20 June 2008

Attorney General visits Newman Society

We welcomed as Guest-of-Honour at our termly black-tie dinner Baroness (Patricia) Scotland of Asthal, the Attorney General of England and Wales. After a dinner, which was held at Pembroke College, Lady Scotland gave a moving talk in which she offered a personal reflection on the importance of her Catholic faith.

The dinner followed an 'extraordinary form' High Mass of Requiem at which Fr. Dominic Jacobs CongOrat was celebrant and Rev. Dr. Lawrence Hemming preached. The Mass was offered for the departed members and benefactors of the society and we remembered especially Mrs Margaret Wheeler, who died earlier in the year. Margaret was a long standing member of the society and will be remembered with affection by generations of Oxford students. R.I.P.

13 April 2008

Br. Lawrence Lew OP's talk to Newman Society's Colloquium on 'Blogging'

From Godzdogz
"Virtue and Vice on the Blogosphere"

The Oxford University Newman Society hosted a 'Bloggers' Colloquium' in the Catholic Chaplaincy on 15 February 2008 to discuss the phenomenon of blogging and its impact on the Church and the world. Br Lawrence Lew OP was invited to give one of the talks; an abridged version follows:

That blogs can be a force for good but also for that which is less than good should not surprise us. For social communications through the media is just an expression of our flawed humanity, and indeed the anonymity which the internet affords sometimes exacerbates our flaws. Like everything we do, blogging does not always achieve the good it ought to although I believe that it is essentially ordered towards it. As such, we should treat it like the rest of life – as something with a potential for good, but which can be abused, and where that happens, it should be healed and redeemed. There is no place that the Gospel may not touch, and as a preaching friar, I passionately believe that it is essential that we bring the light of Christ’s truth and the teachings of his holy Church to the blogosphere. It is with this in mind that I have tentatively entitled my reflection: Virtue and Vice in the Blogosphere.

Those Catholics who blog and those who read such blogs are a select few, but they are united by love. At its best, I hope that we are united as Catholic and Christian bloggers in a love for Christ and his Gospel. As this is not a dis-interested love, so the passions and heated exchanges that are elicted online are in many ways understandable and, indeed, to be expected.

However, it is in the area of the passions, that is, the emotions, that we have to be most careful, for sometimes these can get out of control. St Thomas Aquinas, rightly saw that emotions were good and proper for us to possess because they are part of what it means to be a rational animal, to be human. However, they fall within our animal capabilities and so have to be integrated with our rational powers. Thus Aquinas says that passions are “good when they are controlled by reason; and evil when they are not controlled by reason”; the passions have to be moderated by reason. However, this does not mean that one can circumnavigate the emotions or employ the force of sheer ‘will-power’ to control one’s emotions. As the French Dominican Chenu said, one ought to resort to neither “dualistic Manichaeism nor Christian Stoicism”. Aquinas’ answer is that “both acts of the will and the emotions must be given direction, order and guidance; they do not automatically unfold in morally mature directions.” This guidance comes from the acquisition of virtues and the elimination of vices. Developing good habits and virtues will help a person to mature emotionally and grow morally so as to make the right choices in response to one’s feelings and desires; we grow from spoilt brats to mature right-thinking adults. I’m afraid that quite often one sees a lot of the former on display on the blogosphere’s comments boxes! Aquinas taught that “in affirming or rejecting opinions, we shouldn’t be influenced by our liking or dislike of those who propose the ideas, but rather by the certitude of truth”. Thus, we act rationally, guided by prudence and not by our passions. Aquinas’ position is that the passions can be regulated by reason such that “the passions of the wise man are an integral part of his moral life” and indeed, it is a person who delights (and so has an emotive attraction) in doing good who does more good. So, what I want to suggest is that the blogosphere can be a training ground for virtue, but also a temptation to vice.

