish them 'Bonne Annee'.
We already have cognac in the house but it strikes me now that I should have bought a bottle of J&B! Just off to get it now so that we can 'toast' you all just after midnight!

In the meantime, thank you for your readership and may God bless you and send you a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Vatican controls all the live film we see? Part 3

You will note the addition of a question mark to the title above. It is there because judging from comments on this blog and remarks made to me privately, by both French and British friends, it now seems that the title is inaccurate as a statement. For instance, the Vatican did not control the South African channel that was watched by our commenter Fiona, nor did it prevent France TV2 from showing even more detail of the attack on the Pope, despite the fact that the French programme was aired two hours after the event and which the channel claimed in its advance schedules to be a live' broadcast. What happened on EWTN? Can anyone tell me? Was kto, the only station to exercise obvious censorship? And in the bizarre way I have already described? Was it a policy decision of their own, or was it at someone else's behest?

The conduct of this French Catholic channel may seem unimportant in the USA or the UK. Quite to the contrary it is extremely important that a station which has been helping to re-catholicise France for the past ten years, should retain its integrity and the trust of its viewers. The standard of its programmes is consistently high, even though one may not always agree with some of the views expressed. Its series of separate interviews with French bishops is particularly telling and informative as to the present and varied complexion of the French. episcopate. And up until Christmas Eve, it has been second to none in its live broadcasting of Papal events. For instance tomorrow it will air live broadcasts of Papal Vespers and on New Years's day, the Pope's 10 am Mass in St. Peter's. Normally it has hit just the right balance in the amount of commentary during liturgical events. It doesn't talk-over and waffle through the most sacred moments, as I have seen and heard on EWTN. I've seen recent complaints on other blogs about the tendency on EWTN to over-talk. Generally kto could teach it a thing or two.

In the build up to Christmas I had been planning to post in praise of kto, and to ask why we could not have such a channel based in the UK. We need it in all conscience. Perhaps such a thing could be inaugurated to mark Pope Benedict's visit and the Beatification of Cardinal Newman. It seems a terrible omission for posterity, and with present technology, that these historic events will not be commented on by British Catholics on their own independent channel.

For some time I thought that kto was run by the French bishops Conference. Apparently this is not strictly true. kto itself declares on its site that the bishops 'recognise' it, not that they control it. One sincerely hopes that if any such enterprise is planned in the UK, that it will be organised on the same lines, independently of the Bishops Conference.

The kto site has a photograph of its team. Allowing for absences it probably has at least 50 major personnel. Just for fun the other night I make a list of Brits on the Blogosphere whom I would respect as qualified and competent to run the presentation of such a channel. After less than five minutes I had a list of over twenty names, male and female, clerical/religious and lay, even two good candidates for the Anglican Ordinariates. The list also represented a good spread over the age range. Apart from proven communication skills many of these people have their own specialist areas relevant to the case.

Oh well, I thought, perhaps I'll try to do something about it after Christmas. I don't think I'm mad, but I do wonder sometimes!!

In the meantime, I'm watching for more news from kto and/or the Vatican. Will post anything relevant.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

In the Aftermath of the attack on the Pope: Vatican Preoccupations.

Well, at least I know more about what happens when a Pope is attacked on Vatican soil, than I did in the wake of the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II. Surely there's no doubt that the Internet is to be thanked for this. I've no idea of the actual figures, but when the Vatican Press spokesman makes a statement these days, his words reach a vastly wider audience than they did in 1981.

The Holy See Press Officer and his deputy have an unenviably difficult task. In the aftermath of the Christmas Eve attack on the Pope, they are having to deal with two major matters of concern following that event. Firstly there is the question of what the Vatican can and possibly may do, once it has received medical reports on the state of mind of Susanna Maiolo when she lunged at the Pope; secondly Catholics must be assured that something will be done to improve the Pope's security in St. Peter's Basilica. The first matter has now been dealt with and we have been clearly informed of the necessary legal procedures. At first, the Press Office was not clear and we had to interpret a vague statement about being charitable and non-judgmental. Then, yesterday we were assured that there would be a full review of Vatican security. That is all we needed to hear. We did not need to hear stuff about a hundred per cent security being unattainable. We know it is always possible that security systems will be defeated. We live in the same world as Fr. Lombardi. We are not blind, deaf and daft. We are upset that this happened, but the more so because Susanna Maiolo was known to Vatican security forces. How and why could they possibly have allowed her to slip through their net a second time? That is what upsets us and makes us angry. We are not angry with Susanna, but with a system that could have allowed the same assailant such close access to the Holy Father a second time. And in any case it is disingenuous to claim that, 'Well , you know St. Peter's is a place of worship; the people must not be prevented from seeing the Holy Father; he would not want such restrictions'.

The fact remains, that the security forces responsible for the Pope's safety this last two years, did in fact achieve a hundred per cent security for him, and in at least six major basilicas and sites of Christian worship, in the US, France and the Czech Republic, not to mention those in Jerusalem, probably the most difficult of all places to protect him. Of course these forces were more rigorously preventative than the Vatican has so far been.

We will have to wait to see if they tighen up their act. Most of us, although frustrated by increased and time-consuming security at airports, accept these things because we know it is for our own safety. How much more patient would we Catholics be to have to wait another hour or so to get into St. Peter's, if we knew it was for the Pope's safety.

Feast of St. Thomas a Becket

"And specially from every shires ende*
Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That them hath holpen whan that they were seeke.
(And specially from every shire's end
Of England they to Canterbury do wend,
The holy blessed martyr for to seek
Who helped them when they lay so ill and weak.)"

Geoffrey Chaucer (d. 1400) from the beginning of the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales

Students of Chaucer prefer the original version. For anyone unfamiliar with Middle English, the trick is to enunciate sounds omitted in modern English.

And specially from every shirez enduh
Of Enguhlond to Caunterb(u)ry they wenduh
The hooly blisful martir for to sekuh
That them hath holpen whan that they were seekuh.

Better. Scans and with greater econony of words than the modern version.

I love that phrase 'hooly blisful martir'. Even more do I love St. Thomas himself. Would that Chaucer's words were still true and we all made the pilgrimage to Canterbury at lease once in our lives. I suggest we need the prayers of St. Thomas a Becket, just as much, if not more so, than did our medieval ancestors.

Almost time to go shopping. This afternoon must make a pork pie. When it's in the oven I'll return here and do the post on Vatican statements since Christmas Eve.

St. Thomas a Becket, Holy 'blisful martir' of Canterbury, pray for England and for us who are born of her.


Thomas Tallis - Miserere nostri. Clangat pastor in tuba - Responsory & Prose for the feast of St. Thomas à Becket. Gabrieli Consort & Players. Dir. Paul McCressh.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Vatican controls all the live film we see Part 2

I admire Cardinal Bertone and I am fond of him. He's a good 'Benedictine' man, and a Salesian who loves football. His recent interview with kto was excellent. However the Zenit report on this did not include his answers to two questions. The second of these which ended the interview is the most important in the present context. He was asked by Philippine de St. Pierre how he thought a Catholic Television channel should properly conduct itself. He answered in Italian and there was a simultaneous French translation. Here is an English rendition of his reply: " A Catholic TV station should broadcast what the Holy Father does and says without any interruption, editing or manipulation of his words or of the events as they happen."

Up to this point kto could be proud that for the ten years of its existence it had fulfilled these terms in exemplary fashion. Of course the Cardinal was making indirect reference to secular channels who do the opposite things. and I applauded his response. The broadcast, or not broadcast, events on Christmas Eve prove that the Vatican itself breaks the Cardinal's rules, that is the ones that it hopes everyone else will obey. And the result this Christmas was to make kto look absolutely stupid and dishonest. (see previous post.) And it was made to look like that by the master it has obeyed so faithfully. I should be surprised if it is not a little miffed.

Of course the Holy Father must be protected at all costs but can anyone explain how a total blanking of live news protects him? Seriously I really would like to consider any such explanation, but at present it is totally beyond my understanding that the kto commentator, even though we were not allowed to see the close details of what was happening, was prevented from giving a calm explanation of what we actually saw. For instance could he not have said, "There seems to have been an incident which has disrupted the procession. We will keep you informed." (Bring back Richard Dimbleby. All is forgiven!) That at least would have been truthful and would have protected the station's reputation. In any case we didn't see this ludicrous piece of television until Christmas morning. No wonder kto didn't release their full video until then. But as I said yesterday, why do so at all except to draw attention to Vatican censorship, and to anyone with a reasonable IQ, to its effects, which would be risible were they not so serious. The result is that in future we will not be so convinced as to what we see. I'm sure that Pope Benedict would not want that doubt to exist in our minds.

