” … Our souls washed in his Most precious Blood … “

With the ravages of the current ‘flu season, old questions have been raised again about the health issues that may be attendant upon the sharing of the common Chalice. Those brought up in the Anglican tradition – within which the faithful have had daily access to the Chalice for almost five hundred years – may well have useful insights and experience to offer in this matter.


My father was an Anglican priest, ordained to the priesthood in 1928; and he celebrated the Anglican Eucharist virtually daily until his retirement after thirty-seven years of ministry. I myself was ordained an Anglican priest in 1961; and I also offered the Mass almost every day  – first as an Anglican and then, blessedly, as a Roman Catholic priest (but with absolutely no difference in physical practice) — until my own retirement more than fifty years later. I have neither the records, nor the mathematical ability, to calculate all this. But I think it means that my father and I ascended the Altar of God for a total of twenty-five thousand times over the years. And we did so in a wide variety of social circumstances: in a desperately poor industrial parish during the Great Depression, in military service, in a suburban parish during the deprivations of England’s post-war years and recovery, in a country town, … and so on, in the United Kingdom, in the USA.

At each altar the practice was the same. The members of the congregation received from the common Chalice – and, after they had done so, the celebrant consumed every remaining drop from the Chalice and finally drank the water with which he had purified it.

Were there any significant risk involved in the eucharistic practices of the Anglican church for so many centuries it would seem likely that the evidence would reflect an increased risk for Anglican priests, who have been performing the ablutions for centuries. In fact the opposite is true. Nor do priests appear to have been regularly stricken with any communicable disease that could be traced to the chalice in all that time. In fact, if there were any such risk, it would seem likely that insurance actuarial tables would reflect an increased risk for Anglican priests. In fact the opposite is true.

The Los Angeles Times covered this issue in 2005, noting that microbiologist Anne LaGrange Loving  had studied the issue and found that exposure to germs during communion is actually quite low.  “People who sip from the Communion cup don’t get sick more often than anyone else,” Loving reported. “It isn’t any riskier than standing in line at the movies.”  She argued that wiping the chalice helps stop the spread of disease. And the silver and gold used to make chalices purportedly don’t harbor disease either: they inhibit it – as, indeed, also does the required used of canonically approved wine (of between 5% and 18% alcoholic content).

The matter has received substantial study over the years; and, as far as I can ascertain, no episode of disease attributable to the common cup has ever been reported in the literature. Thus for the average communicant it would seem that the risk of drinking from the common cup is probably less than the risk of air-borne infection in using a common building. No significant differences have been found in the rates of illness among Christians who receive Holy Communion, Christians who attend church but do not receive the sacraments, and people who do not attend Christian services.

I am not qualified to judge the scientific evidence that is available – but I have to say that I am profoundly impressed by it unanimity.

Much more important for us, however, than the scientific witness is the Truth – the spiritual truth and reality. “What,” famously asked Pontius Pilate, “is truth?”  Queen Elizabeth I, echoing Aquinas, once said, of the Elements of the Blessed Sacrament: ‘Twas God the Word that spake it … and what the Word did make it, that I believe, and take it .’

What the Word said was: “… this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant … Do this in memory of me.” He did not say, “This is to remind you of my Blood.” He said: “This IS my Blood …” And he did not command us to “do this” in memory of him, but only outside the ‘flu season.

Henri Daniel-Rops once wrote:

Truly do I believe that this Blood now offered in the Chalice

Is your own, once given to the Father;

It is truly the same as that which spurted under the scourge,

Most truly the Blood that flows for ever from Your wounds.

Consider these words carefully, indeed the mysterium fidei. Do we believe? Or do we say: Yes, but the contents of that Chalice could be the agents of disease and death?

And as we consider, we might remember the words of St Thomas Aquinas:

Fountain of goodness, Jesus, Lord and God,

cleanse us, unclean, with thy most cleansing Blood.

Or this, by William Bright:

By this food, so aweful and so sweet,

deliver us from every touch of ill.

Or this, by Edmund Morgan:

O risen Christ, today alive,

amid your Church abiding,

who now your Blood and Body give,

new life and strength providing.

