Friday, 30 December 2011

Feast of the Holy Family

I thought that this piece on the family written for "L'Osservatore Romano" by my friend Edmund Adamus might be relevant on this Feast of the Holy Family.
Just click on the image to enlarge and read it.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

I'm honoured that some of my posts can now be read at the web-site of the St Austin Review - StAR - on their constellation of bloggers page "the Ink Desk".

"The St. Austin Review (StAR) is the premier international journal of Catholic culture, literature, and ideas. In its pages, printed every two months, some of the brightest and most vigorous minds around meet to explore the people, ideas, movements, and events that shape and misshape our world.

Contributors to StAR are poets, philosophers, artists, theologians, historians, and journalists, together giving StAR the breadth and depth necessary for its “unique and worthwhile project” (Karl Keating). Its editors are Joseph Pearce (Literary Converts, Wisdom and Innocence) and Robert Asch."

This came about by chance through being in touch with Joseph Pearce again over Christmas. Joseph is is the author of numerous acclaimed biographies of major Catholic literary figures. He is also Writer in Residence and Professor of Literature at Ave Maria University in Florida, Editor-in-Chief of Ave Maria University Communications and Sapientia Press, as well as Co-Editor of the The Saint Austin Review (or StAR). That's from the official blurb but he also has a fascinating history in the story of his conversion from being an active member of the National Front to becoming a Catholic through the inspiration of G.K. Chesterton. He's also just the sort of committed Catholic the Church could do with more of and, perhaps even more importantly, a great guy to go for a pint with!

Joseph Pearce - you can read a previous post about him here.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Be courageous in working for a return to the true liturgy of the Church

The New Liturgical Movement reports on the 20th general assembly of the FIUV ( Internationalis Una Voce) held this past November 5-6 in Rome, and on December 19th the same issued their written report coming out of that general assembly.It draws particular attention to the contents of a letter which was written by Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith - former secretary of the CDW - to the participants of that assembly.

This letter is very supportive of the traditional form of the Roman Rite, calling it "the most fulfilling way in which the mystical and transcendent call to encounter God is experienced" and calls for a return to it "more and more" as a way to what the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council actually wanted (presumably as opposed to what we have ended up with). However, the Cardinal also calls for us to be courageous in working for a true reform of the reform in continuity with the traditional forms of the Church's liturgy.

He is certainly correct in saying that one would need to be courageous. From my own experience and from speaking with priests who try to celebrate the Ordinary Form in continuity with the tradition of the Church and in ways that highlight a connection with what we are at the moment calling the Extraordinary Form, it is precisely this that seems to raise so many liberal hackles. In other words, including what the Ordinary Form and in particular the new translation takes for granted is often received as and caricatured as obsolete and old-fashioned. I'm speaking of such things as:

- celebrating ad orientem,
- using the Entrance, Offertory and Communion chants (especially in Latin) instead of hymns
taking up legitimate options (for example, to do with the exchange of the sign of peace),
- the use of any Latin at all
- and a general effort not to become over casual or chatty during the Mass

All these, even with preceding catechesis, can lead a priest to experience great trouble and generate letters to bishops in which these complaints often receive episcopal support. This leaves the priest in a very vulnerable and often depressing position.

All this IN CARRYING OUT ALREADY LEGITIMATE OPTIONS let alone trying to find other legitimate ways of celebrating the Mass in conformity with our historical Catholic culture. When individual instances cannot be directly criticised - for example, if you celebrate ad orientem; this can't be forbidden because it is always a legitimate option but the whole manner in which such a Mass might be celebrated is what causes the offence. Such a manner points to:

- a God-centered instead of a community centered liturgy,
- an acceptance of the divine and supernatural interjecting into human life in the Mass (which
liberal thought presumes is so off-putting to the "world out there"),
- the implication that ALL the Church's teachings on Faith and morals might be held up and
- taught without embarrassment.

It is this, perhaps, that a liturgy connected with our Tradition induces so much fear and anger in the liberal intelligentsia in our parishes and diocese, where they have been courting the liberal intelligentsia in the secular world for so long that agreement with this bankrupt secular culture has become the touchstone of judging what is and is not acceptable within the Church. The parts of the Catholic world, certainly in the West, that are flourishing are those which, like Pope Benedict, are attempting to engage with a full-blooded Catholicism rooted in the strengths of our history and culture, not re-inventing it anew. This includes the new movements and Orders (who are the only ones getting vocations) and the theological, cultural and liturgical debate that spills out on the Internet, which is engaged on the same mission. However, these currents have yet to reach many parts of our moribund dioceses and Orders where those clinging on the failed hopes of the 1970's still hold sway with an aging yet still firm hand.

Archbishop Ranjith is not a man to mince his words and he is a man who has experienced rejection and isolation in his past life at the hands of others in the Church but he is right when he says courage is called for if you want to work towards re-connecting the modern liturgy with its historical and cultural roots down the ages. A liturgy that he sees as the true one.

Here is his letter.

I wish to express first of all, my gratitude to all of you for the zeal and enthusiasm with which you promote the cause of the restoration of the true liturgical traditions of the Church. As you know, it is worship that enhances faith and its heroic realization in life. It is the means with which human beings are lifted up to the level of the transcendent and eternal: the place of a profound encounter between God and man.

Liturgy for this reason can never be what man creates. For if we worship the way we want and fix the rules ourselves, then we run the risk of recreating Aaron's golden calf. We ought to constantly insist on worship as participation in what God Himself does, else we run the risk of engaging in idolatry. Liturgical symbolism helps us to rise above what is human to what is divine. In this, it is my firm conviction that the Vetus Ordo represents to a great extent and in the most fulfilling way that mystical and transcendent call to an encounter with God in the liturgy. Hence the time has come for us to not only renew through radical changes the content of the new Liturgy, but also to encourage more and more a return of the Vetus Ordo, as a way for a true renewal of the Church, which was what the Fathers of the Church seated in the Second Vatican Council so desired.

