Monday 29 August 2011

The Feast of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist in Ireland

August 29 is the feast of the Decollation or Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. This feast had a particular significance for the people of Ireland and was once anticipated with a great deal of trepidation. For it was feared that this country would be subject to a punishment of apocalyptic proportions thanks to the belief of our ancestors that an Irish druid had volunteered to act as Saint John's executioner. This would be just another of those strange but harmless Irish legends if it weren't for the fact that in the year 1096 they really did think that the day of reckoning had arrived. Below I will summarize the main details of the extraordinary traditions surrounding this feast, drawn from a number of posts made in 2009 on my own blog.

The feast of the Beheading of Saint John is marked on the early ninth-century Irish calendar, The Martyrology of Oengus, and begins innocuously enough with this stanza:

29. Announce the suffering of John the Baptist,
a world with piety,
with nine virginal hundreds,
on Elijah's ascension

but the accompanying commentary, added by later anonymous authors, sounds a very different note - one of apocalyptic terror involving something called the Besom (or Broom) of Fanait and an all-consuming fiery dragon:

In vengeance for the killing of John comes the Besom out of Fanait to expurgate Ireland at the end of the world, as Aileran of the Wisdom foretold, and Colum cille, i.e. at terce precisely will come the Besom out of Fanait, ut dixit Colum cille:
" Like the grazing of two horses in a yoke will be the diligence with which it will cleanse Erin."

Of the Besom Aileran said:
"Two alehouses shall be in one garth side by side. He who shall go out of one house into the other will find no one before him alive in the house he will enter, and no one alive in the house from which he will go. Such will be the swiftness with which the Besom shall go out of Fanait."

Riagail said:
"Three days and three nights and a year will this plague be in Ireland. When a boat on Loch Rudraigi shall be clearly seen from the door of the refectory, then comes the Besom out of Fanait."

A Tuesday in spring, now, is the day of the week on which the Besom will come in vengeance for John's passion, as Moling said:

On John's festival will come the onslaught, which will search Ireland from the south-east,
a fierce dragon that will burn every one it can, without communion, without sacrifice, etc.'

Thus we can see that in these prophecies attributed to various Irish saints it appears that some vaguely-defined punishment, likened to a broom sweeping all before it and supposedly originating from the beautiful Fanad peninsula of County Donegal, will cut down its victims with terrifying speed. The nature of the 'Besom of Fanait' is not entirely clear and nor is its relationship to the fiery dragon, originating in the south-west, which will consume people unshriven. I suppose it is possible that the fiery dragon is a metaphor for the types of deadly plague which swept Ireland at various times, indeed one of the quoted prophets, Saint Aileran the Wise, was himself a victim of the plague known as the Buidhe Chonaill which devastated Ireland in the seventh century. On the other hand the image of fire is firmly associated with apocalyptic events. Some of the other prophecies not quoted above also talk about another similarly ill-defined scourge known as the Roth Ramhach, the Rowing, or Oar Wheel.

This tradition was further added to in the 10th-century Irish Life of Saint Adamnan. Although this saint is best known today as the author of the Life of Saint Columba of Iona, after his death his name was associated with an apocalyptic text, Fís Adamnáin, The Vision of Adamnan. He was thus drawn into the list of Irish saints associated with prophecies concerning the feast of Saint John's beheading, as this extract from the copy preserved in the Leabhar Breac and translated by Professor Eugene O'Curry demonstrates:

"The vision which Adamnan—a man filled with the Holy Spirit—saw, that is, the angel of the Lord spoke these His [that is, the Lord's] words to him:
"Woe! woe! woe! to the men of Erinn's Isle who transgress the commands of the Lord. Woe! to the kings and princes who do not direct the truth, and who love both iniquity and rapine. Woe! to the prostitutes and the sinners, who shall be burned like hay and straw, by a fire ignited in the bissextile and intercalary year, and in the end of the cycle. And it is on the [festival of the] beheading of John the Baptist, on the sixth day of the week, that this plague will come, in that year, if [the people] by devout penitence do not prevent it as the people of Nineveh have done".

