Chesterton said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”



All of us who are Knights and Dames have sworn to these words. Companions have heard them year after year on Saint John's Day. Live them!
It is the Summer, and the News is always full of much silliness. In our charism of Tuitio Fidei, it is duty of all members of the Order to present the Truth of the Faith when, as must often happen, we are asked, or presented with a particular degree of silliness by our acquaintances.

This week has a particular brand of silliness not far from the long history of our Order. Judicious thought and moderation might often seem to be in short supply on both sides of these arguments.  That is part of Tuitio Fidei for us to supply. Opportunities are not lacking. Challenge for the week!

It is not the place of this blog to enter into polemic or discussion, our role is simply to encourage Friends, Companions and Members of the Order to seek the Truth, and avoid falsehood, and to serve Our Lord and Saviour in the Sick and the Poor.

The Truth remains, nevertheless, an objective fact, however unpalatable today, and clouding it with false comparisons and politically-motivated relativism is not helpful.

We might therefore fruitfully direct your attention to a short blog post by a very sensible writer,  Dr Geoffrey Kirk, which demonstrates good perspective, serves the Truth, and which might assist us to do our duty. HERE.
Charity in all things, and fight for the Truth of Christ's Kingdom in a darkened age. As we have all turned to our Mothers in times of trouble, it would not hurt to ask the female saints of Our Order, who have overseen our struggles for many generations, to guide us, the world, the Church and Her enemies with their prayers at this time, as also for those women being used in other people's battles.

Our Lady of Philermo, pray for us!
Saint Flora of Beaulieu, pray for us!
Saint Ubaldecsa, pray for us!
Saint Toscana, pray for us!


In the baking heat of Summer (aways hot in the Mediterranean, but this year even Britain is getting a taste of it!) Holy Mother Church in Her wisdom and charity offers us joyful Marian feasts to break the stifling monotony of the long season after Pentecost.  Later this month is the glorious feast of the Assumption, which the Order in Britain will this years celebrate at the International Holiday Camp near Arundel, with Mass in the cathedral on the day.

Tomorrow, were it not Sunday, would be the Feast of Our Lady of the Snows. On this hot August day Our Lady made snow fall in Rome on the site She had chosen for a church to be built in Her honour, the oldest Marian church in Christendom – Saint Mary Major, or Our Lady of the Snows.  By custom on this day rose-petals fall from the roof of the Basilica at the Mass, in honour of the mystical snowfall.

In jolly liturgical days in our Own Priory of England, Mass on this day was celebrated in the Conventual Church of Saint John of Jerusalem in St John's Wood, by the late John Canon McDonald. The fall of the petals not quite as had been intended, but the general effect was charming!

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Canon McDonald, and for the Hospital of Saint John and Saint Elizabeth, for the patients and staff, as well as for the board of directors. May they serve God amongst the sick and the dying.

Our Lady of the Snows, pray for us
St John the Baptist, pray for us
Saint Elizabeth, pray for us


Today is the day upon which every year we may gain the Portiuncula Indulgencefrom the afternoon on the 1st August to sunset on the 2nd.  This plenary indulgence may only be applied to the Souls in Purgatory, by the act of visiting a church following Confession and receiving Holy Communion. It is thus one of the greatest Acts of Charity we can perform, to release a soul from Purgatory. Why would one not do this?

The Indulgence was granted miraculously to Saint Francis on a night of great temptation, in which he is said to have rolled as mortification in a briar-bush which became a bush of sweet thornless roses.  Originally it required a visit to the cell where he died, now in the basilica at Portiuncula (see photo above) about a mile from Assisi, but by successive Popes, in their great mercy, has been granted more and more liberally until today any church may be visited to gain this indulgence. (This privilege has been finally established for an indefinite time by a decree of the S. Cong. of Indul., 26 March, 1911 (Acta Apostolicae Sedis, III, 1911, 233-4), and reformed and confirmed by Pope Paul VI in "Indulgentiarum Doctrina" (1967). This Apostolic Constitution established that a Plenary Indulgence may be gained only once a day.)

The obligations are the usual ones of Confession and Holy Communion, ideally on the day, and recitation of the Lord's Prayer and the Creed, and prayer for the Holy Father's intentions, carried out with the will to gain the indulgence, and a detachment from sin. That is all. The indulgence may be gained on each of the two days, thus twice, assisting two souls.

Please make the effort to do this wonderful charitable work today!

For more information see HERE.


