disgruntled of Peebles

Or: Why it would be very difficult being a proper Conservative in Germany.

On two week-days, Holy Mass is celebrated in the chapel of a Catholic Hospital close to my place of work. Whenever I can, I attend Mass there. Usually, (after the sisters left, but that is another story), there is a congregation of some seven to twelve, and you know the majority of them by sight at least. Today, however, I was in for a surprise.

I was a wee bit late (mea culpa), and was struck, on entering, by seeing two sets of equally, but differently, colourfully dressed of young men standing to the left and to the right of the altar, three each side, and one each holding a big flag.

One side looked like this:


Who EVER thought these hats would NOT look utterly ridiculous? (They are not meant to, you know.)

The other more like that:


More romantic. Less ridiculous (somewhat).

Additionally, there were some 15 young men in dark suits in the pews (left and right).

Now, I will admit to some partiality towards young(ish) men in suits, or kilts, or historical uniforms. That instinctive reaction, however, was tempered, in roughly equal parts, by the GNT* reaction to anything even remotely military, and by my background knowledge, and very, very ambivalent position about/regarding Studentenverbindungen.

Them being the top adversaries of far-left student groups, they would, (a) enjoy my pre-conversion automatic disapproval, and (b) my post-conversion advance of goodwill (because most things hated by the far left are not as bad as the media make us see them).

Actually, when Communist-Germany I started to study at a western German university, meeting actually existing real-time Burschenschaftler was an experience akin to meeting actually existing real-time knights: History come alive, and you hardly believe it.

For this reason, I do not have the instinctive aversion to them that, let us say, Magdalena has. In fact, I took part in a number of activities of one particular fraternity, distinguished by having female active members (Is this a particularly bad thing, in this context, or an attenuating circumstance? At this time of the day I get confused by double-negatives.)

Still, for a ‘normal’ contemporary German (and probably anyone else), they are weird, to say the least.

Coming, at last, to the liturgical question.

These people seem to regard themselves as soldiers in gala uniform. Now we, in Germany, are neither predominantly Catholic, nor exactly demonstratively militaristic, at the moment. There are therefore no Masses with military prominently present (aka Remembrance day, etc.), here.

Now even admitting that these Studentenverbindungen have an equal position for that purpose: What should their role in the liturgy be?

German me says:

Simply kneeling/standing in the pew like everyone else, full stop. (Would be quite efficient as well, maybe, to have ostentatiously uniformed men kneeling in front of Our Lord, in Germany, today.)

What they did, however was:

Keep their more or less stupid hats on, all the time.

Never knelt.

Most of them (the disciplined left side, anyway) staring straight ahead,  not at the altar.

At the words of consecration, the left side, at least (those with the particularly silly hats), did this: The flagbearer lowered the flag, and the other two saluted. (No-one knelt.)

At recession, the priest stood for a while, ad orientem, while these chaps saluted/lowered the flag, and left before the priest.

How should this have been done (if done at all)? (Real question to the liturgists!)

At least, at 30+, I am finally mature enough to charitably think ‘Bless their little hearts!’ and smile at them (leaving the not really quite suppressible grin for when they have left), and appreciate that at least they go to Mass (and, some of them, dress well) before getting, probably, hideously drunk.

*GNT: German National Trauma



WHAT a time to get bitten by a tick and got on an antibiotics therapy against Borreliosis that will make you, among other unpleasant things, SERIOUSLY SENSITIVE (in the ‘Fingernails-drop-off-if-you-stay-a-whole-day-outside-in-spite-of-factor-50-sun-protection’ sort of way) to SUNLIGHT.

Because of this:


Or, more generally speaking, because their programme includes the abolition of Church Tax and Religious Education in state schools. Both would do the Church in Germany no end of good.

Not having been a Catholic when I was at school, I have no first-hand experience of RE lessons, but from all the accounts I have had both of RE lessons themselves, and of the ‘recruitment’ and training of future RE teachers (for some school forms, RE used to be a job guarantee, and much less hassle to study than ‘proper’ subjects like maths, science or languages), the situation seems to be grim indeed.

