Thursday, April 01, 2010

What the Church needs: A radical leader.

What is the solution to the difficulties surrounding the Catholic Church today?

The Church needs nothing less than a radical leader who can:

  • Focus on the core tenets of our faith: God's amazing love for us and our response to this.

  • Fight the scourge of child abuse by cutting through Vatican bureaucracy and red-tape.

  • Be strong enough to remove those in the church who have abused their positions.

  • Implement the teachings of the Second Vatican Council in their entirety.

  • Move beyond endless ecumenical committees but take concrete steps for Christian unity.

  • Reach out to Eastern Orthodox Christians who share our faith but are separated from us.

  • Breakdown centuries of misunderstanding between Lutherans and Catholics on faith.

  • Welcome those who accept Catholic teaching but are attached to their own faith traditions.

  • Understand the Holy Spirit has always been with the Church and not just since the 1960s

  • Restore in our liturgies the sense of the sacred and the beautiful.

  • Lead by example by promoting worship that is God-centred not priest-centred.

  • Increase our knowledge of scripture by ensuring accurate translations of the Mass.
  • Ignore hate-filled criticisms and set an example by visiting the poor and the sick.

  • Undermine those who attack the faith by talking of the 'pre' or 'post-conciliar' Church.

The Church needs Pope Benedict XVI: Ad mutos anos!

Pope Benedict XVI: Change you really-can believe in

Pope of Christian Unity and of Vatican II

"Love one another."

Today is Maundy Thursday and we recall the words of Christ, "A new commandment I give to you: love one another as I have loved you." [John 13:34] The English word 'Maundy' is generally held to be come from the Latin, "Mandatum novum" from this same passage of scripture. Love is the essence of our faith.

Today's liturgy is a powerful celebration of the depth of the love that Christ has for us and an invitation to us to respond to this love. The Church recalls his washing the feet of the disciples before his betrayal, the institution of the Eucharist and ends with a solemn procession of the Blessed Sacrament to an altar of repose symbolising Christ's journey to the Garden of Gethsemense where he will be betrayed. It is for this reason that Christians will traditionally watch with Christ and pray at this time, perhaps for an hour in remembrance of his rebuke to the apostles, "Could you not watch with me one hour?" [Matthew 24:40]

In England to this present day, the monarch will give specially minted Maundy Money to the poor as a sign of Christ's care for all. In the past the King or Queen would also wash the feet of the poor in imitation of Christ although this practice stopped after the overthrow of the last Catholic King, James II.

Enjoy the haunting simplicity of the piece below thanks to two priests called Thomas. St Thomas Aquinas wrote the words in the 13th Century and the Spanish Renaissance composer, Tomás Luis de Victoria produced the Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae (Office of Holy Week of which this is part) in 1585.

The commandment we are given on this day, to love as Christ loves us, is not easy. The Pange Lingua reminds us that this literally means loving to death, the shedding of his precious blood. It is no coincidence that the Mass was instituted at the same time as this great commandment. The words, 'Ite Missa Est' from which we get the word 'Mass' do not just signify that it is time to leave but are a call for us to bring Christ's love to the world around us even if this involves sacrifice.

Pange lingua gloriosi corporis mysterium,Sanguinisque pretiosi, quem in mundi pretium Fructus ventris generosi, Rex effudit gentium.

Tantum ergo Sacramentum veneremur cernui: Et antiquum documentum novo cedat ritui: Praestet fides supplementum sensuum defectui.

Genitori, Genitoque laus et iubilatio, Salus, honor, virtus quoque sit et benedictio: Procedenti ab utroque compar sit laudatio. Amen.

Sing, my tongue, the Saviour's glory,of his flesh the mystery sing; of the blood, all price exceeding, shed by our immortal King, destined, for the world's redemption, from a noble womb to spring.

Down in adoration falling, Lo! the sacred host we hail; Lo! o'er ancient forms departing, newer rites of grace prevail; faith for all defects supplying, where the feeble senses fail.

To the everlasting Father, and the Son who reigns on high,with the Holy Ghost proceeding forth from each eternally, be salvation, honour, blessing,might and endless majesty. Amen.

Getting the hang of hats

Stuart Reid, of Sunday Telegraph and Spectator fame is always worth reading but one recent article in the Catholic Herald was sartorial rather than theological in nature.

I hereby reproduce the article in full along with my comments:


When you get old, you started do things that you would never have dreamt of doing when you were young and still had a bit of self-respect. Like wearing a hat.

I have a brown felt hat with a wide brim. You might call it a trilby that is too big for its boots, or maybe it is a fedora. I've had the hat for some time, but until fairly recently seldom wore it.

One reason was vanity: I feared that I looked more idiotic in a hat than out of one, and the fear was not entirely groundless. Once, when I was returning home by Tube from the office, a high-spirited young man indicated my hat to his companions and cried out: "Yee-haw!" My, the merriment... [The contempt of the ignorant is surely a good reason to wear a hat?]