The Catholic truth is that: “The Lord Jesus, who is a strong tower to all who put their trust in him … make you know that the only Name [not the Mayo Clinic, not Linus Pauling] under heaven given for health and salvation is the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”



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20 + C + M + B + 18

On the Feast of the Epiphany, there is a custom for families to gathers to ask God’s blessing on their home and on those who live in or visit the home. In so doing, we are inviting Jesus to be a guest in our home and a part of all aspects of our life in the home.

One tradition is to use chalk to write above the home’s entrance the following letters and symbols:
20 + C + M + B + 18

The letters C, M, B are the initials of the Magi – Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar – and they are also abbreviations of  the Latin words Christus mansionem benedicat, “May Christ bless the house.” The Year of Grace, Anno Domini, is indicated by the numerals.

Here’s a suggested format for the blessing:

All make the Sign of the Cross.

The head of the household:  “Peace be to this house and to all who dwell here, in the name of the Lord.

All: Thanks be to God.

Reader: When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.”
After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way.

The Word of the Lord.

ALL: Thanks be to God

Using chalk, write on the lintel above the main entrance door, or some suitable place nearby:

20 + C + M + B + 18

All say together: Lord God of heaven and earth, you revealed your only begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star. Bless this house and all who live here and all who visit. May we be blessed with health, kindness of heart, gentleness and the keeping of your law. Fill us with the light of Christ, that our love for each other may go out to all. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.


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Elevating Thoughts for the New Year

As the elevator driver would say (when we had such people), life is full of ups and downs.

The sun sets at the end of the day, and rises at the beginning of the next. The thankfulness for what has been (and, perhaps, some regrets about lost opportunities) descend with the dusk – to be replaced at dawn with the golden optimism of a new start as the sun ascends in glory.



Why, then, does New York mark the dawn of a New Year of Grace dropping of a ball? Should it not, instead, be the raising a brilliant and radiant orb — its luminosity challenging, as it were, the still shadows of the unknown future with perennial and irrepressible hope?

Well, while you are pondering this profound question, here’s a conundrum for your consideration:

If you happened – admittedly an unlikely circumstance – to be eating a salad in an elevator, what would be the most eminently suitable dressings? Miss Otis vinaigrettes, surely?

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“To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive” – Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque, VI, El Dorado

On Tuesday, October 17 early, we left home and flew to New York’s JFK Airport. We had several hours to wait there; and then, at 6 pm we presented ourselves to Norwegian Air in order to check in for their late flight to Paris CDG.

Before I continue, there are two details I must mention. First, although it is not the most convenient for us, we have had excellent experiences previously on several journeys with Norwegian in terms of comfort and value for money. Second, we had not booked our return journey, simply because we wanted to be flexible as to our arrangements. Maybe we would return via London (depending on the availability of friends to meet us there). Or maybe we would go to Madeira or Budapest on the way home.

Norwegian refused to allow us to board their flight on that Tuesday night — even though our tickets were paid for and in order. Their gate agent consulted a surly young man, wearing a shirt that proclaimed him as representing the “Aviation Port Services”, whatever that might be. He said, first, that our passports were unacceptable because they expire on March 16, 2018. By my reckoning, that meant that they had five months’ validity. No, he said, they had to have at least six months’ validity after our planned return date — and, since we had no return date or tickets, he had no certainty that we even planned to return at all. I showed him, nevertheless, our printed-out itinerary (prepared some days previously for friends and colleagues) which stated that we would be home on or about Nov 17. He then departed, taking our passports. He returned only a few minutes later, to say that he had telephoned Paris (really?) — and that, indeed, we would not be allowed to fly. I asked to speak to his supervisor. He said that he himself was the supervisor. I asked to see his ID. He refused.

We were shattered by all this — not to say, being far from young, exhausted by a very long day. But there was nothing we could do.

At this point our son Giles stepped in to help. He immediately arranged a hotel booking for us, and also booked air-tickets (via Detroit) home for us.

So: we cannot now be in France until mid-January at the earliest. Meanwhile, we have renewed our passports. But I still cannot understand why this was necessary now. The old passports stated explicitly that they were valid until March 16, 2018. I know that I am a very simple person who may not have spotted something that is obvious – but I took that to mean that they were valid until March 16, 2018.

I have seen official information from the State Department. With regard to France, it says that a passport “Must be valid for at least three months beyond your planned date of departure from the Schengen area.” Ours were valid for four months after our planned return. But we have always known, over our almost countless visits to France, that it is also true that one may not stay in France for more than 90 days without a visa.

