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Wednesday, 31 December 2008



A relatively short post today on this final day of the year, with some photographs to remind us of Christmas 2008 at Our Lady's Chapel, Stronsay, Orkney. As promised in my previous post, I am pleased to show a few photographs of the Crib erected outside our Chapel, virtually at the entrance to the quay, where it offers a Christmas reminder and welcome to those both coming from the ferry, and those boarding it.
These you will find at the end of this post.

Our Lady's Chapel looked particularly beautiful for Midnight Mass which was celebrated there by Fr Michael Mary, Superior of the F.SS.R, with the Rector, Fr Anthony Mary F.SS.R. and the full community of monks from Golgotha Monastery, Papa Stronsay, in attendance. We had a sung Mass with the beautiful plain chant Mass no.2. - In festis 1 classis. 1 (Kyrie fons bonitatis); Credo no.1; together with the full Proper of the 'Ad Primam Missam- in nocte'. Prior to Mass we had carols from 11p.m. to midnight.

The Chapel looked beautiful with an abundance of real flowers, the lovely Crib with the Infant Jesus which apparently had only recently been acquired in Rome, and six magnificent and imposing large silver candleholders with lighted candles on the altar
The Crib was set up on the sanctuary facing the congregation, on the Gospel side and just behind the Communion rail, surrounded by a virtual phalanx of silk flower-heads of mostly gentle colouring, with six lighted candles around. From the impressive ornate sanctuary lamp hanging from the centre of the chapel ceiling, hung four red and gold draperies stretched across the sanctuary, two either side.

This beautiful statue of 'Our Lady of Victories'occupies a special niche in Our Lady's Chapel.

It stands between 3 to 4 feet high.

Outside the Chapel the monks had built a fine Crib, with completion only the day before! It was built using heavy concrete type blocks, with heavy duty roof joists and solid corrugated steel roof, designed and built to withstand the fickle and frequently wild Orkney weather. It was a job very well done, which when lit up and occupied by the Holy Family, shepherds, sheep and cattle, looked very striking - and dare I say it, almost inviting!

Thank you Fr Michael Mary F.SS.R, Fr Anthony Mary F.SS.R, and all you good F.SS.R Brothers, for making our Christmas celebrations at Our Lady's Chapel very special, in particular the lovely Church decorations and the Beautiful Crib, the devout sung Mass and liturgy, the fine singing, and the opportunity to share with all your Community the joys of this great feast-day. Thank you for all you do, seen and unseen, and we thank God and Our Blessed Lady for all the blessings and graces that you bring to us all. This naturally includes Fr Clement Mary F.SS.R. and the F.SS.R Brothers a long way from home in Christchurch, New Zealand. Wishing you all a holy, happy, and blessed New Year 2009.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Cold and wet and windy - DEO GRATIAS

'Snowman' - painted by Sammy, from the Congo, who is in his 11th year of a sentence of Life Imprisonment in Zambia.

To be absolutely honest, this last week has been a time of mixed fortune. The weather has been intermittently wild with winds gusting around 75 mph, with torrential rain, which meant that the house was cold in spite of the central heating and an open fire in the lounge, and even with two sweaters I found it impossible to keep warm. We have a problem when the wind blows fiercely from the S.E. or S.W., as it did most of the time, accompanied by heavy rain, as the water finds its way through the stone walls, ending up dripping persistently onto the window sills of the two large front windows, necessitating the strategic siting of numerous large plastic bowls (including kitchenware), to catch the drips and prevent water damage, plus the spread of several large old towels and sheets over the window sills and on the adjoining carpet! To some extent I blame myself for this sad state of affairs, in as much as I was responsible for removing the rendering from the front of the house two years ago - very necessary as the old rendering was hollow and potentially dangerous, also it was not rain-proof and was ugly, particularly emphasised by the missing rendering from each end of the house which fell off virtually of its own accord, apparently as a result of poor workmanship, some years before we moved in. Up to now these end walls have been no problem with no sign of any damp, but it is the front of the house that is the problem. As far as re-rendering is concerned, both the front and two end walls will have to be done, which involves considerable cost. I also quite like the look of the bare stonework, in fact I prefer it to a rendered finish, and I half-hoped that somehow the rain would not actually infiltrate, and that I could get away with perhaps a modest amount of re-pointing. The experience of the last few days has rather destroyed this myth, and I have decided that something must be done as soon as possible, probably in the spring. The administrative wheels are already in motion, and all being well the days of extraneous buckets and towels are numbered!

