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March 25th, 2016

Had a Good Friday?

Yes, I know the above headline is flippant and irreverent. But this morning I actually heard an RTÉ presenter tell his listeners: “Have a happy Good Friday.” To me this just encapsulates what has happened to Irish cultural and religious attitudes over the past half century. A week  or two ago, in the depths of Lent, a wreath of little Easter eggs appeared on a neighbour’s door.

Twenty years or so ago I heard Frank Delaney (I wonder what happened to him?) explain to BBC listeners how, when he was a child, Catholicism exercised a total grip on Irish life during Holy Week, making everything dark and depressing.  In particular he quoted the introduction to each Station of the Cross: “We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee, because by the Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.” I don’t think it occurred to Mr Delaney that although of course the events of the Crucifixion are extremely sad,  they used to evoke immense gratitude and hope among most Irish people.

Stramentaria and I prefer not to drive at night, but on Wednesday evening we drove to the Latin Mass chaplaincy in Harrington Street to attend Tenebrae. The Church was a bit cold, and the ceremony lasted over two hours, but Tenebrae is  so beautiful that we hardly noticed the discomfort. Quomodo sedet sola civitas—how lonely the city stands—is from the beginning of Lamentations where the prophet Jeremiah mourns the destruction of Jerusalem. The Church uses it as a type of the death of Our Lord.  As Cordelia Flyte says to Charles Ryder in Brideshead Revisited, you should go at least once, just to hear it.

Cordelia says that  Tenebrae will teach you how  the Jews felt about their temple.  And it struck me yes indeed, and you will also understand why traditional Catholics lament the destruction of so much of value and beauty in the post  Vatican II Church.

From the sublime to the totally ridiculous and thoroughly annoying.  Yesterday, Holy Thursday, we decided we’d rather not brave the Dublin traffic in the dark, and so we went to a local liturgy instead. The PP announced that in accordance with parish custom, we wouldn’t be having  Foot Washing, but there’d be Hand Washing instead. And everyone could  have their hands washed and dried.  Are you going up? whispered Stramentaria? Not if I can help it, I replied. So the only people who didn’t troop forward were Stramentarius, Stramentaria and a sensible Nigerian lady just in front of us.

I ask  you! The only Hand Washing ceremony I can recall in the story of the Passion involved a gentleman  called Pontius Pilate. Not really an example to be followed.

There was noise and activity all the way through the liturgy, and lots of Novus Ordo hymns. At the end Father announced that Exposition was to follow, and there’d be an hour or so of quiet and reflection. The Pange Lingua was sung, rather to our surprise. An all-too-brief interval of blessed calm ensued. Two minutes after the start of Exposition, a gentleman began reflecting out loud.  It was quite a worthy reflection, but inappropriate, so we genuflected and fled.

I see Pope Francis included Moslems and Hindus in his foot-washing ceremony this year. It’s rather puzzling, because his own decree on the subject makes it clear that those having their feet washed should be part of  “the People of God”. Are we to understand that Hindus and Moslems have suddenly become part of the People of God? Or that the Holy Father’s document was carelessly drafted? Or that he didn’t really mean to draw the boundaries so narrowly?  Or that he thinks every human being is a part of the People of God?

The interpreters of Vatican II usually tell us that the People of God consists of those in some way or another connected to the Body of Christ: the Catholic Church. Perhaps Fr Lombardi will let us know, once again, what the Pope was really trying to say. I just hope he doesn’t preface his remarks with “The Church has always taught that…”




  1. Moslem and Hindu men, I assume?

  2. Deep sighs and private lamentations! From day one, the church had to suffer the betrayals from within as well as the assaults from without. These are part of the cross that you must carry, ideally without acrimony. I attended Morning Praise and the cantor kept going flat. such frustration, anguish and righteous anger on my part. When it comes to back to basics, humility is the correct response. thy will be done.
    Thank you, Nick and Mary. Your faith encourages perseverance. David

  3. Of course.

    And at times (if it causes concern to us) we have a difficult situation when matters or questions arise relative fo Faith or morals- remain silent or respond ? Blind obedience is not always a virtue. There is little doubt that responding courageously in defense of our Faith often costs more, and involves greater difficulty for us. History indicates many examples of this. This does not mean that we are acting against humility, and indeed the Lord sometimes chooses “inadequate instruments” !

    There are,of courses biblical references in regard to the response/correction of those in authority. We might also reflect on St.Athanasius who was one of the few prelates who stood firm against the Arian heresy in the fourth century when most of the bishops were implicated, and the Pope of the day accepted an ambiguous position.

    To say that there is an ambiguous situation in the Church to-day would be a clear understatement. Incredibly, we see an open attack on Church teaching from some of the highest offices in he Church. As far as the papacy is concerned-not all the Declarations from His Holiness are binding on the faithful- and certainly some of those made ex-aeroplano (which can be taken cum grano salis) are causing serious ambiguity and perplexity in the Church. We should and must continue to pray for all in authority.

    And the above is not intended to diminish the virtue of Humility.


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