Saturday, 20 October 2012

Example matters, and not just to appease and please the cranks

Friends of mine, who are practising Catholics have been scratching their heads and saying that they are reluctant to attend ‘Traddy Mass’ or the Latin Mass, because they say that whenever they go, they meet people who want to criticise them for things they do – or don’t do at Mass. 

There is casual, anecdotal truth to this. Once, I took my friend Chiara to a Latin Mass and before Mass, as she leafed through the red missal a man stuck his head between us and grumbled to her, ‘you can’t behave like a Modernist, not knowing what to do at Mass!’ It annoyed him that we seemed unfamiliar with the Mass.  
Recently, at a very crowded Mass in central London, I found myself a tiny place to sit at the back and after the priest had come onto the altar, a woman in front of me had turned around and was trying to scold me because she didn’t think that I had knelt down quickly enough. She was pointing at me and causing me some embarrassment. 
My brain felt a twinge of temptation to narrow my eyes, fence my brow and growl, ‘mind your own business’. But she had diverted her attention from the Mass to criticise me, and as I didn’t approve of what she did, it didn’t seem logical to do the same, take my eyes off the Mass, in order to upbraid her. But at that very moment, a young family came in, and a girl of about seven squeezed next to me. Her mum’s hands were full with some giddy, wriggly baby brothers. And the little girl seemed a bit lost and not accustomed to a Tridentine Mass. I invited her to share my missal, but she was fascinated at the proceedings and wanted to study the actions of the congregation and the priest. It was teeming with people, so it was difficult for her to see the priest at times, so whenever she was uncertain what to do, she would look at me.
When I stood for the Gospel, she stood for the Gospel. At one point, I rolled my shoulders, unconsciously, out of habit, and a split second later, I saw the little girl roll her shoulders and join her hands in the exact same tight way as mine. She also checked to see if the priest was rolling his shoulders and then looked at my shoulders again. After the Consecration, when I dropped my head, she dropped her chin into her chest, and turned her eyes up, to check if my head was still dropped. When I lifted my head, she lifted hers. During the last Gospel, I bent my knee at the words, ‘Et Homo factus est’, and a second later, she did the same.
During the prayers after Mass, without thinking, I rolled my shoulders again, and quick as she could, she rolled her shoulders.
It struck me that the attentive little girl was intuitively trying to be as reverent as she could, but not being accustomed to the Mass, she had to follow whichever example was nearest to her, even one as poor as mine.
At the start, had I succumbed to the temptation to scold the woman who was not happy with my kneeling posture, then I could have seemed like an angry adult and my cross expression could have alienated the little girl who slid into the place next to me. (I’m sure, in time, she’ll learn that shoulder-rolling is not part of assisting at Mass!)

Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Miracle of the Sun in Fatima October 13, 1917

Thank you to my friend, Stella who shared this video on Facebook. Please be so kind as to pray for her intentions and her cherubic brood of kids. I met Stella in University College Cork, at a pro-life talk, five years ago this autumn, and have always been grateful to know so sparky, intelligent and articulate a Belfast lady.

Today is the birthday of Archbishop Charles J Brown. It is the first time he will celebrate his birthday in Ireland as Apostolic Nuncio.  Please be so kind as to pray for his intentions, he is an incredibly good and holy bishop and deserves every grace that can be won by our prayers. There is a Fatima trend in his life, born on the anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun, and ordained on May 13th 1989.

Pope's Benedict's Mass, 7th October, that opened The Year of Faith

Last Sunday, Rome was remarkably crowded, in a way that would rival those giddy days during the beatification of John Paul II. Throngs of German and Spanish Catholics came to honour the new doctors of the Church, which were proclaimed by Pope Benedict during the Papal Mass of Sunday 7th October. 
Our golden tickets in hand, the next morning, at 8 AM, we joined the multitudes queuing to get into St Peter’s square for Mass. The front rows seemed to be full, but a quick prayer to St Anthony, and we found seats in the second row! 
 We were surrounded by St Hildegard of Bingen devotees, and there were quite a few people who had either physical disabilities or were thalidomide victims and had a special affection for the German saint who had been such an expert on medicine. 

A number of luminaries were seated near us, including Karl Anderson, the supreme commander of the Knights of Columbus. Before Mass, the Rosary was recited in Latin, and I found it surprising that the absolute majority of the crowd, from the very young Germans to the youthful Spanish priests, knew the Rosary prayers in Latin. A rapturous chorus of Ave Marias and Pater Nosters filled the air.

Mrg Ganswein took a walk around the altar, inspecting it to see if everything was in order. The Pope appeared, in a royal-green gothic vestment.