The careful reading of the Conciliar Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilum shows that the rash changes introduced to the Liturgy later on, were never in the minds of the Fathers of the Council.

Hence the time has come for us to be courageous in working for a true reform of the reform and also a return to the true liturgy of the Church, which had developed over its bi-millenial history in a continuous flow. I wish and pray that, that would happen.

May God bless your efforts with success.

+Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith
Archbishop of Colombo24/8/2011

Monday, 26 December 2011


The altar ready for Midnight Mass

- enhanced by painted candles, given as a gift for Christmas.

I'm just about recovered from having only four hours sleep after Midnight Mass but must say a special thanks for the music over Christmas, which created a very prayerful atmosphere in the church. I was especially pleased that we had our highest turnout for Midnight Mass since my arrival three years ago when we re-introduced this traditional practice and did away with he early evening Mass on Christmas eve. This early Mass had a tradition of being very well attended but I couldn't help thinking that there was a strong element of "getting Mass out of the way" to leave Christmas free for seeing family, eating, visiting etc. In fact, somebody did actually say that to me. Coming to Mass together as family on Christmas day itself (whether at midnight or during the day) seems to me a much better way of spending time together. I'm at one with my Archbishop, Patrick Kelly, here who each year gives very strong encouragement to NOT have an early Mass but to encourage families - with children - to experience the wonder of Midnight Mass.

Rather smart candles for Christmas!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Deacon Nick over at Protect the Pope draws atention to a lecture given at Stubenville University by Peter Kreeft,
‘How to Win the Culture War: A Christian Battle Plan for a Culture in Crisis’
which outlines his thoughts on how the Devil plans to win the culture war by making Catholics, particularly bishops and theologians, phoneys. He speaks of the situation of the Church in the USA but I think most of it applies to the werstern world in general.

Kreeft delivered his talk in the person of Screwtape,C.S. Lewis’ advisorial senior demon,who instructs Wormwood on how they (i.e.,the powers of hell) can win the culture war through particular and deadly temptations:

  • Politicization –the tendency Americans have to confuse politics for religion. He drew awareness to the trend of defining oneself by politics instead of religion,saying,‘We have persuaded many of them to judge their faith by the standard of ‘political correctness’ rather than vice versa.’
  • Happy Talk –the principle of happy talk raised the ante on the average ignorance-is-bliss mentality. He pointed out that Catholics must first return to being Catholic,and correct their own practices before projecting to non-Catholics. “Catholics abort, contracept, sodomize, fornicate, divorce, and sexually abuse,” he said,“at almost exactly the same rate as non-Catholics. Amid this devastation, keep them happy talking. Keep them saying ‘Peace,Peace,’ when there is no peace.”He wants Catholics to take responsibility for their behavior, make a conscious effort to change it,and to acknowledge that blame can’t be placed entirely on the secular world.
  • Organizationalism - Catholics suffer from organizationalism, causing them to regard everything—including the Church—as business ventures. This is especially bad,he noted,because people have lost sight of the role of the Church,and instead focused on the goals of business. “They must worship success,not sanctity,” he said,“and fear failure,not sin.”
  • Neo-worship - or worship of things new at the expense of the old, in particular the rejection of things “pre-Vatican II”.
  • Egalitarianism –Describing society’s misguided translation of egalitarianism, Kreeft pointed out that “sexism” has persuaded men and women to perceive each other as equal,when they should instead be considered beautifully inferior to each other. He believes in the importance of regarding men and women as separate and unequal,and in acknowledging the positive impact of the differences that define each. According to Kreeft, society’s deterioration of egalitarianism fosters “the difference between the beauty of black and the beauty of white reduced to a boring grey.”
  • Yuppydom - which is essentially selling out to the fads of the times rather than holding God as God. Yuppydom is a generation that prides itself on not being prideful, saying, “Let them feel superior about not feeling superior, judgmental about not being judgmental.”
  • Spirituality - in which Christians seek salvation, or at least affirmation,while recoiling at the thought of suffering—they want Christ without the cross.

Ending his lecture with a short phrase that holds the potential to defeat the culture war, Kreeft said, “Simply put, be real. Don’t be a PHONEY. Be a saint.”

Christmas Masses

Just for information for anyone locally coming to Mass at St Catherine's.

Midnight Mass - Ordinary Form - Sung - Latin

Christmas Day

8.30am - Ordinary Form - English

10am - Missa Cantata - Extraordinary Form

A Happy and Holy Christmas to one and all!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Silent Mass, Holy Mass

Suffering from a heavy cold all week it developed, just in time for the weekend, into a virtually complete loss of my voice. Not so difficult for the Traditional Form of the Mass, as much of this is sotto voce anyway, but what to do for the two Masses in the Ordinary Form?

No singing from me, obviously, but with the aid of whispering hoarsely down a turned up microphone for the collects and Communion, I asked indulgence to have a sotto voce Canon as well. No one seemed to mind and I left the microphone on so that it could be heard that I was saying something (the rubrics are clear that in the Ordinary Form the Canon should be heard - although I have posted on an eminent Cardinal who seems, on occasion, to experiment with this). It led to an unusual and hopefully thought provoking experience for the congregation, especially as I was unable to preach. Instead I printed out copies of the Pastoral Letter from Bishop Hugh Gilbert of Aberdeen on the importance of cultivating silence - in our lives and especially in church - which we read in silence together at the point the Homily would have been preached ( a fortuitous example of form and function in perfect harmony).

