Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Why Pope Benedict CAN/SHOULD/MUST and WILL NOT 'resign'

The correct word is abdication, not resignation. Popes believe, and the Catholic world believes, or should believe, that they have been placed there by God as Vicars of His Son on earth, that they have been divinely chosen as the Successors of Peter. They do not 'resign', regardless of the New York or London Times.

We know that the Venerable John Paul II considered abdication, but that was understandable, because towards the end of his long pontificate, he must have wondered what good he could possbily do, or be doing, by remaining. As it transpired, he kept going to the end. Somewhere along the line he must have realised the lesson he would have to teach with his long drawn-out decline and death. He who had been a powerful athlete all his life, to be reduced to that before the public gaze. Day by day we saw that strong body disintegrating before our eyes. And the reality of it had to be faced. It was indeed terrible, but comforting to be shown how to die, and glorious to see that the spirit is not extinguished in the process. That is our faith.

And Benedict, who was not far from physical frailty when elected, and yet I believe is the strongest Pope to reign in my lifetime (that is of six Pontiffs)? I am told, and can see, why people say that there are those in the Church who want him dead. All I can say, is that whilst he is still with us, we have a chance. In any case he will not abdicate. If he did, the Church would be thrown into utter mayhem. Like John Paul II he will go on unto the end. That is what good Popes do. To know it, you have only to read Benedict's homily from Monday night. There, you will see what he will do and how he will react and behave. He will follow the example of his predecessor, whatever that will demand of him.

I knew that Benedict was thinking only of John Paul II when he said the following words last night, but I could not but think of him, our dear and living Holy Father as well.

"The Lord called him to His service and, entrusted him with tasks of ever greater responsibility, accompanied him with His grace and His continual assistance. .....he made prodigious efforts to proclaim the right firmly, without weakenss or hesitation, especially when he had to face resistance, hostility and rejection. He knew the Lord had taken him by the hand, and this enabled him to exercise a fruitful ministry for which, once again we give fervent thanks to God."

No more posts until Easter, but everyday I'll be in Church with the Blessed Sacrament praying for you all and for our beloved Pope.
God bless all here.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday

Another very busy day. Already 10.15pm here and have only just managed to get back to the 'blogger dashboard' in order to say that I'm just too tired tonight to do any kind of justice to recent events, even if one only considers St. Romain. Will redress that balance as soon as possible. In the meantime, as far as the big wide world is concerned, the plain unvarnished truth is to be found at 'Transalpine Redemptorists at Home': I see the Modern Pilate so Relentless; and 'Whitesmoke Ahoy': God bless our Holy Father Benedict XVI. Both are easily found in the bloglist in sidebar here. And 'Owl of the Remove' has the best suggestion I've found this week as to what to do about it.

Palm Sunday

Pueri hebraeorum:

Pueri hebraeorum by Tomás Luis de Victoria. Sung by Schola Cantorum "Die Sangeren Onser Liever Vrouwen" of Sint Jan Cathedral in 's-Hertogenbosch, the Netheralands

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Palm Sunday Eve: Our Lord arrives in Saint Romain........

True to his promise, Pere Marchand brought the Blessed Sacrament to Saint Romain this afternoon and installed It in the tabernacle of the chapel of the Blessed Virgin in the church. Needless to say, I have been fully occupied since then. And now it is time for bed because the clocks go forward tonight (don't forget) and we're an hour ahead of you here. And I must be up early to open the church and visit the Lord before going out at 9.30am. This last because Father has fulfilled the other part of his promise and arranged for someone to take me to Mass in Aubeterre.

I hope to report fully on everything tomorrow evening.

Thank you all again for your prayers and especially to those of you who have commented and written to me in such happiness about recent developments here.

Deo gratias

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Orlande de Lassus:

The Angel Gabriel was sent to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph; and the virgin's name was Mary.

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee blessed art thou among women.

Fear not, Mary, thou hast found grace with the Lord behold, thou shalt conceive, and bring forth a Son.

