Sunday, 11 December 2011

The Sound of Silence

The title comes from that great 1964 song sung by Simon & Garfunkel.  However today at Masses throughout the Diocese of Aberdeen we were informed about a pastoral letter from His Excellency Bishop Hugh O.S.B.  Being a Benedictine he is much given to spirituality, thought, and writing to name just a very few of his talents.  This letter fully captures his stated desire for us all to develop a more profound spirituality.  I am sure you will agree what follows is the work of a very wise caring shepherd.  Lord, thank you!

 
Pastoral Letter
To be read and distributed at all Masses on the 3rd Sunday of Advent, 2011

 Dear Brothers and Sisters,

                        We live in a noisy world. Our towns and cities are full of noise. There is noise in the skies and on the roads. There is noise in our homes, and even in our churches. And most of all there is noise in our minds and hearts.

                        The Danish philosopher Kierkegaard once wrote: ‘The present state of the world and the whole of life is diseased. If I were a doctor and I were asked for my advice, I should reply: “Create silence! Bring people to silence!” The Word of God cannot be heard in the noisy world of today. And even if it were trumpeted forth with all the panoply of noise so that it could be heard in the midst of all the other noise, then it would no longer be the Word of God. Therefore, create silence!’

                         ‘Create silence!’  There’s a challenge here. Surely speaking is a good and healthy thing? Yes indeed. Surely there are bad kinds of silence? Yes again. But still Kierkegaard is on to something.                 

                        There is a simple truth at stake. There can be no real relationship with God, there can be no real meeting with God, without silence. Silence prepares for that meeting and silence follows it. An early Christian wrote, ‘To someone who has experienced Christ himself, silence is more precious than anything else.’ For us God has the first word, and our silence opens our hearts to hear him. Only then will our own words really be words, echoes of God’s, and not just more litter on the rubbish dump of noise.

                        ‘How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given.’ So the carol goes. For all the noise, rush and rowdiness of contemporary Christmasses, we all know there is a link between Advent and silence, Christmas and silence. Our cribs are silent places. Who can imagine Mary as a noisy person? In the Gospels, St Joseph never says a word; he simply obeys the words brought him by angels. And when John the Baptist later comes out with words of fire, it is after years of silence in the desert. Add to this the silence of our long northern nights, and the silence that follows the snow. Isn’t all this asking us to still ourselves?

                        A passage from the Old Testament Book of Wisdom describes the night of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt as a night full of silence. It is used by the liturgy of the night of Jesus’ birth:

                        ‘When a deep silence covered all things and night was in the middle of its course, your all-powerful Word, O Lord, leapt from heaven’s royal throne’ (Wis 18:14-15).

                        ‘Holy night, silent night!’ So we sing. The outward silence of Christmas night invites us to make silence within us. Then the Word can leap into us as well, as a wise man wrote: ‘If deep silence has a hold on what is inside us, then into us too the all-powerful Word will slip quietly from the Father’s throne.’

                        This is the Word who proceeds from the silence of the Father. He became an infant, and ‘infant’ means literally ‘one who doesn’t speak.’ The child Jesus would have cried - for air and drink and food - but he didn’t speak. ‘Let him who has ears to hear, hear what this loving and mysterious silence of the eternal Word says to us.’ We need to listen to this quietness of Jesus, and allow it to make its home in our minds and hearts.
                        ‘Create silence!’ How much we need this! The world needs places, oases, sanctuaries, of silence.

                        And here comes a difficult question: what has happened to silence in our churches? Many people ask this. When the late Canon Duncan Stone, as a young priest in the 1940s, visited a parish in the Highlands, he was struck to often find thirty or forty people kneeling there in silent prayer. Now often there is talking up to the very beginning of Mass, and it starts again immediately afterwards. But what is a church for, and why do we go there? We go to meet the Lord and the Lord comes to meet us. ‘The Lord is in his holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before him!’ said the prophet Habakkuk. Surely the silent sacramental presence of the Lord in the tabernacle should lead us to silence? We need to focus ourselves and put aside distractions before the Mass begins. We want to prepare to hear the word of the Lord in the readings and homily. Surely we need a quiet mind to connect to the great Eucharistic Prayer? And when we receive Holy Communion, surely we want to listen to what the Lord God has to say, ‘the voice that speaks of peace’? Being together in this way can make us one – the Body of Christ - quite as effectively as words.

            A wise elderly priest of the diocese said recently, ‘Two people talking stop forty people praying.’