This winter, however, I have been wearing my hat a lot, and I am now beginning to think that a hat might bring dignity and purpose to my declining years. If I am to be worthy of a hat, however, I really must learn how to use one.

Unfortunately, there are not many instructors left. Men stopped wearing hats in the Sixties, apparently under the influence of President Kennedy, who liked to go about uncovered. [If the Kennedy went about uncovered, this would surely be a motive to do the opposite?]

Perhaps I can learn from my father's example. He wore a trilby in town and would raise it rather elaborately when approaching a woman. There was something theatrical about this gesture, even a bit ironic, but it was charming all the same. When he was a bit tight, he would take his hat off, press it to his chest, click his heels, and bow. [Splendid.]

Until last week, I had never thought that I might one day do something of the sort myself. In the past few days, however, and very tentatively - you don't want to get into trouble with the police - I have started to raise my hat to women on the common.

I obviously still have much to learn. Should you, for example, doff your hat to strange women (as I do)? Or only to women you know, such as your wife or mother or case-worker? I am not absolutely sure. [I read somewhere that this depends on one's level of intimacy with the lady in question, something that could lead to awkward social situations I'm sure.]

In the course of researching this subject, however, I came across an article by Marian T Horvat, PhD entitled "Getting the Ball Rolling on Hats". The article was posted on "Tradition in Action", a website edited by Atila Sinke Guimarães, a Brazilian of German extraction.

In spite of its occasionally rather strident tone, the site appears to be sound on hats. At any rate I can detect nothing heretical or schismatic or unreasonably integrist in its approach.

Here's what the good Dr Horvat has to say: "Besides protecting a man against the elements, a hat properly worn gives him dignity. [I fear that this is not always the case. A trilby worn at an illicitly jaunty angle could look positively rakish.] It also permits him to practise a small ceremonial, that is, an act recognising the right condition or social status of others."

For example: "If a lady who is a stranger thanks [a man] for some service or assistance, he lifts his hat in acknowledgement."If he accidentally jostles or disturbs a lady in a crowd or in passing her in a tight space, he lifts his hat and excuses himself, saying 'I beg your pardon'."

Also: "A man habitually doffs his hat when he enters into a conversation with a lady or a group of ladies. [What if it is a group of ladies plus someone of indeterminate gender? Should one simply adjust the angle of their hat to play safe?] If the conversation is more than a short greeting, the well-bred lady or ladies should invite him after a short while to return his hat to his head. The man also recovers his hat should he continued on his walk either alone or with one of the ladies."

Furthermore: "If the man stops to speak with a superior, after greeting him, he should remain with his feet together and with his hat in his hand until he is invited to cover his head."Plus: "Keep your hat clean and free from dust, sweat, dirt, and fuzz. The fact that a hat belonged to your grandfather or has a sentimental value does not legitimise the use of a dirty, stained or tattered hat. Far from being considered a gentleman and a man of good taste, the wearer of such a hat makes himself a laughing stock in good society."

Way to go, Dr Horvat. Here's another tip: when you doff your hat you should keep the inside of it towards yourself, since no one wants to see the stained sweat band, the traces of Truefitt & Hill Hair Management Pomade, the white rabbit, etc. [Eminently sensible.]

Where does all this leave the priests who have lately taken to wearing soup-plate hats? It's not for me to say, but here's a rubric I have just made up: if a priest wearing a soup-plate hat meets a lady parishioner, he should smile encouragingly and extend his hand so that she may kiss it. [The hand or the hat?]

Same applies to priests who wear a biretta outside. It goes without saying that laymen must remove their hats before entering a church. Or does it? You will quite often see men in baseball caps in church, especially in the great churches of Tuscany, but they seem to have been born - and perhaps conceived - in baseball caps, and therefore do not know that they are wearing one.

Conversely, some women remove their baseball hats when entering a church, out of a misguided sense of respect, not knowing that women are still encouraged to cover their heads. [So the baseball hat could act as a mantilla in the spirit of Vatican II?]

It would be a mistake to get too fogey about this. [Why not?] The old ways are best, of course, but that's no excuse for obscurantism.

Not so long ago, according to Dr Seuss, the International Hat-Doffing Rules Committee met to revise Rule Number 196. [If the IHDRC doesn't actually exist, I want to found it.] That rule, as Dr Seuss records, deals with the etiquette of doffing a top hat while carrying a cane, an umbrella, a bust of Catullus and a watermelon. Condemning the old way as too clumsy - but without describing it - the Committee now allows you to balance the watermelon on your left calf. [I strongly disagree with this decision and think the watermelon should be balanced on the bust of Catullus which should be balanced on the right calf.]

Sorted. Maybe I'll get the hang of hats after all.