Facebook and Com-boxes

My brother priest Fr Jonathan Munn shows sympathy for whom he calls “the administrators of a certain Sarum-based Facebook group“. I thank him for his discretion. I am the founder of Use of Sarum on Facebook, and my other brother priest, Fr Andrew Scurr, is a co-administrator, something which is useful now that we are 1,720 members. Fr Jonathan has expressed himself in Being right in the com-box.

Just after the little rififi of someone asking a genuine question about the Use of Sarum on behalf of a female member of the clergy of some institutional Church, and someone expressing surprise by this seeming act of collaboration or treason, I wrote a posting. I later followed it by a comment in the light of some of the things written by other people’s comments.

Just a little housekeeping reminder: There has been a posting which seems to have disappeared, about finding texts in English of the Sarum Missal. I added a comment linking to some Word documents that can be formatted and printed as anyone wants. There was something of a dispute about the original post referring to a clergy woman and someone expressing surprise. I belong to a Church that doesn’t ordain women. However, the subject is not germane to this group and we need to avoid polemics and potential nastiness. Please respect the mind of this group that I have tried to convey: polite conversation about the Sarum and other medieval western liturgical traditions and something of the spirit of a university seminar. We can also discuss practical matters, but please keep the polemics away.

I have to say that I have accepted members onto this list via the criterion of not accepting those who are extremely unlikely to be interested in the subject matter, or who join hundreds of groups for the purpose of promoting their particular agenda, marketing, spamming or scamming. There are borderline requests by people in other parts of the world, at least interested in Christianity, and I just have to assume they want to learn about something new for them. Also, there are requests from clergy and laity of the Church of England or the American Episcopal Church, some of whom are female clergy. I resolved from the beginning to accept requests on the basis of at least a potential interest in the Use of Sarum (and other medieval liturgical traditions). I have implicitly trusted such female clergy not to promote their convictions in this domain. I myself have a sister going for ordination in the Church of England, and I belong to a Church that doesn’t ordain women. What do I do? Live in perpetual conflict, or come to understandings on another basis? In the end of the day, we are not here to worry about other people (unless they come to us for help and advice) but the health of our own souls. Such “another basis” can be the subject of this group – the Use of Sarum. We are now 1,698 members, and we are not all from the same institutional Church with the same orthodoxies. I went from that basis because I believe that the study and use of the Sarum liturgy cannot be restricted to any one institutional Church or system of orthodoxy. I took a risk that it would all implode or explode, but so far, some very good work has been done and made known. Let us continue on that basis…

These unpleasant episodes happen. I have long experience with blogging & flogging, people with fanatical emotional reactions and the Nozzle of Weirdness as a Canadian journalist I know put it. Maybe for many of us, being put into lockdown and then brought out of it and told there is still a risk of infection is getting to our subconsciousness and affecting our rational faculties. I am not joking or making fun.

Fr Andrew and I keep a watch on this kind of thing, not because it brings personal suffering, but because it can cause a group dedicated to its subject to collapse into a polemical and off-topic mess. It has happened on groups dedicated to vestments and clerical dress and even some of my sailing groups where religion is generally not discussed. Things have to be nipped in the bud.

Supposing the group had to be restricted to traditionist Roman Catholics, I doubt there would have been ten members. The subject would be demolished by the idea that Sarum isn’t explicitly allowed in the Roman Catholic Church, then by speculations about the Pope, Our Lady of Fatima and other apocalyptic messages, which priests are valid, etc. usque ad nauseam… We could be all Continuing Anglicans or Methodists or the Church of England. There would be no point. The question cannot be entrusted to any institutional Church or members only of that institution. I have said it all in my two quotes above. We come from everywhere and we have the Use of Sarum as a common interest. Otherwise there is no relationship between all those 1,720 people who don’t know each other for the most part.

Personally, I have become utterly exhausted by polemics over the subjects that have been debated for decades. There is no end of it. From all points of view, it erodes the very point of Christian faith and spirituality, bringing out a sense of boredom and ἀκηδίαsee more adventures of Micky Drivel next week

It is easy to become upset with Facebook, but without it there would only be silence. It has replaced the old Yahoo e-mail lists with a user-friendly and graphic interface that makes it possible to include photos and links to websites. Facebook can have constructive uses if the limits are firmly set. Otherwise, without any self-moderation, it becomes an addiction for empty and frustrated souls, d’où the phenomenon of trolling and other uncivil behaviours.

