A bishop reflects on church architecture

In my own childhood and upbringing, Christian art and architecture served this noble purpose of helping to bring me to my knees in recognition and adoration of Christ truly present in the Sacrifice of the Mass and in the Sacrament of the Altar. The same architecture helped me realise this was always in communion with the Church, always together with the Communion of Saints. Irrespective of its historic style, genuine Christian architecture must seek to do the same by – we might say – being itself a visible act of witness and worship.

Much more here.

Listening to Young People

One of my hobbies is listening in on the conversations of frustrated young Catholics. They have a lot of hopes for the Church moving forward, and like young people everywhere they have beautifully high ideals.

These are some of the characteristics of the Church of the future many young Catholics would like to see going forward.

  1. Authenticity. Young Catholics are looking for leaders deeply attuned to the Gospel, who speak the truth in love.
  2. Artistry. Young people admire beauty in art, architecture,  and music. They are opposed to flat cartoons and other puerilities, rushed and casual ceremony, and badly strummed guitars. Eurotrash is out; polyphony is in.
  3. A sense of occasion. Jesus Christ the Lord, and all His saints and angels, are present in glory at every Mass. So Mass should not have the casual demeanor of a junior high school talent show.
  4. Respect for the Blessed Sacrament.

Young people constantly complain that their opportunities for reverence are often opposed and even thwarted by adults. Why is this? Often, ironically,  reverence is thwarted by adults claiming that they are trying to attract young people. Irreverence, bad art, and erroneous teaching do not do that.

Anyone paying attention to the young Church will notice that beauty is the growth industry of Catholicism. Moving forward, the way to appeal to the young is to keep faith with the past, reclaiming the lost art of liturgy.

Rejoice, Mother Anne!

O mother Anne, rejoice!
O mother blest, applaud:
Your daughter has been born today:
The Mother of our God.

The Virgin Mary born!
A new parental bliss!
Rejoice, rejoice with Joachim
For such a babe as this!

Your daughter is the first
Of blessings we receive,
Renewing earth whose early dawn
Was cursed because of Eve.

And so we give you praise,
And banners raise today,
And ask that through your holy prayers
Our sins be washed away.

To God the Father, praise,
And glory to the Son,
And honor to the Spirit bright:
Blest Trinity in One.

False sophistication and obedience to God

In thinking about some of the current astonishing happenings in the Church, I’ve found a couple of C.S. Lewis’ books to be very useful. Obviously he is not a Catholic saint, much less a doctor, and we can find a great deal of helpful teaching in the fathers and doctors of the Church as well.

However there are two points that Lewis discusses as well as anyone, and both have excellent fictional treatments in his space trilogy, written for adults at the time of World War II.

In the third book of the trilogy, That Hideous Strength, Lewis writes about a battle between angelic and demonic powers, in which human beings have meaningful parts to play. One of the ways in which the human characters help the evil powers, somewhat unwittingly, is by being too concerned with human acceptance, a phenomenon also explored by Lewis in his essay The Inner Ring. What happens in the book is a prioritization of politics over truth, of acceptance and careerism over professional and personal ethics, that open individuals to compromise and collusion with evil almost before they know that the collusion is happening.

In the second book, Perelandra, which Lewis said was “worth twenty Screwtapes,” we listen in on the temptation of another planet’s Eve. Will she be tempted to disobey God’s command, or won’t she? The tempter, who is a human being fully and voluntarily given over to evil, patiently tries to convince the beautiful woman with all the gifts of unfallen humanity that she will be much more noble and heroic, if only she disobeys God’s command. He says, “Your deepest will, at present, is to obey Him–to be always as you are now, only His beast or His very young child. The way out of that is hard. It was made hard that only the very great, the very wise, the very courageous should dare to walk in it, to go on–on out of this smallness in which you now live–through the dark wave of His forbidding, into the real life, Deep Life, with all its joy and splendour and hardness.”

That is a temptation indeed. Go out of God’s will, it seems to say, and you will find yourself. Discard the simplicity of trust in the God Who makes known His will, grant it no continuity with your life from now on, and you will be noble and adventurous. It’s a siren call that seems–only seems–to be calling to what is best in humanity. It often promises to make humanity better. But it is deadly poison, if swallowed.

Moreover, one can imagine a world where these two impulses are combined. Dissent from revealed truth, one might imagine, could be the way into an exclusive club.