The Lord shall give unto Him the throne of His father David, and of His kingdom there shall be no end.

Behold the handmaid of the Lord be it unto me according to thy word

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Yesterday's meeting with Pere Marchand; letter to the Holy Father on St Joseph's day..

There is not time for the full report on the meeting, which I promised last night. I will however bring you up to date with the most important development as regards St. Romain and the Blessed Sacrament. I'll do this by quoting from a letter I wrote last night to a dear and revered spiritual mentor. I know he will not mind.

"Last week the correspondent of the local newspaper, who happens to be a personal friend of some year's standing, but not a believer, came to supper and announced during the evening that she had arranged an interview with Pere Marchand for the paper. I said that if she would like me to come with her I would be more than happy to do so. I will tell you more about the interview later, but during it, I asked him how many churches in his area of responsibility had the Blessed Sacrament reserved. (Naturally that won't go in the paper, or at least I shouldn't think so), but he named three out of the 24. He already knew that I do not drive and I asked him if it would be possible to have Our Lord here in St. Romain. His reaction was immediately to say yes. It was not a facile thing. I knew we were in the right place at the right time and that Our Lord had put us there. I had made some remark about cold and Uninhabited churches. He had looked straight at me and said that when he goes into a church where Our Lord is not present, he feels a terrible 'manque' of sadness. I said I felt it too. He said he would be delighted to bring Our Lord, as long as I would take responsibility for opening up the church in the morning and closing it at night. He will bring the key, probably on Thursday afternoon, (that is on the Solemnity of the Annunciation) and instal Our Lord in the tabernacle of the church shortly afterwards. He knows we are just opposite the church and said he hoped that I would go at least every other day, I said I would go every day."

Until the arrival of Pere Marchand, the difficulties of long years, connected first of all with getting the church open, leave alone with having Our Lord permanently there, seemed insurmountable. Our Lord Himself has intervened and set aside all these difficulties. Suddenly, yesterday afternoon there were no difficulties anymore. It is amazing that I can string a sentence together! Please pray that everything goes as planned and I will keep you posted. I am incapable of saying more now, except that I wrote to the Holy Father on the feast of St. Joseph about the invocation for the Litany of Our Lady. My letter should have reached its destination by now. In the past the Holy Father's reply has come within a fortnight, but with Holy Week and Easter intervening there may be a longer wait this time. Here again I will keep you posted.

God bless all here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Afternoon Meeting with new Parish Priest

Today's post delayed. It's amazing how busy you can be when retired and living 'in the sticks'!

Major result of today's meeting with the new parish priest, is that it seems the Blessed Sacrament is about to come permanently to St. Romain, not into our house chapel, but into the the tabernacle of the parish church across the road, Deo gratias. Will report in detail tomorrow evening. Another busy day up until then, what with the General Audience in the morning and English teaching in the afternoon.

Eternal thank you for your prayers.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

For Ireland: The Breastplate of Pope Benedict

" I bind unto myself today, the strong name of the Trinity
By invocation of the same, the Three in One, the One in Three"

Pope Benedict's letter to the Irish Church is already being picked over. I've had a bit of a pick myself. Already, some there are who think they could have done better. That self-assurance can only come of pride. The Holy Father's letter comes from no such thing. The best place to be at the moment is on our knees thanking God that he has given us such a man to be Pope in our times. But the thing that struck me most forcibly is the prayer that Benedict XVI added at the end of the letter and hopes the Irish will pray. I think they will , because it is a Trinitarian prayer. He knows what Saint Patrick gave to the Church in that regard. I should be astonished if the Irish themselves did not recognise the sensitivity of their Holy Father towards them and their history, in having chosen this form of prayer.

I record it here:

Prayer for the Church in Ireland

God of our fathers,
renew us in the faith which is our life and salvation,
the hope which promises forgiveness and interior renewal,
the charity which purifies and opens our hearts
to love you, and in you, each of our brothers and sisters.

Lord Jesus Christ,
may the Church in Ireland renew her age-old commitment
to the education of our young people in the way of truth and goodness, holiness and generous
service to society.