There is little doubt that prudence is the chief virtue that we must develop in blogging and using the internet. Aquinas says that prudence “is reason itself rendered perfect in its judgments and in its choices.” Often it seems that when one decides what to blog or what to comment, one can take refuge in the truth. That is, something blogged or commented about is justified simply because it is true, or deemed to be quite simply what the Church teaches, and we have to say it no matter what the consequences. I would suggest that prudence, temperance and wisdom require us to judge how and when to act, not just that we are to act. Children may be expected to act without prudent judgment, but mature adults are expected to show some discernment. Otherwise, we can become like the secular press who report whatever they will on the basis that it is fair comment or truth that is in the public interest.

Pope Benedict has said: “The call for today's media to be responsible - to be the protagonist of truth and promoter of the peace that ensues - carries with it a number of challenges. While the various instruments of social communication facilitate the exchange of information, ideas, and mutual understanding among groups, they are also tainted by ambiguity. Alongside the provision of a ‘great round table’ for dialogue, certain tendencies within the media engender a kind of monoculture that dims creative genius, deflates the subtlety of complex thought and undervalues the specificity of cultural practices and the particularity of religious belief. These are distortions that occur when the media industry becomes self-serving or solely profit-driven, losing the sense of accountability to the common good.” I would suggest that the Holy Father’s warning applies not just to the secular media but also to us. For it is easy for us to become embroiled in our cause, our vision of the Church, our idolisation of those things an Aristotelian might call ‘accidents’. As such, I believe that we should hearken to Pope Benedict’s words. Moreover as he also said, albeit in a different context, “Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows”, and so, not just what we would desire in an ideal world. To be sure, one might argue that we are doing this for the good of the Church and for Christ’s sake, but I also think that a certain humility requires us to ask if we are so sure that God has mandated us to do this work for him: for one of the dangers of the blogging phenomenon is that every person becomes his own editor and publisher, every blog becomes a pulpit and there is no accountability. One of the benefits of a group blog like Godzdogz and of writing as a religious friar is that I am accountable to my community, and this, I think, is no bad thing if we want to learn prudence and humility.

A particular vice that aggrieves me and that is not infrequently seen on the blogosphere is detraction, which in Aquinas' great Summa falls under the area of justice. Detraction “strictly speaking is taking away a person’s character by drawing attention to anything that detracts from that character”. Although the intention of admonition does take away the sinfulness of the act, Aquinas notes that “all the same, a man should pick his words carefully, since uttered incautiously they might take away a person’s character, and a fatal wrong might be done without even intending it.” I think this is even more serious if it is directed at our pastors and especially a bishop who is, by consecration, a successor of the apostles. I think the blogs have helped in some areas to fuel such discussions and they have certainly been a tempting place for people to comment and say such things. We may complain – as the flock has always done – about decisions made by our superiors, but to impugn their character, or to judge them guilty of heresy, or to speculate maliciously about their motivations is clearly not good for the Church or for us. The fact is that the blogosphere can be a forum for vicious activity and we should seek not to defend that but to guard our tongues and typing fingers. While our modern world defends free speech, and freedom of opinion, let us be on guard for these can lead to great vice. As the Scriptures say in many places, but here, I am quoting from the Wisdom of Ben Sira: “As you hedge round your vineyard with thorns, set barred doors over your mouth; as you seal up your silver and gold, so balance and weigh your words. Take care not to slip by your tongue and fall victim to your foe waiting in ambush.” Moreover, freedom is a gift that we have to exercise responsibly and this requires the exercise of virtues like courage and temperance, that is, not only the strength to say the truth but to do so wisely and in the right way and time.

