Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Forgive my absence...

But I have had a rather busy month or so.

I had a rather nasty attack of pancreatitis, which saw me in hospital for the best part of a week, and which was painful to say the least. Thankfully I was dosed up to the eyeballs with painkillers (who says modern medicine is a bad thing?), and slept for the majority of the first two days. I also had an ultrasound exam, and an endoscopy: not the most enjoyable experience of my life, but it was somewhat fascinating to see what my insides looked like. It turns out I have neither stomach ulcers, nor gall stones; and since I haven't been near any scorpions this only leaves one reasonable option, which is alcohol intolerance, which is somewhat upsetting, as I do enjoy the occasional Gin: I have been told not to drink for at least the next six months, possibly never again. This is something of a shock, but is emerging as not a bad thing.

The other thing which has happened is that I have moved house, job and city, all in one go. I have returned to Leicester, where I spent many formative years, to take up the post of Sacristan and cleaner to my home parish. I had an e-mail from Fr. Prior, offering me the post, as their Sacristan has gone on to pastures new, for whom I was very pleased, as he has been a wonderful inspiration and example to me.

I was somewhat shocked to be offered the post: it is a very difficult job to do well, as I'm discovering; but the community have been very kind and welcoming, and understanding of my mistakes &c, as I settle in.

The days are quite long, and fairly hard work- both physical and mental work, as well as prayer: as well as three- four Masses a day (at least one in the Extraordinary Form) there is Office twice daily, and also there is an active devotional life in the parish, with exposition on Wednesdays, and perpetual novena on Saturdays. I am also taking some getting used to the change in timetable and having to get up and got to bed two or three hours earlier than I'm used to. However, once I'm up, and have sung the Office and served Mass and it's not even 9am, it does feel all very constructive, and very worthwhile as well.

This is also where the not drinking comes in handy, as it means I'm less inclined to slip out for a pint or what have you. I am working to the principle that God has created me for some definite service, and, since He knows what He is about, has decided to remove this particular pleasure from me, for one reason or other, which I may not like in the short term, but he knows what he is about. It also means I'm more likely to make it to Lauds.

Monday, 23 August 2010

On the Worthlessness of Mary

Will great round to writing the next day of Downside up in the near future. In the meantime, here is a little something on our Lady- my first attempt at anything homiletic/ theological.

Our Lady has a great many, very beautiful titles: Mirror of Justice, Seat of Wisdom, Tower of Ivory, Ocean of Bitterness, House of God, Morning Star, Mother of Perpetual Help, and so on ad infinitum. For every conceivable aspect of human need, there is a title of Our Lady that we may name her, and beg her help and intercession and gain what we require, either for spiritual or material aid.

This is all well and good- I have an especial devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, who’s intercession I have sought a great many times, and never without success. She is also Patroness of my diocese (Middlesbrough) - but one title we never hear is “Mary most Worthless”. I was suddenly, through misreading “worthiness” struck by this; that Our Lady, the Mother of God, and Assumed and Glorious Queen of Heaven, conceived without sin, and first of all creation, is in fact, of herself of no worth.

Except for Grace.

Through the operation of Grace; that is through the loving kindness of our God; all generations call her blessed. It was Grace that rescued her from ever being in original sin, and from ever committing the slightest sin making her the fairest of all women. None of this is achieved by herself through her own merits. Without God deigning to bestow on her an infinite number of Graces, and making her the Theotokos, she would have been no better than she ought to be; just like the rest of us.

And yet she is just like the rest of us; she was created by God, in His image and likeness, as we all are; she is a God bearer- as we all are whenever we receive Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament; she is a recipient of God’s mercy and loving kindness; and many, many other ways.

I am nervous of the term which seems to be so prevalent among the Orthodox Churches of “Deification”. I don’t know why, it is a very good term for what God desires to happen to us, that over time, as with John the Baptist, He increases, as I decrease, we draw closer, and closer to the Godhead, until we become God: until we are so lost in God, so hidden in the face of the Almighty (to quote Bernard of Clairvaux) that all our flaws have been lost, even our littlest sins and peccadilloes are smoothed away that we achieve (I don’t want to use the phrase, but work with me on this) perfection- we become one with the Godhead.