Tomorrow, further considered comment on recent statements from Fr Lombardi Holy See Press spokesman, and a little bit of Chaucer in memory of St. Thomas a Becket.

God bless all here.

The Vatican controls all the live film we see Part 2

This will follow later this evening. Spare time today has been taken up with posting about the Holy Father's visit to the St. Egedio soup kitchen on Sunday. As you can see on the Spiritual Mothers of Priests blog, my morning's research into the visit led to some interesting discoveries. See post entitled: Pope Benedict: A Father and Friend in the Soup kitchen, or unwittingly in the "Ant Heap"?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Vatican controls all the live film we see of Papal events. Part 1

All the live film we see is fed to stations like EWTN and ktotv by Vatican TV. If an incident occurs that involves the person of the Holy Father, they do their best to make sure that pictures on the monitor showing the actual events, are not broadcast. If there isn't time to do that, the camera personnel seem to have instructions to veer away from the Holy Father and focus on something else. An example of this was the footage of Pope Benedict's visit to earthquake stricken L'Aquila earlier this year. As usual I watched the event on kto. I don't think EWTN carried it. After his speech the Pope almost dashed away from his position on the podium and tripped, I think over a decorative plant pot, but could not be certain because the camera jerked away so quickly that the screen blurred. There was a collective gasp from the crowd as he began to fall and there was no concealing it. Fortunately he righted himself as he has done on several other occasions, including at one of the several celebrations of Vespers in St. Paul-outside-the-Walls this year. I watched the whole thing and it was not shown. I only came to know of it from a friend who was actually there. Obviously it is easier to conceal certain shots at a big liturgical event than it is at a small intense gathering like the L'Aquila one, where the camera is focused almost exclusively on the Holy Father.

To some extent, I agree with this policy of the Vatican when it comes to what is seen on TV. Nobody, except the sensationalist or malicious would wish to see our Holy Father in a position where he is stripped of his dignity. Of course, the mass secular media appear to want us to see such things, which explains why Sky TV apparently gave so much time to the incident on Friday night. Ironically this meant that they showed more of the Mass than they normally would have done but one is left with the unpleasant suspicion that on Christmas Eve especially, they would have loved to send images round the world of the Pope spreadeagled on the floor of St. Peter's nave. At least Vatican policy prevented that. The secular media fail to understand, that Catholics, however much or little they were allowed to see from Vatican TV, immediately thought of their Holy Father as vulnerable and accepting of whatever happened to him, and in his own way reflecting his Master, who fell on the road to Calvary and was stripped of all dignity on His arrival there. Images are one thing, but I do not think it acceptable that we be denied audio commentary, to the extent that most of us apparently knew nothing of what had happened until Christmas morning.

It's now time to descibe my own experience, one that I'm sure many readers share.

Christmas Eve. 9pm UK time:
The kto programme did not commence as scheduled at 10pm our time. It always brings my heart to my mouth when they are late like this, but on Chrismas Eve? The programme eventually started about ten minutes late. At this point the Holy Father had almost arrived at the altar end of the nave. He looked a little serious. Normally he is wreathed in smiles when arriving to celebrate one of the two most joyful Masses of the Christian year, but I was glad and relieved to see him, and so looking forward to the Mass that I did not think to question the ten minute delay, or to realise that the commentary must have already begun because there wasn't the usual welcome to viewers. At the altar the Holy Father looked serene. He smiled at the thurifer before the incensing. (Now I know that he was probably encouraging the poor chap and saying with his eyes, "Look, you can see I'm all right. That's all over. Let's get on with the most important thing.") The Mass began and I was able to put earlier anxieties out of mind. Everything appeared to be completely normal.

Christmas Day 7.45am UK time:
I found the special email that Catholic Culture had sent to its subscribers. It led me to that chilling little video. Even though I trust Catholic Culture as responsible purveyors of news, I admit that it flashed through my mind that this was some kind of mock-up, a sick joke. And yet once the video began I knew it was real. It was indeed raw and from a cell-phone. Father Lombardi says the Pope stumbled. From what I saw, he went down like a ninepin. I don't think any of us will ever forget the lurching of our hearts as the woman leapt the barrier, and seconds later, as he fell and his mitre disappeared from view.

You know it took me some time to recover sufficiently to post about it. I had to do that as my bounden duty. This Oasis is dedicated to Pope Benedict. I was angry that we had been deprived of this news the previous night; upset that we had been prevented during that 'Midnight Mass' from offering thanksgiving to God for his preservation; and distressed that we had been lied to by omission and prevented at the time from a full appreciation of our Holy Father's strength, courage, fortitude and focus. For this reason I decided to watch the kto repeat video and it was then that I made an even more exasperating discovery.

This video, which had still not been edited when I last checked, actually begins before the Procession starts. The organ strikes up and the Choir begins the 'Tu es Petrus'. They have time to sing only the first two phrases. The camera is looking down the nave. The papal group is not on vision. And then a collective reaction of horror goes up. Clearly something has happened. We see the procession halt. The servers ahead of the Pope freeze to the spot. Discipline and/or shock prevents any of them from looking back to see what has happened. Security men start running from all directions. The soundtrack tells you there is a kerfuffle going on which you cannot actually see. Eventually, as we now know courtesy of Orbis Catholicus, after 51 seconds a roar of applause goes up. We see things start moving again. The choir begins the Introit. We see the part of the procession that had been thrown into disarray regrouping and then there are shots of happy faces in the crowd applauding the Pope. And then at last we see him again. It is the same shot which began the broadcast the previous night.

But the most astonishing thing was, that whilst we were actually SEEING ALL THIS, the commentator ignored it totally and prattled on about how many cardinals were at the Mass etc. etc. It was as if he were at another event altogether, certainly not the one we were watching.
He did not commentate on what we were being shown. Have a look at the video yourself, unless of course they've edited it since I last checked. It flies in the face of any claim to journalistic integrity. But most of all why show this video after the event? Why not clip it first, unless to show the kind of thing the Vatican insists upon in such circumstances.

More questions arise from these of course and I intend to approach them in a post tomorrow. In the meantime I hope you have all had a holy and happy Feast of The Holy Family and are ready to enter into the mystery of the massacre of the Holy Innocents tomorrow.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Pope Benedict:: Security issues in St. Peter's Basilica

It wasn't as if this was the first time such a thing had happened. Last year, the security men managed to prevent a deranged woman from reaching the Pope as he processed down the nave of St. Peter's. There must be film and documentation of that first incident. Surely the security teams have studied these with the intention of learning from them and tightening things up so as to avoid future attacks. At least we have every right to expect that they did. And yet another and more serious incident was allowed to occur. It will be the worse for them if it does turn out to have been the same woman this year. The bald fact is that the events of Christmas Eve represent a gross failure on the part of those who operate a security system which is meant to protect the Pope in St. Peter's Basilica.

Everywhere Pope Benedict has been out of the Vatican and Italy, security has been impeccable. All the governments involved made absolutely sure of that, well as far as is possible. The French even had a satellite watching things during his visit to Paris and Lourdes last year. Loyal and loving Catholics throughout the world know this and most of them know how much it cost, and yet this latest incident was allowed to happen in the Vatican, in the Pope's own home. We should be ashamed.

No wonder such Catholics are united (for once) in demanding that something more be done to ensure the safety of their Holy Father. In general it seems that although some would like a return of the 'sedia gestatoria', most realise that carrying the Pope aloft would expose him to snipers, and a commenter who said that such a worry in the basilica was over-dramatic is not living in our present world. No, in my view, our Holy Father should remain firmly on the ground. The monarchical symbolism of the former ceremonies, whilst comprehensible and valued in tradition, would be totally against his personality and the spirit of his pontificate. However, he should be closely flanked, as in the past, by the Swiss Guard and the Noble Guard. Unless of course the men in black suits are in mufti, which I doubt. Anyone leaping a barrier is more likely to be deterred by a Swiss Guard doing the job he is vowed to do, that is to defend the Holy Father, first with his pike, and if necessary with his own life. I say the Swiss Guard should be given back their teeth and free exercise of their holy vow. They are not, and should not any longer be merely decorative symbols. (And did you know that the majority of Swiss vocations to the priesthood come from their ranks after they have served their year?

