Sunday, 28 December 2008

'The Hermit's Garden' and 'The Penitent Wolf'

To all in the Pro Papa League - best wishes for a happy and blessed New Year 2009

For a spiritually refreshing and therapeutic read, I strongly recommend 'Beasts and Saints', being in the words of the compiler - 'stories of the mutual charities between saints and beasts, from the end of the fourth century to the end of the twelfth, and translated without sophistication from the original Latin, by Helen Waddell. Most of the stories of the Desert Fathers were translated into Latin from their original Greek, during the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries, although the two short stories included here,'The Hermit's Garden' and 'The Penitent Wolf', are from a Latin original. They were told to Sulpicius Severus by his friend Postumanius, just off his ship at Narbonne, after 3 years journeying in North Africa: the two sat together on their cloaks, Postumanius now and then hitching his a little closer.The 'Dialogus' which records their conversation, was probably written about 405 AD. Sulpicius was a barrister of Toulouse, friend and contemporary of St Paulinus of Nola: like him, he was fortunate in birth and ambition and friendship: and like him, renounced the world in his prime. He died in 410AD the year of the sack of Rome. His friend Paulinus survived him, and Rome, for another twenty years. '


'When I first entered the desert, about twelve miles from the Nile - I had one of the brethren for guide, a man who knew the country well- we came to where an old monk lived at the foot of a mountain. And there, a thing very rare in these parts, was a well. He had an ox, whose sole business it was to draw up the water by turning a wheel: for the well was said to be a thousand or more feet deep. He had a garden too, full of many sorts of vegetables: a thing against nature in the desert, where everything is so parched and burnt by the rays of the sun that it seldom gives root or seed, and then but scant. But the labour that the Saint shared with his ox, and his own industry, were to profit: for the constant watering gave such richness to the sand that we saw the herbs growing in the garden, green and lavish. On these the ox lived, together with his master: and from this plenty the good man provided a feast for us as well. I saw then what you men of Gaul will hardly believe, the pot of vegetables that he was preparing for our meal boiling without any fire under it: so great is the heat of the sun that it would cook a Gallic meal as well as any cooks you please.

After supper, as evening drew on, he invited us to a palm tree, the fruit of which he sometimes used; it was about two miles away. For these trees indeed exist in the desert, though not many: and whether it was the skill of the men of old time, or the nature of the soil begat them, I know not: or else God foreseeing that the desert would some day be inhabited by the saints, prepared them for His servants. For the most part, those who live in these remote solitudes live on the fruit of these trees, since no other succeeds in growing here.

We came to this tree led by our kindly host: and there stumbled upon a lion. At sight of him, my guide and I quaked, but the saintly old man went unfalteringly on, and we followed him, timorously enough. The wild beast - you would say it was at the command of God - modestly withdrew a little way and sat down, while the old man plucked the fruit from the lower branches. He held out his hand, full of dates; and up the creature ran and took them as frankly as any tame animal about the house: and when it had finished eating, it went away. We stood, watching and trembling; reflecting as well we might, what valour of faith was in him, and what poverty of spirit in us.'


'Another man, no less remarkable, we saw, living in a poor hut, where only one could enter at a time. The story was told of him that a she-wolf used to stand beside him at his meal, and that never did the creature fail to come at the appointed time, or to wait outside until he offered her whatever bread had been left over from his poor meal: and then she would lick his hand, and as if her task was over and the comfort of her presence duly given, would go away.

But it once so happened that the holy man had gone with a brother who had come to see him, to put him on his way, and was a long time absent, not getting home until nightfall. Meantime the beast had come at the usual meal hour. She felt that her friend and patron was absent, and went into his empty cell, inquisitive to find out where its inhabitant might be. By chance a palm-basket with five loaves was hanging within reach; she ventured to take one, devoured it, and then, the crime perpetrated, made off.

The hermit came in, and saw his basket torn: he perceived the damage his household store had suffered, and near the threshold he recognised the crumbs where someone had been eating bread: nor had he much doubt as to the person of the thief. Then as the days went by and the creature did not come - too conscious of her bold act to come to him she had wronged, and affect innocence - the hermit took it sorely to heart that he had lost the company of his pet. At last when the seventh day had gone by, his prayers were answered: there she was, as he sat at his meal, as of old. But it was easy to perceive the embarrassment of the penitent: she stood, not daring to come near, her eyes fixed in profound shame upon the ground, and plainly entreating pardon. Pitying her confusion, the hermit called her to come near, and with a caressing hand he stroked the sad head: and finally, refreshed his penitent with two loaves for one. And she, forgiveness won and her grieving ended, resumed her wonted office. Consider, I pray you, in this example of it the power of Christ, with whom every brute beast is wise, and every savage creature gentle'.