This is what, I think, has happened to Mary; she has become so intimate and so close to God; not just because she bore Him for nine months in the womb, not just because she was the one who taught Him his religion, because our Lord says in response to “Blessed is the woman who bore thee”, “Nay, Blessed rather is he who hears the word of God and keeps it”. Would our Lady be so worthy of praise if she had not been the perfect example she was? What if she’d gone off the rails and hit the Gin? Who knows? Does it really matter? Probably not. I suspect that was nor part of the Almighty’s plan, to which she was utterly submissive.

But the impression I get is that she is worthy of praise and adoration because she is the most perfect follower of Christ, more so than for her having borne our Lord in the womb. But she did, and she is and she was, if that makes sense. And through this, through her pondering all things in her Immaculate Heart, she drew ever closer to God and closer and closer and closer, until she had diminished to the point where she only displays the will and love of God- can one think of Mary except as the God bearer? Would we think of her at all if she had not been the God bearer, if she had instead become a proud and domineering housewife, feared and respected in Nazareth? I suspect not; her name would have died with the last person who remembered her. So through her humility, through her utter obedience to God, through her loosing herself totally in Him, she has become Mirror of Justice, Seat of Wisdom, Tower of Ivory, Ocean of Bitterness, House of God, Morning Star, Mother of Perpetual Help, &c., &c. And not Mary most worthless, Mary most unremembered.

This may all be abundantly clear to everyone, but it had never really occurred to me.

Saturday, 21 August 2010


I love a certain type of technology, that which is operated by clockwork- you can see everything that goes on in it, and a man can usually be found, in adiscreet shop somewhere, who will call you "sir" and fix it for you if it goes wrong.

So today I trolled off into town to have a jacket adjusted, and my pocket watch repaired, it having stopped functioning some time ago, and I quite fancying having it functioning again. So along I went- just as I reached the counter, I took the watch out of my pocket, and dropped it on the floor, with a suitable gasp of horror, expecting springs to ping out of it and what have you; but no! It was now functioning perfectly! So the man gave it a little polish for me, in its workings, and gave it back to me for no charge.

I'm coming to the conclusion my guardian angel has a sense of humour...

Part 3: Downside Revisited

Day 3: Feria

By now I was getting nervous. We had a Bishop arriving, to sing Pontifical High Mass at the Faldstool. Well; maybe. A whisper had gone round the night before to say he hadn’t been on his plane; hope sprung eternal in my heart of hearts, that maybe we wouldn’t have to go through with all this after all. The Sacred Ministers and I had already had a rehearsal, which I was late for (disreputable clergy led me astray with Gin; which I grant is not a difficult thing: I was always a good Anglo-Catholic). Things had gone well-ish; thanks to the presence of Fr. Southwell, who was unique in having done this sort of thing before; though I must confess I was even more nervous after the rehearsal than when I started, with these sorts of things, one tends to feel more nervous when someone knows what you're supposed to be doing better than you do.

However, the day began much as before: masses of early Masses, then a substantial breakfast (there was bacon, joy of joys!) and first round of tuition, much of which was spent going through the pronunciation of the Mass responses: Latin with a Scottish accent is not something I’ve encountered before, I must say that people did pick things up fairly quickly. I finished early and went to steal servers from the advanced servers’ class to serve the Missa Cantata. This was very smooth and straightforward, but for the first time, I’ve been rumbled as an MC, because, for the first time, people could see my face during Mass, and the strange shade of puce I would turn as there were occasional slip ups; the reason being that the clergy were today in the Monastic choir, behind the Altar. However, there weren’t too many problems, and the celebrant was a friend of mine, Fr. John Cahill of Scunthorpe, who’s Mass I serve on a Sunday afternoon on a weekly basis, so we know each other well. All went smoothly.

After lunch, more tuition, and the next batch of private Masses. It was shortly after this I heard that His Excellency had arrived at the airport. We were back on for Pontifical High Mass at the Faldstool (hereinafter referred to as PHMaF, because I can’t be doing with typing the whole thing. Like the ceremony itself, it’s too much faff.) My heart sank; but I was glad to know his excellency wasn’t being held to ransom by a coalition of 70s liberals and fundamentalist Muslims (though the difference between the two is that at least one can negotiate with the terrorists), but would rather not have to go through with PHMaF (have you ever noticed how it's those who don't have to implement these things that have the bright idea? "Sergeant?" "Sir?" "Take that Command Post" "Yes Sir.")