Tomorrow: the peculiar matter of media coverage of Christmas Eve in St. Peter's.

Pope Benedict: Christmas Eve assailant named.

The Holy Father was assailed by a 25 year old Swiss/Italian named Susanna Maiolo. She has a long history of psychiatric instability. This information is reported in our local newspaper, the 'Charente Libre'. According to the same paper she also collided with 87 year old Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who broke his femur as a result. Some are saying that it was his hip, but since the Cardinal is French, I tend to trust the French press. I'm sure my readers are with me in prayer for the poor cardinal and for Susanna Maiolo. I read somewhere earlier today that he had tried to prevent her reaching the Pope and was knocked down as a result.

There appears to be no statement yet to confirm or deny the rumour going around that this woman is the same as the one who attempted an assault on the Pope last year. I should not be surprised to find that she is the same. The exaxt place, style of attack and colour of clothing were all the same, and yet again she went for the Holy Father's neck. Last year it was stated that she wanted to bite it. This year she pulled so violently at the part of his vestments near his throat, that she caused him to fall on the hard marble of St. Peter's nave. 20 years ago I fell on both knees on the tiled floor of our kitchen and I remember the pain to this day. There is no way I could have got to my feet in less than a minute and continued as if nothing had happened. The video that I saw early on Christmas morning caused a physical nausea that lasted at least two hours and for half an hour afterwards I was shaking too much to type the previous post. The Holy Father must have fallen differently. Perhaps his staff and the thickness of all the vestments helped to cushion the impact. Those reactions of mine were an expression of the shock, dread, and then relief that we all felt when it became apparent that our beloved Pope was unhurt and the procession recommenced. As you know I was worried that the Holy Father would suffer a delayed reaction once the Mass was over and he was back in the Apostolic Palace. He has appeared twice since then, once at the "Urbi et Orbi" and again at today's midday Angelus and on both occasions he showed no adverse effects from the incident on Christmas Eve.
This seems miraculous to many, including myself.

After he broke his wrist, the Holy Father said that his guardian angel had permitted it to happen in order to send him to the 'school of humility and patience'. Privately, he is probably now equally convinced that his angel and perhaps many others, if not even higher heavenly Authorities were most definitely looking after him . As for us, it is as if we have been told yet again that the world has desperate need of this most holy Shepherd of love, peace and hope. As many have said before me, he is a precious gift to the Church and the world. The night of December 24th was not the time for him to be taken from us.
Deo gratias! Deo gratias! Deo gratias!

I found Fr. Lombardi's remark that the assailant 'meant no harm' hard to accept. How did he know? Has he interviewed her? Even if she did mean no harm, the truth on all of our minds is that she could have done it, and one shudders to contemplate just how serious that harm may have been. She certainly did great harm to Cardinal Etchegeray.

The whole incident raises issues of the Pope's security, particularly in St. Peter's Basilica, but it also highlights and calls into question the media's policy and practice as regards so-called live coverage and commentary on papal events, particularly when something goes as wrong as it did on Christmas Eve. I hope to cover these issues in another post later today.

A Happy and Peaceful Feast of St. Stephen to everyone.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Holy Father knocked down entering Basilica for Christmas Eve Mass

Our beloved Papa was apparently unhurt and got to his feet within moments. kto did not show the incident and so I've only just found the news. He showed absolutely no sign on arrival at the altar that anything untoward had happened. Pray that he does not suffer from delayed shock.
I believe he is protected by God-given inner strength, and by the wall of our prayers which surrounds him.

Catholic Culture has reports here This will also lead you to a raw Youtube video of the incident but there's a better one at Better, because it shows Pope Benedict's amazing composure as he began the Mass, which of course he maintained throughout it.

"Christians awake, salute the happy morn!"

After the Holy Father's Mass was over last night, unable to sleep straight away, I turned my mind to a Christmas Day post for the Oasis, and the title above kept repeating itself in my mind, with its music of course.

My European readers will probably all be up by now but the first line of the Christmas song will still be appropriate for our friends in the US.

With my best wishes to all of you for a holy and happy Christmastide.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Our Holy Father recalls childhood Christmas in Tittmoning

I found this charming little video several months ago and have been saving it for Christmas. Does anyone know where and when it was made and who was in the audience? He seems very relaxed so perhaps he was addressing students, seminarians or a group of priests and religious. I don't understand it all but he appears to be making mild and affectionate fun of his child-like reactions to the Christmas tree and to the person dressed up as St. Nicholas, whom the young Joseph believed really was the saint.

(We will attempt an English transcript before Christmas.)

The Holy Father recollects his childhood in Tittmoning

I think the Holy Father mentions singing in the choir in this first video, so the one that follows seems an appropriate musical accompaniament, particularly since the little boy next to last on the left looks a bit like the child Joseph Ratzinger. (Thank you again Mark!)

Vienna Boys Choir sings Tannenbaum, 1977

Willkommen, Vatican Tannenbaum

Very many thanks to Mark Miles, the Oasis is pleased and proud to welcome the Vatican Christmas Tree, see left. As the Holy Father said a few days ago, it has been brought from the darkness of the Ardennes Forest to symbolise the Light of the Incarnation in St. Peter's Square.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pope Benedict and Walsingham: Things on my mind Part 2

In all the speculations about venues which our Holy Father may visit, if and when he comes to the UK next year, I have not once seen a mention of Walsingham. He has made a habit of visiting the most important national shrine of every country he has visited. He probably knows and values the significance and history of Walsingham better than many English Catholics do these days. I will find it very hard to believe that he will set foot in the 'dowry of Mary' and not visit Walsingham. It would probably have to be a private un-televised visit because the infra-structure of the place could not cope with vast crowds. Nevertheless, please join me in praying that Pope Benedict will be the first pope since the Reformation to be a pilgrim there. If he is not, it will be a missed opportunity of gargantuan proportions. My hopes are high that he will risk no such thing.

The other point is of course, that there is an Anglo-Catholic shrine at Walsingham. In the present 'climate' a papal visit to this and to the pre-reformation Slipper Chapel where pilgrims used to leave their footwear before completing the final stage of the pilgirmage, would speak volumes. Other places in England that I would wish him to visit, unfettered by politics and the 'establishment'? St. Dunstans in Sussex which has the head of St. Thomas More , St. Etheldreda's church, the only pre-reformation church in London still in Catholic hands, and of course the shrine of St. Thomas a Beckett at Canterbury. But most of all, please - Walsingham!

Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us and for England, thy Dowry..

Monday, December 21, 2009

"Gregorian" Mass from Notre Dame Paris on Christmas Morning

kto will broadcast this Mass at 9am UK time on Christmas Day. It remains to be seen and heard whether "Gregorian" is meant in the sense of Cardinal Castrillon's coinage for the EF, or whether it simply means that Plainchant will be sung - probably the latter. That said, Cardinal Vingt-trois has already celebrated two EF Masses this year, although not in Notre Dame. and neither was televised so far as I know. Are we about to see him make history in his own cathedral? If not, it will still be worth tuning in, for the spiritually and aesthetically uplifting experience of hearing the Chant in that setting.

The broadcast will finish in good time for the channel to go ove to Rome for the "Urbi et Orbi" at 11am, again UK time.

A "Goodnight" thought from Pope Benedict, given in English at today's Angelus

"Like Mary, who travelled the hill country of Judea to viisit her cousin Elizabeth, the Church is called to journey through history proclaiming the wondrous message of Salvation."l

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Tenth Anniversary Celebrations on kto: Interviews with Cardinal Bertone and Cardinal Ouillet of Quebec


2.3o pm Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State.
A good report on the interview is available in English at Zenit

7.30 pm Cardinal Marc Ouillet, Archbishop of Quebec

These are both repeat broadcasts and can also be viewed as videos on kto at any time.
N.B. There may be slight adjustments in statedscheduled times.

10 am kto will broadcast the ceremony in Rome as the Pope conveys his Christmas wishes to the Roman Curia. Even if you don't understand Italian or French you can enjoy it visually.

Naturally kto will also cover Wednesday's General Audiece (9.30 am); Christmas Eve Midnight Mass celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica by Pope Benedict (9pm); Christmas Day - His "Urbi et Orbi" from the central Loggia (11 am)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pope Benedict and Venerable Pius XII: Things on my mind Part I

The news is but a few hours old and it is no surprise that already 'Jewish groups' are registering their outrage at the Pope's decision to sign the decree which makes Pius XII Venerable. The reasons why they react in this way are not the point of this post. Its point is that it astonishes me that anyone in his or her right mind would think that Pope Benedict would have done such a thing had he not been certain of facts.