On this day in 1659, the feast of S Pantaleon, was achieved a great victory over the naval forces of the Turks by Cardinal Grand Master Pierre d'Ambusson. The day is traditionally commemorated in the Order as a first class Feast, with the following prayers added to the Mass.

Festum duplex Iæ. Classis

Cardinalem &c. Magnum Magistrum Rhodiorum : contra Turcas obtentam. 
As quod Officium Innocentius Octavus Pont. 

Deus in te sperántium fortitudo, adesto precibus nostris : quas tibi cum gratiarum offerimus actione : pro Victoria Magistro nostro, ac ejus exercitui, contra hostes Fidei Christanæ Turcos, per te mitabiliter Rhodi concessa : supliciter deprecantes: ut solitá tuæ pietatis clementiá muniti, dextráque tuæ potentiæ defensi : ab hostium infidiis, omníque adversitate protegámur.  Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Filium tuum. Qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum.

Hostias tibi Domine placationis et laudis offerimus, suppliciter exorantes : ut qui nos de Fidei tuæ hostibus triumphare fecisti : clementer ab inimicorum infidiis, et omni periculo salves et munias.  Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Filium tuum. Qui vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum.

Sumptis redemptionis nostræ muneribus, quæsumus Omnipotens Deus : eorum celebratione tuæ protectionis auxilium : et famuli tui N. Hospitalis Hiersolomitani Magistrum, cum suo Exercitu, gratias de Triumphis Turcarum hostium fidei, nomini tuo sancto referentem : ab omni inimicorum incursu, cunctisque adversitatibus liberes semper et protegas.  Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Filium tuum. Qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum.

Ex Officia Propria Sanctorum Ordinis S. Joannis Hierosolimitani Melitensis in usum Domus Coloniensis SS. Joannis et Cordulæ.  Typis Antonii Metternich MDCLIX.

For those who wish to add the commemoration to the recitation of the daily Office, the antiphons of  the Common Confessoris non Pontifex may be used, the commemoration being only at Lauds.

AD BENED. ANT. Euge, serve bone * et fidelis, quia in pauca fuisti fidelis, supra multum te constituam, intra in gaudium Domini tui.
V. Iustum deduxit Dominus per vias rectas.
R. Et ostendit illi regnum Dei.

Deus in te sperántium fortitudo, adesto precibus nostris : quas tibi cum gratiarum offerimus actione : pro Victoria Magistro nostro, ac ejus exercitui, contra hostes Fidei Christanæ Turcos, per te mitabiliter Rhodi concessa : supliciter deprecantes: ut solitá tuæ pietatis clementiá muniti, dextráque tuæ potentiæ defensi : ab hostium infidiis, omníque adversitate protegámur.  Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Filium tuum. Qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum.


How apt are the words, in the light of the posts with which this blog has recently been concerned, preached by Father Edmund Montgomery on the Feast of our glorious martyr Blessed David Gunson.  Fr Montgomery highlights for us the contradiction between the Laws of Parliament, which bring death, and continue to do so in our own time, and the Law of Truth, which leads us to everlasting life.

We are grateful to him for journeying to London to say Mass for us on the vigil of the Feast, 12th July, and for his inspiring words, which are reproduced below.  Fr Montgomery is Administrator of Shrewsbury Cathedral, and a Magistral Chaplain of our Order.

Precious Blood Borough, Wednesday 11 July 2018

I entered seminary in 2005, some thirteen years ago. Before I studied Law and I loved it! I had grown up a studious child, in my large family, often escaping from my siblings to enjoying reading history, politics, the constitution, heraldry. It was a good preparation for the Law!
I remember my first lecture of Public Law which covered our constitution: the Crown, Parliament - the Lords and Commons, the judiciary, how a law is made and so on. I distinctly remember our lecturer impressing on us the foundation of the British Constitution: ‘There is no law that Parliament may not make.’
This evening, as we honour the sacrifice Blessed David Gunson I want to reflect on how Parliament has been the cause of so much of our past hurts and invariably the cause of our stormy present. Let us review some of the Acts of Parliament which brought our forebears such suffering: In 1531 an Act of Parliament gave Henry Tudor the title of ‘Supreme Head on earth of the Church of England’; an Act of Parliament suppressed our Order in England in 1540; in 1541 an Act of Parliament attained Blessed David Gunson with treason; when our last Catholic king, James II, sought to grant toleration, an Act of Parliament deposed him and Parliament invited his daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange to invade and usurp King James’ Crown; when Queen Anne died without issue in 1714, Parliament had already ensured a Protestant succession by the Act of Settlement, absolutely excluding Catholics or those married to Catholics from inheriting the Throne.
A tyrannical monarch is an easier narrative, but what this realm has long suffered from is tyrannical Parliaments. Our monarchs know their limits, their constitutional role: to be consulted, to encourage and to warn. Parliament knows no limit to its authority. We can call to mind of Acts of Parliament in our own time which have subverted the Law of God and continue the work of the destruction begun under the Tudors: in 1967, an Act of Parliament opened the door to eight million abortions; the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 1990 that permitted the beginning of in vitro fertilisation; in 2014, an Act of Parliament redefined marriage to enable same-sex unions.
Our constitution is founded on the principle that there is no law that Parliament may not make. We reply: No. Parliament may not make any laws contrary to the natural law, contrary the law of God, or any contrary to human reason. So much of our suffering over the centuries has been due to a Parliament that knows no limit to its power, a Parliament that may legislate and has legislated contrary to the natural law, contrary to the law of God, contrary to human reason.


