The Mysterious Case of the Hallow’s Missing Maniple

I wonder if Tracer Bullet, Private Eye, has any contacts in London.

There’s a mystery to be solved.

Fr. Hunwicke reported at his fine blog Mutual Enrichment, about the Case of the Missing Maniple.  In this case, the case concerns, includes, and encloses the mortal remains of St. John Southworth.  In the side aisle on the Gospel side of Westminster Cathedral, you find a glass case in which the body of the saint awaits the resurrection.

He was once vested, as a priest, with his maniple.  Here are a couple photos I shot in 2010.

10_10_11_London_Southworth_01 10_10_11_London_Southworth_02

Fr. H writes:


Medieval hagiographers would have undoubtedly had an account of how this happened; their stories would probably have ended with a spectacular miracle resulting in the supernatural restoration of the maniple. Inventive readers of this blog must surely be capable of some diverting inventions within the general conventions and dynamics of that genre. But what is to be done?

Traddies with large families might consider taking all their children into the Cathedral, equipped with red crayons or board-writers or loads of red paint, and settling them down with instructions to add maniples to all the cards. This would result in what Anglican Priestesses proudly call “Messy Church”, and thus constitute an Ecumenical Gesture.


There is, over there, more to amuse and horrify.  “O! the maniple!”

Meanwhile, I wonder… perhaps he traded it for a brand new Clement XIV mug.  Hmmmm.



Meanwhile, it has been sometime since I posted this:

maniple tie one on

Indeed!  “Tie one on St. John Southworth!”


UPDATE 22 March:

A priest sent me a photo from 2015.

As you can see, the maniple is still in its proper place.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Semper Gumby says:

    Fr. Z: Tracer Bullet indeed has a contact in London. Chap from MI-6 in fact, Hugh Sinclair.

    After Tracer’s brief and dubious involvement with the Miami P.D. in the Case of the Inflammatory Lawyer, he happily packed a grip and sailed from New York aboard the Queen Mary for the Old Sod. With a bit of luck, a message from Tracer Bullet tomorrow.

    With a nod to your Vera Lynn post, it’s high time Tracer interacted with a female character. Disaster may ensue.

  2. Semper Gumby: Isn’t it funny [peculiar] how “old sod” has more than one meaning? I am British/French/and Polish, raised mainly by my British-American grandparents, and spending time mainly with my relatives from the UK. So, I have heard quite a few such linguistic oddities.

    Father Z: As great as this post is, it could be made better if you explained–for the sake of those who do not know–the current meaning of the maniple. I would do so, but since this is your blog, and the vestments of the usus antiquior an area of special study for you, you would be best suited for the important addition to this post.

  3. (X)MCCLXIII says:

    Fr Hunwicke’s point is that Saint John is depicted without his maniple in some prayer cards available at Westminster Cathedral, not that the saint’s relics have been so deprived. I think, but cannot confirm, what with London being hundreds of miles away and all, that the saint is still vested with his maniple.

  4. The Masked Chicken says:

    I’ve been listening to a lot of podcast audio dramas in the last month. There are a lot of cool ones, like Ars Paradoxica and The Bright Sessions (caution – there is a homosexual character in this one), which are about science fiction. It occurred to me that we don’t have a Catholic audio drama show, which would be great for evangelization. Tracer Bullet would make a great on-going series. He could join forces with my time-displaced P. I., Amy N’Ordo (her recent confession was hilarious “Bless me, Father, for I will have sinned. It has been 349 years since my last confession…”).

    Tracer Bullet and the Case of the Missing Maniple…

    Of course, some time travel might be involved :)

    I am serious about audio drama for Catholics. Someone should do it.

    The Chicken

  5. robtbrown says:

    Lucas Whitaker says,

    . . . the current meaning of the maniple. I would do so, but since this is your blog, and the vestments of the usus antiquior an area of special study for you, you would be best suited for the important addition to this post.

    A great point. There is history to the use of maniples, chasubles, amices, etc. In the 1960s-70s rush to tear down whatever was used for hundreds of years, this history was lost.

