Monday, 31 January 2011

A Mass of Thanksgiving..........1645

Chapel of St George and the English Martyrs
Wesminster Cathedral, London

February 1st, 1645 and Father Henry Morse SJ faces the day of his execution. His first act of the day is to celebrate an early Mass, a Votive Mass of the Holy Trinity which he dedicates in thanksgiving to Almighty God for granting him, this great favour; that of being brutally martyred by being hanged until semi conscious, cut down, his stomach slit open and his intestines removed and then his heart and lungs to be plucked from his body. Finally, his body to be butchered into four quarters and put on display for the common man to gawp at.
Before the Mass in prison, Fr Morse recited the Litanies of Our Lady and of all the Saints, as was the custom, for the cause of the conversion of England.
After Mass he exhorted those present to hold true to the Faith and then he rested for an hour before saying the Canonical Hours and making his farewell tour of the jail to give cheerful farewells to his fellow prisoners.
At last, as his hour arrived he threw himself to his knees and prayed fervently:
"Come, my sweetest Jesus that I may now be inseperably united to Thee in time and eternity: welcome ropes, hurdles, gibbets, knives, and butchery, welcome for the love of Jesus my Saviour".
He was then tied to a sledge and drawn by four horses to Tyburn.

To be continued.......................

Mass in West Wales - transformed into the Sistine Chapel

This Sunday's EF Mass was a sad Mass and a joyous Mass, it was the farewell Sung Mass of Fr Jason Jones who is about to take up duties as Parish Priest at The Sacred Heart, Morriston, Nr Swansea. Fr Jones, as always, celebrated the Mass with breathtaking reverence and the singing of the choir transformed the rather cliched 70s style church of Our Lady of the Taper (sorry, Our Lady but I'm sure you dislike the architecture as much as I do) in Cardigan into Rome's Sistine Chapel.
The Mass was one of Byrd's and the choir's singing was plaintive and pleading and beautiful to the extreme. The sanctuary was full to the brim of the angelic host, more than could be counted (it is quite fruitless trying to count angels, they just will not keep still and they're also invisible so it makes it absolutely impossible).
The altar servers were brilliant and faultless, well the MC was a bit rubbish, but Corey  ploughed on valiantly. All in all, it was an occasion to remember.
I also remember Mill Hill Father, Father Hughes berating us parishioners at Courtfield years ago because someone had said to him that morning after Mass: "Wonderful Mass Father".
"Every Mass is a wonderful Mass" he thundered at us and, of course, he was right. But last Sunday we experienced another wonderful Mass plus one with an extra helping of God's grace.
Afterwards tea and buns and a modest presentation, modest because we do not really believe Fr Jones is leaving us....we will just see him a little less often!
And after that, Benediction.

Tea and buns and a presentation!
I suspect that Morriston will not know what sort of a treat they are in for. Poor dears, I think they have been in freefall since Vatican II and probably are quite used to putting on Telly Tubby outfits and prancing around the sanctuary every Sunday.
 If that is the case, they might have experienced the last Lah Lah or Twinkie Winky performance. Fr J is nothing if not even handed betwixt OF and EF but liturgical abuse and breaches of Canon Law he will not have anywhere within 5000 miles of him. Good.
He will, of course, suffer the lot of every priest that leads his flock honestly towards salvation and that is, criticism and sniping from those who believe that they know better than the Holy Father.
I wish him well for the future and the guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit to accompany him in his ministry.

         "Blessed are those that are persecuted
               for My names'  sake:
               for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven"

Father Jason Jones and Corey, a great altar server!


Oscar Wilde - a poem with resonance around the world today

I came across this poem (more prayer really) of Oscar Wilde's on an interesting blog Islam and Christianity
It conjures up many images of the murders and atrocities committed against Christians today......

On the Massacre of Christians in Bulgaria
by Oscar Wilde

Christ, dost Thou live indeed? or are Thy bones
Still straitened in their rock-hewn sepulchre?
And was Thy rising only dreamed by Her
Whose love of Thee for all her sin atones?
For here the air is horrid with men's groans,
The priests who call upon Thy name are slain,
Dost Thou not hear the bitter wail of pain
From those whose children lie upon the stones?
Come down, O Son of God! incestuous gloom
Curtains the land, and through the starless night
Over Thy Cross, a crescent moon I see!
If Thou in very truth didst burst the tomb
Come down, O Son of Man! and show Thy might,
Lest Mahomet be crowned instead of Thee!

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Mgr Charles Pope on the Fifth and Sixth marks of the Church

Writing on the Archdiocese of Washington site, Mgr Pope makes some very interesting comments on what he perceives as being the 'new' marks of the Church, on top of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic marks.

The Monsignor's two extra marks I find particularly poignant and a sad indictment of the times we live in today.
Many people will state that evil and persecution have been with us throughout the centuries and I would not dispute that. But I would state that we are witnessing today what Our Lord called "a recrudescence of evil", that is, evil on a scale and intensity not experienced before. Now I am not talking about the end of the world per se, the phrase "recrudescence of evil" does refer to the end of time. However, my belief is that, whilst we may be in the last of days, the world still has got a long way to go (but don't blame me if I'm wrong).
Mgr Pope's new marks are 'Hated' and 'Perduring' meaning to endure permanently and here is his rationale:-