The last 24 hours have brought two bits of news.
FIRSTLY this article in the Evening Standard, reporting apparent public 'outrage' at a pro-Life stall at a fair in South London. Indeed in the same park where a week earlier Members and Companions of our Order and been celebrating the Martyrdom of Blessed David Gunson, who was hanged drawn and quartered there, at St Thomas Waterings, now Burgess Park, in July 1541.  Clearly the spirit of his executioners is alive and well! Both hate the Church.

It might have been thought that small children liked playing with dolls, yet it would seem that dolls of babies from the day of birth are fine, but dolls of the same babies from the days and weeks before are not. Thank goodness the article describes them correctly as dolls of "unborn babies", and not with some pseudo-medical euphemism! 

SECONDLY this report in Aleteia that the very same image, of an unborn baby curled up in his mother's womb, which has been placed upon the 25 Kuna coin of Croatia. (H/T Fr.Z, here). Legal tender for all to see, carry and use.
What does this tell us about the formation of the population of these two countries, as members of families, as members of society, as members of the human race? 

Pray for Britain, and for all of Western Europe, so confused and drifting in a sea of ignorance and insanity. Pray for the Church, that She may guide us though the dark waters. Pray for our bishops, that they will have the strength to carry out the responsibility which is theirs to teach, in an age which is changing faster than they sometime can follow.

Our Lady of Philermo, pray for us and for families
St John the Baptist, pray for us and for families
Bl David Gunson, pray for us and for families

Holy Michael, the Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God thrust down to hell Satan and all the wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.


You help, financial help, is asked for a fund to fight the criminalisation of prayer vigils and support outside Abortion Clinics.

See link HERE to DONATE.

Ealing Council has made it a criminal offence to offer help to women outside of the Marie Stopes Abortion Centre on Mattock Lane. 

The council has put in place a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) that prevents “engaging in any act of approval/disapproval” by “any means” – specifically including prayer and counselling. 

Please help!
Our Lady of Philermo, pray for all mothers and children.
St John the Baptist, pray for all marriages.
Blessed Gerard, pray for all the weak and poor.


Blessed Paul VI may have smelled the smoke of Satan in the Church, but dressed in
both the fur mozzetta and the cloak clearly also felt the chill of a Godless world.
Our Order is committed to the work of Tuitio Fidei, defending the Faith we have received from our Fathers in the modern world. We are committed to uphold the Faith and to defend the Magisterium and the deposit of Faith protected by Our Holy Father Pope Francis.

In our time the Faith is attacked on numerous levels, the sanctity of Marriage between man and woman, sexual morality and the rise of pornography, and worse of all, as it underlines all the other evils, the attacks upon the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrifice of the Mass.  Even in the Church there are calls, even from cardinals, particularly in some European countries, sowing confusion and dissent, bringing scandal to the laity, and blurring the distinction between right and wrong - calls for communion for those in adulterous and bigamous relationships (so-called 'second marriage'); calls for Holy Communion for mixed marriages, to give the sacred species to those who have not demonstrated a clear understanding of the sacraments nor expressed a desire to be in a perfect state of grace; calls for the blessing of unnatural unions, homosexual 'couples'; calls for a female clergy against the teaching of Christ, confirmed again in our time by Saint John-Paul II; and latterly, as this 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae approaches, calls for a softening of the Church's perennial teaching on sexual morality and the sanctity of life - contraception and abortion. 

For these very things our holy Patron Saint John the Baptist, whose Birth we celebrate today, was beheaded - the Church's first champion and patron saint of Holy Christian marriage and of chastity.

