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Showing posts from August, 2011

Fr Gregory Carling ordained at Parkminster

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Congratulations to Fr Gregory Carling who was ordained today at St Hugh's Charterhouse, Parkminster. This is the first ordination at Parkminster for many years. God willing there will be some more ordinations and solemn professions over the next few years.

The local Ordinary, Bishop Kieran Conry, celebrated the Mass, assisted by Bishop Richard Moth, a long-time friend of the Charterhouse. There were more than a dozen others concelebrating: it was rather a tight squeeze on the small sanctuary of the extern chapel. The plainchant was a trap for unwary priests accustomed to the Roman chant. The Carthusian chant is sometimes quite similar but you can be caught out by minor differences.

After Mass, there was a reception in the external guest house and time to chat until a lunch held for the bishops, and a few close family and friends. It was great to catch up with the three monks who had come from Pluscarden - Fr Gregory had been a member of their community before joining the Carthusia…

A most sensible statement by the SSPX

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The USA district of the Society of Saint Pius X has replied to a news report implying that the SSPX promotes geocentrism as a Catholic teaching based upon the Bible. As well as pointing out that the SSPX holds no such position, the SSPX has issued a sensible statement on the relative competence of the scientist and the theologian:
As declared by Pope Leo XIII in Providentissimus Deus, science cannot contradict the Faith:
There can never… be any real discrepancy between the theologian and the physicist, as long as each confines himself within his own lines, and both are careful, as St. Augustine warns us, "not to make rash assertions, or to assert what is not known as known.”Even today, many commonly-held tenets of natural science are merely theories, not certainties. This is not the case with the Catholic Faith, which is a certainty.

The Church’s magisterium authoritatively teaches on the correct interpretation of Sacred Scripture. As Pope Pius XII taught in Divino Afflatu Spiritu:

Restaurant sign Fail

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Sometimes English is used as a sign of chic on continental Europe. Sometimes that doesn't quite work.


I dread to think what you might be served up with at a place offering Second-Hand food and drink. Here is Fr Briggs outside a Brasserie that seems to promise more fun:


In fact we ate a light breakfast at a place with a sign whose subtitle indicated a quality which suited us:

Notre Dame Cathedral in Luxembourg

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Recently I read Michael Rose's "Ugly as Sin" and was struck by the comments in that book about Church doors. Many modern Churches have doors with glass in them as a way of expressing openness to the world or something. The fact is that if it is daylight when you look through a door that has glazed panels, you see a relatively dark interior and probably a lobby first of all. I hadn't realised before how important it was that so many doors of fine Churches evangelise through their imagery.

Above you can see the entrance of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Luxembourg with a crowned statue of Our Lady, flanked by St Peter and St Paul. Below, St Ignatius and St Francis show the Jesuit influence in Luxembourg.

Sadly, the High altar has been denuded and the principal altar is now an uninspiring block. Nevertheless, the sanctuary is still dominated by the statue of Our Lady, Consoler of the Afflicted who has been the object of honour in the city since 1624 when the Jesuits ca…

Two fun photos from WYD

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I don't look at FB much nowadays and had forgotten that my young parishioners would have put up their WYD photos there. The above one shows the firemen spraying the crowd. Below you can see how one lad got a better vantage point for his photos with the help of a few mates and an unused pallet.


Snippets from World Youth Day

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Rome Reports compiled this great video of some of the best pictures from the World Youth Day and, of course, plenty of others have given great accounts of their experiences. The Catholic Herald has done a fine job - many of the articles are online but there is more in the print edition.

I spent time today reading some of the Holy Father's addresses. My own sermon this weekend is going to include this passage from the sermon at the Mass (though there were many others to choose from):
I ask you, dear friends, to love the Church which brought you to birth in the faith, which helped you to grow in the knowledge of Christ and which led you to discover the beauty of his love. Growing in friendship with Christ necessarily means recognizing the importance of joyful participation in the life of your parishes, communities and movements, as well as the celebration of Sunday Mass, frequent reception of the sacrament of Reconciliation, and the cultivation of personal prayer and meditation on G…

QR Codes

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Fr Z has a poll running called QR Code and You. After checking on Google, I realised that they were those funny square things with dots that I had never got round to finding out about.

