THE Catholic Truth Society which, in case you have not noticed, has severely modernised itself, has brought out a small book of prayers collected by that most literate Jesuit, Fr Philip Caraman.
it is an anthology that an atheist could read for aesthetic delight.
It is also a practical instrument for a practising Christian and is certainly catholic in its selection, ranging from the Armenian and Coptic liturgies to prayers by St Thomas More and prayers which were once precious to huddled recusants
and even one by Dag Hammarskjold.
It also includes one by Erasmus "For our parents who. though he remained within the Church (just) I never thought of as a man of prayer.
There are also several splendid Protestant prayers, marked as much by the orthodoxy of their sentiments as by the splendour. There is one by John Donne (1573-1631).
He was a strange man, a Catholic for a time. But either his ambitions or his prodigious learning caused him to join the establishment.
He ended up Dean of St Paul's, where his white effigy, surviving from the gothic cathedral burnt in the Great Fire, can be seen propped up vertically and neatly tied in a winding sheet at the head and the feet.
He wrote some marvellous poetry, some of it of a distinctly non-devotional character and 'quite unsuited to these chaste pages. He wrote a number of great, rumbling sermons that can still be read with delight. One of the greatest of these is against the Jesuits, so it was generous of Fr Caraman to include him. His is a fine prayer for God's protection and it
ends: "Do thou so make my bed in all my sickness that, being used to thy hand, I may be content with any bed of thy making."
The little book, called "Praying Together" is essentially for quiet prayer behind a closed door. So the person you are praying with is meant either to be God or the writer of the prayer. I am not sure which.
Royal courtesy in St Peter's
ONLY the one English paper seemed to have noticed it, but during the canonisation of St John Ogilvie, Princess Alexandra and the leaders of the Ogilvy clan, who are of the same family though now differently spelt, received Holy Communion. It was an accident which need cause no fuss, though the Italian Press have called it ar; "Ecumenical scandal."
What happened was that the Pope was giving Communion to a hundred selected communicants at the papal altar. A group of priests went down among the packed congregation
giving Communion as they went.
The Ogilvy party were kneeling in the front row and the zealous friar popped the Host into their mouths. They were not too sure about the Catholic drill, for it could have been quite in order by the Anglicans for a Catholic to receive in an Anglican church.
And then there was a question of courtesy, they felt it rude to wave away the Sacrament. And, anyway, it all happened with that flashing and impersonal speed with which Italians do such things.
A Vatican spokesman who was also a Master of Ceremonies sounded a bit flurried when he passed the buck saying: "How were we to know? She didn't have 'Protestant' written on her forehead."
Any Press officer could have done better than that and have been more civil in doing it.
No, the comment I liked was that of Canon William Purdy, He is a very English Englishman on the Secretariat for Christian Unity. He said: "The monk made a complete ass of himself. The organisers should have tipped him off about the people who receive Communion."
Canon Purdy plays, or used to play, cricket. He brings a sort of bluff and cheerful eccentricity to the Curia which they seem to like. Anyway they expect it of the English.
The report also says that it is believed to be the first time since the Reformation that a member of the Royal Family has received Communion in a Catholic church. We are running out of "first times since ..." in ecumenical occasions. And, anyway, is this true?
We won't count the deathbed of Charles 1. But what about James II and what about the foreign queens? St Oliver Plunkett stayed at court for several months with the royal Catholic chaplain on his way to take up his post as Archbishop of Armagh.
MAYNOOTH, near Dublin, used to have the reputation of producing highly conventional, unadventurous, obedient and unsubtle priests. I am not sure if this was justified, but the place was certainly the power house of a conservative Irish Church.
It was founded in 1795 by Act of the Irish Parliament, It was twice heavily subsidised by the British Government in the 19th century, partly as a sop to the Irish and partly to make it unnecessary for them to train priests abroad where they might pick up dangerous ideas about freedom which they had anyway.
It is a vast, handsome barracks of a place with a chapel so frantically gothic and be-pinnacled that it looks as if it could draw blood. Quite a lot seems to be going on there and it has long since shed its old reputation among anyone who knows about it.
Recently the Irish bishops had their meeting there, The 17 Bishops of Ireland are the trustees of the college. The students wanted p say in the appointment of the professor to the Chair of Moral Theology. They had accepted, albeit rather grudgingly, the appointment of a new vice-president. Now they wanted a say in the appointment of the new professor.
A Fr Vincent McNamara whom the students backed had been lecturing, on a temporary basis, on the subject for the past five years. Fr Cornelius Williams, OP, was, however, given the Chair and, while the Bishops were there, the students boycotted theology lectures for a day. In the end there was a compromise. Fr Williams got the chair and Fr McNamara was confirmed as lecturer, and democracy had had a good
though brief canter through those hallowed quadrangles. Incidentally, the Irish Bishops did some quite interesting things. They introduced a service called "Curam" which is Irish for "Care". This will provide a confidential telephone number which Irish girls can call when they are "in trouble".
This, it is hoped, will provide advice and help that will not make it necessary to trail over to England, which has long been the traditional escape for the women, They praised the Women's Peace Movement and declared that the men of violence were a minority.