  6. mercy2013 says:

    In my neck of the woods there is virtually no access to the Extraordinary Form Mass. Occasionally, I will see young associate pastors wearing a maniple while celebrating a typical NO Mass. It seems to be something small, that most people will not notice, which allows them to maintain some semblance of tradition and orthodoxy until they can get their own parish in a few years. Ah, a sign! Hope for the Church! I have taken up the practice of praying to St. Pope Pius X and Our Lady during those Masses for their intercession in the ministry of these priests.

  7. Fr. Kelly says:

    The Masked Chicken said ” It occurred to me that we don’t have a Catholic audio drama show, …”

    We do have Family Radio Classics which is aired weekly on many Catholic Radio Stations in these USA. Locally, KVSS in Omaha carries it 6 days a week using the EWTN Feed.
    These shows are reruns of a show that Fr. Patrick Peyton originally put together between 1947 and 1969 on the Mutual Broadcasting Network.

    They are a bit dated but very high quality. Somehow, Fr. Peyton was able to attract some _very_ big names to host these shows.
    EWTN has a number of other offerings too, but this one came to mind immediately.
    “The family that prays together, stays together.”

  8. Volanges says:

    Haven’t seen a maniple in decades. We don’t have any in our vestment drawers and there is no EF Mass within 1000 km of where I live. I just found out that in the four Atlantic provinces of Canada (3 Archdioceses/7 Dioceses) there is only one being celebrated each week, and that in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. So now I’m wondering when I can manage to take a work trip that sees me in that city over a weekend.

  9. Volanges: You must not watch television, or you leave to get something when the commercials come on. You missed the commercial that the Latin Mass of the most ancient use (usus antiquior) is coming SOON to a parish church near you. You might try to find a group of people who want this Mass, and then you might all pitch in some money to offer to send a priest for the necessary training. In the mean time I am sorry, in earnest, that you have not seen a maniple on your priest in decades. It is a great thing when a priest carries our labors to the altar of sacrifice with him.

    The Masked Chicken: Would the time travel possibly involve a time machine that you call the TARDIS? …just wondering… I imagine a figure named for the real St. Philip Neri getting out of the time machine. “Father” Neri would be in the best, most appropriate attire, with Philips real-life humor as he steps out of the TARDIS. The it hits me. This time machine will need to be renamed, but it could be based on the original: Small outside, and then there is room for a large chapel inside for those Sunday mornings when Father Neri has to time travel (apparently time travel is demanding…). Anyway…

  10. Volanges says:

    Lucas Whittaker, they advertise the EF Mass on TV? It’s true I don’t watch much TV and most of that is the CBC so, no, I haven’t seen any commercials. In my neck of the woods priests are scarce and the Bishop has to bring priests in from India and Vietnam to serve our communities. Since they are all on loan from either their diocese back home or their religious communities they aren’t even installed as Pastors, but are appointed as Administrators. Sending them for training is simply not feasible. I’m afraid in my parish you’d be lucky to find 6 people who would be interested in seeing the EF celebrated here.

  11. The Masked Chicken says:

    First, off, I need to make a caution: the audio dramas I linked to, above, unfortunately, contain some vulgar language from some of the characters, so it is not family drama, but both sci-fi audio dramas won several awards.

    That being said, I am a fan of Old Time Radio and I have collections of some of the best shows, such as X-minus One, for sci-fi, and Mr. and Mrs. North and some Lights Out for mystery. If anyone is interesting is downloading episodes of Family Radio Theater, there are several sites, such as:

    which has over 300 episodes.

    With the advent of podcasting, the radio-like drama is undergoing a revival. Shows such as Welcome to Nightvale have received a great deal of media notice and are listened to by many people. Unfortunately, many modern ears do not have the sensibilities or sensitivities to deal with some of the stories from the Age of Radio, much like many young comic book readers cannot appreciate Golden Age comics or music streamers the music of the Swing Era, and, of course, the parallel with the EF Mass is obvious. Young people or those older folk too influenced by modern trends need to be re-introduced to the many possibilities of the Golden Ages of arts, dance, theater, theology, etc., but in a way that brings the Golden Age into significance. In other words, the Golden Age has to be shown to be the foundation-stone for understanding the real soul of what is currently going on.

