The Blogging Year That Was (2011)

This blog has been up and running for a year (as of tomorrow). So just by way of interest:

  • The blog has had just under 150,000 visitors.

What is it that they came looking for? Search terms (in order of popularity) are:

  • The Traditional Anglican Communion
  • Monsignor Ian Dempsey
  • Fr Stephen Smuts
  • Fr John Corapi
  • Fr Michael Manning
  • Anders Behring Breivik Manifesto
  • Please don’t eat bananas for the next 3 weeks
  • Spongebob
  • Archbishop John Hepworth
  • Ancient books found in Jordan

Where did people come from to get to this blog? Top referrers are:

 Google Search

  Yahoo Search




The most popular posts for the year (2011) are:

  1. Fr John Corapi Leaves the Priesthood To Be ‘The Black Sheepdog’   More stats6,471
  2. Jordan: Ancient Sealed Books Found (Update)   More stats6,204
  3. Fr Michael Manning Admits Affair with Cousin   More stats3,725
  4. Anders Behring Breivik’s Evil YouTube Manifesto   More stats2,125
  5. Secret Hoard of Ancient Sealed Books Found in Jordan   More stats1,563
  6. Archbishop John Hepworth to be a Layman in the Catholic Church   More stats1,285
  7. Monsignor Ian Dempsey Accused of Raping TAC Primate   More stats1,183
  8. ‘Pervert’ Pastor   More stats1,175
  9. SOLT Report on Fr John Corapi: Sexual Activity, Alcohol and Drugs Abuse, Improper Sacramental Practices   More stats1,094

And who can forget…

10. Harold Camping False Prophet: What Now?   More stats1,055

Sadly not always making for the nicest reading matter out there, it has to be said - more often than not, our human falleness being put out on display.

Where are you in the world?

All that said and done, allow me to thank you for having taken the time to stop by (for whatever reason it may have been). It is my sincerest prayer that you would have been blessed by your visit here, and that you will stay tuned for the exciting year that is ahead.

“A new year is unfolding—like a blossom with petals curled tightly concealing the beauty within. Lord, let this year be filled with the things that are truly good—with the comfort of warmth in our relationships, with the strength to help those who need our help and the humility and penness to accept help from others. As we make our resolutions for the year ahead, let us go forward with great hope that all things can be possible—with Your help and guidance.”

- Anonymous

With every blessing,

In Christ Jesus,

Fr Stephen.

Midnight Mass 2011

Happy New Year (Almost)

HT:   Church Times


The Best Viral Videos Of 2011

Receiving Anglicanism

Writes Fr Dwight Longenecker (himself a former Anglican):

On Sunday the Anglican Ordinariate for the United States will be formally announced. As we prepare to receive our Anglican brothers and sisters in this historic step towards church unity, what will the Anglicans be receiving from their step of faith into full communion, and what will we be receiving from them? Here’s my list — twenty five things in no particular order…What Anglicans will receive from entering into full communion with the Catholic Church:

  1. Ecclesial unity with the Bishop of Rome – The Pope!
  2. Communion with over a billion Catholics worldwide
  3. Validity of orders and sacraments
  4. Marian apparitions
  5. Evelyn Waugh, G.K.Chesterton, Flannery O’Connor, Hilaire Belloc
  6. Unity rather than schism
  7. The truth about Henry VIII
  8. Peace rather than continual strife
  9. Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Divine Mercy
  10. Italy, Spain, France, Poland, Ireland, Bavaria, Austria.
  11. New understanding and sharing in Catholic spirituality
  12. Chartres, Mont St Michel, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur
  13. Belonging to a church that transcends culture and class
  14. Relics
  15. Solidarity with Catholic bishops and clergy
  16. The Sistine Chapel
  17. New relationship with global Christianity
  18. The Infant of Prague
  19. Santiago de Compostella
  20. Holy Cards
  21. Communion with all the Catholic saints
  22. Michaelangelo, Raphael, Carravagio, Leonardo da Vinci
  23. A new understanding of English history
  24. A final authority
  25. Cohesive and comprehensive doctrinal and moral teaching

