Many believe in or claim that they believe in and hold fast to Catholic doctrine on such questions as social authority, the right of owning private property, on the relations between capital and labour, on the rights of the labouring man, on the relations between Church and State, religion and country, on the relations between the different social classes, on international relations, on the rights of the Holy See and the prerogatives of the Roman Pontiff and the Episcopate, on the social rights of Jesus Christ, Who is the Creator, Redeemer, and Lord not only of individuals but of nations. In spite of these protestations, they speak, write, and, what is more, act as if it were not necessary any longer to follow, or that they did not remain still in full force, the teachings and solemn pronouncements which may be found in so many documents of the Holy See, and particularly in those written by Leo XIII, Pius X, and Benedict XV. There is a species of moral, legal, and social modernism which We condemn, no less decidedly than We condemn theological modernism.

– Pius XI

Hamish Fraser once observed that the universal restoration of the traditional liturgy would not solve the crisis in the church. The traditional liturgy was, after all, universally observed before the crisis arose and it did not prevent it. That which was not upheld and which would have prevented the crisis, the absence of which led to the crisis and the restoration of which alone will solve it, is the preaching of the Social Kingship of Christ. However, as Hilary White has recently and eloquently observed the Kingship of Christ exists exclusively for the salvation of souls. When His disciples could not find Him in Capharnaum they found the Lord alone in the hills praying. He said to them “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” As I once heard a very holy monk observe, the word here translated as ‘came out’ is ἐξῆλθον the same word as Our Lord uses in John 8:42 to describe His eternal generation. He went out into the hills to prepare to preach to the people. He came out from the Father in eternity that He might breathe forth the Spirit. He came into the world to save mankind, but that salvation consists in going out from the perishing city as He went out from Capharnaum to share in the eternal processions of the Divine Persons through prayer – the one thing necessary. Only in this light are any temporal benefits (such as the people of Caphernum sought) even benefits. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

St Benedict says “To you, therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever you may be, who are renouncing your own will to do battle under the Lord Christ, the true King, and are taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience.” But he is not addressing would-be statesmen or even the fathers of families, he is addressing would-be monks. The Social Kingship of Christ consists in the reordering and subordination of temporal realities to the supernatural end. Its foundation lies in the recognition of the utterly surpassing nature of that end. Its foundation is in the monastery and the monastery’s foundation is in heaven. Without this all temporal Christian struggle is worthless. The path of restoration proceeds from the monastery through the liturgy to the capitol and back again, but cut off  from its source and destination it will nought avail.

I have had the opportunity over the years four times to celebrate the feast of Christ the King on its traditional date in the United States of America according to the traditional rite. On one of those occasions the Mass was arranged by a lay ‘Latin Mass Community’ who ensured that it was celebrated with gusto. A High Mass with full choir, Blessed Sacrament procession and the solemn intoning of the Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. On the other occasions the Mass was offered by the FSSP. Now the FSSP are splendid fellows but the liturgy was not at all celebrated with the vigour and pomp one might expect for the Feast instituted to combat social and political modernism, the consecration was recited in a frankly perfunctory manner (and one occasion omitted entirely), there was no procession and the Blessed Sacrament was not exposed. Most seriously of all there was absolutely no mention made in the sermon of the Social Kingship of Christ on any of these occasions.

Pius XI instituted the Feast of Christ the King in order to compel the clergy to preach this doctrine.

[A]lthough in all the feasts of our Lord the material object of worship is Christ, nevertheless their formal object is something quite distinct from his royal title and dignity. We have commanded its observance on a Sunday in order that not only the clergy may perform their duty by saying Mass and reciting the Office, but that the laity too, free from their daily tasks, may in a spirit of holy joy give ample testimony of their obedience and subjection to Christ. The last Sunday of October seemed the most convenient of all for this purpose, because it is at the end of the liturgical year, and thus the feast of the Kingship of Christ sets the crowning glory upon the mysteries of the life of Christ already commemorated during the year, and, before celebrating the triumph of all the Saints, we proclaim and extol the glory of him who triumphs in all the Saints and in all the Elect. Make it your duty and your task, Venerable Brethren, to see that sermons are preached to the people in every parish to teach them the meaning and the importance of this feast, that they may so order their lives as to be worthy of faithful and obedient subjects of the Divine King.