    In times of rapid technological development, especially, young people lose focus on the past, thinking that everything of importance sprang into being overnight. My students don’t even know who the Marx brothers are, anymore. How can they really appreciate sketch comedy if they have never heard of Sid Ceasar or Carol Burnett? This is not just nostalgia. Any student of jazz sax who has not studied Coltrane cannot, really, be said to be a mature sax player, no matter how good his technique is.

    I was at a master class taught by the principal clarinettist of the world’s best orchestra (ha, guess which one) and he said that he was judging an international competition and everyone of the players was technically brilliant – and boring, because they did not know how to make the music their own. For all of the innovation of the Ordinary Form of the Mass, very few priests or laymen know how to make it their own, because they don’t see it in the continuity in which it belongs. One only really grows when one is attached to the root and many people cannot understand that the root of the OF Mass is the EF Mass.

    Given the interest in modern audio dramas, I, really, think that Catholic family drama ought to be updated with new stories. There are many talented people out there who are making media for the Internet, mostly about worldly topics. Aren’t there any who are willing to try to make a new Golden Age of Catholic drama? Sometimes, the best way is not to teach, but to show.

    For instance, I had an idea for an audio drama called, Tales from the Monastery of St. Possible (Italian pronunciation), about a religious Order who’s charism was evangelization through story-telling. A knock on their door leads you into a parlor where the monk or monks (sometimes joined by nuns from the nearby convent) tell you stories (cue the theme music).

    The Chicken

  12. The Masked Chicken says:

    Oh, and Amy N’Ordo’s back-story is very complicated. No Tardis is involved or even a vortex manipulator (which, come to think of it, looks a bit like a maniple, but I digress). Think of a future where there are liturgical police who prowl the aisles during Mass watching for anyone who is not, “actively participating.” Think of the faux Chinese National Church, but one that has gone worldwide, with a faux Pope and a faux Vatican. Think of a future where there is an on-going manhunt for the real Pope and a secret underground of believers who guard him and his mission.

    Now, ask yourself what Amy is doing back in Tracer Bullet’s time, eh?

    The Chicken

  13. John Grammaticus says:

    I’m sorry Father but we brits have no need of Tracer’s services….. I’m reliably informed that Father Brown is already on the case

    [Father Brown had better get on his bicycle and start peddling. Tracer Bullet is on the way.]

  14. Volanges, I am very sorry to hear about your situation in Canada. I was jesting about the television commercial. I can see where–essentially-mission priests would not be ones whom you could send down to America (though Northern America, mind you!) for training if the EF. I can tell you that from the people whom I have spoken with, it is a common experience that one does not at first understand the TLM or EF Mass, but is drawn to it. Meaning simply, that there is a growth of love, not unlike the growth of love that happens in human relationships. I will pray that you situation somehow changes. It is the the widely-held view of traditional Catholics that if the TLM (EF: preferred to be called simply the TLM, or Traditional Latin Mass by many) Mass had never been swept under the rug, then we would have more vocations to the priesthood. I agree, for what it is worth. But God can still answer prayers for an orthodox-minded Canadian Catholic Priest to be sent near you and installed as a pastor. That is what I will pray for. All my best, Volanges

  15. Valanges: (for the sake of answering your first statement, which says, essentially, that in your are you are unfamiliar with the maniple, here is something that I wrote of the FB only a few days ago that might help. I do not have time to add meaning to it right now. “The maniple is worn on the left forearm [of the priest] as a symbol of our [our!] labor. Priests who pray the Extraordinary Form Mass wear this as a part of their regular vestments. When you see it you can know that your priest has taken your labors to the altar with him. That is not an OLD thing, but a meaningful and beautiful one for which we should be grateful when we see a priest so vested for Mass. It can also be worn for the Forma Ordinaria, or what you probably know as the “new order” Mass.” It does have a history. But history is less interesting than current meaning and usage. Agreed?

