Latin Mass Society

Chairman's Blog

23/09/2020 - 09:32

Support Sacred Music in London and Offer Masses for Your Loved Ones


Cantus Magnus, a professional sacred music choir under Matthew Schellhorn, is announcing a scheme whereby anyone can ask for a Sung Requiem Mass to be celebrated for their loved ones, to be fitted in to or added to the regular EF Masses which are celebrated in London.

London is unique in the world for the number of Sung Traditional Masses which are celebrated regularly. As well as a Sung Mass on Sundays in St Bede's, Clapham Park, the normal, non-lockdown pattern, to which we are at last returning, is a Sung Mass every Monday in Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane, every Wednesday in Our Lady of the Assumption, Warwick Street, and one Friday a month in St Mary Moorfields for the Juventutem group. A good number of these Masses are High Masses with deacon and subdeacon.
A major constraint on having more such Masses is the groups of singers who serve them. The two amatueur groups who sing for many of these Masses are limited by their time. Other Masses are covered by a professional choir, Cantus Magnus, singing chant and polyphony, which is limited above all by the financial sponsorship available.
We are looking for further financial sponsorship for these to allow more people to play a direct role in their support, to allow people to request Sung Masses for particular intentions, particularly for the dead, and to increase the number of Sung Masses which we can arrange. These can be Masses of Requiem when the day permits it: i.e. there isn't a feast day.
(Requiem Masses can be celebrated on 4th Class feasts, and on third and even second class feasts on certain occasions, such as the anniversary of the day of death or burial.)
You can have a Mass celebrated for a particular intention for a small sum or as a favour very easily: the point of this idea is that people can sponsor a choir to sing at Mass. The cost of this is greater for polyphony, with three or four or more professional singers; Chant can be sung by two cantors.



Photos: The Traditional Mass celebrated in Corpus Christi Maiden Lane, Our Lady of the Assumption Warwick Street, and St Mary Moorfields, all in London.
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22/09/2020 - 10:00

In Defence of Primary Educators: a protest against Sex Ed in Catholic schools

Below is a piece I've written for LifeSite on the campaign against Sex Education in Catholic schools. Our Coalition in Defence of Primary Educators now has a website, and with LifeSite we have created the following video.

Last week, on the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary, I knelt with two others in front of Westminster Cathedral, the magnificent Byzantine-style mother-church of the premier diocese of England and Wales, and the seat of Britain’s only Cardinal, Vincent Nichols. We prayed the Rosary together for our bishops. We had already written to them: we, and supporters or our three organisations, which have come together for this cause—the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, Catholic Man UK, and the Latin Mass Society, of which I am the Chairman—and we received formulaic responses from most of them, telling us that everything will be fine.

But it is already not fine, and we can all read for ourselves the legislation and official guidance which will before long be enforced on schools under our bishops’ authority, which will make things even less fine. For this legislation is imposing a program of “Personal, Health, and Sex Education” (PHSE) which demands that choosing not to kill the child in the womb is just one acceptable option among others, and that Christian marriage is just one life-style choice alongside same-sex unions, and every other possibility. We know from the lesson-plans, produced not only by the Government but by the Bishops’ own agency, the Catholic Education Service, that children in schools claiming to be Catholic and funded in part by Catholic offertory collections are already bullying, browbeating, and shaming children who dare to give voice to their instinctive regard for natural marriage. This approach will be rolled out and enforced with greater and greater rigor when the new legislation comes into force next year, after a delay caused by the Coronavirus.

Read the whole thing.
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21/09/2020 - 09:26

Schellhorm Prize for sacred music composition


See my posts about the previous winner, Marco Galvani, here. That was in 2015; the prize is being revived in light of the abject state of music performance after three months of Covid lockdown.
Contributions to the prize are welcomed: see here.

The Trustees of the Schellhorn Trust are pleased to announce the 2020 Schellhorn Prize for Sacred Music Composition competition.