So, what can we say in our blogs? St Paul says: “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel”. And so, I believe that the blogosphere, and indeed, other instruments of the internet, can help us in the mission given to all the baptised. This is not surprising, for if we are preachers of the gospel, we will naturally use everything in our lives and in our world to give glory to him who has saved us and to preach his Word to all nations. Joseph Ratzinger once said: “The Church will have to develop a great deal of imagination to help the gospel remain a force in public life, so that it may shape the people and pervade their life and work among them like yeast.” The internet is just one such area of public life, and it will work for good if we write about the Gospel, seek to disseminate truth and balanced opinion, and help shape our readers in virtue. Perhaps we can take other pointers from Ratzinger. He noted that “nowadays, particularly among the most modern representatives of Catholicism, there is a tendency toward uniformity… I believe that a great deal of tolerance is required within the Church, that the diversity of paths is something in accordance with the breadth of Catholicity – and that one ought not simply to reject it, even when it is something contrary to one’s own taste.” So, there are blogs for every taste, and it is good that these flourish in the Church and work together for the common good and serve the mission of the Church.

In an aphorism commonly attributed to St Augustine, he is believed to have said, “in essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity.” This should be the creed of all our social communications. It is with care, study and prudence that we are able to distinguish between essentials and doubtful matters, and if we should fear anything in blogging, let us fear a failure in charity.

26 February 2008

Newman Society's Sarum Rite Masses

In 1997 and 1998 the Newman Society organised two celebrations of Mass according to the Sarum Rite. The Sarum Rite was the rite of Mass generally celebrated in England up until the Reformation. Fr. Sean Finnigan, who was celebrant of the Masses, has now posted a video of the Candlemass 1998 Mass on Youtube. He provides a full account of the ceremonial and links to the videos on his blog Valle Adurni.

Fr Finnigan writes - For a while I worked as a priest in Oxford, and there became involved in a couple of celebrations of the Use of Sarum. Both were videod, in an amateurish way, and I thought it worth posting at least some of this to YouTube.

A clip from the offertory of the second Sarum Mass (Candlemas 1997) was posted to YouTube a while ago, and much appreciated; now it seems time to put up some more.The Sarum Use is the mediæval English rite of most mediæval English dioceses, and by the close of Catholic England at the death of Queen Mary was the Use for the whole country (Henry VIII had made it compulsory for everyone, and I don't suppose Hereford, Bangor &c did much to revive their own Uses, unless anyone out there knows different).

20 February 2008

Vigil at the Chaplaimcy

From The New Liturgical Movement By Br. Lawrence Lew OP

On Friday 15 - Saturday 16 February, the Oxford University Catholic Chaplaincy held a Eucharistic Vigil that was jointly organised by the Catholic Society and the Newman Society with the Chaplains. Over 50 people gathered for the Vigil which opened with a votive Mass of the Eucharist in the Ordinary Form with Gregorian chant Propers and the Ordinary from Mass VIII and Byrd's Mass for three voices. Fr Benjamin Earl OP was the principal celebrant and preached at the Mass; the Liturgy of the Word was in English, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist was in Latin.

Mass was followed by a Eucharistic Procession during which the 'Pange lingua' was sung, followed by the Litany and a psalm. This was followed shortly afterwards with Compline sung by Dominican friars and then Latin Benediction given by Deacon David Rocks OP.
Vigil was kept until dawn, interspersed with the Divine Office and the public recitation of the Holy Rosary and the Vigil ended with Mass celebrated by the chaplain, Fr John Moffat SJ. A cooked breakfast welcomed all those who kept vigil before the Lord and recalled, in a small way, His fast in the desert.


From Liturgical Notes
Fr John Hunwicke SSC writes ...

The Oxford Newman Society's colloquium on blogging was great fun; indeed, what a splendid body that society is. How fortunate the Catholic Chaplaincy is to have such a strong, intelligent group with praiseworthy views on everything; one of two bright beacons (the Pusey House congregation is of course the other) in the University (or am I being unfair to leave out the Oratory and Blackfriars?). And how fortunate Oxford is to be so rich in Catholic blogs. I learn a lot from that highly literate and engaging blog, massinformation, run by three Catholic Anglican seminarians. And, of course, there is the New Liturgical Movement to keep us updated on everything truly progressive in liturgical matters; and that's not all. Those with an interest in Dominican liturgy and/or the Anglican Book of Common Prayer can this week hear the great chant Media Vita , sung during Lenten Compline in the Dominican and Sarum (medieval English) rites and incorporated by Dr Cranmer into the Anglican funeral service (it is to be sung by the clerks, or else said, while the body is made ready to be laid into the earth). It can be heard on another great blog, Godzdogz. I wonder if anybody has ever thought of using this Dominican version and melody at Anglican funerals? It would make a lovely change from that nonsense from Scott-Holland about how Death is Nothing, which so many of the bereaved have heard at other funerals that the officiating priest is repeatedly persuaded into allowing it again ... thereby compounding the problem.