            ‘Create silence!’ I don’t want to be misunderstood. We all understand about babies. Nor are we meant to come and go from church as cold isolated individuals, uninterested in one another. We want our parishes to be warm and welcoming places. We want to meet and greet and speak with one another. There are arrangements to be made, items of news to be shared, messages to be passed. A good word is above the best gift, says the Bible. But it is a question of where and when. Better in the porch than at the back of the church. Better after the Mass in a hall or a room. There is a time and place for speaking and a time and place for silence. In the church itself, so far as possible, silence should prevail. It should be the norm before and after Mass, and at other times as well. When there is a real need to say something, let it be done as quietly as can be. At the very least, such silence is a courtesy towards those who want to pray. It signals our reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. It respects the longing of the Holy Spirit to prepare us to celebrate the sacred mysteries. And then the Mass, with its words and music and movement and its own moments of silence, will become more real. It will unite us at a deeper level, and those who visit our churches will sense the Holy One amongst us.

          ‘Create silence!’ It is an imperative. May the Word coming forth from silence find our silence waiting for him like a crib! ‘The devil’, said St Ambrose, ‘loves noise; Christ looks for silence.’
Yours sincerely in Him,
+ Hugh, O. S. B.
Bishop of Aberdeen
 7 December 2011.      

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Prophetic ?

I am currently reading 'Pope John's Council' written by Michael Davies.  This is his second book concerning Liturgical Revolution; part 1 being 'Cranmer's Godly Order'.  I was given this copy to pass on to a certain young seminarian who is returning home on St. Stephen's day which means a lot of very late bed-time reading for me.  I came across the following passage which really struck me as somewhat prophetic and, in light of the launch of the 'New Mass', very contemporary.

Chapter XVI - Unearthing the Time-bombs (p 233)

Bishop (now Cardinal) Dino Staffa pointed out the theological consequences of an "adapted liturgy" on 24 October 1962.  He told 2,337 assembled Fathers: 
It is said that the Sacred Liturgy must be adapted to times and circumstances which have changed.  Here also we ought to look at the consequences.  For customs, even the very face of society, change fast and will change even faster.  What seems agreeable to the wishes of the multitude today will appear incongruous after thirty or fifty years.  We must conclude then that after thirty or fifty years all, or almost all the liturgy would have to be changed again.  This seems to be logical according to the premises, this seems logical to me, but hardly fitting (decorum) for the Sacred Liturgy, hardly useful for the dignity of the Church, hardly safe for the integrity and unity of the faith, hardly favouring the unity of discipline.  While the world therefore tends to unity more and more every day, especially in its manner of working and living, are we of the Latin Church going to break the admirable liturgical unity and divide into nations, regions, even provinces?
I shall leave you, dear reader, to ponder upon these words of His Eminence Cardinal Staffa.



Saturday, 26 November 2011

Gimme Some More, Some More, Summorum Pontificum

These are the words in the latest song for the "freedom" of Summorum Pontificum.  Composed and sung by the well known blogger Laurence England, his blogsite may be viewed HERE.

Apparently this song is going 'Viral', (seemingly a modern expression for becoming rather well known in a short space of time on the Internet), and now has been picked up by the U.K.'s  largest weekly religious newspaper the Catholic Herald.

Who says adherents of the Extraordinary Form are stuffy old octogenarians!!

Well done Laurence!!



Saturday, 12 November 2011

FIUV General Assembly, Rome



Another wee journey before I hibernate for the winter. 

On this occasion it was off to Rome during the first weekend of November to attend the 20th General Assembly of the Foederatio Internationalis Una Voce which is held every two years.  I was one of the two delegates from Una Voce Scotland.  The Assembly was held at a simple two star hotel which nevertheless served good food, had comfortable rooms, a chapel and a very fine auditorium with the added benefit of being only 15 minutes walk from St Peter's.

Arriving a day early Fred (UVS chairman) and I took the opportunity to go to confession and Mass at St Peter's on Friday then spent the remainder of the day sightseeing which included finding, after much going round in circles, the church of Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini entrusted to the care of the FSSP by His Holiness Benedict XVI. We purchased a travel pass for the duration of our stay which is very reasonably priced at 11 Euros for three days or 16 Euros for one week permitting you to travel by all types of public transport across Rome.



One of the many stunning domes in St Peter's

Saturday dawned and it was off again to St Peter's.  On this occasion Mass was to be very special indeed.  The Blessed Sacrament Chapel had been reserved for us and no less a personage than His Eminence Dario Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos was to celebrate Mass in the Forma Extraordinaria.  This was without doubt one of THE highlights of the weekend. His Excellency offered the Mass in a most wonderful prayerful manner with an incredible polyphonic schola providing the music which included Byrd's Ave Verum (sung here by the Tallis singers).  A true gentleman of the old school - I felt, and still do, truly blessed and fortunate to have met him. 
 
