Thursday, 23 December 2010

Oh Dear, is Belgium truly lost?

Some might think this is not what they wish to read just before Christmas but I make no apologies for posting this.  I am unable to express my feelings on this as emotion would overcome objectivity.  I leave you to read, and more importantly PRAY for Belgium; this once proud and orthodox Catholic country.  There is just so much wrong in this.    O God come to our aid, O Lord make haste to help us!
"The Brussels Court of Appeal ruled on 21st September this year that the child, represented by his parents, could claim damages from physicians for the injury of being born disabled. 'Certainly, the misdiagnosis did not cause the child's disability, which existed before the error and which could not be remedied,' the Court considered. 'However, the injury which must be compensated is not the disability itself, but the fact of being born with such disabilities.'

"For the Court, the child would have had 'right' to an abortion if the disability had been correctly diagnosed. (my emphasis) Indeed, by making 'therapeutic abortion' part of Belgian law, 'the legislator must have intended to allow women to avoid giving birth to children with serious abnormalities, having regard not only to the interests of the mother, but also to those of the unborn child itself.'"

To quote the words of Mr Bumble in Oliver Twist - The Law is an Ass.

Thank you John Smeaton of SPUC for alerting us to this woeful business.

Read his full report HERE

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Bellahouston – A Pilgrim Recollects

Much has been spoken and written about the Pontiff’s visit to Bonnie Scotland. Indeed many an intellectual and theological debate before, during and after this historic trip took place with views covering all points of the compass. 

I would like to give you my own, a layman’s experience of the historic Mass at Bellahouston.

I repositioned to Edinburgh the night before so I could join up early next morning with some brothers from the Edinburgh Province of the Knights of St Columba - we were to act as stewards at Bellahouston. My journey started at 6:00 in the morning at Waverley Station after a fairly good sleep on the sofa at my daughter’s flat. Met my confrères and at 6.30 the train set off for Glasgow. Little did I realise this would be the last time I sat down for 14 hours!

After legging it to between Glasgow stations, another train journey took us within walking distance of the KSC Headquarters where we received our accreditation wrist band, steward’s sash and some victuals.   A bus ride to Bellahouston and after the obligatory search at the gate we joined another 100 brother knights for an HSE, security and general briefing.

10 a.m., another seven hours before Mass and my feet are already throbbing.  I and another colleague are assigned Zone 2 which by happen stance is at the front (well, actually behind the reserved area containing rows of chairs set out for the bigwigs and other ne’er-do-wells).  As noon arrives so to do the pilgrims from “a’ the airts and pairts”.

The media are out in force and, wearing the kilt complete with tweed jacket and waistcoat, I am the subject of more than a few requests to pose.  Humility is restored next day as none of the dailies use any photos of me – thank you St Benedict for reminding me of Chapter 7 of the Rule.

Zone 2 fills up quite quickly as the afternoon wears on and by and large pilgrims do go to their allocated zones.  A guilty furtive look in my direction tells all but I only smile. There are two mega large screens set up and everyone watches what is happening in Edinburgh on a ‘live feed’. 

Three o’clock and most everyone is in the park.  Looking around it is good to see so many religious sisters.  I also find a contingent from Pluscarden Abbey and chat with the Prior, Br. Meinrad.  The Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer are also there and I notice a couple of men dressed in brown scapulars with a large red cross emblazoned on the chest, chain criss-crosses their chests and they wear patent black leather cavalry thigh boots – an ancient chivalric order?

The arrival of His Holiness is met with loud acclamation and it seemed that reality suddenly hits home with an almost collective feeling of YES! THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING. WOW!

The clergy process, the Pope completes the obligatory tour round the park to much acclaim, finally ascending the dais to commence the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  

Now comes a truly seminal moment.  Unlike my memories of this event made by his predecessor John Paul II, Bellahouston falls still – no hysterical cheering and 10 minute hand clapping whenever he spoke, no breakdown of any semblance of piousness and devotion during Mass.  Instead silence, rapt attention to Pope Benedict’s words, his actions, his visible prayerful humility.   A sermon from a wise father to his children; a message which should live daily in our hearts and actions.  

Permit me to recount an incident I observed which bears witness to this assertion. In Zone 2 the last to arrive just before Mass commenced were a half a dozen burly young adults wearing football strip tops – Celtic Football Club of course.  The security guard standing with me looked at me and we smiled at the sight.  Mass duly started and after a few minutes I noticed one of the lads showed signs of unrest and kept looking behind me. I  turned and noticed the security guard was the object of his attention. I  saw he was using his mobile phone but as he was replacing it in his pocket thought no more of it.  However the football supporters still looked unhappy and looked again at the security guard.  Eventually the largest one, most definitely in the category of “I wouldn’t like to meet him on a dark night up an alley”, walked off accompanied by a media photographer. They approached the security chief and had a quiet word pointing to the guard who, on observing this, tried to make a hasty getaway.