We can see that the prophecy of Adamnan has raised another aspect to the apocalyptic events on this feastday, first in its mention of 'the bissextile and intercalary year' and secondly in the possibility that disaster could be averted by 'devout penitence'. Both of these factors actually played out in the real world of late 11th-century Ireland in what is known as 'the panic of 1096'. For then it truly seemed that the conditions were in place for the fulfilment of the prophecies on August 29 of that year. Let's start with the calendar requirements of which there seem to have been four:

1. The Feast of Saint John's beheading had to fall on a Friday
2. It had to fall within a bissextile year, that is a leap year
3. It had to fall in a year with an embolism, that is a year with an extra lunar month
4. It had to occur in a year which stood at the end of a chronological cycle

In the year 1096, the first three of these conditions were met, scholar Benjamin Hudson who has studied this particular episode suggests that the fourth may not have been felt to be so important. What undoubtedly would have added to the sense of panic in Ireland in this year was the appearance in late 1095 of a devastating plague which cut down rich and poor alike. Among its victims were various Irish princes and the bishops of Armagh and Dublin. The plague raged from August 1095 to May of 1096 and may have concentrated the mind on the prophecies. The Irish annals support the idea that this year was no ordinary one and was referenced to the traditions surrounding Saint John's feast with the Annals of Tigernach, for example, referring to 1096 as 'the year of the festival of John'. They also record, however, how disaster was averted by recourse to the type of 'devout penitence' advocated in the Vision of Adamnan, itself drawing on the biblical story of the averting of the wrath of God from the city of Nineveh. The Annals of the Four Masters record for the year 1096:

The festival of John fell on Friday this year; the men of Ireland were seized with great fear in consequence, and the resolution adopted by the clergy of Ireland, with the successor of Patrick at their head, to protect them against the pestilence which had been predicted to them at a remote period, was, to command all in general to observe abstinence, from Wednesday till Sunday, every month, and to fast on one meal every day till the end of a year, except on Sundays, solemnities, and great festivals; and they also made alms and many offerings to God; and many lands were granted to churches and clergymen by kings and chieftains; and the men of Ireland were saved for that time from the fire of vengeance.

Having thus seen the very real terror that existed in Ireland around the festival of The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, we may conclude by having a look at where the root cause of all the trouble lay. It may seem incredible now but our ancestors appear to have taken seriously the notion that an Irishman, a druid whom tradition names as Mag Roth or Mog Ruith, travelled with his daughter to the east where he literally became a sorcerer's apprentice under the tutelage of Simon Magus. Although Simon Magus is only briefly mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (8:9-24) he became the focus of an extensive apocryphal tradition in medieval Europe, including Ireland. In our version the pair end up at the court of King Herod on that fateful night when Salome dances and demands her reward, but finding none of his own people willing to execute the Forerunner and Baptist of Our Lord, the Irishman Mag Roth volunteers to wield the sword. And he thus laid Ireland and its people open to the possibility of vengeance on the anniversary of this hateful deed.

It's a curious tale, isn't it? Whilst it illustrates the dangers of apocalyptic speculations there is also a positive message in observing how the Irish people, including the elite, sought to avert disaster in the year 1096 by embracing repentance.

If you are interested in reading further on this topic I have explored some of the sources in more detail in a series of posts on my own blog which will also supply fuller references:

1. The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist and the Irish, a general introduction.

2. Decoding the Prophecies of Saint John, an examination of the texts by Professor O'Curry.

3. 1096 and all that, a summary of the work of Benjamin Hudson on the panic of 1096.

4. The Executioner of John the Baptist, a poem on Mag Roth from a Scottish manuscript.

The beautiful bronze pictured above is by iconographer Aleksandras Aleksejevas whose work was featured in an online exhibition in 2009.

Saturday 27 August 2011

Latin Mass in St. Paul's Church, Emo, Co. Laois

In the section of his Collections relating to the Parish of Emo (Vol. 2, p. 144 ff., Bishop Comerford refers to Coolbanagher, the site of the original Parish Church just a few hundred yards from Emo, where a protestant building now stands:

Coolbanagher is, however, chiefly famous as being the place where St. Aenguis, surnamed Cele De, or servant of God, conceived the idea of his celebrated religious Poem called from him the Felire Aenguis, or Festology of St. Aenguis. In the Introduction to this Poem we are informed that, when retiring from Disert-Enos, the Saint visited Coolbanagher, and that, one day, whilst engaged in prayer there, he noticed a certain grave, and the angels from heaven constantly descenting upon it and ascending from it. Aenguis asked the priest of the Church who it was that lay buried in the grave; the priest replied that it was a poor man who formerly had lived at the place. "What good did he do?" said Aenguis. "I saw no particular good by him," said the priest, "but that his customary practice was to recount and invoke the Saints of the world as far as he could remember them, at his going to bed and getting up, according to the custom of the old devotees." "Ah! my God," said Aenguis, "he who would make a metrical composition in praise of the Saints should doubtless have a high reward, when so much has been vouchsafed to the efforts of this old devotee." And Aenguis then commenced his poem on the spot. He subsequently continued it at Clonenagh and Tallaght. (O'Curry's Lectures, p. 365.)

