Friday, 13 March 2015

Four years ago to-day...

I left the Papal communion. I had been writing this blog for just under a year and my faith in the Papacy by then had fallen to the point of hatred. I had also been attending Anglo-Catholic services for many months (well, we all make mistakes). It was a Saturday morning and I had gone down to Blackfen. I put on my cassock and helped prepare for Mass. The MC asked me what I was doing there and I said I had come to serve Mass; he nodded and said nothing, but waited. The Fat Woman was hovering around the sacristy, lest she miss something. Then the priest walked in and greeted everyone, then saw me. Tim Finigan honoured me then by turning me out of the parish in the presence of four other people for reasons of sexual perversion (or, in modern parlance, homosexuality). He told me to remove my cassock and leave the sacristy. I wasn't forcibly ejected by the Fat Woman and I did not remove my cassock but I sat down and produced a miniature Book of Common Prayer from the pocket in my cassock; I felt suddenly the need to sit down. I pointed to 1st May but I was again asked to leave, so I did. I went into the parish hall and waited for the Mass procession to pass by (the show must go on!) and then I returned to the sacristy and removed my cassock. On the way out of the parish hall one of the young girls in the parish asked me if I was all right, and I said I was fine. I went home and sat in dark thought. That afternoon I made public my decision to sever the communion of Rome and, in token of this, burnt my copy of Summorum Pontificum.

Since that time I have been wandering. I have tried to keep this blog going, albeit I cannot tell you how hard that has been at times. Sometimes I think the content whereof it is written is too vulgar to be believed. At other times, rarely now, my soul is kindled to a new liturgical zeal but it's all fleeting and Realitas is an harsh lady. When you realise you're the only sincere person in a world of charlatans it is not altogether comfortable. I said to myself once, with absolute conviction, "of course they are!" "They" were, of course, the traditionalists, and they "are" hopelessly incompetent. They are the guardians of what passes for the Roman Rite in our time but they have no idea how to celebrate the Roman Rite, one of the chief treasures of Western civilisation, with any kind of solemnity, ceremony, dignity or according to the spirit of the rubrics. Public celebration of the Breviary services are conspicuously absent. But they cannot be told. You cannot remonstrate with them; they shew an ultimate obstinacy that reasoned argument avails only to make more obdurate. They cannot be wrong. "Modernists" (an obsolete term, surely?) are wrong, but they aren't; how could they be wrong? It is the only conceivable world view for them; the world, that is to say non-Roman Catholics and most of the Roman communion (and even the pope himself these days), versus them.

This coming Pentecost will mark five years of Liturgiae Causa. I set out to try and rehabilitate the traditionalists, and failed; failed utterly. In some respects I probably reached too far. I had no qualms about demonising Pius XII, for example; a cardinal sin to lampoon a pontiff of tradition! But in others, even if my approach could have been more conciliatory, did I not make cogent points? At one time the shibboleth of Liturgiae Causa was the feast of "Joseph the Worker," (hence my reference to the Prayer Book kalendar on that fateful day four years ago); a feast so gratuitously awful that it is worthy of a thousand anathemas. Well, San Giuseppe Comunista struck in Blackfen ere ever I conceived this blog and between then and Pentecost, when I published the first post, my resentment at the hypocrisy and malpractice of the traditionalists increased in bitterness so that I could not keep silent anymore. Then, on Assumption 2010, Signum Magnum struck with a vengeance too! I remember the argument I had with the parish priest that morning, to which he only responded that he was obeying the infallible magisterium. "No I'm sorry, I'm afraid I don't share your view," said I, "and I think this is very much a part of the problem." But my principled objection availed nothing to assuage the evil of that day. I went home thinking: "if they do Palm Sunday properly, why not Sts Philip and James or the Assumption?"

Before that summer I had still some shred of faintest hope that the traditionalists could be educated because I believed in the inherent goodness of Christians, but it was at that point that I just gave up. I started going to the Anglo-Catholics for Sunday services that August and went rarely back to Blackfen. My absence was widely discussed; one Sunday one of the servers said that I was the "talk of this parish." Another Sunday, I sat in the congregation and the sermon was obviously intended for me personally as I vividly remember the charges of schism and grave sin for not attending Mass in the conventicles of the Papal communion! After I was publicly ejected, I stopped going altogether. I left some very fine people with regret but I can say with total confidence that none of these were in the traditionalist caste.

And there is no Blackfen anymore! That is if what made Blackfen a parish was its small traditionalist oligarchy, and with the departure of their priest they have all gone whither they would. I see this now as a divine judgement for their sins and I pray God sends them light to illumine their darkness, but there isn't much hope of that.

