Some time earlier this year I was on the hunt for a medal of St Benedict. Not one of the vin ordinaire cheapies (though they are not unworthy) and certainly not the mass-produced Chinese ones (I kid you not) that do not bear close inspection. A few decades ago there were some natty ones made in France (I think it was) that had one charming if un-traditional image of Our Holy Father St Benedict. They can be found you look hard enough, but second-hand and over-priced.
You might protest that since I wear the habit of a consecrated Benedictine the medal is a little outré, or at least superfluous, for a monk. Well, monks too like sacramentals: their imagery, their feel, their blessing, and (in this case), their text. I would also like to give some to friends. Continue reading “The Holy Grail of Holy Medals”→
To all those who visit here but do not follow me in on Facebook, my apologies. If you have been wondering how things went before the inquisitors, I can say that it turned out to be a very rewarding and even consoling experience. Not once did they “show the implements” to me, and in fact we had a lively and searching discussion on topics in and arising from the thesis. Professors Bullivant and Muessig settled me down very quickly, and my supervisor Professor D’Costa successfully and fruitfully distracted me both before and immediately after the viva, as I waited to be recalled for the examiners’ decision.
In short, they passed the thesis without requiring any corrections. Unless the research degrees award committee has decided to be as contrary as modern politics, both civil and ecclesiastical, I should be graduating as a MPhil in February. It is not impossible that something further might be done with the thesis. Time will tell.
To all who prayed on my behalf, my thanks and blessings. It worked, and it was rather cheering to enter the day in question knowing that others were praying for me.
A brief thought on the ongoing, and troubling, impasse over Amoris Laetitia, and the dubia submitted by i quattro cardinali seeking clarification of controverted formulations in and implications of the papal exhortation.
Sandro Magister today wrote of what he described as “the calculated ambiguity of the text, which has opened the way to a multiplicity of interpretations and applications, some of them decidedly new with respect to the age-old teaching of the Church.” This was part of his introduction to an essay by Claudio Pierantoni which finds a parallel to the current crisis of confusion in the early Church.
However it strikes me that we can find not merely a parallel with but also the origin of the present situation. Magister is almost certainly right in detecting a deliberate ambiguity in Amoris Laetitia (AL). However, it is probably not so very surprising that this is so. AL seems to embody a hermeneutic of ambiguity that can find its roots in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. One does not need to be a scholar to recall the many ways in which ambiguity has been read into conciliar texts, or extracted form them, in order to justify innovations in liturgy, theology and ecclesial life that the majority of the Council fathers would not have countenanced if they had been presented to them at the Council itself.
This conclusion is easily reached even without recourse to the new historiography and hermeneutics which are upsetting the deeply entrenched status quo when it comes to interpreting the Council. One need only read the 1966 classic, The Rhine Flows into the Tiber, by the Divine Word missionary, Fr Ralph Wiltgen SVD. Released while the dust of the Council was still settling, and written from a liberal perspective, it is disarmingly frank in its innocent-faced revelations about the machinations of the northern European faction at the Council, including “compromises” in drafting the texts of the conciliar documents. The ambiguity of these documents was clearly planned by their theologian drafters, it not by their episcopal promulgators.
This “calculated ambiguity” in the conciliar documents begat the ambiguity today in AL. This time, however, lessons have been learned and it seems that some are prepared to confront the ambiguity in order to nip its deleterious effects in the bud. No one of sound mind wants to revisit the chaos and trauma of the post-conciliar confusion.
More often than not, magisterial formulations allow room for future doctrinal reflection and elaboration (not change) by stating the barest minimum necessary to counter error and safeguard truth. The Magisterium never tries to say more than is necessary. It has a most un-German terseness and economy of language. Words are carefully chosen, having often been fought over, precisely in order to avoid ambiguity and the chaos that would almost certainly arise from it in the future.
If the Council fathers can be said to have failed, or made a mistake, at all it is certainly in this, if not elsewhere: that they failed to do the work of thrashing out the formulations to the extent they should have. In order to prevent an ever-lengthening Council, and the atrophy that might arise from this, they accepted all too readily the compromise texts placed before them by the periti, in which, as is now often admitted, “time bombs” of ambiguity had been carefully hidden. Desperate to keep up with the swinging sixties, they raced ahead of God.