The 5th Mark of the Church: Hated. Jesus consistently taught us to expect the hatred of the world if we were true disciples.
If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. (John 15:18-20).
Or Again: All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub,how much more the members of his household! (Matt 10:22-24)
Or yet again, Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets. (Luke 6:26)
One of the more painful aspects of Church life, yet also one of the aspects of which I am most “proud” is that we are hated especially by the world. It is true that some of the Evangelicals are ridiculed but few can deny that a very special and intense hatred for the Catholic Church and is widely on display. It’s never OK in our society (nor should it be) to scorn Jews or Muslims and to mock or attack their faith traditions. Most of the other Christian denominations (except the Evangelicals) also escape much hatred. But the Catholic Church, ah the Catholic Church, now it seems open season on her. We are scorned, badly portrayed in movies, our history is misrepresented, our sins (and we do have them) are exaggerated, our teachings called bigoted, backward, unrealistic, and out of date. And no matter how ugly, bigoted and inaccurate the world’s hatred is, very few if any express any outrage at how were are treated and misrepresented. Try any of this on the Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, et al. and the outrage and claims of bigotry are echoed by the media (and well they should be). Meanwhile Dan Brownet al. get to go on and on about “evil” priests and bishops, a crucifix can be submerged in urine or the Blessed Mother smeared with dung and this is praised as “art” and funded by government grants.
I am not complaining (though these things are wrong). I am actually quite hopeful that this means we are doing something right. We are a sign of contradiction to the world and we are hated for it. We speak the truth to a world gone mad and we hold on to that “old time religion.” That we are hated puts us in good company with Jesus and the prophets and martyrs who stood with him. If we are really doing what we should be doing, the Church ought to experience significant hatred from the world. So hatred by the world is an essential mark of the Church if you ask me. We do not look to be hated. Neither do we look for conflict. But in preaching Christ crucified, in preaching the whole counsel of God and not some watered down version of it we surely do find hatred and conflict comes to us. Some people and denominations try to fit in with the world. They accept its ways and comprise the clear teaching of Christ. But the True Church speaks the whole truth of God in love and does not cave to the world’s demands. The true Church, by Christ’s promise, is hated by the world and those allied and wedded to it. But no need to fear…the sixth “mark” is here!
The Sixth Mark of the Church – Perduring – To perdure means to permanently endure. Here too Christ firmly established this principle and promise to the true Church:
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it(Matt 16:18).
There are no governments or nations that have lasted 2000 years. Very little else in this world can claim such antiquity and even if it does can it claim to have remained essentially unchanged in its dogma or teaching? The Catholic Church is one, even after 2000 years. An unbroken line of Popes back to Peter and an unbroken line of succession for all the Bishops back to the Apostles through the laying on of hands. Not bad. Now consider that this is a miracle! If the Church were depending on human beings to exist and stay unified how long do think she would have lasted? Probably about twenty minutes, max. Our history is not without some pretty questionable moments, in terms of the human elements of the Church. That the gates of hell would never prevail against the Church certainly suggests they would try again and again. But here we are, a miracle. Still standing after all these years. Christ is true to his promise to remain with us all days unto the consummation of the world. We, the human elements of the Church may not live teachings of Christ perfectly, but the Church has never failed to teach what Christ taught even (as now) when the world hated us for it. At times we are tepid and struggle to find our voice, but Christ still speaks and ministers even in our weakness. Yes the Catholic Church is a miracle, the Work of Jesus Christ. And thus the sixth Mark of the Church is that she perdures. By God’s grace we exhibit this sixth mark. Nations have come and gone, empires risen and fallen, eras opened and closed, but through it all we perdure.
So there it is, I believe in one, holy, catholic, apostolic, (and if you don’t mind me saying), hated and perduring Church.

Look around the world at the countries where Christians are suffering (perduring) and being hated to the point of being martyred; Iraq, Nigeria, Sudan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, India and so on. Or, look more closely at home and listen to some of Peter Tatchell's speeches, or Richard Dawkins scribblings and many others besides.
Observe the decadence of Italian governance and you must believe that Signor B must also hate the Holy Father and all that he stands for.
We are surrounded by hate and must count ourselves blessed to live in these times when, in the words of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, "It really means something to stand up and say that you are a Catholic".

Catholic identity? It's obvious!

The answer is plain and simple and it relies wholly on just how Christ like we are. That is our identity and it should shine out like a beacon in the dark.
I know people like that; some are priests, some are nurses and some are just everyday folk who have worked hard to assume the mantle.
It has an interior aspect (as The Catholic Whistle) has pointed out but it must also have an exterior one. The result of private meditation must be an aura of sanctity just as  good works must also produce the same.
Saying one's rosary beads on the plane or train is not the Catholic identity but it does contribute towards creating it. Spending one's spare time helping the destitute and homeless is not the Catholic identity but it does form it.
Of course, it is God's Grace that comes as a result of prayer and charitable works that moulds our identity. It is Grace that makes us more like Christ but we can also work to draw ourselves closer to being Christ like (as opposed to the priestly calling to be 'other Christs).

Catholic identity shines through here

What steps can we take to build our identity, other than prayer and meditation and the avoidance of sin?

Here are a few thoughts......

* Maintain a reverent silence at Mass and at all times when in church
* Be prepared to condemn without being       
* State the Catholic case in your social and work environments (when it's called for)
* Advocate support for the Holy Father amongst your Catholic peers
* Avoid the bitterness of Catholic 'politics'
* Teach your faith but do not preach it
* Be justifiably angry when faced with wrongdoing but leave the overturning of tables to
   the Lord
* Seek out the company of like minded people
* Draw up a mental checklist of your attributes and then decide if you like what you see
* Take all necessary steps to increase your reverence and devotional outlook. 
   By that I mean only receiving Holy Communion by mouth, kneeling and from a priest
   if humanly possible and by genuflecting when crossing the path of the tabernacle
* Seeing the face of Christ in those around us whom we have difficulty in loving

Oh......and by not holding hands at the Our Father!

Jim Caveziel, Catholic actor who played Christ in The Passion of the Christ and who refuses to undertake any risque scenes in the films he stars in. He carries the 'CI'
St Maximilian Kolbe SJ., gave up his life to save a Jewish prisoner. It is not just the act that yields a Catholic identity, you can see goodness in his face

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Now there's holding hands during the Pater Noster! And I'm suffering from the thin, red mist....

NO - NO - NO! I can not believe what I have read on a blog.....I was so overcome with nausea I even forgot to note whose blog it was but it was a debate about holding hands with your neighbour in the pew whilst reciting the Our Father at Holy Mass.
And the debate seemed settled on the fact that it was a good and desirable thing to do (retch, retch, vomit).
I even believe that a nun may have started this particular hare running on her blog...what am I saying?.....of course it must have been a nun it's got twin set and pearls written all over it. Ugh.
I cannot even begin to imagine what is in the minds of such people (if anything at all).
I suppose this sort of thing takes place at 'Masses' where the celebrant begins by turning to the congregation  audience before fixing them with a sickly smile and proclaiming "Good morning everybody". To which the holy response is: "Good morning Farver". Personally, I would go for the unholy response which has "off" pre-fixed by a three letter word but then, as I do not go to the OF Mass I do not have to worry.
As if the kiss of peace is not bad enough, we now have the prospect of hand holding going on around the pews. Soon it will be a bit of the "left leg out shake it all about" hokey cokey nonsense. Where are my statins?