Having said that, I must also say that if this is all I have to really worry about, then I am very fortunate. We don’t have earthquakes or volcanoes, typhoons or tornados, devastating floods or droughts, forest or prairie fires, the list of natural disasters is endless, so what have I got to complain about? The answer is nothing at all. Indeed I thank God for all my blessings in life, my wife and family, my friends, my health and material blessings, and above all for my Catholic faith which, through God's goodness, illumines our way in this life and gives us holy hope for the next. We are very fortunate to have here the priests of the ‘Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer’ (F.SS.R), to provide our spiritual needs. Under the Superior General, Fr Michael Mary, the F.SS.R. have recently been reconciled with Rome, having been out of favour for the last 25 years or so as a result of their adherence to the Latin Mass, traditional liturgy, and traditional teaching of the Church, much of which had been relegated to the back-burner since Vatican 2 (1965). There are now recognisable signs and real evidence that the modernist and liberal thinkers have had their day, and that their time is fast running out. The Holy Father, initially single-handed, condemned in particular,the liturgical abuses and malaise of the modern Church, endorsing by word and deed the value and need for a return to Catholic orthodoxy, a view fast gaining favour at all levels of the hierarchy. With the ‘Motu Proprio’(2007), the Holy Father invited, indeed pleaded with, all those ‘out of favour’ traditionalist priests and religious to reconcile fully with Rome, and thus add their considerable numerical and spiritual support to the Church in its mission of Catholic renewal and evangelisation. The F.SS.R responded positively to this invitation of the Holy Father, a response which in their particular circumstances, demanded great faith, real courage, and total loyalty to the See of Peter. Up to that time, the F.SS.R.(also known as the Transalpine Redemptorists) had maintained a close working relationship with the Society of St Pius Xth (SSPX) and were responsible for the production and distribution worldwide of the traditional newspaper ‘Catholic’. So far the SSPX has not reconciled with Rome, and indeed certain members have publicly ridiculed Fr Michael and his community for doing so. Many accusations, conjectures and baseless suppositions,have been made; the sale of the ‘Catholic’ to traditional SSPX congregations in the UK, USA, S.Africa, India, and Asia, has been banned, with significant financial implications for the F.SS.R. You may well ask what the reasons are for this public condemnation and punishment. Surely the acknowledgement of, and practical recognition of, the Holy Father as Head of the Church on earth, is not a crime. Indeed this acknowledgement is obligatory for all Catholics. Only one priest from the Community, Fr Nicholas, dissented from the reconciliation with Rome, and he has chosen to remain on Stronsay, living in a rented house with his mother. The small, but previously close Catholic community on Stronsay has been divided, with some remaining true to, and supporting Fr Michael and the F.SS.R., and others allying themselves to Fr Nicholas. It has to be asked whether such division was necessary, for it certainly is not good. With the ‘Motu Proprio’(2007) of Pope Benedict XVIth, we - the supporters of Fr Michael, have and will continue to have the traditional Latin Mass every day in Our Lady’s Chapel. We believe the same traditional articles of faith that we have always believed, we receive the same traditional spiritual instruction that we have always received, and our traditional priests are in full unity with Rome and the Vicar of Christ. Our priests have full faculties for hearing confessions, which does not apply to Fr Nicholas, and we have the opportunity for daily Communion. We have a resident priest from the F.SS.R monastery staying on Stronsay itself, currently it is Fr Michael, and we have ‘Our Lady’s Chapel’ with the Blessed Sacrament, open for visits during the day. What more can we ask, and how grateful we are. Sadly our 'separated brethren' do not share our joy. Personal conviction, misunderstanding or ignorance, pressure and influence from others, individually or collectively have combined to alienate those Catholics holding rigidly to the SSPX line, and of course Fr Nicholas is in touch with and has the support of the SSPX, who by their words and deeds, seem intent on trying to destroy all that Fr Michael and the F.SS.R community represent. This will never happen, and hopefully time and awareness will combine to soon dispel existing doubts and fears, so that our community may once again be united. On a much brighter note, we are all looking forward to seeing again the five seminarians of the F.SS.R community who are returning to Papa Stronsay tomorrow for the Christmas vacation, from the FSSP Seminary in Nebraska, USA, where they have been since September. They are truly inspiring young men, and a great credit to the F.SS.R , and we pray that God will bless and Our Lady protect them. Every Christmas here on Stronsay, the monks build a substantial ‘weather-proof’ and ‘wind-resistant’ Crib outside ‘Our Lady’s Chapel’ at the end of the quay. This is under construction at the moment, and I’m sure that as usual, it will be rather special! I will try to get a photograph when completed, and post it on this site. To digress somewhat, we constantly hear deeply depressing news regarding the public comments and behaviour of prominent ostensibly ‘Catholic’ lay figures, who scandalise many souls by their disregard for Church teachings. We also hear of prelates who seem to enjoy showing contempt for the person and unique status of the Holy Father, by ignoring his directions or twisting his words. I always remember as a young man attending a ‘Retreat’ at school given by that wonderful Jesuit priest, Fr Bernard Bassett. I cannot pretend to remember everything he said, it was more than 55 years ago, but one thing I do remember was his description of an organisation, eg.the Church, which he likened to a barrel of apples containing both good and bad fruit, and that ‘because some apples in the barrel are rotten you do not discard the rest, and the barrel of apples still remains - a barrel of apples.’ Thus the Church has bad members, but that does not mean that all members are bad, indeed many are excellent, neither does it detract from the eternal truths held and taught by the Church on the authority of Christ. Hence we will think no more of ‘rotten apples', and instead return our thoughts to the good and generous F.SS.R seminarians of Papa Stronsay, and indeed seminarians everywhere, who give us real joy and hope for the spiritual well-being of the Church militant, both now and for the future. In spite of scandals, disappointments and rejection by the world and even by friends, we should remember Our Lord's words and not be afraid, placing all our hope and trust in Christ, who promised that He would be with His Church for all time, even unto the consummation of the world. Our Lady, Mother of Christ and Help of Christians, pray for us.