'Thoughts from St Alphonsus' - by Rev C McNeiry C.SS.R.

'If you were to lose a sum of money, all would not be lost; and though in losing it you lost your entire property, you would still hope to recover it. But if at death you lose your soul, then you will truly have lost all, and can never hope to regain it'. (January 24th)

'O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee, and especially protect and guide our Holy Father'.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

'Time is a Treasure Found only in this Life' (St Alphonsus)

Peace and greetings to all in the Pro Papa League.

"Son, says the Holy Ghost, be careful to preserve time, which is the greatest and most precious gift that God can bestow upon you in this life. Time is a treasure which is found only in this life, it is not found in the next, either in hell or in Heaven. In hell the damned exclaim with tears, 'Oh that an hour was given to us!'. They would pay any price for an hour of time, in which they might repair their ruin; but this hour they will never have. In Heaven there is no weeping; but were the Saints capable of weeping, all their tears would arise from the thought of having lost the time in which they could have acquired greater glory, and from the conviction that this time will never again be given to them. You will see some who spend nights and days in play or recreation. If you ask them what they are doing, they will answer: 'We are passing the time'. Poor souls who lose so many days; but days which will never return." (St Alphonsus C.SS.R)

These words are taken from the Martyrology or Calendar of Days published annually by The Desert Will Flower Press, Sons of the Most Divine Redeemer (F.SS.R), Golgotha Monastery, Papa Stronsay, Orkney.
St Alphonsus took a solemn vow never to waste a moment of time.
St Alphonsus pray for us all, especially our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVIth
Our Lady Queen of Heaven, protect and guide our Holy Father.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Great news from the F.SS.R.........

This is a very short post indeed-but a very important and joyful one!

I refer you to the blogsite of the Transalpine Redemptorists, see the link on my side-bar, and you will understand why I am so pleased. My wife and I live on Stronsay, members of the small Catholic community here, and we are delighted at this wonderful news. Congratulations dear F.SS.R Fathers and Brothers, may all Catholics everywhere rejoice. Grateful thanks to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, for favours received. Deo Gratias!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

'Fear the Lord all ye His Holy Ones.......'

A very good and elderly priest friend of mine, recently re-introduced me to the Psalms. I must confess that I have only ever read a few brief extracts over the years, and acting on the principle of 'better late than never', I am resolved to remedy this rather sad state of affairs by regular readings. I have started this and already am beginning to appreciate the simple beauty and wisdom contained in these sacred truths. In a world in which Almighty God is largely ignored, His laws and Commandments ridiculed, and His Church persecuted and vilified, the Psalms offer spiritual strength, consolation and encouragement, to those seeking to follow Christ. Psalm 33 - 'The fear of God and its rewards', is as appropriate to these times as it was when it was written:-

2. I will bless the Lord at all times:
His praise shall be ever in my mouth.
3. My soul shall make her boast of the Lord:
Let the needy hear and be glad.
4. O magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt his name together.


5. I sought the Lord, and he answered me,
And he delivered me from all my terrors.
6. O look unto him and be radiant,
And let not your faces be ashamed.
7. This needy one called, and he heard,
And saved him out of all his distresses.
8. The Lord’s angel encampeth
Round about those who fear him, and
delivereth them.
9. O taste and see that he is good:
Blessed the man that taketh refuge in him.
10. Fear the Lord, O ye his holy ones:
For naught is lacking to those who fear
11. The faithless suffer want and hunger:
But those who seek him lack no good.


12. Come, ye children, hearken to me:
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
13. Who is the man that delighteth in life,
That loveth days, that he may see good?
14. Then guard thy tongue from evil,
And thy lips from speaking deceit.
15. Shun evil and do good:
Seek peace, and pursue it.
16. The Lord’s face is set against evil-doers,
To cut off the remembrance of them from
the earth.
17. The Lord’s eyes are upon the just,
And his ears are open to their cry.
18. When they call, the Lord heareth,
And delivereth them from all their
19. The Lord is nigh to the broken of heart,
And saveth the crushed in spirit.
20. Many are the misfortunes of the just,
But from all of them the Lord delivereth
21. The lord keepeth all his bones:
Not one of them is broken.
22. Misfortune shall slay the wicked:
And those who hate the just shall be
23. The Lord redeemeth the life of his servants,
And none that take refuge in him shall be

In Psalm 33, the people are called upon to sing the praises of God (v2-4); the psalmist has been saved from great danger, hence he concludes that God’s goodness should always be trusted (v5-11); and those who reverence God and observe his precepts, enjoy happiness and a long life.(v12-23)
From 'Thoughts from St Alphonsus' - by Rev C McNeiry C.SS.R
'The ancient Fathers held a conference to determine which
was the exercise most useful and most necessary for eternal
salvation; and they determined that it was to repeat over and
over again the short prayer of David: Incline unto my aid, O
God.' (November 23rd)
'Our Lady, Cause of our Joy, protect and guide our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVIth'.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

"Let not your heart be sad....."