We all know how long, in the normal way, the Vatican takes to dig up relevant records. Does anyone really think that the Supreme Pontiff cannot command that these records be presented for his inspection as and when he wishes? (In any case, there are already enough records in the public domain that militate against the disgraceful smear campaign that has been conducted against Pius XII for decades.) Does anyone really think that Joseph Ratzinger, arguably the most intellectually gifted, cautious and balanced Pope since Pius himself would take risks in this matter? Jewish groups had asked him to delay this decree until THEY had been able to examine the Vatican records. I pray that the more sensible ones among them will realise that the Pope himself has seen them, and THAT IS ENOUGH. To suggest otherwise is to question the integrity of the Pope himself and it is my belief that informed Jews would wish to do no such thing.

Finally, can anyone really imagine that Pope Benedict would want to die with a distorion of the truth upon his conscience, to the endangerment of his own immortal soul and thereby the eventual bringing of the Papacy itself into irredeemable disrepute? And this a man whose entire life has been 'a love affair with the truth'? It does not bear thinking about.

May God bless, defend and strengthen our beloved Holy Father, and may we, whilst it is God's will to keep him with us, listen to him, learn from him and love him.

Two new 'Venerables'

Pope Benedict signed the decrees today, making Venerable, Pope Pius XII and Pope John Paul II.
Deo gratias.

I received the news by email from at 3.45pm European time. Special thanks to them.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Litany of St. Thomas More by Bishop Michael Salterelli (R.I.P.)

Litany of St. Thomas More, Martyr and patron Saint of Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers

Lord, have mercy
Lord, have mercy

Christ, have mercy
Christ, have mercy

Lord, have mercy
Lord, have mercy

Christ, hear us
Christ, graciously hear us

St. Thomas More, Saint and Martyr,
Pray for us (repeat after each invocation)
St. Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers
St. Thomas More, Patron of Justices, Judges and Magistrates
St. Thomas More, Model of Integrity and Virtue in Public and Private Life
St. Thomas More, Servant of the Word of God and the Body and Blood of Christ
St. Thomas More, Model of Holiness in the Sacrament of Marriage
St. Thomas More, Teacher of his Children in the Catholic Faith
St. Thomas More, Promoter of Human Life and Dignity

Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world
Spare us O Lord

Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world
Graciously hear us O Lord

Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world
Have mercy on us

Let us pray:

O Glorious St. Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers, your life of prayer and penance and your zeal for justice, integrity and firm principle in public and family life led you to the path of martydom and sainthood. Intercede for our Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers, that they may be courageous and effective in their defence and promotion of the sanctity of human life - the foundation of all other human rights. We ask this through Christ our Lord.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

St. Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers, Pray for us.

"The laws of England are like a grove of oaks. Cut them down and...................." St. Thomas More

Looking back over my fifty years as a Catholic I recognise that not infrequently a certain phenomenon has re-occurred. This has always been manifest in the following way. Over a concentrated period of days or even weeks, a certain Saint or devotion keeps cropping up, quite outside anything for which I have been consciously searching. At first I am surprised and tend to think that it is merely coincidence, then as things develop and the saint seems to be refusing to go away, I realise that Cardinal Newman's term 'God's little providences' is more appropriate. Every time, I have thought, how could I have been so dull, so deaf and so blind? And yet it is good to realise my own spiritual disabilites because that means that I can never become blase, nor expect that these things may happen again. And yet they do. It's as if the saint is saying to me, particularly in this season of Advent, 'Look, you are supposed to be vigilant, awake and listening. Beg my intercession. Have you forgotten me?'

Readers who followed my reports on the recent EF weekend here in St. Romain, will know that the co-patron, of our house chapel, with and under the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, is St. Thomas More. Why St Thomas?

When I was sixteen and before we broke up from school in the summer of 1959 we were given a short preparatory reading list for the A level studies that would begin in September. In my case this included History, in particular of the Tudors and the Reformation.. For some months I'd been receiving instruction in the Faith. The reading I did at that time enraged me because I sensed it embodied, condoned and encouraged a lie. The 'establishment' of my own beloved country had been built on this lie ever since. I could write pages about the intellectual and spiritual contortions I went through in succeeding months. Suffice to say that it was the Holy Mass, the Real Presence of Jesus Christ within it, and the deaths of our Martyrs, notably of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher that made me Catholic. Perhaps I respect and love St. John Fisher in a different way because he was first a priest and then a bishop. I chose St. Thomas to be c0-patron of our chapel because he was the father of a family. There are many others of course but in my youth St. Thomas More was for me the quintessence of the English Catholic layman. He still is.

During the EF weekend I felt his presence and after Father had left although I was occupied with the reports and photos, I knew that I wanted to hang the reproduction of the Holbein portrait of St. Thomas in the study which I've been meaning to do for a long time. Then:

December 8:
I read that the Holy Father, during his visit to England in September 2010, will speak to both Houses of Parliament from the very spot in Westminster Hall where St. Thomas was condemned to death. I wept on reading this. St. Thomas More pray for us.

December 13:
In the morning I finally hung the portrait in the study.
In the afternoon did my daily check on Mulier Fortis, to find that she had posted about St. Thomas More. Quite unseasonally because as you know his feast is in June. Her post had been inspired by a conversation with Leutgeb and centred around one of my favourite films of all time 'A Man for all Seasons' in which St. Thomas makes the salutary quip to the betraying Richard Rich, ' But for Wales?' ( I wanted to email Mac there and then, but someone phoned or hammered on the front door and the moment passed. The person from Porlock is ever with us.) St. Thomas More pray for us.

December 14th
Read of the concern of our English and Welsh bishops about legislation that is being considered in UK parliament which would criminalise the Church for its opposition to women priests. (This is the same 'government' that will receive our Holy Father in Westminster Hall? If the legislation is allowed then they should arrest him on the spot for voicing the Church's teaching. Can things get any more illogical or just plain daft?
St. Thomas More pray for us.

December 15th
During a final trawl of my favourite blogs last night I was further disturbed to read on WDTPRS about the White House and Senator Ben Nelson.
And then thanks to Fr. Z, it was there, the thing that I suspect St. Thomas More wanted me to find, to pray and to encourage others to pray too. It is the Litany of St. Thomas More by the late Bishop Michael Salterelli and is at 'The Catholic Key Blog'. I cannot get a workable link and so will type it out tomorrow in a separate post. Please join me in praying it as a Novena between now and Christmas, and not just for Senator Nelson. We are indeed in evil case.

As for the quote which opens this post, I can't remember how it ends! I've searched unsuccessfully for years. If anyone is familiar with it, do please let me know.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fr Mark Kirby O.S.B. on St. John of the Cross

This post of Fr Mark's: "Though it Be Night" was the treasure that awaited me after breakfast this morning. I'm sure you've read it by now, but if not please go to his Vultus Christi blog.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

St. John of the Cross tomorrow

Time to contemplate 'the thicket of the Cross'.

Tango has posted more news in the combox of the most recent post about Fr Blondel (RIP). The Holy Father mentioned him today at the Angelus, and the other priests who have been killed in South Africa this year. Otherwise there has not been much comment here in France. Has anyone picked up anything in the British or American Press or online, apart from Zenit which I mentioned earlier. Thank you Tango. Without you I probably would not know anything about this.

The Angelus in Rome today was a joyful occasion - on Gaudete Sunday what else? And our Holy Father gave himself to it genuinely of course. But on another level we all know he is outraged by the Irish abuse scandal report and that he is composing a letter to the Irish faithful. May this help to dry the tears and bind up the wounds of decades, and may the Irish people actually receive his unadulterated, unedited words. May nobody anymore impede communication between this most holy Pope and his frightened and confused flock.

As I said, now that Gaudete Sunday is over for another year, it is time to renew our contemplation of 'the thicket of the cross'. Surely this can only deepen our understanding of, and joy in, the Incarnation of Our Lord and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

More Photos as promised - 2

Three more of the chapel and three of the library taken from the chapel

More little details
Top left below beam - little shrine of St. Therese of Lisieux
Parially obscured by beam - chair at the wooden prie-dieu - an old replica of the one used by Churchill during WWII. It has a large oval relief of St. George and the dragon in the leather of its backrest. The ebay seller did not know its provenance. He thought it might be the original but described it as a replica in the interests of honesty.