It was good to hear Fr Zed; knowledgeable about the Inside liturgical history of the last couple of decades and with his fingers on many pulses internationally. He left us with a strong sense of the grip Pope Benedict has on the cultural life of the Church: in the last year we really have turned a corner. As an Anglican, I found myself thinking: in the late 1960s and thereafter, as the RC Church lurched in the wrong direction in so many areas but especially the liturgical, Anglicans, and not least Catholic Anglicans, deemed it the proper thing slavishly to adopt each newly minted absurdity. Now that things are getting back on the rails in Rome, will the Anglican faith-community follow healthy leadership as readily as then it did the unhealthy? Many of our younger Catholic Anglican clergy are already doing so; but what about the dominant gerontocracy?

A jolly good supper, too, cooked by Mr President Yaqoub himself.

19 February 2008

Blogging colloqium

Dr. Matthew Doyle writes ...

'Rubbing sholders with the great'

A couple of weeks ago I received an unexpected email from the President of the Oxford University Newman Society, inviting me to partake in a colloquium entitled "Blogging and the Church". I had heard very little about this Catholic Society before now, but learn it is the example for other universities to follow. It was established in 1878, and has only recently (1990) been challenged with a separate "University of Oxford Catholic Society" which sought to counteract the overt conservatism of the Newman. It is with pleasure I learn that these two societies cooperate a great deal, and had jointly arranged an all-night vigil of eucharistic adoration the same evening that the colloquium finished. It was a joy to see the standard of liturgy on offer; truly obedient to the current climate in the Church (ie. lots of Latin!)

The President made sure that I was aware of such distinguished speakers who have featured in their weekly meetings: "Archbishop Michael Ramsay, G.K. Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh, the Patriarch of All Spain, Baroness Williams and the Duke of Norfolk." Amongst others I'm sure. And, failing to be able to provide such itinerant bloggers as Fr Tim Finigan, Damien Thompson, and Fr Nicholas Schofield, they evidently broadened their horizons to the simple 'little guys' such as myself. As a result, not only did they have the key-note appearance of Fr John Zuhlsdorf, but also a balanced account of the role of Blogging in the Church from other perspectives.
At this juncture I should note that it was only possible for me to attend such an event due to the kindness of my co-workers, who thoughtfully covered for me at the hospital so that I could leave a little early and race down the M40. Upon arrival in Oxford, I was filled with the unique atmosphere I am always pleased to encounter there: streets full of noble youngsters persuing their dream of learning and truth(?), and the general hustle and bustle that go with any university town. But coupled with the welcome life of the people, there is also the matchless and timeless beauty of the university buildings, transforming this little city into a fortress of academia. The Catholic Chaplaincy is located in The Old Palace on St Aldates, just opposite Christ Church. It is a quaint wooden Elizabethan building, which on this occasion was perishingly cold owing to a broken boiler.

