Thursday, 15 July 2021

'The Pillar of the Cloud', and 'He is the Boy'.


                                             Cardinal John Henry Newman 

The Pillar of the Cloud

Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,

Lead Thou me on!

The night is dark, and I am far from home …...

Lead Thou me on!

Keep Thou my feet, I do not ask to see

The distant scene, one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou

Shouldst lead me on.

I loved to choose and see my path; but now

Lead Thou me on!

I loved the garish day, and spite of fears,

Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.

So long Thy power hath blessed me, sure it still

Will lead me on,

O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till

The night is gone;

And with the morn those angel faces smile,

Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

John Henry Newman   (June 1833-at sea?)


John Henry Newman (21 February, 1801 - 11 August, 1890) 

Originally an evangelical University of Oxford academic and priest in the Church of England, Newman increasingly favoured the High Church tradition of Anglicanism. He became one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement, an influential and controversial grouping of Anglicans who wished to absorb into the Church of England, many Catholic beliefs and liturgical rituals held and practised before the English Reformation. In this, the movement had some success.  After publishing his controversial "Tract 90" in 1841, Newman later wrote, "I was on my death-bed, as regards my membership with the Anglican Church." In 1845, Newman, joined by some but not all of his followers, officially left the Church of England and his teaching post at Oxford University, and was received into the Catholic Church. He was quickly ordained as a priest, and continued as an influential religious leader, based in Birmingham. In 1879, he was created a Cardinal by Pope Leo XIII, in recognition of his services to the cause of the Catholic Church in England.  He was instrumental in the founding of the Catholic University of Ireland (CUI) in 1854, although he had left Dublin by 1859. Over time, CUI became better known as University College, Dublin.

Newman was a major literary figure; his writings include 'Tracts for the Times (1833-41), his autobiography 'Apologia Vita Sua' (1865-66), 'Grammar of Assent' (1870), and the poem 'The Dream of Gerontius' (1865), which was set to music in 1900 by Edward Elgar. He wrote the popular hymn 'Lead kindly light'; also  'Firmly I believe, and truly', and 'Praise to the Holiest in the height' , the latter two both taken from Gerontius.

Newman's beatification was proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI, on 19 September, 2010, during his visit to the United Kingdom. His canonisation was officially approved by Pope Francis on 12 February, 2019, and took place on 13 October, 2019.

He is the fifth canonised Saint from the City of London; behind  Thomas A'Becket (born in Cheapside), Thomas More (born at Milk Street), Edmund Campion (son of a London bookseller), and Polydore Plasden (of Fleet Street).

(With ack. to Wikipedia)



'Christendom in Dublin', a classic novel written by G.K Chesterton, records his impressions of the 31st Eucharistic Congress held in Dublin in 1932. 

'He is the Boy' is an extract.

'He is the Boy'

G.K. Chesterton

I have little doubt that the return of liberty and prosperity to Ireland will mean the development of that Christian craftsmanship, in which Our Lady once taught the world in the decorative designs of the Dark Ages. Any impression so atmospheric must appear arbitrary, and it would be idle to mention the multitude of small experiences that have seemed to me to point to such a destiny. I will only mention two things out of a thousand; one an old story which I heard and even recorded long ago; the other a small incident that quite recently happened to myself’ but in both of which is expressed with a certain emotional exactitude the shade of fact and feeling that I mean The first is a story that I heard in Donegal twelve years ago; but I know nothing of the origin of the story. It told how someone had met in the rocky wastes a beautiful peasant woman carrying a child, who on being asked for her name, answered simply:“I am the Mother of God, and this is Himself, and He is the boy you will all be wanting at the last. I had never forgotten this phrase, which expresses the spirit of which I speak in a language which is a natural literature; and I remembered it suddenly long afterwards, when I fancied I had found something that expressed it also, not in literature but in sculpture.

I was looking about for an image of Our Lady which I wished to give to the new church in our neighbourhood, and I was shown a variety of very beautiful and often costly examples in one of the most famous and fashionable Catholic shops in London. It was a very good shop, and the proprietor was not to blame if the nature of the find was something of a parable. It is the glory of the great Cult of Mary that she has appeared to painters and sculptors under a variety of bodily types almost wider than the actual variety of all the women in the world. She has been the patroness of so many lands and cities that she has become the centre or the prop of every scheme of ornament or school of architecture; and her garments have been made of all the materials of the world.