So we can be proud in Britain of these 500 clergy of our lands who have signed a letter defending the Church's teaching as expressed magisterially by Blessed Pope Paul VI in his Encyclical, but also in our beloved Order take it as a challenge to us personally to join the fight.

A good report in the Catholic Herald, giving the signatories, may be read HERE.  The full text is given below.

We may be proud too that nearly all the Chaplains of our Order have added their signatures.  But it is for us the laity to defend the Faith, not to rely upon the priests : their role is to teach us, not to fight beside us, any more now than in the galleys of our forebears.  So, let us take up our weapons - our hearts and our rosaries, but also our brains and our voices, and make the Church's teaching known in our world and our workplace.

Our Lady of Philermo, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Blessed Paul VI, pray for us.

Text of the Letter of the British Clergy
In 1968 Pope Paul VI issued a re-affirmation of central aspects of the Church’s traditional teaching on human sexuality. The encyclical Humanae Vitae affirmed, in harmony with the Church’s traditional teaching, the purity and beauty of the spousal act, always open to procreation and always unitive.

Humanae Vitae predicted that if artificial contraception became widespread and commonly accepted by society then we would lose our proper understanding of marriage, the family, the dignity of the child and of women and even a proper appreciation of our bodies and the gift of male and female. The Holy Father warned that governments would begin to utilise coercive methods to control what is most private and intimate.
At the time of the publication of Humanae Vitae many rejected its message and its warnings. Many found the teaching that the use of contraception was in all cases ‘absolutely excluded’ and ‘intrinsically wrong’ difficult to accept and challenging to proclaim. Fifty years later so much has unfolded in our society that has been to the detriment of human life and love. Many have come to appreciate again the wisdom of the Church’s teaching.
As priests we desire to affirm on this 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae the noble vision of procreative love as the Catholic Church has always taught and understood it. We believe a proper ‘human ecology’, a rediscovery of the way of nature and respect for human dignity is essential for the future of our people, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. We propose discovering anew the message of Humanae Vitae, not only in fidelity to the Gospel, but as a key to the healing and true development of our society.


ROSARY on the COAST  – SUNDAY 29th APRIL at 3pm
The Rosary will be led by the GRAND PRIORY OF ENGLAND on the Thames Estuary, between Leigh-on-Sea and Southend, which is officially the nearest North Sea coast to London!

The Arrangements for Sunday are as follow : MEET AT THE PETERBOAT Public House, on the Seafront in Old Leigh, 27 High St, Leigh-on-Sea SS9 2EN, from 12.30. It's a good place. Be there definitely by 2.30, as we may move off after that.   MAP, CLICK HERE

SMOM FACEBOOK Event HERE.  Not essential to sign up, obviously, but helps us assess numbers.

Depending on numbers we shall either join with the local parishes, including our dear friend Monsignor Kevin Canon Hale, the local Parish Priest, or lead the Holy Rosary independently.

09.55 - arr10.55, 10.25 - arr11.25, 10.55 - arr11.55, 11.25 - arr12.25, 11.55 -arr12.55, 1225 - arr13.25, 12.55 - arr13.55, 1325 - arr14.25
From the Station to the Peterboat is pleasant walk of about 1/4 hour behind the cockleshells.

MASS TIMES at Leigh-on-Sea (shorter walk if you take the train to Chalkwell, the next station, 5 minutes longer train journey) :
8am, 9.30, 11.30.
Parish website (for directions etc) HERE

More general information may be had from the Rosary organisers' website, HERE, where those of you who are unable to join the Malta London group can join other groups or set up your own.  There is an interactive map showing where the Rosary is happening. There are lots! We would, however, ask that wherever you go, you do so visibly as a Member or Companion of the Order of Malta, or OMV. Our common witness is important; this is Tuitio Fidei.


Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us
Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us
Our Lady of Philermo, pray for us


His Grace the Archbishop of Edinburgh has most generously placed for the benefit of the Order in Scotland the beautiful chapel of Saint Margaret, in the Gillis Centre, the seat of the Diocesan curial offices. The Chapel is just beyond the Meadows to the South of the City, in Morningside, an easy journey, even a walk, from the City centre.

The handsome chapel, with a romanesque nave, was designed by the Scottish architect James Gillespie Graham, with input from his then associate Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. It was opened in 1835, and the gothic chancel added by Archibald McPherson in 1893. Ancestors of present members of the Order, including Lord Ralph Kerr and Robert Monteith of Carstairs, had links with the Chapel. It houses the relics of Saint Crescentia, believed to have been a young Roman girl martyred for her faith, which were donated by Pope Gregory XVI. The Reliquary in which they are preserved was designed by Pugin.
Masses will be organised by the Order in Scotland on a regular basis.  The first took place on the evening before the Edinburgh Ball, Friday, 13th April, the feast of Pope S Martin I.