Moreover, the Church in Germany has too much money. There is probably enough in this topic for a really profound and insightful reflection, but due to restrictions of time and intellectual capacity, I will focus on the example depicted above: The plan for the renovation of a church I know and love. As background information, the church is an 18th cent. building in a region where most churches were built during the concrete-box-stile. Currently, the interior is very pleasant and prayerful in a down-to-earth, unspectacular sort of way: A proper sanctuary with altar steps; a 19th cent. Crucifixion group of average artistic value, with a tabernacle-like looking tabernacle at the foot of the cross; a post-VII lectern and people’s altar, but actually rather tastefully done; a small Marian chapel: somehow a place that feels like a proper church, which both I and several of my friends have liked from the first time entering it.

Now, however, it will be renovated.

I entirely agree that the walls could do with a new layer of paint (they are pink, originally, but now quite greyish). If there are ways to improve heat isolation without wrecking the place, I am also in favour of that. But why, oh why, would one want to rip out everything, at immense cost, to give the above? We are no longer in the 60s or 70s!

The majority of the parish feels more or less the same way as I do, so if they had to rely on our voluntary donations, I do not think they would get anywhere with this concept.

And that is just one, albeit a particularly awful example of how money is wasted. What a shame that Aelianus is right with his reminder to me that we are not to do evil so that good may come from it… I will have to comfort myself with the thought that German secularism will probably embrace the Communist position in this respect in the near future without my active collaboration.

It’s all a bit Disgruntled of Peebles round here recently, but these three posts on the postconciliar machinations south of the border make interesting if sad reading.

How did we get here I

How did we get here II

How did we get here III and final 

Anyone know someone who could do a similar thing for Scotland? Thomas FitzPatrick who wrote that Faith in Education book?

The people’s missal, 1961 edition, in my possession proudly states (by means of bold print) that, while particularly commemorating the Holy Mother of God, the Liturgy of the Octave Day of Christmas does in now way mention the beginning of civil society’s new year (if  this is an appropriate translation of ‘Beginn des neuen bürgerlichen Jahres’. In a spirit of aggiornamento, however, all masses (NO) of New Year’s Day to which I have been during the eight or nine years have managed not only to focus almost entirely on that aspect (or alternatively on it being World Peace Day of some sort), but also to exclude nearly every reference to it being, acually, the Solemnity of Our Lady, Mother of God). This includes the substitution of the collect by some prayer referring to the start of the new year, a custom so universal that it actually seems to be included in liturgical books of some sort.

January 1st is, however a holy day of obligation throughout Germany. I know this because only a short while ago I decided there must be a list of these somewhere on the internet, and there is indeed, even though I have never ever before come across it. I guess the majority even of well-catechised orthodox Catholics would not know which they are.

In the whole of Germany: Christmas Day, the Solemnity of Our Lady, Mother of God, the Ascension.

In some dioceses, generally in those where these days are public holidays, but also in some where they are not: the Epiphany, Corpus Christi, the Assumption, All Saints.

The Solemnities of St. Joseph, of Saints Peter and Paul, and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception are no holy days of obligation.

Probably uniquely, however, the feast of St. Stephen, Monday in the Octave of Easter and Monday in the non-Octave of Pentecost are also holy days of obligation, by virtue of being public holidays, one assumes. I would therefore like to forward a motion of including the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker and that of St. Gregory the Great as well.

No, not for all the positive response to my German Autumn Poetry Excesses I would not have subjected you to any more German, had it not been for the encouragement of Aelianus (whom I would accuse, if I was uncharitable, of hoping of Google trafic), and for long-time annoyment with one particular German Marian Hymn.
It used to be a very nice Marian hymn, one just as Marian hymns ought to be: praising Our Lady, assuring her of our devotion, begging her for intercession with the confidence that there is nothing that needs to daunt anyone protected by her;  plus the whole with an appropriately touching tune:


Maria zu lieben, ist allzeit mein Sinn
in Freuden und Leiden ihr Diener ich bin
Mein Herz, o Maria, brennt ewig zu Dir
in Liebe und Freude, o himmlische Zier