We can simply moderate threads with just the right amount of force made possible by excluding offenders who are unwilling to explain themselves rationally and respectfully. That prevents us from having to close the group and deprive many genuine liturgical students and enquirers from the intended benefit of what I created, motivated by my own interest in the subject.

Sometimes, people ask to join the group. At first, I put questions to try to find out whether they were actually interested in the subject. Then some were not answering the questions, but were manifestly interested in Christianity and liturgy by the other groups to which they belonged. Now I go by this second criterion. I set the bar low so as to give the benefit of the doubt. I can always get rid of someone who is looking for money or wanting to spread ideas that are nothing to do with the subject, for example politics or a new hair shampoo. Such things have rarely happened. We are probably twenty or thirty members to be posting on the Sarum liturgy and contributing to something very positive in terms of dispelling ignorance, teaching and working for practical revivals as church worship. For this reason, the group continues.

Facebook is used for all kinds of things. This seems to be a part of the genius of its design and what made its owners very rich people. In its basic configuration, you set up an account and you make “friends” by accepting their requests or their accepting yours. You can then join groups or set them up. I set this one up. I have set up others that were less “successful”. It can become addictive if you don’t have clear and rational ideas. There are irritating things like “tagging” so that someone can start posting their stuff on my Timeline. It took a while to find out how to turn that option off. It is a complex piece of “machinery”, morally neutral in itself, just like a sharp knife which most of us use for cutting food in the kitchen, and which can also be used morally or immorally.

Conversations are public, according to the group settings. Use of Sarum is very open and we need to take that into account. Outside the subject matter, people’s beliefs and conviction of what is true are as diverse as in any social context in real life. A large group like this one is mostly self-regulating in regard to cantankerous people or troubled souls.

Finally, it is not the com-box that is at fault, any more than the carving knife in the kitchen drawer, but us as human beings. It is the Enemy Within in ourselves, in our own inner conflicts threading their way through our whole lives. This is where we have to care for our spiritual souls and live as incarnate spirits of God – and be human beings.

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Online and recorded Mass

I have decided to discontinue my liturgical recordings and I encourage those who would like to attend online or recorded Sarum masses to go to Fr Andrew Scurr’s page on Facebook (ask for his “friendship” if necessary). I will continue to post other outdoor and office-based (computer and webcam) videos.

A part of the reason for this decision is the poor quality of my videos due to using a mobile phone (“bumping” image and mediocre sound quality). Experiments with my computer and webcam were even less conclusive. The only other option is an expensive camcorder, which might be possible in the future.

I also need to learn more about video editing using the appropriate software and various techniques like dubbing and fading. It is a new world for me.

Fr Scurr is doing a sterling service with his daily online and recorded Sarum Masses in Latin (or the English Missal). I recommend him for those still under strict lockdown or those who are vulnerable for reasons of health and age.

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La Fête-Dieu 2020

Corpus Christi according to the Use of Sarum. The proper is identical to that in the Roman missal. I give a few reflections on the joy of La Fête-Dieu in French or Fronleichnam in German as still celebrated in towns in Switzerland and southern Germany to this day, where this procession unites with the civic life of the community. It reflects our joy to be Christians. Also, the Blessed Sacrament and the Church are one and cannot be divided, even if the Host is broken into an infinite number of pieces. So with the Church, our communion in Christ before being a political or bureaucratic institution.

I was wearing my oldest vestments, French and probably from the late eighteenth century, but in poor condition. This is regrettable because the cloth has a fine design on it.

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Anglican Liturgy in Latin

I have just discovered this fascinating article St Columba and the Scottish Liturgy in Latin which includes the video:

As one who celebrates nearly always in Latin, I appreciate his reasoning by Revd Dr Stephen Holmes for the use of Latin in an Anglican and reformed context. His approach is refreshing compared with some arguments advanced by traditionalist Roman Catholics. It is interesting to discover that the Reformation required the liturgy to be celebrated in a language understood by the people, but did not abolish all use of Latin.

Here is another article: Praying The Book of Common Prayer in Latin.

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To be a Romantic or not, that is the question…

This little piece is intended to replace a criticism I made of a posting written by a brother priest and a dear friend. By deleting the post, I was certainly more severe on myself than on him.