I'm in full agreement with Bishop Gilbert about the powerful experience of large numbers of people being able to pray together in silence - often experienced in the Traditional Form of Mass but rarely in the New. The difficulty with the silences indicated in the Ordinary Form is that the congregation and the priest are encouraged to stop and "do nothing" (well, pray, of course) and then the action of the Mass continues. My experience in trying to do this, for example after the "Let us pray" or in the Bidding Prayers, is that it feels very artificial and each moment seems like an age. The silence in the Traditional Form of Mass happens while action is taking place - it doesn't feel like stopping and "doing nothing" before the business of the Mass resumes. Perhaps I might describe it as more "user friendly". People can associate themselves with the action that is taking place at any particular time and during the Canon (even if there is chant / singing going on) there is an extended time for that personal yet communal prayer. Instead of focusing on the priest, there is space for each person brings their own concerns and joys before the altar, all doing this together with the priest's action at he altar - "my sacrifice and yours" is offered to God the Father.

As to the people taking up Bishop Hugh Gilbert's injunction to keep quiet before and after Mass (and for some people this needs to be extended to encouragement to not talking during Mass as well), I had the same experience as Fr Michael Brown, reported over at Forest Murmurs, it hasn't been taken on board just yet!

Anyway, here is the Bishop's excellent letter:

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

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Carol Concert

Thank you to the Elizabethan Singers under the conducting skills of Mr Anthony Dickinson. We had a lovely evening, a full church, excellent music and readings and a hearty celebration fired by mulled wine afterwards!

We also raised close to £450 for those suffering from leprosy in Sri Lanka - the charity adopted by the Order of St Lazarus, under whose auspices the event was arranged.

I was particularly pleased to welcome Fr Oeconomos Christodoulos Fyles of the Greek Orthodox Church in Leyland.

Jollity afterwards
with HE Matthew Jackson, Grand Secretary to the Order
and Confrere Anthony Dickinson, conductor of the Elizabethan Singers.

Father amidst the fray!

Confrere Anthony Dickinson reading one of the Lessons

Friday, 16 December 2011

Carol Concert

I am preparing for a Carol Concert in church tomorrow - Saturday 17th December at 7.30pm.

Yes, I know - carols shouldn't be heard BEFORE Christmas but at least we have reached the 17th and the immediate run-up. Part of the idea is that people can invite the lapsed and non-Christians to a format that is more "concert" than "service" as a non-threatening way of at least getting people through the door! I heard a piece on the "Today" programme on Radio 4 this week that carol concerts in non-church venues were more popular than ever - apparently, people like to sing carols but are not so keen on the church and religion bit!

There will be mulled wine and mince pies afterwards in the Pope John Paul Room and a collection for the Order of St Lazarus' work contributing to a leper hospice in Sri Lanka under the care of Cardinal Ranjith).

Anyway, all are welcome - so this is in the way of an invitation to anyone who might be able to get here. Our visiting choir - the Elizabethan Singers - raise money for a good cause each Christmas and have very generously given their time and talents to us this year. Thank you to them.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Traditional Vespers in Loughborough

I attended Vespers (in the Traditional Form) and Benediction for Gaudete Sunday at Sacred Heart Church, Loughborough. A small Schola organised by Mr Jeremy Boot led the chant and Fr John Cahill was also in attendance along with Fr Mark Lawler presiding. The chant was very uplifting and not a bad attendance from the parishioners of Sacred Heart. Unfortunately, a suitable rose cope couldn't be rustled up in time but no one was too outraged at this lack of appropriate vesture!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Our "Catholic" Schools are in a terrible state

Our so-called Catholic Schools are, for the most part, in a terrible state. I read Fr Tim Finnegan's report of the outlandish goings-on at Bonus Pastor School in London and the attacks suffered by the Clovis family, whose work and commitment to the Catholic Faith could not be doubted. (See here for a previous post.)

In twenty years of Priesthood, three spent in full-time school chaplaincy work, I have always had involvement in schools. I forebear to make any further comment, as I'm not sure I could hold myself in check.

However, on another topic completely...

I've just been re-reading Pope St Pius X's encyclical "Pascendi" attacking modernism, that synthesis of all heresies that he saw attacking the Church from without and within (which you can read here on the Vatican website). In regard to education one quote will suffice:

43. And here we have already some of the artifices employed by Modernists to exploit their wares. What efforts they make to win new recruits! They seize upon chairs in the seminaries and universities, and gradually make of them chairs of pestilence. From these sacred chairs they scatter, though not always openly, the seeds of their doctrines; they proclaim their teachings without disguise in congresses; they introduce them and make them the vogue in social institutions.

I have also been reading a book that has been sitting on my shelf for a number of years but that I'm only now getting around to reading, Hans Urs von Balthasar's "A Short Primer for Unsettled Laymen" (from 1980 but still available from Ignatius Press.) (Balthasar was highly thought of by Pope John Paul II, who raised him to the rank of Cardinal, although he died two days before the ceremony was due to take place).

Although the tone of this and "Pascendi" are very different and speak to their times, it struck me how very similar the themes are and how both authors identify similar attacks upon the Church, going through philosophy, dogma, faith and science, Scripture and identifying what is going wrong in these areas; how they are being mis-interpreted as tools of the Faith. Both see the necessity of subjecting all things connected with our belief to the teaching office of the Church and to judging the what can certainly be the fruitful discernments of various disciplines by the traditional understanding of the Faith - as mediated to us by the authentic teaching Office of the Church - Peter.