Freemasons do it.....Episcopalians do it.....even Boy Scouts do it.....but not real Catholics!

What is the point of holding hands? Has anyone stopped to consider the ramifications of being a middle aged unaccompanied man who suddenly realises that an 8 year old child is standing next to him at the Lords' Prayer? Has the paedophilia issue gone so rapidly from our minds? Or, worse, having a 17 year old Lolita look-alike alongside?
Does holding hands make us love one another more? Does it bring us closer together?
When Our Lord said to His Apostles "Let me show you how to pray" did He ask them to form a circle and link arms?
A few years ago when there was something called the charismatic movement slinking around the faith, I witnessed a few nutters standing up at Mass with arms outstretched as if they were waiting for a tennis ball to come flying down the church towards them. Again, it was so very self-centred, 'look at me aren't I holy' Catholicism. I trust that stupidity has vanished now.
But, of course, while the kiss of peace handshaking business is still in place what can one expect? The real kiss of peace is received at Holy Communion - and you can't improve on that.

Does Don Camillo have the Catholic identity?

Don Camillo - as played by Fernandel
OK, I know he is a fictional character and he has been around for 60 or so years now but, for me, Giovanni Guareschi's small town Italian Priest with hands like joints of meat and a massive overdose of charity and a touch of peasant guile does symbolise much that I, if not admire, certainly can empathise with. He is so very human and comes with all the frailities associated with that label. He is quick to anger but, equally quick to forgive. He defends his faith in a muscular fashion and, maybe we could do with a bit more of that today. I remember a well known Catholic priest of the 60s whose parish was in Tiger Bay, Cardiff. A rough and violent neck of the woods if ever there was one. One of his docker parishioners constantly beat up his long suffering wife. Father H received a report of an exceptionally bad beating (up to then he had admonished and remonstrated with the man) and decided that enough was enough. He went round to the house, took off his jacket and gave the man a thorough thrashing. He never laid a hand on his wife after that. I like direct and effective action. I even think that, on that occasion, it was a Christ like thing to do. Don Camillo would have done that and then he would have sought the company of the crucified Christ in his church and confessed to a sin of anger. "Did you cause him permanent harm Don Camillo?" The Lord would say.
"No, Lord, I just duffed him up a bit". "Well, then you have done my work for me, thank you Don Camillo".
If you have never read the Don Camillo series I recommend that you do so. Every story has a moral and every story portrays good versus bad - not evil, just bad. And maybe that is part of our identity also.

Good usually triumphs in the Don Camillo stories - but not always!

Friday, 28 January 2011

A little bit more background to the Vaughan affair

Courtesy of the Evening Standard, 26th October 2010 edition.........