I first saw Bishop Athanasius after dinner; when I was going to fetch something from the accommodation. He was coming down the stairs for his dinner with Fr. Southwell. I was duly introduced; quick genuflection (boy that was a refreshing change). He took me by surprise; he was wearing a black cassock, zucchetto and Pectoral Cross; he is not a tall man, and I think quite shy and retiring by nature. His English was very good, bearing in mind that he had flown in that day and was probably very tired. We exchanged a few words; he wanted to know if I was a seminarian; then we went our separate ways. I was then stood outside the accommodation about 10 minutes later, talking to some more disreputable clergy, when no lesser person than Leo Darroch (of Una Voce international) hailed me, and said “because you’ve got the youngest knees, we’ve decided you’ll serve the Bishop’s Mass” “Argh” said I; then I hurried off to learn how to serve a Bishop’s private Mass- very straightforward actually: just pass him the maniple at the indulgentium.

So, off I went to rehearse with the Fathers for the PHMaF for a bit (during which I remarked “I'm beginning to see why we had a Council; which elicited a Look from Fr. Southwell), then had to leave them to get ready the Altar where His Excellency would say Mass, which was the old high Altar, with the relics of St. Oliver Plunkett* situated next to them, in a very impressive reliquary- everything but his head is there.

All was readied, and I was vested and waiting nervously for His Excellency in the Sacristy and in he came at the allotted hour (which we had pre-arranged- typical German, he was on time to the second); I assisted his vesting- his patience was amazing, as I fussed round him, tidying him up, and adjusting the hang of his Alb, etc. as one is allowed to do for Bishops. He looked over the Missal, and I asked the magic question “do you need a card for the prayers at the foot of the Altar?” To which I received a firm “no”, which was encouraging.

So off we went to the Altar- the church was dimly lit, apart from our Altar, and we began- it was one of the most moving and beautiful Masses I have ever served- he was word perfect, and motion perfect, and the sanctity was palpable. He was slow and deliberate, but not the slowness of someone remembering what was coming next, rather then slowness of someone who knew what he was doing and knew it was worth doing well and taking time over. There is really nothing else I can say about this, he truly is a holy man, and the remainder of the time he was with us only confirmed this. And, what really impressed me was that he not only knew the Leonine prayers by heart, he knew them by heart in Latin. Now that is ‘igh!

Straight after assisting the Bishop to divest, I made my way to the chapel were we had been singing the office, for Compline. This is one of the highlights of the conferences for me, as it is, by tradition, my only singing part- I sing the lesson at the beginning of the Office: “Fratres, sobrii estoteet relinqua, which always makes me smile a little bit: the Gin flows freely. 5 minutes in the choir loft practising soon had me sorted (though I suspect I made all the same mistakes I usually make, no matter how much practice I have, though people are very kind and don’t mention it. A bit like my spiritual life, really). I love Compline anyway: it is so peaceful and simple- no cottas even, and reminds me of Wordsworth: “It is a beauteous evening, calm and free/ The holy time is quiet as a Nun/ breathless in adoration; the broad sun/ is sinking down in its tranquillity…” and the hush is wonderful as everyone slips out of church at the end, often pausing a few moments at the image of our Lady.

But the work wasn’t over yet, oh no. We still had a servers’ rehearsal for the PHMaF, which was a very fraught hour, during which I suddenly felt very tired, very ratty and very stressed, I must confess, and just wanted everything to be over. We made it as far as the Epistle in the space of an hour (!) and then called it a night, it being 10.30 by then, and some of us having Masses to serve in the morning. I was so tired I didn’t even stop downstairs for a Gin, but went straight to bed and knew no more until I realised I’d overslept the following morning.

If you’d like to see some photos of the Bishop’s Masses, they may be found here: courtesy of the good Dr. Shaw, who is on pilgrimage to Walsingham at present. On foot.

*A small aside. Whenever I hear the name of the last of the English Martyrs, I always think of a great priest of the Middlesbrough Diocese- also called Oliver Plunkett- better known as Ollie Plunkett. It was said that he was once doing a funeral in January, for a lapsed Catholic. The widow was stood next to him, shivering and remarked “ooo Father! It is cold”, to which dear Father replied “It won’t be cold where he’s going.” Gesturing to the coffin. This apparently true. So much for pastoral care. Now read on.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Downside Day 2: St Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