It was in good company, therefore, that the members and friends of St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association made another pilgrimage to Emo, Co. Laois, today and, by the kindness of the Parish Priest, organised Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, which was a votive Mass in honour of Ss. Peter and Paul, in the Parish Church of St. Paul. Reports of the Masses for previous years can be found here, here and here.

Bishop Comerford also records:

The handsome parish church of Emo, the site of which was a gift from Lord Portarlington, was erected during the pastorate of the Very Rev. T. O'Connell, but chiefly through the zealous exertions of the Rev. William Hooney, then resident curate. The bell-tower was completed by the Rev. John Phelan, P.P. Fr. Hooney died, to the great grief of his many friends, on the 3rd of May, 1872, and was interred in his native parish of Suncroft. The Altar of the Sacred Heart at Emo, and another [now destroyed] under the same invocation, at Suncroft, have been erected to his memory.

All ye holy Saints of Ireland, pray for us!

Saturday 20 August 2011

The ones that got away - Goresbridge

This part of the Country, not uniquely but more than any other that I'm aware, has several examples of the estate town or townland named for the landlord family. Edgeworthstown, Co. Longford, Castlebellingham, Co. Louth, and others throughout Ireland have to give way to Archersgrove, Archersleas and Archersrath, Aylwardstown and Ayresfields, Bagenalstown, Blanchfieldsbog, Blanchfieldsland, Blanchvilleskill, Blanchvillespark and Blanchvillestown, Broughillstown, Burtonhall, Castlegrace, Damerstown East and West, Dukespark, Fenniscourt, Goresbridge, and Graigue-cullen, Hacketstown, Maudlinsland, Moorestown, Mountloftus, Mountnugent Upper and Lower, Nashesquarter or Painestown.

Perched on the borders of Carlow and Kilkenny, Goresbridge, as you can imagine, was named for the Gore family who received a grant from Charles II of lands thereabouts forfeited by Catholics. The Gores were replaced in the 19th cent. by the Clifdens as the big people in the place. As is natural, the Church of Ireland building stands prominent and proudly, while the Catholic Church on 'Chapel Lane' is more modest of aspect.

As you can see from the simple style and humble proportions of the Church and even the graveyard in the Church grounds, this is a very early Church built c. 1815, according to Dr. Comerford's Collections during the Pastorate of Fr. Lewis Moore (1805-1818), while Goresbridge was part of Graignamanagh Parish. The three porches, identical to those in the other Church of the Parish at Paulstown, were added in 1933 to mark the Golden Jubilee of Ordination of a Fr. O'Brien.

The Brigidine Convent Building, founded in 1858, was once a fine edifice of two wings complete with pedimented gables but is now creeping towards dereliction. It was the place where the fine hymn to St. Brigid 'Far above enthroned in glory' was composed by Mother Cecilia, CSB. You can see something of past Brigidine glories here.

Aside from the stunning stained glass, what is outstanding about this Church is the retention of a useable traditional High Altar. The predella, the mensa, the tabernacle, even the six candlesticks have been retained - in total contrast with the other Church in the Parish, which is a cubist liturgical nightmare. The High Altar of white marble is surmounted by a pyramidal-domed tabernacle. the mensa is supported by four red marble pillars and centrally by a carved panel of Christ fallen under the weight of the cross. At either side, the reredos has a blue veined marble gothic panel with floreated edges. The view is largely obscured from the pews by the Novus Ordo Altar and ambo but at least there is an attempt to integrate them with the existing elements, without cannibalising them. However, neither the ambo nor new Altar makes any attempt to follow closely the style of the High Altar or even each other.