What concerned me more than anything was an association being made between mob fanaticism in forms it is presently taking and a partial understanding of Romanticism. Of course, there were / are as many Romanticisms as Romantics. The word also describes a historical cultural phenomenon and an enduring world view. We cannot pretend to be living ten or twenty years after the French Revolution, but we can make historical comparisons to come to some understanding about our own response to give.

Like most people, I listen to the news or look at Google News (France, USA and UK) and have noticed that the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is no longer in the headlines, but rather a very angry reaction to police brutality and alleged (sometimes very real) racism. It is as if the anger was bottled up by the quarantine and lockdown and has suddenly exploded. Our world has become a very dangerous place. Politicians, in their manipulation, lies and self-interest, have become about as useful as a chocolate teapot as the world erupts into something like a replay of the 1790’s or the 1930’s. Is the only problem that people are motivated by emotion rather than reason? I fear that violent demonstrations cause problems rather than solutions.

As people fight the police in the streets of Paris or New York, I live in a peaceful village in Normandy. I write and try to understand things at a deeper level, both in terms of formal reasoning and “depth psychology”. I live my little life. Is my detachment from the great controversies cowardice and indifference? Should I be in Paris bawling slogans and braving the tear gas bombs and truncheons? I sometimes wonder whether we should stay in what a witty person has coined as “Covid 1984” with Orwell’s dystopia in mind. Byron went to fight the Turks on the side of the Greeks, and died of illness. Orwell went himself to fight the fascists in Spain. Was it his war? Is anti-Brexit and “Black Lives Matter” mine? Would it do any good for me to be beaten, perhaps maimed and get a criminal record? I really honestly believe that humanity needs to seek justice at another level.

Simply put, the kind of emotional energy being discussed is raw anger and rage provoked by the way human beings behave in crowds. I have been for a long time convinced that collective intelligence is not intelligent. Human nature is not conscious, only human persons are. A crowd of humans is no more intelligent than a flock of sheep or a herd of cattle. Such emotion is destructive, not creative or capable of intelligence at any level. It is no more spiritual or creative than rational. Rob Riemen has studied the phenomenon of “mass humanity” or the crowd, and found in it the main cause of ideologies like fascism. I find this theme in both of his recent works Nobility of Spirit and To fight against this age.

Compare the fury of the Sturmabteilung in the 1930’s against Jewish shops and businesses in German cities, and then consider the Romantic movement in terms of philosophy, art, poetry, literature and music. Most of Romanticism precisely sought to reconcile modern rationalism with the creative imagination, far above cheap emotions and anger and sentimentalism. If Romanticism is all emotion and political ideology, the refusal of rational dialogue, then there is something wrong with it. There is Romanticism and Romantics. Some went far off the rails into immoral lives and sometimes to suicide. Others had clearer ideas about reconciling the achievements of the Age of Reason and the role of the creative imagination, the faculty in man that is responsible for art, literature and music.

One aspect of the article I criticised was the opposition made between strict Aristotelian logic and romantic idealism. I myself received teaching from the Angelicum in Rome and my seminary in the same country. At Fribourg, I was exposed to another way of “doing” theology through a less foundationalist view of truth and knowledge. Life simply doesn’t fit the convenient mathematical categories. The Papacy sought to bring back strict scholasticism at the end of the nineteenth century as a reaction to idealism and liberalism. It no longer had credibility in the minds of men like Newman and those who were labelled “Modernists” in the 1900’s. It would have been like an adult being forced to live and think as a child. The problem is human language and communication. Words don’t mean the same things to different people!

We need to continue studying philosophy and fundamental theology (concerning faith, revelation, tradition and reason). These are current questions that have been tackled most courageously by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI in their writings on faith and reason. Traditionalism (in its nineteenth-century meaning) and neo-scholasticism are two extremes to avoid. Benedict XVI incurred a considerable amount of criticism for singling out fundamentalist Islam as an example of a religious expression refusing the role of reason. The Regensburg Address is a monument in this work of reconciling faith, tradition, emotion, imagination – with reason. Ratzinger’s fundamental theology was a capital influence in my theological education at Fribourg. In my eyes, Ratzinger is a Romantic in the great German tradition, though perhaps more on the rationalist side, a man of my own heart as a theologian.

Romanticism itself was an early attempt at this work of reconciling the rational movement that was destroyed by Jacobinism and the French Revolution with the emerging inspirations of the human spirit. This is nobility of spirit and the ideal to which I humbly aspire.