Balthasar says:
One thing will never be possible: namely that some human science should lift itself above the fullness of God and sit in judgement upon it from above.
Aggiornamento does not mean assimilating oneself to the atheist Enlightenment, instead it means being abreast of the times in order to give that Enlightenment an authentic response.
Balthasar with Pope John Paul II

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

The Lady altar at the church of Ss Peter and Paul today for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception today. Canon Olivier Meney of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest has certainly been working hard to get the church up and running. Do click on the photo for a closer look. See here for a previous post.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Mr Derrick Taylor, R.I.P.

I am celebrating a funeral in the Traditional Form of the Roman Rite tomorrow at 12 noon for Mr Derrick Taylor, who attended Mass with his wife here and died suddenly after a heart attack. He leaves behind nine children and uncountable grandchildren and great grand-children. The Taylors are a family who have long had a great love of the Traditional Form of the Mass since the 1970's when the changes came in. A great Catholic and a kindly man. The Taylors are well known in this part of the world, so, of course, anyone who knew Derrick is most welcome.

May he rest in peace. Amen.

Although I have offered Requiem Mass on All Souls Day for a number of years now, this will be my first actual funeral. We will be blest to have chant, so it will be Missa Cantata (without the need to try and tease out a decent sound from our little electric organ - although some organists do indeed manage to get a very decent sound out of it.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

St Birinus Day

The photo above was taken after High Mass in the Church of St Birinus, Dorchester-on-Thames, for the parish Feast Day yesterday. Fr John Osman kindly invited me to act as sub-deacon, whilst Fr Guy Nichols of the Birmingham Oratory was deacon. The church a little gem, greatly enhanced under Fr Osman's loving restoration over the years and the setting is pretty much idyllic, with grounds sloping down to the river Thames. The music for the Mass was exceptionally good, under the direction of Mr Andrew Knowles.

The church and presbytery have remained largely unaltered since its founding in 1849. St Birinus was one of the first "new" Catholic churches raised since the 1850 Act restored the hierarchy.

St Birinus Dorchester - St Birinus3

In 634, St. Birinus, a Benedictine monk in Rome, was sent by Pope Honorius I to Wessex to spread the Catholic Faith. In 635 he reached the Thames Valley and achieved his greatest missionary success, the conversion of Cynegils, King of the West Saxons. The King's conversion was a boost to the spread of Christianity throughout the South of England. According to tradition, St. Birinus and Cynegils met on Churn Knob near Blewbury, and Birinus was given “the city of Doric” (Dorchester) as his Cathedral. Following his death in 650 St. Birinus was buried at Dorchester. In about 680 his remains were moved to Winchester by St. Headda, Bishop of Winchester. Finally on 4th. September, 972 Bishop Etholwold enshrined them in gold and silver. From Dorchester were founded the sees of Winchester and Lincoln.

Before singing the Alma Redemptoris in honour of Our Lady of Dorchester, we sang out with gusto a hymn to The Church Triumphant:

Who is She that stands triumphant

Rock in strength upon the Rock,

Like some city crown'd with turrets

Braving storm and earthquake shock?

Who is she her arms extending;

Blessing thus a world restored;

All the anthems of creation

Lifting to creation's Lord?

Hers the Kingdom, hers the Sceptre!

Fall ye nations at her feet!

Hers that Truth whose fruit is freedom;

Light her yoke; her burden sweet.

As the moon its splendour borrows

From a sun unseen all night

So from Christ, the Sun of Justice,

Draws His Church her vestal light,

Touch'd by His her hands have healing,

Bread of Life, absolving Key:

Christ Incarnate is her Bridegroom;

The Spirit hers; His Temple she.

Empires rise and sink like billows;

Vanish and are seen no more;

Glorious as the star of morning

She o'erlooks their wild uproar.

Hers the household all-embracing,

Hers the vine that shadows earth;

Blest thy children, mighty Mother!

Safe the stranger at thy hearth!

Like her Bridegroom, heavenly, human,

Crown'd and militant in one,

Chaunting Nature's great Assumption

And the abasement of the Son;

Her magnificats, her dirges

Harmonize the jarring years;

Hands that fling to heaven the censer

Wipe away the orphan's tears.

(Acknowledgement to James Bradley for the photo of the statue of St Birinus in the church.)

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Small World

With Archbishop Mennini after the Mass, along with David Chadwick, a pupil of the school who was M.C. for the Mass and who is a server here at St Catherine's as well.

I was very kindly invited to Stonyhurst School for Campion Day Mass and lunch yesterday (1st December - Feast Day of St Edmund Campion). The Celebrant was the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Mennini. Mass took place in St Peter's Chapel which is looking beautiful after a £1.3 million restoration. The organ is wonderful and was given full vent, including accompanying the final hymn "For All the Saints" which the school belted out like a rugby song. Great!

I must say, I was very well looked after, especially by Dawn Johnson, the Headmaster's wife, who met me and showed me around. My thanks for the photos she sent.

I've not met the Nuncio before but he is a very genial and gracious man, going out of his way to take an interest. It struck me what a small place our world-wide Church is. It turned out in conversation that an America friend of mine who works as an Advocate on the Roman Rota knows the Archbishop's brother (although he has thirteen siblings!) and that an Italian friend of mine who is in the Diplomatic Service for the Vatican in the Nunciature in the Central African Republic (where he tells me that the poverty is appalling) is also a great friend of his.

I often find that the Church is indeed a small place - as when visiting Rome, I never fail to run into someone I know, usually from next door back home!