  16. Volanges, Finally (Sorry to have miss-spelled your handle in my previous post) there is a brief article on the TLM by Stuart Chessman, titled A First Encounter with the Traditional Mass that you might enjoy (I think that the link will work if I paste it, but am not certain):

  17. Gregory DiPippo drew attention to the article from over at another good blog. He wrote there, “the heartfelt firm striking of the breast which, with expressive glances towards heaven and with deeply felt sighs, shows such special depth of feeling…” This is simply what the great St. Bernard of Clairvaux said in a homily one the Song of Songs, given to his monks, and written down by one of them for our benefit. He said that the sound of the men accusing themselves should be heard throughout the church: mean culpa, mea culpa, mean maxima culpa (new corrected translation has: “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault). I will try to find the exact sermon before the end on the weekend. I have the quote underlined in my set of his sermons… Prayers…

  18. Volanges says:

    Lucas Whittaker, as I asked the question I was thinking, “Is he just being sarcastic?”

    I remember the TLM very well, I was a teenager when the Novus Ordo was promulgated. At the time it was a great thing to be able to hear the Mass in my own language, but I still wish the ideals of Sacrosanctum Concilium had been followed and we had retained the ordinary of the Mass in Latin. I rejoiced a few years ago when I was lucky enough to participate at Mass at Notre Dame in Paris. Although an OF Mass, the responses were the sung Latin (and Greek, of course) ones I remembered from my childhood and I was able to sing along.

    I should indicate that I live in an isolated area in northern Canada. Our parish and the nearby aboriginal community’s Mission are the only Catholic parishes within 350 miles. Although we don’t have an overabundance of priests in Canada, our local situation is not the norm.

  19. Volanges, I said that I would pray everyday that–even though your situation is clearly not the norm–God would send a Canadian or American priest to your mission: And who knows, or whom would be willing to learn the FE, or Roman Rite Mass. We need the proper support of the sacraments–conferred well–to us especially when we live far from a major city. My wife and I drove 84 miles every Sunday in order to belong to a small parish community of faithful, which had a GREAT priest. Our situation has become easier since then in terms of getting to Mass, at least.

    Since I am only second generation American, I consider my having been raised by British grandparents to have imparted a British sense of humor to me. So it is not intended as sarcasm, but only my unusual sense of humor coming out.

    Did you click to read the article that I recommended? It might remind you of the better days that you knew as teenager. And, rest assured, one day the ideals of Sacrosanctum Concilium will be adhered to one day, and the more common prayers of the Mass will again be preserved in Latin: a sense of the sacred mysteries will thereby return to the new Mass. The maniple that this post is about is an important part of worship that not only fulfills our duty to worship God, but that also transforms us as we worship.

  20. Semper Gumby says:

    London, mid-day at MI-6 Headquarters.  Tracer Bullet walked the corridor towards Admiral Sinclair’s office carrying a thick file. Tracer had just met with Father Hunwicke at the Cathedral to discuss the missing maniple- which the two men did over plates of sausage and potatoes that the priest called “bangers and mash.” A fine fellow that priest, thought Tracer, but a cup of joe and a hard-boiled egg is morning food.

    Regardless, Father Zuhlsdorf sent Tracer to London to investigate a missing maniple, and Tracer was determined to behave himself.  For a little while anyway.  As he and Father Hunwicke chatted while Tracer waited on a taxi, the priest remarked that Father Zuhlsdorf told him once that Tracer’s temperament may have a touch of the sea dog, but Tracer was not irredeemable.

    Tracer paused in the corridor and downed his Lucky Strike in a bucket of sand.  Time for a quick review. He pulled a sheet of paper out of his folder that a MI-6 courier delivered last evening to his room at the St. Ermin’s Hotel.