A few thoughts on what has been a rather memorable week, particularly with the two great Feast days of 'All Saints' and 'All Souls', and on a more worldly level, the Presidential election in the USA. On 'All Souls' day, priests enjoy the special privilege of celebrating three Masses, and the faithful have many extra and special opportunities to gain indulgences for the benefit of those holy souls suffering in Purgatory, paying the debt for sins already forgiven in this life, but for which 'just' satisfaction has to be made.
I have been very fortunate in my life to have had the opportunity of singing in various choirs large and small, and to have taken part in concert performances of different memorable Requiem Masses. These include Mozart's 'Requiem', a truly magnificent and moving choral and orchestral work; Brahm's 'German Requiem', another grand work of great intensity and emotion; Verdi's 'Requiem' - which I didn't particularly enjoy, too 'loud' and operatic for me; Faure's 'Requiem', a gentle and beautiful composition; also on a similar theme but in slightly different vein, Elgar's 'Dream of Gerontius', based on a poem by Cardinal John Newman, in which he portrays the journey of a soul from the moment of death, through the fearful labyrinth of the underworld, arriving eventually at the Seat of Judgement; a work encompassing the full range of human emotions in both words and musical form; helplessness, terror, confusion, guilt, grief, sorrow, hope, and finally mercy, forgiveness and peace. The one prayer that is forever associated with the Mass for the Dead, has to be the 'Dies Irae' - 'Day of Wrath, Day of Mourning' - a most solemn plea for God's mercy and forgiveness, particularly expressive and moving when sung in Gregorian chant. It is appropriate to end these few brief thoughts, with a reminder of the poignancy of the 'Last Post', always played at 'Remembrance Day' services. I can 'physically' hear this in my mind as I type these words. Many would say that this is not a prayer, merely a piece of music made more dramatic by the occasion and emotions. But for me the very notes - clear and clarion, are as a trumpet blast straight to the throne of God!


We have all heard of the 'ships cat' but what about the 'ships dog'? Whether or not dogs of this ilk have existed in the past, I really do not know. However as Captain of 'SS Whitesmokeahoy', and a prayerful fighting member and supporter of the Pro Papa League and armada, I have decided to write a few words about our ship's dog. Yes we definitely have one, so let me introduce you to ... Hector! You may think that Hector is rather an unsuitable topic for this blog, which after all, concerns itself normally with rather more serious matters. However it does us good to smile, the more the better, after all the Saints were lighthearted and joyful even in the midst of extreme trials, and surely we too should try to emulate them. Now Hector has already been introduced to the internet world, through the 'Umblepie' blog in February this year. Should you wish to learn rather more about him, you will find a link to 'Umblepie' on this side-bar. Anyway Hector recently celebrated his 7th birthday, and it seemed to me that this is a good time to reveal and share in his - dare I say it, rather upmarket, desirable, and comfortable life-style.

Hector has his own elegant 2-seater settee, Victorian, re-upholstered at great expense 6 years ago - not with Hector in mind I hasten to add, and it fits him to a tee! He even has his own 'throw', with his name thereon. We are rather short on chairs so that when we have visitors Hector has to share his settee with one other! He is very clean so there is no problem, except that he does tend to collect sand from the beach in his coat, which naturally ends up on his settee. So it can be rather a sandy seat on occasion! His favourite visitors include Fr Michael Mary F.SS.R and Brother Nicodemus F.SS.R from Golgotha Monastery, Papa Stronsay, regular and very welcome visitors who make a great fuss of Hector and are especially generous at coffee and cake time.