What Roman Catholics will receive from Anglicans who are entering into full communion through the Ordinariate:

  1. An appreciation of English language, culture and history
  2. The English choral tradition
  3. Wesley’s hymns
  4. Ad orientem celebration of the Mass
  5. The General Thanksgiving
  6. George Herbert
  7. Preaching tabs, academic hood and preaching scarf
  8. Choral Evensong
  9. The Coverdale Psalter
  10. T.S.Eliot and C.S.Lewis
  11. The General Confession
  12. Well educated clergy
  13. Julian of Norwich
  14. Lace and Incense
  15. Our Lady of Walsingham
  16. Needlepoint kneelers
  17. The Caroline Divines
  18. Altar rails
  19. Anglican chant
  20. Charles I – King and Martyr
  21. The Prayer of Humble Access
  22. Nine Lessons and Carols
  23. Altar frontals
  24. John Donne and George Herbert
  25. Tea and biscuits

Clay Pipe Mouthpiece Unearthed in Israel

Discovery News:

A centuries-old mouthpiece of a pipe, which might have been used to smoke hashish, has been unearthed in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Bearing the Arabic inscription “love is language for the lovers,” (literally translated, it reads “heart is language for the lover”) the clay pipe was likely intended as a gift between lovers.

According to Shahar Puni, of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the object dates from the 16th to the 19th century, when Jerusalem was part of the Ottoman Empire, a Turkish state that stretched from southeastern Europe, across northern Africa and through most of the Middle East.

“Clay pipes of this kind were very common in the Ottoman period, and were mostly used for smoking tobacco, and some were even used to smoke hashish,” Puni said in a statement.

“The Ottoman authorities tried to combat this practice but failed when it became clear that smoking was firmly entrenched in all levels of society,” Puni said.

Smoking was popular amongst both men and women, and was often done in cafes and in groups of friends.

Indeed, 19th century drawings show Jerusalemite women smoking clay pipes similar to the one unearthed in the Jewish Quarter.

“Pipes were also used as a piece of jewelry that could be worn on a garment,” Puni said.

Great White Sharks Hunting Off the Coast of Cape Town

And to think that we go and swim in these waters too!

The rest of the awesome photos can be seen here.


Finds from the First and Second Temple Period City Dumps at the Eastern Slopes of the Temple Mount

 The Temple Mount Sifting Project:

Two years ago we reported here about our random discovery of the First and Second Temple period city dumps at the Eastern slopes of the Temple Mount. Tomorrow we are going to publish a preliminary report about our finds from these dumps at the annual conference of New Studies on Jerusalem at the  Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies at Bar-Ilan University. Here are the English briefs  for 2 of our articles.

Secondary Refuse Aggregates from the First and Second Temple Periods on the Eastern Slope of the Temple Mount

Zachi Dvira (Zweig), Gal Zigdon and Lara Shilov

The lowest area of the slope on the eastern side of the Temple Mount towards the Kidron Valley has never been systematically excavated since it is considered to be out of the boundaries of the ancient city of Jerusalem. In the months of March and April 2009, on the eastern slopes of the Temple Mount, in a compound owned by the Franciscan Fathers, rehabilitation work was carried out as part of preparations for a Pontifical Mass that took place in this area during Pope Benedict’s visit to Jerusalem in May 2009.  These works required some digging into the terraces at the site.  The work was supervised by an Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) inspector in order to ensure that no archaeological remains would be damaged.  At several locations antiquities were encountered, and the digging was stopped. In one area at the bottom of the slope, the contractor dug deep into the terrace and revealed a large section of the slope in which various layers could be seen. Among the layers was a deposit of refuse aggregates dated to the late Second Temple Period, and were part of a large city dump of that period. A similar section of this dump was revealed about 420 m. south of this location by Ronnie Reich and Eli Shukrun and was identified by them as the Jerusalem City Dump during the late Second Temple Period.  At the same location, the remains of a human burial were also spotted penetrating the Second Temple Period aggregates. This burial site should be dated probably to the Byzantine Period.