So what of me? Well, I am attending Orthodox liturgies as often as I may. Not so much this week to date as my mother is on annual leave and the less she knows about my ecclesial activities, the more comfortable my existence. But I thank God that He has given me strength enough to make some amends to my religious life which, for long, has lain in ruin. I am yet to be received but we cannot be too hasty. I would say give me the wisdom of Treebeard in respect of haste but Treebeard was old; and the days of our age are threescore years and ten. God grant me light and a measure of His Wisdom!

Art: Ted Nasmith.


  1. Why did he ask you to leave all of a sudden? He didn't know? I didn't realize it would be such a problem...

    1. I doubt it was "all of a sudden," as you say. It was probably planned long in advance. The reason it came on that day was because I was suddenly in their midst after weeks and months of absence.

      As to whether or not he knew, I cannot say. I never lied about it. One lady from the parish had even asked me once, long before all this. I had a Facebook account at the time and I suppose I could have been more discreet about photos and "liked" pages. Still, I had been celibate up to that point so it needn't have been a problem.

      I know of some clergy invited to Blackfen who have lived notoriously unchaste lives so the hypocrisy is self-evident.

  2. I was once a lost and wandering soul and, in that respect, I feel a degree of kinship with you. If the Orthodox Church is your goal then, my brother, let it be a prize that you run toward, and not merely a shelter from that which you flee.

    When I was a new Orthodox convert, I was fortunate to happen across an open letter to a new convert from Mother Thekla (a Russian emigre, I believe, who was for many years part of a small monastic community in England). It is a trifle blunt, as is usually the way of monastics, but it is full of love. I hope that you find it as helpful as did I.

  3. I hadn’t suspected that you had your own blog.
    Firstly, let me apologise if any of what follows is cliched or crass. Here are my thoughts, for what they’re worth - which may not be much.
    You are clearly in a dark place at times, I really empathise with you. You seem to have flirted with everything from Anglo-Catholicism to Orthodoxy, by way of traditionalism. I think you’re finding ways to avoid facing up to your situation. The Church – the actual, proper Church – is right in front of you and you need to avail yourself of its sacraments, and determine to rid yourself of these demons. You can do it.
    Religion seems to have become for you (I don’t mean this harshly) a hobby. As you know, there are plenty of people (typically young men in tweed jackets) who love to discuss the priest’s liturgical gaffes etc after Mass, as you’ve noted in an earlier post. Please, please, don’t become that person. The Faith is simpler than you think. It’s not an exam. Don’t overthink it. You don’t need to know Greek. Old Ma Cunwicke may yet understand that, though I’m not holding my breath.
    I spoke to Fr Finigan once on the phone. I can’t say why, but I didn’t warm to him. I wasn’t sorry to hear of his internal exile in Ramsgate, and the failure of his TLM project after he left. His successor at Blackfen, similarly I met once during my brief flirtation with the EF. I liked him. At the time, he was helping the LMS out and then they kicked him in the balls for defending someone of SSA who was nonetheless living chastely. I laughed my f***ing head off when he cancelled the TLM there. It’s called Karma.
    I love the Novus again now and I have a lovely new red Missal to prove it. I’m not the greatest Christian ever but I have recovered the simple pleasure of living the Faith that I encountered years ago when I, as a would-be convert, first slipped into the back of a rural church to hear the priest intone the sacred spells. I wish you luck and will pray for you. I hope that you will find your homeland very soon.

    1. Many people have accused me of treating religion as an hobby. It's usually a cynical remark made by people who reject my views. Having said that, I am not particularly good at religion. This probably has its uttermost origin in my upbringing. I was reared in the Papal communion by my mother who is nominally a Roman Catholic. She became disturbed somewhat that I took the religion too seriously and tried to put a stop to it. She failed and this has become ever since a source of much conflict in the house. I seldom pray consciously in private at home; that is because of the atmosphere of the home. It isn't negative, it's just I don't feel comfortable doing so, preferring a church to myself. When I was a parishioner at Blackfen I'd often go into the church when it was locked to pray the office by myself. This was unknown to the parish priest. I am not particularly good at extempore prayer; my preference is for psalms and hymns. I sing lots of hymns to myself; Christ is made the sure foundation, Who would true valour see, some Latin ones too like the Te Deum, (sometimes in English), Vexilla regis. I sing Psalm 90 a lot these days to an Anglican chant.

      The faith is indeed simple and the more I think on the matter, the more I think the Protestant reformers were right to insist on sola scriptura. I know Latin well enough to read the liturgical books with ease; I have a rudimentary knowledge of Greek. My contention with promoters of Latin liturgy is that if you don't know Latin, why insist on Latin in the liturgy? I like Latin liturgy but at least I can understand it!

