The Queen on the ‘Gloria’ (Quote of the Day)

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The Christmas message to each of us is indivisible; there can be no ‘Peace on earth’ without ‘Goodwill toward men’. Scientists talk of ‘chain reaction’ – of power releasing yet more power. This principle must be most true when it is applied to the greatest power of all: the power of love … As this Christmas passes by, and time resumes its march, let us resolve that the spirit of Christmas shall stay with us as we journey into the unknown year that lies ahead.

from The Queen’s Christmas Message, 1955.

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Remi Brague on Christian Civilisation (Quote of the Day)

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The civilization of Christian Europe was constructed by people whose purpose was not that of constructing a ‘Christian civilization’. We owe it to people who believed in Christ, not to people who believed in Christianity … Christ did not come to construct a civilization, but to save the men of all civilizations. What is called ‘Christian civilization’ is no other than the ensemble of collateral effects which faith in Christ has produced on the civilizations it has encountered along the way. When His resurrection is believed in, and the possibility of the resurrection of every man in Him, everything is seen in a different way, and one acts in consequence of that, in all spheres. But a great deal of time is needed to become aware of this and make it concrete.

Read the full interview with Remi Brague here.

Michael Oakeshott on Friendship (Quote of the Day)

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To go on changing one’s butcher until one gets the meat one likes … is conduct not inappropriate to the relationship concerned; but to discard friends because they do not behave as we expected and refuse to be educated to our requirements is the conduct of a man who has altogether mistaken the character of friendship. Friends are not concerned with what might be made of one another, but only with the enjoyment of one another; and the condition of this enjoyment is the acceptance of what is and the absence of any desire to change or to improve.

from Michael Oakeshott.

Faith of Our Fathers (Recommended Reading)

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Duffy argues that despite real advances in scholarship, many of the reforms adopted in recent generations have been strangely unhistorical in their approach to Catholicism. Preoccupied with abstract theories about the proper role of liturgy in the Church’s life, the reformers focused on the rationale behind forms of worship and devotion not on their latent vitality and potency. They failed to understand how Catholic practice actually worked; they were insensitive to the capacity of certain ritual acts to foster a sense of mystery and awe in the presence of God.

Read the full review by Robert Louis Wilken here.

Buy the book here.

Saints for Sinners: Andrew Wouters and Mark Ji Tianxiang

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Mark couldn’t receive communion because his [opium] addiction was regarded as gravely sinful and scandalous. He prayed for deliverance from his addiction, but deliverance never came.  Nevertheless he remained a believing Catholic.  At his trial he was given a chance to renounce his faith, but he refused. It is said that he sang the litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary as he was led to his execution.

More on St Mark Ji Tianxing here.

Fr. Wouters had not been faithful to his promise of chastity and had led a scandalous life that was notorious all over the parish and beyond … When his past failures were thrown in his face by his captors as a disgrace to his calling and a negation of his creed, he looked them in the eye and said, ‘Fornicator I always was, heretic I never was.’

More on St Andrew Wouters here.

The Queen on Jesus’s Birth (Quote of the Day)

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For Joseph and Mary, the circumstances of Jesus’s birth – in a stable – were far from ideal, but worse was to come as the family was forced to flee the country. It’s no surprise that such a human story still captures our imagination and continues to inspire all of us who are Christians, the world over.

Despite being displaced and persecuted throughout his short life, Christ’s unchanging message was not one of revenge or violence but simply that we should love one another. Although it is not an easy message to follow, we shouldn’t be discouraged; rather, it inspires us to try harder: to be thankful for the people who bring love and happiness into our own lives, and to look for ways of spreading that love to others, whenever and wherever we can.

from The Queen’s Christmas Message, 2015.

Birth Control and Confession in Padua Diocese, 1916-1958 (Recommended Reading)

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Sandro Magister has an interesting review of a book (the book is only available in Italian) on confessional practice and contraception in the Diocese of Padua in the early 20th-century:

… one constant guideline emerges from the solutions given by the diocese of Padua to cases of morality regarding contraception: that of employing the ‘theory of good faith’ taught by Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori. According to this theory, in the presence of a penitent who is suspected of committing contraceptive actions but appears unaware of the gravity of the sin and in practice incapable of correcting his behavior, it is best to respect his silence and take his good faith into account, absolving him without posing any further questions.

The Liguorian theory was dominant for many decades, not only in the seminaries and in the care of souls, but also in the guidelines given by the Holy See in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries …

A change took place in 1931 with the publication by Pius XI of the encyclical ‘Casti Connubii.’ From then on, at the behest of the hierarchy, conjugal morality became a bigger part of preaching. And therefore the room for inculpable ignorance was reduced. A few priests wrote about this: once it has been said in public what is good and what is evil between spouses, ‘good faith can no longer be admitted.’

But decades of silence, interpreted by most of the faithful as consent to their contraceptive practice, had left its mark. In their answers to the question about birth control – a dozen years after ‘Casti Connubii’ – some priests recognized that their preaching on this matter made no impression: ‘We are in front of a wall that seems unassailable.’ And another wrote: ‘Even seemingly good persons cannot be persuaded.’

Read the whole article here.

A longer, academic article on this subject, by the author of the same book, is available here.

The Queen on Forgiveness (Quote of the Day)

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Finding hope in adversity is one of the themes of Christmas. Jesus was born into a world full of fear. The angels came to frightened shepherds with hope in their voices: ‘Fear not’, they urged, ‘we bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.’

Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general (important though they are) – but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.

Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.

from The Queen’s Christmas Message, 2011.

O Virgo Virginum: The Eighth O Antiphon

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Most Catholics are familiar with the seven O Antiphons sung since ancient times at Vespers, from 17-23 December:

  • Dec 17: O Sapientia (“O Wisdom”)
  • Dec 18: O Adonai (“O Lord”)
  • Dec 19: O Radix Jesse (“O Root of Jesse”)
  • Dec 20: O Clavis David (“O Key of David”)
  • Dec 21: O Oriens (“O Dawn of the East”)
  • Dec 22: O Rex Gentium (“O King of the Nations”)
  • Dec 23: O Emmanuel (“O God With Us”)

In medieval England, the practice was to bring all of these antiphons forward one day in the calendar, so, singing O Sapientia on 16 December (if you look at the Kalendar in a copy of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, you will notice this listing at the relevant date, Cranmer having copied it over from the medieval English Sarum Use). On the final day before Christmas Eve, 23 December, an eighth antiphon to the Blessed Virgin Mary was added:

O Virgo virginum, quomodo fiet istud?
Quia nec primam similem visa es nec habere sequentem.
Filiae Jerusalem, quid me admiramini?
Divinum est mysterium hoc quod cernitis.

(“O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be?
For neither before you, nor after you, shall there be any like you.
Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel at me?
That which you behold is a divine mystery.”)

Watch/listen below (the title of the video gets the date wrong, though the singing is spot-on):