            In order to return the debris from the burial to its original location and fix the terrace wall, the contractor dug a deep foundation trench for a retaining wall. Upon examining the section of the trench and the material removed from it, it appeared that the trench penetrated a refuse pit from the First Temple Period at its northern half, and a deposit of the refuse aggregates from the late Second Temple Period at its southern half.

The section of the trench and material that was excavated from it revealed a large quantity of pottery shards and bones that seemed to originate from a refuse pit from the First Temple Period. Near the pit remains of some large building stones upon bedrock were also revealed. It was not clear whether these stones were in situ or part of a collapsed wall.

The soil from this trench was transferred to the Temple Mount Sifting Project at the Tzurim Valley National Park for further examination. The sifting of the material from both the northern section of the trench (P56-N) and the southern section (P56-S) yielded remains of rich pottery assemblages, bones, fragments of ovens, fragments of glass, flint implements and flakes, etc. Quantitative analysis of the amount and density of these remains showed abnormal proportions relative to other archaeological contexts, which indicates that the sifted debris originates from refuse aggregates.

Quantitative analysis of the distribution and classification of the finds also yielded valuable information when compared to other sites in Jerusalem and outside it. The First Temple Period refuse pit had a very large amount of serving and drinking wares, while jugs and storage jars had a very low percentage. In addition, there were many sawn bones, relative to other sites.

The late Second Temple Period refuse aggregates displayed a very large quantity of cooking vessels, oven fragments and glass fragments while the lamps and jugs appeared to have a very low percentage. Imported ware was hardly represented and only a few shards were found relative to other sites in Jerusalem in which they appear at 1%-2%. This low quantity fits well with other refuse deposit studies which conclude that valuable items appear less frequently in secondary refuse aggregates than in primary deposits.

The Second Temple Period refuse aggregate was similar to the section studied by Reich and Shukrun on 2003 but also differed in a few details.  The Temple Mount dump had a high percentage of glass shards and juglets and a low percentage of oil lamps relative to the southern section of the dump.

The pottery from the First Temple Period  was dated to the Iron Age IIA (10th – 9th century BCE) – Iron Age IIB (8th century), while the Second Temple Period pottery was dated to the Second Century BCE – First Century CE. The appearance of pottery from the early phases of the Iron Age II was surprising due to the scarcity of such remains in Jerusalem, especially outside the City of David. The reason for such scarcity is that the vast majority of the archaeological finds usually come from destruction layers which mark the end of a period. For this reason finding pottery from all periods of the Iron Age II strengthens the assumption that we are dealing with a refuse aggregates and not regular occupation deposits that usually represent the termination of occupation, whereas refuse pits may show a continuity of occupation during a long period.

In addition to the pottery there were many other special finds:

  • Six clay bullae/sealings and one bone seal. Some were in Egyptian style and seemed to date to the 9th-8th centuries BCE. One bulla included the inscription “[גֺ]בעןֺ/לֺמלך”  (“Gibeon for the king”) and could be dated to the 8th or early 7th century BCE. The bulla is from a unique group called “fiscal bullae” which sealed tax commodities sent to the King of Judah. The bulla is discussed in depth in Gabriel Barkay’s article in this volume.
  • Fragments of jar handles with potter’s marks
  • Dozens of clay figurine fragments
  • A bone figurine fragment which represent a very high level carving of a man’s face.
  • A terracotta figurine fragment of an arm and a palm with a club. We presume this was probably a figurine of Hercules holding a club.

These finds raise a few questions: What were the unique patterns of refuse treatment during the First Temple Period and the Late Second Temple Period? Did the refuse aggregates originate from the Temple Mount? What can we deduce about the population who created this refuse?