Prie dieu - from Antique Church Furnishings, salvaged from a closed convent.

In foreground left behind beam - one of eight cane French-style prie dieu from Tournai Cathedral, obtained when they were throwing out about 70 of them several years ago.

Centre -hanging from beam in foreground - entrance bell bought at Emmaus Charity near Angouleme.

Above Our Lady of Lourdes - Icon of Christ Pantocrator - from same source as altar icons.
On upright beam, extreme right - Holy water stoup - one of the few things in the chapel without a history - bought new at the CTS London, at least ten years ago.

Sorry you can't see these items in detail. Will try to post close-ups as the months pass.


Three more details

Above chaire behind Communion rail - Icon of Elijah and the Raven given as a present by my Spiritual Director.
To the right of this - hanging sanctuary lamp, not yet properly affixed to the beam.
The Communion rail was put in by an English friend who lives across the road. We used an old beam found lying on the property when we bought it in 1989.


Iron plant stands
From a French Brocante site on ebay


A section of the Library

Taken from behind Communion rail in chapel. Apologies for the hoover on the sofa. I didn't have time to move it, or the mat on the red carpet. It looks as if a visiting Moslem has left his prayer mat behind. Not so, I assure you.

Another shot of the Library

Taken from chapel sanctuary. On window sill behind keyboard - statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She spends the winter indoors and goes into the garden for Spring and Summer. There she has her own little grotto.

Centrally on the wall is a painting of a detail of the 14th century facade of Aubeterre St. Jacques Church which is two km away. The white board below the painting and crucifix is a relic from the time I used the library as a classroom, that is up to summer 2008. I wrote something on the board a couple of weeks ago just to amuse myself. It's still there. Any guesses as to what it might be I wonder?


And a final one taken from the gallery - bottom of chapel stairs visible at lower right of picture.

More Photos as promised - 1

First, two of this year's Advent wreath on the freezer top in the kitchen!

Adorned with a 'Golden Showers' Rose for the Immaculate Conception

I went into the Advent section of the garden on the morning of December 8th (the garden is planted according to the liturgical seasons) and found one rose blooming on the climbing 'Golden Showers'. Coincidence if you wish, but I take it as a gift from our Immaculate Mother and one which I rejoice to give back to her. This section of the garden has several roses planted for her. But 'Golden Showers' was planted to memorialise the golden slippers she wears in the Apparition at Lourdes. It is not possible to look at it without hearing her words to St. Bernadette: "I am the Immaculate Conception."

The Little Yellow Stars are Winter Jasmine and there's a rose hip near the right hand foreground violet candle.

Winter Jasmine represents St. John the Evangelist in my garden. I'll post an explanation as to why when we reach his feast. The embroidered cloth, also with yellow stars, was worked by my husband's paternal grandmother (RIP) and was perfect for this picture.

A plant growing out of the top of my head? Friends might say that wouldn't be surprising! No, just a wall vase.

To the left above my head, Shrine to St. Catherine Laboure, St. Louise de Marillac and the great St. Vincent de Paul. Centre: The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus . The statue is old and was given to me by Violet Sparkes (RIP) former sacristan of St. Mary's Cadogan St. London - Auntie Vi as she was affectionately known to members of the choir. Underneath the statue - to the left, St. Claude Colombieres, and right St. Jean Eudes with a relic of St. Margaret Mary between them, and her picture on the table.

The candlestand: The three lights burning are for my Birmingham sisters and our special intentions, for all my spiritual priest and seminarian 'sons', and for my blogging friends and spiritual mothers worldwide.

Our Lady of Lourdes and Queen of Peace

To the right of the Most Sacred Heart is the little statue of Our Lady of Lourdes and beneath that a picture of Our Lady of Peace in St. Mary the Virgin, Bourne St., London SW1. This is where I pray for all my Anglo Catholic friends that they may come home soon.

Longshot of altar with icons of the Evangelists and the Apostles

A closer one.

Icon on wall right behind altar: St. Mary Magdalene with Jesus in the Garden of Resurrection

And the Sacred Heart blessing the house to the right of picture

All the icons came from Greece. The white card in front of the altar crucifix is the dedication of Brother Juan Diego of Fr Mark's embryonic Monastery in Tulsa. Brother received the holy habit on December 7th. "May God who has begun this work in him, bring it to fulfilment."

More tomorrow with some of the library taken from the chapel.

God bless you all and have a truly joyful Gaudete Sunday.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The French Oasis: More and better photos, hopefully tomorrow night

But most probably that will be all until early next week. Have just realised Christmas is only a fortnight away! Cribs, cards, pies, puddings (already done) trees, lights and ACTION!

"The Mass is not a rite of socialisation: Jesus Christ is truly present in it."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fr. Blondel R.I.P: More news.

More details of arrests, reactions in South Africa and Father's funeral details now in the combox of previous posts, courtesy of and many thanks to Tango.

Fr. Blondel R.I.P.:Latest news

Tango has left an update in the combox of my post of yesterday about Father Blondel's fatal shooting. Please read and pray.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Fr. Blondel RIP: the fourth priest to be murdered in South Africa this year.

Tango has sent me a newspaper report of Father's murder, I think in the Johannesburg area. He has posted it as a comment on my post of 30th of March this year: 'Father Sham knew us'.
Until I can post in greater detail please scroll to the post and read what Tango has sent. Fr. Blondel was 70 years old and it seems was taken to his eternal reward on the Eve of the Immaculate Conception. I know it is unnecessary to ask for your prayers, for Father, for the perpetrators of his murder and for South Africa.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Extraordinary Weekend: Acknowledgements and the future of the Mass in St. Romain

First of all I thank Our Lord Himself and His priest who enabled Him to come to us.

Next, Fr Mark Kirby. who suggested that I try and arrange the weekend and who, for a long time, has given me the constant support of his prayers and written encouragement.

Then Annie of the Arundel and Brighton LMS blog and her 'collaborator', who together were responsible for putting me in touch with the Father who spent the weekend with us.

Then my three 'spiritual sisters' in Birmingham Archdiocese who have prayed with me for a long time that such a thing would happen.

Thanks also to Mark Miles for his prayers, encouragement and practical help with the photos.

Thanks to all of you who have prayed and read and/or commented on the Blog - Mac (Mulier Fortis), Brian (Whtesmoke Ahoy!), Sandy, Annie, Clare and Pelerin and to those of you who have contacted me by email. If you are not mentioned here it is because I don't know who you are or because I know you prefer your names to be kept private. And your anonymity here does not mean that my gratitude to you is any the less heartfelt. Thank you to all Spiritual Mothers who are in contact with me and to my readers and followers of both the Oasis and Spiritual Mothers of Priests blogs.

THE FUTURE: A couple of practical problems

These showed themselves during the weekend. First it became apparent that the altar is too low. It needs to be raised on a dais. If anyone wants to build such a thing, they are welcome to spent a few days free working holiday with us whenever they like once the New Year has begun! The second problem is that for a priest of Father's height (6' 2") the beam above the altar is also too low for comfort. This can be solved by moving the altar forward by a foot, or by changing the position of the altar to be against the end wall of the house, where the Sacred Heart shrine now is. (I can do either of these adjustments myself but neither of them would make 'versus populum' celebration a possibility.)


This dictates that two Masses a month be said in the place of reservation. These can be said on consecutive days, which is why two Masses were celebrated here, Father Mark and I had originally hoped that reservation would be possible. Had I been able to find a priest to come and offer two Masses in December, the Blessed Sacrament could have remained with us. As no priest had been found, Our Lord could not stay. In any case, after the first occasion which in our case can be counted as a 'pastoral necessity' (too true it was!!), the reservation and the Masses hve to be sanctioned by the bishop. IF THERE ARE ANY PRIESTS READING THIS WHO KNOW ME OR WHO KNOW PRIESTS I KNOW, AND WHO FANCY THE IDEA OF A FEW DAYS of FREE PEACE AND QUIET WITH US IN EXCHANGE 'FOR DUTIES', PLEASE GET IN TOUCH at Your accommodation whilst with us is the exclusive use of the first floor. In the meantime I will be writing to the Vicar General of the Diocese and also have a contact at the FSSP in France. Father discussed this with me and he didn't see why the parish church couldn't be opened for Mass and Holy Hour if I can find a priest. I think I know that permission is less likely to be granted for the church if such a priest wished to celebrate the 'Usus Antiquior' but I may be wrong. I will also be contacting Paix Liturgique about this. We shall see, but again, PLEASE PRAY FOR THE DESIRED OUTCOME.