As you will have seen from the February post in 'Umblepie', Hector particularly enjoys his daily run on the clean, sandy beaches of Stronsay. Here is a photo of Hector on the beach, on this occasion not on Stronsay but on Mainland, Orkney, with a red rubber ball in his mouth. As can be seen he is a medium/large dog with a thick woolly coat, and he weighs about 25 kilos. On Stronsay we have a choice of four sandy beaches, with the final destination dependent on the direction of the wind and the state of the tide. If it is high tide and the tide is fully in, two of the locations lose their sandy beach, so we have to go elsewhere. It is rare indeed that we are unable to use any of the beaches, perhaps due to 'hurricane' force winds or other extreme weather conditions,then Hector has to make do with a run in the field adjoining our house, when I suspect that he feels rather cheated!

This photograph shows Hector surveying the cows grazing in the field next door. He is a bit of a rascal and enjoys nothing more than to 'bounce' these innocent and friendly neighbours, causing minor confusion for about 5 seconds, after which they return in rather determined fashion to out-stare this cheeky little dog who has disturbed their peace and quiet. I have to admit that much as I love him, I think that Hector is a bit of a wimp, not that I blame him for a moment, for I'm sure that he only does this knowing that he is quite safe in his own garden, behind the fence! He has been known to try the same trick on a group of 4 bulls who share a field during some of the winter months. Fortunately the bulls are fairly docile at this time of the year, and apart from focusing four pairs of baleful eyes on Hector, virtually ignored him! Which made the whole exercise from Hector's point of view, rather a waste of time!
The next photograph shows Hector with his favourite squeaky toy - a soft furry duck! He really likes squeaky toys and has a collection of between 6 and 8 in various states of disrepair, permanently spread around the lounge carpet. He is really possessive of his toys, rather like a young child. To sum up, he is a lovely dog, gentle and good-natured, but with a streak of mischief. Thank you Hector for the fun you bring us, and of course for helping to keep us fit! You are hereby officially confirmed as 'ships dog' to SS Whitesmokeahoy! One final prayer, - 'thank you God, for giving us Hector'.

Continuing 'Thoughts from St Alphonsus' by Rev C McNeiry C.SS.R
'The maxims of the world are diametrically opposed to the maxims of Jesus Christ. What the world esteems, Jesus Christ has called folly. And what the world regards as folly, Jesus Christ has strongly recommended, such as crosses, pains and contempt.' (November 28th)


'Whoever would become a saint, must during this life resemble the lily among the thorns, which, however much it may be pricked by them, never ceases to be a lily; that is, it is always equally sweet and serene. The soul that loves God maintains an imperturble peace of heart.' (November 18th)

'Our Blessed Lady, Queen of Heaven and Earth, guide and protect our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVIth'

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Three Cheers for BT: hip,hip; hip,hip; hip,hip; ......

Hello friends and fellow mariners of the Pro Papa League armada!

Disaster, disaster! Owing to fierce storms and lightning last week, we have been without the Internet since last Saturday. I have been as it were, lost at sea, confused and desolate, with no sight nor sound of fellow mariners. But now what joy, all is well! Three cheers for BT (British Telecom)! The Internet is back, and here I am bashing away (yes I have to confess that I am a keyboard basher!), desperate to renew contact with the fleet!

Recently I came across a rather delightful poem written by my favourite poet, John Betjeman, entitled 'Diary of a Church Mouse', and I can think of nothing better to cheer myself and I hope others, than to share this little gem with you. Interestingly the poet has included the following prefix - 'Lines, written to order on a set subject, to be spoken on the wireless'.

Diary of a Church Mouse

Here among long-discarded cassocks,
Damp stools, and half-split open hassocks,
Here where the Vicar never looks
I nibble through old service books.
Lean and alone I spend my days
Behind this Church of England baize.
I share my dark forgotten room
With two oil-lamps and half a broom.
The cleaner never bothers me,
So here I eat my frugal tea.
My bread is sawdust mixed with straw;
My jam is polish for the floor.
Christmas and Easter may be feasts
For congregations and for priests,
And so may Whitsun. All the same,
They do not fill my meagre frame.
For me the only feast at all
Is Autumn's Harvest Festival,
When I can satisfy my want
With ears of corn around the font.
I climb the eagle's brazen head
To burrow through a loaf of bread.
I scramble up the pulpit stair
And gnaw the marrows hanging there.
It is enjoyable to taste
These items ere they go to waste,
But how annoying when one finds
That other mice with pagan minds
Come into Church my food to share
Who have no proper business there.
Two field mice who have no desire
To be baptized, invade the choir.
A large and most unfriendly rat
Comes in to see what we are at.
He says he thinks there is no God
And yet he's rather odd.
This year he stole a sheaf of wheat
(It screened our special preacher's seat),
And prosperous mice from fields away
Come in to hear the organ play,
And under cover of its notes
Ate through the altar's sheaf of oats.
A Low Church mouse, who thinks that I
Am too papistical, and High,
Yet somehow doesn't think it wrong
To munch through Harvest Evensong,
While I, who starve the whole year through,
Must share my food with rodents who
Except at this time of year
Not once inside the Church appear.
Within the human world I know
Such goings-on could not be so,
For human beings only do
What their religion tells them to.
They read the Bible every day
And always, night and morning, pray,
And just like me, the good church mouse,
Worship each week in God's own house.
But all the same it's strange to me
How very full the church can be
With people I don't see at all
Except at Harvest Festival.

