Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Universae Ecclesiae and Friday abstinence

I have now managed to read Universae Ecclesiae rather than just rely, as I had done hitherto, on digests on various blogs. In one way the document is rather bland, being a tidying up of various questions and procedural points. Doing that is good in itself, and underlines the fact that Summorum Pontificum is now part of normative practice - it cannot be dismissed as some tried or would have wanted to do as a concession to tiresome old fuddy-duddies.

The fears about the introduction of restrictions on the use of the Extraordinary Form seem largely to have been unfulfilled, or in the point about ordinations, is at least consistent.

As usual there seems to be a problem with translations from the Latin into the vernacular as in the point about the right of individual members of Orders to celebrate their own traditional rites. This is a not unknown problem of translation which one would think would be attended to before publication, but it is not a serious handicap, just a bit of a time-waster having to explain things with reference to the definitive Latin.

If Universae Ecclesiae reinforces traditional practice, then so too does the decision of the English and Welsh bishops to reinstate Friday abstinence on days other than Solemnities. The rule was, I understand, relaxed in 1985. Now I have observed the traditional Friday discipline for years, long before I became a Catholic, so it is no novelty for me. The argument about marking ourselves out from the rest of the population by so doing I find considerably less appealing that the point about personal discipline - and makes meat-eating on a Solemnity part of one's own participation in the sense of celebration.

So last week was a good one for reinforcing good practice on both the liturgical and personal front. In both cases the important thing now is to use that practice to build up the life of the Church.

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