Dominus Vobiscum
A Holy Man at Prayer
 
Lunch was, once again, rather special.  His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke graced our gathering by joining us for lunch.  Indeed he had delayed his departure for the Netherlands so he could dine with us.  Another gent to be sure.

A Blessing before meal

Group photo opportunity

After lunch it was time to convene the General Assembly.  I shall not go into detail except to say I was not overly impressed with certain aspects of the afternoon's proceedings, and, not being noted for diplomacy, I fired off a salvo or two across the bows.  How to make friends and influence people - NOT.  Notwithstanding that it was a real pleasure to meet with other Una Voce organisations from around the world.  Delegates included representatives from Russia, Japan, New Zealand, America just to name a few.

Sunday morning and off to the FSSP church in Rome for Solemn High Mass.  When they were first given this church the pews were now overfull but how things change in a short time.  Due to full pews some of the congregation had to remain standing at the back of the church.  Two priests heard confessions before and during mass, seminarians and visiting priests filled the choir stalls and the schola sang beautifully.  To add icing to the cake I was able to chat with Fr William Barker who is one of the assistant priests there.  I last saw him during his priestly ordination at Wigratzbad in 2009.  (For videos and photos of that event please take this link to my blog entry).

After lunch it was time for the Sunday afternoon FIUV session.  We were rather fortunate in having some very good guest speakers including Monsignor Grau, president of the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music. For those who wish to read a detailed account of the General Assembly my I suggest they go over to the St Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association who have posted extensively on the weekend.

As usual I have posted a few photos which may be viewed HERE

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Tonsuring

Thursday the 20th of October saw me flying off to Germany to witness the tonsuring of seminarians attending the FSSP Seminary in Witgrazbad.  The ceremony was scheduled for Saturday morning but earlier that week each of the chosen seminarians was incorporated into the Society.  The incorporation involved, among other things, completing a submission as to why they should be accepted into the Fraternity.  This exercise, I am led to believe, requires to be completed on an annual basis until they reach the diaconate.

Saturday dawned with blue skies and a temperature of minus 3C as we set off for Das Munster Unserer Lieben Frau (The Minster of Our Lady) in Lindau on the Bodensee. 

 His Excellency Vitus Huonder, Bishop of Chur
awaits entrance of the aspirants

In the Fraternal Society of Saint Peter tonsuring is given to seminarians during the early part of their second year, the first being more of a discernment year, and includes clothing the seminarian in a soutanne, cincture and wearing the roman collar.

Those to be tonsured process into church

 Sprinkled with holy water

Tonsurants process into the church again,
this time clothed in their soutannes

The soutanne denotes the modern day cloth of a cleric, the cincture symbolically recalls the "girding of the loins" whilst the roman collar that of the "yoke" around the neck - all reminding the wearer of his giving himself completely to God and accepting the weight of responsibility this brings.


The moment of Tonsure

Locks of hair are cut from the front, back and sides of the head taking on the shape of a cross to remind the seminarian of the Christ Crucified.


The clothing in the surplice



A Bishop's Blessing
 
A happy Group Photograph

As usual I have uploaded additional photogaphs which may be accessed HERE

Please pray for all those tonsured -
Laurent Dejean
Manu Ihou
Edouard Laurant
Henri Lefer
Mark Miles
Alois Nespor
Jaromir Palka
Vasily Prusakov
Gregoire Remusat
Mateusz Rutkowski
Stepan Srubar
Nicolas Telisson
Hilaire Vernier
Roland Weiss



Friday, 7 October 2011

Abbatial Blessing

Monday the 3rd of October was a very auspicious day for Abbot Anselm and the community of Pluscarden Abbey.  Father Abbot was to receive his Solemn Abbatial Blessing from the Bishop of the diocese.  Not just any Bishop but Father Abbot's predecessor; His Excellency Bishop Hugh Gilbert O.S.B.  A very rare occurrence indeed.

Abbot Anselm Atkinson O.S.B.
I was very fortunate to receive an invitation to attend and so, after picking up a fellow oblate enroute, had a very pleasant early morning drive to the Abbey.   Things looked very hectic but under the direction of the new prior Fr Benedict (ex army officer and gentleman), the organisation and last minute rehearsals were soon dealt with.

Mass was without doubt the highlight of the day; a very solemn and devout liturgy with something I do not often experience at Novus Ordo Masses - contemplative prayerful silence.  Bishop Hugh's Homily, a eulogy from His Eminence Cardinal O'Brien plus a response from Abbot Anselm were a joy to listen to; Br Michael was in excellent voice as cantor with Abbots, Abbesses, monks, nuns, religious and diocesan priests plus interdenominational guests also joining the procession into the Abbey Church.

Fr Abbot says a few wise words to the Bishop's amusement whilst the Cardinal looks on.