So what had actually occurred? The guard had “The Sash” as his mobile phone ring-tone and was deliberately playing it.  Now, if that is not a death wish in Scotland I don’t know what is!  Fancy anyone playing that in a field of 70,000 devout Catholics. Now all this was carried out with the minimum of fuss, or disturbance, to anyone.  Only we handful of people knew what had transpired.  I am quite positive that had this taken place anywhere else the lads would have had more than a few choice words to say, if not physical contact, with the guard.  But, there, that afternoon, they let nothing spoil their, or anyone else’s day. Hats off to you guys whoever you are. 

Mass over and His Holiness departs.  We are then entertained by Susan Boyle (who sings very flat during her second song), and pilgrims start to leave as they wish, contrary to the prepared script.

Eventually we arrive back in Glasgow QS station and have the choice of standing room only on the train about to depart or wait for the next and a seat.  We opt for standing and an hour later we arrive in Edinburgh.  I reach the flat after 10 p.m. and, with feet now feeling like the size of dinner plates, take off my boots.  I make friends again with the sofa and fall asleep a very tired yet very happy pilgrim full of memories of a truly wonderful day.

Next day it is off home to prepare for a week’s retreat on Papa Stronsay – but that is another post.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

A Fisherman's Reflection

After August's busy schedule I did manage to spend a lovely week in early September with my eldest son salmon fishing on the River Dee in Aberdeenshire.  Fly fishing does give rise to moments of reflection especially when surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the world (yes, ok, I am slightly biased). So what did I muse upon this year?

For years Dee anglers and riparian owners had only one one desire - catch as many fish as possible and retain them either for eating or selling on.  The owners were happy as they could command high prices for their stretch of the river; the anglers as they caught large numbers of fish for their money.  The drop in numbers of fish caught when it came, as it must, was rather sudden and dramatic.  

After many years of tackling the problem from the wrong angle and after much input by a few visionaries, the new chairman and board members concluded that good governance in prioritising fish above the self interests of certain owners and anglers, in other words nurturing a more nature driven regime, was not only desirable but a necessity.  Happily, despite procrastination by certain individuals and groups, the revised plan properly implemented and under firm guidance has produced a more educated body of people with Salmo Salar numbers in the Dee consistently rising over the past five years (catch numbers almost doubling).

My thoughts turned to the Church and how She too had suffered, BUT more importantly, how over the past five years things are slowly being addressed by a visionary.

I shall leave you to fill in the many missing blanks of this muse as I do not wish this to turn into a N.O. style sermon.  I have neither the intellect or wish to do either.  As usual these are only my simplistic jottings; nothing theological, Christological, evangelical or any other -------ical gobbledegook from me.

    Thursday, 18 November 2010

    Edinburgh Festival and the St Margaret Schola

    Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep

    Those who know me personally understand my penchance for Gregorian Chant and how I consider it far and away superior to any Kumbaya style singing at Mass or any other religious gathering.  Yes, I know I am not very good at the chant and freely acknowledge my upper register was left behind during my pubescent years.  My long suffering schola director just smiles now and raises his eyes to heaven as I warble off pitch and end up in the basso profundo region.  

    The schola was very kindly requested to assist St Mary's R.C. Cathedral choir during the world renown Edinburgh International Festival this year.  Along with the very competent Cathedral choir under the direction of Simon Nieminski we sang Vespers each Saturday during August to audiences of 100 plus each week.  In addition the schola sang Compline at 9 p.m. each Sunday evening; first Sunday in the Benedictine Rite, the following Sunday Roman, then Cistercian and on the last Sunday the Sarum usage.  

    Sarum is not a "Rite" as such and was only introduced latterly into Scotland just before the Reformation in Glasgow and Aberdeen Dioceses.  As is was not widely used some serious research was required to ensure authenticity.  It was particularly challenging as the Latin pronunciation is profoundly different in places and, should your attention waver, one may slip into the norm without noticing.  Happy to say we were on form that evening and all syllables were clearly and correctly formed and enunciated.

    Some examples: 

    Celi (Sarum spelling of cæli)  - as in English “celestial”,
    Genitrix – exactly as in English “generate”,
    Ascendit – exactly as in English “ascent”.
    Ecce – eck-say.
    Dignus – dig-noose.

    Between rehearsals and performances it was a very full month, with much travelling between Edinburgh and home.  So full in fact I was unable to do any fly fishing at all - the things I give up for Holy Mother Church!  Ach well at least the salmon were spared the sight of me splashing about the river like a beached whale whilst snagging my hook on every tree and bush on the banks.