Keeping the faith at a Catholic state school

Stephen Robinson
26 Oct 2010

As the deadline for secondary applications looms this week, a row between parents and officials has left one of London's best Catholic state schools without a head
You know you are not inside a bog standard comprehensive when you walk into a Latin lesson at Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School and all the pupils spring respectfully to their feet.
Outside the classrooms, the male teachers and the senior prefects progress along the corridors in academic gowns, as though they are dons floating across an Oxford quad. There is no interest in the staff room in advancing media studies — at this Holland Park comprehensive, it's more classics, science, maths, music, modern languages and a stiff dose of Catholicism.
The honours board hanging above the main staircase proudly records this year's haul of Oxbridge places — 12, one of the highest of any non-private school in the country. Almost every boy and girl goes on from the school to some form of higher education.
Then there is the strong sense of Catholic devotion. The rosary and Angelus are recited every day. At mass, the boys and girls — who are admitted into the sixth form — kneel on the bare floor. They are encouraged, though not compelled, to attend confession. Discipline is strict, though the school is certainly not solemn.
The teachers josh around with the boys and girls in the corridors between lessons but there is no doubt who is in charge. Bad behaviour and slacking at homework are not tolerated. The teachers use unfashionable words such as “punishment”.
“The Vaughan”, as generations of old boys and their parents call it, feels almost like a public school, or perhaps more precisely like an old-fashioned grammar school because the children, though impeccably mannered, do not seem “posh”.
As required by laws governing comprehensive school intakes, the Vaughan admits a mixed band of clever and not very clever children from Catholic primary schools; they are ethnically mixed — there are lots of Poles — and some 40 per cent of the children speak English as an additional language at home.
Yet in its unapologetic commitment to academic achievement, the Vaughan is a little like the grammar school depicted in Alan Bennett's History Boys but with a strong Roman influence and without the flattened vowels and high camp flourishes. “The Pope would absolutely love this school,” says one parent. “It's just a shame that our Catholic hierarchy cannot appreciate its strengths.”
With its stellar A-level results, fantastic Ofsted reports and stunning music, it is no surprise that the Vaughan attracts five or six applicants for every place. Parents love it because it offers an education that would cost upwards of £20,000 a year across the way at St Paul's or Westminster, and it is precisely this level of achievement that has led to a ferocious row over the “gerrymandering” of the school's board of governors.
Last Thursday, this erupted out of the pages of the Tablet and into a potentially ruinously expensive legal battle pitching the Vaughan against the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, and the Westminster Diocese Education Service (WDES). A group of parent governors sent a letter to parents pleading for funds to take the diocese to court to stop what the governors see as a blatant attempt to destroy the Vaughan as one of the very best Catholic comprehensive schools in the country.
The row at the Vaughan reflects a London-wide problem for many of the better church schools, which are heavily oversubscribed, causing tension between church authorities and disappointed parents. The London Oratory, which competes with the Vaughan to be regarded as London's top Catholic state school, turns away scores of disappointed parents each year. The Brompton Oratory, which is linked to the school, records attendance so that sharp-elbowed middle-class parents cannot fool the admissions staff. Nick Clegg, an avowed atheist married to a Spanish Catholic, is said to be considering sending his children there.
The Vaughan has unwittingly become the battleground between liberal and conservative English Catholics in a war to determine what is a proper state-funded Catholic education.
Overwhelmed by applications for its prized places, the Vaughan decided to demand proof of levels of Catholic adherence beyond the diocese's standard requirement that children be baptised Catholics whose parents regularly attend mass.
“We found middle-class parents were good at playing the system, and that parish priests would just sign the form confirming attendance as a favour,” says Sir Adrian Fitzgerald, former chairman of the governors, who was returned to the board by Kensington and Chelsea council. So the Vaughan asked for evidence of parental “involvement” in Catholic affairs as a means of weeding out less devout applicants.
This was regarded as uncontroversial by the parent body but caught the attention of officials at the Westminster diocese. To the fury of parents and staff at the school, the WDES reported the Vaughan to the Government inspectorate for breaching comprehensives' admissions policies.
The diocese argues that demanding higher levels of Catholic commitment discriminates against poor children whose parents are less able to contribute by volunteering at parish events, or cleaning the church.
That one Catholic bureaucratic body should report a Catholic school to a secular schools inspectorate was regarded as a gross betrayal by the Vaughan and by many in the wider London Catholic community.
Worse still, so far as the Vaughan was concerned, the diocese began to use its powers to purge the school board. Six governors deemed supportive of the school were ousted, then the dioceses imposed as a governor Paul Barber, director of WDES, a lawyer who has no direct teaching experience.
Barber was the official who reported the school to the secular schools adjudicator so his appointment to the board caused fury, prompting parent governors to secure a temporary injunction barring his appointment as a conflict of interest.
The upshot is that because of the injunction, the Vaughan's board of governors is unable to meet, and it is impossible to select a replacement for the much-loved headmaster, Michael Gormally, who has retired because of ill health.
Many parents believe the diocese has deliberately paralysed the governing body so that it can impose a liberal outsider on the school as the next headmaster and begin to purge the Vaughan of its conservative Catholicism and unpick its unapologetic academic elitism.
“The diocese clearly wants to change the school,” says Sir Adrian Fitzgerald, an outspoken sixth baronet who divides his time between west London and his ancestral home in Ireland. “Why are they picking on this school when they should be worrying about failing schools in London?” He believes that the officials in WDES are “wagging the dog” and persuading the bishops to impose conventional Left-wing ideology on the schools.
Patti Fordyce, another governor whose term was terminated by the diocese in August, believes the WDES is trying to impose its vision of modish Catholic liturgy suitable for young people, “all tambourines and guitars, all that stuff that is as embarrassing as watching parents dance at a disco”. Fordyce, whose own son attended the Vaughan, says that what children really respond to “is the beauty of the liturgy”.
The Vaughan is clearly at a crossroads, and staff and parents fear that should the diocese prevail in imposing a liberal outsider as headmaster, the best teachers will leave, and the school could simply collapse.
The Westminster diocese refuses to explain why its director of education, Paul Barber, has been appointed to the Vaughan's board. Officials say the row is a matter of “authority” and that it is for the bishops, not school governors, to determine admissions' criteria.
Barber is not, and has never been, a governor of any other school in the diocese, even those which have been placed under watch as “failing”. Parents and staff argue that if entrance criteria became more specifically geographical, it would benefit principally the ultra-rich who live in the multi-million pound houses on Addison Road in Holland Park rather than the wider Catholic community of west London.
At the Vaughan, where the teachers are caught in the crossfire, it is business as usual, though Charles Eynaud, the acting headmaster, concedes the legal dispute is taking its toll.
“We are looking forward to a speedy resolution of this matter so that we can move on and the Vaughan can continue to improve and flourish,” he says, declining to comment further.
Catherine Utley
As the mother of a teenager at Cardinal Vaughan, it's easy to see why the school is popular among parents and heavily over-subscribed. But what is it that makes it quite so good?
The commitment of the teachers is one thing. The head of music regularly gives up his Sundays to organise the Big Band's performances at a Barnes pub; other teachers volunteer to coach football and rugby, unpaid, on Saturdays. One of my daughter's masters spent two lunchtimes last week while on playground duty walking round explaining Greek tragedy to her because she had joined his class late in the term and needed to catch up. There's a strong sense of common purpose among teachers, staff and pupils.
Although the Vaughan's standards of discipline and manners are exceptionally high (my daughter tells me that the boys even hold doors open for the girls), the atmosphere is not harsh or regimented. What rules there are are rigorously enforced but there aren't that many of them; it's as if good behaviour is expected and so good behaviour is — with some exceptions — achieved.
Also popular with parents and pupils are the virtually unrivalled musical opportunities and the wide-ranging after-school clubs. And, of course, there is the excellence of the teaching and results across all abilities.
But Cardinal Vaughan is, first and foremost, a Catholic school. Its strong and authentic Catholic ethos binds together parents, pupils, staff and teachers and is a visible and tangible force everywhere.
Catholic parents, determined to keep their children practising the faith in a culture which is increasingly hostile to religion, love the reverence with which mass at the Vaughan is always celebrated; they love it that the sign of the cross is made before every lesson and that the Angelus is recited every day. And when their 11-year-old comes home from school and tells them that he and his friends have joined the rosary club, it is music to their ears.


Do these accounts reveal something of a Catholic identity?


"When a priest comes to their houses they first salute him as a stranger unknown to them, and then they take him to an inner chamber where an oratory is set up, when all fall on their knees and beg his blessing. If he says he must go tomorrow as he normally does, for it is dangerous to stay longer, they all prepare for Confession that evening. The next morning they hear Mass and receive Holy Communion; then, after preaching, and giving his blessing a second time, the priest departs, conducted by one of the young gentlemen (that is, of the Catholic Association).
No one is to be found to complain of the length of the services. If the Mass does not last nearly an hour many are discontented. If six, eight or more Masses are said in the same place, and in the same day (as often happens when there is a meeting of priests), the same congregation will assist at all. When they can get priests they Confess every week. Quarrels are scarce known amongst them. Disputes are almost always left to the arbitration of the priest. They do not willingly intermarry with heretics, nor will they pray with them, nor do they like having any dealing with them."

This is from an account of recusant life in the 16th century. How has our character changed from period to period? Not too much between the 16th and 19th centuries, I guess. Catholics in Great Britain were thin on the ground during this time and the new dawn of emancipation had not yet arrived. Priests were addressed as "Mr" and, by the early 19th century we had withdrawn behind closed doors.