After Mass there was, in best Benedictine tradition, a bun fest where everyone ate, drank and chatted meeting old friends and new.

As usual I took some photos but as I was restricted in where I was permitted to go I was unable to capture the actual blessing - not that this detracted in any way from the day I hasten to add.  Being there was more than enough for me.

Friday, 23 September 2011

A Visitation

Reading the Transalpine Redemptorists at Home blog site a couple of days ago I was very heartened indeed to read the following item:

Official Communiqué

Concerning the visit to Papa Stronsay
of His Lordship Bishop Hugh, OSB
and Very Reverend Stuart Chalmers
Vicar General

20 - 21 September 2011.




We have enjoyed the visit of the Bishop of Aberdeen and the Vicar General of the diocese, and have had positive discussions which will be taken further with the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei".


Fr. Michael Mary, F.SS.R.
21 September, 2011.
===============================

Bishop Hugh has many issues to address in the diocese of Aberdeen yet, after only one month in office, that His Lordship took the opportunity to pay a visit to this holy, devout and loyal community who still do not, after over three years, have full canonical rights, can only be construed in a positive light.  Is this a sign of our Bishop's dynamic style, unafraid to grasp thorny issues; reaching out to all his brethren in his now very enlarged community, just like Papa Benedict?  Yes, I think so.

The Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer have, I believe, five members of their community awaiting ordination to the priesthood.  Unfortunately until their status has been fully regularised these holy men may only wait and pray - as they are doing in all humility and obediently.

The world in which we live needs now more than ever before, holy priests to combat and become victorious over the machinations of the evil one whose minions are abroad in open daylight in this modern age. 

Thank you Bishop Hugh for placing the welfare of this community so highly on your very onerous schedule and duties.

Thank you Fr Michael Mary for bringing your community back to Rome.

Thank you Holy Father for your vision, wisdom and teaching.

Most of all Thank you Lord for being our Way, our Truth and our Light.

May Our Lady of Aberdeen watch over us all.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Edinburgh Fringe Festival

August was another hectic period - who said retirement is more easy going and relaxing.  

My wife (aka "she who must be obeyed") and I stayed in our flat in Edinburgh 'doing' the Fringe last week.  Of the 1290 performances available during the festival we managed ten.  Some wonderful productions with Shakespeare's 'Midsummer Night's Dream' and 'Ophelia' from Hamlet plus Alexander McCall Smith's 'The World According to Bertie' being very good indeed.  The clear winner for me was Ian Hardy's powerful, nay faultless, performance in 'The Trials of Galileo' written by Nic Young. 

On the liturgical front there was of course Bishop Gilbert's ordination in Aberdeen as one highlight (see previous post).  Also my participation in The St. Margaret Schola singing Vespers each Saturday evening and Compline by candlelight on Sunday night at St. Mary's Cathedral  Edinburgh throughout August.  Once again the format during Vespers was two choirs singing, one polyphonic and the other (us) Gregorian chant with congregational numbers of +/- 100. Each Compline comprised of chanting a different usage: Benedictine, Roman, Cistercian and Dominican.  Attendance was good at around 50 for Compline (at 9pm on wet and windy Sunday nights we adjudged those very good numbers).  The highlight of our contribution to the fringe this year was Couperin's Messe pour les Paroisses on Friday 26th.

Next month it is back to salmon fishing to "chill out" for a week or two.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Aberdeen's New Bishop

On the Feast of the Assumption I was privileged to attend the episcopal ordination of the Bishop of Aberdeen, H.E. Bishop Hugh Gilbert O.S.B. at St Mary's Cathedral in Aberdeen.


Motto: Omnia in Ipso constant
All things hold together in Him (Christ)

His Eminence Keith Patrick Cardinal O'Brien was the principal Consecrator with Archbishop Conti of Glasgow (previously a Bishop of Aberdeen) and Bishop Emeritus Moran of Aberdeen as co-consecrators.

It was wonderful to see all the community of Pluscarden attend this historic occasion and quite rightly participating in the Mass in singing the Introit, Gospel Acclamation and leading the singing of the Litany of the Saints. 

Sitting behind me was one of Scotland's premier composers, James Macmillan, who had composed a very pleasing Motet "Ecce Sacerdos Magnus" especially for the Bishop's ordination.

On a historical note this is the second occasion a superior of Pluscarden Abbey has become the Bishop of Aberdeen; albeit the first time was almost 500 years ago in 1529 when Pope Clement VII appointed the then Prior Learmond coadjutor Bishop with right of succession.

In his address during the reception after Mass the Bishop hinted that changes would be forthcoming but had only one to announce that day.  Fr. Stuart Chalmers (my ex parish priest) was to become the diocese's Vicar General replacing Canon Mann.