    I wonder if anyone else remembers the song from the words I used in the header?

    Friday, 1 October 2010

    Oblates Weekend - Monday UPDATED

    As the old adage goes - all good things must come to an end; and so it was for this Oblates Weekend.  

    Those fellow oblates with whom I spoke all agreed it had been very worthwhile, edifying both body and soul with many intellectually stimulating (and challenging) addresses by noted presenters.

    The official programme ended most fittingly with Mass, the Homily being delivered by our much loved and respected Oblate Master Fr. Birrell and during which Oblates stood and verbally renewed their Oblations.
    • Pluscarden Oblates will have by now received their individual Oblation Renewal papers which should, in line with the norms, be renewed and signed ideally on the 21st November, the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lady.

    Immediately after Mass both Fr. Birrell and Br. Michael departed for Kornelimunster in Germany to participate in a meeting of Subiaco monks from Northern Europe.

    Will there be another Oblates weekend?  Perhaps, but the logistics, costs and disruption to the community's Ora et Labora suggest this will be a one off.  I have the feeling future Oblate "bashes" will be one day affairs.  Until that day arrives Oblates may wish to join up with their local group meetings - addresses are in the latest Oblates letter.


    The DVD is now available to all oblates.  There was so much to include I made it into a double DVD set.  Please email me initially with your details and I shall be happy to burn off a  set for you.  

    A suitable donation (made payable to Pluscarden Abbey) should be enclosed in your confirmatory letter.

    Wednesday, 29 September 2010

    Oblates Weekend - Sunday

    Now firmly settled into the routine of the Community, Sunday commenced as usual with Vigils for the early-birds and a slightly later (approximately half an hour) Lauds, Prime and Terce for those wishing a long Sunday lie-in.

    Conventual Mass was offered at 10.00 am and the first conference of the day followed thereafter.  As I indicated in my previous post, today's conferences were held "indoors" and mutterings of 'I knew I should have packed me winter woollies' were quelled.  

    Fr Benedict was first up to the mark and gave a highly informative talk on Gregorian Chant; a subject on which he is a noted scholar and much sought after speaker though too modest to admit such.  Father very quickly warmed us up, at least vocally, by encouraging us all to sing selected excerpts as we explored chant scripts and notations especially those from the famous Manuscript Einsiedeln 121 (circa 1000), St Gall Cantatorium MS (late 800's) and Laon MS (mid 900's).

    The afternoon conference was given by a fellow Oblate, the Rev. Fr. Dr. Stuart Chalmers.  Father chose an extract from his doctoral thesis - Conscience.  Thankfully his style of delivery on what could have been a very dense subject, well to a dumbo like me anyway, ensured that no-one succumbed an afternoon "power nap" as today's jargon calls it.

    After None there was time for confessions and soon a queue formed in the hallway and all four priests, including the Abbot, offered Our Lord's saving Grace for the good of our souls.

    Following the evening offices of Vespers and Compline, not forgetting another pleasant supper, we settled down to a DVD made for us by Gabrielle Heitfeld-Panther, a German Cistercian Oblate and friend of Pluscarden Abbey.  Gabrielle's video showed her life and activities as a mother and an Oblate.  It was good to see how others fulfilled their life as an Oblate.

    Friday, 17 September 2010

    Oblates Weekend - Saturday

    An early morning start with a quiet drive from Elgin to the Abbey whilst most of the population remained asleep.  A young deer which jumped out of the undergrowth onto my path provided the necessary wake up call as I drove.  Thank goodness it was summer and, even so early in the morning, full daylight.  Summer did I say?  Well what passes for summer this year in Northern Scotland.  Some oblates felt so cold we vacated the marquee and held the Sunday conferences in the transepts out of the rain, wind and less clement temperatures of an indifferent Scottish summer.

    After the morning Liturgy and Office we settled down for the first Conference of the day described by our congenial host and master of ceremonies, Dom Birrell, as "A Keynote Address" by the Abbot, Fr Hugh Gilbert OSB, on Prophet, Priest and King.  I waxed lyrically about this truly inspiring talk in an earlier post and can honestly this view was wholeheartedly agreed upon and discussed between fellow oblates over the weekend.

    Although I cannot reproduce the entire video here due to You Tube restrictions I post the first 10 minutes below.

    Sext was followed by lunch in the marquee accompanied by some excellent home pressed apple juice from the Abbey's orchard.  We then attended None before settling down to a talk given by Brother Michael, the cellarer, on the duties of his position; an example of which he is demonstrating in this photo.

    Vespers, a super supper in the marquee, followed by Compline then back to the marquee for the evening conference.  Originally this was scheduled for a video talk from Fr Giles (seen on the extreme right in this photo avec bald pate, beard and either long shorts or short longs), the prior of Kristo Buase and monk of Pluscarden, a dependent house jointly founded by the Abbeys of Prinknash, Ramsgate and Pluscarden.  Also seen are sisters from an experimental community of female religious nearby.