The Archbishop with the clergy and servers after Mass

A glimpse of the newly restored St Peter's chapel

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Traditional Parish

Canon Meney at Ss Peter and Paul's in New Brighton on the Wirral has been getting to work organising the first Traditional Parish in the UK. The Church, where I made my first Holy Communion, is not in such a poor state as I had feared when I visited it as Canon Meney arrived. There is, of course, repair work that needs doing and it needed a jolly good clean. It was also being used as a storage space. The main church is still not in proper use as yet so daily Mass is taking place in what used to be a sacristy (when I was an altar server there - some few years ago now!) but this is a temporary measure.

Canon Meney has put up some photographs (from which these are taken) which you can view here. The fine altars you can see were brought over from Italy.

The Sacred Heart altar before the tidying up began!

The statue of Our Lady, which I can remember being dressed in a cope on feast days.

The Lady altar.

Treat the Most Holy Eucharist with an ineffable love

Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, has issued a message to clergy for the beginning of Advent.

* * *

Dear Priests,

In this special time of Grace the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Icon and Model of the Church, wants us to be introduced to that vigilance which is the constant attitude of Her Immaculate heart.

In fact, the Virgin lived constantly in prayerful vigilance. In vigilance, She received the announcement that changed the history of humanity. In vigilance, She kept and contemplated, more than any other, the Almighty who became her Son. In vigilance, filled with loving and grateful wonder, She gave birth to the Light Himself and, together with St Joseph, became a disciple of He to whom She had given birth. He was adored by the shepherds and the kings, welcomed in jubilation by Simeon and the prophetess Anna, feared by the doctors in the temple, loved and followed by the disciples and opposed and condemned by His people. In the vigilance of her maternal heart, Mary followed Christ right up to the foot of the cross where, in the immense sorrow of a pierced heart, She accepted us as her new sons. In vigilance, She waited with certainty for the Resurrection and was Assumed into Heaven.

Dearest friends, Christ constantly watches over His Church and over every one of us! We are all called to enter into that vigilance, that passionate observation of reality that moves us between two fundamental directions: the recollection of meeting Christ in our lives and the great mystery of being His priests and the openness to the 'category of possibility'.

The Virgin Mary, was in fact 'recollected', which means that in her heart She constantly relived what God had done for Her and, in the certainty of this reality, She lived the duty of being the Mother of the Almighty. The Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary, was then constantly willing and open to the 'possible', to that materialisation of God's Will in daily circumstances and also in those that are most unexpected.

Also today, from heaven, the Virgin keeps us in Christ's living memory and continually opens the possibility of Divine Mercy to us.

Dearest Brothers and Friends, let us ask Her for a heart that is able to relive Christ's coming in our lives, a heart able to contemplate the way in which the Son of God, on the day of our Ordination, radically and definitely marked our entire existence immerging us in His priestly heart. He renews us daily in the Eucharistic Celebration so that our own lives become transfigured into Christ's coming for humanity.

Finally, let us ask for an attentive heart able to recognise the signs of Jesus' coming in the lives of every man, especially to the young who are entrusted to us, so that we are able to recognise the sign of that special coming which is the vocation to the Priesthood.

The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Priests and Queen of the Apostles, always grants those humble requests for that priestly paternity which is the only thing able to "accompany" the youth on the joyful and enthusiastic journey to follow Christ.

In the “Yes” of the Annunciation, we are also encouraged to be coherent to the “Yes” of our ordination. In the Visitation to Saint Elisabeth, we are encouraged to live that divine intimacy in order to bring Christ's presence to the others and to translate it into joyful service without the limits of time and space. In the Holy Mother's act of wrapping the Baby Jesus in swaddling clothes and adoring Him, we learn to treat the Most Holy Eucharist with an ineffable love. By conserving every event within our own hearts, we learn from Mary how to gather around the Only Necessity.

With these sentiments I assure all the dear Priests around the world of a special remembrance in the Celebration of the Holy Mysteries. I ask everyone for the prayerful support for the ministry that was entrusted to me and, before the crib, let us implore the ability to become that what we are every day.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Anything Goes

The days of "Anything goes" are now over
when it comes to music at Mass!

So says Jeffrey Tucker over at The Chant Café, drawing our attention to the fact that the New Missal has a change in the instructions on what music can be sung at Mass. Hymns - however good or bad - are not a part of the Mass. The chant of the Missal - Scripture laden and hallowed by centuries of Christian prayer - is the focus of music within the Mass.

The new translation of the General Instruction removes the discretion from the music team to sing pretty much whatever it wants. The new text, which pertains to the new translation of the Missal that comes into effect on Advent this year, makes it clear beyond any doubt: the music of the Mass is the chanted propers of the Mass. There are options but these options all exist within the universe of the primary normative chant. There can be no more making up some random text, setting it to music, and singing it as the entrance, offertory, or communion.

True liturgical reform has been trying to get us to use chant as the mainstay for centuries.

In the 17th century Blessed Cardinal Tommasi, "Prince of Roman Liturgists", tried to encourage it, introducing it into his own church.

Pope Pius X tried in 1903 with "Tra le Sollecitudini":

Gregorian Chant has always been regarded as the suprememodel for sacred music, so that it is fully legitimate to lay down thefollowing rule: the more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savor the Gregorian form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple.

The ancient traditional Gregorian Chant must, therefore, in a large measure be restored to the functions of public worship, and the fact must be accepted by all that an ecclesiastical function loses none of its solemnity when accompanied by this music alone.

Special efforts are to be made to restore the use of the Gregorian Chant by the people, so that the faithful may again take a more active part in the ecclesiastical offices, as was the case in ancient times.

The Second Vatican Council was in accord with the same desire in the document on the Sacred Liturgy "Sacrosanctum Concilium":

16. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.

Can we hope that it will no longer be anything goes but that pride of place will once more be given to the chant urged on us by Pope Pius X, Vatican II and the new Missal?