I regret I have no photographs of the event as when attending a priestly ordination the previous month in the Cathedral, it was announced that no photography, other than by the official photographer, was permitted. I was a little annoyed to be informed that I could take photographs this time around - of course I had left my camera at home.

As a footnote the Bishop will still be known by his religious name Hugh, rather than his birth name of Edward, as he remains a Benedictine monk and, as he told me a few week's earlier, will retire to Pluscarden.

Please pray for His Excellency Bishop Hugh Gilbert O.S.B.

Monday, 15 August 2011

New Abbot Elected

Following ratification from Abbot Bruno Marin, Abbot President of the Subiaco Congregation, Dom Anselm Atkinson OSB was elected as the new Abbot of Pluscarden Abbey on Tuesday 9th August 2011.

Dom Anselm was duly installed as Abbot by the Right Reverend Francis Baird, Abbot of Prinknash Abbey, acting on Abbot Bruno's behalf.

Abbot Anselm made his first monastic vows at Pluscarden in 1976 at the age of nineteen.  He was ordained priest in 1982 by the Right Reverend Mario Conti, who was then Bishop of Aberdeen.  He was sent to study at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, where he gained a Licenciate in Sacred Scripture.  Since the late 1980s he has been resident at Pluscarden's daughter house in Petersham, Massachusetts, where he was Superior until his election as Abbot of Pluscarden.  In 2003 he was elected Abbot Visitor, which entails monitoring the progress of all the monasteries in our province.

Dom Anselm Atkinson O.S.B.
Abbot of Pluscarden Abbey

Bishop Gilbert O.S.B., newly ordained Bishop of Aberdeen and former Abbot of Pluscarden, will carry out the Blessing of the new Abbot at a later date.  Speaking with Bishop Gilbert recently he intimated that he wished this to be one of his first official engagements as Bishop.

Many thanks to Pluscarden for the use of the photograph and short bibliography of Abbot Anselm.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Abbatial Election

I would ask for your prayers for the community of Pluscarden Abbey this next week in especial.  Solemnly professed monks from the dependant house of Petersham Monastery, and Fathers' Bede and Giles from the joint foundation of Kristo Buase, have now returned to their mother house to join with their brethren for this auspicious occasion. 

The election has been brought about following the Holy Father's wish that Abbot Hugh Gilbert be the next Bishop of the Diocese of Aberdeen.  An Abbatial election is, without doubt, a defining moment in any religious community; much in the same way as is that of a Bishop, or indeed a Pope.  The election will be presided over by the Abbot of Prinknash, the Right Reverend Francis Baird.

Pray that Our Blessed Lady, Saint John the Baptist and Saint Andrew, to whom the Abbey is dedicated, may be with the monks in their deliberations and that they be guided by our Holy Father St Benedict.


Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Fra' Fredrik Crichton-Stuart Requiem Mass - Videos

After a number of failed attempts (so what's new), I have succeeded in editing (badly) and uploading parts of the video from Fra' Freddy's Solemn Requiem Mass.  I do hope you find them satisfactory








Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Solemn Requiem Mass

Today I attended Lauds and the Solemn Requiem Mass for H.E. Fra' Freddy Crichton-Stuart which took place at St Mary's Metropolitan Cathedral.

Mass was offered by Fr. J. Emerson FSSP with Fr Deighan as deacon and Fr. B. Gerard FSSP as sub-deacon. In choir was His Eminence Keith Patrick Cardinal O'Brien, H.E. Fra' Gheraldo Hercolani, Legate to H.E. Fra' Festing, Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of the Knights of Malta, His Grace Mario Conti Archbishop of Glasgow, Fr Hugh Gilbert Bishop Elect of Aberdeen (Abbot of Pluscarden), fellow Knights and Dames of the Knights of Malta, Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, Family and friends of Fra' Freddy.

I was given the honour of photographing this moving event and have uploaded a few which may be seen here and the slide show here



Archbishop Conti of Glasgow (right) with Bishop-elect Gilbert of Aberdeen on the left 


Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta


His Eminence Cardinal O'Brien delivers the eulogy after Mass


I shall upload the video I took in the next day or two as my schedule permits (sorry for the delay).

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Fra' Fredrik Crichton-Stuart R.I.P. UPDATE

Yesterday I was informed of the death of Fra' Freddy.  We first met in Pluscarden Abbey whilst we were both on a retreat many years ago.  He became a friend, colleague and mentor to me and was instrumental in introducing me to the Old Rite (Forma Extraordinaria).  We sat on the Una Voce Scotland committee over the past years, he as chairman, and saw each other on Sundays in Edinburgh where we attended Mass in the Usus Antiquior.

This professed religious of the Sovereign Military Order of St John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta (Knights of Malta) became the 56th Grand Prior of England, also Delegate of Scotland and the Northern Marches for the Order.  A tireless worker for the Order and their many charitable undertakings.