      I met Finigan's successor when I went to Blackfen in November to find out the causes of the great exodus of the traddies. He was too busy to talk then but I found him a decent enough chap. I learned all that I needed from the parishioners themselves who were largely glad to see the back of Finigan and "the Latins." I too laughed when Fr Fisher cancelled the TLM and thought "serves them right."

      I don't like the Novus Ordo and I can say with total confidence that I have never seen it celebrated properly, anywhere. I went to a Latin Novus Ordo "low" Mass at Westminster Cathedral when I was fourteen or fifteen. The priest came out on his own, stood at the chair facing us and began talking. Very unedifying. Having said that, I would like to see what an amalgamation of the Novus Ordo and the TLM would look like. It will be to nobody's liking, I imagine.

    2. Dear Patricius,
      I am gratified at your very full response to my comment.
      A few observations:-
      Saying you can’t pray at home is a cop-out, it makes no sense;
      Saying you can’t pray extempore is also a cop-out, you need to try and try, God loves your honest failures more than your successes. I’m crap at saying the Rosary, what with my limited attention span and nervous, grasshopper mind, but I never give up on it, it’s the place where I encounter the persuasions of the Devil (“give up, AnthonyMunday, pray something different that feels right for you” every day;
      Blaming your mother for everything is yet another cop-out (is a pattern emerging here?), what have her views got to do with anything? I spend a lot of time with my (beloved) mother too, she is an atheist who thinks all wars are the fault of “you religious people”. You have to stand tough, sometimes; it wasn’t easy for Fr Fisher to stand up to the hordes but he did it;
      You are still being snooty about who can understand the Latin liturgy and who can’t. Do you think Jesus is concerned about that? ;
      Sola scriptura must have seemed a liberating idea back in 1519 but we are now a more sophisticated society and we can appreciate that the written word can be twisted to mean anything we want, therefore we need a Teaching Church, to whom we must submit ourselves, to guide us.

    3. Thank you for your refreshing frankness!

      Of course, everything is a cop out. I have always failed of my promise; I start things I don't finish, it is the story of my life. I am incredibly lazy.

      Snootiness about Latin liturgy is a sword with sharp edges at either side. I would argue that many of the people who attend Latin liturgies are snooty in their condescension toward people who do not. That is part of the problem with the traditionalist movement; it is one of constant triumphalism. And Jesus was not concerned in the least by it.

      I should really do something like pray the Jesus Prayer; it's simple, repetitive, biblical.

      Where have you come from by the way? Have I seen you on another blog?

  4. Patrick, have you thought about taking a weeklong retreat at, say, the Benedictine Abbey of Norcia? They do the ancient Benedictine office, from 3:45am Matins to 7:45pm Compline. It is a truly wonderful place, free of irreverence and frivolity and yet also free of the worst aspects of "Traddiedom". It is a place where you can learn again to pray deeply and in stillness.

    1. I have often thought about retreat but I never get around to it. I do need a retreat, though. If only to clear my head of noise so that I can take up reading again.

    2. Please do. I'm currently there now and after a week, I'm actually joyful about getting up at this most godly hour to sing Matins. You need not be a Catholic either---the monks will be most welcoming.

  5. Patricius, I had two religious experiences today. Fr Frank, a lumbering and possibly rather stupid Irish priest, was involved in both of them. First of all, he forgave my sins. Then, later on, he said Mass and I received Our Blessed Lord. Admittedly, he doesn’t “do” the entrance antiphon nor the communion antiphon, and he has a habit of elevating the sacred species prior to the words of consecration (I’m guessing this is wrong) but hey, the Mass was immaculately observed, as are the Holy Hours, Rosary groups, Stations and other devotions, at my church. There is a genuine religiosity in my parish and it has nothing to do with Latin or Greek.
    May I speak plainly? You are a snob. You know that you are a snob, in fact I’m guessing that you rejoice in it. Unfortunately, being a snob isn’t morally neutral, like being a Man U fan or doing Pilates or believing that the interminable symphonies of Bruckner all sound the same. Being a snob has, potentially, eternal consequences.
    Joining the Orthodox Church will not make you happy. What can the Orthodox offer to us Catholics, unless you have a fetish for icons? (Actually, I quite like the theology of icons but on balance much prefer my Rosary beads and Brown Scapular). The only convert to Orthodoxy I know of was John Tavener, who remained a crazy mixed-up soul till his dying day (and his music is overrated, beyond Song for Athene, The Protecting Veil and Icon of St Seraphim).

    You talk of your laziness and failure. Part of you thinks you are worthless, don’t you? I am the same. I have talents but I ended up working in a warehouse. But I know God loves me. That sounds trite and simple but I doubt whether you think God loves you, Patricius. Too much time spent with trads may lead you to forget this, but He does.
    Come home to the Church, Patricius. Stop looking elsewhere for enlightenment. And for Christ’s sake stop pissing about.