I now have a new poster to advertise the parish website, complete with QR code:
Now - must get a mobile version set up for the website...

... that's done now. So you can scan the QR code, jump slightly as whatever funny notification sound tells you that it is recognised, then watch your mobile screen take you to Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen mobile version.

We have just had some excellent news of a better than ever World Youth Day so please excuse me for a temporary lapse but this is way too cool.

Augusta Treverorum

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Photo credit: Berthold Werner Wikimedia Commons
Just 45 minutes on the train (with a fare of 8.40 euro) from Luxembourg City is Trier, the oldest city in Germany, and the birthplace of St Ambrose. We entered via the Porta Nigra, reckoned to be the best preserved Roman city gate, walked down to the the Hauptmarkt and visited the Cathedral Church of St Peter. Unfortunately, the Liebfrauenkirche is currently closed for works. I have some photos, but unfortunately the (massively annoying) internet connection here in Luxembourg will not let me upload them to flickr so I have found the above at Wikimedia.

An amazing building is the Aula Palatina or Basilica of Constantine which is well preserved and is now used for the Evangelical Church Community. Again, here is an image from Wikimedia:



Trier is on the Moselle river: during the train journey, we passed many vineyards. For lunch we both chose Wiener Schnitzel and shared a bottle of very reasonably priced local wine at a pleasant hostelry in…

Reasons for going to Luxembourg

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People have asked me "why are you going on holiday to Luxembourg?" As a joke I have said that it is because Luxembourg has more Michelin starred restaurants per capita than any other city in the world. In fact, Luxembourg is a beautiful city and well worth visiting for its Churches and stunning topography. I haven't been able to post many photos because of a slow connection at the hotel, but you can see a glimpse of the scenery in the photo above. Below is the glorious baroque interior,

My new parish website

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There is now a new website for Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen: www.blackfencatholic.org. I had forgotten quite how much I enjoy building websites. My old parish website was from the days before Web 2. I linked a blogger blog to it, giving it the same look and feel but was still tied to editing html if any of the static pages were to be updated. I was rather proud of the tightly written html and css which meant that the pages loaded very quickly - pretty well instantly on any reasonable computer with a decent internet connection.

However I have for some time felt that I should move to a content management system to enable me to change static pages much more quickly and to integrate the news feed properly into the site. I opted for Wordpress which attracted me as soon as I first used it on other sites. I rather rue the day that I opted for blogger for this blog, but it is good to be familiar with different platforms, and the profile of the Hermeneutic would take some re-building, so …

Michael Voris: Madrid and London

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Everyone who is not an active follower of the Catholic blogosphere seems to know the one mainstream news item about the World Youth Day: there was a protest and the excuse for the protest was the cost of the visit. Michael Voris deals with it quite well. I would add that this demonstrates the values of the mainstream media which focusses on a protest by 150 people (a generous estimate) as opposed to the faith of the million or so who are gathering for the Pope's visit. (And in fact, the visit will cost the Spanish government nothing, but will bring in around 100 million euro to the Spanish economy.)

As I mentioned in June, Michael Voris is coming to London next Wednesday 24 August. I'm disappointed that I won't be able to get there myself, as I am away. If you are in reach of London, this promises to be an entertaining and inspiring event. You don't have to agree with everything Michael Voris says, or the way he says it - he's a guy open to debate and discussion.

The seal of confession and the virtue of religion

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So why is the seal of confession inviolable? Why does the seal bind under such a grave obligation that the Church excommunicates any confessor who directly violates it? (See: The seal of confession: some basics)

There are two principal reasons why the priest must preserve the seal: the virtue of justice and the virtue of religion. The motive of justice is evident because the penitent, by the very fact of entering the confessional, or asking the priest to hear his confession (we’ll deal with “reconciliation rooms” another day) rightly expects that the priest will observe the seal. This is a contract entered into by the fact of the priest agreeing to hear a person’s confession. To mandate the violation of the seal is in effect to prohibit the celebration of the sacrament of Penance.