He,  like his forebears, was a devout Catholic.  His great grandfather, the 3rd Earl of Bute, was the man who bought the ruins of Pluscarden Abbey and handed them over to the Benedictine community of Prinknash who turned it into one of the most thriving communities of monks in the UK today.

A prayerful man, a confidant and teacher who will be sorely missed by us all in Scotland.

Fra' Fredrik Crichton-Stuart   (1940 - 2011)

Requiescat in pace



 
Details of Funeral Arrangements

Monday 27th June

Reception of remains and Vespers at 5 p.m. at St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Edinburgh.

Tuesday 28th June

Lauds at 10:30 a.m.

Solemn Requiem Mass at 11:15 a.m.
Celebrant Fr. John Emerson FSSP. His Eminence Keith Patrick Cardinal O’Brien, His Grace Archbishop Mario Conti and Knights of Malta will be in choir. Cardinal O’Brien will preach the homily.

There will be a reception in the Cathedral Hall after Mass. 

Fra’ Freddy’s burial will take place at 3 p.m. at Mount Vernon.


Saturday, 4 June 2011

New Bishop of Aberdeen


H.E. Bishop Peter Moran
Abbot Hugh Gilbert  O.S.B.




PRESS RELEASE

At 12 noon today in Rome (11am GMT) it was announced, that Pope Benedict XVI had nominated Abbot Hugh Gilbert as the new Bishop of the Diocese of Aberdeen.

He will succeed Bishop Peter Moran who has been Bishop since 2003. Reacting to his appointment, Abbot Hugh who is currently Abbot of Pluscarden Abbey near Elgin said;
“The Holy Father, Benedict XVI, has nominated me to succeed Bishop Peter Moran as Bishop of Aberdeen. As a Catholic Christian and Benedictine monk, I accept this as the call of Christ, and, trusting in the help of God and the saints, intend to give myself wholeheartedly, like my predecessors, to the lay people, religious, priests and deacons of this beautiful diocese.”

The Bishop-elect added;

“I have much to learn, and it will not be easy to leave my monastery after 37 years. But I do so knowing that I am not going among strangers. I commend myself to the kind hearts and prayers of all whom I am called to serve. Together in Christ may we shine with the light of his Resurrection!”
Responding to the news Bishop Peter Moran said:

“After my nine years at the helm of Aberdeen Diocese, seven of them as Bishop, I am happy that the Holy Father has named Abbot Hugh Gilbert to take over as my successor. He is, of course, well known in the diocese to clergy and laity alike. I welcome him most warmly.
During his nineteen years as Abbot, Pluscarden Abbey has continued to be the serene spiritual heart of this diocese. I am confident that his spiritual leadership as bishop will bring many graces to the members of the diocese, and to the wider community, in the years to come.”
Reacting to the announcement, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said;
“I am delighted to welcome Abbot Hugh Gilbert, Abbot of Pluscarden Abbey, as the new Bishop of Aberdeen - and, consequently, as a member of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland. The name and the reputation of Abbot Hugh are well known outside the confines of his monastery. His spirituality and his writings, have inspired many throughout Scotland and indeed in other parts of the world. May God indeed bless him at this present time, as we say a very sincere thanks to his immediate predecessor, Bishop Peter Moran, who has fulfilled his apostolate as Bishop of Aberdeen and a member of our Bishops' Conference, in an exemplary manner.”
Commenting on the nomination Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow said;

"As native of Aberdeen diocese, where I spent 25 happy years as Bishop, I am delighted at the appointment of my second successor. The Abbot is well known to me. I had the joy of ordaining him priest almost 30 years ago and later of blessing him as Abbot of Pluscarden. If it can be said that Abbot Hugh's appointment is a loss to the Abbey, there is great gain for the diocese of Aberdeen and the wider Catholic community of Scotland in his being named Bishop. The news will be particularly welcomed in Aberdeen diocese, where Pluscarden has warm links with every part of the territory and is recognised as a thriving centre of spirituality, monastic practice and culture in the north of Scotland. Abbot Hugh has played a key role in the success story that is Pluscarden over the last few decades, a period which has seen it expand its influence far and wide.
I also wish to pay warm tribute to my friend and colleague Bishop Peter Moran whose resignation on age and health grounds has now been accepted. Bishop Peter's wise and warm leadership mean that Abbot Hugh will inherit a diocese in fine heart.
ENDS
Peter Kearney

Director
Catholic Media Office


This is joyous news indeed in two respects. 

First for Bishop Moran who has soldiered on through continuing ill health for some months and who deserves to have his remaining time without the burden of responsibility that the Episcopate brings.