(*Thanks too, to my dear friend Stephen, to whom I owe this charming little linguistic conceit.)

Think about it please. We could accommodate two priests in the house. the rest of any group would have to book into the local auberge two or three minutes walk away from us. It is a one star, confortable and reasonaby priced part of the Logis de France chain. B & B would be a good option if I could have help in the kitchen from some of the gathered company! As well as liturgical celebrations including Mass of course, I would suggest sessions of Chant practice and rehearsal of the Byrd for Four and a couple of motets, once in the house chapel and once in the church, if good enough! Please let me have your reactions/suggestions/questions either via combox or email as above.

God bless you all and thank you again.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Extraordinary form Weekend in rural France: Part VI - First Sunday in Advent - The second Mass and Confession

Hard to believe it is a whole week ago today since the alarm woke me to the same thoughts and prayers as had been in my heart and on my lips when sleep had overtaken me a few hours earlier. After the morning offering and getting ready for the day, the impulse to run upstairs to the chapel was almost overpowering, but we had agreed on Father's having a lie-in and disturbing him could not be risked - the chapel is directly over his bedroom - a good place for a priest to sleep, directly at Our Lord's feet, so to speak. And before Father came down for breakfast there was kitchen work to be done. Vegetables had to be prepared and a huge loin of pork put in the oven for lunch.

By 10.30am he and I were upstairs before the altar having finished practical preparations for the Mass and so there was time for recollection and prayer beforehand. At 11am Father went to vest. I wasn't as nervous as I'd been the previous day but every bit as concentrated. It would be slightly different today because of the additon of the Creed, so I must keep alert. The little entrance bell rang once more, and the second Mass began in our little chapel of the Sacred Heart and St. Thomas More.

Again I felt the totally unmerited privilege of what was happening, of what was being given to me, and expected of me as I contemplated the ineffable mystery of the Sacrifice being enacted before me.

Now is not the time to enter into a comparison between the Usus Antiquior and the Novus Ordo of the Mass, which on the two occasions described in these posts would most definitely favour the former. I will however share a few thoughts which occurred to me during the Masses themselves or during subsequent reflection. Firstly the age, ambience, smallness of the place of celebration, and intimacy of the occasions, seemed to cry out for the older form. Spiritually and aesthetically, it answered that call perfectly. I was close enough to the altar to be able to hear the whispered Canon and even the spoken parts were sotto voce. Anything more would have been a jarring and inappropriate discomfort. Secondly, during the Epistles and Gospels I was listening to the same ones as were heard by our Martyrs of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The old Mass is immutable, day in day out, year in year out until the end of time. Thirdly, I realised how much I appreciated the doing and saying of things twice or three times in the old Mass. This for at least two reasons. First because it allows the priest his own 'Confiteor' and 'Domine non sum dignus'. To me this is profoundly important because he is in a totally different relationship to Christ than are we the laity. But second, for us, it gives time for the reality of what is being prayed to sink in. The 'Domine non sum dignus' for instance, was a particular case in point for me this last weekend. 'Lord I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof........'

I am quite willing to concede that my love for the old Mass stems from the fact that first hearing it fifty years ago, played a significant part in my conversion from fairly low Anglicanism to Catholicism. Under a decade was to pass between my reception into the Church, and as it turned out, the widespread and quite brutal removal of the 'Mass of Ages', 'the most beautiful thing, this side of heaven'. It will always be those things to me. I have been obedient to the 'Novus Ordo', although I'll admit that for many years I was spoiled by being a member of a Latin church choir which sang Gregorian Chant and Renaissance polyphonic settings of the Mass uninterruptedly (and still does), even though after the 'changes' it was to the new rite in Latin, in itself, probably one of the best-kept secrets of the post-conciliar period! And so for the past forty years whenever I have been at an EF Mass, it has been as if to greet a beloved friend and to feel immediately at home and at peace with it.

The Mass of the first Sunday of Advent was obviously different from the Saturday Mass in many respects. A personal difference was that when Mass ended the previous day, there was still so much to look forward to, including this Mass which was now proceeding to its inevitable conclusion. At least three powerful responses were in my soul and I could almost feel it being expanded to make room for them all so that they would not conflict - sorrow for my own inadequacy and sinfulness; dread of the yearning, aching void that would come after Our Lord had left us; and yet faith, hope and firm expectation of His coming again to us, here in this house if it is His will; and of course in His Second coming at the end of time...............

At the end of the Mass, Father handed me the lit candle and I preceded him down the stairs as he took the Blessed Sacrament to Colin, waiting in the kitchen. He was given the Host that had been in the monstrance at yesterday's Holy Hour, and as Father prepared the ciborium, I felt the expected stab of acceptance that once we left the chapel Our Lord would no longer be in it, not until the next time............. In the kitchen I knelt on the tiled floor whilst Colin received.
Afterwards Father apologised for not having already asked us if we would like Confession. I accepted and we went upstairs again.

After Confession I lit the candles at the little shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes and offered my penance. Before leaving the chapel, I asked Father to extinguish her candles when he came down to lunch, and then went down to finish getting it ready. As I descended it occurred to me that I had probably earned a plenary indulgence during the weekend and offered further thanksgiving for that.

In poor words I have tried to share some of the joy, wonder and awe of that weekend. Of course I was doomed to failure from the outset, but I pray that a little of the truth of it has somehow been conveyed and that at least you all agree that the Oasis has indeed lived up to its name. Truly, it was the best beginning to Advent that I have ever experienced.

Next post: Acknowledgements ; the Future: Canon Law, the Bishop and Byrd-song?

An Extraordinary Form Weekend in Rural France: A few photographs

As explained in an earlier post, Father's camera was adversely affected by being left in his car all night. This first one is of the poorest quality. The smoky atmosphere was NOT caused by clouds of incense, more's the pity! The rest are much better! Many thanks to Mark Miles for his assistance in posting them.

1. The Sanctuary taken from the Sacristy.


Credence table in front of the altar; to right of photo you should just be able to make out the white statue of the Sacred Heart blessing the library and house below. The tops of two library bookcases can be seen bottom right of photo.

2. Another, closer one from the Sacristy.


Lit sanctuary lamp peeping out from behind leftmost beam, denoting the Lord's presence in the tabernacle; dressed chalice and altar Missal in place. In extreme left foreground the two framed plaques are a) printed record of the chapel's blessing and dedication under the patronage of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Thomas More on Candlemas 1994 b) an engraving of the Presentation in the Temple.

3 Close up of Altar ready for Msss on the First Sunday of Advent.


Sorry about the ironing, the altar cloth did not appear as creased in reality! Note already mentioned 'priest hole' back left behind altar. I like the aureole effect the lighting has created above the tabernacle.

4. Altar from my prie-dieu in the chapel


To left in front of sanctuary lamp stand is communion rail draped ready with white linen cloth.

5. The Vesting table ready for the priest.


The tryptych shows the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child (centre); The Nativity of Our Lord (right); and The Presentation in the Temple (left). The left and right panels can be closed to reveal two further pictures - on the right S. Veronica with the Holy Face of Jesus, and on the left, the Good Shepherd with a lamb. I bought the piece at Antique Church Furnishings in the UK. It's a second hand outlet for discarded ecclesiastical items which the proprietor salvages with great love. This tryptych, he told me, had once belonged to a former auxiliary bishop of Arundel and Brighton, whose private chapel it had once adorned..

Above the tryptych are the framed Vesting Prayers in Latin and English, to the right of these, are small pictures of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica. To the left of the prayers is a warning to the priest about the low beam above his head! On the table to the left of the vestments is a small picture of St. Jean Vianney, and behind the lefthand panel of the tryptych is the Prayer of St. Pius V.

I'm hoping to post the photos taken with the conventional camera as soon as I can, probably towards the end of next week as the film has to go into the nearest town for developing.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Extraordinary (form) weekend Part V: Saturday draws to a close: preparations for Advent Sunday I

When I wrote yesterday that by last Saturday evening my 'interior diary' was almost full, I should of course have said that it WAS ALREADY FULL TO OVERFLOWING!