The Mass was celebrated by Father Scott Deeley, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, beautifully served by Companions, in the presence of Fra' Ian Scott, Grand Prior.   Father Deeley will be joining the Order on Saint John's Day this year.  Liam Devlin played the organ, and was responsible for the excellent music. The suitably grand recessional was Jeremiah Clarke's Trumpet Voluntary.

The Mass was followed by a wonderfully organised reception in the Library, under the able direction of Mrs Mark Hamid. Many members of the Order, Companions and friends were present, including a very young member, whose family had travelled from Wick. The photograph shows her receiving a medal from Peter McCann, at the reception which followed in the Library. The photographs were very kindly taken by Scottish Companion Uilliam ÓhAicéad.

A convivial Dinner followed, attended by Monsignor Burke, who had regrettably been prevented from arriving in time for the Mass.

It is to be hoped that members will continue to support these Scottish Masses in ever growing numbers.


U P D A T E!
We are re-posting below this Appeal, with sincere thanks to those Readers who have already contributed so generously.  The Appeal has still a little way to go to reach its target, and we ask you again to be generous.  Fr.Z's blog was very successful in raising £5,000 for a Blessed Sacrament canopy for this same church of Corpus Christi, so let no-one say that our Readers are less willing to share in honour of the Blessed Sacrament!

Come on! Do it NOW!

The Church of CORPUS CHRISTI, MAIDEN LANE, near Covent Garden in London, the first church in England to be dedicated after the Restoration of the Hierarchy to the Mystery of Corpus Christi, has for the past few years been undergoing a comprehensive restoration, and is to be formally opened by His Eminence Vincent Cardinal Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, on the Feast of Corpus Christi this year, Sunday 3rd June.

The Church will become a centre for adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament in the Diocese.

The Parish is seeking contributions of funds toward the purchase of a pair of English Gothic candelabra, which have come from a Catholic church, and bear the symbols of the Holy Family, Jesus Mary and Joseph, on enamel shields. It is hoped that members of the Order of Malta and Companions and Friends will contribute generously; part of our charism as an Order is the promotion of excellence in the Sacred Liturgy, as a part of our work of Tuitio Fidei, and this is a very good practical way of doing it.

They would stand either side of the High Altar and would be used for the Feast of Corpus Christi and particularly for the annual 40 Hours Devotion which is to be restored at the desire of His Eminence the Cardinal.
For those wishing to make further Lenten almsgiving, here is a good opportunity!

The Candelabra cost £6,000. Donations may be made on the Parish's special Candelabra Donations page HERE.

Those readers with blogs, Twitter or Facebook pages etc, are encouraged to disseminate this notice as widely as possible.

Should you wish to give more to the wonderful work at Corpus Christi, general donations to the Restoration Fund may be made HERE.

Benefactors are recorded in the Benefactors’ Book and are remembered at the Altar in a specific Benefactors’ Mass each month.

For those wishing to participate spiritually in the work of the Church of Corpus Christi, you may join the SODALITY OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENTvisit the website HERE. 

Adoremus in aeternum Sanctissimum Sacramentum!


Monday of Low Week is the transferred feast of the Annunciation, which fell on Palm Sunday, and thus could not be celebrated then.  Happy Feast to all our readers.
"The angel Gabriel descended in the midst of a heavenly light. The light enveloped the Virgin, and the angel was vested in a garment so bright that I can not compare him on earth. 
"When she saw the light with her own eyes, she got up and was seized with fear. Looking at the angel, she found on his face the reflection of her chastity. She was standing, in an attitude of modesty, listening, all her senses attending. 
"Then the angel greeted her and annouced to her the will of God; His words pleased the heart of the Virgin, filled her senses and set her soul on fire; however, her virginal modesty and love for God prompted her to ask for an explanation. 
"When she was instructed, she opened her heart with all good will, then knelt down and said: "I am the servant of God, that your words are fulfilled. Then the whole Trinity with the power of the Divinity, the good will of Humanity, and the nobility of the Holy Spirit penetrated his whole virginal body."
Blessed Mechtilde of Magdeburg (†1282)

The Angel of the Lord announced unto Mary !
And She conceived by the Holy Ghost !

The image shows the Annunciation by Caravaggio.