Second for Abbot Hugh, whom I have known for many years, and, as an oblate, he is my "boss" as Abbot of Pluscarden.

Please pray for both men and the communities of Pluscarden, the diocesan clergy, religious and laity of the Diocese of Aberdeen.

Te Deum Laudamus ................

Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Clarification

I have refrained from commenting thus far on Universae Ecclesiae as I am without doubt ill equipped either academically or endowed with sufficient wisdom to provide any meaningful opinion.  That I have left to others such as the inestimable Fr. Z and that learned priest Fr Hunwicke.  For those who wish to read the thoughts of these gentlemen please take the links here and here (there are additional threads but these will start you off nicely).

Having read their clarifications - note: clarifications not interpretations of the Latin original, I sadly recalled the Pope's request upon his elevation to the Chair of St Peter, to pray for him that he may be preserved from the wolves who surround him.

I truly find it incredulous (admittedly through nievity) that individuals based in the Vatican would put their very souls at risk just so their own agenda is promoted.  I have read that translations in other languages such a Spanish are far more accurately translated; hence my belief it is individuals and not PCED or Ecclesia Dei per sae.  To purposely omit crucial adverbs throughout is rather dissapointing to say the least.  One or two, whilst deplorable, could be forgiven, but to consistently leave them out is, in my opinion, calculated.

It is not often I rant so please forgive me.  I have thought, and prayed, about this injustice to the Pope and the Church's faithful for some days and still find myelf unable to let it go.  Perhaps posting this will give me a closure of sorts.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

60 and Still Kicking

Well folks that dreaded day has finally arrived.  Yesterday on the 3rd Class Feast of St Gregory of Nazianzen I left behind the 'Fighting 50s' and entered into the 'Swinging 60s' although with my creaking hip and knee joint that phrase is firmly in the my dreams category.  I had thought of a more appropriate phrase when I started to type this blog entry but now can only come up with 'Senile 60s' which I am most certainly not.  Oh, if only I could remember what that phrase was!

Anyway I have applied for my bus pass which should arrive in a week or so and then look out Scotland here I come.  No corner will be safe from a visit by me.  For those readers who reside outside Scotland you are eligible for FREE bus travel anywhere is Scotland once you reach the dignified age of sixty.  Now I am retired and no longer jetting off to exotic climes I shall explore this beautiful country of mine - for free, which is something that warms any Scotsman's heart.  

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Holy Week in Edinburgh

St Andrews Church, Belford Road, Edinburgh


Sacred Triduum


Maundy Thursday 21st April     5:00 pm     Mass of Our Lord’s Supper

Good Friday 22nd April     3:00 pm     Liturgy of the Passion

Holy Saturday 23rd April     8:30 pm     Easter Vigil Mass

Easter Sunday 24th April     11:30 am     Solemn Mass


Tenebrae

Thursday, Friday, Saturday     8:00 am      St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh


Yours truly will be in Edinburgh from tomorrow until Sunday where I shall be singing Tenebrae each morning and in the afternoon/evening be the oldest (and most befuddled) altar server assisting in the celebration of the Sacred Triduum liturgies. Please pray for my long suffering Schola Director (Alan) and Master of Ceremonies (John) as I bumble my way through each service.
 
To all my readers I pray that you found the strength to hold true to your Lenten observances and, as we draw close to Easter, that your Catholic faith and belief have deepened.  For my main Lenten reading this year I chose "The Banished Heart" by Geoffrey Hull (2010 revised edition).  So well written that even I was able to follow his train of thought; once I understood what 'heteropraxis' meant.  I hope your readings were also edifying and inspiring.

From today's collect at Lauds (Monastic Diurnal):

Almighty and eternal God, grant that we may celebrate the mystery of our Lord's passion in such a manner as to deserve the pardon of our sins.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Kristo Buase - Ghana

I found myself rather fortunate to be able to visit Kristo Buase, a dependant house of the English Province of the Subiaco Congregation, on two occasions in the past.  The monastery was jointly founded  in 1989 by Prinknash, Pluscarden and St. Augustine's Abbeys.  Although a joint foundation  and canonically under Prinknash, the monastery has, of late, been reliant on monks from Pluscarden.  Fr Ambrose was there for some time but unfortunately suffered several serious illnesses one of which required several months recuperation in more favourable climes.  Not for nothing is Africa known as the white man's graveyard!  Fr Ambrose is now Procurator General of the Congregation and a member of it's curia based in Rome.

The current prior is Fr Giles of Pluscarden and, if rumours reaching me are correct, he may be joined  later this year by Fr Bede, another Scotsman from Pluscarden Abbey - by way of St Mary's Petersham in the USA  (a daughter house of Pluscarden), where he has spent the past few years.