    Unfortunately the videos did not arrive (The Ghana post office service is even worse than the Royal Mail) .  Nothing daunted Fr Martin arranged an alternate evening conference for us and what a little gem of history it proved to be.  A vintage video of the restoration of Pluscarden Priory from 1948 marking a truly historical event in Scottish Catholic annals.  I do hope you enjoy it.

    (shown by kind permission of Pluscarden Abbey)

    Saturday, 28 August 2010

    Oblates Weekend - Friday

    Oblates arrived throughout the day in time to join with the community at Vespers which commenced at 6 pm.  After Vespers it was time for supper for those residing in the Abbey's guest houses or, for those living outside, either a commute to the nearest chip shop for a decent fish supper (it was Friday after all) or just fast.

    Pluscarden Oblate Weekend  Summer 2010
    Fr Martin Birrell OSB - Oblate Master

    Compline followed at 8 pm. and then the first conference of the weekend at 8.30 pm. This was a general hello, well met and general introduction from our Oblate Master Fr Martin followed by a short DVD outlining the historical background of the English Province of the Subiaco Congregation which may be viewed below.

    Pluscarden Abbey is part of the English Province of the Subiaco Congregation; in itself part of the  universal  Order of St Benedict.  Initially the English Province was exactly that, but now with Houses in Scotland, America, Mexico and Ghana it is more linguistically an English Province than geographical.


    This subject was then enlarged upon by the Abbot Visitor of the Province, Fr Anselm Atkinson, Superior of St Mary's Monastery, Petersham, USA using two 30 minute DVDs especially commissioned for the occasion. St Mary's Monastery is a daughter house of Pluscarden and Fr Anselm is a monk from this Abbey.

    It is my intention to include these two recordings in the media discs I will be producing of the weekend's conferences.  Details in how to obtain a copy will be published at a later date - most probably via Fr Martin's next Oblate newsletter as these posts are mainly for fellow Oblates of Pluscarden Abbey.  However if approval is given, and there is a demand, I may make them available (for a monetary donation to Pluscarden) to all readers.

    Monday, 23 August 2010

    Oblates Weekend - Format & Communal Prayers

    Over 50 Oblates attended the weekend with a number of us commuting daily as both male and female guest houses were naturally full.  Yours truly was able to find a rather nice guest house in the lovely wee city of Eilginn (Elgin in English) approximately 10 miles from the Abbey.  The pleasure of early morning and late evening travel was enhanced by the splendour of mother nature plus avoiding a cow which had escaped from a field, skittish deer on the road whose movements you could not second guess, pheasants, red squirrels, foxes, hare, rabbit and, not for the squeamish reader, crows feasting on road kill.

    As one would expect in a monastic setting we too followed the routine of the Pluscarden community.  Our days began with optional Vigils (4.45a.m.), Lauds (6a.m.) and Prime (7.30a.m.) - Mass and all other hours were deemed "expected to attend".  Pluscarden Abbey is one of the few Benedictine communities in the U.K. which continues to use Latin throughout its liturgy.  Booklets were kindly prepared so we could follow the Office of the Hours and Mass in Latin / English.  There were three conferences each day - morning, afternoon and evening with free time available for individual spiritual reflection.  Very wholesome meals of lunch and supper were provided by the Abbey in our marquee which doubled up as our refectory.  Our day ended usually around 9.30p.m.

    Pluscarden Grace before Lunch
    Superior:  Oculi omnium
    All:  in te sperant, Domine, et tu das illis escam in tempore opportuno, aperis tu manum tuam, et imples omne animal in beneplacito.
    Superior:  Kyrie eleison
    All:  Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison.
    Superior:  Pater Noster....(silently until).... et ne nos inducas in tentationem
    All:  Sed libera nos a malo.
    Superior:  Benedic, Domine, nos et haec tua dona, quae de tua largitate sumus sumpturi. Per Christum Dominum nostram. 
    All:  Amen

    Pluscarden Grace after Lunch
    Superior:  Confiteantur
    All:  tibi Domine, omnia opera tua; et sancti tui benedicant tibi.
    Superior:  Laudate Dominum omnes gentes, collaudate eum, omnes populi.
    All:  Quoniam confirmata est super nos misericordia eius et veritas Domini manet in aeternum.
    Superior:  Gloria Patri et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto,
    All:  Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper, et in saeculo saeculorum. Amen.
    Superior:  Agimus tibi gratius, omnipotens Deus, pro universis
    All:  Amen
    Superior:  Tribuat Dominus benefactoribus nostris pro terrenis caelestia, pro temporalibus sempiterna.
    All:  Amen