Holy Spirit, comforter, advocate and guide,
inspire a new springtime of holiness and apostolic zeal
for the Church of Ireland.

May our sorrow and our tears,
our sincere effort to redress past wrongs,
and our firm purpose of amendment
bear an abundant harvest of grace
for the deepening of the faith
in our families, parishes, schools and communities,
for the spiritual progress of Irish society,
and the growth of charity, justice, joy and peace
within the whole human family.

To You, Triune God,
confident in the loving protection of Mary,
Queen of Ireland, our Mother,
and of Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid and all the saints,
do we entrust ourselves, our children,
and the needs of the Church in Ireland.

Vexilla Regis

Vespers hymn for Passiontide, Vexilla Regis:

Abroad the regal banners fly,
Now shines the cross’s mystery;
Upon it Life did death endure,
And yet by death did life procure.

Who, wounded with a direful spear,
Did, purposely to wash us clear
From stain of sin, pour out a flood
Of precious water mixed with blood.

That which the prophet-king of old
Hath in mysterious verse foretold,
Is now accomplished, whilst we see
God ruling nations from a tree.

O lovely and refulgent tree,
Adorned with purpled majesty;
Culled from a worthy stock, to bear
Those limbs which sanctifièd were.

Blest tree, whose happy branches bore
The wealth that did the world restore;
The beam that did that body weigh
Which raised up hell’s expected prey.

Hail, cross, of hopes the most sublime!
Now in this mournful passion time,
Improve religious souls in grace,
The sins of criminals efface.

Blest Trinity, salvation’s spring,
May every soul thy praises sing;
To those thou grantest conquest by
The holy cross, rewards apply.

Friday, March 19, 2010

An Attempt to explain my silence: the problem of bishops who disagree with the pope

I'm sorry this isn't going to be very good. I'm tired and there's too much going on in my head and heart.

There is a reason, at least in recent months, why I have remained silent on the matter of dissident and/or silent bishops. During these difficult times I have fought hard to hang on to a belief in the Catholic way, that I should be obedient to my bishop. For a long time the problem has been, what if the bishop himself is not orthdox. What then?...................................................

Here in France, until the arrival of Pere Marchand, the bishop allowed a situation to develop in which I was more or less forced in diocesan churches to receive Commubion in the hand, standing up. In the local newspaper, he spoke out critically against the Summorum Pontificum. That was before the Pope's visit to France. He's been pretty quiet since then. But at least in France the Conference numbers 100 bishops, not including auxiliaries. There is room for the Pope's spirit to grow. As a result it IS growing, and it is healthy. In England and Wales, the Conference numbers 21 (excluding auxiliaries) and there, the SP was downplayed, or completely ignored, or misrepresented. They all seem of the same type. There is no room for a difference of opinion amongst the members of this hothouse. All follow the same road as regards appeasement of the government on matters of gay adoption, abortion, Catholic education etc. And it is unhealthy. It is definitely not Catholic. (apart from the three northern bishops)

Were I in England, I should have to be obedient to ++ Nichols. As Iam in the Diocese of Angouleme, it is now easier to be obedient to +Dagens because we have a priest not driven by considerations that influence his English counterparts. (I'm not yet sure how Pere Marchand was appointed or whether he is a member of an Order on loan to the diocese. I hope to find out during the coming week and will let you know.)

I would, with terrible pain, say goodbye to the Latin Mass for ever, if bishops would once again unite under the Pope, and say 'end of': abortion is murder; there is no such thing as marriage between same-sex couples within the Church; and whilst the Church says so, priestly celibacy remains the norm; and she does not have the authority to ordain women..

But in my heart I know that the Mass and moral Theology are connected, that is the old Mass and the understanding of it, which could have prevailed in the new Mass, had it not been hi-jacked. And it is why I understand what the Holy Father says about rupture and continuity. Not only that. It is why I have always known he is right about another thing, and it comes first above all else, from which so many, priests and laity, seem to have strayed. Priests can run all over the place, tiring themselves out, but if they are badly formed, if they do not start out with, and hang on to, that special relationship which alone in theirs with Jesus in His Eucharistic Presence on the Altar, all their works will be as second best.