And then there was the question of nullity which, if it were not tragic, would be funny. At present the Church has eased the application of its nullity laws in marriage. But there is no legal and secular divorce in Ireland.
As a result it is possible in theory for good, remarried Irish Catholic couples to be living in bigamy in the eyes of the law while in a state of grace in the eyes of the Church.
So they will approach the Government, whith if it is not too busy finding a new President will surely oblige.
Some time ago I suggested that microphones were becoming liturgical objects. After all, they stand among the chalices on altars, are set before bishops and get censed, willy-nilly, at the reading of the Gospel.
Perhaps, therefore, the) should he blessed, 1 also sato that I would write an appropriate prayer in Latin. No one has asked me for one, which is just as well.
Yet there are many Catholics here who yearn for the old language in the liturgy not that it is forbidden anyway. To satisfy those who hunger for the involuted clauses of the old Collects. Mr John Luckman of Bath has sent me two forms for the blessing of microphones.
I give them to you untranslated. Mr Linkman also added the suggestion that the compositors who have to set them up be prayed for.
Oratio ad machines benedicendas.
Deus, qui famulos tuns potentiam fulguralem moderare mirabiliter docuisti, el exercere mirabillus erudistl: praesta quaesumus; ut hos auricellos sou stentores ceterasque disseminandi machines caelesti benedictione sanctifices: ut quite olim prophetic atque apostolic commisisti semper et ubique fulgidius ampliusque magnificentur. Per Dominum.
Alia Oratio ad libitum prout attinet.
Deus, qui balbum et mussantem Morsen per os Aaron populum docere iussisti: concede propitius; ut rennin tin per hos auricellos stentoresque vi fulgurall operatos illuminati, ad ceelestia regua atque ad revelatIonem divini luminis perducantur. Per dominum.
AN American Catholic magazine has come up with the idea of Computerised Confession, It should be called Computerised
Operations (Nonretrievable) for Expediting Sinner Services, or CONFESS. This will help out the shortage of priests and reduce the time spent waiting in a queue outside the old-fashioned confessional.
You enter the CONFESS box and kneel before the computer's typewriter console. You type out your personal code number no one else can get
at your stored record of sins, hence "non-retrievable".
The typewriter will then type back your name and how long it was since you last used the machine. You then type out your personal sins.
You then press the button which operates the machine. Say your Act of Contrition, You
will probably only have time to say; "I am sorry".
Finally, remove your personalised card which will give you your penance and, perhaps, a brief and suitable exhortation from one of the thousands stored in the computer bank.
Only one bug remains. No way has yet been devised whereby the machine can pronounce the absolution. But then, nothing is beyond the reach of science, holy or otherwise, these days.
SOMEONE once, looking back on an elegantly misspent life said: "Never apologise, never explain." Clearly he was an arrogant man who had tended from time to time to behave spectacularly badly.
In a way, if you cannot continue to behave well, it is excellent advice. Bunches of roses next morning after a fall, say, so heavy in the French Embassy that it rattles the Sevres, does no good at all.
I hasten to assert that I have never been inside a French Embassy anywhere in the world. But I once knew someone who did precisely this and he survived by that motto.
But if you make an unforgivablg mistake in cold print, then a correction should be served up as an apology and 1 have recently dropped two clangers. Only a few will have noticed them. But they require a putting right and an admission of error: at least for my own peace of mind.
The first concerns that descendant of Cardinal Weld whom I described as Lord Clifford, Well, he was not a peer though he was a Papal Chamberlain of the Cape and Sword, which must have been almost as amusing all those ruffs andjutting swords in the Sacred Palace.
Standing for hours in illdusted anterooms, with Monsigniori breaking into a flurry of silk as they hurried through crowds who might ask for favours, and leaning in the
embrasures of equisitely painted rooms and looking out over Rome and wishing it were a groust moor and dying for a cup of tea or a dram and none of those uniforms ever really fitted.
Anyway, Henry Clifford was not Lord Clifford. He was one of his younger brothers. But then 1 always get caught high up in the branches of family trees and am too proud to call for the help of someone with the proper ladder to get ate down. Then I got a most civilised letter of reproof which I cannot bury in a wastepaper basket. A few weeks ago, a couple of books about Our Lady came out almost at the same time. I described them as "sceptical" and meant it, well, rudely. The letter was from Marina Warner, who wrote a book which displayed some hostility to the cult of the Virgin Mary. This is she says is true.
But the other, by Geoffrey Ashe, who wrote "The Virgin," she writes, "has a great devotion to the Virgin which illuminates every page of his recent book." He is also a member of a lay confraternity based on Aylesford Priory. I then went on to write that I had no intention of reading either of them because 1 have this inbred thing against discourtesy to Our Lady and I had written from my reading the book reviews.
Several points arise. I have done Mr Ashe a grave injustice. Marina Warner. has behaved with generosity and civilised impatience. And, after announcing that I had no intention of reading them, then to pass a swift judgment on them is professionally and morally reprehensible,
I was, even for a journalist, deep in the wrong. And neither of those Mariologists even theeatened to sue.