    Pluscarden Grace before Supper
    Superior:  Edent pauperes
    All:  et saturabuntur, et laudabunt Dominum, qui requirunt eum: Vivant corda eorum in saeculum.
    Superior:  Kyrie eleison
    All:  Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison.
    Superior:  Pater Noster....(silently until).... et ne nos inducas in tentationem
    All:  Sed libera nos a malo.
    Superior:  Ad coenam vitae aeternae perducat nos rex aeternae gloriae.
    All:  Amen

    Pluscarden Grace after Supper
    Superior:  Deus, veniae largitor et humanae salutis amator, quaesumus clementiam tuam, ut nostrae Congregationis fratres, sarores, propinquos et benefactores qui ex hoc saeculo transierunt, beata Maria semper Virgine intercedente eum omnibus Sanctis tuis, ad perpetuae beatitudinis consortium pervenire concedas.  Per Christum Dominum nostrum.
    All:  Amen.
    Superior:  Memoriam
    All:  fecit mirabilium suorum misericors et miserator Dominus.  Escam dedit timentibus se.  Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto, sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper, et in saeculo saeculorum. Amen.
    Superior:  Benedictus Deus in donis suis, et sanctus in omnibus operibus suis, qui vivit et regnat in saecula saeculorum
    All:  Amen.
    Superior:  Tribuat Dominus benefactoribus nostris pro terrenis caelestia, pro temporalibus sempiterma.
    All:  Amen

    Prayer in Memory of St Benedict
    Standing in the oratory,
    Benedict, whom God so loved
    strengthened with holy communion,
    and supporting his failing limbs
    in the arms of his disciples,
    died praying with his hands raised to heaven,
    and his soul was seen to ascend heavenwards
    on a path strewn with rich coverings
    and shining with innumerable lights.

    V  In the sight of God you appeared most worthy,
    R  Therefore he clothed you with beauty.

    Let us pray.
    O God, who adorned the precious death of our Holy Father Saint Benedict with so many and such great privileges; grant, then, that when we come to die, we may be defended from the snares of the enemy, by the blessed presence of him whose memory we recall.  Though Christ our Lord.
    R  Amen
    May the sweet name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that of His most holy Mother, be praised for ever.
    R  Amen.

    Friday, 6 August 2010

    Pluscarden Oblates Weekend


    Readers know that I am a bit of a wanderer and have blogged about places far and wide but nevertheless I have not lost sight of the fact I am an Lay Oblate of Pluscarden Abbey.  It was therefore with great joy and deep gratitude to Father Abbot, the Community at Pluscarden and our venerable oblate master Dom Martin that an Oblates Weekend was arranged for the weekend 31st July until 2nd August.

    The meeting came about as a consequence of the Oblates World Congress in Rome in 2009.   Our Abbey was represented by the indomitable Margaret Coll whose report on the Congress was included in a previous edition of the Oblate Newsletter.  Also in attendance over the weekend was a committee member of Benedictine Oblates (UK), Jane Coll (and NO for the hundredth time, I'm not Margaret Coll's sister).  Look at this photo and then you can make up your own mind.

    I shall try to précis most of the talks given over the weekend although this will most certainly require at least two further entries to do this most memorable experience some degree of justice.  At the behest of Fr Martin I took up both my camera and camcorder to "record" the highlights (and there were many).   Some of the photographs may be accessed HERE but I regret that due to the very restrictive nature of YouTube (maximum of 10 minute clips) I cannot post the videos as most talks were in the region of 45 minutes to 1 hour plus a Q & A session.

    All is not lost however as it is my intention to produce a DVD containing the 4 main talks and make these available to Oblates on request; subject of course to Fr. Abbot's approval.  Let me say Fr. Abbot's talk on Prophecy, Priesthood and Kingship is a definite must hear! And no, I did not write that just to ensure a positive response from Fr. Abbot - honestly.

    Owning to a very full diary over the next couple of weeks I shall have to leave you all on tenterhooks as my ability to blog will be non existent (I shall be bobbing about on the high seas).

    Monday, 26 July 2010

    Happy Tidings - Vocations

    We are often assailed with the reality of drastic falls in the numbers of priestly and religious vocations in today's world.  Well, here is some good news. 

    I was very pleased indeed to receive a telephone call from Mark, a wonderful young gentleman and one whom I count as a dear friend, that after some wait he has finally received news from Rev. Fr. Banauch the rector of the FSSP seminary at Wigratzbad in Germany.  What news?  He has been accepted as a seminarian and commences studies for the Sacred and Holy Priesthood in October. Deo Gratias!

    (photos from

    We had the rare privilege in attending the priestly ordinations at Wigratzbad in 2009 (click here for link to post) and I think this may have been one of the defining moments in Mark's discernment of his vocational journey.