I suppose it starts with little things: little lies, little improprieties, little sophistries in research, little slanders. Perhaps excellent meals and delicious drinks are involved. Perhaps too many drinks, and too much wasted time, and quite a lot of gossip.

Fortunately for us as Catholics, there is always a way back. Lewis’ tempter is unrealistic: although he is not yet dead, he already has the final judgment upon him. It is not that way with us. In fact giving up on the falsely glittering brass ring of rebellion is easy–as easy as a child running home to his father. “Unless you become like a little child, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”


Cor ad cor loquitur

In omitting the propers of the Mass, as many parishes do, we miss out on liturgical opportunities to sing to Jesus Christ, our Bridegroom with the intimacy appropriate to our commitment and devotion.

Consider three of today’s antiphons in the Ordinary Form.

Introit: Have mercy on me, O Lord
for I cry to you all the day long.
O Lord, you are good and forgiving,
full of mercy to all who call to you.

Offertory: Deign, O Lord, to rescue me. Let all be put to shame and confusion who seek to snatch away my life.

Communion: Domine, memorabor iustitiæ tuæ solius: Deus, docuisti me a iuventute mea, et usque in senectam et senium, Deus, ne derelinquas me. (I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone. Since my youth, God, you have taught me. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God.)

These and many other proper antiphons, like many of the Psalms themselves, express a personal and constant reliance of the soul upon God Who saves.

It’s almost like breathing, the way God wants us to sing to Him. The propers give us a way to sing according to this intimacy, heart to heart with God, as a community, from the heart of our worshipping Church.

A warm welcome for St. Therese

St Therese Arrives in Scotland!

St Therese of Lisieux arrives in Scotland!What a moving and emotional evening. The relics of St Therese drove across the Scottish Border for the first time and after a solemn transfer to a hearse in Carfin Grotto proceeded to St Teresa's Newarthill where hundred waited outside in the rain to greet her! Fr Bergin parish priest led the prayers and devotions including the blessing of roses to a packed church.Tomorrow the Official Start begins with a 10:15 procession from St Teresa's to Carfin Grotto. All weclome to line the streets and greet the Little Flower to our nation!

Posted by St Thérèse of Lisieux – Scotland 2019 on Thursday, August 29, 2019

No more bread. A modest proposal.

Among the many excellent suggestions for improving liturgy and catechesis in light of the doctrinal confusion about the Eucharist among Catholics exposed by the recent Pew study, I haven’t seen this one: cut down on “bread” in the hymnals.

Leafing through at least two prominent hymnals intended for Catholic liturgy from two prominent publishers, anyone who takes the doctrine of the Real Presence seriously might well be astonished at the number of hymns prominently containing the word “bread.”

I recently flipped through 75 hymns intended for general, Catholic use, and found “bread” in 44.

Similarly striking but less common were uses of “grain” and “wine.”

Sometimes, but not nearly often  enough, the expression is given a context that clarifies its meaning: “living bread,” “bread of life,” “panis angelicus.” That is of course fine, particularly if the faithful are well-catechized. Astonishingly often, however, the “bread” stands alone.

Pastors who are concerned about the Pew finding may wish to carefully examine the texts of the hymns sung at liturgies in their parishes and dioceses.

The best of catechesis and homilies will never be hummed in the car on the way home, nor sung at the kitchen sink over the vegetables for Sunday dinner. When homilies have passed, hymns stay, and they should reflect Catholic doctrine.

Aurora velut fulgida, on the Assumption

By St. Peter Damian, my trans.

Just like the morning’s dawning bright
She rises to the heav’nly height,
Maria, splendid as the sun,
Just like the moon, most lovely one.

Today, the queen of all the earth—
Who to that Son has given birth
Who is, before the daystar shone—
Ascends unto her glorious throne.

Assumed above the angels, higher
Than every heav’nly angel choir
This single woman has outrun
The merits all the saints have won.

The One Whom in her lap she fed
And laid within a manger bed.
She sees as Lord of everything,
Now in His Father’s glory, King.

Virgin of virgins, intercede,
And with your Son with fervor plead.
He took up what is ours through you.
May what is His come through you, too.

Praise to the Father and the Son
And Paraclete, forever one,
Who in the saints’ and angels’ sight
Have clothed you in their glorious light.