John Betjeman


Two extracts from 'Thoughts from St Alphonsus' for November, the month of 'All Saints' and the 'Holy Souls'.

"In heaven you have all you can desire. There everything is new: new beauties, new delights, new joys. The sight shall be satiated with beholding the beauty of that city. The hearing shall be satiated with the harmony of the heavenly choir. How delightful must it be to hear the saints and angels singing the Divine Praises!" (November 11th)


"Of all the pains endured by the holy souls, the greatest is caused by their being at a distance from their Spouse, and by their privation of the sight of Him." (November 10th)

'Our Lady Queen of Heaven, pray for us, and guide and protect our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVIth'

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Father William Doyle S.J. (1873-1917)

Good day friends of the Pro Papa League.

We have recently received the latest edition of ‘Catholic’ published by the F.SS.R Transalpine Redemptorists, Golgotha Monastery, Papa Stronsay. This is the first edition published since the reconciliation with Rome, and it maintains the high standards that we have come to expect over the years. There is an excellent editorial by Fr Michael Mary FSSR, Superior General, together with the usual wide range of learned and interesting articles, Church news past and present, announcements, photographs, quiz, etc. I fully recommend this publication, which maintains its traditional Catholic ethos, to those who have not yet subscribed. Each edition of ‘Catholic’ includes a book of specifically Catholic interest, abridged and reprinted in soft-back format, produced by ‘The Desert Will Flower’ Press. The latest book is ‘Trench Priest, The Life of Fr William Doyle, S.J.’ This is the abridged biography of an Irish Jesuit priest who died in 1917, aged 44 years, nr Ypres, on the battlefields of Belgium, whilst serving as Chaplain to several Irish regiments. This book vividly brings to life the selfless devotion and courage shown by Fr Doyle in the terrible blood-bath and horror of the Western Front, an account of heroic faith and true charity which genuinely brought tears to my eyes. The deep faith, trust in God, selfless love for others of whatever creed, courage, and devotion to duty, exhibited by Fr Doyle in all circumstances, shines like a beacon in the darkness of hell. It is only possible to include here a few extracts from this absorbing book, but it is appropriate to do so, particularly as we will soon be in November, the month of ‘All Saints’ and the ‘Holy Souls’, and I have absolutely no doubt that ‘Fr William Doyle S.J.’ is inscribed on the Roll of Honour for both.

‘All through the worst hours an Irish Padre went about among the dead and dying, giving Absolution to his boys. Once he came back to headquarters, but he would not take a bite of food or stay, though his friends urged him. He went back to the field to minister to those who were glad to see him, bending over them in their last agony. Four men were killed by shell-fire as he knelt beside them, and he was not touched – not touched until his own turn came. A shell burst close by, and the Padre fell dead’ ( Philip Gibbs, in the Daily Chronicle and Daily Telegraph)

‘The Orangemen will not forget a certain Roman Catholic chaplain who lies in a soldier’s grave in that sinister plain beyond Ypres. He went forward and back over the battlefield with bullets whining about him, seeking out the dying and kneeling in the mud beside them to give them Absolution, walking with death with a smile on his face , watched by his men with reverence and a kind of awe until a shell burst near him and he was killed. His familiar figure was seen and welcomed by hundreds of Irishmen who lay in that bloody place. Each time he came back across the field he was begged to remain in comparative safety. Smilingly he shook his head and went again into the storm. He had been with his boys at Ginchy and through other times of stress, and he would not desert them in their agony. They remember him as a saint – they speak his name with tears’ (Percival Phillips, in the Daily Express and Morning Post)

