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CD 297: Laity and the Divine Office

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I am trying to pray the Office each day. Should I only use the official breviary or can I use the Little Office of Our Lady?
The second Vatican Council encouraged lay people to pray the Divine Office; indeed the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy encouraged parish priests to see that Vespers are celebrated in Churches on Sundays, something that is quite rare nowadays. So it is an excellent practice for you as a lay person to pray at least a part of the Office. By doing so, you unite yourself to the whole Church in the prayer which Christ offers up as our High Priest. It is rightly called a sacrifice of praise when we pray the psalms to sanctify the hours of the day.

Priests and religious are bound to celebrate the Divine Office every day and must use the Office that is approved for them. Secular priests, for example, must use either the Liturgy of the Hours (the Office that was composed after Vatican II) or the older breviary that was approved before the Council. Lay people who are no…

Event: Day for Catholic Home Educators

I am happy to publicise this notice which was recently sent to me.
Day for Catholic Home Educators
Increasing numbers of Catholic parents are considering home-schooling as the way forward for their children's education. A day about Catholic home education will take place at the Birmingham Oratory on the 30th September. The day starts with Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form at 9am, with the first talk starting at 10am and the day finishing at 4.30pm. The day includes a talk from Antonia Tully (SPUC) about screen culture. Nursing infants are welcome. There is a hall available for parents to supervise older children and a park nearby. For further details and to book, please contact lizsudlow1@gmail.com.

Was the Canaanite woman correcting Jesus’ mistakes?

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The story of the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28) is a good example of how there is not necessarily a plain and simple meaning in the scriptures. If we look at it purely on the surface we are not going to get anywhere fast by asking naively “What does this passage mean to me?”

First of all, we need to submit our minds to that of Christ made explicit in the magisterial teaching of the Church. From this source, we know that Jesus Christ is truly God made man, and that his humanity is perfect and free from sin. Following the settled teaching, we do well also to listen to St Thomas Aquinas who asks the question of whether Christ learned anything from man, and answered in the negative. (ST 3a q.12 art.3) As St Thomas says, Our Lord did advance in acquired knowledge from experience, as is affirmed in Luke 2.52, but not in His infused knowledge or (still less) His beatific knowledge (ST 3a q.12 art.2). Put in another way, Our Lord grew in human knowledge from experience, but did not grow …

The “Readings” at Mass: Worship or Instruction?

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Following my post on Cardinal Sarah, reconciliation and the lectionary, Peter Kwasniewski kindly sent me a scan of his article “The Reform of the Lectionary” which was published in Liturgy in the Twenty-First Century. At first, I thought of simply summarising some of the main points but it occurred to me that several principles were important and worthy of further discussion, so I will look at some in due course.

The first is the most fundamental. Kwasniewski rightly says that it should be engaged before examining any particular principle behind the new lectionary. It is the question of the purpose or function of reading the scriptures at Mass. As he puts it:
“Is it a moment of instruction for the people, or is it an element of the latreutic worship offered by Christ and His Mystical Body to the Most Holy Trinity.” He affirms that what we may call the doxological purpose is primary.

This question determines any subsequent discussion of what passages are chosen, how they are distribut…

An edifying newsletter from a monastery with a welcome problem

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Silverstream Priory kindly send me their twelve page newsletter In Coenaculo. Parish priests receive a lot of newsletters and I am afraid that I don't tend to bother with most of them, but I find that news from Silverstream is always both encouraging and edifying. Father Prior (Mark Kirby OSB) has to preach sermons quite regularly for the clothing of new novices; he manages to come up with great personalised addresses each time. The diary is great to read, too. The newsletter is available as a pdf download at the website. Here is the link: In Coenaculo. Summer 2017 (pdf)

Silverstream has a serious problem, though. They have recently completed the construction of some new monastic cells and they are all now full. In the house Oratory, new members of the community have to sit in the window sills as there are not enough places for them.

(Just incidentally, as a matter of interest and nothing to do with any of this, of course, Silverstream celebrates the sacred Liturgy according to th…

Cradle Catholic snobbery as ridiculous as any other kind

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It was not until my first year at University that I became aware that some converts were unhappy about making a qualitative distinction between converts and cradle Catholics. I was told that the comparison was usually to the disadvantage of the converts.

Until then, I had just admired converts because they had found their way to the faith and taken the trouble to go through whatever steps were deemed necessary in their local parish before being received into the Church. My youthful reading included John Henry Newman, GK Chesterton and Ronald Knox, all of whom I enjoyed immensely; they helped me to have a certain reverence for the category of people “converts” and it simply would not have occurred to me to think of someone as a second class citizen in the Church as a result of their having made a conscious adult decision to join it.