Readers may wish to revisit Fr Stephen Morrison's talk on this Mystery at the Annunciation Day Recollection last year, HERE.


Dear Friends,

I write to you from Rome, where I have assisted over the last three days at the solemn ceremonies of the Easter Triduum, as I am sure many of you have all over the world. You have been in my prayers before the altar throughout these days.

In this age it is easy to lose sight of the fact that our Salvation is already assured by Christ's Sacrifice on Calvary and Resurrection. So many troubles beset us on every side. This is no less true of our own beloved Order of Malta.

But these holy days show us that the Battle is won — Hell’s armies flee. I am grateful to our Chaplain for his insightful mediations which we have been privileged to read during Holy Week. All we need to do is to keep the Faith, and we are thereby collaborating with the Risen Christ in our own Salvation. But we are also collaborating in the Salvation of our fellow men, because we are all brothers within the Church which He founded on Maundy Thursday, and which he entrusted from the Cross to the maternal care of Mary, Mother of the Church - "Son, behold thy Mother". 

Let us ask Her prayers, the prayers of Our Lady of Philermo, that all of us in the Order of Malta, and all of you who pray together and work for the Poor within our great Order family, may never waver from the path we have been shown over these last few days.

A very Happy Easter to you all.

Fra' Ian Scott
Grand Prior

The picture above shows the Resurrection, by a follower of Caravaggio, around 1600, possibly Francesco Boneri, knows as 'Cecco del Caravaggio'. It is housed in the Art Institute of Chicago.



THE LITURGY in the form revised by Pope Pius XII in the 1950’s re-introduced the time of an evening celebration, begun after dark on Holy Saturday evening. This is considered by some –incorrectly- to be the most popular time of the celebration for the ancients.  The missal indicates that the Church in Rome where this liturgy was customarily celebrated was that of St John Lateran. This great basilica was previously known as the Basilica of our Saviour and is the mother church of all Christendom. It was the first great public place of Christian worship specifically built as such in the fourth century by the Emperor Constantine. There it was that in the centuries following the end of the early persecutions of Christians, the new Roman converts were publicly baptised and initiated into the mysteries of the Church. Submerged in the water three times, in memory of the three days of Christ in the tomb, they emerged as new members of His Church. They had symbolically died to sin to be brought back to new life with Him.

THE liturgy of this night is the richest and the most lengthy of all the great ceremonies of this week. It begins in darkness and ends in light. This darkness is symbolic as well as real. The light in this case is not natural but is the illumination of faith, signified by a lighted candle. We have been led out of the bondage of ignorance and slavery to sin to the light of truth and the freedom of the children of God. This is nothing less than an expression in visible symbols of what has happened to us in baptism. In the early centuries, as we know from study and research, the ceremonies of baptism usually occurred during this celebration and were an essential part of it. All the great themes of the struggle against evil, and death its elder child, are apparent in the rites and prayers in use in this liturgy. This evening, I would just like briefly to mention something about the presumed origin of some of the rites and symbols associated with this liturgy. I am indebted to the works of Dr Heinrich Kellner, Heortology, A History of Christian Festivals and Mgr Louis Duchesne, Christian Worship, both written in the first decade of the 20th century, for most of these details.

THE very first part of the Vigil, the blessing of the new fire, was unknown in ancient Rome. Kellner says it originated in Germany, where it was known as the “Osterfeuer” and it was introduced into Rome by Pope Leo IV (847-855).  Duchesne however, maintains that it came from the British Isles. From there it was brought to  Germany by the British and Irish monks who were evangelists there in the eight century. This is certainly more likely, for the ancient Celts are renowned for their particular devotion to fires in their pagan rites.  The Easter fires were always new and lit from new flints. Rome had its own version of the new fire. On Maundy Thursday, all the old oil from the church lamps in the Lateran Basilica was collected into three large vessels containing wicks, which were placed in the corner of the church. From these vessels all the candles and other lights used at the Easter Vigil were lighted. The ceremony of taking the light from these vessels was always solemn, being done at the Pope’s order by a bishop or a priest.


LAST NIGHT we went in spirit to the Garden to keep vigil with the Lord in His agony. On that same night, in the first Holy Week, he was taken by force, abandoned by most of His friends and dragged before the Sanhedrin. It is to the Gospels that we turn for the recorded details of that night. They convey enough of the scene for us to envisage the worst that occurred. Our imagination may do the rest. We can also look more deeply into the account and put together from other sources what is not immediately available in that narrative. 