Much more grave than the obligation of justice towards the penitent is the obligation of religion due to the sacrament. The Catholic Encyclopaedia give a brief explanation of the virtue of religion which es…

"For these millennials, faith trumps relativism"

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For those outside the Church (and indeed for many inside it) the spectacle of a million young people going to Madrid to see Pope Benedict and publicly witness to their Catholic faith, is hard to understand. Anna Williams, editorial page intern at USA TODAY and a recent graduate of Hillsdale College in Michigan, neatly summarises a phenomenon that is well enough known in the Catholic blogosphere but continues to puzzle older priests, religious and laity. See: For these millennials, faith trumps relativism.
At first glance, studies such as Pew's 2010 report "Religion Among the Millennials" seem to indicate that young Catholics (age 18-29) exemplify their generation's tendency toward religious indifference. To wit, they are less likely to attend Mass weekly, less likely to pray daily, and less likely to consider religion "very important" than Catholics 30 and older. Yet the millennial Catholics who do practice and value their faith are doing something odd: The…

Being fair to Canon Henry Scott-Holland

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Two correspondents have pointed out to me that I have been unfair to the late Canon Henry Scott-Holland. The much quoted words "Death is nothing at all..." from his sermon The King of Terrors set out one of two positions which he was contrasting (the other was to recoil from death "as embodying the supreme and irrevocable disaster.") His conclusion was that both should be combined.

I would not go along with his thesis that "The contrasted experiences are equally real, equally valid" nor with some of the other things that he says, but I accept that the poor man has been badly served by having the "Death is nothing at all ..." section quoted so widely without the context of his argument and contrast.

Many thanks to those who educated me on this matter. I will make a memento for the Canon.

Death does count and is not a negligible accident

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Jennifer Fulwiler at the National Catholic Register pleads with couples: Please Don't Read This Poem at Your Wedding. She is referring to a poem by Khalil Gibran which, as she rightly says, articulates our modern culture's understanding of marriage in which the individual is more important than the family unit, and marriage is seen as a path to self-fulfilment for two individuals. I would only add that artificial contraception brings this understanding of marriage into the bedroom.

Jennifer's post reminded me of my younger sister's remark in the course of an excellent talk on marriage that I heard her give some years ago: "One flesh, one cheque book."

I count myself fortunate not to have come across Khalil Gibran's poem at a wedding, but I have heard (Anglican) Canon Henry Scott-Holland's reflection on death at some funerals. Having been in parish ministry for 26 years, I have conducted hundreds of funerals, and am no stranger to bereavement myself, …

A sermon on Church architecture

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Today I had to give two different sermons. In the Novus Ordo, we are celebrating the feast of the Assumption. In the usus antiquior, it is the 9th Sunday after Pentecost. Often, when Holydays are moved to the Sunday, it is the Sunday afterwards and therefore the usus antiquior Mass is that of the Octave, so the subject of the sermon can be the same for both forms. (It does not make much sense to celebrate a feast before its proper day.)

For the usus antiquior I decided to preach on the words "Domus mea domus orationis est" with reference to the theological and spiritual significance of the architecture of a Church. It may be of interest to you (and parishioners might like to follow up the link the Duncan Stroik's article.)
The house of the Lord
My house is the house of prayer (Lk 19.46) Yet many modern Churches that we see have the air rather of a sports hall, the lobby of a multinational company building, or a Eurostar station.

Since it is supremely unfashionable to rega…

The seal of confession: some basics

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Following on from threats in Ireland to require priests to break the seal of confession, I want to go through some of the basics concerning the seal, and then to deal specifically with some other questions (including what the priest might do if the civil authority asks him under penalty to break the seal.) I am particularly grateful for the manual of the saintly Fr Felix Cappello SJ: Tractatus Canonico-Moralis De Sacramentis Vol II.

This series is not intended as a spiritual guide for how to make a good confession: you can find such guides elsewhere (on my parish website for example.) What I am concerned to do here is to explain some of the canonical-theological questions that form a part of priestly theological formation but have not normally been part of ordinary catechesis for the sacrament. They are of some importance now because of attacks that have been made on the sacrament and are likely to continue.