Look around you now.

I know that everyone here will be praying for the Pope and praying for priests.

Solemnity of St. Joseph

In celebration of the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, with special thoughts and prayers for our Holy Father on his baptismal name day:

-- Monteverdi's "Beatus Vir", the Taverner Choir and Consort (on Period-Instruments), dir.Andrew Parrott.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Pope's September visit to UK is now official

You can link to the new site at the top of the side-bar here, thanks to Annie of the LMS Arundel and Brighton blog.

I have to concentrate on the letter to His Holiness regarding the new invocation for the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary and hope to send it to him on Friday. I will report on this as soon as it is done.

Next post on Friday (DV) in which I hope to say what I think about our bishops and the Pope's visit.

In Christo pro Papa.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Laetare Jerusalem

Galuppi's "Laetatus Sum" in A. Major:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

John Paul II beatification 'faces setback'? Not according to Chancellor of Aix-Arles Archbishop and French Bishops Conference.

On Wednesday this week the French bishops' website carried a communique from said Chancellor, Fr. Luc-Marie Lalanne, in which he denies media reports that the nun allegedly cured of Parkinson's disease through intercession of the Venerable John Paul, has suffered a relapse. Fr Lalanne states as follows:

"On behalf of the Congregation of Little Sisters of Catholic Motherhood and of the archbishop of Aix-en-Provence, I categorically deny this rumour.............Sister Marie Simon Pierre continues to be at this time in a perfect state of health." He also noted, "As the Vatican Press Office stated recently, the Roman Process on this possible miraculous cure is in its initial phase and continues on track in the normal way, with the seriousness and precision exacted by the preliminary investigations for recognition of a miracle."

The British Catholic Herald probably 'goes to bed' on Tuesday night and so was not able to include the above information in its article on the matter. This is unfortunate because although the feature does not claim to accept the media rumour, it does, unless one had already read the French Conference site, leave an impression of some scepticism regarding the like lihood of a genuine miracle.

Read an English report on the French Conference website here.

This version also states that "people who work with the 48 year old nun in a maternity ward in Paris affirmed that she is well".

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pray the Novena to Saint Joseph for the Holy Father and for all priests

Fr Mark Kirby O.S.B., who is honorary Spiritual Director of this blog, has suggested the Novena on his own blog "Vultus Christi". Links
http://vultus.stblogs.org/2010/03/in-our-struggle-with-the-power.html and here The Novena is also referenced in the latest post on my Spiritual Mothers of Priests blog http://spiritualmotherspriests.blogspot.com/

I beg you to join us.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The 'Renaissance' of St. Romain: Part 2

It is impossible to know how many people have been praying locally for the Mass to come to St. Romain again, but I am very well aware of how many of you have been praying for that very thing and want you to know how much we value your indispensable contribution, one that almost certainly could not have happened without the Internet.

As the church began its decline in the late 1980s, I started to build up our little house chapel, convinced that even should it be at a very distant date, Holy Mass would one day be offered in it. Twenty years later, again through a dear friend on the Internet who lives in the south of England, I was put in touch with an English priest who is carrying out his minsitry in France, only about 200km away from us. Through this mutual connection it was possible for him to come here and spend a weekend with us.

And so at the beginning of Advent last year, our prayers were more than answered. As you know we had two Masses on consecutive days, Holy Hour, Benediction and Confession. (If you missed these reports and photographs, please go back to posts from last December.) Ever since it was blessed in 1994, the chapel had always felt different from the rest of the house. Visitors always commented on it even though we never said anything. And then after Our Lord had been here last year, it changed and deepened yet again. Now when I go up to the chapel and then come down across the library and down to the kitchen, I remember in Whose footsteps I am treading..............Ever since then, the whole house has changed.

