Sunday, 27 August 2017

More thoughts on the Liturgy...

Today, I have experienced my first Greek-Catholic Liturgy that left me ashamed to be Roman.  Today's Liturgy had a distinctly postconciliar feel to it. I don't wish to go into details; place and people would be identifiable if I wrote in too much detail and that is not my intention.

The Liturgy had been "popularised"; by which I mean aligned more towards the people than anything I had seen amongst the Greek-Catholic ex-pats in London's East End or in other Greek-Catholic Liturgies I have attended.  And, unlike those others I have attended, the congregation was nearly entirely aged and female, is there a correlation here? There were some men, but the majority of them were stood by the door, half-in, half-out, waiting for it to finish. The Liturgy was dragged down to earth time and time again rather than soaring heavenward in humility and pain of separation. It certainly seemed to me that it was a postconcilair "romanisation" that was achieving this terrible effect. It was similar to attending a "dialogue Mass". I had been warned that I may experience this. It was good to be there. It was good to experience it for myself.

And yet, I am not cross, unhappy or dismayed. How can you be cross with the state of things as they are? How can you be cross when all is done with such sincerity and reverence?  I simply feel shame for being a Roman Catholic.  We suck.

I love this country and I have never felt closer to God. I think it is best to live this shame rather than ignore it and then perhaps in my shame, something truly beautiful may be revealed.

Saturday, 26 August 2017


Routine is important but when you are somewhere totally new, finding one takes time.  However it is important to me to have one. The routine of work reveals itself and that is developing nicely.  I can't tell you how good it is to be somewhere with no "Protestant work ethic".  Nobody takes the moral high ground here by trying to outdo everyone else with the amount of work they do.  Nobody believes they are indispensable.  There are no "girly swots" (so glad to get away from them): adult women who still think they are school prefects and want to be noticed and want to show you how good they are at working hard and being beautiful and brilliant.  Instead, work is treated seriously but life and family come first always.

My main concern is to develop a routine for Saturdays.  That will have to be entirely my own creation.  I'm thinking along lines of; house clean and a morning tram to one of the markets to get my fresh produce, then after lunch give myself a good 3 hour Romanian lesson.  I used to learn German for 3 hours on a Saturday, this is achievable. I have found that Saturdays can leech the life out of you if you don't control them.  Back in the UK I'd put an awful lot of church based activity into a Saturday.... that is not so easy here. [I'm learning of the importance of the sanctification of ordinary daily life; offering all in thanks to God and wearing at least some armour of blessed sacramentals to help keep me rooted to the "unum necesarium".  It is not about doing, it is about being what God wants me to be.] I can't start that routine next week because I'm determined to go over to ConstanČ›a: I need to be by the sea for a bit. I can't start this week because having got back from a party at 3am, there is no way the rest of the day is going to be "routine" even if I wanted it to be.

All but 5 of my colleagues are Romanian.  They are the most sociable, honest, genuine and fun loving people I have met.  I'm a Physicist; not a natural at parties.  Here, however I feel at home and that is all thanks to them.  The other aliens present feel the same; we are all in love with the place and the people.  It is no infatuation, it is realistic, eyes-wide-open and objective, but it is love.  We want to do what we can, we want to give our skills, time and the best years of our lives to the people here.

Somehow, somewhere, I'm going to have to learn to dance to the crazy Moldovan folk-pop they are all so fond of.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Thoughts on the Mass

Before I get down to the serious business of justifying my salary, here are my observations and thoughts on the Novus Ordo as I have experienced it to date in this city. I think there is considerable influence of Orthodox custom (at least subconsciously) in how they approach the Mass, but I’m not going to labour the point and nor do have enough evidence to justify this claim.

At the Roman Catholic churches I have been to out here, there are large queues at the confessional, and confession will take place right through Mass and after it too. They make full use of the Sacraments and sacramentals.  In my short time here, I’ve seen bread blessing and relic veneration in Catholic churches and the vessels containing Holy Water at the back of church are very large and well used. Many Masses seem to have “trimmings”: litanies, rosaries and other devotional prayers both before and after.  It is custom to receive Communion on the tongue; kneeling if there are altar rails, standing if there are not.  I have only witnessed Communion under one kind.  There appears to be no involvement of Eucharistic Ministers or lay readers, I have yet to see any evidence of their existence.  The priest will do all the readings if he has no server, if he has one, his chief server will read prior to the gospel. (This is not part of GIRM where servers can only have one function). Sadly servers are male or female but their reading has been of a very high standard. Congregations sadly are predominantly female and middle aged. There are quite a few religious sisters present, all in habits. I feel that if this were the standard of things in the UK, then we’d be quite happy. I’d say that the Novus Ordo is being executed here without the politics of protestantisation, it is said in all holiness and with all reverence.

