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Showing posts from 2012

Breaking the chain ...

Am I the only one out there who doesn't like chain letters? If I had to count the number of curses brought down on myself, the incredible world records not quite achieved and the hordes of dying children throughout the world ... all because I bin chain letters, well, I think I would certainly run out of fingers and toes to count with.

Still, I have been invited (by a lady called the Joyful Papist into a super blog-a-thon and I am going to be pragmatic about it. I get asked 11 questions and am invited to ask 11 more questions to 11 other bloggers. I'll just answer the questions and leave it at that. I hope that's OK.

1.What five books would you take to be marooned on a desert island with?

I'm going to cheat: complete works of Shakespeare, Complete Works of Dickens (big book!), the biggest poetry anthology I can find, the Divine Office and the Bible.

2.What’s your favourite board game?  Monopoly, of course.

3.Have you read a children’s…

A Triumph of Faith

Just finished Triumph, by HW CRocker III. It's a breathless romp through 2,000 years of the Catholic Church's history; well footnoted and very triumphalistic. Unputdownable and a great spiritual tonic; full of hilarious anecdotes for Catholic dinner conversation too.

Triumph on AMAZON (UK)

Why a run or a fight can solve your emotional problems ...

Well, if you are a boy, at least. If you are a woman, it seems talking is the best therapy. 'Catholic schoolmaster' has a thoughtful article on the subject, here.  The odd thing is that we are - it seems to me, perhaps thanks to the influence of feminism  - conditioned now to think that talking through problems is the superior way of dealing with them, and yet it is difficult to replicate the feeling of well-being one gets from a swim or a long walk. I even felt it after my rather meagre efforts in our staff vs. boys football match at the end of term ... I remember an old priest of the Diocese of Aberdeen, Canon McQueen, who used often to be sent wayward priests by his bishop. The story is twenty years old, so it is safe to tell it, and the Canon must have gone to his eternal reward by now. The angst-ridden young priests would arrive pleading that they had lots of problems to discuss. He used, he claimed, simply to give them a packed lunch and tell them to climb the mountain n…

Is Paris worth 6,000 Masses?

I have been reading Louis XIV by David Ogg, who has a very entertaining and fast-paced style. It's an old book, first published before the Second World War. He talks about Louis XV, great-grandson of the Sun King and quotes some interesting statistics:
In 1744 the new king, Louis XV, was dangerously ill and it seems that over 6,000 citizens of Paris spontaneously arranged for Masses to be said at Notre Dame for his speedy restoration. The king made a miraculous recovery. About a decade later, the same thing happened, and this time 600 Mass stipends are recorded in the books of Notre Dame. And the monarch revived again. When the king really was on his death bed, in 1774, only three Masses were said for his health. And the king passed on to his eternal reward.

Now, three possible conclusions could be drawn, I suggest: first, King Louis XV became less popular as time went on, or, secondly, the belief in the Divine Right of Kings (which is of course an erroneous belief, anyway) waned…

Our Lady of Eton, Assumed into Heaven

Once upon a time, pilgrims, wearing badges like this one (you can buy a replica for £3.50 from, received a plenary indulgence when visiting the Chapel of Eton College on the Feast of the Assumption. the pilgrimage was not the only mark of devotion to Our Lady at Eton: the boys also used to recite the Little Office of the BVM, starting with Prime as they made their beds.
As with many other pilgrimages, this one was abolished under Henry VIII.
But Eton continued to reverence the Mother of God

After the Reformation, under Cromwell, the boys fought back the Roundheads to protect their beloved Virgin, ensconced above the front door of their school. The soldiers got the message and did not come back; She is still there today, being lifted into Heaven by two angels.

Books and films for boys and men

I suppose that when you spend your life with children and young people it's a good idea to be able to enjoy some of the same things they do. And so it is, somehow or other, that my taste in reading and films has reverted to what it used to be when I was a teenager: Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Ancient Britons ... with plenty of battles; and always the over-arching storyline of a young man growing to adult maturity and wisdom, or at least, trying to prove himself.

I began a while back with Simon Scarrow's Praetorian, which I picked up on special offer at the airport. I turns out to be number 11 in a series, so as I enjoyed it, I suppose I am now going to have to backtrack and read the others.

The story is about a young officer and his hardy, older sidekick who get involved in political espionage in the heart of Rome. Their job is to uncover the culprits of a plot to murder the Emperor Claudius.

It has the occasional bit of colourful language, as you'd expect with soldiers, eve…

Brideshead Regurgitated

Just watched with a friend the recent (2008) film version of Brideshead Revisited, and I have to confess that everyone who had told me they would not watch it (because it was sure to be a travesty) was absolutely right.
It was absolutely terrible. First off, Sebastian falls in love with Julia right from the outset, and she is the main love interest on the holiday to Venice, so in no real sense is Sebastian 'the forerunner' as in the book and the orginal BBC series. But it is also part of a successful attempt to destroy any sense of development or direction in the character of Charles Ryder. The Charles we see at Oxford is exactly the same Charles we see at the end of the film. He does not become a Catholic and appears never really to have loved Sebastian at all. Even his passion for Julia is reduced to something animal, without any real depth of fellow-feeling.