‘Fr Doyle felt fear deeply. He had a highly- strung nervous system and a vivid imagination that visualised danger fully, and realised the risk before him – all the physical elements of cowardice were his. He went out to perils, not at the word of command that meant death to disobey, not with the lust of battle surging in his veins and sweeping him along with a primitive savage longing to kill, not in the company of cheering, sustaining comrades. Fr Doyle had no word of command but his conscience and his sense of duty. He had no violent emotions to blind him to danger. Usually he had no comrade to bear him company save grim Death, who walked very close to him at times. It may sound a paradox, but it is perfect truth: Fr Doyle was the biggest coward in the 16th Division, and the bravest man in the British Army! An even more striking description was given by one of his men,, who declared emphatically that Fr Doyle was ‘the bravest man in the war’. (A Colonel who knew him intimately)

Fr Doyle was awarded the Military Cross at the battle of the Somme,, recommended for the D.S.O. at Wytschaete, and the Victoria Cross at Frezenberg. Though recommended for the VC by his Commanding Officer, by his Brigadier, and by General Hickie, commander of 16th Division, ‘superior authority’ did not agree. Possibly the fact that he was an Irish Roman Catholic priest influenced the decision of those ‘superior authorities’? Beyond the tributes of this world, numerous favours and cures have been attributed to his intercession, and to the use of his relics. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. To order please use the ‘Transalpine Redemptorist’ link on my sidebar which will take you straight to their blogsite.


More from ‘Thoughts from St Alphonsus’ by Rev C McNeiry CSSR

‘Humiliation is the touchstone of sanctity. You will acquire
more merit by meekly receiving an affront, than by fasting ten
days on bread and water.’ (October 24th)


‘Ecclesiasticus says that her bonds are a healthful binding,
and that in the latter end thou shalt find rest in her. You will
be indeed fortunate if at death you are bound with the sweet
chains of the love of the Mother of God. These chains are chains
of salvation.’ (November 17th)

All ye holy angels and saints, guide and protect our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVIth
O Holy Mother of Christ, pray for our Holy Father and for us thy children.


Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Papal Postcards from Great-Aunt Bella

Good day to all supporters and followers of the Pro Papa League.

Whilst contemplating the possible subject of this post, I decided to rummage through my bookshelves in the hope of some inspiration, and came across an old photograph album, complete with photographs, which was given to me some 55 years ago, by my great Aunt Bella. She gave it to me not long before she died, asking me to take care of it, and she also gave me a small picture of the Sacred Heart which I have to this day, suitably reframed and now hanging on a bedroom wall. I was about 15 or 16 years old at the time.

Miss Isabella Crabb, or, as she was known to me, Auntie Bella, never married and spent the greater part of her life employed as priest's housekeeper. At one time she was housekeeper to Bishop Cahill, of Portsmouth. When she eventually retired, she moved to Goring on Sea, Sussex, to live with her sister, my great Aunt Maggie. I remember as a boy visiting and staying with them, and being taught by my great Uncle Harry (Auntie Maggie's husband) how to play draughts, and possibly even chess. Uncle Harry was an intrepid walker, and I remember walking with him to 'Chanctonbury Ring', a relatively small area of woodland situated on the South Downs more than 750 ft above sea level, in which can be seen the remains of an Iron Age fortification, and where over many years, numerous artefacts, including Roman coins and items of pottery, have been found. Auntie Bella, Auntie Maggie, and Uncle Harry must have been in their late seventies, and of course all are now dead. Throughout her life Auntie Bella collected postcards of cathedrals, churches and other religious places, people (usually religious) and religious events, many of which she kept in a photograph album which she finally gave to me. Remembering that these postcard/ photographs were taken more than 100 years ago, they represent the Church on a different world stage to that which exists today. I think it true to say that at that time the Church in this country was growing rapidly, with new dioceses being established, new churches being built, new religious establishments being set up throughout the country, new schools, and this in spite of considerable prejudice, real poverty, and many other obstacles. Among the photographs in Auntie Bella's album, are four which all merit inclusion in this post. The first you will probably recognise as Pope Leo XIIIth (1878 - 1903); the next, Pope St Pius Xth (1903 - 1914) - inscribed His Holiness Pope Pius X in the Gardens of the Vatican, and in script on the reverse, a few hand-written lines with a date Dec 1906, and addressed to Miss Isabella Crabb, The Bishop's House, Portsmouth; then Pope Benedict XVth (1914 - 1922) - inscribed His Holiness Pope Benedict XV. The final photograph could almost be part of the 'Pro Papa League' armada, but actually in this context, it isn't. But it is a ship with spiritual connotations, for it is inscribed on the front, 'The "Duchess of Edinburgh" crossing to the Isle of Wight with the cortege of the Bishop of Portsmouth, D.B.Cahill'. Bishop Cahill died in 1910 and there are several additional photographs of the funeral procession in the album.