The priests will sing parts of the liturgy where they can.  It seems to be quite normal out here and I have yet to hear one who can’t sing and there is often a competent, lay male cantor to lead the congregational singing.  Sadly what is on offer are the bland, Gellineau inspired Mass settings that sound more like lullabies than liturgical music. There seems to be no tradition of hymns writing.  I have yet to hear an original tune for hymns… most have been rousing Wesleyan numbers with Romanian words. It seems slightly incongruous to me. But the Novus Ordo makes room for hymns in the Mass, so hymns are sung.  Liturgy is all in the native tongue, but it is in the Eastern tradition too.

Liturgical music aside, to me there is a problem with the Novus Ordo itself. It is a Mass that insists on speaking to the people.  It is wordy in the extreme and speaking to the people also means that frustratingly (and this has little to do with my limited Romanian and more to do with a sense of the sacred) the priests will often fit in a lengthy sermon and several mini ones into the Mass at various points. There is no adlibbing during the Liturgy here, and definitely no abuse of the Liturgy, but I have yet to hear anything but the shortest of Eucharistic Prayers, and Low Mass still takes a long time. They don’t seem to understand the concept of a quick Mass here (probably because there is no Irish in them). They expect a wordy, lengthy Mass. The Eastern Liturgy is also very wordy and lengthy, but it is a song of love and humility.  It is not directed via the people to God, but directly to God. The silence of the Vetus Ordo does much the same thing as does the plainchant.  It is the Novus Ordo that is out of step and here especially where it is said so well, there is an agony for me because of the overwhelming presence of Tradition in the form of Orthodoxy. The lack of real Tradition in the Novus Ordo is strikingly obvious out here. A priest is a warrior on earth who is here battling for souls partly by singing to God for hours on end; that is his life. Orthodoxy makes this abundantly clear.  It is more difficult to listen to a priest talk to his congregation for so long, which is what happens in the newer Roman Rite. I do not doubt that this is a reason why there are so few men. Men as a whole do not like to be talked to, women usually are more tolerant. It is also difficult for the priests. The Novus Ordo is a strain and a contortion even for the most devout of priests; they are facing the wrong way in all senses of the expression.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Singurul lucru care trebuie

that is Romanian for the "unum necessarium", the one thing necessary....
It is what I needed to hear tonight ... it brought me great joy.

I went to the Greek Catholic Liturgy tonight and the gospel they have on the Feast of the Assumption is the same as the pre-Puis XII Roman rite: Mary and Martha and Our Lord at the house in Bethany. I've blogged before on why I like this reading for this feast, you can read it here if you are interested. Being at the Greek Catholic rite was a joy in itself.  Don't picture me being anywhere grand, the congregation hardly made double figures. This church, historically has suffered much; it shows.

Today has been a holiday (of sorts) in Romania; as Gregorian calendar Orthodox, this is the Feast of the Dormition.  It has been a real pleasure just walking past the Orthodox churches whilst the  Liturgy has been taking place and seeing souls doing what they do at the Orthodox Liturgy: zone in and zone out.... total awareness of something supernatural taking place, immense and incomprehensible yet so simple and not dependent on us and our understanding but given for us and our salvation.

This has been a beautiful Feast day and as ever there is only one thing necessary.

Happy Feast.

Sunday, 13 August 2017


St Athanasius, writing about the Psalms said the following:

let whoever reads this Book of Psalms take the things in it quite simply as God-inspired; and let each select from it, as from the fruits of a garden, those things of which he sees himself in need. For I think that in the words of this book all human life is covered, with all its states and thoughts, and that nothing further can be found in man. For no matter what you seek, whether it be repentance and confession, or help in trouble and temptation or under persecution, whether you have been set free from plots and snares or, on the contrary, are sad for any reason, or whether, seeing yourself progressing and your enemy cast down, you want to praise and thank and bless the Lord, each of these things the Divine Psalms show you how to do, and in every case the words you want are written down for you, and you can say them as your own.

It is worth chewing over that for some time, it is so true and so beautiful. The Psalms are everything to me precisely because of this.  I'm not sure whether I live them or they live me. For repentance and confession, help in trouble and temptation, under persecution or set free from persecution, seeing the enemy cast down and simply to praise God because He is God..... it is all there.  I would not have a relationship with God through them without the Sacraments of the Church, but they are the framework on which I hang my carcass; they support and at the same time restrict my natural impulses and direct them where they ought to go.