Classical pianist Matthew Schellhorn founded the prize in 2014 in memory of his parents to foster artistic endeavour and encourage excellence in the Sacred Liturgy. The inaugural Prize was awarded in 2015 and was won by Marco Galvani.

The Schellhorn Prize for Sacred Music Composition competition is announced for 2020 and will be held in December with the winning entry performed on Christmas Eve.

The panel of judges for the 2020 Prize will include:

Mr Matthew Schellhorn (Chairman)
Diana Burrell (composer)
Marco Galvani (composer; Yehudi Menuhiin School)
Dr Peter Kwasniewski (composer)
Professor Nicola Lefanu (composer)
Mr Andrew Morris (Pastmaster, Worshipful Company of Musicians)
Mr Tim Watts (composer; Affiliated Lecturer, Faculty of Music, University of Cambridge & Sub-Director of Studies in Music and Teaching Associate, St John’s College, Cambridge)

Founder and Chairman Matthew Schellhorn writes: “The Covid-19 situation has seen a hugely detrimental effect on the arts sector, and musicians have been amongst the most adversely impacted. I hope this prize will provide an incentive to be creative and to build up a working relationship with other professional musicians as we support each other.”

The Schellhorn Prize for Sacred Music Composition is supported by The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales.

Guidance for entry
What does the Prize offer?

One £400 prize will be awarded in 2020.
The winner will also have his or her composition performed by a professional choir in the context of the Sacred Liturgy of the Catholic Church according to the Missal promulgated by Pope Saint John XXIII in 1962.
In 2020, the composition will be performed during Mass on Christmas Eve at St Mary Moorfields Catholic Church in the City of London. (Should the Covid-19 situation preclude this performance, another performance opportunity will be arranged.)
Who is it open to?

Composers aged between 18 and under 30 or under on the closing date, regardless of nationality, who are studying, or have studied, at any conservatoire or university in England or Wales.
What are the entrance requirements?

A piece for a cappella SATB choir (four parts, non-dividing) using any Latin Eucharistic or Christmas-themed text (excluding the text of the Mass) must be submitted with the completed application form.
The piece should be no longer than 5 minutes long and should not have received its premiere.
The piece should be accompanied by a copy of the text and a summary in no more than 200 words of the work's artistic rationale.
Proof of age and of educational status from your place of study are also required.
How do I apply?

Download an entry form below.
Applications must be made on the official form and emailed to the address given.
As a contribution to the administrative costs of the award, an entrance fee of £5 per piece is payable.
Members of the Latin Mass Society and those in full time education at the closing date are not required to pay the entrance fee.
When is the next closing date?

Entries should be submitted by Monday 7th December 2020 at 5pm.
When will the winner be announced?

The Winner (and Honourable Mentions if applicable) will be announced on Monday 14th December 2020.

For the application details, see here.

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16/09/2020 - 15:00

Westminster Cathedral Choir is in peril

Westminster Cathedral: the LMS Annual Requiem

The saga of Westminster Cathedral Choir School claimed a fresh victim last week with the resignation of another senior employee, the Music Administrator Madeleine Smith. Like the Director of Music, Martin Baker, she was unhappy about the sidelining of the choir at Englands premier Catholic Cathedral. Baker resigned late last year, and was absent from Christmas services. There was no official explanation, and he has not been replaced. What is going on?

Westminster Cathedral Choir is served by men and boys, in the ancient Catholic tradition. The boys attend a school set up specially for them by Cardinal Vaughan, the founder of the Cathedral, in 1902. He wanted to have something in his new Cathedral equivalent to the great choirs of the Anglican Cathedrals, which commonly have their own schools—boarding schools—so the boys can be recruited from a wide area and are available to sing on Sundays. Vaughans vision was realized, and Westminster Cathedral Choir is famous. It is, or was until recently, at least as good as the best Anglican Cathedral choirs, such as those of Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s, and in the context of the global melt-down of Catholic sacred music since the 1960s, it was regarded as the best Catholic Cathedral choir in the world. Westminster Cathedral was the only Catholic Cathedral in the world to have a Sung Mass every single day: again, until recently.