Hamish Fraser famously described the American Catholic as “a Protestant who goes to Mass”. There is, alas, all too much truth in this ungenerous observation. One is often struck by the way in which American Catholics will say “I’m Catholic” rather than “I am a Catholic” as if ‘Catholic’ were one among a number of flavours of Christian. They will even talk about ‘Catholics and Christians’ as if there were some other sort of Christian or as if Catholics were not Christians or as if there were some kind of generic ‘mere Christianity’ approximating mildly conservative Protestantism upon which Marian devotion and five sacraments and the Real Presence are (hopefully) harmless baroque accretions.

Fr Brian Harrison observes:

[R]ejecting papal authority in favour of one’s own individual judgment was a perfect recipe for religious anarchy. And in medieval Christendom it was much easier to see that fact – and also to see that such anarchy is thoroughly undesirable – than it is in modern Western society. Desensitised after several centuries spent under a socio-political umbrella that shelters multiple coexistent Christian denominations, we have now, as a society, baptised this chaotic anarchy with the bland name of “religious pluralism”, and have come to see it as an instance of normal and healthy progress, rather than of pathological decline from the revealed norm of a Catholic polity that recognises the kingship of Christ. (After all, isn’t such ‘pluralism’ a cornerstone of democracy and a guarantee of individual liberty?) Those of us who are converts to the faith can testify from experience that for modern Protestants right across the liberal-evangelical-fundamentalist spectrum, the co-existence of many Christian denominations or “churches”, while theoretically acknowledged as falling short of the biblical ideal of Christian unity, is for practical purposes taken for granted as something normal, natural and inevitable – pretty much like the co-existence of many different countries, languages, styles of music, or ice cream flavours. From that perspective it is precisely “Rome” that appears as the renegade – the black sheep in the Christian fold – by virtue of her “arrogant” claim to be the one and only true Church. And let us recall the full radicality of this Protestant critique. It is not that the Southern Baptists (let us say) object to the aforesaid claim simply because they consider their own denomination, rather than “Rome”, to be the one true Church. That would basically be the same kind of objection that many claimants to this or that national throne have made over the centuries against rival claimants: “It is not you, but I, who am the rightful king!” No, the Protestant position cuts much deeper. It is like objecting to someone’s claim to the throne of England on the grounds that no such throne exists! It’s like protesting that anyone at all who claims to be England’s rightful ruler is ipso facto an impostor and potential tyrant whose pretensions must be firmly resisted! For the common position now shared by Protestants is precisely that no single Christian denomination may claim to be the Church founded by Christ, and, therefore, that no leader of any one denomination may dare claim the authority to make doctrinal or governing decisions that bind all Christians. Rather, it is said, each denomination should respectfully recognise many (or even all) of the others as being true, that is, real, “churches”, and so limit itself to making the modest claim of being preferable to the others in one way or another – for instance, by virtue of possessing what it believes is a better understanding of Scripture. In other words, the different organised “churches”, according to this ecclesiology, are seen as being in this respect pretty much like banks, schools, cars, brands of toothpaste, or any other sorts of commodities and services. It is considered legitimate to promote one or other as being of better quality than the rest; but just as it would be outrageous and beyond the pale for Wells Fargo to claim seriously that none of its competitors is truly a bank, or for General Motors to claim that nobody else makes real automobiles, or for Colgate ads to proclaim that what you’ll get in tubes of other brands is not just inferior toothpaste but fake toothpaste – so Protestants right across the liberal-conservative spectrum consider it theologically outrageous and beyond the pale for any single Christian denomination (read: Roman Catholicism) to claim that it is the one and only real Church.

