Monday, 26 June 2017

First Holy Communions

 Yesterday we had our second "batch" of First Communicants. Congratulations to all of them. Family visitors from Nottingham and Poland had come for the Mass! 

We have had a small group of five this year. Sad that there are so few but the bonus is that these are all children who come regularly to Mass with their families and who will continue to come to Mass. After 25 years of trying very many plans, courses, inducements, carrots and sticks, we at least no longer suffer the disappointment of seeing lots of children making their First Communion and then disappearing forever from the following Sunday. 

Like all priests, I've experienced the depressing phenomenon of families attending all during the preparation, no matter how lengthy, and thinking that they might have gotten into the habit of coming to Mass and taking part in the life of the parish only to find that first Communion was also last Communion. That is, until they roll up at a school Mass (or a family funeral or wedding) and the teachers herd them all up to Communion without any instructions on going to Confession, as they are basically lapsed. And yes, I know it's not the children's fault but that of the parents; none the less, they learn by practical experience that its okay to be lapsed and go to Holy Communion whenever they happen to attend Mass every one, two three... or twenty years!

I have found in the past that it is possible, over a long period and if the school and staff are open to it, to catechise a procedure for more thought to go into this process but it is still definitely fighting against the "perceived" wisdom of the age. 

The vast majority of our children in Catholic schools are basically lapsed, it seems to me, so liturgies would be more suitable avoiding Mass and using para-liturgies - to evangelise first. Sadly, the lazy path is usually to put on a Mass, trying to squeeze in all sorts of unsuitable things to hold the interest, as so few of the children are able to make the basic responses, let alone understand what is meant to be happening. Thus we get the dance, drama art, secular music, secular readings and a myriad of other oddities squeezed into and distorting the Rite of the Mass. Much better to use all these things - and hopefully, Benediction, Rosary and Stations of the Cross - in other liturgies where we don't have to force the lapsed up to receive Communion when they are in no fit state to understand, appreciate or benefit from it.
The necessary certificates
and more importantly, cake!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Archbishop Malcolm McMahon ordains FSSP priests

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the ordination of two priests for the FSSP on Saturday.
A wonderful occasion! 
Our Archbishop here in the Liverpool Diocese 
celebrated the Ordination Mass 
in the FSSP church of St Mary in Warrington town centre.

A quiet moment of reflection in the sacristy beforehand.

There were thirty of forty priests and Religious in attendance from all over the country and beyond.

John Aron, who took all these excellent photographs, spotted yours truly in the crowd.
All photographs used with John's kind permission.

Archbishop Malcolm prays at the Lady Altar at the start of Mass.
A lovely depiction of the English Martyrs is part of the reredos.

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury was also in attendance.
One of the ordinands, Alex Stewart, is from his diocese.

Deacon (as he still was here) Alex Stewart, 
who I know from my home parish of 
Ss Peter and Paul in New Brighton.

 Krzysztof Sanetra, 
originally from Poland before coming to England.

The Litany.
A group of priests, Religious and seminarians sang some of the chant
while St Mary's is blessed with a fabulous choir, led by Michael Wynne,
who rose tot he occasion with their usual aplomb.


All the priests present share in the laying on of hands.
There was a good sprinkling of priests from the Archdiocese present.

Members of the Institute of Christ the Institute of Christ the King, now with churches in New Brighton and Preston, were also present.

Very Rev. Fr Michael Mary Sim C.SS.R, 
Rector of the Redepmtorists at Papa Stronsay in the Orkney Islands.

Fr James Mawdsley, FSSP from the Shrine at Warrington.

All teh priests extend their right hands during the prayer of consecration.
Pictured centre here, Fr deMallery, Rector of the Shrine, who kept a calm surface during the day, which must have been some organisational feat. 
Actually, everything seemed to go off without a hitch.

It was particularly moving to see the bound hands of the ordinands.

The newly ordained preparing to concelebrate withthe Archbishop.

Mysterium fidei!

Great to see St Mary's packed for the occasion. It is quite a revelation to those of us ordained during the wilderness years when the Traditional form of the Mass, and indeed anything traditional, was frowned on in the seminary. Now, here we are and the riches of liturgy, music and architecture that have inspired Catholics for centuries are once again beginning to flourish. Laus Deo!
Thank to Archbishop Malcolm for making all parts of the Church feel at home in his diocese.