These questions are emphasized especially when considering a few biblical references that imply the existence of a garbage dump at Kidron valley near the Temple Mount (see 1 Kings 15:11-14; 2 Kings 23:4-12; 2 Chronicles 29:15; 2 Chronicles 30:14;  Jeremiah 31:40). These accounts and the existence of such a refuse pit near the stream of the Kidron Valley at its western bank and its special finds may indicate that the refuse in the pit we have recovered originates from the Temple Mount.

We sincerely believe that further excavations at the site and its vicinity will shed much light on the activity that took place on the Temple Mount and about the refuse patterns of the First and Second Temple Periods.


A Fiscal Bulla from the Slopes of the Temple Mount – Evidence for the Taxation System of the Judean Kingdom

Gabriel Barkay

A small fragment of a clay bulla was discovered in the wet sifting carried out at Tzurim Valley National Park, the site of the Temple Mount Sifting Project. The bulla carries an Ancient Hebrew inscription: “[g]b’n/lmlk“, i.e. “Gibeon, for the King”. The bulla originates from the eastern slope of the Temple Mount, descending into the Kidron Valley. The bulla belongs to a group of bullae which were called by N. Avigad “Fiscal Bullae”. Presently we know more than 50 bullae of this type. They comprise two groups, one with names of cities in the kingdom of Judah, and the other with names of royal officials. All the fiscal bullae known until now come from the antiquities market, and our bulla is the first one to come from a controlled archaeological project. This bulla enables us to fully illuminate and discuss the entire phenomenon of the fiscal bullae. The article includes a full list of the previously published fiscal bullae, with a thorough discussion and correction of some of the initial readings. The bullae include names of 19 different cities of Judah, and dates of the reign of one of the Judean kings, usually in hieratic numerals, as well as the particle lmlk, “for the king”. The components of the inscriptions are discussed, as well as the geographical history of the bullae, and its comparison to the list of Judean cities in Joshua 15: 20-63. The fiscal bullae represent a taxation system from the different Judean cities, based on yearly taxes, which probably replaced the previous one, reflected in the royal Judean jars and their seal impressions, from the time of King Hezekiah. The discussion includes the characteristic details of the taxation systems of the Samaria Ostraca and the “lmlk” jars, in comparison to the fiscal bullae. A detailed discussion of 13 different arguments is brought to suggest the dating of the fiscal bullae to the time of King Manasseh, Hezekiah’s son (698-642 BCE). The mentioning of Lachish in some of the bullae is directly connected to the question of the date of the reconstruction of that city’s level II. The city is mentioned to pay its taxes in the 19th and 21st regnal years, which could not be in the reign of Hezekiah as the city was destroyed by Sennacherib in 701 BCE, which was Hezekiah’s 14th regnal year. According to our suggestion, Lachish was restored after being in ruins for about 16 years, by King Manasseh, rather than Josiah, as previously suggested.

The discovery of the fiscal bulla with the name of Gibeon from the slope of the Temple Mount, authenticates all the other fiscal bullae, and enables us to study a variety of subjects connected to the history of Judah in the 7th century BCE.

HTPaleoJudaica where Dr Jim Davila notes:

… It is worth emphasizing that these latest artifacts come from a scientific excavation, not from the informal ravages of the Waqf on the Temple Mount.

Traditional Anglican Communion: Trouble in India

UPDATE:  It has been brought to my attention that what is noted below is in fact a reference to the historical situation in India and not ‘news’ per se. There is no TAC trouble in India. Rather The Most Rev Samuel P Prakash (Metropolitan) is highlighting some of the difficulties that they have had to face up until now. Our prayers are with them.


Fr Anthony Chadwick alerts us to the news of trouble in India:

In the Latest News of Anglican Church of India (member church of the TAC) on the Anglican Church of India’s website, we read that Archbishop Prakash has removed four prominent leaders for some kind of “mutiny”. At least two of the names given seem to be those of bishops (John Augustine and Masih). They also spread a false rumour that Archbishop Prakash was bedridden and seriously ill.

The Anglican Church in India has been in litigation with the Anglican Catholic Church – Original Province over property for years, so I was told some time ago by Archbishop Hepworth. I don’t know if this is presently the case. Something is going on, and it would seem that the devil is working overtime these days!