Bishop Cahill of Portsmouth RIP (1910)


Two readings from 'Thoughts from St Alphonsus' for month of October

"If we are in affliction, let us invoke Jesus, and He will console us. If we are tempted, let us invoke Jesus, and He will give us strength to withstand all our enemies. If we are in aridity, and are cold in divine love, let us invoke Jesus, and He will inflame our hearts" (October 6th)


"Often during the day make acts of love for Jesus Christ, beginning from the time you wake in the morning, and trying to make an act of love as you fall asleep. Acts of love, says St Teresa, are the fuel with which the fire of divine love is kept burning in our hearts" (October 13th)

God bless our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVIth, and protect him from all evil.

Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, pray for him.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Smile please .............

Humbly dedicated
to the Pro Papa League

A little light relief for the indefatigable sailors of the Pro Papa League, with thanks to, and courtesy of Paul Nichols of 'catholiccartoonblog.blogspot'.

I guarantee that Paul Nichol's site will bring a smile to the face of all those who 'have an eye to see', even perhaps ,dare I say it, certain members of the Hierarchy!

On a rather worldly note and rather guiltily, I feel obliged to admit that whilst I was thinking about this post, that wonderful, light operetta 'HMS Pinafore' by WS Gilbert and Sir A Sullivan, came to mind. I think it may be an association of ideas, with in one corner, the 'Pro Papa League', with a picture in my mind of the papal Armada, sailing or even steaming, resolutely across turbulent seas in support of our Holy Father; and in the other corner, a memory of Sir Joseph Porter KCB, declaring boldly to all and sundry, in 'The First Lord's Song', his great merit as the First Lord of the Admiralty, although he does admit to certain failings!

I hasten to add that this association of ideas in no way diminishes the respective value of either, in fact in a strange way they could be described as complementary, for both reflect the views and attitudes of the society of the day, and both have a singular purpose of spreading the truth to an unbelieving and ignorant world.

Of course one is a spiritual journey, and the other a worldly one, but there is the nub, for we know that this life is inexorably linked to the next, as man is to God. They cannot be separated.

So there it is, my excuse for this part of my blog. PS I do recommend the works of G & S, especially HMS Pinafore - one of my favourites!

Tomorrow, 30th September, is the feast day of St Michael the Archangel, the guardian angel of the Hebrew nation(Dan 10:13,21), and also the protector of the Catholic Church on earth, the Church militant.

The Book of Revelation states (12:7-9) 'Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels waged war upon the the great dragon was thrown down, that serpent of old..' St Michael vanquishing the devil, is the image of the Christian conflict of good versus evil, Christ versus the Anti-Christ. In religious art St Michael is depicted wearing a coat of mail, armed with a shield, and sword or spear, and like most angels he has wings (which distinguishes him from St George, the other slayer of dragons). St Michael is also represented weighing the souls of the dead to measure their 'just deserts', with Christian art commonly portraying St Michael holding a balance, with a human soul- a diminutive naked human figure- in each pan.

St Alphonsus says this about St Michael:- "In the Mass for the dead, the Church prays, 'May the standard-bearer, St Michael, bring them into the holy light'. The learned explain this prayer by saying that St Michael has the honourable office of presenting to Jesus Christ, the judge, all the souls that depart this life in the grace of God."(29th September)

Finally a concluding extract from 'Thoughts from St Alphonsus' by Rev C McNeiry C.SS.R -
"But tell me, my sweet Infant, why dost thou turn thine eyes on every side? What art thou looking for? Yes, replies Jesus, I turn my eyes around, for I am seeking some soul that desires me." (April 25th)

Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us, and protect and guide our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVIth.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Feast of the Most Holy Rosary

Good day 'Pro Papa League', and all who sail therein.

In just over two weeks time (7th October), we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary.

This coincides with the feast of Our Lady of Victories, instigated in honour of and gratitude to Our Lady after the naval battle of Lepanto (1571), when the fleet of the Ottoman Empire was defeated in one of the great sea battles of history. Prior to the battle, the Holy League fleet under Don Juan of Austria, had been dedicated to the special protection of Our Blessed Lady, with particular recourse to the prayer of the Holy Rosary.

Pope Pius V (later Saint) immediately instituted a new feast day of Our Lady of Victory to commemorate the victory, which dedication was changed two years later by Pope Gregory XIIIth to Our Lady of the Rosary, in recognition of the powerful efficacy of the Holy Rosary.