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The seal of confession is a strict obligation upon t…

LIFE under threat

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Recently the Guardian carried a nasty piece attacking pro-life charities. The article uncritically accepts the account of a survey undertaken by Education for Choice. A pro-abortion group investigating pro-life groups: no room for bias there, eh? Archbishop Cranmer has written a robust response to the article which I commend to you: Guardian smears ‘pro-life’ charities.

LIFE was singled out for attention: the charity has become a target because it has been invited to join the new sexual health forum which advises the Government. There is also currently a push to prevent any pro-life groups from carrying out counselling; see for example the Brook and FPA joint briefing: Abortion information - the right to choose which states:
Organisations opposed to abortion should not be able to provide pregnancy advice services

We believe that organisations who are ideologically opposed to abortion must not be able to provide pregnancy advisory services, as by their very nature an ideology against abo…

A puzzling letter

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My Catholic Dilemmas article in the Catholic Herald for 15 July was about Holy Communion. In view of a letter that appears in this weekend's issue, I give the text of my piece here:
I have always received Holy Communion and on the tongue but in my new parish most people receive on the hand. I am worried that I am standing out.

In the 1970s, permission was given by the Holy See for Holy Communion to be received in the hand. Although this permission has been granted to most Bishops' Conferences, it remains the case that receiving on the tongue is the universal practice in terms of liturgical law: a particular diocese could rescind permission for communion in the hand but it would not be lawful to forbid communion on the tongue.

Your reluctance to appear singular is understandable and your instinctive humility in this matter is praiseworthy. If we do something different from others, there can be a temptation to think that we are more devout, or to question the motives of others. M…

New Abbot for Pluscarden

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With commendable efficiency, the Benedictine community at Pluscarden has elected a new Abbot, Fr Anselm Atkinson, to replace Abbot Hugh Gilbert who was appointed Bishop of Aberdeen in June.

Abbot Anselm was installed on Tuesday. After making his first vows at Pluscarden in 1976, he went to Rome to study scripture and returned to the community where he taught scripture to the novices and juniors. He was ordained priest in 1982. In the late 1980s, he went to the Pluscarden's daughter house in Petersham, Massachusetts, where he became Abbot. He has also been Visitor for the English Province of the Subiaco Congregation.

Congratulations to the community at Pluscarden. Please remember them in your prayers: as well as assisting the Church powerfully through the constant prayer of the Sacred Liturgy (all sung in Latin every day) they have helped countless people through their generous hospitality. Spare a thought too for Abbot Hugh who is to be consecrated Bishop next Monday.

Fr Z under attack

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Every now and then, I get a phone call or an email (usually without malice) asking about the canonical status of Fr Zuhlsdorf. I am able to assure people the he is in good standing. He is a priest incardinated in the Diocese of Velletri, with faculties from the diocese, and working outside the diocese with permission from his bishop, engaging in an apostolate of writing and speaking (as well as working on a doctorate.) He lives simply and relies on donations from people. (If you want to support him, go to his blog and you can leave a donation via the paypal button near the top of his sidebar.)

This is a fairly tough situation for a priest to be in, and Father is careful to seek the support of fellow priests (and a few friendly bishops who are grateful on their part for his support of them.) His online apostolate has brought great consolation to many Catholics and has been of significant help in promoting Pope Benedict's programme of reform and renewal in the Church. His comment i…

Cornish seagull: sheer criminality

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Thanks to defénde nos in proélio for passing this one on.

From a riot near you

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The above picture shows people in Clapham with their brooms engaged in #cleanup which shows that Twitter can be used for other purposes than organising opportunistic looting. I have seen plenty of articles asking whether Twitter or Blackberry broadcast was responsible for the riots. To my mind, you might as well blame paper manufacturers for the Russian Revolution.

The question that doesn't seem to have been raised much is whether the mainstream news reporting was responsible for some of the trouble. Wall-to-wall coverage of burned cars and thieves smashing windows might after all have encouraged others to go out and loot n'est ce pas? I'm not suggesting that the news should necessarily be censored but there does seem to be room for an examination of conscience about the coverage.