No doubt you can imagine our frustration and disappointment in all this, and our vast concern over the financial expense of all this!

Needless to say, I contacted Norwegian Air. After almost a month, they responded as follows:

Thank you for contacting Norwegian and apologies for the long reply time.

It was with regret to learn of the difficulties you experienced when trying to check-in for your flight from New York to Paris on the 17th of October 2017. Norwegian terms and conditions state the following:

You must make sure you have all the necessary travel documents, including passport and visas, for your journey. We reserve the right to refuse boarding if you can not present a valid form of ID and the necessary travel documents.

You’re responsible for obeying all laws, regulations and other provisions of public authorities related to travel in the countries you’re flying from, to, or in transit through. We’re not liable for any consequences due to a failure to obtain the necessary documents or failure to obey such laws, regulations, requirements or orders.

Nationals of USA needs a visa to travel to France. However, there is visa exemption for nationals of USA with a normal passport for a maximum stay of 90 days. Passengers need to hold a return ticket within 90 days. *

In light of the above information, we are unable to offer you refund of your unused tickets. Should you wish to make a claim, we suggest for you to contact your private travel insurance provider for assistance.

We trust that our response has clarified the reason for our decision. We certainly hope that this experience will not deter you from choosing to include Norwegian in any future travel plans. **

 Kind regards,

Customer Relations

* After countless visit to France I have never previously encountered this requirement. And are they seriously suggesting that no one may travel unless they have cast-iron certainty as to the routes and dates on their return travel?

** They must surely be kidding!

I responded to Norwegian Customer Service as follows:

I have just received your response. It is a source of great distress and dismay to us. Please consider the following points:

We have lived in the USA for 37 years, and during this time we have made at least FIFTY round trips to Europe — and a situation like this has never previously arisen.

I am a retired priest, aged 83 years. (My wife is aged 76.) This means, I would suggest, (a) that we are most unlikely to be the kind of people who would engage in deliberately unlawful behavior; and (b) that our age means that we have to live on a tiny pension. In these circumstances, are you contending that it is just, reasonable and appropriate that Norwegian should retain $1200 for services it did NOT provide?

In addition to this, we have had to deal with the cost of our flights between DFW and JFK, the cost of  booked – but, in the event, unusable — French rail tickets, and as well as the unavoidable cost of a hotel at JFK.

We have crossed the Atlantic twice previously on Norwegian — and I believe that you must therefore have in your profile system a record of our passport information, and so on. But at no point did you warn us, in advance, of the problem associated with deferring our return booking.

At no point was there any question as to our return date: this was clearly indicated on the itinerary details that I had printed several days before leaving home, for family and colleagues. I showed this to the agent at JFK Airport, but he chose to ignore it.

The simple fact of the matter is that we planned to go to France for about three weeks, and then — IF suitable and affordable flights could be found (Transavia, perhaps) to go for a few days to Madeira. From there we would have returned to London on EasytJet — again, IF a suitable flight could be found, and IF family and friends would be available to meet us during a brief stop-over in London.

IF these plans had not worked out, we would have omitted the Madeira part of our travel plans and would therefore have returned to the USA via Paris CDG.

You will note that the word “IF” appears FOUR times. In other words, our initial booking on Norwegian for travel to Paris was made before any return plans could have been made. Surely these circumstances are not exceptional: there must be many who travel without detailed plans and bookings for return. 

Our passports were valid for about five months following our planned outward journey. In the plain use of language, the fact that they did not expire until mid-March means that they were “valid” until then.

As I mentioned previously, we have greatly enjoyed and appreciated the value and comfort of our previous flights on Norwegian — but, alas, we are deterred from any further flights on Norwegian. We have recommended Norwegian widely among friends, colleagues and family; and we have passed on supportive articles and press-cuttings. We will now revise these assessments.

Finally, I do not blame Norwegian Air itself for following regulations (obscure, confusing and relatively inaccessible as they are) — but I do lament the hard, unsympathetic, unscrupulous attitude which you have shown to us – your hitherto loyal, but now defenseless, customers.