The analogy of a disputed throne versus ideological republicanism is quite apt. The nonsense that legitimate governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed” goes hand in hand with nominalist contractualist ecclesiology. It is this Protestant vision and only this vision that could make sense of an intended adherence to the Gospel and a simultaneous acceptance of the ‘separation of Church and State’ as desirable for its own sake. The superstitious awe in which the citizens of the USA are expected to hold the Freemasons and Deists who composed their constitution and Declaration of Independence forbids the very idea of taking an axe to the First Amendment. American Catholics are expected to fly the flag of the US in the very sanctuaries of their Churches. This is extremely rare to non-existent even in countries that are or were formally Catholic, but this is the flag of the first western polity since the Edict of Theodosius in 380 to withhold recognition from Christ and which substituted the five pointed star for the Cross on its flag. This secularised banner is often, even in churches, hoisted on a staff surmounted by a golden eagle, the very symbol the Labarum supplanted and which was employed to desecrate the Holy of Holies in 70 AD.

Between the World Wars liberal economics and politics seemed tired. The world was torn between totalitarian ideologies that demanded the whole person. The Church thrived in this context with an integral vision of God and man that answered all the aspirations of the human person in freedom and ranged her against “the modern world in arms”. The Leonine formula of indifference to the form of regime but implacable insistence on the conformity of the civil order to the Divine and Natural Laws made vast strides against Modernity. In the wake of the Second World War the USA was left as the hegemonic power and the ideology of its founders has eaten away at the Church. The ‘Boston Heresy Case‘ was a disaster as the quasi-condemnation of Feeney’s garbled version of explicitism seemingly justified the complete surrender of the American church to the spirit of Thomas Jefferson. The United Kingdom, born of the revolution of 1688, has this paradoxical advantage: the sovereign is subjected to a religious test. The Jacobites, like the colony of Maryland, became entangled in the dubious cause of religious liberty. The rectification of the British constitution, upon the conversion of the Monarch and the people, requires only a single Act of Parliament.

Crux Sacra Sit Mihi Lux Non Draco Sit Mihi Dux!

Dieu et Mon Droit

… elle ne support pas les craintes pueriles que certaines d’entre nous auraient pour les insectes et autres animaux, elle tient absolument a ce qu’on se domine sur ce point; sur tous les domains il faut etre maitresse chez soi, sinon il faut renoncer a la saintete.

(a nun of Solesmes, on their first abbess)


The endearingly scatty-sounding guest mistress blogger of Colwich Abbey is now Mother Davina. Colwich is one of three monasteries of nuns in the English Benedictine Congregation (the others are Stanbrook, the now eco-nuns, and Curzon Park, which I only came across today.)

I just wrote this post and thought I’d saved it, but it vanished. Bah. Well. As I was trying to say – special reader offer, even better than the polyester nighties advertised in the back of the Telegraph mag on Saturdays!! Courtesy of a good Father at Pluscarden, one battered but usable The Garden of the Soul; or, A Manual of Select Prayers for the Use of the Faithful. Containing Devotions for Mass; The Ordinary of the Mass; The Rosary; The Bona Mors; Devotions to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary; Way of the Cross; Vespers for Sundays; Litanies; and other prayers and devotions (Dublin, n.d. [but the table of movable feasts begins in 1884, so presumably that’s the date of printing]).

(Just to warn you, the Mass text is only in translation. But there are handy hints for servers.)

With a title page like that, much further explanation would be superfluous! But in the interests of gratuitous metaphor, one might say it’s foie gras to A Simple Prayer Book‘s chicken liver. But with out-of-date indulgences. (D’you think I’d make it in the advertising industry?!) Having flicked through it, I’m now quite tempted to keep it. But, lectores dilecti (and fellow bloggers), if you wants it it’s yours. Leave your email address in a comment, or drop me a line on boeciana[at]yahoo.co.uk . First come first served. Unless on a whim I decide otherwise.

Questo ho preso dal lezionario certosino sul sito della Certosa di Serra San Bruno, il quale si trova qui: www.certosini.info 

Discorso di papa Paolo VI a Montecassino.

Osservatore Romano del 25 ottobre 1964.

            La Chiesa ha bisogno ancor oggi della vita monastica; il mondo ancor oggi ne ha bisogno. Ci dispensiamo di recarne le prove, che del resto ciascuno vede scaturire da sé dalla sola nostra affermazione: sì, la Chiesa e il mondo, per differenti ma convergenti ragioni, hanno bisogno che san Benedetto esca dalla comunità ecclesiale e sociale e si circondi del suo recinto di solitudine e di silenzio, e di lì ci faccia ascoltare l’incantevole accento della sua pacata ed assorta preghiera, di lì quasi ci lusinghi e ci chiami alle soglie claustrali, per offrirci il quadro di un’officina del divino servizio, di una piccola società ideale, dove finalmente regna l’amore, l’obbedienza, l’innocenza, la libertà dalle cose e l’arte di bene usarle, la prevalenza dello spirito, la pace, in una parola, il Vangelo.