    Mark is the second "home grown" Scottish Catholic to join the FSSP (the first being Rev. Fr. Harkins FSSP who celebrated his First Solemn Mass in Edinburgh last month (see earlier post).

    For those unfamiliar with our situation in Scotland we only have one small FSSP community in Edinburgh attending the usus antiquior, usually numbering about 50 - 70 at Sunday MassHowever that number belies the fact that in the past two years we have witnessed with great joy and thanksgiving a total of FIVE young men and women setting out on their journey of faith.  Helen to St Cecilia's Benedictine Abbey on the Isle of Wight, Yanush to the Carthusian Charterhouse at Parkminster, England.  This summer Garry and Christian finished their studies at Edinburgh University and both have been accepted as seminarians for their respective English Diocese.  Now, Mark is commencing his journey in October.

    Time and again we hear and read of the remarkable phenomenon regarding the steady, and in some cases rapid, increase in vocations in Orders and Societies which either continue or have reverted to follow the traditional liturgy, teachings and way of life.  At the same time "modern" seminaries continue to close through lack of vocations.  Here is Scotland we have no seminaries at all.  Diocesan seminarians now have to travel overseas to be formed - how tragic and sad that it has come to this.

    Please pray for Mark and all young men and women who have started their journey to the priestly or religious life that through the Power of The Holy Ghost they will continue to grow in faith and love of God our Father and our Saviour Christ Jesus. 

    O Holy Spirit, Spirit of wisdom and divine love, impart Your knowledge, understanding, and counsel to youth that they may know the vocation wherein they can best serve God. Give them courage and strength to follow God's holy will. Guide their uncertain steps, strengthen their resolutions, shield their chastity, fashion their minds, conquer their hearts, and lead them to the vineyards where they will labour in God's holy service.
    Mary Mother of God - pray for them, 
    St John Vianney - pray for them, 
    St Benedict - pray for them,
    St John Ogilvy - pray for them.

    Sunday, 11 July 2010

    Our Lady of Aberdeen

    Friday the 9th of July was our Patronal Feast Day in the Diocese of Aberdeen therefore a First Class Feast Day.  Unfortunately I was amazed to find out that in my local chapel there was not even a mention of this Feast never mind a Mass in Her Honour.

    A Little history

    Located in a side chapel in a Brussels church is one of Scotland's treasures, a statue of Our Lady and Child which was saved from destruction in Aberdeen during the Reformation.  For sixty-five years, it was hidden until it was shipped to safety in the Low Countries.  Despite her intention to keep the statue in the Royal Palace, the Infanta of Spain, the Archduchess Isabella, was persuaded to place it in the newly built Augustinian church in Brussels.  

    The statue remained in this church until 1796, when it was again removed for protection into private hands, this time to escape the ravages of the French Revolution. An Englishman, John Morris, safely restored it to the Augustinians in 1805 and it remained in their care as an object of devotion until 1814 when it was removed to the neighbouring Church of Our Lady of Finisterre.  It is still venerated there as Our Lady of Good Success.

    Since the Restoration of the Scottish Hierarchy in 1878, devotion to Our Blessed Lady in Aberdeen, throughout the diocese, and further afield, has focused on copies of this ancient statue including the statue (above) which stands in the Chapel of Our Lady at Saint Mary's Cathedral Aberdeen.  Why won't the Belgians give us back the original statue?

    Here is the old version of the Hymn to Our Lady:

    Our Lady of Good Succour,
    In the city by the sea,
    Where the Don flows down the valley
    To greet the silver Dee,
    The ashes of faith still smoulder
    Where the fire of the faith has been:
    Bring the old faith back to Scotland
    Our Lady of Aberdeen.

    Our Lady of Good Succour,
    In the country saints have trod,
    While martyrs and brave confessors
    Who gave their lives for God,
    O hear the prayer of Columba,
    Of Margaret, Saint and Queen:
    Bring the old faith back to Scotland
    Our Lady of Aberdeen.

    Our Lady of Good Succour,
    The love of God grows cold
    In a country that has forgotten
    The saving truths of old;
    But a brighter dawn is breaking
    And a fairer hope is seen:
    Bring the old faith back to Scotland
    Our Lady of Aberdeen.

    Our Lady of Good succour,
    In the happy days of old
    Men deck'd thy gracious image
    With silver and with gold;
    Though darker days succeeded
    Thou still art Scotland's Queen,
    Come back, come back to Scotland,
    Our Lady of Aberdeen.

    As I said this is the old version.  Some years ago I sadly recall the then Bishop of Aberdeen, Bishop Conti, (currently Archbishop of Glasgow) commissioned new wording to make it more "ecumenical" so as not to upset the Protestants.  Phrases such as 'the old faith' were removed and replaced with PC wording.