So far, London seems to be quieter tonight though there is trouble in other parts of England. In the next door parish to me, there was a self-help programme organised ad hoc by Milwall and Charl…

Looting - why not if you are a moral relativist?

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Photo: Dan Kitwood They leap upon the city, they run upon the walls; they climb up into the houses, they enter through the windows like a thief. (Joel 2.9)On my way to and from central London this evening it was apparent that we have now become an international freak show. (See London riots: world reacts to city's 'hungry mutiny') It was a bit of a shock to exit North Greenwich Station to the announcement that buses would not go through Woolwich "due to (sic) civil unrest." I was also disturbed ( but not in the least surprised) to hear that Croydon, my Alma Mater was also featured thanks to a massive fire at Reeves Corner.

David Cameron, Boris Johnson and others are rushing back to London since the country has become a bit of a basket case and Something Needs to be Done. The best immediate remedy would be to pray for torrential rain: anyone in the Police will tell you that it is the single most effective preventative measure against any form of street crime. Faili…

Heartbreaking reportage of Sacred Heart Limerick

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A few years ago, I reported on how the Church of the Sacred Heart in Limerick was to become a spa and leisure centre. Sadly, the developer who purchased the Church has taken his own life (please remember him in your prayers) and the Church is once again on the market. It sold for 4 million euros in 2006 but will now go for very much less than that - about 800,000  to 1 million is the current guess. The estate agents suggest that:
Property may lend itself to many uses such as Library / Museum /Leisure Centre / Bar / Restaurant - (subject to the necessary Planning Permission).The reportage slideshow in the video above is by Michael O'Brien. He asked for permission to do the photo shoot in order to preserve images of this beautiful Church for posterity in case it is made into a bar or restaurant.

It would be wonderful if the Institute of Christ the King were able to raise funds to buy it instead. At 03:37 in the video there is an old picture of the Church with two angels on the altar…

Forthcoming events

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Family of Faith UK Conference. 13 August 2011 9.30am. Westminster Cathedral Hall. With Steve Ray, former Protestant Evangelist, now Catholic. (Tickets £10 advance £15 at door)

Latin Mass Society Walking Pilgrimage to Walsingham. 26-28 August. From Ely to Walsingham. Masses according to the usus antiquior. (£60 non-members; £50 members; £30 under 18 (with family group) & students.)

Anscombe Bioethics Centre. Thursday 8 September. Corpus Christi College, Oxford. (£110)
Human embryo research: Law, policy and practice

Sung Mass (Victoria's Quam Pulchri Sunt, in recognition of the 400th anniversary of his death.) Douai Abbey. Saturday 10 September 11am. Followed by Marian Procession around the grounds of the Abbey.

Catholic Boogie Night. Saturday 8 October. St Augustine's Social club, 55 Fulham Palace Rd, Hammersmith. (Tickets £5 advance £10 at door) Mass or Adoration before the boogie.

This is a new type of post. I'll try to do posts like this from time to time so that more …

Faith Summer Session - more pictures

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A brilliant week and a chance to meet old and new friends: the Summer Session of the Faith Movement finished at lunchtime today, after a cracking talk by Canon Luiz Ruscillo and the final Mass with "Faith of our Fathers" at the end. After the youngsters swapped details to keep in touch on Facebook, and the farewells were finally completed, the Scottish coach rumbled off to the motorway, others dispersed to the four corners of England and beyond.

Never say that young people are not generous. These girls were throwing Jaffa Cakes magnanimously to the passers-by:



Yesterday I took the group photos: Here is the "silly" version of the "everyone" pic. It is not nearly silly enough and I will have to encourage a greater effort at buffoonery next year.



More photos over at the Flickr set

Secular recognition for the word "chalice"

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Thankfully soon "chalice" will replace "cup" in the English translation of the Mass, as a word to indicate the kind of receptacle in which the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ is fittingly contained.

A couple of seminarians reminded me last evening of an advertisement for the new Stella Cidre (above.) I saw this on the side of the A2 a while back and meant to post about it. The advertising company seem to think that the word "chalice" indicates to ordinary people the kind of receptacle into which a precious beverage is fittingly poured. This rather defeats the argument that a word like "chalice" is too unfamiliar to use in the Mass.