THE betrayal itself was done with a kiss. John’s Gospel –the one that we shall hear today- does not mention this. He desires more to show the voluntary and majestic manner of Jesus in the moment of His arrest. The other Gospels speak in Greek of the kataphilein: it was a kiss of the tender, loving kind by which Judas betrayed the Master.  The trial of Jesus –if we may so describe it- before the Sanhedrin and Pilate, is given in its outline by the Gospels with Luke adding the extra detail of a trial before King Herod. If we understand something of the custom of Jewish trials of the time, we shall observe how far short of justice this one fell.



THE Missa in Coena Domini commemorates and recreates Our Blessed Lord’s last communal action with his beloved Disciples. We gather in symbolic and ceremonial action in the church, which for this occasion becomes as it were, the Cenacle in Jerusalem. Here, the intimacy between us and our Divine Lord is both poignant, because it also involves remembrance of betrayal, and also precious, because we celebrate the institution of the Priesthood, The Mass, and the reality of His abiding presence in the Sacrament of the Altar.  The heart and mind of each person participating in the liturgy should be focused on the Person of the Lord in a more profound and penetrating spirit of gratitude and sorrow for past neglect. The custom of an evening Mass, specifically to celebrate the institution of Priesthood and the Holy Eucharist developed in consequence of the earlier morning liturgy being primarily one of reconciling public penitents and later the Blessing of the Holy Oils. The celebration of evening Mass of the Mandatum and the rituals associated with it that have been handed on to us are the accumulation over time of the piety and liturgical traditions of centuries of developing faith and ceremonial.

THERE are some ancient customs associated with this Mass that have now fallen out of use. Unusually during the early centuries of the Church – and certainly in the fourth century as described by St Augustine - the Mass followed a festal supper and the normal fast before Holy Communion was suspended. It was also the custom — as it ideally should be still — for no individual Masses to be offered on this day, but for the clergy to communicate together at the Mandatum. White vestments or cloth of gold are now the order of the day but there are early indications that green vestments for this Mass have also been used before the early Middle Ages. A recent study by Giovanni Scarabelli on the cult and devotion of the Order of Malta, drawn from archives in the National Library of Malta provide us with many valuable insights into our former customs.  According to the rites and customs of the Order in its long history of Conventual life, the celebration of the Maundy liturgy was to be carried out with the scrupulous attention to detail and arrangement of accessories and wearing the most precious vestments. The altar ornaments were always to be of silver. In accordance with a papal decree, from 1363 until 1770, the Bull “In Coena Domini” of Pope Urban V, listing all the censures incurring instant excommunication and reserved to the Pope for absolution, was decreed by the Holy See to be read at the Missa in Coena Domini, following the Credo. The Order faithfully observed this custom during the time it was in force. The list of censures was revised several times during the centuries, eventually extending from five to twenty, and including among other items “Hindering the supply of the exportation of food and other commodities to the Roman court; The supply of arms and weapons to Saracens or Turks” and “violence done the Cardinals, Legates or Nuncios.” After a storm of protest grew from various bad Catholic rulers in the 18th century, Pope Clement XIV –famous for his Trevi Fountain initiative - did not abolish the bull but quietly removed the order to publish it. It was eventually abrogated by Pope Pius IX.


POPE BENEDICT XVI, while still Cardinal Ratzinger, makes the point in his book The Spirit of the Liturgy that the Exodus from Egypt of the Chosen People is inseparably linked to worship. It is not primarily about a land to live in, but a permanent place in which to render appropriate homage to God according to His own mandates. Every time Moses confronts Pharaoh with God’s demand to “let my people go”; it is always followed by this reason:  that they may sacrifice, or make a feast to Him in the wilderness. (Ex. 5-10) When they have reached it, the supremacy of that aspect of this covenant is emphasised. The Book of Exodus itself devotes six chapters (Ex. 35-40) to liturgical prescriptions. The essence of the Passover is therefore indisputably liturgical. It is so in a sacrificial sense.

THE post-Exodus worship has been described by Archbishop Fulton Sheen as “A veritable haemorrhage of blood”. It was in and through the shedding of blood — the blood of the Passover lambs — that the Jews achieved deliverance. Later, in the land where they came to dwell, they continued to acknowledge this and rendered appropriate homage to God whose power had saved them. It signified both absolute dependence and obedience. The only true title deed to the territory they came to possess rested in their fulfilment of those rituals of worship commanded in their sacred writings. In the course of time a designated permanent sanctuary and a system of priesthood came into existence. The synagogue services carried on throughout Israel, Judea and the Jewish Diaspora in the first century AD had begun only in the 6th century BC. That was the time of the exile in Babylon, when there was no Temple and therefore no sacrifices. The synagogue services continued when they came back to the Promised Land.  But they were always secondary and in addition to what was happening in the Temple. By the time of Our Lord, this was still very much the case.