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Trinity Sunday 2020

Trinity Sunday according to the Use of Sarum. The sermon was not prepared but consists of a number of fairly disjointed reflections about the meanings of words in different philosophical contexts, also about questions of altered consciousness caused by drugs, techniques of meditation and some mental illnesses. All that to say that we do not possess the keys of knowledge and that the Trinity remains an inaccessible mystery.

I did not prepare a sermon, partly because of a domestic crisis, and partly because I am quite tired of the repeated formulae of the creeds, especially St Athanasius, the definitions of the Ecumenical Councils and the Scholastics basing their concepts and language on Aristotle’s metaphysics and epistemology. I arrived in chapel with the book by Jon D. Zizioulas, Being as Communion, which go into questions of ecclesial communion as an image of the life of the Trinity. One of my dogmatic theology professors was Jean-Marie Tillard, OP, who gave us the treatise on the Trinity, from a completely Eastern Orthodox point of view. I have his book Eglise d’Eglises, L’écclesiologie de communion (Paris 1987) which is largely based on his trinitarian theology. Another one of my dogmatic theology professors, Fr Jean-Pierre Torrell, OP, gave us the course on Christology and insisted on the changing meaning of theological language in history. If you understand French, here is a little talk he gave on why God became man:

I found myself thinking about the changing meanings of words, correlating with the alteration of human consciousness that can occur via different agencies like drugs, meditation or what materialist psychiatrists call mental illness. During the Mass, I was struck by the apparently confused and surrealistic ideas of St John as he related his mystical experience in the words of the Apocalyse, or Book of Revelation as we Anglicans usually call it. My thoughts passed to the born-again narrative of the Gospel, how we cannot be born again physically and how the evangelist “magical” formula is a fallacy. These allusions and parables of Christ are all about the immanent and transcendent Kingdom (Βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ). Even then, in our materialistic and technological era, how can we be expected to understand these words and concepts? The Kingdom becomes locked as with padlocks and chains. Et clausa est ianua

These past few months have exhausted me spiritually. Yes, there has been the coronavirus and the lockdown. In particular, the very notion of truth – even on the materialistic plane – has been distorted to political ends. Theories of scientists have been touted as science. Science is only achieved by the theory being put to the test by a controlled experiment, in order to become certain knowledge. How many times have we been taken for fools, not only by scientists who confuse theory and science – but also by the deniers and troublemakers. Almost immediately, we find ourselves on the brink of a race war because of the appalling behaviour of an American policeman with a fascist type ideology who killed a man instead of arresting him for the minor offence he had committed. Truly, the virus is sinful humanity.

I have a French film, Le Vieux Fusil, about a village in which the SS killed the entire population including the wife of a doctor. The doctor returned to the village where he had a second home and his wife and children were already there. On arriving, something was obviously wrong, and the vehicles of the SS men were still there. He saw his wife brutally killed with a flamethrower. On going into the church, men, women and children lay dead, machine-gunned by the SS butchers. On seeing the tacky and garishly coloured plaster statue of the Sacred Heart, in his absolute grief, he throws a chair at it and breaks it into pieces. What language was the statue conveying? One of cynical indifference to human cruelty, suffering and death? What was the iconic value of such a vulgar piece of bondieuserie?

These questions of language are reasons why I find it so difficult to find something meaningful to say on the Trinity, this ineffable mystery that meant something other to the ancients than us in our age and materialistic mindset. Yes, we need to study these questions of theology and philosophy, especially the relationship between God and man, the meaning of personhood and love. The Trinity is an image to give us some understanding of God and the notion of relationship between persons, which constitutes the idea of communion and the Church.

I recommend reading the Eastern Orthodox authors like Zizioulas, Lossky and Bobrinskoy rather than dry scholasticism. The Trinity is at the centre of our belief as Christians, but everything depends on the use we make of such knowledge.

* * *

I am extremely flattered to find my own thoughts reflected in this sermon by Dr Rupert Sheldrake, a scientist who has transcended materialism. I have read some of his books. Of course, he is much more erudite and eloquent than I would ever hope to be. The essential theme is the language of God, the Word, consciousness and energy. This is very moving and stimulating:

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Kind words from Argentina

WordPress informs me when other blogs and sites on the web have referred to my blog. A little encouragement from time to time is good for morale.