Friday, 25 November 2011

Church Architecture to be protected by Rome

The cathedral in Rio de Janerio, started in 1964.

Extraordinary - but not very beautiful.

A new Vatican commission under the Congregation for Divine Worship is to be established that will regulate church architecture. Reports here and here. The "Liturgical art and sacred music Commission" will, apparently, have the authority not just to recommend but to act with the authority of the Congregation. Let us hope so! Unfortunately it has come too late to prevent the purchase by the diocese of Orange USAof the "Glass Cathedral" - a building with no connection to the Church's liturgical traditions.

It happens that I was talking of this the other day with some friends and we were noting that such buildings did not begin, as is sometimes claimed, with the dawn of the Second Vatican Council. Things done in in its name may have exacerbated the problem but experimentation in church architecture deliberately moving away from any link with our history was well underway long before Vatican II. Have a close look at the dates of many churches that fit in to this category and the 1950's and early 60's are full of such experiments.

The famous chapel of Notre Dame du Haut, designed by Le Corbusier, in Ronchamp was completed in 1954.

Ronchamp - inside and out!

New Document of Confession from Rome

Cardianl Piacenza visiting the Irish College in Rome earlier this year.

The more I see and hear of Cardinal Piacenza, the Prefect for the Congregation of Clergy, the more impressed I am. The documents he has issued in his brief time at the Congregation have been excellent. I was also very struck on being on the sanctuary at Mass (OF) with him, as he made a clear distinction after the Sanctus by dropping his voice - not quite a silent Canon but a distinctly different tone. Perhaps it is part of his interpretation of the Holy Father's injunction for the two forms of the Roman Rite to influence one another.

The latest document is a call for a re-emphasis on the Sacrament of Confession as a basic building block for the New Evangelisation and encouragement to spiritual directors.

I know that even when I preach about it and put on extra times n my own parish, there are still very few takers. I'm going to try to take up Bishop Mark Davis' (of Shrewsbury) advice who says that he had good results in the parish by bringing the Sacrament to the people instead of waiting for them to come to him. He did this by sitting in the confessional box before and after Sunday Mass during Lent and Advent. I will preach about it his weekend and for Advent process straight from the sanctuary into the confessional after the Sunday Masses. I'm not particularly eager to add to the burden of work on a Sunday morning but I'm willing to give it a try and see what happens!

You can read the full document (which is quite lengthy) here: Priest, Minister of Divine Mercy.
Here are some extracts which took my attention (with my own highlights), starting with some practical aspects.


29. It is possible to experience this dynamic of the merciful forgiveness of God from childhood and even before First Holy Communion. “Innocent” [interesting that this word describing children is in inverted commas] children, moved by trust and filial joy, can find this experience.32 For this reason and towards this end, such souls should be prepared with a truly adequate catechesis prior to receiving their First Holy Communion.

The decorous and suitably positioned confessional “with a fixed grill between the penitent and the confessor in an open place so that the faithful who wish to can use them freely” is of great use to both penitent and priest.

43. “In case of grave necessity recourse may be had to a communal celebration of reconciliation with general confession and general absolution”. According to the norms of law, however, “for a member of the Christian faithful to receive validly sacramental absolution given to many at one time, it is required not only that the person be properly disposed, but also, at the same time, intend to confess within a suitable period of time each grave sin which at the present time cannot be so confessed”. The judgement as to whether the conditions required by the norm of law actually exist, “belongs to the diocesan bishop [not individual priests deciding on their own] [who] can determine the cases of such necessity, attentive to the criteria agreed upon with the other members of the conference of bishops”. Thus, “individual, integral confession and absolution remain the only ordinary way for the faithful to reconcile themselves with God and the Church, unless physical or moral impossibility excuses from this kind of confession… Personal confession is thus the form most expressive of reconciliation with God and with the Church”.
50. Frequent confession of venial sins or imperfections is a consequence of fidelity to Baptism and Confirmation, and expresses a sincere desire for perfection and return to the Father’s plan so that Christ may truly live in us through a life of greater fidelity to the Holy Spirit. Hence, “in view of the fact that all the faithful are called to holiness, it is recommended that they confess venial sins also”.It is particularly recommended that in places of worship confessors be visibly present […] and that confessions be especially available even during Mass, in order to meet the needs of the faithful. In the event of a “concelebrated Mass, it is warmly recommended that some priests refrain from concelebrating so as to hear the confessions of the faithful”.

61. We have to recognise the present difficulties facing the ministry of penance due to a certain loss of the sense of sin, a certain (JOHN PAUL II, Letter to priests on Holy Thursday 1986, JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Dives in Misericordia) disaffection towards this sacrament, a certain blindness to the usefulnessof the confession of sins and also the exhaustion suffered by many priests because of their manifold duties. However, confession is a spiritual rebirth transforming the sinner into a new creation and unites him with the friendship for Christ. Thus, it is a well-spring of joy for those who are servants of the Good Shepherd.

Some phrases of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI draw out attention to the same theme: “These days, the correct formation of believers’ consciences is without a doubt one of the pastoral priorities” .

10. The concrete, joyful, trustworthy and committed practice of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a clear indicator of the level of evangelization reached by the individual believer and by a particular community. [On this measure most parishes I know of - including my own -have not reached a very high level of evangelisation!]