Just as Cardinal Vaughan and other Catholic leaders over millennia wanted to build the most beautiful churches possible, and have in them the most moving devotional art, so too they wanted the best sacred music. The greatest achievements of the human spirit should be offered to God, and our acts of worship should be clothed in the best we can offer Him. Art and above all music has the power to touch the heart, to get through to us when words fail, to express our awe, our joy, and our sorrow, and as Pope John Paul II expressed it, can be ‘an echo of the Spirit of God’ (Ecclesia in Europa (2003) 60).

I know this kind of argument confuses some people. If the best we can do is not all that great, it will be acceptable to God: because, yes, He looks at the heart. If the best we can do is reserved for mindless secular entertainment or commercial ends, God will be less impressed. What does it say about us as a society that the best efforts of artists are devoted to making violent and immodest films? What does it say about us as individuals if our home entertainment systems are more expensive than the altar furnishings in our churches?

So what has happened in Westminster Cathedral? As reported in The Times, the key change has been a new Head Teacher of the Choir School, of which the choristers now only represent 10%, who has abolished full-time boarding for choir members. Allowing them to go home on Saturdays may seem uncontroversial, but in fact they are obliged to go home, so the school is no longer able to accept pupils from outside London, and Saturday rehearsals for Sunday services are impossible. As has been pointed out by many distinguished Catholic and non-Catholic musicians, the quality of the singing cannot be maintained under this regime.

Why would the authorities, bequeathed Vaughan’s astonishing legacy, not wish to make the most of it to raise worshippers’ hearts to God in prayer, and to draw non-believers into the Church? Knowing the debate as it has played out on these issues over decades, it is clear that there are two factors in play.

One is the desire of the schools new leadership to make it a commercially and academically successful school. The emphasis is on getting the pupils, who leave at the age of 13, into elite Public” (i.e. independent) schools such as Eton, where many of the UKs Prime Minsters have been educated, including the present one.

The other is that, in the context of this temptation, Church authorities have no strong interest in maintaining the choirs ability to sing to a world-class standard. Normally they would find the idea of competing with posh private schools a bit embarrassing, but they evidently find the idea of an elite choir even more so. The choirs unique ability to sing the most complex and sublime pieces of the Catholic patrimony of Sacred Music in the way they were intended to be sung—by boys and men, rather than using adult professional female singers—pushes the Cathedral down a particular liturgical pathway which is not particularly congenial to them. They pay lip-service to the value of the choir but in some ways would be happier with a third-rate choir singing the kind of third-rate modern music which makes many Catholic worshippers flee for the hills. (I’ve written about the love of the mediocre here.)

We can only hope that some sanity returns before the damage to Westminster Cathedral Choir becomes irreversible.

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14/09/2020 - 18:47

Support this Angelico Press project: the Vulnerary of Christ

Kickstarter Project page
The Vulnerary of Christ 
Kickstarter campaign to translate and publish a book
about the five wounds of Christ and their mysteries
Kickstarter Page
Back this Project


A book about the history of emblematic depictions of the Five Wounds that Jesus Christ suffered at the Crucifixion: their symbolism and representation in religious art, liturgical objects, heraldry, even household items. Evidence is provided of extensive devotion to the Heart of Christ centuries prior to official recognition of devotion to the Sacred Heart by the Catholic Church in 1765. Fascinating evidence also connects these themes to the legend of the Holy Grail.