Raúl Oscar Amado is professor of history at the National University of Luján, Argentina. He has a blog called Contemplationibus, Traditio – Fides – Ratio.

It is a highly personal look at Christian belief and spirituality. It is a beautiful example of lay spirituality at its most elevated. Increasing numbers of people have become tired of the endless sectarian polemics and desire to plot a new course, study and writing on spiritual and theological subjects. Like many of us, he is inspired by Orthodox theologians and saints as well as the classical western tradition of St Thomas Aquinas and C.S. Lewis, Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Jacques Maritain and others.

In Nuevo blog y algunas preguntas sobre el catolicismo independiente (New blog and some questions about independent Catholicism), he mentions my blog:

Not only do I have my own experience, but that of a blogger and clergyman I greatly admire, the Rev. Anthony Chadwick, a man whom I admire and share his tastes of liturgy and sailing (my father was a sailor, hence I inherited it).

It is not an occasion of sinful pride for me, but gratitude for the possibility of doing something positive in this world, especially on the Internet which can be a very hostile environment. Perhaps this is so because it creates possibilities for worldwide communication that we simply didn’t have just a few years ago. It can be used for both good and evil.

My interests have widened over the years as I try to combat my typical “aspie” tendency to see only narrow fields of interest whilst failing to understand the big picture. For me, theology, philosophy, music and sailing (exploration of nature) become facets of a wider vision through the ideas and imagination of Romanticism. Add to that another couple of principles I have learned from the Benedictine monastic tradition: Operi Dei nihil praeponatur – nothing is to be preferred to the liturgical worship of God. The second is ora et labora, pray and work – with our hands (garden, workshop, etc. and intellectual – translating to earn a living and writing). Like our friend Raúl, I experience life as a pilgrimage and a journey.

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Cruise on the Seine 2020

I have just been for a two-day cruise on the Seine, from Sunday afternoon to today (Tuesday). I managed to get some pleasant sailing between the long hauls upwind under power. Welcome to my little world outside churchy subjects…

Last August (2019), I explored the part of the Seine between the point of the word “Seine” to the west of Les Andelys. I went a little to the south of Vernon. This time, I launched near the second set of locks at Notre-Dame de la Garenne to avoid doing the same segment of the river as last year. Just nearby, there is a launching ramp at Le Goulet.  I sailed past Giverny and Bonnières-sur-Seine and turned back at Vétheuil at the east of the meander. I could have continued to the third set of locks, but was concerned about time.

As I mentioned in some of the short videos (strung together), the Eure is one of the most beautiful and poetic parts of Normandy. This is Impressionist country, the Giverny of Claude Monet. Debussy lived for a time at Pourville-en-Mer on the Normandy coast near Dieppe. It is suggested that the light in this part of the world is conducive to Impressionist art. It must be something to do with the sea air and the topography of the land. I am also a fan of Camille Pissaro and have seen several special exhibitions in Rouen. I could believe it as my little boat forged ahead under sail or power through the backwaters and alongside the wild islands.

I spent the time entirely alone, far away from fear of viral diseases, whilst seeing people emerging from their homes with expressions of joy and hope. According to mainstream news, the virus is declining. Whether or not there will be a second wave like the Spanish Flu, that is another matter. France will not lock down again, but will take the proper precautions (we hope). Away from crowds of people in places of mass tourism, work and social life, the world is completely “normal”. Every species of bird sang melodiously in the woods, with the cuckoo and the wood pigeon. With the fragrance of leaves and earth, was I already in paradise.

It is different from the sea, which has its own soul and consciousness. In the videos, I am less poetic than terre à terre, concerned about the mechanics of sailing and camping on board such a tiny boat. I would wake up in the small hours with an aching back, but would then return to les bras de Morphée and weird dreams. Only this morning, I thought of the Spirit moving over the waters as I rose early and found steam on the glass-smooth surface with thousands of insects flying or “rowing” on the surface (water boatman).

The Seine is one of Europe’s great rivers with the Loire, the Danube, the Elbe, the Rhine, the Garonne, the Rhône, the Thames and so many more. Each river has its story to tell.

I need to learn about video presentation and how to edit videos…

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Whitsun 2020

Whitsun 2020. Mass of Pentecost Sunday according to the Use of Sarum with sung Officium, Sequence and Communion.

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Whitsun Vigil 2020

Here is my Whitsun Vigil according to the Use of Sarum but with the biblical readings in English.

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