I was warmly greeted on entering by the President, complete with apron, who ushered me upstairs to a holding room, where the other bloggers were gathered. It was an interesting room, clearly basking in the glory of its long history, being decorated with portraits of past chaplains. Little did we know, an eastern banquet awaited us (or certainly that is how I would class it in student terms!). An amusing touch when we sat down to dinner, was a tiny statue of St Peter (modelled on the great 'foot' in the Roman Basilica) placed in the middle of the table by the President's place. A good model for leadership, by any measure! After Fr John Zuhlsdorf's Latin table blessing a good three course curry was had by all.
The actual colloquium followed, which took place in the library around a large table. I was suddenly glad to have scribbled out a short biographic to prompt myself; looking at the other bloggers, and hearing their eloquent talks one by one, made mine an impossible act to follow. Firstly Fr John Zuhlsdorf gave an excellent history behind his courageous endeavour to engage with the potential for on-line catholic communications from the very beginning, leading to the foundation of his blog "What Does the Prayer Really Say?" in the new millennium, and its recent change of course in recent months following the publication of Summorum Pontificum. Fr Z is adamant that this is the single most important document issued in recent years, and crucial for understanding the will of the Holy Father for the direction of the Church. He described the Liturgy as the spearhead of the Faith, and something which obviously needs to be sharpened to the utmost for greatest influence in the world.
Next up was Fr John Hunwicke, who is the Anglican priest-in-charge of St Thomas the Martyr. He is also compiler of the Ordo, published by Tufton Books (a volume which he wielded, but which, alas, I have very little idea of). Amusingly, introducing himself as an Anglican in a "hotbed of Popery", he declared he felt entirely at home! He gave an interesting take on the whole liturgical discussion, since his Church is fortunate enough to have use of noble English translations by Cranmer ("heretic though he was!") He suggested that if a sad barrier to the Latin tongue is what prevents priests from using the 1962 missal, would not an entire vernacular translation be a bridge to it, and preferable to the current state of affairs?
Friar Lawrence brought a beautiful spiritual dimension to the discussion, having prepared a paper entitled "The Virtues and Vices of Blogging" which was interspersed with Thomist philosophy on our battle with the tendency to sin. This is a topic which I had hoped to pick up on, and was glad that Lawrence could do so with such precision and learning. I hope he will be able to publish his talk in its entirety. [17 April 2008 - A transcript can be found here]
In conclusion, I will quote one of the bystanders from massinformation:

What emerged, then, was a sense of renewed confidence in what the Church proposes to the World, and that that ought to be presented in as many ways as possible. The Church must beat the drum to which the World marches, because if the rhythm is handed over to the World, the Church suffers. It is the Church's experiences of engagement with the World which need to be reflected on, and assimilated or discarded as She deems appropriate, rather than the other way around. We need to balance Fr Zuhlsdorf's confidence in the rights of the laity with Br Lawrence's concern to respect the bishops and their pastoral and teaching office. We need, too, to balance this with the experiences of laymen like Matthew Doyle and parish priests like Fr Hunwicke.
The whole evening was a joy, and I was very pleased to be able to partake also in the overnight vigil afterwards. With slightly sore knees, I stumbled down the dark streets of St Aldates, grabbing a quick coffee-to-go from the "open till midnight" cafe of G & Ds, which was just enough to keep me awake on the dreaded M40 on the way back to Brum!

9 January 2008

Newman's beatification is "imminent"

Vatican City, Jan 8, 2008 / 05:16 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Cause of the Saints, has announced that the beatification of the great British convert and scholar, Cardinal John Henry Newman, is "imminent."
In an interview to be published on Wednesday in the daily Italian edition of L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Saraiva said that among the most important personalities to be beatified "soon" is "the case of Cardinal Newman, a relevant intellectual, and an emblematic figure of conversion from Anglicanism to Catholicism."
"Personally, I wish his beatification to happen very soon because it would be very important at this moment for the path of ecumenical dialogue,” Cardinal Martins said.
Cardinal Saraiva Martins also revealed the beatification, latter this year, of the parents of St, Therese of Lisieux, Louis Martin and Azelia Guérin. The heroic virtues of the parents of St. Therese, who is now one of the most popular saints in the Catholic Church and a Doctor of the Church, were proclaimed on March 26, 1944.
Cardinal Saraiva implied that the miracle needed to proclaim them Blessed has been approved by his congregation, and will be announced at the next Consistory.