Benedictine Bling

For most Benedictines today is the greater of the two feast days of our founder, St Benedict. Today honours his passing to eternal life; 11 July commemorates the translation of his relics to Monte Cassino (or was it Fleury? Depends who you ask!). That we are in Lent does not dampen our celebration in any way save for the absence of the A-word.

This evening at pontifical vespers the abbot will wear our patronal, or Malvern, cope. It comes from our (Douai Abbey’s) short-lived foundation at Great Malvern, which was founded in 1891 has a ready refuge in case of our expulsion from France. When expulsion did indeed come in 1903, we settled at Woolhampton at St Mary’s College, the Portsmouth diocesan minor seminary, which the Bishop of Portsmouth kindly handed over to us. Our school and the seminary combined to form Douai School (which closed in 1999).

One of the patrons of the Malvern priory was the Douai monk and Bishop of Port Louis in Mauritius, Archbishop Benedict Scarisbrick OSB. He endowed Malvern with some lovely items for use in the opus Dei, not least this wonderful cope. The striking damask is not of English origin, possibly Belgian as our other striking vestments from that period were made by Grossé in Belgium. The embroideries, which include our patrons St Benedict and St Edmund, as well as a hood showing the Good Shepherd—represented to all Benedictines in the person of St Benedict—were probably made by the Sisters of the Poor Child Jesus in Southam in Warwickshire. Continue reading “Benedictine Bling”

When yes means yes

It really has been a turbulent time for sexual politics this past six months. Weinstein is but the tip of the iceberg. We have the #MeToo movement, and a growing list of prominent people accused of various degrees of sexual misconduct, though it is often hard to distinguish these degrees and so gain a proper perspective and sense of proportion. The mere publication of an allegation against a young actor has been enough to stop a BBC production involving him, and to have sections of a completed Hollywood movie re-filmed to replace another accused (but also not convicted) actor. True sexual assault in any degree is a crime to be deplored. However, “innocent until proved guilty” is now an endangered species in our society; clergy know that for them it is almost extinct.

In Britain there has been another side to this topical coin. Numbers of young men in recent months have been cleared of rape—in court, after a proper judicial process and testing of evidence. These men have had their names dragged first through the press, as good as declared guilty by the mob. Continue reading “When yes means yes”

Matrimony: a conference

This is for American friends, especially those who are in or able to get to the City of Brotherly Love.

On 21 April there will be a one-day conference, Matrimony: Rediscovering  Its Truth, to be held at Philadelphia’s Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul on Saturday 21 April. The keynote speaker will be Raymond Cardinal Burke, assisted by Fr Gerald E. Murray J.C.D., Pastor of the church of the Holy Family in New York and commentator on EWTN, and Fr Gerald Dennis Gill S.S.L., M.Div.,  Director of Sacred Liturgy, and Rector and Pastor of the Cathedral Basilica. The day-long programme will end with Mass celebrated by the cardinal and enhanced by the cathedral choir. They also throw in lunch!

Given the calibre of the main speaker it is certain to be a faithful and erudite exposition of the Catholic teaching on the sanctity and importance of marriage for the Church  and the world.

Since I cannot be there maybe one of you will go and tell us how it goes!

Pax.

Click here for a flyer for the conference

Click here for the registration form for the conference

More information can be found by clicking on the conference title above.

Contemplatio, consideratio & caritas

A triverberate (!) of Latin words does not make for good “clickbait”, but this is for the serious reader not the passing internet surfer. All will soon be clear enough.

Today the Order of St Benedict keeps the feast of Scholastica, the sister of St Benedict (and he, not she, is the patron saint of Benedictine nuns, for the record). Glimpses into her life can be gleaned from Book 2 of the Dialogues of Pope St Gregory the Great (or, in the eastern Church, St Gregory the Dialogist). A homage to his spiritual master, it was written between 593 and 594, less than 50 years after the death of Benedict. The relevant passage was read this morning at Matins, St Gregory as narrator: Continue reading “Contemplatio, consideratio & caritas”

A Late-Night Counsel to the Bold and the Beautiful

In the past 24 hours a previous post here, Vale Vatican II from last September, has received some attention on two very worthwhile, tradition-minded websites: Liturgy Guy and 1 Peter 5. I am grateful and gratified because these are sites which hold clear views directly expressed but season them with intelligent commentary and coherent argument.

As so often on a wide range of websites, religious or otherwise, the comments’ section—the combox for short—reveals a less attractive side to debate and argument. No doubt most of these commenters are decent people of faith, capable of high emotion in defence of the Church and its faith and worship, and brave enough to stand up and be counted for it. However, some of them, invariably laity, while so bold and beautiful in the profession of their faith, sometimes fall into the trap that the internet lays for us: indiscretion. Continue reading “A Late-Night Counsel to the Bold and the Beautiful”

Of Dom and Chant: Benedictine Flashbacks

At present I am putting together the next edition of the monastery’s annual magazine. For this I needed to scan some images from the bound volume containing past magazines from 1924. In my skim-search for the images two little articles came into my ken.

Dom

The monks of Douai sit rather loose to the traditional appellation of Benedictine monks, Dom. Some of our current monks are quite passionately against this title, to which an English Benedictine (EBC) monk is entitled (literally) from first profession. The animus is partly for particular personal reasons in some cases. In the main, however, it probably reflects the consistent commitment of the monks of St Edmund’s to the English mission dating from penal times, and which has developed today into our parochial apostolate. On a parish, priests are called Father, not Dom. So when Downside stirred the EBC pot from the latter part of the 19th century, with its zeal for the cloister and more primitive observance and its consequent partial retreat from the missions, the old houses were confronted with the question of identity. Were we monks or missioners first? The sons of St Edmund at Douai inclined to the missionary identity, in contrast to the Downside inclination to the cloister.

But are the options Father and Dom so neatly and accurately explained in the EBC context? Continue reading “Of Dom and Chant: Benedictine Flashbacks”

Conservative: You’re Using It Wrong (Probably)

Yesterday’s radicals are today’s old farts. This is a loose quotation of something I read somewhere recently. It was to do with la bise, the French tradition of kissing each other on the cheek as a greeting. In the 1960s the student protestors promoted it as an instrument of social equalisation and hierarchical disintegration. Now a French provincial mayor is refusing to give la bise to her colleagues because, given its own conventions, it is sexist and time-wasting (with up to 73 colleagues to kiss each morning one can have some sympathy for her). The question looms: will yesterday’s radicals who championed it rush to its defence or conform to this new, emerging orthodoxy? Will they be conservatives or conformists?

Hang on! Aren’t “conservative” and “conformist” synonyms? Surely a conservative is one who does not like change and conforms to the status quo? The problem lies in the definition of conservative:

Averse to change or innovation and holding traditional values

In the modern context this seems a highly problematic, even obsolete, definition. For the status quo today is anything but traditional. Continue reading “Conservative: You’re Using It Wrong (Probably)”