Jesus-Christ symbolized by a lamb, bleeding from his side into a cup on an altar


The manuscript upon which this book is based was completed in 1946 by the French scholar Louis Charbonneau-Lassay (1871-1946) shortly before his death. After his death, the manuscript was stolen by someone claiming to be a publisher, and has never surfaced again. Some have speculated that, since certain chapters in the book deal with carefully guarded materials known only from a 15th-century manuscript associated with a mysterious Christian society called the Estoile Internelle (Inner Star), a contemporary member of this organization may have carried it off to maintain secrecy.

Louis Charbonneau-Lassay in his workshop engraving an illustration for his book


Fortunately, in 2016, through a remarkable series of circumstances, a French researcher in symbolism acquired the original and very extensive archives of Louis Charbonneau-Lassay, and was able to reconstitute the content of the Vulnerary of Christ by reference to thousands of files, sketches, and woodcuts preserved in the archives. In 2018 the book was finally published in French (75 years after its intended publication).

The original author's archives, almost a hundred years old, were used to reconstitute this book


Angelico Press has engaged a gifted translator experienced in this domain, with a special interest in Charbonneau-Lassay, but the project is vast, as the final text will number approximately 600 pages, and include over 350 illustrations, many of them drawn, carved, or printed by the author himself. Considerable copyediting and bibliographic/indexing work is also involved. In order to ensure that this remarkable text may become a resource for Anglophones, we are asking for support from the wider community of those who share our conviction of the enormous importance of this book.

Excerpt from the Vulnerary of Christ, translated in English from French


Get an early copy of the Vulnerary of Christ, either a paperback version or if you are a collector and like beautiful books, a personalized hardcopy edition, as well as many extras depending on your level of funding. Help us complete this book's resurrection by making it accessible to all English speaking readers!

Some of the rewards include a fine print of the Rosa Mystica artwork


  • Finish the translation: $2000. This will cover the translator's time (and coffee) needed to achieve this very difficult task.
  • Editing costs: $1000. Because of the complexity of the typesetting for this book, the editing costs are much higher than for a regular work.
  • Publishing costs: $1000 to print books and rewards.
  • Kickstarter fees and taxes: $450
  • Any additional funds will be used to start a full translation of the extraordinary Bestiary of Christ by Louis Charbonneau-Lassay, never done before in its entirety.
Kickstarter Page
Back this Project
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12/09/2020 - 10:00

What are the defenders of 'Cuties' really saying?

My latest on LifeSite. A highlight:

I’m not going to review Cuties because I’ve not watched it, and I have no intention of doing so. What I can comment on is the reaction to it, particularly those of people defending it. One might expect defenders of the series to claim that it does not endorse what it depicts — sexualized dancing by underage girls — and they do say this, up to a point. But actually, they do want to endorse it. Here is the New York Times reviewer, Richard Brody:

The subject of “Cuties” isn’t twerking; it’s children, especially poor and nonwhite children, who are deprived of the resources — the education, the emotional support, the open family discussion — to put sexualized media and pop culture into perspective.

What does this story tell us, exactly? Brody patiently explains that in the oppressive, patriarchal society these girls are supposedly part of, despite their complete lack of supervision or effective moral formation, their adoption of sexualized dancing is a way of rebelling and establishing their own identities. So it’s actually good. But it’s also bad, because they are doing it only because they lack resources and education, and are oppressed.

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11/09/2020 - 10:22

More about Downside

My latest on LifeSite.

In 1993, a Benedictine monastery, Fort Augustus Abbey in Scotland closed the school that had been its major work since its foundation in 1880, though latterly plagued by allegations of child abuse. In 1998, citing the high cost of maintaining the monastic buildings, the community itself was dissolved, its members dispersing to other monastic communities.

A similar process is now taking place with another Benedictine community, Downside Abbey in England. In 2019, the community was legally separated from the school which had existed alongside the monastic community since 1617, at that time an English Catholic institution in exile on the Continent. School and monastery have shared the current site in southwest England since 1814. But now it has been announced that the monks will be leaving: exactly when and to where has yet to be determined. The monastic buildings were designed for fifty monks, and the community is down to eight, with little prospect of new members. It is expensive to maintain, and co-existing on the same site as a school they no longer run is awkward. It is time, apparently, to move on.