This is how Cardinal Newman described us:

"No longer the Catholic Church in the country - nay, no longer, I may say, a Catholic comunity, but a few adherents of the old religion, moving silently and sorrowfully about, as memorials of what had been. 'The Roman Catholics' - not a sect, not even an interest, as men conceived of it; not a body, however small, representative of the great communion abroad - but merely a handful of individuals, who might be counted like the pebbles and detritus of the great deluge, and who, forsooth, merely happened to retain a creed which, in its day indeed, was the profession of a Church. Here, a set of poor Irishmen, coming and going at harvest time, or a colony of them lodged in a miserable quarter of the vast metropolis. There, perhaps an elderly person seen walking in the streets, grave and solitary and strange, though noble in bearing, and said to be of good family, and a 'Roman Catholic'. An old-fashioned house of gloomy appearance, closed in with high walls, with an iron gate and yews, and the report attaching to it that 'Roman Catholics' lived there; but who were they or what they did, or what was meant by calling them Roman Catholics, no one could tell - though it had an unpleasant sound, and told of form and superstition......." 

'Roman Catholics live here'


An identity existed then but not one to be particularly proud of although, it was born out of isolation and rampant discrimination.
With emancipation and the Irish Famine came a new flush of growth to build on a small but sound base that owed its existence to the French Revolution and the re-establishment of French religious houses and pastors in Great Britain. A new fervour began and with it a slight imbalance crept in; rural Catholics expecting a priest to arrive to hear Confessions and say Mass would begin to prepare themselves days if not weeks in advance and there were the extremes of fasting and only occasional reception of the Eucharist. Lenten fasts and abstinences invariably meant no meat throughout the whole of that period. This did bring a sort of rigorous reverence with it and, perhaps had much to commend it. But it would have been better had it been tempered a little.
And then along came the 20th century and things did not change too much until after the Great War. My father joined up under age along with so many other young men and was assigned to the East Surrey Regiment - known colloquially as 'The Bermondsey Boys.'
At night they were billeted in Nissan huts, about 60 men to each hut. Each night he would (at the tender age of 17), kneel by his bunk and say his evening prayers - to a chorus of jeers, whistles and catcalls. I could not have done that at 17, I'm not even sure I could do it now. Character forming stuff and definitely a large slice of Catholic identity.
After the War, the rot appears to have set in and a very marked decline in all things Catholic began to take place.
Not all of it was bad, I relish the story of my two oldest brothers doing incendiary bomb watch duty on the school roof at night; accompanied by Sister John, one of the last great nuns, may God have mercy on her soul. She taught my brothers to dance on the school roof at night in the time of the Blitz - never making contact - all dancing was done "air" fashion so all the proprieties were observed - that was part of the Catholic identity,  humour, common sense, love for one's fellow man, as well as reverence and respect, all component parts that help to build and form and give us the desire to aspire ever higher.
After the Second World War, our identity (or character if you prefer) fragmented considerably. The break up of the family unit, a loss of community as men and women moved around the country and overseas to work, divorce and, more recently, the paedophile scandals - all contributed to us being rather less than forthcoming in stating our beliefs. Catholics began to lower their profile, keeping quiet at dinner party abortion debates, afraid to condemn homosexuality. Keen to be accepted as equals in society rather than outcasts.
And now....maybe the beginnings of a sense of something lost. That all is not quite right with the world. That we need to do a little soul gazing and determine exactly what kind of animal we are.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Re-creating the Catholic identity - if we know what that is

George Weigel wrote a learned post recently about the Catholic identity but it was done with a heavy bias on academia and I believe that 'identity' or, at least, a Catholic 'identity' is something much more than that. But what precisely?

Notre Dame University had it once but not any longer
It is always tempting to look back on one's own experiences in the formative years and then stake a claim for it being a typical, good, Catholic upbringing. It was; I was blessed to be born into a strong Catholic family with 6 siblings. We were in a parish that had good priests and a varied spiritual and social calendar. We lived in a Catholic world and, in reality, those who were non Catholics might just as well not have existed. In  a parish of c. 2000 folk, only one couple were divorced. All other marriages had the appearance of being intensely Catholic. But that is history, not really identity although it may have a part to play in creating a foundation for identity.

No doubting his identity but appearance is only part of it
In today's world one can look at the Jews and see that they have a relatively clear identity, if somewhat stereotypical. Walk around Finchley or Mill Hill and you see family units walking around, or climbing into the Merc if it is not a Saturday. Father will wear a skullcap, mother will look, well, sort of Jewish mama looking if you know what I mean. They go to synagogue and to Jewish sabbath schools and shop in 
Not so very different from their Catholic counterparts of the 50s and 60s but it was the Co-op in those days. Now we have lost something. And I'm not entirely sure what that something is.
Please do not misunderstand me, identity is something much deeper than appearances or habit; it has an almost indefinable air about it but we had something approaching it when we abstained from meat on Fridays. To decline the sausage and mash in the office cantina invariably provoked a remark, not an unkind one but, often, gently poking fun at the fact that someone would hold back from eating meat on just one day of the week. The openings it created were legion and it became a sort of game to opt for the fish and await the comments and then follow through with the killer punchline: "We do it as an act of penance and as a reminder that Christ died on the cross for us on a Friday".
Ker-booom! Game set and match to the Papists. They struggled to pick themselves up off the floor after that one!
Perhaps that has some kernel of truth about it; it was an act that required a public proclamation of one's beliefs. We don't do that today, we don't have the opportunity to do it when we don't give anything up, we don't put in a plea for time off to attend Mass on a holy day of obligation, we don't have to abstain. The end result is that we don't hold our hands up to be counted as Catholics. We don't defend the Pope, we don't walk away when a pornographic mag is passed around the office, we don't decry IVF, abortion, euthanasia - or, at least, not enough.

So perhaps we do need some outward signs that will give us the prop we need to proclaim our faith. How about these?

1. Say grace before meals in public
2. Recite the rosary (avec beads) on the metro, bus or plane
3. Cross ourselves when passing a church
4. Adorn our homes with crucifix and holy water stoup
5. Start speaking up for the faith
6. Be intolerant of moral decay (homosexuality, abortion, adultery, tax fraud, 
    pornography and so on)
7. Fulfil Sunday and Holy Day obligations if at all possible
8. Proclaim our faith publicly (writing to your MP on an issue etc)
9. Demand more from our Bishops - they need to know that there is a thirst for a deeper
    profile to our faith. We need to invite them to step up to the mark and lead the anti
    abortion rally or whatever
10. Support our priests and encourage those of them who are less adequate to become
    more so

Will all of those things help to re-create our identity? I'm still not sure. I think that much more may be needed before people will be able to nudge their colleague in the lift and whisper: "She/he's a Catholic you know".
Maybe Blessed Sacrament processions through the city streets should be added to the list....any other notions?