IS THERE ANYONE who has not felt betrayed or wounded by a relative or friend at some time? If we have, can we recall what our feelings were at that time? Perhaps we can; very easily. Maybe because the hurt has never really gone away and we have not yet forgiven the person responsible. If we think that those who have wronged us have a case to answer, what about all the offences committed against God and against His justice and goodness? Day after day, on our screens and in our papers, crimes against humanity and the blasphemies against God and His holy ones confront us and condemn those responsible. 

BLASPHEMERS will say that if there is a God He should have better things to do than feel offended. They say this unaware that every beat of their hearts is a work of His love. Unrepentant evil-doers defy God and pile on crime upon crime unmindful of the consequences and heedless of the thought of judgement. Millions, who should be in church each week and will hardly enter it on Easter Sunday, will instead trace their steps to the exclusive pursuit of pleasure in all its forms, hardly sparing a thought for the welfare of their souls. 

SHOULD we take refuge in cynicism and indifference because of all this? Though there have been times when our society was less fractured and less steeped in materialism, there has always been in some other parts of the world, a framework of oppression or of heathen systems of social engagement. Centuries ago, while Europe was enjoying a golden age of faith, there was savagery on other continents. But it was unknown to most in Europe. Now, the distribution of communication and technology makes it possible for us to see instantly the misery of others and challenges both our faith in God as well as our obsession with our own convenience. It is hard to be a Christian now but Calvary can help us to make sense of the confusion.


With heartfelt thanks to the Chaplain of the Grand Priory, Dr Antony Conlon, we are presenting this Holy Week a series of Spiritual Reflections to allow members of the Order to make a person retreat, on Palm Sunday, and on the three days of the Sacred Triduum.  Many of us do not have the advantage of being in places where much spiritual food is available in our parishes, and it is for these people that the Grand Priory exists to assist in their fully participation in the Mysteries of our Salvation.

The talks were first delivered as part of the Triduum Retreats which in earlier terms were held, of high successive years, at our Conventual Church in St John's Wood.  (The editor has made only modest revisions, such as updating references to the then Cardinal Ratzinger, but readers are to accept them both as having been prepared a decade ago, and as being written to be read aloud.)

Let us make the most of these three days which hurry past us in the twinkling of an eye, and come to the joy of the Resurrection fully prepared by the fasts and spiritual practices of a good Lent well-lived.

The posts will come up early in the morning of each of the days.

On the evening of Spy Wednesday, 28th March, there is a monthly Conventual Mass, at 7pm at Spanish Place.  This is a good opportunity to begin the last great days of Holy Week together, even if we are then to all go our separate ways.


François-René de Chateaubriand, the late 18th Century French writer, politician and bon-viveur, and a Knight of our Beloved Order, recounts the joyful experience of his First Confession, which will be a good reminder to many of us this Lent, especially perhaps our young members on Retreat in Walsingham this weekend, to avail ourselves fully of this great gift of the Church, to the protection and exaltation of our eternal souls.  Do not be afraid of Confession!
The schoolboy Chateaubriand is being prepared for his first confession by a severe-looking priest, “a man of fifty with a stern appearance” (in Robert Baldick’s translation). Having read a frightening book about the eternal fate of those who hide their sins in the confessional, the young lad grows unbearably anxious. When the day comes, he is shaking with fear and scarcely able to stammer out his sins. Then the priest prepares to say the words of absolution. 
If Heaven had shot a thunderbolt at me, it would have caused me less dread. I cried: 
“I have not confessed everything!”  
This awe-inspiring judge, this delegate of the Supreme Arbiter, whose face filled me with such fear, became the tenderest of shepherds. He clasped me in his arms and burst into tears.  
“Come now, dear child,” he said, “Courage!”
It was, Chateaubriand recalled, an instant of supreme happiness, like a mountain lifting from him: “I shall never experience a like moment in the whole of my life.”
We are grateful to the inimitable Father Zulzdorf for this quotation.

The illustration above, of Chateaubriand's entry into our Order, as the quotation, come from his autobiography, Mémoires d´outre-tombe (1841).  The illustration, oddly, shows what appears to be a rite of tonsure, but in a lay context.  This is not the subject of this post but someone might wish to look into it.