Lord and Lady Marchmain both come across as incredibly vulgar, despite good acting from Michael Gambon, and the wond…

Theatrical week in London

Just returned from a week of culture in London. For £5 per ticket, I enjoyed Henry V, Richard III and The Taming of the Shrew in Shakespeare's Globe, near London Bridge. Lovely weather, great atmosphere and nothing to do with the Olympics. Although London was looking very clean and tidy, no doubt to impress all the visitors; I was certainly impressed, with London in general and the Globe in particular.

The problem with the Globe is that it is unusable outside of the tourist season, because of the rain (it is open to the elements). So they are building another one, a Jacobean indoor theatre, for about 12 million pounds (!) just next door. This will enable them to stage Shakespeare plays with that touch of added Jacobean authenticity, all year round. And the new theatre is going to be lit, apparently, entirely by candles.

700 standing tickets are available for each and every perfomance at the Globe, but you need sturdy legs and you will get wet if it rains.

Well done, Your Majesty!

Prayer to be said in Catholic Churches in the UK, tomorrow, 3rd June, 2012.
Almighty God, we pray,
that your servant Elizabeth, our Queen,
who, by your providence has received the governance of this realm,
may continue to grow in every virtue,
that, imbued with your heavenly grace,
she may be preserved from all that is harmful and evil
and, being blessed with your favour
may, with her consort and the royal family,
come at last into your presence,
through him who is the way, the truth and the life
and who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, 
for ever and ever.


Ad multos annos ...

Seeking sanity in history

The whole depressing debate about gay marriage in the French and UK press often misses an important lesson from history.
Frequently commentators make reference to some earlier golden age of tolerance, somehow suggesting that this idea of gay marriage is nothing new. One suspects that they just use google search to find as many spurious examples as they can of close friendships in history and literature and then attempt to make them fit their progressive arguments.

The problem is that even the most liberal societies one can find in history in regard to tolerance of homosexual relationships (starting with the Greek Golden Age) all have one piece of shared common sense: they have never entertained for a minute the notion that such relationships can be the basis of  family life and society. That reticence on the part of ancient societies should give us pause for thought.

Fr Bede Rowe on TV

Fr Bede Rowe, our chaplain has got on to Gloria TV, a leading Catholic internet TV presence. They have commented on his blog entries dealing with the legacy of Vatican II.

You can see the clip here:

It is about half way through.


In a mood of continuing Romesickness, I thought I'd post a few photos from our super pilgrimage a few weeks ago.

Rome, sweet Rome

Just been so busy after returning from Rome. I have not had time to record what a wonderful experience itr was for us all: boys and teachers. It was a real pilgrimage and the boys entered into it in that spirit.

They were so happy with their singing too. We ended up singing renaissance polyphony in the corridors of the Castel Sant Angelo, the Metro train and in the street, as well as in churches ...

One spiritual highlight was going up the Scala Santa on our knees.

Any way, we have all been Romesick ever since we returned.

The man from Cambridge says yes ...

Our enthusiastic 15-year-old Mathematician, Paul de Guibert, got two pieces of good news this week: a Distinction in the BMO1 (British Mathematical Olympiad) and an offer to read Mathematics at Cambridge, but he has to wait until he is 16. So he should be starting at Churchill College (whose arms are shown left), home to 20 Nobel scientific prizewinners, in October 2013.  Well done, Paul. He is the only boy in the A-level class this year, so that makes a 100% Oxbridge admissions success rate. That must be some kind of record ...

Chavagnes boys will sing at Santa Maria Maggiore to celebrate new cardinal

Pope Benedict has announced his intention to give the cardinals' hat to 22 new cardinals, including Archbishop Santos Abril y Castello, Archpriest of the Pontifical Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, on 19th February 2012.
The next day, Monday 20th February 2012, the Choir of Chavagnes International College will, God willing, be singing for Mass in the Basilica at 6pm.

The Choir plans to sing the Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei as well as the Introit, Offertory, Communion and Marian Antophon. All works will be from the repertoire of English renaissance polyphony, including works by by William Byrd, Robert Parsons and Christopher Tye.

The Mass features in a special Lenten pilgrimage organised for members of the Choir.

This year the Choir will be working on the theme of the English Renaissance and intends to record a CD of religious and secular works from this era to celebrate the College's 10th birthday in summer 2012.

Hoorah for the Yanks! US children tell the Vendee story

Queen Elizabeth defends Faith, family, marriage, morality ...

Did anyone else notice what a splendid Christmas message Her Majesty the Queen gave this year? I think that the advancing years are giving her the courage to speak from her heart.
She told us that wonderful things often happen in the midst of tragedy and suffering; that we discover another loving side of human nature - compassion - evinced by sad events. She referred to her visit to Australia in which she witnessed this first hand.

She then told us how, 2,000 years ago, in the midst of all our human suffering, God revealed his love for us by sending his Son; and that this was the message of the Angels to the Shepherds. She prayed that all her listeners throughout the Commonwealth would open their hearts to the Angels' message. Here are her exact words:

Finding hope in adversity is one of the themes of Christmas. Jesus was born into a world full of fear. The angels came to frightened shepherds with hope in their voices: 'Fear not', they urged, 'we bring you tidings of…