Later, I came to understand how much of a price some converts had paid in their family and social lives for becoming Catholic. As a priest, I have had the…

The Transfiguration and Jewish feast days

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My post on "Interesting parallels in Jewish customs" seems to have been well received, so I thought it might be helpful to look at today's feast day in the light of two Jewish feasts. Many years ago, I was bowled over by Fr Jean Galot's observation concerning St Peter's profession of faith. He argued that if, as many scholars accepted, the transfiguration occurred during the feast of tabernacles, then the "after six days" of Matthew 17.1 would mean that the profession of faith of St Peter in Matthew 16.16 would have taken place on the Day of Atonement. This is highly significant because the Day of Atonement was the one day in the year on which the high priest solemnly pronounced the holy name YHWH in the holy of holies in the Temple. St Peter, by his confession of faith fulfils the work of the high priests, and Our Lord in His own person is the living presence the Most High.

Then there is the feast of tabernacles itself. This feast lasted for a week. O…

CD 291: Confession now I am older and have fewer temptations

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I go to Confession twice a year, at Easter and Christmas because I feel I should. My I find it difficult to know what to say as I no longer seem to be assailed by the temptations of earlier years. One priest told me rather irritably not to come to Confession if I had nothing to say.
I am sorry to hear that a priest was irritated with you. Say a prayer for him asking the Lord to give him the virtue of patience. I don’t agree with his advice. In your letter, you spoke of another priest who encouraged you to go to confession more frequently. He is on the right lines, I think. People who go to confession frequently usually remember more to confess. This is not because they are greater sinners but because their conscience becomes more sensitive to venial sins. This is not some kind of morbid “guilt” but a desire for holiness in small things. When you say that you do not have the temptations you used to have, perhaps you are thinking that the sacrament is only for mortal sins.

In fact it is…

Unsettling advice for preachers from St Alphonsus

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For the feast of St Alphonsus, I have been taking another look at some things I have quarried from the great man for this blog over the years. In 2015, I gathered some passages from St Alphonsus which were relevant for the Year of Mercy. Our saint writes with wonder at the love of God and the abundance of His grace, he encourages the sinner to convert, making a heartfelt prayer of repentance which we can use for profit, and warns sternly of the abuse of God’s mercy, using this again as a call to conversion. (See: St Alphonsus, a saint for the Year of Mercy)

There are a couple of salutary admonitions for priests which I was glad to be reminded of in the post St Alphonsus on preaching. The work “Sermons of St Alphonsus Liguori for All the Sundays of the Year” is instructive in the themes that the Saint chooses. I sometimes amuse brother priests by pointing out that his subject for the sermon for Easter Sunday is “On the miserable state of relapsing sinners.” In fact, St Alphonsus relat…

Saint Ignatius on heresy, and the capsizing boat

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On the feast of St Ignatius, I offer my prayers and good wishes to some great Jesuits. Just off the top of my head, I think of Fr Joseph Fessio SJ the founder of Ignatius Press which has not only published the English translations of various works of Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict, but has also given a break for good Catholic authors both of theology and of Catholic fiction. Then there is Fr Bob Spitzer SJ, with whom I studied in Rome many years ago, and Fr Paul Mankowski SJ who has written some superb articles over the years. Here in England, I recall Fr Anthony Meredith SJ, the great fatherly commentator on the Fathers of Cappadocia and in Rome, there is Fr Gilles Pelland SJ, the fierce French-Canadian patristics scholar was a bit harsh when I first arrived in the Holy City, but seemed to soften a bit when after 5 years he seeme satisfied that, though English, I was not a modernist.

Many of my Jesuit priest friends and mentors have now reached “that night when no man can work” an…

Sunday book notices: "Laurus" and "Spoilt Rotten"

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Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin
An extraordinary novel. It begins in the fifteenth century Russia and continues with a journey of redemption up to the recent past, following the life of a spiritual healer who eventually becomes a hermit. The blurb says that it will appeal to fans of "The Name of the Rose" but I think that it is much better than that. For Catholics, I would say that it will appeal to fans of Michael O'Brien. To find out more about the author, you could read an interview with Rod Dreher.

Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality by Theodore Dalrymple
The prolific Dr Dalrymple is an author whom people either love or hate, but since many of my friends share my enjoyment of his writing, I thought I would include this volume on an exasperating phenomenon of our times. The author has worked as a prison doctor and as a GP in an area of some deprivation, so the stories with which he illustrates his points are often amusing if macabre. For instance:
To ask how muc…

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Was the Canaanite woman correcting Jesus’ mistakes?

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The “Readings” at Mass: Worship or Instruction?

An edifying newsletter from a monastery with a welcome problem