Thursday 28 November 2013

Katherine of Alexandria

A few years ago we had the film Agora which dealt with the life and death of Hypatia, the female pagan philosopher of Alexandria, who refused to convert to Christianity. An interesting topic for a film I thought: I never thought to see St Cyril of Alexandria portrayed on the big screen! However the film was somewhat disappointing in its stereotyping. Christians were depicted as fanatics who wore black while pagans were virtuous and wore white. The chief Christian evangelist was a dodgy character. The exception was bishop Synesius of Cyrene, a former pupil of Hypatia, who was a good Christian. I was surprised the film didn`t latch on to the one quote I know of his, regarding his conversion, when he said in 410, he would become a bishop on condition that while he might `speak in  myths` in church, he should be free to `think as a philospher` in private. He also got the concession that he could keep his wife.

So it will be interesting to see what they make of Catherine of Alexandria, the Christian version of Hypatia in that she was also a philosopher. Facts about her are rather thin on the ground so anything could happen. Nonetheless it has drawn Peter O`Toole out of retirement at 82 to take a major part. Here is the trailer:

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Lost Deacon

I`ve never worked with a permanent deacon before but on coming to this parish in August I found we had a permanent deacon, Osaro. I thought this was a good thing as it would be useful to have help around the place especially with baptisms as I`d been over-run with them at Forest Hall. 

Osaro is from Nigeria and had been in junior seminary there before transferring to the Netherlands to study with the Society of African Missions (SMA fathers). He left seminary there, married, raised a family and started training for the permanent diaconate. He finished this training in this diocese and was ordained a deacon on 18th June 2011. 

As mentioned below St Joseph`s has an African Mass once a month and a few weeks ago Osaro was appointed to be diocesan chaplain to the African community. 

This Sunday gone the African Mass was due to take place. Osaro informed me that a priest had agreed to come to say the Mass. However on Saturday night, at St Wilfrid`s, three men of the African group informed me that Osaro had emailed the to say he wasn`t coming back. I knew nothing about this. I hadn`t even had an email. On Sunday morning before the 9am Mass the bishop rang to tell me Osaro had decided to leave the Catholic Church and join the C of E!  He hopes to be ordained to the Anglican priesthood. The African community were completely stunned. 

I told people at the three Sunday morning Masses what had happened.I said we should thank God for the work Osaro did in his time here and keep him in our prayers. What does concern me though is that I suppose we are rather slow nowadays to say that we believe the Catholic Church to be that founded by Christ and entrusted to St Peter and his successors and that the fullness of truth is found in her. I suspect many young people have no idea of the claims the Catholic Church makes about herself and see all churches as much the same. It`s belief in the claims of the Catholic Church that keep me part of her when here is so much to be disheartened about. 

As it happens we have alarmingly few baptisms in these parishes. However it is sad to lose Osaro and he will be in my prayers.

Osaro, if you read this would you mind returning the front door key?!

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Rome LMS Pilgrimage

I was pleased once again to be asked to be a chaplain on a Latin Mass Society pilgrimage from November 7th-12th. I had been twice to Lourdes with the LMS as chaplain when another priest had found he was unable to go. I had thought I would like to go with the LMS on their Rome pilgrimage so was delighted to be asked when again the scheduled priest found he couldn`t make it. Mgr Gordon Read was the main chaplain. What I particularly enjoy about these pilgrimages apart from using the Extraordinary Form each day is hearing the about the experiences of the pilgrims in adhering to the EF. There were quite a number of converts among the pilgrims and it`s always interesting to hear the stories of those who were received into the Church in the 1950`s and find out how they survived the subsequent decades when much they had signed up for changed beyond recognition. On a personal note I found much common ground with one pilgrim, Peter, as we had both belonged to the Discalced Carmelites: he as a brother for six years in the 1950`s and me for six months in 1982 but we knew many people in common and I was interested to hear about Carmelite life in the 50`s. I always thought the Discalced Carmelites started going downhill once they no longer had a skull in the refectory!