After Vespers and supper Father went up to his room to finish watching a film on his computer. Not much later, I crept up to the chapel as quietly as possible in case he had retired for the night. The first thing I found was that the sanctuary lamp had burnt out. Having replaced its light, I set about a general tidying up, laying out the vestments for the next morning, and then changing the colour of the altar furnishings from red to violet. As I worked something came into my mind from Rumer Godden's novel, 'In this House of Brede'. She wrote that on the night after the redistribution of Offices, no nun had gone to bed happier than Dame Winifred who had done a long and hard spell as assistant cellarer and had that day been appointed Sacristan. I've always understood why that should have been, but since this morning my understanding had been transformed into the reality of lived experience. Here I was, totally unworthy, completely alone with Our Lord as I worked, and so close to Him...........I am utterly incapable of describing my feelings or of telling you what I said to Him or of what He conveyed to me in the graced silence, a silence as profound and soft as dark violet velvet.

Work done, it was time for the Rosary. At the beginning of the latter, I was in front of the little shrine of the Sacred Heart, and as the Glorious Mysteries unfolded found myself moving from shrine to little shrine of the chapel - all in the sight of the glorious Eucharistic Face of Our Lord - as if presenting them to Him and seeing them myself with new eyes. First St. Thomas More, then St Francis de Sales and St Jane de Chantal, St. Bernadette, St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, then the Vincentian Saints, St Vincent himself, St. Louise de Marillac and St. Catherine Laboure of the Miraculous Medal.
At the Sacred Heart again, I prayed with St. Margaret Mary, St. Claude Colombieres, her director, and St. Jean Eudes, at last at the Salve Regina, arriving beneath the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes on her wall plinth. Others in the guise of their earthly representations looked on from the sacristy and vesting area, - St. Cecilia, St. Faustina, St. Michael, St. Jean Vianney and St. Gabriel. I begged the assistance in prayer of every member of this august company and felt the spiritual presence of my earthly living friends, some of whom will now be reading this.

Soon now I must go to bed, but kneeling again before Our Lord I could not be torn away just yet.
I do not know how long I stayed with Him, or how late it was when I finally descended to the ground floor. (When we have people to stay, we sleep in rooms downstairs so as to afford maximum privacy to our guests.) As I went down, one last look at the tabernacle and the glow of the sanctuary lamp in the surrounding darkness, and this long, beautiful, undeserved and life-changing day was almost over. Minutes later, as my head hit the pillow I remember thinking how indescribably wonderful and consoling it was that Our Lord was uptstairs and would be watching over us so closely throughout the coming night. 'Thank You Lord' I said aloud. And slept.

Next post: The First Sunday in Advent

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Extraordinary (Form) Weekend in France: Part IV - Benediction and First Vespers of Advent Sunday I

I regret having had to break off this report at the end of the Holy Hour. As we know, it is almost seamless with the beginning of Benediction where the latter follows the former. Until Father lit the candelabra I hadn't had any real hint that we were to have Benediction and had certainly not thought about its hymns. So when he began the 'O Salutaris Hostia', itwas a blessing that I had the presence of mind to join in. His pitch was perfect for my alto range. I'd sung Benediction from choir chapels and lofts many times in my life but had never before done it 'a capella' and in unison with the priest alone. I felt it deeply as an honour and a privilege.

We sang gently and steadily to Our Lord, as if breathing the wordsand notes of love, obeisance and adoration into His Eucharistic 'ear'. It was very moving but I didn't break down and didn't ring the bells at the Benediction itself, wanting to pour my whole self into my reception of it. And even the little bell would have cut shockingly and unnecessarily into the holy silence. Tears did come as Our Lord was reposed in the tabernacle, but inside I still sang because He wouldremain there untill the conclusion of Mass the next day. After the 'Adoremus in Aeternam' Father intoned the 'Salve Regina' and we sang that to the old beloved tune.

The morning had witnessed the first Mass of Ages in the village, probably for at least 40 years. Now the afternoon rejoiced again in another 'first'.. not only Benediction, but the chapel had known the sound of live human voices raised in the sacred chant to Our Lord and His blessed Mother.

Later, as I left the chapel, crossed the gallery and went down the two flights of stairs to the kitchen, I reflected that Our Lord had already made that little journey once so that Colin could receive Him in Holy Communion. He would make the journey again tomorrow. The parts of the house where He had passed would and could never be the same again.


Father and I followed this seated side by side at the computer screen. We were both eager to see the Pope bearing his new ferrula and agreed that we liked it better than his old chunkier and heavier looking one. Earlier we had wondered whether the old one was becoming too heavy and tiring for him at long ceremonies.

Usually I wince and groan at the standard of some of the singing in St. Peter's and wonder how the Holy Father puts up with it! Today it didn't seem to matter although to my ear there were some very 'sharp' notes from the boys at times. But even that could not spoil the peace and serenity of this ancient hour of the Church's prayer. They could have sung like a cat's chorus and I wouldn't have flinched.

One has become used to, 'spoiled' even by the beauty, depth and freshness of the Holy Father's preaching. He offers so many spiritual gifts and insights everytime. This evening I was yet again to drink in his every word. After the day I'd just spent the whole homily struck a particular resonance. Linguist that he is, he always looks deeply into the history of words and their nuances of meaning. It could be said that he mines them and digs out precious 'nuggets' to lay before us. But it isn't just the presentation of knowledge, some of which we may find familiar. No, it is the lessons he teaches us from that knowledge. Advent, he told us, can be interpreted as 'presence' and 'arrival' as well as 'coming' which is our usual translation. And then:

"Christians adopted the word 'advent' to express their relationship with Jesus Christ: Jesus is King, who has entered into this poor province called earth to visit everyone; he brings to participate in his advent those who believe in him, all those who believe in his presence in the liturgical assembly. With the word adventus an attempt was made essentially to say: God is here, he has not withdrawn from the world, he has not left us alone. Although we cannot see or touch him........he is here and comes to visit us in multiple ways.

"The meaning of the expression 'advent' includes therefore also that of 'visitatio', which means simply and properly 'visit'; in this case it is a visit of God: He enters my life and wants to address me.........................

"Advent, this intense liturgical time that we are beginning, invites us to pause in silence to grasp a presence. It is an invitation to understand that every event of the day is a gesture that God directs to us, sign of the care he has for each one of us. " (And here is one of the loveliest things in this homily.) "How many times God makes us perceive something of his love! To have, so to speak, an 'interior diary' of this love would be a beautiful and salutary task for our life! Advent invites and stimulates us to contemplate the Lord who is present................................."

The full homily can be found at Zenit under the title 'On God's Presence and Coming' (link at bottom of sidebar) All the way through I was thinking of the precious 'visitatio' that I was currently experiencing and of the very Presence of the Lord upstairs in the tabernacle. My 'interior diary' of the day was almost full. We had not yet had supper and still to come after it was work in the sacristy in preparation for tomorrow and then Night prayers, Rosary and Adoration before bed. I suppose what I have been doing in these recent posts is sharing with you to some extent, the contents of that 'interior diary'.

DV, I will continue to do so in the next post tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

An Extraordinary (Form) weekend in Rural France: Part III Saturday Afternoon - Holy Hour

A note about photographs:

After Saturday lunch Father took his digital camera out for a ride round the locality. There hadn't been time for photographs of events in the chapel that morning, but I managed one or two with a conventional camera before the Mass. Unfortunately Father left the digital in the car when he came back for the Holy Hour and then because of everything else forgot to bring it in overnight. This affected the quality of the photos he took with it on Sunday morning. But I think they'll come out suffieciently well on the blog to give a fair impression of the chapel. These Sunday shots, about five of them, are of the altar ready for Mass from the body of the chapel; of the altar from the sacristy side; and of the vesting area with the vestments laid out ready for Mass. When Father had set up the altar with candelabra for the Holy Hour and Benediction, I took another couple with the conventioal aparatus.

I did not take photos at any point during the Sacred action. There were three major reasons for this. First the flash of the camera would have been a distraction, second I was too busy concentrating as indicated in the last post, and third I wanted to preserve Father's privacy although he had not asked that I should. This was a cause of great regret but as I'm convinced that this was only the first occasion of many, it was possible, in a tranquil spirit of acceptance, to forgo a detailed record of this first time. However, before I send the film for development, I intend to take a few more, including ones of each of the chasubles worn by Father. These, which belong to the house sacristy, I will put on a hanger and suspend from the beam at the chapel entrance so that their design can be clearly seen. We may have to wait at least a week for these conventional photos to be developed, but we are hoping that Father's digital ones can be posted by Mark before the coming weekend. I'm no Luddite but you all know how useless I am with these technicalities!