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“A dab at an index”

Oliver Goldsmith said, in 1759, that “One writer excels at a plan or a title page, another works away the body of the book, and a third is a dab at an index”. A reader’s letter in the current issue of the [London] Spectator says that “It was the legendary Scottish judge and writer Henry Cockburn who declared that ‘the author of a book without an index should be shot’.” Today being All Souls’ Day I consulted an extensive — and generally very useful — anthology of over seventeen hundred prayers in search of an appropriate orison; and indeed this book has an index. However, at the index entry for “Departed” it says “See Faithful Departed”. I am not sure whether this is mere pedantry, or whether an evangelical theological point is being made — certainly a possibility from what the anthologist writes of the matter in his Preface. I just wonder why the numerical references could not usefully and helpfully  be indicated at both points in the book’s index. In the circumstances, shooting does seem to be extreme. But, if it had indeed come to that, it would surely be necessary to find a suitable prayer for the departed author with the utmost expedition.

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Reigning and Ruling

I am often asked: “Queen Elizabeth II reigns – but she doesn’t actually rule, does she?” The answer is: “Yes, she certainly does rule”.


When I was ten years old I was a pupil at our (Church of England) parochial primary school – Broomhouse Lane School at Hope, on Eccles Old Road, Salford. We sat at wooden desks, hinged near the top so that they would open to reveal notebooks, pencils and so on. Above the hinge there was a narrow flat area, with a groove in which to place a steel-nibbed dip pen. At the top, to the right of the groove, there was a removable ceramic ink pot – refillable as necessary from a large jar of ink kept by the teacher.

The steel pen-nibs were not, I imagine, of the very highest quality; and the notebooks in which we wrote were, in those deprived days towards the end of WWII, made of coarse paper.

Naughty boys – among whom I was certainly not one, at least in this particular regard – would sometimes stuff bits of blotting paper into the inkwells, creating a mixture that was at once indelible, blue-black, semi-liquid and fibrous.

With a poor nib, filled with fibrous ink, applied to coarse paper, the resultant hand-writing was often untidy if not actually illegible. The teacher, finding it unacceptable, and unwilling to accept explanations and excuses, would say: “Hold your hand out” … and she would proceed to hit your fingers with a ruler. After that, your hand would hurt so much that you could barely hold your pen, and thus your writing would become even worse than it was before.

But the purpose of a ruler in not to be an instrument with which to inflict unjust punishment on small children. A ruler is a carefully made wooden stick, perfectly and accurately divided into inches, and parts thereof, along its edge. Its true teleology is to provide a standard, to guide, to measure, to enable the drawing of straight lines. That is what a ruler is for – and it is what monarchs are for.

Does Queen Elizabeth II rule? Well, for 65 years now she set standards of unswerving devotion to duty; she has guided numerous Prime Ministers (with whom she has met at least weekly) and their governments, assisting them to draw straight lines as she has been consulted and has advised on every significant (and less-then-significant) decision. She has provided a steadfast standard for national life. She has measured, as it were, the leaders of foreign nations, countless of whom she has met and known personally during the long years of her reign; and her experience and opinion of them must surely be invaluable to successive Prime Ministers.

We are Farmers

Can we know that those successive governments have heeded her advice? It certainly seems to be so. For, after all, she could aptly use that line from the Farmers’ Insurance commercials: “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.”

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October 21 is the Feast of Blessed Karl, Emperor of Austria and Apostolic King of Hungary

The following is drawn principally from a leaflet published by the Emperor Charles League of Prayer (www.emperorcharles.org):


Charles of Austria was born on the 17th August 1887 at Persenbeug castle in Lower Austria. His parents were the Archduke Otto of Austria and the Princess Maria Josepha of Saxony, the sister of the last King of Saxony. The Emperor Franz-Joseph I was Charles’ Great Uncle.

Charles was brought up consciously as a Catholic, receiving a mainly military but also political train­ing. The young prince received little public attention, and he grew up to be a charming young man, devoted to his tasks whatever they were, charitable always, reverent and pious. “His greatest joy,” however, “was in being allowed to be an altar boy,” his tutor recalled. From a young age Karl had a special, life-long devotion to the Holy Eucharist and to the Sacred Heart. From his earliest childhood his life was ac­companied by a prayer group, after a nun blessed with the marks of the stigmata, had foretold great suffering and personal attacks for Charles in the fu­ture. From an early age, Charles developed a great love of Holy Communion and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Throughout his life he sought to resolve all important decisions through prayer.