The timetable for the pilgrimage was very light. Only Mass and Vespers were scheduled each day.
Mass in chapel  of the choir, St Peter`s  Photo courtesy of Joseph Shaw`s Flickr page
Our trip coincided with the annual conference of Una Voce International which consisted of delegates from different countries so we made up the numbers for the services.Sometimes we had Mass or Vespers in the Chapel of the Choir at St Peter`s. The rest of the time we used the chapel at the Casa Maria Immacolata in the Via Ezio which was about a half hour walk away from the place we were staying at S. Maria alle Fornaci. Sadly the chapel was lacking many items we needed such as an altar missal which meant trying to celebrate Missa Cantata on the Friday morning using the propers from the pilgrimage booklet and the ordinary from the red booklet that is often used at EF Masses. However the sacristans were friendly and no-one made things difficult for us. Joseph Shaw has written up an account of the liturgies we had with many photos. I was very happy to be subdeacon for High Mass at St Peter`s on Monday. Our celebrant, a former director of the Cappella Julia, had an eclectic approach to the rubrics but that`s nothing new. We skipped the Judica Me but then before communion and before Mgr Read could even think of singing the Confiteor before Communion he gave the absolution. I was interested to see that at the other High Masses we had not onnly was the Confiteor before Communion always sung but the celebrant stayed at the missal to read the epistle which is not very 1962 but does make things rather simpler.

So there was plenty of spare time and some of the pilgrims proved very intrepid explorers. First prize must go to Brian who took himself off to Assisi for the day but almost impressive was a group that went to Castle Gandolfo. Others explored the sights of the city. One trip that was scheduled was a visit to the English College where we were given a guided tour by the rector himself, the ever-gracious Mgr Whitmore. Although I had lived in the college for two years I went along and learnt a few things I didn`t know and enjoyed seeing the restoration work to the main chapel. We had asked about having a Mass at the college being a place of interest for English pilgrims and in accordance with Summorum Pontificum (Art 5.3 For faithful and priests who request it, the pastor should also allow celebrations in this extraordinary form for special circumstances such as marriages, funerals or occasional celebrations, e.g. pilgrimages). However Mgr Whitmore refused our request for a Mass on the grounds that the college church was not equipped for it and the Martyrs` chapel is used for personal prayer but apparently couldn`t be used for Mass.

The Martyrs` chapel: unsuitable for the Extraordinary Form
Mgr kindly suggested we have Mass at the nearby FSSP church where I did say Mass on the Sunday morning but beautiful as it is it doesn`t have the significance for English Catholics the Venerabile does. On Saturday morning in St Peter`s the celebrant of our Mass was Mgr Soseman of the Congregation for clergy who also acts as teacher of the Extraoardinary Form for students at the North American College. I imagine it will be a while before the English College employs such a tutor! 

 On Sunday afternoon we attended the open Meeting of the Una Voce conference here the speakers were Abbot Cassian Folsom of Norcia and Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos. It was very interesting to hear the abbot`s account of how he came to the Extraordinary Form and came to refound monastic life in St Benedict`s birthplace. Also interesting was the cardinal who told us of his meeting with Pope Francis and who assured us the pope has no problem at all with the Extraordinary Form. The current difficulties with the Franciscans of the Immaculate are an internal matter and of no significance to the status of Summorum Pontificum.I was pleased to meet Albert E. Doskey from Una Voce Cuba who worked out I was the author of Forest Murmurs and had extremely kind words to say about it. I think that was the only time my blogging got a mention on the trip. Also it was good to see Rodolfo, former secretary of Una Voce, again and catch up with an old friend from days at the Greg Fr Bob the Jesuit. 

Thursday 21 November 2013

Silver Jubilee concluded

On Tuesday night I celebrated an EF Mass to mark the day of  my 25th anniversary of priestly ordination. There was a good turnout despite the cold and a number of priest friends hda travelled from aruond the contry to be there. Afterwards at a reception in the parish hall, Leo Darroch, the out-going president of Una Voce International said a few words and made a presentation of a reversable purle and white vestment, as well as a set of Una Voce cufflinks. Many thanks to everyone especially those who prepared the church and food.

Now it`s back to normal for what feels like the first time since I arrived here in August! Here are some pictures courtesy of Gabriella again.

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Silver Jubilee

Today is the twenty-fith anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood.  I still intend to write about the LMS Rome pilgrimage but as might be magined things have been rather busy since I got back.

Here I was twenty-five years ago.

Today I`m particularly remembering in prayer my parents, bishop Lindsay and Fr Kevin Gallagher (my spiritual director for many years and preacher at my first Mass). May they rest in peace.

We celebrated with an OF Mass on Saturday which my brothers and their families travelled to be at.  Here are a few pictures.