    Reflecting on this version I marvel that, whilst written approximately one hundred years ago by Mother Francis Forbes R.S.C.J., its currency remains as true today as when penned by this devout Scottish religious.

    My local chapel may not have honoured Our Lady but I was very pleased to find at the FSSP chapel in Edinburgh today that this was chosen as the recessional hymn.  Also that wonderful community The Sons of The Most Holy Redeemer wrote a fine article on their blog.  Strange the only two places I visited which honoured this Feast day were Traditional communities!

    Sunday, 6 June 2010

    First Solemn High Mass In The Presence of a Prelate

    Well the great day has arrived, and what a great day it proved to be.  Outside the sun shone from a clear blue sky and the temperature rose to a very respectable 22C (for Scotland that is).

    Inside the Metropolitan Cathedral Church of the Archdiocese of St Andrew and Edinburgh, a large congregation gathered to hear Rev. Fr. Simon J Harkins, FSSP, offer his First Solemn High Mass following his ordination to the sacred priesthood on the 22nd May 2010.

     Fr Simon Harkins FSSP seen in the centre.

    Seminarians from both FSSP seminaries of Denton, USA and Wigratzbad, Germany joined by their rectors, Very Rev. Fr. Josef Bisig and Very Rev. Fr. Franz-Karl Banauch, fellow priests of the Society, a contingent from the Community of The Sons of The Most Holy Redeemer (who have five seminarians at Denton) plus local diocesan priests filled the choir stalls.

    In addition, and what I have been informed may be a "world first", was the attendance of a Cardinal at a First Solemn High Mass in his own Cathedral Church since the Reformation, namely His Eminence Keith Patrick Cardinal O'Brien who preached the homily.

    The St Andrew Camerata performed the "Paukenmesse" and "Te Deum" by Joseph Haydn with orchestra, plus "Ecce Sacerdos" by Jose Mauricio Nune Garcia.

    See full set of Photos here

    Cardinal O'Brien's Homily here


    Thursday, 27 May 2010

    First Mass of Rev. Fr. Simon Harkins FSSP

    For those who follow this blog you will know I lean very heavily toward the "Forma Extraodinaria" as it is currently named.  Hopefully a more fitting name will be announced  by His Holiness in due course.

    It is therefore with great pleasure that I take this opportunity in announcing details of the official First Mass of Rev. Fr. Harkins FSSP, ordained to the Holy Priesthood on the 22nd May 2010 by Bishop Bruskewitz in the Traditional Rite.

    The Metropolitan Cathedral Church 
    of the 
    Diocese of St. Andrew and Edinburgh

    Saturday 5th June 2010

    1 p.m.

    Not only will His Eminence Patrick Kieth Cardinal O'Brien be in attendance, he will also preach the homily.

    It is believed that this will be the first time a Cardinal will participate in a First Mass, certainly in the Traditional Rite, in moderm times.  Please support this son of Scotland as he commences his sacred ministry by attending this joyous occasion.

    Direction to the Cathedral
    The Cathedral is located at the East End of Edinburgh city centre near the St. James' Shopping Centre. The Cathedral faces the Picardy Place roundabout which is the junction of Broughton Street, York Place, Leith Street and Leith Walk.

    You can see a map of the area at MultiMap where a red circle at the centre of the map pinpoints the exact location of the Cathedral.

    I shall be attending and will hopefully receive permission to photograph / video this event to publish on this site.

    Monday, 17 May 2010

    Winter Wanderings - Part 4

    Masteiro da Santa Cruz

    Owing to my late arrival on Friday the community were already asleep but a couple of the lay brothers were 'taking the evening air' and so after saying goodnight to the da Costas I found my cell and rested my weary head.

    A little bit of history to start with. This small traditional Benedictine community of 10 monks was founded 18 years ago following a petition from the local people. The founding monks came from Barroux, the first attempt failed, but, thanks be to God, the second remains. On this occasion the strength of faith and determination shone through, plus of course it helps if one of the founding fathers is a family member. Again the da Costa family amply demonstrated their faith in donating a large plot of land specifically for the building of a monastic community. To date this devout family has given the Church three family members, all Benedictine religious; Dom Tomas de Aquino - Prior of Santa Cruz, plus a brother and sister in the Monastery of Bellaigue in France.

    Located in the hills surrounding Nova Friburgo the temperature is quite temperate with frosts experienced during the Brasilian winter months. Interestingly the hills to the north are known as the Caledonian Mountains (a little nostalgic pause).

    Dom Tomas being absent, Dom Antonio (seen here) in true Benedictine spirit, made me most welcome. This mild mannered, humble monk is truly an inspiration to all.