Mass was followed by a much appreciated drinks reception in the garden -
it was a beautiful sunny day.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Anniversary Mass

St Catherine's parish was founded in 1947, so is celebrating it's 70th anniversary this year.

Solemn Mass
Thursday 22nd June

We will be celebrating with Mozart's Coronation Mass 
followed by raising a glass of wine.
Everyone welcome to come along.

The original sanctuary in the remains of the "garage" belonging to the Victorian house first built on the site.

 Fr Patrick Higgins, 
second parish priest of St Catherine’s,
proclaiming “Dominus vobiscum.”

 The opening ceremony in front of Farington Cottage, the house that acted as a presbytery until the 1960’s. It had been built as house for one of the managers at Farington Mill. Notice the Sisters of  Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul  in their distinctive wimples. Newspaper reports of the day estimate 3,000 people in attendance.
 Archbishop Robert Downey, officiating at the opening of the church.
He is remembered on that day as sitting down at the back of church with a plate on his knee saying, “Silver only, please!”

First Parish Priest, Fr Joseph Burke

Sunday, 18 June 2017

First Holy Communions

We had our first two First Holy Communions today!
Here are some photos - spiritual food and bodily food in the form of cake! 

Monday, 12 June 2017

Chavagnes Summer Conference

The Chavagnes Studium (sitting alongside Chavagnes International College) offers a Catholic Liberal Arts BA, set in the historic Vendée region of France in the stunning setting of the college
 - originally the junior seminary of the diocese dating from 1802.

The Conference runs from the evening of 

Monday 31st July 

to the morning of 

5th August 2017.

Accommodation can be arranged at various levels 
in the college itself or at the nearby Chateau or hotel.

Meals included and a visit to a local shrine with luncheon out on one of the days.

Nearest airport is Nantes,
transport can be arranged for you.
Certainly last year was very enjoyable, with excellent speakers and the opportunity to relax informally with an aperitif on the cloister terrace and chat over a good dinner with the other guests and the speakers.

You can book online here:

The College Chapel in its seminary days.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Cardinal Sarah speaks of silence and says all the right things

Attending the Sacra Liturgia Conference in Milan, I had the honour of meeting Cardinal Sarah after his address to the Conference. The full text of his talk will be published in due course, suffice to say that he received a standing ovation that went on for several minutes and even then had to be brought to an end by the conference organisers! Very moving. I think that many plain, orthodox Catholics just felt so uplifted to hear simple things that we often say about the liturgy being re-affirmed by the Holy See's chief liturgist.

It is my first time meeting the Cardinal but as with others often considered "rigid" in some circles, he is charming and very affable - which doesn't preclude being an insightful pastor, unafraid to teach the Faith.

Silence is important in the liturgy but obviously not when it comes to catechising the faithful!

Saturday, 3 June 2017

An Open Letter to New Priests

My own ordination at the hands of Archbishop Derek Worlock more than 25 years ago now at English Martyrs Church, Litherland.

I thought this post from Liturgy Guy was interesting reading, especially coming from a layman's perspective. I think that there are three ordinations here in my own Archdiocese this year: two for the Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP) and one secular.


The season of priestly ordinations is currently underway. Having just completed years in seminary, this years class of 590 ordinands are now receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders. It is with humility and charity that I pen this open letter to our newest priests.

Living With the Smell of the Sheep (and Proclaiming the Truth)

I ask you to reflect back on something the Holy Father said early in his papacy. He reminded all priests that they must be “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep.”

Some took this admonition to mean that priests need to get out into the world to make a difference. However, this was the same misguided assessment that resulted in the emptying of rectories, monasteries and convents in the 1970’s as many priests and religious abandoned their vocation to become social workers.

Please understand that we do not need you to be social workers. We need priests. We need sacramental grace.

Our culture is sick and confused. Sin is rife and grace is lacking. While Our Lord’s mercy is limitless, our faith instructs us that the individual who dies while in a state of mortal sin spends eternity in hell. As our spiritual fathers, you must do all that you can to help keep souls entrusted to you in a state of grace.

However, this commission to care for those in your care also requires truth and clarity on your part. People will stay away from confession if they are permitted to remain comfortable in their sin. Where apathy and lukewarmness exist, the Church will always suffer.