The Pope, condoms and the Moscow bombing

The Hermeneutic of Continuity has a very droll post on a media mix up involving the word 'condoms' and 'condemns' and this brought to mind the old joke:

Father: "Who left this condom on the patio?"

Son: "What's a patio Dad?"

Second only to Rome..Britain's smallest city

Nestling in the far West of Pembrokeshire, on the tip of Wales lies Britain's smallest city with a population of only 1,600 souls. St David's, or Dewi Sant in Welsh, has long been a holy place and home of the great saint himself.

Built in the depths of a valley to avoid attention from the Vikings!
 The Cathedral is also small but beautiful nonetheless and it lies deep in a small valley at one end of the city. It was built deep in the valley so that it would not be seen by the marauding Vikings who sacked, plundered and pillaged to their heart's delight. It did not escape the attentions of that other marauding sex maniac, Henry XVIII whose men systematically committed sacrilege with the Cathedral and its furnishings and valuables.
Adjacent to the Cathedral are the ruins of the Bishop's Palace.

The Bishop's Palace. Built by Saints destroyed by Sinners
 It is easy to stand outside the Cathedral and be aware of the remnants of the walls of the city and to imagine how, in the middle ages, the local community would have assembled within the city walls at night, for safety's sake. And how the monks would have offered employment to farm labourers, schools for the children and hospitals for the sick.
A veritable society of care and charity which all came to an abrupt end with the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
In medieval times, two pilgrimages to St David's were equal to one to Rome  and what is now the A40 provided much of the route of the pilgrims intent on fulfilling their considerable task of paying homage to God in one of His holy places.
A few miles outside the county town of Haverfordwest lies Slebech Park, now a luxury hotel complex for the wealthy.  This was a final stopping off point before arriving in the city and within the grounds is a ruined chapel with a sarcophagus containing the pickled hearts of the Crusader Knights who died in battle in the Holy Land.
Less than a  mile outside St David's lies St Non's Well, (St Non being the mother of the saint).

St Non's Well - a place to take the waters in medieval times
The water here is supposed to have miraculous properties. Cross the stile and you are in the grounds of a Catholic Retreat house, also called St Non's. It stands atop the cliffs of Pembrokeshire and you look out at the distant shores of Ireland, well, you can't see them but they are there.

St Non's has a faux medieval chapel in the grounds built in, I think, 1938. It is charming despite its youth and cries out for a Latin Mass to be celebrated at its original altar.
St Non's Chapel
The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path stretches out for many miles in both directions and provides for some of the best sea views in the country.

It would be rather a good thing if the Church of Wales would care to endow the Diocese of Menevia with the title deeds to St David's Cathedral, in the spirit of the Ordinariate, of course! It is so very rich in Catholic history and yet, typically, its Catholic heritage just does not appear in much of the information regarding this  
                                               Church and its past.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The Cardinal Vaughan issue just will not go away

I blogged on the battle that the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School was having with Archbishop Nichols and the Diocese of Westminster quite some time ago.
Since then, the parents of this excellent school (who are fighting to maintain their legitimate control of the school and its affairs rather than having a group of Governors from Westminster thrust upon them) have formed an action group and are to organise a candle lit vigil at the school on February 2nd at 6.15pm (H/T Damian Thompson)

Here is their latest press release.....
For immediate release: Saturday 22 January 2011
Parents at one of the country’s best performing Comprehensive schools who are embroiled in
a bitter dispute with the Roman Catholic Church authorities over the make-up of the School’s
Governing Body, have been granted leave to appeal a recent High Court judgment which
went in favour of the Diocese.
The elected Parent Governors of the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in West London
took the Diocese of Westminster, trustees of the School, to court over its failure to appoint
any current parents in the School as Foundation Governors, and the imposition of its own
Director of Education, Paul Barber, on to the Governing Body. They say this represents a
conflict of interest.
Mr Barber was the Diocesan official responsible for referring Cardinal Vaughan to the Office
of the Schools’ Adjudicator, in a recent row over admissions policy at the heavily oversubscribed
But, in a judgment in the High Court on 25 November last year, the Diocese was ruled to
have acted lawfully. Now, Lord Justice Sullivan has granted the Parent Governors leave to
appeal on both counts. He said the case raised important points of principle which could
affect the composition of the governing bodies of all schools where the governors are
appointed by a foundation.
Meanwhile, the Governing Body at Cardinal Vaughan is pressing ahead with the process for
the appointment of a new Head. It is only the third time in sixty years that a new Head will
have been appointed at CVMS. Interviews are to be held by the Governing Body shortly.
The Cardinal Vaughan Parents’ Action Group, which was set up to support the Parent
Governors, is planning a candlelit vigil outside the School on 2 February, the day of the next
governors’ meeting. The purpose is to pray for the future of the School which parents fear the
Diocese is trying to take over, with a view to changing its character and weakening its strong
Catholic ethos.
Areas of dispute between the Vaughan Parents’ Action Group and the Diocese of
Westminster include:
consultation before appointing Foundation Governors
The Diocese’s consistent failure, over the past few years, to observe its own policy on
many as seven highly able and dedicated Governors, and two Chairmen in succession
The Diocese’s failure to provide a cogent explanation for its refusal to reappoint as
The Diocese’s referral of the School to the Office of the Schools’ Adjudicator
The Diocese’s appointment to the Governing Body of its own Director of Education
The Diocese’s failure to appoint current parents as Foundation Governors
already Chairman of Governors of a nearby Catholic secondary school, and Vice-
Chairman of a local Catholic primary school.
Background Statistics:
The election by the Diocese’s representatives of a Chairman of Governors who is
including English and Mathematics last summer was 90% (national average 55%)
The proportion of CVMS pupils who secured five or more A*- C GCSE passes
79.5% of CVMS A level passes last summer were graded A*- B
including Mathematics and English last summer was 83%
The proportion of Free School Meals pupils who secured five or more A*- C GCSEs
49% of pupils come from minority ethnic groups. (National average 21%.)
The pupils in the School speak 44 different languages.
3.1%. (Royal Borough Kensington and Chelsea average 2.4%; national average 2%.)
· The proportion of children with Statements of Special Educational Needs stands at
For further information, please contact:
Anna Brown 07950 021042
Sarah Johnson 07747 075340
Catherine Utley 07984 122484
28% of the Sixth Form receive the Educational Maintenance Allowance.