It had been quite cool in the chapel in the morning. By the time Mass began it had warmed up a bit but the temperature had become an irrelevance by then. At the Consecration I had been flooded with spiritual and physical warmth, not an unusual response, but this morning there had been another intense joy because I knew that after the Mass Our Lord would remain with us in His Tabernacle for the next twenty four hours. It is not possible to describe my gratitude for those precious hours that lay ahead, the total security, comfort, awe, dread even, that I experienced at the prospect. But perhaps above all it was love that predominated. Never in my life have I welcomed a guest in the way I did this One at this time and in this place. As we left Him and went downstarirs for lunch, I thought, 'The rest of these hours ahead are in His hands. Unless I am struck dead for my temerity, this afternoon I will spend an hour in the light of His Eucharistic Face, together with one of His beloved priests. He, (that is Father), will represent all priests, before Jesus, the High Priest, and it seemed to me, that because Our Lord had willed this to happen, that it was His benison on my offering of myself in spiritual motherhood............


The Holy Hour was about to begin. Father was opening the tabernacle and placing a communion sized consecrated Host into our little monstrance.

'Let all mortal flesh keep silence.'

I'm not sure whether there is any silence so profound yet so charged, as the silence of a Holy Hour.

As at the Mass, one felt suspended, as if time had stood still, or no longer existed, and yet when the Hour ended, it seemed to have lasted only a matter of minutes. I don't wear a watch so can't be sure how the time was apportioned. And yet I must have spent the first 15 minutes in silent adoration, another 10 praying for priests in their different sorts and conditions, then another 20 at least were devoted to the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary for the intentions of our Holy Father. Then another brief period of Adoration. Lastly I reached for my Breviary deciding to catch up with the day's Office of Readings. When Father rose to approach the altar to begin Benediction I had reached the last sentence of the first reading from the Letter of Saint Jude. A year has passed since I last read it, and I had no expectation or memory that it would be so appropriate:

"To him who is able to keep you from falling and bring you faultless and joyful before his glorious presence - to the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, might, and authority, from all ages past, and now, and forever! Amen."

Benediction came next, followed by the live broadcast from Rome of First Vespers of the first Sunday in Advent presided over by the Holy Father. These DV, will be the subject of my next post. If there are any errors in this post I'll correct them after supper, which I must now prepare!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

An Extraordinary (Form) Weekend in remote rural France: The Oasis lives up to its name. Part II The first Mass 28th November 2009

A note about the observance of Canon Law as regards the celebration of Mass in a private house chapel, and the reason why two Masses were offered on consecutive days, will be added at the end of this series of reports. However, you may rest assured that the canonical rules were obeyed, our visiting priest being himself a canon lawyer.


Once the date for the weekend was fixed I was solemnly and acutely aware of the holy privilege we were to be granted, and also of the grave responsibility I had accepted. It had been decided that my husband and myself would, on this first occasion, be the only ones present at the Masses. This was sad on the one hand, but as the time drew nearer I became quite grateful for the privacy this promised. During the time of preparation I felt the double demand of Martha's anxieties and Mary's concerns and prayed constantly for help in achieving the right balance between them.

We did not know for certain until Father arrived which form of Mass he would prefer. He had already said that he favoured 'ad orientem' and I had told him that it was as well because the sanctuary is not big enough for 'versus populum'! I was very happy when he elected the Extraordinary Form for both Masses. And yet it increased my relief that there would be no-one else present. For those readers not old enough to remember, the rule for the Old Mass is that if there is no server and if there is no male in the congregation, then a woman can answer the Mass from the body of the Church. In my young days such a situation arose very rarely and the last time I did, it must have been nearly 50 years ago when I was a student!! Colin had not served an Old Mass since he was at school and has no experience at all of serving the Novus Ordo. Father had given me permission to answer both Masses. In recent weeks I had practised and studied, but 50 years is a long time. It was good in the end that there wouldn't be others present. I would be nervous anyway, and intensely disliked the idea of 'giving a performance' particularly one that might be littered with mistakes! Looking back, I think the Lord gave me that private and so quiet Mass as training for a future when I will now be better able to deal with the presence of others.

As it was, everything here was prepared according to Fr. O'Brien's 'In Sacristy and Sanctuary' published by Benziger Brothers in 1933, and which came into my hands several years ago. On the morning of Father's arrival I dressed the chalice, laid out the vestments , and remembered in affectionat and grateful prayer the nuns who taught me how to do these things oh, so long ago. And yet it was all so familiar, so comforting and so peaceful. The vestments were red because I had requested a Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit in thanksgiving.

On Saturday morning, just before Father and I were about to go up to the chapel for final preparations for Mass, Colin called me back and said that he'd discovered that he couldn't make the stairs. He has not been upstairs since before he broke his leg in the summer. It was a great disappointment but not really a surprise. As we climbed the stairs I told Father why Colin would have to listen to the Mass from the kitchen. I followed Father up the chapel flight, my heart pounding and racing. Finally when all was ready he left me kneeling at my priedieu in the chapel and it was possible to calm down. Father went back to the kitchen again before finally coming up to vest. I was too preoccupied to guess why.

During those last moments of waiting alone for the Mass to begin I thought of all my many spiritual friends, - priests, brothers, religious sisters and laity, of all my blogging friends and followers, and especially of all my 'spiritual' sisters, who with me have embraced the vocation of spiritual motherhood of priests. Mac, I knew was in Church at Blackfen, Pat also in St. John Fisher Birmingham. Both were praying with me and for me, as were all of you who knew what was about to happen. I thought of our dear Holy Father and of Fr. Mark Kirby. I had so much thanksgiving to offer, so many supplications to make, so many reasons to beg mercy, both for myself and others. I thought especially of Neville and of Philip Johnson, of my Anglo-Catholic friends in Devon, and of all the priests and the aspiriant seminarian who have been entrusted to my maternal intercession. If you have not been mentioned here by name, it is not because I did not think of you during those minutes. All of you, especially my 'hidden ones' were remembered.

As I heard Father leave the vesting area and begin to make his way across the gallery, I bound you all together with me in one huge act of love and contrition, offering us all to Our Lord, begging His help that I may conduct my part of the coming Mass with as much dignity, reverence and love for Him as I am capable of demonstrating outwardly, and as few mistakes as my poor concentration would inevitably occasion.

Father rang the little entrance bell which hangs from one of the beams. As he entered the chapel, I rose shakily to my feet and the Holy Mass of Ages began in this humble, and from then on, especially blessed little place.


It's only possible to give an impression of the Mass itself. I am still internalising it myself. If it seems right, I will expand on it later.

I have never concentrated so hard in my entire life. But it was the concentration of absorption and not of forced effort. It was not just about what I had to do, but more about what was happening on the altar. It was truly as being in another dimension. There was nothing on earth outside and beyond that small white corporal upon which Our Lord would will to be. The holiness of the whispered canon held me transfixed. Just before the Consecration I had the time to acknowledge that I had done nothing, could never do anything to justify this Gift, this Grace, blessing and privilege. Quite the reverse. I had done everything in my life that would militate against it. And then He was there. The only possible response was Adoration and sorrow for sin.

I rang the bells gently. Clanging them loudly would have been inappropriate and unnecessary in that small place.

In one way the Mass lasted for an unquantifiable length of time, in another, to pass very quickly. Suddenly, it seemed, it was time for my own Communion. I couldn't move at first. Father waited patiently holding up the Sacred Host before me. At last I found my feet and went forward to the rail and kneeling, took up the communion plate and received my beloved Lord.

The Mass proceeded to its conclusion and the Last Gospel - always one of my favourite things about the Old Mass, the loss of which I mourn greatly in the Novus Ordo.

At last Father left the sanctuary and went to unvest. When he had done so he returned to the chapel wearing a stole. He asked for a lighted candle and said he would now prepare the ciborium to take Holy Communion to Colin in the kitchen. - So that was why he had gone downstairs again before Mass began - to find out whether Colin wished to receive. I was so stunned by the experience of the Mass and by the kindness of Father's act, that I didn't realise until afterwards that I should probably have preceded him with the candle. As it was I remained at my priedieu in the most profound thanksgiving I have ever offered since my First Communion.

Next post DV: report on the Holy Hour and Benediction of Saturday afternoon.