Wishing all those who have laboured thus far, a very happy Christmas and New Year. Finally in this Season of Christmas, a time of Christian joy and peace to men of goodwill, I ask pardon for any hurt, injustice, or lack of charity, that I may have been guilty of, in any post or comment at any time. I can be contacted by email on '' should you so wish. Thank you. Brian Crowe.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

'Blessed are the humble,for they shall see God'

With Advent upon us, it seems a good time to reflect on the unchanging wisdom of the early fathers of the Church, particularly those holy monks and hermits, whose lives and teachings have been recorded and passed down through the ages. Some of these are included in a fascinating book, 'The Desert Fathers', translated from the Latin by Helen Waddell, and published by Constable, London, in 1936. There is a link on this site to a post in January this year, regarding the life of Helen Waddell.

"There was in a monastery a certain old man, of most reverend life, and he fell into grievous sickness: and he was wasted with great and intolerable weakness and for a long time travailed in distress, nor could the brethren find any way to succour him, for those things which his sickness required they had not in the monastery. But a certain handmaid of God, hearing of his affliction, entreated the abbot of the monastery that she might take him to her own cell and tend him, more especially as she could more easily find in the city such things as were needful to his sickness. So the abbot of the monastery commanded the brethren to carry him to the cell of the handmaid of God. And she received the old man with all reverence, and for God's sake tended him, in hope of that eternal recompense, which she trusted to receive from our Saviour Christ. For three years and more she had watchfully tended the servant of God, when men of evil heart began to suspect according to the itching of their own minds, that the old man was not clean in his conscience towards the virgin that tended him. And the old man hearing it, entreated the divinity of Christ, saying, "Thou, Lord our God, who alone knowest all things and seest the griefs of my sickness and my misery, and dost consider this infirmity which for so long had wasted me, so that I had need of the nursing of this handmaid of thine, who hath tended me for Thy sake: give unto her, my Lord, her great and due reward in the life eternal, even as thou didst promise in Thy mercy to such as showed kindness for Thy sake to the poor and the sick." And when the day of his passing had drawn nigh, many of the older brethren of the monastery, holy men, came about him, and the old man said to them: "I beseech you, my lords, and fathers, and brethren, that when I am dead ye take my staff and plant it on my grave, and if it take root and come to fruit, then shall ye know that my conscience is clean towards this handmaid of God that tended me. But if it does not put forth leaves, know that I am not clean of her." When therefore the man of God had gone out of the body, the holy fathers planted his staff upon the grave, as he had bidden, and it brought forth leaves, and when the time had come, it bore fruit: and they all marvelled and glorified God. Many came from the neighbouring parts at such a miracle, and magnified the grace of the Saviour, and we ourselves saw the little tree: and we blessed God who in all things defendeth them that serve Him in sincerity and truth."

"When the abbot Macarius, carrying palm leaves, was returning to his cell at dawn, the Devil met him with a keen-edged sickle, and would have struck him, but could not. And crying out at him "Great," he said, "is the violence I suffer from thee, O Macarius, that when I fain would injure thee, I cannot: yet whatever thou dost, I do also, and more. For thou dost fast now and then, but by no food am I ever refreshed. Thou dost often keep vigil; no slumber ever falls upon me. But in one thing dost thou overmaster me, I do myself confess it." And when the blessed Macarius asked him what that might be, "It is thy humility alone," he said, "that masters me." He spoke, and the blessed Macarius stretched out his hands in prayer: and the evil spirit vanished into the air."

"One of the Fathers used to say, "Every labour of the monk, without humility, is vain. For humility is the forerunner of love, as John was the forerunner of Jesus, drawing all men to him: even so humility, draws to love, that is to God Himself, for God is love."