Here there was everything, from what some would call the conventional dolls of the Repository to what some would call the harshest caricatures of the Primitives. But somehow I felt fastidious, for the first time in my life; and felt that the one kind was too conventional to be sincere and the other too primitive to be popular. There were the types of the bronze Byzantine gloom and types of the cereal Flemish exuberance; extravagances of Renaissance drapery, wrought in enamel or in metal, sprawling like a wheel of wings yet poised like a pillar; delicate figures in ivory or dark figures in ebony; all the multi-form manifestations of the most profound inspiration of the arts of our race. But, for some reason, as I have said, they left me not indeed cold, but vague, and I ended prosaically by following the proprietor to an upper floor, on some matter of mere business; the receipting of an old bill or what not. But the upper room was a sort of lumber room, full of packages and things partially unpacked, and it seemed suddenly that she was standing there, amid planks and shavings and sawdust, as she stood in the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth. I said something, and the proprietor answered rather casually: “Oh, that’s only just been unpacked. I’ve hardly looked at it. It’s from Ireland!”

The colours were traditional; but the colours were not conventional; a wave of green sea had passed through the blue and a shadow of brown earth through the crimson, as in the work of the ancient colourists. The conception was common and more than common, and yet never merely uncommon She was a peasant and she was a queen, and in that sense she was a lady; but not the sort of sham lady who pretends to be a peasant, nor the sort of sham peasant who pretends to be a lady. She was barefoot like any colleen on the hills; yet there was nothing merely local about her simplicity. I have never known who was the artist and I doubt if anybody knows; I only know that it is Irish, and I almost think that I should have known without being told. I have heard of one other man who felt as I do, and went miles out of his way at intervals to revisit the little church where the image stands. She looks across the little church with an intense earnestness in which there is something of endless youth; and I have sometimes started, as if I had actually heard the words spoken across that emptiness 'I am the Mother of God and this is Himself, and He is the boy you will all be wanting at the last.'

'Christendom in Dublin’ by G.K. Chesterton (1932)


The Catholic Church in Ireland has suffered terribly over recent decades. The disastrous liturgical and other changes imposed after Vatican II, together with a  dramatic secularisation in Society and the clerical abuse scandals, have severely damaged the Faith to the extent that the Church today in Ireland compared to 1932 when Chesterton wrote the above, is but a shadow of its former self.

We Catholics in the United Kingdom owe a tremendous amount to our fellow Catholics from Ireland, who over many decades have been the backbone of many of  our parishes and Catholic organisations. We pray for our Irish friends and for the Church in Ireland.


Friday, 4 June 2021

Corpus Christi - Sequence 'Lauda Sion'


Holy Mass   -   Consecration of bread into Body of Christ (transubstantiation)

Corpus Christi - Sequence 'Lauda Sion'

1. Sion, lift thy voice and sing;

Praise thy Saviour and thy King;

Praise with hymns thy Shepherd true.

2. Strive thy best to praise Him well,

Yet doth He all praise excel;

None can ever reach His due.

3. See today before us laid

The living and life-giving Bread,

Theme for praise and joy profound.

4. The same which at the sacred board

Was by our incarnate Lord,

Giv'n to His apostles round.

5. Let the praise be loud and high;

Sweet and tranquil be the joy

Felt today in every breast;

6. On this festival divine,

Which records the origin

Of the glorious Eucharist.

7. On this table of the King,

Our new paschal offering

Brings to end the olden rite.

8. Here, for empty shadows fled,

Is reality instead;

Here, instead of darkness, light.

9. His own act, at supper seated,

Christ ordained to be repeated,

In His memory divine;

10. Wherefore now, with adoration,

We the Host of our salvation

Consecrate from bread and wine.

11. Hear what holy Church maintaineth,

That the bread its substance changeth

Into flesh, the wine to blood.

12. Doth it pass thy comprehending?

Faith, the law of sight transcending,

Leaps to things not understood.

13. Here, beneath these signs are hidden

Priceless things, to sense forbidden;

Signs, not things, are all we see:

14. Flesh from bread, and blood from wine,

Yet is Christ in either sign

All entire, confessed to be.

15. They too who of Him partake,

Sever not, nor rend, nor break,

But entire their Lord receive.

16. Whether one or thousands eat,

All receive the self-same meat,

Nor the less for others leave.

17. Both the wicked and the good

Eat of this celestial food;

But with ends how opposite!

18. Here 't is life, and there 't is death,

The same, yet issuing to each,

In a different infinite.