Monday 15 August 2011

The Assumption in Kildare

The Assumption of the Virgin by Rubens c. 1626

The feast of the Assumption was observed in Ireland by great acts of charity, even in the times of persecution. Dr. Comerford, in his Collections Relating to the Dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin at Volume 2, page 42, tells us:

"Recording the death of Margaret O'Carroll, wife of O'Conor Faly, in 1451, the Four Masters say of her that "she was the best woman of her time in Ireland, for it was she who had given two invitations of hospitality in the one year to those who sought for rewards," (i.e., poets, minstrels, members of the mendicant orders, etc.) These feasts, as we learn from Duald Mac Firbis, took place, one at Killeigh, on the Feast of Da Sinchell, the 26th of March, - at which 2,700 persons were entertained, - and the other at Rathangan; "and she gave the second invitation to everyone that came not to the first, on the feast of the Assumption of our Blessed Lady in harvest, at or in the Rath-Imayn, and so we have been informed that that second day in Rath-Imayn was nothing inferior to the first day."

A Mhaighdine Muire, tógailte suas ar Neamh, guidh orainn!

Saturday 13 August 2011

Back on the Rails I - Railways and Traditional Society

The Irish Rail Network in 1845

The earliest of my posts on this blog explored Cork along its rivers. I've been making a hobby of Cork geography for years and it seemed like a good idea to trace Cork's Catholic heritage along its river valleys. A good example is my post (you all remember it, don't you?) about
St. Lachteen and the valley of the River Schournagh.

This summer I hope to make a hobby of the railways of Cork and to post a sort of blogger tour along the railways, past and present. That post is also a good example of my present thesis that Cork's Catholic heritage can also be traced along its railway network, especially along the network that has since been abandoned. For example, in my St. Lachteen post I noted that a branch of the Muskerry Railway runs alongside the River Souragh to Donoughmore going upstream from Blarney.

At first, I didn't think I could find a traditional or Catholic angle on the railways but the more I looked at it, the more I realised that that they reflected and supported the traditional life of old Cork in a way that Motorways and National Road Networks just don't.

The Irish Rail Network in 1887

First, the railways generally respect the topography of the place. You will often find the railway sharing the path of a canal or a river, even in the lowlands but especially through valleys. Topography is not only a static historical constant but also is a dynamic constant factor in the formation of traditional culture. We all know the story that every ancient Irish Diocese was tied to a route to the sea. If we understood the changes in the flow of rivers, we would see how ancient Irish monasteries were close to a river or the sea. Thus, the railways share a common constant of development with the Catholic heritage of the place in a way that the roads do not.

The idea is my own but, like all good ideas, it is not mine alone. Hilaire Belloc repeats it many times. For example in his The Historic Thames he says "Upon all these accounts a river, during the natural centuries which precede and follow the epochs of high civilisation, is as much more important than the road or the path as, let us say, a railway to-day is more important than a turnpike." He also addresses the significance of rivers in The Path to Rome and Warfare in England.

Second, the old railway network of Ireland was more human, as far as I can tell. It supported local societies, whereas the roads seem to have drawn people away from the local towards cities, Dublin in particular, and the ascendancy of the road has even forced the railway into a radial pattern that was not true of the railways before the 1960s. The few non-radial routes left, Limerick to Wexford and the 'circle line' to Roscrea may soon have added the Cork to Cobh/Youghal line to their number and may yet be joined by the Western Rail Corridor but it is a long way from the 1906 rail network.

Reputable commentators consider the railway was a destructive force for traditional society. A UCC Multitext article says "It has been claimed that the railway was a negative influence on Ireland, economically and socially: it made emigration easier and opened the Irish market to cheap imported goods which quickly destroyed Irish local industries, unable to compete in scale and cost." However, it goes on to say "Certain groups in Ireland benefited greatly from the coming of the railway. If small local industries were put out of business by cheaper rail-assisted imports, the Irish consumer equally benefited from cheaper prices and improved choice which stimulated the retail sector...The movement of goods was not all one way and the railways greatly accelerated the commercialisation of Irish agriculture by opening up new markets to Irish producers and allowing perishable goods to be moved quickly and safely. By the end of the nineteenth century insulated railway vans enabled the shipment of fish from the western seaboard to markets in Dublin and even in Britain. Eggs, traditionally too fragile to transport over long distances, became a major Irish export commodity. This trade raised the incomes of Irish farmers and their fowl numbers greatly increased in the later nineteenth century. Railways were very much a life-changing experience for the Irish in the last decades of the nineteenth century, giving the rural population access to cheap consumer goods and improved markets on the one hand, while destroying local industries and ‘traditional’ life styles on the other."