Maria, Du milde, Du süße Jungfrau
Nimm auf meine Liebe, so wie ich vertrau
Du bist ja die Mutter, Dein Kind will ich sein
im Leben und Sterben Dir einzig allein

Gib, daß ich von Herzen Dich liebe und preis
gib, daß ich viel Zeichen der Liebe erweis
Von Dir mich nichts scheide, nicht Unglück noch Leid
Dich lieb ich auf ewig, Dich lieb ich allzeit

Ach, hätt ich der Herzen nur tausendmal mehr
Dir tausend zu geben, das ist mein Begehr
so oft mein Herz klopfet, befehl ich es Dir
so vielmal ich atme, verbind ich Dich mir

Du Trost der Betrübten, zur Hilf sei bereit
Du Stärke der Schwachen, beschütz mich im Streit
wenn wider mich kämpfen Fleisch, Hölle und Welt
sei Du mir als Zuflucht zur Seite gestellt.

But then, we had renewal, and a new text.  Now, à la  Eucharistic Prayer IV, we give Our Lady a biography of her own life (It is also incorrect, I am assured, as for however lowly the job of a carpenter might have been, we have no indication in the Gospels that th Holy Family was actually destitute – even if this would be helpful in a Revulutionary Christianity way):


Maria dich lieben, ist allzeit mein Sinn;
dir wurde die Fülle der Gnaden verliehn:
du Jungfrau, auf dich hat der Geist sich gesenkt;
du Mutter hast uns den Erlöser gschenkt.

Dein Herz war der Liebe des Höchsten geweiht;
du warst für die Botschaft des Engels bereit.
Du sprachst: Mir geschehe, wie du es gesagt.
Dem Herr will ich dienen, ich bin deine Magd.

Du Frau aus dem Volke, von Gott ausersehn.
dem Heiland auf Erden zur Seite zu stehn,
kennst Arbeit und Sorge ums tägliche Brot,
die Mühsal des Lebens in Armut und Not.

Du hast unterm Kreuze auf Jesus geschaut;
er hat dir den Jünger als Sohn anvertraut.
Du Mutter der Schmerzen, o mach uns bereit,
bei Jesus zu stehen, in Kreuz und in Leid.

Du Mutter der Gnaden, o reich uns die Hand
auf all unsern Wegen durchs irdische Land.
Hilf uns, deinen Kindern, in Not und Gefahr;
mach allen, die suchen, den Sohn offenbar.

Von Gott über Engel und Menschen gestellt
erfleh uns das Heil und den Frieden der Welt.
Du Freude der Erde, du himmlische Zier:
du bist voll der Gnaden, der Herr ist mit dir.

As a former Protestant, the veneration of Our Lady was a major stumbling block for my conversion. Even now (I have to confess) some ofSt. Louis de Montford’s statements about Our Lady (for all he is my year’s Saint)  quite disturbe me. But such a bland hymn text as the new one presented above would absolutely bore me to sleep, if it would not enrage me sufficiently. If a Marian hymn is not either close-to-kitschy pleeding, or satisfactorily triumphant, or of quiet and queenly dignity, it has no right to exisit, IMnsHO.

(SPUC and SPUC Scotland are separate organisations.)

Now, back in the day, the branch of SPUC I joined did two things I particularly remember. We shoogled collecting tins, mostly outside football grounds, and one quiet lady prepared letter-writing materials on matters of the day. She investigated the question, identified and described the players, mustered and summarised facts and arguments, and sent all this out to a list of people who used this to write letters to the relevant MPs and the like. Funds went mostly to SPUC Scotland in Glasgow. They produced useful leaflets which we stuck through doors before elections or important votes. They also trained people to give one-off presentations in schools, and provided them with materials for the presentations. None of this was earthshaking, but it was all concrete, and worked on an “enabling” model that assumed there were other people who wanted to do something about promoting a culture of life even if most of their time was taken up with family and work.