From the above links:

… The following members were removed from the Anglican Church of India (CIPBC) in accordance to the Constitution, Canons and Rules of the Anglican Church. John Augustine, Gabriel Buxla, Johnson T. John, and Suraj Masih for their self interest. Such persons spread rumour against the highest office of the Metropolitan. Some say that Archbishop Samuel P. Prakash is no more, or he is serious in bed and all of them claim to replace the Most Rev. Samuel P. Prakash, Metropolitan. They misguide the Government offices and general public. We must be careful from these persons who are claiming to be Anglican leaders only to sell the dedicated and consecrated Anglican Church properties in their own interest. They are defeated in Court cases up to the High Court and Supreme of India…

More here.

Divisive squabbling and bickering is fast becoming a TAC Continuing Anglicans hallmark. So sad when one is to consider that of the main intentions behind the formation of the Communion was actually to unite (alienated) Continuing Anglicans on various levels.

Orthodox Priests Fighting In Church of the Nativity – A Personal Reflection by a Catholic Priest

[For a background on brawl between the Greek Orthodox and Armenian priests, click here]

Writes Msgr Charles Pope:

One of the more surprising, and personally saddest things I have encountered in my trips to the Holy Land, is the encounter with Orthodox clergy. While I had been trained to expect tensions between Jews and Arabs, my experience involving the Orthodox clergy was actually the most tense and shocking. It also surprised me since, speaking for myself, I have always had great admiration for the beautiful liturgies of the Orthodox.  And, while I know little of the internal realities of those Churches, I have always hoped for reunion. My experiences in the Holy Land showed me very clearly how difficult and unlikely such a reunion may be. A few personal stories.

1. Mass at the Calvary – On my last trip, two years ago I was given the magnificent privilege of celebrating Holy Mass with my parishioners right up on the Calvary, at the Latin Altar in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. (See photo at upper right). It remains one of the highlights of my entire life. There I was celebrating Mass just feet away from where the cross had once stood, and over the sight of the nailing.

I had reported to the Latin sacristy at 5:30 AM and vested for the 6:00 AM Mass. One of the Franciscan Friars spoke to me in a kind but firm way about the rules that must be observed. He warned me that under no circumstances was I to set foot outside of the sacristy once I had vested. To do so, he warned me, would likely provoke a violent response from the Orthodox clergy, standing twenty feet away near the entrance to the supulchre. When I smiled in stunned wonderment, he reiterated, “Father I am very serious, if you do so you will provoke an international incident.”

The only way we could get to the Calvary Altar at the other end of the Church was to be led there by an approved escort. Any singing was also forbidden during the Mass, a restriction that made sense given the need not to disturb other liturgies underway.

We were also warned severely not to stray from the Latin Chapel with while wearing our Roman vestments. During the Mass, which was a beautiful experience otherwise, the deacon with me strayed just a little too far to my left and the Orthodox priest standing guard at the Greek altar, wildly gestured that he must step back. Following the Mass, we clergy had, once again, to be carefully escorted back to the sacristy.

2. I do not claim to understand the hostility directed toward Roman clergy by the Orthodox priests of different nationalities. I am sure it is ancient and we are not likely innocent. But I also learned how hostile they are to one another.

Behind the Sepulchre is the Jacobite (Syrian Orthodox) chapel. In it, according to tradition, one can enter a cave said to be the burial chamber of Nicodemus (though it is empty). But the Chapel is scorched black, and in a ruinous state by a fire that happened back in the 1800s. It was explained to me by one of the docents that the chapel has never been repaired because no agreement could be reached among the Orthodox clergy on how to get supplies in to repair the chapel. “Amazing!” I said. “Its pretty normal for here,” said the docent.

3. These sorts of tensions also lead to the Church of the Nativity and the Holy Sepulchre having a cluttered, dingy, and unrepaired quality to them. Even pushing a broom requires delicate negotiations.