That's the economic element but even the economic influence facilitated as much as it undermined traditional society. My view is that the railway was a threat to traditional society only in the way that the Bianconi coaches were. As Newman said "To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often." Traditional society can't be static but it must be stable and I don't think the railways destabilized traditional society in Ireland in the way the growth in road transport has.

The Irish Rail Network in 1906

The railways are now recognised as a key element of "public transport" for economic purposes but they are also societal in the way that people interact on a train as they never can on a bus and a fortiori in a car. On a train journey you can walk the length of a train with ease and meet whoever it is you are to meet. I often wander to the buffet car on train journeys between Cork and Dublin and it's rare that I won't meet a friend or a cousin, sit for a while and chat. On a bus, you sit down and you're lost in your own little world. Who would doubt that the popular culture of the train is unequalled by the bus, the coach, the car? That is why I will be getting back on the rails over the next few months to look at the Catholic heritage of Cork.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Latin Mass in Emo

A Traditional Latin Mass will be celebrated in St. Paul's Church, Emo, Co. Laois, at 11 a.m. on Saturday, 27th August. This is the third such Mass in recent years. Reports of previous Masses can be found here and here.

Saturday 6 August 2011

An interesting quote...

I stumbled upon it while reading The Rambler (1852).

"It is of no use, we say, to urge these outward changes against us, as though our faith concerning the Sacrament itself had undergone any corresponding modification. Far from it. Outward acts of this kind take their meaning from the intention of those who use them; and daily experience shews us how frequently the same inward feeling may develop tself in apparently opposite outward manifestations. In most Catholic countries the name of Mary is given to well-nigh every child that is born, out of love and reverence to the spotless Virgin, Mother of God; yet there have been some places where the people have abstained from giving the name to any child whatever for the very same reason. Ordinarily the Church forbids the use of any but the most costly vessels of gold and silver about the holy Eucharist; yet, as we have seen, St. Exuperius is commended for using only a wicker-basket, having sold the gold and silver to give to the poor. At one time the Church does not allow the laity to touch the sacred Host, nor even any of the vessels which belong to it, that so they may entertain the deepest reverence for it; at another she allows them to take it into their hands, to touch all their organs of sense with it, even to preserve it in their own houses, that they may thankfully avail themselves to the utmost of so precious a gift of God. In one place she administers the life-giving Sacrament only under one kind, in order to avoid accidental irreverences which the use of the chalice entails; in another she administers it under both kinds, in order to set before our minds in a more lively manner the passion and death of Christ, and his own most sacred institution. It is right that we should receive this holy Sacrament upon our knees, to express the humility and self-abasement with which we should always appear before the majesty of the Son of God; yet there have been times when it was deemed right that men should receive it standing, to shew forth the resurrection of Christ, and their own resurrection in and by Him. Even so, in the very same way, it is fitting that this Sacrament should be withdrawn as far as possible from human gaze, that men should learn to appreciate its surpassing dignity, and to think and speak of it with becoming reverence; but it is no less fitting that it should be set up on high and exhibited in solemn procession, that it may be proposed to the people as the object of their adoration and worship. It is right that the sight of it should be forbidden to unfaithful Christians and notorious sinners, to render them more fully aware of their unworthiness; and yet, again, the sight of it may well be permitted to them, in order to enkindle in them feelings of love and affection for so good and gracious a Redeemer. Only it belongs to the rulers of the Church, and not to private individuals, to determine the time and place, and all the other circumstances, which require one of these manifestations rather than the other; it is these who are appointed over the Lord's family to give them meat in season".

First published in March, 2008

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Pushkin, the Oratory Cat who met the Pope

Fame can change a cat as much as it can a human, but Pushkin, the cat who met the Pope remains remarkably unchanged by his experience and the resulting media attention. However, perhaps remaining the same is easy for cat in residence at the Birmingham Oratory, who according to those with whom he has a longer acquaintance, has always known his worth.

As a great admirer of felines I was delighted and immensely flattered that Pushkin granted me an exclusive for the June edition of CHRISTVS REGNAT, his first interview since that meeting. This piece features just a few highlights from our discussion. Pushkin as I am sure readers will recall from the media coverage met the Holy Father in September last year when following the beatification of Cardinal Newman when he became to first person to pray at the newly instituted Shrine at the Birmingham Oratory.