Our Pope looked very content, and some might have said he looked tired, but in fact, it was that he looked relaxed and at ease. He’s spent seven years as Pope, and is well used to these high-pressure papal Masses, where he has to perform an exhausting range of tasks.
The Mass was Gregorian Mass XI. Many elements of the Mass fit in with Benedict’s teaching, as found in the Apostolic Exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis that Gregorian chant is appropriate music for the liturgy. The introit, offertory, chant and Communion antiphon were sung in Latin, and the congregation and bishops from all over the world followed along in the books provided for the Mass.

Huge tapestries of St Hildegard and St John of Avila were hung on the front of St Peter’s Basilica, and when the moment came for Benedict to proclaim the new doctors of the Church, a hush came over the crowd. Cheers erupted from the multitudes of parish groups from Germany, who waved banners and clapped when Benedict gently announced Hildegard, the 12th century mystic, to be a doctor of the Church. It brought back memories of the Beatification of John Henry Newman during the Papal Visit to England. At the end, Pope Benedict gave a reflection in French, a favourite language of his, and his voice sounded incredibly strong and he spoke like a native. Shortly after the end of the Mass, I caught sight of the Pope mobile, that collected the Holy Father and drove him around the square, where he was welcomed with the hearty shouts of, ‘vive el Papa!’

 Dizziness came over me when the Pope passed by me, and waved at us. It took me some minutes to process the fact that the Pope was actually in front of me and that I wasn’t watching television!

Reaching the end of the Mass books that had been given us, I read the notice that we may get a Plenary Indulgence for assisting at the Mass. We have also had the honour of having been present at this Mass, which in time, will be remembered as a highlight of Benedict’s papacy. It was beautifully symbolic that our Pope raised one of the most dynamic female saints of all time, and also a fellow German, to the level of doctor of the Church.
This eye-witness account is in the current edition of The Catholic Herald, October 12th Edition. 

Friday, 12 October 2012

Getting tickets to the Pope's Mass in Rome

A sunny, warm October day in St Peter's
Last week a colleague and I were in Rome to cover some stories, and we were fortunate enough to be allocated tickets for the Mass of October 7th - the opening of The Year of Faith.

So this wild Irish girl was in St Peter's Square and on the look-out for the office where she might collect the tickets...

We had to pass through security, and for a moment I thought that I ought to have one of those plastic bags for my lipstick and 'liquids', like at the airport, but the security guards found no problem with the contents of my enormous satchel. Walking around the marble columns, we found a signpost for the office...

Then we were greeted by a long flight of steps, at the top of which, I asked the guard, 'is this the place where we collect the tickets?' He gave me a stern 'yes', and told me to put away my phone.

And then to visit St Peter's Basilica. They have gotten a little bit stricter with the modesty policy and were telling women to cover bare legs, and some were resorting to shawls and scarves tied around their waist. It was a reoccurring topic of conversation among frequent visitors to Rome that it had never been so crowded.

 A tapestry of St Hildegard of Bingen hung outside the basilica.

The autumn path-less-taken is strewn with leaves...

My vividly green summer-time blog template with the sparkling blue sky didn't look right, now that the horizon is a fuzzy autumn mist and clumps of auburn and orange leaves decorate the London streets: the remnants of summer's demise.

So it was time for change...because...'the leaves that are green turn to brown'...

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Did you know Fr Thwaites? Did any of his books or recordings bring you into the Church or inspire you to more ardent practices of the faith?

Here he is, the one and only, Fr Thwaites, née Fr Hugh Simon-Thwaites, with his gleeful smile and dancing eyes. I included him on the list as one of the world's most amazing priests when he was on this earth and 'living on the edge of eternity'.  Now, Fr Thwaites has gone to God, and we are pondering his great legacy.

There was a time when I thought that I was in a minority - I didn't think that many other Catholics had been as influenced as I was by his booklets and recordings. But, after writing about him in July of this year, many people, even people I had known for years, got in touch to say that 'something profoundly simple' that Fr Thwaites said, had 'stuck' in their minds and had made them more aware and appreciative of the faith.

I'm interviewing people who were influenced by Fr Thwaites. A big trend in the interviews is the memorable metaphors and comparisons-to-ordinary-life that Fr Hugh Thwaites employed.

If you would like to share what you learned from Fr Thwaites, get in touch, via my comment box. I would be delighted to hear from you, and feel free to leave an e-mail address where I can contact you.

"When the pope laid his hands on my head, I had a tremendous sense of the strength of the Holy Spirit"

...were Archbishop Brown's words after his ordination to the Episcopate. Thank you to all the people who got in touch with good wishes after the publication of Archbishop Charles Brown's interview and who said that they were heartened by the story of his vocation and insights into the Holy Father's character. You might like to see this picture and the CNS video of his ordination.  
January 6th 2012 Archbishop Brown's ordination to the Episcopate

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