Thanks to Gabriella for the pictures. Tonight there will be a Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form.

Many thanks to all who have helped me reach twenty-five years in the priesthood. Please say a prayer for me.

Laus Deo semper

Friday 15 November 2013

The Francis Effect

I got back from Rome on Tuesday this week having been there for six days with the Latin Mass Society as assistant chaplain on the pilgrimage. I`ll write about that soon.Before that I noticed this article on the `Francis effect` in Italy.It seems that hundreds of thousands of Catholics have returned to the Church as a result of his election. I can`t say I`ve noticed a similar effect here but it appears he is the most talked about person on the internet which is quite something.

Here is the article about Italy from CBS
A new study has found that “hundreds of thousands” of Italians have returned to the practice of Catholicism because of the new pope.
“It’s a massive, and even spectacular result,” Italian sociologist Massimo Introvigne explained to the National Catholic Reporter.
Introvigne conducted a national survey one month after the March 13 election of Pope Francis where he interviewed pastors throughout the country who reported significant increases in turnout for Mass and demand for confession.  He repeated the same survey six months later to determine if those results were attributable to what he called “religious effervescence”, or if they seemed to represent something more lasting.
In the sample of 250 diocesan clergy and religious priests throughout the country, Introvigne found that 50.8 percent still reported above-normal Mass attendance and requests for the sacrament of reconciliation.
“The relevant point,” he wrote in his new book called II segreto di Papa Francesco, “is that at a distance of six months from the first survey and seven months from the beginning of the pontificate, the phenomenon of the ‘Francis effect’ gives no sign of reflux, but instead is consolidating itself.”
He offers an estimate of the number of those enticed by Pope Francis to become active practicers of the faith.
“Since we’re dealing with half of the parishes and church communities on a national scale,” he wrote in his book, “we have to be talking about hundreds of thousands of people in Italy that have come closer to the church by welcoming the invitations of Pope Francis.”
“This ‘Francis effect is not disappearing with the passage of time, but enduring,” he stated.

Monday 4 November 2013

St Joseph`s Church, Gateshead

When I was at Forest Hall I used to say all I wanted was a fixed main altar and a proper organ. Well there were quite a lot of other things I would have liked, such as a baroque Roman basilica,  but these seemed to me to be essentials and it was hard to make progress without them. The altar at Forest Hall was simply a table-type construction which was not fixed. So imagine my joy when I got sent to St Joseph`s which has both these things. There are some pictures of the church around on the Internet but I thought some more detailed ones may be of interest.

I rely for the history of the parish on the solemnly-titled `Down Your Aisles` which gives a history of the diocese and quite a number of parish histories from the diocese drawn from a once regular feature in the diocesan paper entitled Down Your Aisle.

The article on St Joseph`s recounts the history of Catholicism in Gateshead after the Reformation. Much centred round Gateshead House, next to St Edmund`s chapel, on the High Street, which was the home of the recusant  Riddell family. The Riddells sheltered Jesuits in the late 17th century and most of the 18th. Gateshead House was stormed by a mob in 1746. A writer of 1575 contrasted the good Protestants of Gateshead with the people of Newcastle who were virtually `all papists. However when Bishop Williams OP visited Gateshead in 1729 he confirmed 100 people. In 1767 the Papist Returns listed 58 recusants in the Gateshead area. By 1851 the population of Gateshead was 25,570 of whom 3,000 were Catholics, 1,554 of Irish background.

In 1851 Fr Betham was sent from St Andrews, Newcastle to take up residence in St Catherine`s Terrace in Gateshead. For Sunday Mass the top storey of a warehouse in Hillgate was used and interestingly was known as Our Lady and St Wilfrid`s, the dedication of my other parish opened in 1903 on Sunderland Road. After a fire in 1854 the venue was changed to the Long Room in the Queen Head`s Hotel in Mirk Lane until St Joseph`s was opened in 1859.  Fr Betham left the diocese in 1854 to join the Jesuits and was replaced by Fr Consitt. Bishop Hogarth solemnly blessed the church on July 5th 1859. It cost £3,000 and could seat 1,000.

Well here are the pictures:

The former Sacred Heart chapel with the seven sacraments window. Detailed pictures below. This chapel used to contain the original altar from Mirk Lane. Parishioners can still remember it being smashed up.