The fathers ate sour grapes and the children’s teeth have been set on edge. Or what they sowed we have been painfully reaping ever since. AL is part of this conciliar harvest. It seems prudent at the very least that some pastors of the Church have learned the bitter but prophetic lesson afforded by Cardinal Ottaviani and are politely but firmly working to ensure that the teeth of the next generation will not also be set on edge, that they will a richer and more abundant harvest to reap than that sown with studied ambiguity, however good its intention. We all know that adage will tells us which road it is that is paved with good intentions. And would that Pope Francis might note the bitter lesson afforded by Pope Paul VI.
Please spare me a prayer tomorrow morning. At 11am, in Bristol, I will front two professorial inquisitors appointed to conduct the viva for my MPhil thesis on the ecumenism of blood and the Coptic martyrs of Libya.
The last couple of days re-reading critically the thesis I have found a regiment of typos and stylistic infelicities which escaped the notice of two pairs of eyes and which would not have troubled the spell-check. While I think the argument fairly sound I wonder if I have actually carried it off adequately. No doubt this is fairly natural pre-inquisition nervousness, and I am assured they are very nice inquisitors. Yet, mmm…
In the global scheme of things this is pretty inconsequential, yet it in such things we find that our personal horizons tend ineluctably to narrow and our world to shrink. It is very hard to resist.
So a prayer would be nice. At the very least I would hate for it to happen that I wasted more of the monastery’s money!
The Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need, has designated today as Red Wednesday. Mancunians know this tag for another reason, but it is being coopted and elevated by ACN to signify the day on which we take time for special remembrance who are persecuted for their faith. We are encouraged to donate if we can, or to pray and ideally to attend Mass, and as a sign to the world, to wear something red today.
Given the headlines in the Catholic press and blogosphere the last week or two, it is hard not to think of certain red-clad cardinals. The letter of i quattro cardinali—Brandmüller, Burke, Caffarra and Meisner—seeking papal clarification of five dubia, doubts, that have arisen as a result of the conflicted and confusing reception of the Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation (following last year’s Synod on the Family), Amoris Laetitia (“the Joy of Love”, not “The Joys of Love” as The Week put it, which makes it sound like an instruction on sexual technique. Of course, the choice of amor(-is) does refer to the fact that it is sexual love being discussed, not the more supernatural caritas). Continue reading “Red Wednesday: the Four Cardinals”→
There is a quiet media frenzy afoot about the snap decision of Pope Francis not to meet with his cardinals before this weekend’s consistory in Rome. The decision is being attributed to the letter to the pope of i Quattro Cardinali seeking definitive clarification of several points of confusion arising from the papal exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, that resulted from the Synod on the Family, and which he seems steadfastly to be refusing to answer.
Pope Francis’ decision is not in itself earth-shattering. Benedict XVI opted out of such a meeting once, and he would hardly have been the first to do so. It may be for other reasons entirely. After all, he is not meeting only the four cardinals involved, but the whole college of cardinals. It would seem quite an overreaction to snub the 97% of cardinals on account of the 3%. Continue reading “The Two-Edged Sword of Collegiality”→
Calling all those who know a little about upholstery tapestry/ecclesiastical furnishings and their repair/renovation.
Yesterday at the abbot’s council here at Douai we approved the resotoration of the old sedilia, used in the abbey church in its first stage. They are a darker oak, and the original tapestry MAY be underneath the latterly-added green fabric. The base of the celebrant’s chair itself wore out. We would like to restore and re-upholster them in a hard-wearing tapestry, with the pattern of a simple Puginesque cross or even the pattern from the tiling in the refectory in our former monastery in Douai, France. We will re-introduce the restored sedalia to liturgical use in the abbey
If anyone knows of a firm or individual who could help us with this, please do let me know. We are prepared to pay for quality but we need to avoid extravagance (I know, I know; we want to keep our cake and eat it…). Mind you, I am not beyond praying for a benefactor who might like to finance the restoration as a good work for the Lord, or even as a memorial to a loved one, or something like that.
Anyhow, some pics are attached. (These are not huge seats, you will see). Thanks and blessings in advance for any help!