The problems these institutions have had with vocations and with their schools are distinct, though entangled. Britain’s fee-paying boarding schools have had a difficult time in recent years, but many continue to flourish. It seems that they will do so without such a strong contingent of Catholic monastic schools among them as in the past. The more fundamental problem for these and many other communities has been the lack of vocations.

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10/09/2020 - 16:00

Downside: Open Letter from Fr Christopher Basden

The news that the monks of Downside Abbey in Somerset are to abandon their home of more than two centuries, including the fabulous Abbey Church which is one of only four Minor Basilicas in England, came as a shock to English Catholics. It is difficult to imagine them surviving as a separate community, and we know that many other religious communities are not far behind the monks of Downside in terms of declining numbers. Which will be the next to go?
Fr Christopher Basden, long-time Parish Priest of St Bede's Clapham Park, and now Parish Priest in Ramsgate and Minster in Kent, has written the following letter appealing to the community to think again. St Bede's has been a model of the integration of the Traditional Mass into a territorial parish, and demonstrates the way this can contribute to securing the future of a church. Decline is not inevitable: some monastic communities are growing today: those who have reconnected themselves with the roots of tradition. 
Reproduced with permission.


On behalf of untold people throughout the world I write to appeal against the monks of Downside surrendering to the current zeitgeist and leaving their monastery. Downside is part of the fabric of English Catholic history. The restoration of the Catholic Church and of monasticism is one of the great victories of Grace after the horrendous rape and interruption by Henry VIII in the 16th Century. We appeal against this decision in the face of a more insidious enemy: that of secularism, relativism and modernism which destroys the Church from within.

Surrendering does not solve the problem. We have faced enemies before and a flight or dispersal to another location(s) is simply the recipe for swift extinction as we have seen previously (Fort Augustus and countless female communities). Have we no faith in the grace of God and the irresistible attraction to the consecrated life and the eternal truth of the Catholic Church? 
Let us look at the success stories in the otherwise devastated vineyard of the modern Church. The French Abbey of Fontgombault have made five successful foundations in the last forty years; Randol, Triors, Pyrenees, Clear Creek in Oklahoma (which after twenty-one years is making moves for its own foundation) Wisques. What is the secret of Fontgombault? Simply - traditional Catholicism from observance to worship to belief. This is true also of the Benedictine Communities of Le Barroux (with its foundation near Toulouse), Norcia in Italy, Silverstream near Dublin and countless other smaller communities in the USA.

I can hear the immediate scornful repudiation that this simply going backwards. In so many fields we have to go back to rediscover the genius of our respective traditions from Education to Architecture to Entertainment. We have to have the humility to admit mistakes in seeking renewal and modernity.

Look at the great Empire of American Catholic University Education. With the infamous “Land of Lakes” Agreement of 1967, Catholic universities in the name of renewal and academic freedom surrendered their distinctive Catholic identity to the forces of modernity and secularism. This resulted in a disastrous cessation of vocations and a complete erosion of the ordinary regular transmission of the practice of the Faith from one generation to the next. Fifty years later the great Catholic Universities are Catholic in name only, often benefiting by federal money but no longer bearing fruit for God’s Church. Starting again from scratch there are five Universities (Ave Maria in Florida, Steubenville, Christendom, Thomas More and Thomas Aquinas). What is the result? The transmission of a confident, orthodox faith to the younger generation and the spawning of Catholic marriages and a huge variety of consecrated and ordained vocations.

If you have an allergy to undiluted Catholic tradition, then distil it slightly. Go for orthodoxy and challenging observance. If you are wedded to the Second Vatican Council, then follow its central and novel precept: ‘The Universal Call to Holiness’. Sanctity and schools of The Lord’s Service are simply irresistible! There are so many dioceses and religious groups (Community of St. Martin in France) which are merely conservative and not traditionalist. If we want to conserve the precious treasure of the Catholic Faith and all of its fruits, we simply have to move towards this direction even if not espousing it completely.