    Language as usual was my weakness however the one thing that united us all and was understood by all was the Latin Liturgy.  Fortunately being a Benedictine Oblate I was able to use my Monastic Diurnal to great effect and was able to join the community during the Office.

    Br. Jose at prayer behind the Rood Screen.  He has received his tonsure en route to being ordained into the priesthood.

    A view of the monks cells.  

    Behind the cells you may see an Ipe Roxo tree in flower.  The flowers are a vivid purple and only appear during Lent.  How appropriate!

    To see more photos in this Lenten set please click here.

    Tuesday, 27 April 2010

    Winter Wanderings - Part 3

    Nova Friburgo

    This year looked very much as though there would not be an opportunity to make a Lenten Retreat.  However I had not taken into account the generosity and friendliness of the SSPX community.  No sooner had I intimated that I was a Benedictine Lay Oblate than I was informed about Masteiro da Santa Cruz, a  Benedictine Monastery of the traditional rite only a couple of hours from Rio near the city of Nova Friburgo.  What my hosts could not understand however was the word Lent, or Lenten.  It was not until I said quadragesima that the penny dropped.  Classic case of an idiotic Anglo who thinks everyone should understand English!  Five minutes later and I was furnished with the name and telephone of a contact who might be able to assist.

    Next day I was able to make contact with a delightful lady called Teresa Ferreiro da Costa who, as good fortune would have it, happened to teach English to students.  Soon all was ready for a weekend retreat.

    The journey was by bus and being rather keen to see as much as possible of the country en-route I decided to sit at the front window seat.  Only a short while later as we made our way around numerous mountainsides I realised this was not quite my scene after all and quickly made a mental note to sit at the back on an inside seat.  The journey was not for the faint hearted!

      Teresa and some of her wonderful family pose in front of the Cathedral

    Two and a half hours later we arrived, safely, at Nova Friburgo and I was able to put the pacemaker back into normal mode.  Nova Friburgo was settled by Swiss colonists at the request of the King of Portugal and as most of the emigres were from the Friburg area in Switzerland they naturally called it New Friburg.  There is still a strong connection with the "home country" and exchange visits are very well received.  My host, accompanied by some of the family, took me to see many wonderful sights including a trip to a Swiss Cheese maker.

    The Swiss Cheese Factory

    Our Lady's Statue in the quadrangle of the Jesuit School (formally a Jesuit seminary)

    After a lovely day sightseeing I was kindly invited to have dinner at the da Costa home which is close to the monastery.  After a very pleasant meal it was time to complete the day's journey and so off to the monastery and to bed.

    Saturday, 10 April 2010

    Winter Wanderings - Part 2

    Rio Revisited - Lent 2010

    It's Lent so it must be Rio.  Carnival week with its gloriously unashamed fun, fun and more fun - but not for me.  Ochone, ochone.  Ach well I'm a bit long in the tooth for looking at all those scantily dressed lassies in the parades.

    Mass and devotions, now that's more my cup of tea (Earl Grey of course).  Where to find a traditional Mass is a mega problem in Rio.  Almost as scarce as hens teeth or a TLM in Scotland.  Fortunately I found a friend in Google.  So, for the faint hearted I shall come out now and publicly say - yes I went to an SSPX chapel throughout Lent in Rio.  There, I've said it and feel much better for it.

    For me it was a rather pleasant experience with an unexpected bonus as you will find out later in this, or probably the next post.  The Chapel of San Miguel is actually the drawing room of the house of Mr and Mrs Fleichman who, on returning from Europe to find no vestage of the Old Mass remaining, are dedicating their remaining years to promote traditional Catholicism.  She may be seen below (second lady from the left).

    Mass is offered either by a young SSPX priest residing at the fraternity's church on the outskirts of Rio or by Dom Lorenzo OSB, who happens to be the son of Mrs Fleichman.  The attendance at chapel  is normally so large that it overflows into the courtyard.  Like so many Traditional Masses I have attended I am constantly surprised, pleasantly I must add, by the numbers of young Catholics who treasure the traditional teachings and liturgy of the Church.

          Hearing Confessions                                                                An eloquent Speaker
    Dom Lorenzo began his monastic vocation at Barroux in France under the guidance of Dom Gerard, transferring to Brasil as one of the founding monks of Sancta Cruz Monastery.  Dom Lorenzo now spends his time outside the community preaching and offering Mass wherever he is asked.

    Fortunately for me he spoke a little English so we were able to have a small conversation after Mass.  I was also very fortunate to be introduced to Adriano  who spoke very good English and lived in the same area of Rio as my hotel so he kindly gabve me a lift back on a couple of occasions which saved me very expensive taxi fares.

    All in all a wonderful opportunity to meet some very kind people and not to be missed if you are ever out that way.  How kind, well you will have to wait for my next posting.