On the 21st October 1911, he married Princess Zita of Bourbon, daughter of the Duke of Parma. After their wedding Karl turned to her and said, “Now we must help each other to go to heaven.” In ten years of happy and exemplary marriage, they were blessed with eight children.*

11-570-the empress-H.I.R.H. Empress Zita of Austria, Queen of Hungary, née Princess of Bourbon-Parma (1892-1989)

Zita, at her coronation as Queen of Hungary in 1916

On the 28th June 1914, the murder of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo resulted in Charles becoming the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The death of the Emperor Franz-Joseph in the middle of the war was followed by Charles’ enthronement on the 21st November 1916 as Emperor of Austria. On the 30th December 1916 he was crowned Apostolic King of Hungary.

For Charles the inheritance of crowns was a per­sonal vocation given to him from God’s hand. This duty in the service of his peoples was both unrenounceable and sacred. It was to be carried out if necessary in loving submission even at the expense of his own life as a true Follower of Christ. In the universal and faith-serving tradition of his house, he saw the alternative to nationalism and the other fatal currents of the twentieth century whose be­ginning would encompass the destruction of his empire. Throughout all this, the Empress was his strongest human support.

Charles’ rule expressed Catholic Social Teaching. His highly personal efforts to secure a peace were at the centre of his activities throughout a terrible war. On account of his political ideas, his beatifica­tion honored him as the pioneer and patron of a truly united Europe.

He created a social legal framework which is partly in force even today. Moreover, as practically the only statesman who was himself also a soldier, he had personal experience of the horrors of the front. As Commander-in Chief he made great efforts to humanize military tactics where conditions permit­ted.

Charles saw himself opposed by a violent propa­ganda inspired by international forces which ac­tively worked for the destruction of his empire and therefore had a vested interest in discrediting him personally. These forces influenced also large parts of the leading internal military, social and political circles.

His constant sensitive conscience and courageous conduct enabled the transition to a post-war 0rder to occur without a civil war. Nevertheless both he and his wife were deprived of their homeland birthright and practically all of their possessions.

Loyal to his coronation oath and the express wishes of the Pope who feared Bolshevism was set to engulf central Europe, Charles tried after the war to take up again his ruling responsibilities in Hungary. Two attempts failed owing to the treason and dishonesty of his subordinates. King and Queen were first imprisoned and then exiled to Madeira, together with their children.

There the family lived in impoverished conditions where the already physically weak Emperor con- tracted a painful illness which finally killed him. Just as he had accepted dutifully the inheritance of crowns, he now accepted with equanimity also from God’s hand the cross of exile, painful illness and death, again as a sacrifice for his peoples.

Pardoning and forgiving all, he died on the 1st April 1922, his gaze fixed on the Blessed Sacrament.

Karl, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, said goodbye to his wife, Empress Zita. “I’ll love you forever”, he declared, just as he had eleven years earlier when they were married. Then he called his first born son Otto, to “witness how a Catholic and an Emperor conducts himself when dying.” The Emperor received the Sacrament of the Sick and spoke his last words: “Thy Holy Will be done. Jesus, Jesus, come! Yes—yes. My Jesus, Thy will be done—Jesus.”

The motto of his life was as he repeated on his death-bed:




The Archduke Otto

* I first met the Emperor’s eldest son, the Archduke Otto, at Cambridge University sometime in the late 1950s; and I remained in touch with him intermittently over the years until his death in 2011. I last saw him in Rome, at the Beatification of his father in October 2004, when I was blessed to be a concelebrant with Pope St. John Paul II at the great Mass in St Peter’s Square.


St Peter’s Square in Rome: Pope St. John Paul II greets the Archduke at the Beatification of his father on October 3, 2004

Next Wednesday, October 18,  EWTN will broadcast a program in which Fr Mitch Pacwa will be taking with several people connected with the cause for Karl’s canonization, including a member of the Habsburg family – Her Imperial and Royal Highness, Princess Maria Anna Galitzine, the daughter of Archduke Rudolf of Austria who was the youngest son of Emperor Karl I.

A book I highly recommend: A Heart for Europe, by James & Joanna Bogle. It tells the whole of this great and very moving story.








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