Whilst Father was here we explained the diocesan situation to him. He knew how difficult it was, and yet just before he left us, he turned to me and said, "Get the church open." It wasn't a peremptory command, more a request which, I found myself unaccountably believing, would in the event be simple to effect. I went indoors knowing I must write to the bishop, but what on earth was I going to say to him...........

Not much more than a month later the work began on the buildings opposite our house and the letter to the bishop immediately became an easier possibility. As soon as we knew the date for the opening of the new Mairie it would be possible to collect signatures in the parish and ask the bishop for a special Mass on that day if he could spare us a priest. Once the weather improved I would get cracking.............. During the fortnight before Lent began we heard that the Mairie date would probably be at the end of this year, or the beginning of next, so there would be plenty of time for organisation. We were not to know at that stage that Our Lord had other ideas, how beautiful they were to be, and that He would come to us in His Own church the day after Lent began. (See earlier posts here and on the Spiritual Mothers of Priests blog.)

When Pere Marchand was appointed, he could have left things as they were - alternate Sunday Masses in two, always the same two churches, whilst the others all around, including in St. Romain, remained empty, mostly locked and dead. I cannot help feeling that Our Lord had told His young priest, that this was not the way to do things, not the way He wants things done. It will be several weeks before He comes again, but He knows the joy and expectation this has put into our hearts. In place of the assurance of nothing, the promise of everything. Saint Romain has truly begun to live again with Christ Our Lord at its heart. The first renaissance of which I spoke in the earlier post is materially obvious, but known to the Commune authorities or not, it is of secondary and earthly importance. The most important Renaissance is the one that began in the church on February 18th, on which is celebrated the feast of St Bernadette here in France. (She too has her little shrine in our house chapel.)

Please pray for Pere Marchand and his huge charge of 24 parishes, spread it seems over at least a quarter of the Charente, which is like saying the whole of south west Devon. We spoke to him after the Mass and he is coming to see us once Lent is over. Father A., our English priest, hopes to come to us again in the summer, but he has not been at all well. He really has need of your
prayers too and I know you will offer them.

I will keep you posted as to how things go on.

Deo gratias

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Third Sunday in Lent

Third Sunday in Lent: Polyphonic setting of Tract 'Ad te levavi oculos meos' (Mogens Pedersøn):

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The 'Renaissance' of St. Romain: Part 1

For some time, two types of 'renaissance' have been growing stronger. Anyone (religious or not) who has known this village since before 2006 cannnot have failed to notice the continued and steady development of the first type, demonstrated in the building of dwellings up the road towards the cemetery, and the conversion into a village store, of one of the old barns, opposite and to the right of our front door. On the day we celebrated its opening in 2007, the Mayor announced that the next phase of building would involve the conversion of the huge barn directly opposite us into a new Mairie. The work began after the New Year just passed. Meanwhile, the church which presides over this part of the village, its true centre, has remained empty and locked, apart from on very few occasions as I have reported here over recent months. To the left of its west door is the new Mairie, at right angles to that and facing the church is the village store; to the right of the church west door is the road through the village and up to the cemetery. Our house faces the new Mairie, with the store to our right and the church to our left. In the centre of all this, enclosed by the mentioned buildings is a space the size of a large playground. Within a year it will again become the true 'Place de l'Eglise', the centre of St. Romain. The old village pump has been taken away for restoration and we are told that a small fountain will be installed in the middle of the 'Place'.

I do not for a moment suggest that the above works or changes, have anything to do with the appointment of our new Parish Priest. I could be wrong, and would be overjoyed if there does prove to be a connection, but at the moment, I strongly doubt it. I am however certain of one thing. This is not a question of coincidence. It concerns Providence, and the prayers of many, including those of my faithful commenters and other friends, that Our Lord having been here twice in recent months, knows that we cry for His permanent Presence, that we may have more frequent Mass and that in the meantime we may adore Him.

In my next post I'll try to describe and explain how it has seemed to me that the other, and supremely important second type of 'renaissance' has been unfolding.