Traffic Holdup
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A road market starts during a traffic hold up.
Kristo Buase means "Christ in the Rocks" and is situated in Northern  part half of Ghana just a few kilometres north of Techiman a major town in the Brong Ahafo region.  I travelled from Accra the Capital of Ghana located in the south of the country; the first part by air to Kumasi (the heartland of the Ashanti tribe), then taxi the second time driven the whole way by a fellow oblate (of Kristo Buase) named Benedictus in a hired car.  This took us approximately 14 hours arriving at Kristo Buase just after Vespers.  By this time my 'derrière' was rather numb having travelled over some unpaved roads (nigh on dirt tracks) for some time.

Frs. Ambrose and Giles made us most welcome as did all the community and we quickly settled in for our retreat after a health and safety briefing - mandatory use of mosquito nets and what to do in the event of an armed robber attack - yes it has happened on more than one occasion.

I felt immediately at home and quickly fell back into the rhythm of Benedictine life - ora et labora, here as at any monastic community.  In choir the main difference was that the office is sung in English rather than Latin but thankfully with no frozen, high vaulted ceiling stone church robbing the voice and body of warmth.

Fellow Oblate Benedictus reads the lesson
Benedictus reads the first lesson at Sunday Mass
The monastery cultivates cashew nuts as a cash crop (so who said money does not grow on trees?).  On my first visit Fr Ambrose kept pigs but that did not last for long.  Food is simple and national dishes the norm.  Thankfully having spent a few years living in Africa my stomach has learned to accept such fare.  Poor Fr Giles has yet to reach that stage.  When I saw him last at Pluscarden he looked decidedly thin.

Fond memories of a lovely small community, not without its trials, but full of trust in the Lord.

A Cheery Cheerio
A fond farewell from two of the best dressed monks in Africa !
See some more photos HERE




Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Oblate News - bits and bobs

I have recently joined a highly informative Benedictine Yahoo Group which I strongly urge all Oblates to join.  The notes and commentaries are based on the Monastic Diurnal published by St Michael's Abbey Press (Farnborough Abbey) in England.  The diurnal is in parallel Latin and English and is quite easy to follow, especially with the daily updates from the TradBen group. Additionally, there is a very useful and growing reference 'File' section containing, amongst others, an interpretation of the psalms.  Please do visit this site. 

A recent viewer's comment on a video I posted last year regarding the Oblate Weekend prompts me to remind fellow Benedictine Oblates that a double DVD is available to anyone in both PAL and NTSC versions for the price on a donation to Pluscarden Abbey. Most talks are recorded in High Definition.  The talks could easily form topics for discussion during your regular oblate group meetings.  PM me HERE if you are interested in more information on either subject.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Singing the Office on Retreat

On Sunday we accompanied the community to the main island of Stronsay for Mass with the local island population and were delighted to be included in the schola for a Missa Cantata.  (Whilst the F.SS.R. await full canonical status, the Bishop of Aberdeen has given them permission to offer Mass on Stronsay in addition to the Monastery on Papa Stronsay).

Papa Stronsey Retreat
A nun at prayer after Mass at Stronsay Chapel

The Office of the Hours are sung mainly 'Tonus Simplex' by the F.SS.R., except for Feast Days and Sundays, using the traditional Roman Breviary.  As Fr Michael Mary said, they are not a monastic community and their charism lies elsewhere.

Mark joined the community for the Office whist Alan and I, being Benedictine oblates, requested we  be allowed to follow the Benedictine Office.  Not only was this approved but we were given permission to use of the Holy Sepulchre Oratory which the Sons of The Most Holy Redeemer had converted from a cow barn.  The interior was almost complete with furnishings rescued from a convent in Belgium including a wonderful altar, choir stalls and stations of the Cross.  One brother commented how wonderful it was to know that prayers were being offered  to God simultaneously in both chapels of the Monastery.




Papa Stronsey RetreatTabernacle in Holy Sepulchre Oratory



Under the expert leadership of Alan, the schola director of St Margaret's, I began to chant the Office using my Monastic Diurnal, Alan meanwhile using his Monastic Antiphonale.  All went well for the first few days with Alan being most solicitous in assisting me with the psalm tones and antiphons.  Disaster struck in the form of me losing my upper register from what can only be described as overuse on Wednesday.   From 'singing like a linty' (a linnet [linty] is a small finch once very popular as a cage bird because of its melodious song), to singing like a bull frog.  

For me this was heartbreaking as well as voice breaking, and so for the remainder of our retreat I had to sing sotto voce - another great lesson in humility! However this is the wonderful thing about retreats insofar as finding your spiritual strength through external and internal exercises.  I for one would not change these opportunities in experiencing humility, charity and fraternity for anything.

More soon.