Once again, I would like to set forth what I wrote in the exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia: ‘The priest’s spiritual and pastoral life, like that of his brothers and sisters, lay and religious, depends, for its quality and fervour, on the frequent and conscientious personal practice of the Sacrament of Penance. The priest’s celebration of the Eucharist and administration of the other sacraments, his pastoral zeal, his relationship with the faithful, his communion with his brother priests, his collaboration with his bishop, his life of prayer – in a word, the whole of his priestly existence, suffers an inexorable decline if by negligence or for some other reason he fails to receive the Sacrament of Penance at regular intervals and in a spirit of genuine faith and devotion. If a priest were no longer to go to confession or properly confess his sins, his priestly being and his priestly action would feel its effects very soon, and this would also be noticed by the community of which he was the pastor’ ”. But when I am conscious that God always forgives me, as Benedict XVI wrote, “by letting myself be forgiven, I learn to forgive others”.

18. Pastoral fruitfulness derives from the Mercy of God. Pastoral planning would hardly be efficacious were it to underestimate the importance of sacramental confession: “the greatest pastoral concern must be shown for this sacrament of the Church, the source of reconciliation, of peace and of joy for all of us who stand in need of the Lord’s mercy and of healing from the wounds of sin… The Bishop will not fail to remind all those who by virtue of office are charged with the care of souls that they have the duty to provide the faithful with the opportunity of making an individual confession. He himself will make certain that the faithful are in fact being assisted in every way possible to make their confession… When one considers in the light of Tradition and the Church’s Magisterium the close connection between the Sacrament of Reconciliation and participation in the Eucharist, one sees how necessary it is today to form the consciences of the faithful so that they may partake worthily and fruitfully of the Eucharistic Banquet, and approach it in a state of grace”. [The connection between Confession and receiving the Holy Eucharist has in practical effect been virtually lost in the Western world.]

Frequent confession, even for those who are not in grave sin, has constantly been recommended by the Church as a means of progress in the Christian life.

The fact that great numbers of people “seem to stay away from confession completely, for various reasons, is a sign of the urgent need to develop a whole pastoral strategy of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
This will be done by constantly reminding Christians of the need to have a real relationship with God, to have a sense of sin when one is closed to God and to others, the need to be converted and, through the Church, to receive forgiveness as a free gift of God. They also need to be reminded of the conditions that enable the sacrament to be celebrated well, and in this regard to overcome prejudices, baseless fears and routine. Such a situation, at the same time, requires that we ourselves should remain greatly available for this ministry of forgiveness; ready to devote to it the necessary time and care, and I would even say giving it priority over other activities.

Loss of a sense of sin disrupts the inner balance of our hearts and generates contradiction and conflict in human society.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

More on Confession before Communion

Following on from my last post, I've found some friends in the Archdiocese whose child has made First Holy Communion and who will shortly receive the Sacrament of Confirmation in one of the "catch up" services going on throughout the diocese. (This is because those who have made first Communion will not be confirmed at what would have been the usual time several years later -aged somewhere around 12/13/14.) However, he has not made his first Confession - so he will have made first Communion and been Confirmed but not have received the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

This is obviously in contradiction to what is clearly expected - that Confession should precede Communion:

"The need for safeguarding and protecting worthy participation in the Eucharist has compelled the church to introduce a norm in her discipline and pastoral practice that confession should precede communion and in this way the right of the faithful - both of adults and children -to receive the sacrament of reconciliation is recognized."

"It would be an absurd and unjust discrimination and a violation of his conscience if he were prepared for and admitted only to holy communion. It is not enough to say that children have the right to go to confession if this right remains practically ignored."

It is described as "An abuse which we censure" - one which I suspect is still fairly prevalent. Certainly in one of my previous parishes it was something I corrected in my first year there. This latest document from the Congregation for Clergy makes it clear that there has been much confusion, despite the fact that it is a confusion which should have been cleared up in 1977 (see previous post). I think that there are still those who have a desire - for what reason I cannot fathom - to postpone Confession. I noticed in the re-organising of first sacraments in my own diocese that the matter has not been clearly dealt with, even when questions have been asked in the meetings held about it. Indeed the accompanying DVD skips over any detail as to when first Confession is to take place but when Confession is mentioned it is teenagers that we see engaging in the process - implying that Communion and Confirmation will already have taken place. Looking back I posted about this before here.

This new document seems to be re-emphasising that children have the right to have their sins forgiven and thus be able to approach the other sacraments in a state of grace and that pastors have the duty to teach them about this: ie that no-one should approach Holy Communion - or indeed any of the other sacraments - without being in a state of grace.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Children must receive the Sacrament of Penance before they receive their first Communion

A letter from the Congregation for Clergy issued this week makes it clear without any doubts or exceptions that children must make their first Confession before making their first Holy Communion. I reproduce the the letter below but you can read it at the Vatican site here. It's of some interest here in my own diocese as there has been discussion over recent months around this subject in relation to the changes being made in to the order and the age children will make first Holy Communion and Confirmation.


Children must receive the sacrament of penance before they receive their first communion, according to a letter sent to the world's bishops by the Vatican Congregations for the Sacraments and Divine Worship and for the Clergy. In the letter, dated March 31 but released May 19, the congregations say that in spite of a 1973 declaration on this matter, it is apparent that "dissension and doubts" still exist in some parts of the church regarding the order in which children are to receive these sacraments. Thus, they say, it is necessary to explain once again the "mind and force of this declaration," which states that the 1910 decree of Pope Pius X, "Quam Singulari," is the norm to be followed "everywhere and by all." Immediately below is the text of the letter. It is followed by a brief, formal reply to an inquiry from a religious institute - one of many such inquiries and requests the congregations have received, the letter states.

Even though the declaration Sanctus Pontifex was published on May 24, 1973, by both the Sacred Congregations for the Discipline of the Sacraments and for the Clergy (cf. AAS 65, 1973, 410), nonetheless, in some parts of the church and in some catechetical centers, dissension and doubts still remain about the ecclesiastical discipline which regards children's receiving the sacrament of penance before they receive their first communion.