I am arguing here that the Rosary is a gift to us for exactly the same purpose; that through the prayers of the Mother of God we can be directed in all things to where we ought to be. The Rosary was given to St Dominic to give to the world as an alternative to the Psalter, but not as an alternative that excludes the Psalms from the life of Christian souls.  But the Rosary, like the Psalms, is to be prayed in repentance, confession, help, thanksgiving and praise. How often today is the Rosary prayed in thanksgiving and praise?  Have we lost something of Tradition. How often do Catholics spontaneously give praise to God for all things.... Have Catholics lost the Traditional understanding of Praise? Praise is Heaven, praise is the indwelling of the Trinity, praise is our essence.

And yet you go into any Catholic Church (it seems) anywhere in the world and the Rosary is intoned by those present as if it were an offering to a god who is out of reach, a sacrifice to an unknown god who has left us suffering in a cruel and merciless world. And here is where I offend most of my readers but I will say what I think needs to be said.  I think the Fatima prayer (added so often to the Rosary) has a lot to answer for.  It is not Tradition.  I have been told that one Bishop (when it first became fashionable) forbade his diocese from adding it to the Rosary. I have some sympathy with this. It turns the Rosary purely into a petition, it does not bring us to a greater understanding of ourselves and of God. The Rosary seems to be prayed purely as petition in public.... and the Fatima prayer is a prayer of petition, it makes the Rosary weighted towards petition, it shouldn't always be added.

This is a predominantly Orthodox land but I am fortunate enough to be in walking distance of a Catholic Church and to be able to hear its bell calling the faithful to Mass.  I go there and I could be in a Catholic Church anywhere in the world.  That is the beauty of the Catholic Church, but it is also a sadness. So much Tradition has gone, and with it so many dimensions to our faith.  I long to hear Psalmody ring out again in the Roman churches, and the Psalmody of Tradition not the insipid and feminine Gellineau Psalmody (it isn't designed for male voices (or contraltos) but is the default setting these days and finds its way into the Novus Ordo all over the world)... we may discover praise again, we may start to understand its incalculable worth and we may also find more men in the pews.

Friday, 11 August 2017

First Impressions

I like this city. I like the people, they are not at all highly strung and they get things done without fuss.  I'm finding everyone friendly and sincere, a little shy perhaps, but none the worse for that.  On my first night here, I described it to a friend as "a bit like the 90s but with 4G". There is rampant consumerism, the music blasting from the cafes is Celine Dione and the Backstreet Boys, and the men on the whole are very badly dressed.... yes it has a feel of the 90s.

Some things are quirky.  The zebra crossings take a bit of getting used to.  The "green man" does NOT mean traffic stops, only that you "can" cross. But they give you plenty of time to cross and for the most part the drivers stop. The cooling fans at the open air cafes are unpleasant, they insist on spraying out some sort of water vapour and I avoid them and can't help thinking "legionella". The local supermarket does not sell rice, dried pasta or cleaning products, though it is part of a chain that is commonly found in Spain where they do. But they are the only people in the wolrd apart from Lancastrians and the Chinese who can cook tripe beautifully and for that I am impressed and grateful.

I haven't taken to the Old Town much. The place needs fewer Irish pubs and kebab shops.  It doesn't feel real. The place is blandly European without an identity of its own. There seems to be a push towards promoting the leftist, liberal, metrosexual "immorality" of the "beautiful people": the "Euronormal" is like a parasite that will kill its host. Does that have to be the price for regeneration?

But all is not what it seems.  The city as a whole has more balls.  There is a genuine depth of faith in the people, a genuine sense of the numinous, a genuine closeness to the angels and saints, a genuine love of the Mother of God. I'm still exploring the Catholic churches, there will be a post about those later.

Architecturally, there are some gems, more gems than horrors.  Nothing is jaw dropping. Ceaucescu's "people's palace" was promoted to me as being rather impressive, and I walked up there this morning to find myself not being stunned by it in the slightest.  It isn't to my mind jaw dropping like Moscow State University or indeed Glasgow Infirmary. It nearly feels homely.  Indeed, I'm finding the city homely all round, which is a jolly good thing as it will be home for a while to come.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

My view for a while

Dear reader, sorry for my absence, hope you've not missed me too much.  Normal service is about to be resumed. Loving it out here ..... nothing is quite as it seems but all is good.

This is the view from the back of the apartment through the mosquito net. The view from the front is grey apartment blocs, trams and air conditioning units.

You'll be hearing more from me shortly....