It is said that there is no unity in community today. We have to surrender our differing individual preferences to the Science of The Saints to ensure the hermeneutic of continuity and not of dissipation. We have to unite in order to preserve; we have to surrender our own wills to forestall the disintegration of the Institutions of the Catholic Church.

One example from our otherwise devastating English monastic scenario – Parkminster, our only Charterhouse. In 1990 my dear late friend, Dom Bernard O’ Donavon, then Prior, felt they simply could not go on. They were down to eleven old men. The buildings were crumbling all around them. Continual Postulants and Novices simply came and went with none persevering for almost twenty years. The wisdom was that they were finished and that they would have to move. Thankfully, a higher wisdom intervened, Dom Cyril Pierce took over and as a remarkably successful Master of Novices at The Grand Chartreuse (twelve men to solemn profession) also oversaw a confident formation of new men. In addition to this he oversaw lottery funding to repair the sorry state of the monastery. Thirty years later they have twenty-seven monks. It takes but one man with the vision and determination and grace to succeed.

Why do we have to see our Catholic Church in this country despoiled? Why do we have to despair in the face of secularism, so called modernity and the ugly rotten fruits of the sexual revolution which have infected and corrupted our morals and our minds? Many mistakes have been made. Can we not learn for our mistakes and proceed humbly towards a better future?

Fr Christopher Basden, Parish Priest of Ramsgate and Minster, England

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10/09/2020 - 08:50

More about Obedience

My latest on LifeSite.

Readers may be surprised, or scandalized, that Catholics like myself critical of bishops who appear to be pushing the practice of Communion in the hand during the COVID-19 epidemic are minimizing the importance of the virtue of obedience. So having criticized one view of what obedience is about, I’d like to say something positive about obedience.

Obedience is indeed a wonderful virtue. We should not see it as a passive or effeminate virtue, but as a primary virtue of the soldier. Christians are, after all, soldiers of Christ, and it is the constant theme of traditional Catholic spirituality that we should overcome our self-will in order to conform ourselves to the will of God. This, after all, is what the love of God is: “If you love Me, obey my commandments” (John 14:15). Furthermore, our religious superiors exercise over us God’s authority, and for most of us our opportunity to obey God in specific matters comes in the form of obeying God in our superiors.

The difficulty modern Catholics have had with obedience is partly the result of spiritual writers of recent centuries taking it too much for granted that they are not talking about obeying our superiors in matters of sin, or about “rash” obedience when what we are commanded might be sin; nor about matters that go beyond our superiors’ competence, or about commands that fail to promote the common good. 

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09/09/2020 - 09:03

Obedience and Holy Communion

Holy Communion in happier times. LMS Holywell Pilgrimage 2014.
My latest on LifeSite.

J.D. Flynn, editor at Catholic News Service, has told his Twitter followers:

Every time I go to Mass it is hard for me to receive in the hand.

Every time I go to Mass, I have to say consciously, “He is the bishop, and you’re not, Flynn.”

That’s been an incredible source of grace. Obedience has been more fruitful for me than any devotion could be.

Mr. Flynn’s argument here is that his reception of Holy Communion in the hand is an exercise of the virtue of obedience, and therefore a source of graces. This is problematic for a number of reasons.

Most obviously, no bishop’s guidelines say that Catholics are obliged to receive at all. Catholics are, in normal times, obliged to receive Holy Communion once a year. Frequent reception of Holy Communion is recommended by the Church for Catholics in a state of grace, but here and now other factors are in play. Some Catholics in this situation have chosen not to receive at all for this period of time. Others have found priests, perhaps on the other side of diocesan boundaries, willing to distribute on the tongue, which of course is perfectly legal.

Read the whole thing.

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