Many inquiries and requests have come to this apostolic see from bishops, from priests, and from parents. An apostolic religious institute which exercises its ministry in many countries posed the question explicitly whether, after the promulgation of the declaration, it was allowed, "as a general rule," to receive first communion without previous confession in those parishes in which this had become common practice.

Moreover, recent information gathered by the Congregation of the Sacraments and Divine Worship have proved the need of inculcating the church's norms regarding these questions as well as the occasion for explaining once again, and thus answering a felt need, the mind and force of this declaration. This is done by giving an official reply to the question, which the religious institute had proposed (cf. appendix).

It is certainly not necessary to explain the reason for publishing the decree since all realize what grave disturbance was created by some opinions based on psychological and pedagogical reasons, by which the traditional doctrine of the church was almost overturned. However, one must keep in mind that, while before the decree Quam Singulari (cf. AAS II Vol., p. 579), according to common opinion, children who reached a certain age could be admitted to confession, but not to receive communion, now on the other hand it is affirmed that children could go to communion, but that it is not fitting to make confession precede this sacrament.

Already according to the decree, Quam Singulari, the origin of that regrettable custom was seen in not having defined the age of discretion for receiving the sacrament: "The abuses which we censure spring from this, that the age of discretion was not properly or correctly defined and that some assign one age for confession, and another for the eucharist." For this reason in n. I of the section of the decree that lays down dispositions, it is decreed that there is only one age for these sacraments and that when it is reached, the obligation begins of receiving both according to the designated order i.e., confession before communion.

"The age of -discretion both for confession and for communion is the age in which the child begins to reason, i.e. around the seventh year, either before or after. From that time begins the obligation of satisfying both the precept of confession and of communion." (Note: It is not necessary to add that the strict obligation of confession should be understood according to the traditional doctrine of the church.)

That confession should precede communion is clear from the order in which these two sacraments are named in the decree, as well as from the fact that the disapproved abuses regarded not the admission to confession but rather, admission to holy communion.

The need for safeguarding and protecting worthy participation in the eucharist has compelled the church to introduce a norm in her discipline and pastoral practice that confession should precede communion and in this way the right of the faithful - both of adults and children -to receive the sacrament of reconciliation is recognized.

Moreover, St. Paul's admonition (cf. I Cor. 11, 28) truly establishes a directing norm which regards even children. Therefore these also, before receiving the holy eucharist, should examine themselves. But often the child is not able to examine his conscience clearly and surely by himself. This will be done more easily and safely if he avails himself of the help of a priest confessor. In fact there are many children who feel troubled by small and unimportant things while there are others who ignore and pass over more serious faults.

The precept of Canon 854 of the Code of Canon Law in which the judgment about the sufficient disposition for first communion belongs to the priest could not be observed if the child did not go to confession before communion.

In this matter one must also keep in mind that many fine pastors have learned from their catechetical and ministerial experience the great usefulness and saving power which their first confession has in the life of children if it is carefully prepared, properly adapted to their age and their capacity to perceive spiritual things and carefully administered.

When he arrives at the age of discretion, the child has the right in the church to receive both sacraments. It would be an absurd and unjust discrimination and a violation of his conscience if he were prepared for and admitted only to holy communion. It is not enough to say that children have the right to go to confession if this right remains practically ignored.

When children are sufficiently instructed and are aware of the special nature of these two sacraments, it will not be difficult for them to go first to the sacrament of reconciliation which - in a simple but fundamental way - arouses in them the awareness of moral good and evil and aids them to bring a more mature disposition to their happy meeting with Christ. The basic persuasion about the need of the greatest purity for receiving the eucharist worthily, if prudently instilled in children right from the time of their first communion, will accompany them for the rest of their lives and will lead to a greater esteem for, and a more frequent use of, the sacrament of reconciliation.

The Roman Pontiff taught this in the letter he wrote through the Secretary of State on the occasion of the 26th Liturgical Week celebrated in Florence: "The Holy Father gives special consideration to the confession of children and, especially the first confession, which should always precede their first communion, even if they are fittingly separated by a period -of time. For from that early ge should begin the preaching of penance which offers a more fervent foundation later on for living faith both in receiving the sacrament as well as in giving proper direction to one's Christian life. "

It can be observed that in many nations particular conditions of society and culture are not a legitimate reason for establishing a different discipline. Human nature is essentially the same everywhere and the goals of spiritual perfection, which belong to the sacrament, are proposed equally to everyone. And indeed, children in whatever circumstances of society and culture they live, if they can receive the eucharist in a conscious way suitable for their age, can also have an equal awareness of sin and ask God's pardon in confession.

Finally, one must remember that the great renewal and greater vigor of the sacrament of penance, 'which is so necessary today and so desired by pastors in the universal church, cannot come about unless it has its foundation and principle in the careful and fruitful preparation and reception of the sacrament of Christian initiation.

We are happy to take this occasion to profess ourselves with sentiments of esteem.
Devotedly yours,
Cardinal James Knox

Cardinal John Wright

The following note was issued with the letter:

To the doubt proposed: "Whether it is allowed after the declaration of May 24, 1973, to continue to have, as a general rule, the reception of first communion precede the reception of the sacrament of penance in those parishes in which this practice developed in the past few years."
The Sacred Congregations for the Sacraments and Divine Worship and for the Clergy, with the approval of the Supreme Pontiff, reply: Negative and according to the mind of the declaration.
The mind of the declaration is that one year after the promulgation of the same declaration, all experiments of receiving first, communion without the sacrament of penance should cease so that the discipline of the church might be restored, in the spirit of the decree, Quam Singulari.
From the Vatican: 31 March 1977