I always assumed this was rather the point of SPUC. A few people given over to doing the legwork that most people don’t have the time, or perhaps the facilities or ability, to do. The charities index and the handy voting records index produced by London SPUC seemed to be along exactly the same lines, and there was the great and hugely useful 2002 book A Way of Life (a revised edition of a book produced when there was a particularly concerted effort to get more abortion into Northern Ireland).   Stuff people could actually use.   The  Love your unborn neighbour book produced by SPUC Evangelicals was something I was happy to pass on to a girl from my college CU.

Now I get news digests in which the first item advertises a talk by a Catholic apologist, and most of the rest are about sex education and assorted legislation to do with men who like to engage in sexual activity with other men.  And the “SPUC Director” blog varies this with insider comment on Catholic affairs.

The many bizarre ways in which the place of sexual activity in human life is conceived (sorry) are in large part the cause of the acceptance of abortion. And ultimately without the Gospel no moral discourse can understand human reality. But while most people who work for or support SPUC will hold these positions, is attempting to promote them the work for which SPUC was founded?


Dagnabit. One should not read work e-mail on a Sunday, so I cannot complain that this one carried the due punishment with it.  As an excuse I have to say that when one hears at last something of a paper submitted half an eternity ago, one may be excused for just having a glimpse at the reviewer feedback. One should not have done so, though! Reject and resubmit!! What next?! FIVE (!) reviewers, in a journal that normally just uses one, and all complain about/praise different things!! (And all but one moron less well informed person think it should be published; considering the rubbish they do publish they ought to be glad; but I always thought it was a thouroughly disagreable journal…)  [grumble]

As usually, PHD comics hits the nail on the head:

John Hunwicke writes that his ordination in the ordinariate has been postponed. He gets up my nose for no fault of his own but rather through that of my irritable character; people who have met him appear to be charmed. He writes Stuff that is based on Thoroughly Ruminated Actual Facts and That, and, contrary to my cynical expectations, when push came to shove he gave up his massively erudite home-made rubrics and actually converted. Well done that man, I thought to myself, and Don’t be so judgemental of Anglo-Catholics. Anyway, he’s given up blogging, as he thinks the deferral is because of said blog (or what was said therein).

Let us consider the story someone shares on her blog. [Here was a bit that wasn’t, it turns out, about her.]

The year I did the RCIA, that Easter I saw some persons who I know that, when they were asked as they stood on the sanctuary whether they believed and held true all that the catholic church teaches, that when they said ‘yes’  they were lying. Not just that, but that they didn’t think there was anything wrong with that, because you weren’t required to believe everything – the question was just a formality, part of the aesthetics of the ritual. Yes, only  God sees the heart, but unless they were lying to me about what they believed, then I know this with 100% certainty.

[Some more stuff that I got wrong, sorry. But the point must have applied here too – either someone who was responsible for admitting them to baptism knew what the case was, or was permitted to believe that it was other than it was.]

Of course it’s one thing to admit someone to baptism, and something else to admit them to the ministerial priesthood. Of course, we don’t know why the sniffy ex-Anglican has had his ordination delayed, while folk known not to accept Church teaching were admitted to baptism (when the nature of faith means that to reject part of the Church’s teaching means to reject it all, and hence not to have faith at all). But I’m sure most of us know blatantly scandalous situations that are ignored. The musician with a live-in lesbian lover (now “civil partner”) employed by a Catholic parish as director of music (and receiving Holy Communion).* The politician who supported provision of abortions who is a lector in her parish. If the clergy, who have the grace of state to teach, say nothing, they pull the carpet out from under the feet of the laity to whom they are so often proclaiming the universal call to evangelization and the need to be unafraid to preach the Gospel.

*(Yes, “employed”! With actual money! In a UK Catholic parish. True story.)

Remember the confession survey fabrication?

Here’s another confession-related fabrication in the news.

Really, the only point of reading the papers is to set you off googling and flicking through the blogs to find out what actually happened.

And when you’ve wasted lots of time doing that, you need the Carolina Chocolate Drops to get you back to revising your months-overdue translation. Only you then spend fifteen minutes digging out ms paper to transcribe the tune …

I’ve put Ches Bond back up on the blogroll – he’s been back for ages, I don’t know what took me so long. He writes the kind of stuff I always intended to write, but am, erm, too extremely busy doing really important things to get round to :/

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