Urgent Appeal for Funds
The five elected Parent Governors on the Governing Body have been granted leave to appeal. They are fighting for greater parental involvement in the running of the School. They are personally liable for the costs of the legal action. It is vital we support them now. 
Please give what you can. If 300 families gave £100 each that would raise £30,000
Any donation, however small, will be of great help to their campaign and every penny will be put towards the costs of the legal appeal. 
If you have a Paypal account you can donate by sending money directly to
Please donate online via Paypal here.
We also can accept cheques. Please make cheques payable to “Vaughan Parents’ Association” marked on 
the back “Parent Governor Action” and send to:

Vaughan Parents’ Association
Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School
89 Addison Road
W14 8BZ
Our Aims 
The Vaughan Parents’ Action Group has been set up by a number of parents worried about radical changes the Diocese of Westminster has made to the School’s Governing Body.
  1. We now have not a single current parent Foundation Governor. Parents are woefully under-represented.
  2. The Diocese has made its own Director of Education, Paul Barber, a Governor. This appointment creates a clear conflict of interest, we believe. It also means that he will not be able to give as much attention to the many other Catholic schools in the Diocese. Paul Barber is a Governor of no other school in the Diocese.
  3. John O’Donnell has now been elected Chairman of Governors at the Vaughan. He is already Chairman of Governors at neighbouring Sion Manning School. He is also Vice-Chairman of Governors of St Charles’ Primary School. This is another conflict of interest. Besides that, how can he possibly give the Vaughan School the attention it needs and deserves?
We believe the Diocese wants to change the way the school operates, to dilute its Catholic ethos and to turn it into a local comprehensive.  We do not believe this will help the school to continue to provide a first-class education to young people of all abilities and backgrounds from across the whole of London.
We want above all to protect the School’s Catholic ethos. We want to protect its distinctive identity. We want to protect its high spiritual, moral, educational, cultural and sporting standards.
Our aims are these:
  1. To persuade the Diocese to appoint Foundation Governors who are parents of children at the School.
  2. To persuade the Diocese to remove Paul Barber from the Governing Body.
  3. To seek the election of a Chairman who will have time to devote to the Vaughan, and who will not have a conflict of interest. 
Michael Gormally, the school’s highly-respected former Headmaster, shares our views and vigorously opposes the changes that have been made. He has also resisted strongly Archbishop Nichols’ attempts to gain his support for the changes. His recent letter can be viewed on our documents page here.

March for Life UK?

I wrote this piece a couple of days ago and shelved it thinking that, really, a UK March for Life was not something that I should be banging on about. Then, a few minutes ago I read Fr Tim's blog on the same topic and this gave me the courage to post mine.

So here it is....

I did not go on last year's UK pro life march held, I believe, in November. So, it may be inappropriate for me to criticise; but I shall do so anyway.
In the run up to the 24th January screening, on EWTN, of the US March for Life on Washington, they featured the UK March of last year. Only 350 people turned out for it - and that looked bad seeing what America had to offer just a few minutes later.
Why only 350? Why were they all brandishing white crosses? Those are the symbols of the war dead, not aborted babies.
My cynical marketing eye detected a need for conventional posters 'Abortion kills' or similar. Maybe even, '30% of women undergoing abortion will have a mental problem in later life' - bit of a mouthful but it could be paraphrased.
I am not knocking the folk who turned out, full marks to them, they'll have another jewel in their crown as my mother used to say after a  good deed done. But, they appeared to fall into the 60 plus age group and I really wanted to see lots of young mums and dads and babies in buggies; perhaps the camera was being selective but it made me contemplate the lack of punch in our anti abortion campaigning.
It also made me question just why we could not organise a larger more impressive march. I fully support John Smeaton and SPUC and all the other pro life groups and believe that the work they do is wonderful, many thanks to them all.
But...couldn't we just have one bloody great big march? This year....soon.

NB: Fr Tim reports that the Catholic Herald has put out a call for a British March for Life. Great!
As they say in the USA......."Let's do it!"


Mind you, you won't find this one in Church!

To Mantilla or not to Mantilla?

There was a recent report regarding a Cathedral in Sri Lanka whose authorities, in an attempt to encourage women to dress more modestly, imposed a requirement for all women to wear a head covering or veil.
Mulier Fortis has covered the subject very succinctly and from a woman's point of view. So, perhaps it is unwise of me to enter the debate.
However, despite being remarkably youthful and agile etc I do remember what life was like for a Catholic in the 1950s. With respect to a head covering, every woman complied either with mantilla, hat or scarf. If a group of school girls went into a church on an unplanned visit, say whilst passing en route to wheresoever, they would place handkerchiefs on their heads and not think anything amiss.
I believe that was all well and good. We did not stop to analyse it, it was just what propriety demanded just as men would remove their hats and caps upon entering church (and, even when passing a church).
This introduces a fine point to the situation; think what scandal and outrage it would cause if a male went up to Communion wearing a hat of some kind.And quite rightly so. Wearing hats indoors is for the Jewish male - my father, if catching me out wearing a school cap in the house would exclaim: "Is thy father a Jew?" I don't know where that phrase came from but as he grew up in London's East End, I guess it originated from there.
The point is, it just ain't done and if you commence removing the rituals of courtesy and reverence (like genuflecting, crossing oneself and remaining silent in church), you begin to dismantle the more important things such as regard for the sacred species.
I agree with Mulier Fortis, an imposition would not be helpful but encouragement would. It should be taught again in Catholic Schools for both boys and girls. Priests might like to remind parishioners that it is a good practice and piety stalls might like to stock up on a few mantillas.

Add dignity and style - wear a  mantilla!
And please, please, do not equate the mantilla with the niqab, the Muslim veil that conceals the face. That's a discussion I will save for another occasion.

Monday, 24 January 2011

It's happened again! Another great Episcopal appointment in the USA!