(If you are minded to respond that Jesus only used an ordinary cup, please read Precious chalice or cup? first.)

New statue of St Philip Neri at the school Newman founded

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At the Oratory School near Reading, a new statue of St Philip Neri was unveiled recently. The school was founded by Blessed John Henry Newman who was attracted to the human and spiritual qualities of St Philip, and, together with Fr Faber, introduced to England his idea of the Oratory as a group of secular priests living in community.

The statue was commissioned by the school following a donation from The Tolkien Trust. The sculptor was one of the parents, himself an old boy of the school.  JRR Tolkien wrote part of the “Lord of the Rings” while staying at Chapel Cottage in the school grounds in the summer of 1949. His son, Michael Tolkien was a pupil at the school from 1934-1939 (when it was a Caversham) and later returned to teach. His daughter, Joanna Tolkien, unveiled the new statue.

It is good to hear of a school which giving such considered and tasteful acknowledgement to great Catholic figures associated with its life. Those who are going to the Evangelium Conference this week…

Philosophy and table football

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Professor Tom Pink spoke at the Faith Movement Summer Session this morning on the culture of death and its assumptions about human nature. As a philosopher used to teaching undergraduates, he managed to deal with some complex ideas in an intelligible manner, presenting the principles that Catholics need to understand in order to combat arguments used in the public square. He was devastating on the use made of "quality of life" in order to decide that someone should be killed.

After some discussion, I took the "official" photos of the various groups who were at the Conference. I hope to upload these to Flickr later today. The above photo shows most of those who have been present for the week.

We are always keen for priests to visit. Fr Michael Cahill, of the Diocese of Meath in Ireland, is on holiday in  London for two weeks and I drove him down to Woldingham yesterday.


The conference is not all lectures: there is time for relaxation. Here, Fr Stephen Brown, an exp…

Charities and respect for human life

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The SPUC Charities Bulletin has been a useful guide for parish priests and others when considering whether to allow fundraising activities for particular charities. The response to recent appeals for donations to help those suffering from the drought in Africa is a reminder of how generous people can be. Unfortunately, good people often assume that if an organisation is a charity, we do not need to enquire further. Sadly, with medical research charities, we do need to know whether the charity supports embryo experimentation, to give one example of ethical problems that can occur with charities.

The SPUC Charities bulletin dates from 2006 and is in need of updating. It is good news that it is now to be an online index that will be updated as new information becomes available. See: Charities and respect for human life. Another advantage of the online deployment of this index is that people can notify SPUC of information or concerns that they have about particular charities. (Send inform…

Fr Briggs's silver jubilee

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Fr Ray Blake has posted the above photo of the crowds making their way to the silver jubilee Mass of Fr Charles Briggs. On closer inspection, I think the ground looks a bit rougher than Chislehurst Common. In due course, there will be some other photos and I will check them carefully.

Seriously, it was a great occasion: solemn High Mass of the Holy Ghost with the Byrd 4-part setting, a couple of dozen priests in choir and a packed Church. Archbishop Kevin MacDonald preached well on the meaning of the priesthood. There was a fine reception at Camden House, currently the home of the Chislehurst Golf Club but formerly home to Napoleon III and the Empress Eugénie.

There will be some photos of the Mass online in due course - today I was back at Woldingham to listen to Fr Anthony Doe, the guest speaker at the Faith Summer Session, who gave a helpful and profound introduction for the young people on the nature of contemplative prayer.

Tomorrow morning we have Professor Tom Pink speaking on …

Faith Summer Session starts

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The Faith Movement's annual summer session started today at Woldingham School. Above is a photo of last year's group. This year, we have about 200 attending, including a number of seminarians, and priests from around the country. Fr Anthony Doe will be the guest speaker on Wednesday, and Professor Tom Pink will be talking on Thursday morning. The theme for the talks is Christian love, and topics concerning love, chastity, the sanctity of life and different states of loving will be addressed during the week.

For me it is always a great opportunity to catch up with brother clergy and some great lay apostles. I hope to get some photos to post during the week.

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