St Alphonsus has this to say ------- "There is no devotion so generally practised by the faithful of all classes as that of the Rosary. The immense good that this noble devotion has done to the world is well known. How many, by its means, have been delivered from sin! How many led to a holy life! How many to a good death and heaven!" (October 7th)

Very, very briefly, the Rosary prayer as we know it, dates back to the 13th century, the time of St Dominic, when its powerful spiritual efficacy was utilised and reflected in the destruction of the Albigensian heresy. Prior to that date and going back over many centuries, even to the Desert Fathers in the 4th century, there is evidence of the psalter prayers (Psalms) being recited in a numerical format, rather in the manner of the Rosary, but with stones or other counting devices being utilised. In more recent times the apparitions and words of Our Lady at Fatima, have emphasised not only the immeasurable spiritual value and graces attached to the praying of the Rosary, but also the absolute need for all to spread devotion to the Holy Rosary and the practice of penance, to be offered up in reparation for our sins.

Traditionally, fifteen promises were made by Our Lady to devotees of the Rosary, a tradition promulgated particularly by the Dominicans:-

  • Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the rosary shall receive signal graces.

  • I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the rosary.

  • The rosary shall be a powerful armor against hell; it will destroy vice, decrease sin and defeat heresies.

  • It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.

  • The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the rosary shall not perish.

  • Whoever shall recite the rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred mysteries, shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just, he shall remain in the grace of God and become worthy of eternal life.

  • Whoever shall have a true devotion for the rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.

  • Those who are faithful to recite the rosary shall have during their life and at their death the light of God and the plenitude of His graces; at the moment of death, they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.

  • I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the rosary.

  • The faithful children of the rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in heaven.

  • You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the rosary.

  • All those who propagate the holy rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.

  • I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death.

  • All who recite the rosary are my sons, and brothers of my only son Jesus Christ.

  • Devotion to my rosary is a great sign of predestination.

N.B. There are several excellent web-sites dealing with Lepanto, Rosary, 15 Promises of Our Lady, St Dominic, etc.. accessible through Google.


Our second extract from 'Thoughts from St Alphonsus', is salutary indeed:-

"Dearly beloved reader, though you should live as many years as you expect, a day will come, and on that day an hour, which will be the last for you. For me, who am now writing, and for you who read this little book, the day and the moment have been decreed when I shall no longer write and you will no longer read" (August 7th)

'Our Lady of the Rosary - pray for us, and protect our Holy Father from all evil'.

Monday, 15 September 2008

More thoughts from St Alphonsus

Dedicated to the 'PRO PAPA LEAGUE'.

Continuing with 'Thoughts from St. Alphonsus', it seems particularly appropriate to quote the thought
for today, 15th September, the Feast day of 'Our Lady's Sorrows'.

"Time, which usually mitigates the sorrows of the afflicted, did not relieve Mary;
nay, it even increased her sorrows; for as Jesus, on the one hand advanced in age,
and always appeared more and more beautiful and amiable; so also, on the other hand,
the time of his death always drew nearer, and grief always increased in the heart of Mary,
at the thought of having to lose him on earth."


Another special day, the Feast day of our Holy Guardian Angels, is celebrated on 2nd October,
and St Alphonsus clearly had great trust in the efficacy of these heavenly guardians.

"We ought to have great confidence in the assistance of our good angels. God's love for us
was not satisfied with giving us his Son Jesus for our Redeemer, and Mary for our advocate.
He has been pleased to give us also his angels to be our guardians, and has commanded them
to assist us during the course of our lives."

Our Lady, Queen of Peace, protect and guide our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVIth.
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Sunday, 7 September 2008

Thoughts from St Alphonsus

'Whitesmokeahoy' is humbly dedicated to the aims of 'Pro Papa Flagship', which site is strongly recommended. In this 'spiritual armada', it seems fitting to arm ourselves with appropriate 'holy' armour. 'Thoughts from St Alphonsus' is a collection of short writings by the Saint, whose work was particularly recommended to the faithful by Pope Pius IXth and Pope Benedict XVth, compiled by the Rev C McNeiry CSSR, and published by Burns, Oates & Washbourne in 1927. I hope to post two extracts from this book, on an occasional basis. In the book each extract is allocated to a particular day of the year, and most are quite short.

"If our confidence in God is great, great too will be our graces. St Bernard writes that the divine mercy is an inexhaustible fountain, and that he who brings to it the largest vessel of confidence, will take from it the largest measure of gifts." (16th February)

"If we are true servants of Mary, and obtain her protection, we most certainly shall be inscribed in the Book of Life." (30th May)

Our Blessed Lady, Star of the Sea - pray for us, and protect our Holy Father from all evil.