H/T to Last Papist Standing for reporting yet another appointment of a sound Bishop in the USA. This time it is Bishop Robert Vasa who has just been made coadjutor of Santa Rosa - a Diocese in sore need of some spiritual vigour.
We have seen a veritable spate of good appointments of Bishops in the USA (why can't we have some here?) over the past 18 months and now Bishop Vasa will be getting to grips with California (or Californicator).
Bishop Vasa - "I answer to the Holy See, I don't answer to the USCCB"

Bishop Robert Francis Vasa, late of Baker, Oregon, is well known for his strong views on pro abortion Catholics and the fact that they should be refused Holy Communion. He is on record as stating that he would refuse Senator John Kerry if he presented himself at the Communion rails. Furthermore, he stated that any Catholic supporting abortion was guilty of heresy. He has crossed swords with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on a number of occasions, generally on the issue of pro abortionists receiving the sacrament. Bishop Vasa has always aligned his teachings with those of the Holy Father and has accused the USCCB of "flattening" information from the Vatican.
His appointment is yet another example of the brick by brick approach of Pope Benedict.



Here is an extract from his speech:-

"Today marks the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that protects women's health and reproductive freedom, and affirms a fundamental principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters.
I am committed to protecting this constitutional right. I also remain committed to policies, initiatives, and programs that help prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption.
And on this anniversary, I hope that we will recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms, and the same opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams".

Meanwhile, the pro lifers march in their tens of thousands upon the Capitol, recalling the infamous decision of the US Court to legalise abortion some 38 years ago.
God bless them all, if we cannot be with them in person we can be with them in spirit - pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe for the unborn, pray to Almighty God to enlighten the hearts and minds of the death lobby, pray for the safety and well being of all on the march.

Of your charity pray for the repose of the soul of my father, Richard Collins
29 August 1897 to 24 January 1979 RIP

"And God shall wipe all tears from their eyes and death shall be no more...."

Saturday, 22 January 2011

The Catholic Mass? - It could never happen said Fr Keegan

This is another extract from that prophetic novella by Brian Moore. Published in 1972 it was made into a television play a year or two later. Fr Keegan, a great Carmelite priest, was instructing my wife in the faith at the time and this book caused something of a stir among Catholics because it foretold a Church that had no time for the hermeneutic of continuity - for the link between tradition and modern day. It was, said Fr Keegan: "Not going to happen".

Sadly, it did happen. Here is a great piece of prose from the book:-

"The Mass! The Mass in Latin, the priest with his back turned to the congregation because both he and the congregation faced the altar where God was. Offering up the daily sacrifice of the Mass to God. Changing bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ the way Jesus told His disciples to do it at the Last Supper.
"This is My Body and this is My Blood. Do ye this in commemoration of Me"
God sent His Son to redeem us. His Son came down into the world and was crucified for our sins and the Mass is the commemoration of that crucifixion, of that sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ for our sins. It is priest and people praying to God, assisting in a miracle whereby Jesus Christ again comes down among us, body and blood in the form of the bread and the wine there on the altar. And the Mass was said in Latin because Latin was the language of the Church and the Church was one and universal and a Catholic could go into any church in the world, here or in Timbuktu, or in China, and hear the same Mass, the only Mass there was, the Latin Mass. And if the Mass was in Latin and if the people did not speak Latin, that was part of the mystery of it, for the Mass was not talking to your neighbour, it was talking to God. Almighty God! And we did it that way for nearly two thousand years and, in all that time, the church was a place to be quiet in, and respectful, it was a hushed place because God was there, God on the altar, in the tabernacle in the form of a wafer of bread and a chalice of wine. It was God's house, where, every day, the daily miracle took place. God coming down among us. A mystery. Just as this new Mass isn't a mystery......"

Available from Amazon

Will the Holy Father resign when he is ninety?

If he is spared to reach the age of 90 (and I pray that he is) will Pope Benedict elect to resign the Papacy and make way for another? He has indicated that this is a possibility and I believe that is a healthy and good objective.

I cannot begin to imagine the physical, spiritual and mental pressures on a Pope. CEO of 1.2 billion souls, Successor to St Peter, Consultee to the Holy Spirit, Bishop of Rome, Head of State - the mind boggles.

My simple view is that this is a likelihood within the next 5 years or so. He has shown that he is not afraid to address radical change and I do not think that he will shrink from this decision provided that he has identified and secured a suitable successor. With Benedict's ability, this should not be a problem; the only question is, to whom will he turn?

A quick scouring of the betting odds shows an interesting, if a little haphazard set of runners and odds.

At 79 Cardinal Arinze may not be a contender
Cardinal Francis Arinze, great man as he is, enjoys the role of favourite at odds of 7-4. But, as of today's facts, he is 79 years old and that puts him not too far behind the present Holy Father in age terms. He does have considerable experience in Rome but he also hails from Nigeria and that may be another reason why the white smoke may not be for him; at times of Papal elections, the Cardinals can be remarkably conservative.

If I was a betting man (and I'm not) I would be tempted to base a bet on three contenders who go some way to fulfilling what may prove to be a tempting criteria.
Here  are my tips for the post based on the fact that I am discounting an Italian Pope as, having broken with tradition in 1978, the Cardinals may not wish to return to that track. I am also guessing that a candidate in their mid to late sixties is going to receive greater consideration and I am ruling out France, The Netherlands, Germany and Eastern Europe as being the base from which the successor may be chosen. Too much politicking from those countries maybe.

My guess is that the next Pope will be a man of the Americas or, possibly, Spain. That ticks, or so I believe, a number of boxes.

Here are my favourites in descending order:-

Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke - born 30th June 1948. Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura.Conservative well respected and in the process of fast tracking his Rome experience. American citizen.
Current odds are: 20-1

Cardinal Antonio Llovera - born 10th October 1945. Spanish. Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Has been a Cardinal for the past 5 years and has been dubbed "Little Ratzinger". Will have appeal to South American Catholics.
Current odds: 33-1

My tip for the top - Cardinal Ouellet
Cardinal Marc Ouellet - born 8th June 1944.  Canadian of French descent. Currently Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and President of the Pontifical Commission for South America. If there are boxes to be ticked, this man does the job. A man of the Americas, English and French speaking (as well as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and German), strong European links via his French ancestry, holds a key South American appointment and looks young enough and fit enough for the post.
Current odds: 20-1

 Do you have a view as to the Cardinal most likely to succeed Pope Benedict? If you are a betting man or woman you may be interested in Paddy Powers listing of Bono at odds of 1000-1. Aherm......I might give that a miss!