19. Nor a single doubt retain,

When they break the host in twain,

But that in each part remain,

What was in the whole before.

20. Since the simple sign alone

Suffers change in state or form,

The signified remaining one

And the same for evermore.

21. Lo! upon the altar lies

Hidden deep from human eyes,

Bread of angels from the skies,

Made the food of mortal man:

22. Children's meat, to dogs denied:

In old types fore-signified:

In the manna heav'n-supplied,

Isaac, and the paschal Lamb.

23. Jesu! Shepherd of the sheep!

Thou Thy flock in safety keep.

Living Bread! thy life supply;

Strengthen us, or else we die;

Fill us with celestial grace:

24. Thou, who feedest us below!

Source of all we have or know!

Grant that with Thy saints above,

Sitting at the feast of love,

We may see Thee, face to face.

Amen. Alleluia.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Christ's Descent into Limbo, and the Incredulity of St Thomas

       Christ descends into Limbo - Fra Angelica 1395-1465
                      (pinterest. Gallerix orb)

The ancient greyness shifted 
Suddenly and thinned
Like mist upon the moors 
Before a wind.
An old, old prophet lifted 
A shining face and said :
“He will be coming soon.
The Son of God is dead; 
He died this afternoon.” 

A murmurous excitement
Stirred all souls. 
They wondered if they dreamed -
Save one old man who seemed 
Not even to have heard. 
And Moses standing, 
Hushed them all to ask 
If any had a welcome song prepared. 
If not, would David take the task?

And if they cared
Could not the three young children
Sing the Benedicite,
The canticle of praise they made 
When God kept them from perishing
In the fiery blaze? 
A breath of spring surprised them, 
Stilling Moses’ words. 

No one could speak, remembering 
The first fresh flowers, 
The little singing birds. 
Still others thought of fields new ploughed,
Or apple trees all blossom-boughed. 
Or some, the way a dried bed fills with water, 
Laughing down green hills.

The fisherfolk dreamed of the foam 
On bright blue seas.
The one old man who had not stirred
Remembered home. 
And there He was 
Splendid as the morning sun and fair 
As only God is fair.

And they, confused with joy, 
Knelt to adore 
Seeing that he wore 
Five crimson stars
He never had before. 
No canticle at all was sung. 
None toned a psalm, or raised a greeting song.

A silent man alone 
Of all that throng 
Found tongue - not any other.
Close to His heart 
When the embrace was done, 
Old Joseph said, “How is Your Mother,
How is Your Mother, Son?”

                                             Sister Mary Ada

 (‘The Mary Book’ an anthology by F.J.Sheed. Published by Sheed and Ward 1950.) 

'The Resurrection of Jesus'

'Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and she saw the stone taken away from the tomb. She ran therefore and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him."
    Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and they went to the tomb. The two were running together, and the other disciple ran on before, faster than Peter, and came first to the tomb.  And stooping down he saw the linen cloths lying there, yet he did not enter. Simon Peter therefore, came following him, and he went into the tomb and saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief which had been about his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded in a place by itself. Then the other disciple also went in, who had come first to the tomb. And he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. The disciples therefore, went away again to their home.
    But Mary was standing outside weeping at the tomb, So, as she wept, she stooped down and looked into the tomb, and saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been laid. They said to her, "Woman, why art thou weeping?" She said to them, "because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him."

    When she had said this she turned round and beheld Jesus standing there, and she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why art thou weeping? Whom dost thou seek?" She, thinking that he was the gardener, said to him, "Sir, if thou hast removed him, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" Turning, she said to him, "Rabboni!" (that is to say Master).  Jesus said to her, "Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father, but go to my brethren, and say to them, 'I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'

    Mary Magdalene came, and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord, and these things he said to me."
    When it was late that same day, the first of the week, though the doors where the disciples gathered had been closed for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst and said to them, "Peace be to you!" And when he had said this he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore rejoiced at the sight of the Lord. He therefore said to them again, "Peace be to you! As the Father has sent me, I also send you." When he had said this , he breathed upon them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained."
    Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came, The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."

    And after eight days, his disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being closed, and stood in their midst, and said, "Peace be to you." Then he said to Thomas, "Bring here thy finger, and see my hands; and bring here thy hand, and put it into my side; and be not unbelieving, but believing." Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"  Jesus said to him, "Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed. Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed."


Incredulity of St Thomas  by  Caravaggio (1601-2)

Many other signs also Jesus worked in the sight of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.   (John 20: v.1-31)