We the faithful want you to give us straight talk. Give us fully caffeinated Catholicism. Proclaim the faith unapologetically. The faithful need to hear the truth from you.

Don’t get me wrong, there will be pushback no doubt. Very possibly it may even start with the pastor at your first parish assignment.

There are priests who have spent decades refusing to discuss sin from the ambo or in the confessional. They are like parents who desperately want to be their childs best friend. They have made avoiding the angry email or phone call their life’s ambition.

Some will not appreciate your candor. Regardless, while you must be charitable and obedient, you cannot forfeit your own soul because of their brand of cowardly Catholicism. Always speak the truth.

From the ambo speak of the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. Speak of the constant spiritual warfare present in our lives. Speak of Satan, the Prince of Lies. And speak of sin. The obligation to do so comes with your ordination. Accept this as you did your very calling to the priesthood.

In addition, you must speak out against the evil and moral relativism which permeates our culture of death: fornication, cohabitation, contraception, abortion, same sex marriage and euthanasia.

Recognizing the symptoms and diagnosing the disease, do not commit spiritual malpractice by avoiding the treatment and cure. Souls are lost when priests abdicate their God given responsibility. Trust God, and trust the faithful in the pews, who ultimately will listen and respond to your fatherly concern for their eternal souls. The world needs more sanctifying grace at this moment in time. More people need to avail themselves to God’s infinite mercy.

The Most Beautiful Thing This Side of Heaven

Sacred scripture instructs that there is nothing more important we can do than to love God with all our heart, soul and strength (Luke 10:27). There is no greater priority for a Catholic priest than to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. St. Peter Julian Eymard advised the faithful:
“Know, O Christian, that the Mass is the holiest act of religion. You cannot do anything to glorify God more, nor profit your soul more, than by devoutly assisting at it…”
The Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity, founded by Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, hang a little board in the sacristies of each of their orders chapels around the world which reads:
Priest of God, Celebrate this Mass as if it is your first Mass, your last Mass, and your only Mass.
It is with this level of reverence for the Sacrament of the Altar that you will restore devotion to the Eucharist and a sense of the sacred to the Liturgy. Even if your first parish assignment as a priest presents you with an environment heavily infused with the secular and profane, do not despair. You offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. You are a priest of God.

Back in the 19th century English priest Fr. Frederick Faber described the Mass as “the most beautiful thing this side of Heaven”. Please remember that beauty is not simply in the eye of the beholder. Just as truth is objective, so is beauty (and for that matter goodness too). People recognize beauty when introduced to it. Lead by example and challenge others to do the same.

Challenge your parishioners. Catechize them. Teach them that we pray as we believe. Introduce the writings of Ratzinger and Guéranger to the faithful. The Spirit of the Liturgy and The Holy Mass are required reading if you are going to restore the sacred and revitalize the faith.

The False Charge of Clericalism

There is a good chance some people will accuse you of clericalism as you seek to be the priest God is calling you to be. It does not take much: a sprinkling of Latin in the liturgy, a refusal to use Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion at less attended daily masses, traditional vestments, or even the request to be called by your last name (Fr. Smith, for example, instead of the warm and fuzzy, “Fr. Bill”).

Don’t discourage. Turn to your brother priests for camaraderie, particularly those who are experiencing similar challenges. No doubt, some will call you aloof for this. So be it. Just as married men do well to keep company with other married men, Catholic priests do well to spend time with other priests. They will be your band of brothers.

And one more thing: Please wear the cassock!

If there is anything that drives an aging Modernist to drink, it’s a young priest in a cassock. You boldly proclaim the priesthood when you wear the cassock. It is also great for the next generation to see. Much like a policeman or fireman, a Catholic priest’s uniform is the Roman collar and the cassock. Children notice. Don’t be afraid to be a Catholic superhero!

Pope Pius XII, was addressing priests of any era when he wrote in the encyclical Mediator Dei:
“The indelible mark on the souls of priests comes with the power of the priesthood and it conforms them to Christ. Their hands have been consecrated so that whatever they bless may be blessed, whatever they consecrate may become holy and sacred in the name of the Lord Jesus. Let all who would live in Christ flock to their priests.”
Deo gratias and thank you for your priesthood.