    Meeting Roster

    Admiral Hugh Sinclair, Chief MI-6

    Tracer Bullet, Ace Private Eye

    Captain Claude Peugot, French Intelligence- liaison to Casablanca police chief Claude Renault

    Jean Austen, MI-6 Analyst- expert on illegal antiquities and the sacred relics market

    Nick Blaine, London pub owner- second cousin of Casablanca pub owner Rick Blaine

    Prof. Tolkien, Oxford don- expert in arcane European languages and texts, recent author of The Hobbit, lawyers from his publisher travel regularly to Nazi Germany to resolve a publishing dispute

    Tracer tucked the paper back in his folder, slightly puzzled.  Just last night in his hotel room he accidentally knocked over his bottle of gin and discovered a major clue.  But there were no cryptographers on that list.  Perhaps the Admiral’s laboratory technicians hadn’t tumbled to that yet.

    Tracer rounded the corner to the Director’s suite.  Miss Moneypence was clacking away at her typewriter. She smiled. “Tracer!” 

    Tracer swept off his fedora.  “Miss Moneypence, why aren’t you Queen yet?”
    “Off you go Tracer, silly man, the Admiral is waiting on you.”

    Tracer opened the door to the Director’s office.  Four men and one woman were seated around a table at the opposite end of the room from the Director’s massive desk.  The Admiral was leaned back in a chair, hands clasped behind his head, smoking a pipe, and listening to the others debate cricket and baseball. The Admiral saw Tracer and stood. “Ah, Tracer.  Have a seat, have a seat.”

    “Hello Admiral.”  The two men shook hands and Tracer nodded to the others as he sat down. Nods and brief smiles all around.

    “Right then,” said the Admiral, “off we go.  Miss Austen?”

    Jean Austen adjusted her glasses and sweater and leaned forward.  “Mr. Bullet, if this is the Nazis, their market to trade and acquire antiquities and holy items is usually Casablanca.”  She handed Tracer a folder. “You’ll see here that they set up a smuggling ring in North Africa completely detached from the Reich.  They steal, smuggle, then finally sell, all the while keeping the money out of Nazi Germany and its banking system.  As you can imagine, altered prayer cards might indicate something else entirely.”

    “Thanks, Miss Austen.  It probably is Nazi Germany, but it could be the Soviets.  It’s too early to tell. Here.”  Tracer reached for the water pitcher and a glass from the middle of the table.  He filled the glass, then extracted one of the St. Southworth Prayer Cards from his folder.  Out of the corner of his eye Tracer noticed a slight smile from the Admiral.  Yep, Tracer thought, the Admiral’s lab techs figured it out.  Tracer put the prayer card in the glass of water. Nick Blaine looked at the glass of water skeptically, as if it may explode. Prof. Tolkien puffed his pipe, content to observe.

    After about fifteen seconds, with no apparent change to the water or the card, Tracer fished out the Prayer Card and, after ensuring that columns of tiny numbers had appeared on the white margins of the card, passed it around.

    “Mon dieu,” said Captain Peugot, “a one-time pad.”  Nick Blaine was still puzzled.  Prof. Tolkien wrote something down.

    The Admiral removed his pipe from his mouth.  “A one-time pad is basically unbreakable communications.  Each radio message is encrypted or decrypted using the random numbers on one prayer card.  Then that prayer card is destroyed.  There is no codebook, rather, one radio message, one card.”

    The Admiral relit his pipe.  “Now, every clandestine prayer card was probably missing a maniple by accident.  These no-maniple prayer cards were almost certainly delivered to the Cathedral for distribution by mistake also.  So, who made the mistakes?  And let us not forget as we move forward, what if both the missing maniple and the misdelivery were not mistakes but deliberate?”  Tracer and Captain Peugeot exchanged glances.  “I know, I know,” the Admiral said. “That’s rather illogical, but let’s keep the illogical in mind as we move forward here.”

    The Admiral stood up. “We’ll be at this the rest of the afternoon.”  He went to his desk and pressed a button.  “Miss Moneypence, have the kitchen send ’round tea, coffee, and water.”  The Admiral looked at Tracer, who looked a bit famished.  “And Moneypence, a few plates of bangers and mash.”  Tracer had a long boat ride over here. Perhaps some vegetables. “And a plate of Bubble-and-Squeak also, Miss Moneypence.”
     “Yes, Admiral.”

    [It seems that the game’s afoot now that Tracer Bullet is on the job.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

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