Deo gratias!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Yesterday's Funeral in Saint Romain: Marie-Antoinette Bonnet R.I.P.

Less than a week after the church bell had tolled to announce the first Mass in the village for 17 years, at 9.45 yesterday morning, it tolled again for Madame Bonnet. Funerals in St. Romain are normally sparsely attended affairs. We knew this one would be different. For one thing the Bonnet family is woven into the history of St Romain like a bright thread in a piece of needlepoint, but for another, many of its members, of several generations, still live in the village and have not scattered to distant departements of France or to other countries, as is these days more usually the case..

Marie-Antoinette, aged 90 when she died at home last week after a long illness, was the matriarch of this family. She had five children, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. The patriarch, her husband Marc, survives her.

People had begun to gather on the parvis of the church even before the bell began to toll. The custom here is not to go into the church ahead of the coffin and the chief mourners. You wait outside no matter what the weather. As it happened yesterday was beautifully warm and sunny. It could have been late April or early May. Regular readers of this blog may have gathered that our house faces onto the parvis. At 10am, we stepped out and joined the throng, by then well over a 100 in number. At the same moment, out new priest Pere Marchand appeared at the church door vested in a simple purple cope. (My asonishment at this needs to be explained on another occasion.) After five minutes, the hearse came into view to those of us who were looking down the street to the east, although not visible to Pere Marchand and those directly in front of him at the west door of the church. Directly behind the hearse came Monsieur Marc Bonnet, being pushed in his wheelchair. And round the corner after him came the Bonnet family. There must have been at least 70 of them, including one of the granddaughters, a former student of mine who played the Princess of France in Shakespeare's Henry V, one of my productions when I was still running Shakespeare workshops here. She was 16 then and getting on for 30 now.

They were welcomed at the church door by Pere Marchand and I know that this is the first time such a thing has happened for I dare not surmise how long. Suffice to say that in the end, the church, which I think has a capacity of about 300, was not large enough to accommodate everybody. We remained just inside the doors which were open throughout the service. This lasted an hour and a half. During it were rehearsed the things we already knew about Mme Bonnet's life of hard work, running the local auberge until she and her husband retired about 30 years ago. Two things that Pere Marchand said moved me to tears, which were very close to the surface in any case: first he said that Marie-Antoinette had received her first communion in this very church about 80 years ago, and second that Monsieur Marc had telephoned him in time for him to come over and administer the Last Rites. Before the appointment of Pere Marchand I don't think this would have been possible. One would not know who the diocesan rota priest was or where he was to be found.

Madame Bonnet's funeral service was not a Mass, but it followed the Mass with the correct Liturgy of the Word right up to the Offertory. And just before the dismissal Pere Marchand announced that he would now incense the coffin containing the body of our sister Marie-Antoinette. I didn't think I would live to see that done or to smell incense in our parish church ever again. When my own mother was buried from the same church in 1997, we still had a very old parish priest based in Aubeterre. He sent the 'church lady' round to discuss the form of service with me. It was really left up to me and it was a freedom I did not relish. I sense with great joy that things are going to be very different from now on.

At the end of a funeral in St. Romain, there is one road left to travel. It is the straight road of about 500 yards from the church to the cemetery. The custom is that the mourners follow the hearse on foot the length of that road. And so it was yesterday. Holding back until the end I watched the procession make its way, and I remembered Madame Marie-Antoinette once saying to me how ludicrous she thought the new fanglement of 'nouvelle cuisine'. "Wouldn't keep my boys going for half an hour, leave alone the rest of the day's labour." I agreed with her then and still do. I'm sure that many of those who followed her to her final resting place also have cause to know that she was right.

May Our Lord welcome her to His heavenly banquet, and may He sustain her grieving relatives, particularly her poor husband Monsieur Marc Bonnet.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Saint Romain: Last Thursday Holy Mass; tomorrow a Funeral

Next post delayed until Wednesday evening. Explanations then. Please pray for the soul of Madame Bonnet R.I.P