4. Cronyism – Over at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem similar tensions exist, as you can see in the video below.  When I was last there, the line to go down into the grotto of the nativity below the high altar,  came to a halt and did not move for almost an hour. Our tour guide discovered that the reason for this was that a Russian Orthodox priest was conducting a private tour for a group that had paid him to do so. That group had walked past the rest of us in line and the priest took them down and conducted a service and raised funds. The other tour guides finally had to summon the Palestinian police to force an end to the unscheduled and unpermitted  “fundraiser.”

Our tour guide told us she always felt the most tense going to the Church of the Nativity and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, since the hostility and unpredictability of the the Orthodox clergy often led to complications. I can attest to that!

The rest of the sites in the Holy land, both in Jerusalem and up in Galilee, were largely overseen by the Franciscans of the Holy Land, and they are most agreeable and kind to people of every faith. They were true gentlemen everywhere we went and they do a splendid job maintaining the shrines too. God bless the Franciscans of the Holy Land and I would encourage you to be generous to them. They do good work in a difficult land.

All this leads to the video below: A sad and disturbing sight of dozens of orthodox and Armenian priests bashing each other with broom handles.

It reminds me of the great sadness I felt in Jerusalem as I was led by a guard to go and say Mass at the seat of mercy. What an odd juxtaposition, and yet what a strong reminder of how much we need the power of the Cross. As the guard led me out and up the steep steps to the Calvary Chapel,  I thought of Christ being led up the same hillside, not for his protection, but for my salvation.

And even to this day, at the two holy sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, it seems Satan still lurks and sulks. The video below shows that he is still able to lash out from time to time and, sadly, we connive in his plots.

Lord have mercy on us and grant us peace on earth.

And while I agree that the Franciscans do a fantastic job (which makes the Galilee a far more tranquil experience) some can be quite brusque when it comes to an erring tourist.


God’s Quarterback, Tim Tebow, Has the US in a Frenzy

The Telegraph:

God’s quarterback, Tim Tebow, is an American football player and evangelical Christian who has the US in a frenzy. Initially it was his performance on the sidelines that had people talking. Before every match he plays for the Denver Broncos, he drops to one knee and prays. His gesture, reminiscent of Rodin’s The Thinker, has spawned much debate, a verb – “Tebowing” – and a website on which fans post pictures of themselves imitating the pose. Photographs of him in conversation with the Almighty have dominated sports pages here. If you were to imagine a similar scene in Britain, it would improbably involve Wayne Rooney or David Beckham pausing to genuflect before Jesus, while fans look on in awe.

But then Tebow’s underdog team started winning, something no one ever expected, and more attention was paid to his actions on the pitch. The quarterback’s story jumped from the back pages to the front as he seemingly miraculously proceeded to wipe the floor with all opposition, always in the final minutes – sometimes seconds – of a game.

Unusually for a sportsman, Tebow talks openly about his relationship with Jesus Christ in interviews. He appeared in an advertisement for Focus on the Family, a Christian charity, alongside his mother during the Super Bowl last year with an anti-abortion message. When it was suggested that Jesus was helping him win, all hell broke loose. Saturday Night Live ran a sketch featuring Christ visiting Tebow’s locker room and Jewish Week had to apologise after publishing a column by a rabbi that suggested a win for the Broncos in the Super Bowl could incite religious violence.

“Can God take credit for the victories of a thick-set NFL quarterback who scrambles in a weirdly jittery fashion, throws one of the ugliest balls in the game, completes fewer than half of his passes and has somehow won six of his team’s last seven games?” asked Frank Bruni, of the New York Times. (His conclusion was “yes”).

But for believers and atheists alike, the real miracle here is a football player who appears to practise what he preaches. Not for Tebow the venal lifestyles of many sportsmen. Instead, he has become a poster boy for the Christian Right; a role model of such virtue that mothers across the Bible Belt would happily trust him to take their daughters to the prom. That’s because Tebow has said he’s “saving himself for marriage”. How many British footballers could say the same?



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