An obviously stylish black Persian, Pushkin wanders leisurely through the elegant halls of the Birmingham Oratory taking in the classically proportioned surroundings and beautiful paintings with little more than a passing glance. Pushkin, I am convinced, sees these merely as minor earthly things and nothing more than his due being a cat of obvious quality. Indeed when I asked him about his move to the Oratory he told me that he found it, “much more suited to a cat of my calibre than my former residence, an ordinary house in Stoke on Trent.”

I was delighted that Pushkin shared with me his impression of encountering the Holy Father. He told me that he remembered, “with a particular fondness the greeting and the special exchange we had.” The Pope is of course well known as a cat lover and is credited with having spent time feeding many of Rome’s stray cats in his time as a Cardinal.

Pushkin’s daring evasion of the security surrounding the Pope and subsequent meeting with him has won him much acclaim in the cat world. He confided, “I received several letters of congratulations and have been credited with establishing the rights of all cats, at all times, in all places to be first and foremost. Just as it should be.”

He went on to tell me of the media coverage that resulted with television and radio interviews conducted with the humans of his house about his meeting. It seems it not just the English that have a fascination with animals as requests were received from media around the world to feature Pushkin and his staff.

Despite all the fame and attention Pushkin still does, as he assured me, take seriously his duties at the cat in residence at the Oratory. This includes rigorously inspecting visitors and ensuring the house is in good order and duties are properly carried out.
"If they [the guests] are visiting any of the special rooms in the building, such as Cardinal Newman’s room or the library, then I will often accompany them to supervise and ensure that the Priest who is giving the guided tour is doing so correctly.” In an era of transitory things such attention to detail and commitment to the development of one’s staff can only be considered admirable.

Speaking frankly to me about his daily life in the Oratory Pushkin described the routine of the house and his own personal daily routine. He emphasised the need for substantial amounts of rest and grooming with regular exercise up and down the stairs being highlighted as key parts of maintaining the stamina required for his critical role.

Whilst Pushkin spoke openly on many subjects ranging there was one on which this interviewer was regrettably unable to draw him; the rumours that he was invited to become Pontifical Cat-in-Ordinary at the Vatican. However, one feels his dignified refusal to comment must only add fuel to these...

Emphasising his approval of the traditional Latin Mass Pushkin expressed his pleasure that since Summorum Pontificum cats everywhere have had a greater opportunity to attend this. He was also keen to give advice to other Catholic cats,
“Always make sure you are treated as you deserve and never allow yourself to be put outside when guests are calling, who knows, one day it could be the Pope.”

My time sadly was up all too quickly and I was dismissed with a narrowing of Pushkin’s stunning eyes as the appeal of a well earned snooze clearly began to outweigh any attentions I might provide. He surveyed my exit from the gallery of the stairs with his usual attention to detail before turning on heels and departing with a swish of his long tail. I was left with the impression that Pushkin remembers when cats were regarded as Gods in Egypt and does not appear to have taken on board what, if anything, has changed.

Before I left the Oratory I was however allowed to have a few words with Puskin’s part time PR agent and general assistant Father Anton Guziel who assisted at our interview. Pushkin is clearly very fond of “his human” and indeed all the Fathers of the Oratory. Though as he made clear with some of the non verbal signals which added considerable depth to our meeting, he does find rather tiresome on occasion the demands of Father Anton’s other work which clearly can interfere with his primary role.

Father Anton outlined for me some of the changes that have taken place since the Newman’s beatification and the Papal visit. Clearly he has been delighted at the increasing devotion to Newman since the event. He that told me, “Life has never really been quite the same since the Papal visit and of course, the day was packed with excitement and all sorts of hopes and fears. One of the changes has been the institution of a Pilgrims Mass at 11am every Saturday at Newman’s Shrine.” Some pilgrims have even been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the cat who met the Pope... On occasion the really privileged, who display proper respect, have even been allowed to greet him in person.

If this taster has whet your appetite you can read the full interview published in the June, 2011, issue of CHRISTVS REGNAT, which can be downloaded HERE.

The interview covers a wide range of topics including Pushkin's kittenhood, hobbies, how he became the cat in residence at the Birmingham Oratory, the role and the daily routine of an Oratory Cat, memories of his audience with the Pope, his liturgical preferences and his assessment of the impact of Summorum Pontificum, the origin of his name, his literary tastes, his favourite Saint, Cardinal Newman on cats, and cats who have inspired him.

My thanks go to Father Anton Guziel and of course to Pushkin both for the interview and for permission to publish these extracts on this blog.