            San Benedetto ritorni per aiutarci a ricuperare la vita personale; quella vita personale, di cui oggi abbiamo brama e affanno e che lo sviluppo della vita moderna, a cui si deve il desiderio esasperato dell’essere noi stessi, soffoca mentre lo risveglia, delude mentre lo fa cosciente. Ed è questa sete di vita personale che conserva all’ideale monastico la sua attualità.


            Correva l’uomo una volta, nei secoli lontani, al silenzio del chiostro, come vi corse Benedetto da Norcia, per ritrovare se stesso: ma allora questa figura era motivata dalla decadenza della società, dalla depressione morale e culturale di un mondo, che non offriva più allo spirito possibilità di coscienza, di sviluppo, di conversione; occorreva un rifugio per ritrovare sicurezza, calma, studio, preghiera, lavoro, amicizia, fiducia.

            Oggi non la carenza della convivenza sociale spinge al medesimo rifugio, ma l’esuberanza. L’eccitazione, il frastuono, la febbrilità, l’esteriorità, la moltitudine minacciano l’integrità dell’uomo: gli manca il silenzio con la sua genuina parola interiore, gli manca l’ordine, gli manca la preghiera, gli manca la pace, gli manca se stesso. Per riavere dominio e godimento spirituale di sé ha bisogno di riaffacciarsi al chiostro benedettino. E ricuperato l’uomo a se stesso nella disciplina monastica, è ricuperato alla Chiesa.


            Noi non diremo nulla adesso della funzione che il monaco, l’uomo ricuperato a se stesso, può avere, non solo rispetto alla Chiesa — come dicemmo — ma al mondo; al mondo stesso, che egli ha lasciato, e a cui rimane vincolato per le nuove relazioni, che la sua lontananza stessa viene a produrre con lui: di contrasto, di stupore, di esempio, di possibile confidenza e segreta conversazione, di fraterna complementarietà.

            Diciamo soltanto che questa complementarietà esiste, e assume un’importanza tanto maggiore quanto più grande è il bisogno che il mondo ha dei valori custoditi nel monastero, e vede non a lui rapiti, ma a lui conservati, a lui presentati, a lui offerti. Il fatto, ripeto, è così grande e importante, che tocca l’esistenza e la consistenza di questa nostra vecchia e sempre vitale società, ma oggi tanto bisognosa di attingere linfa nuova alle radici donde trasse il suo vigore e il suo splendore, le radici cristiane che san Benedetto per tanta parte le diede e del suo spirito alimentò.


            Due elementi, infatti, fanno tuttora desiderare l’austera e soave presenza di san Benedetto nel mondo moderno: per la fede che egli e i suoi monaci predicarono nella famiglia dei popoli; la fede cristiana, la religione della nostra civiltà, quella della santa Chiesa, madre e maestra delle genti; e per l’unità a cui il grande Monaco solitario e sociale ci educò fratelli, e per cui l’Europa fu la cristianità.

            Fede ed unità: che cosa di meglio potremmo desiderare e invocare per il mondo intero? Che cosa di più moderno e di più urgente? E che cosa di più difficile e di più contrastato? Davvero nulla pare più necessario e più utile per la pace della fede e dell’unità.

How to eat a soft-ish boiled egg without an eggcup.

How to cut up hard food without making a noise.

How to bathe with a basin and a jug of hot water (without flooding one’s cell).

How to go to sleep at 9.15pm in summer.

How to wash a soup-pot in two inches of water.

How to wash up one’s cutlery in one’s tea-cup (without leaving guck on the fork).

How to bow with dignity.

How to count out fifty hosts without thinking.

How to transfer 2500 hosts into a plastic bag without them spilling everywhere…

(Sadly several of these are still not quite on my CV…)