The morning dawned bright and early. Well, early, and it wasn’t quite dawn when I awoke at 4.50, after far to little sleep. I can never get to sleep on the first night I stay anywhere, and especially with the se conferences, as so much is churning through my mind: Where are the clergy in choir going to sit, how are we going to do such and such, who’s going to serve, etc, etc. Eventually at about 1.30am I got so fed up of tossing and turning that I got up and went downstairs to check on some bits, and who should I find outside the front door to our accommodation, in pyjamas and a cassock, but the illustrious Fr. Ray Blake of the gloriously outspoken blog St. Mary Magdalene, Brighton, so we stood and chatted for a while, on the funeral rites of a Cardinal, then I got what I needed, then headed up to bed and lay and read until about 2.30, when I finally dropped off to sleep, only to jerk awake five minutes before my alarm went off; it was still very grey outside, and freezing cold (I’d left my windows pen) so I hotfooted it to the bathrooms, hoping for a nice warming shower (I only have a bath at home, so showers are a real treat), only to find the showerheads had been removed, so one was hit in the stomach by a water cannon, with hot water for the length of a de profundis then it turned freezing cold, at which point, as they say, I made my excuses and left. Downside girls (for it was the girls’ house in which we were staying) are obviously made of sterner stuff than I am!

After performing my necessary ablutions in tepid water, I headed down, nice and early to the church, planning on getting before the start of Matins to potter round and sort things out. This was not an unmitigated success. It was raining, and I had many books to carry. I reached the church door to find it looked, so went round to the other door, to find that locked too. Oh the annoyance. So I took shelter in a handy awning for a while, then tried again at the other door. Success! But Matins had started, so I had to potter quietly. Thankfully, Dom Boniface had already done most of the work, so there was in fact very little to do, except see that I knew what was where, and able to answer questions of bleary eyed fathers coming to say their early Masses. I settled down in a corner and tried to say my own Office- halfway through the first psalm, I noticed a figure flitting around- the first ones were beginning to arrive. Blast! Close breviary, slink into sacristy, assist with vesting, and remind clergy to wait until the Office is finished before starting, I then went round and lit candles on Altars and headed back to find a priest to serve. By pure chance it was, once again, Fr. Blake, so off we went to an Altar and offered the holy Sacrifice. I am always very fond of private Masses, especially when many are said at once; it is very peaceful, and very Sacred. . Mascall makes the observation, in his book “Corpus Christi”: which emphasises the unity of the Mass? 20 priests around one Altar, or 20 priests at 20 different Altars all saying the same thing? He also points out that a Protestant could never understand this: why are all those clergyman conducting services with only one person present? However, the privateness, almost secretiveness of private Masses points to something outside ourselves, as the Holy Father points out in the Spirit of the Liturgy: it breaks the circle of our existence, and points to something that is “other” than us.

Anyway, first mass down, one to go; this time a friend of mine, who I know through the conferences- back to the same Altar to do it all over again. We then went off in search of breakfast, which took some doing- I always find the first morning is very fraught, what with sorting Altars and priests, and everything is new, and we always seem to take the catering staff by surprise.

After breakfast, the next thing looming on the horizon was the solemn Mass at 11. I must admit, if I could change one thing, it would be to start with a Missa Cantata- everyone is far more familiar with the ceremonies, and it needs much less rehearsal, and doesn’t cause my blood pressure to go through the roof, but ah well. As it was, it all went smoothly, all things considered, and rehearsal was fairly leisured, so I could practice things like the Gospel procession. Fr. Bede Rowe, LMS chaplain to the West (AKA the Patriarch of the West) celebrated, with the inimitable Fr. De Malleray, FSSP, who has been a great support to me in learning things like Mcing high Mass, and who is a very understanding clergyman in such things, was Deacon, and my friend Fr. Francis of Bury was subdeacon. We rehearsed thoroughly, but all were familiar with the ceremonies. This was the opportunity to see priests I’d not seen for many years- one who new me as a school boy in Leicester, one who could remember me as a babe in arms, as well as many other friends made on the conferences.

Luncheon was a little more organised. Well, a lot more actually. By which time other people had arrived, and food was prevalent. Meal times were lots of fun, and there were several clergy who it was always good to sit near, for the banter and comedy. It was all very unmonastic.

We then proceeded to be formally welcomed and have tuition groups sorted. As well as Mcing the week, I was also looking after a group with Fr. Francis, which was the beginners group- most of whom had never served the EF before, and one or two of whom had only been a couple of times., I’m rather proud of the fact that by the time we were done with them, all of them were capable of getting through Low Mass, possibly with prompting. All of them took a part in serving the solemn liturgies as well.

A final round of private Masses (my serving my fourth Mass of the day), then Vespers and dinner. I do enjoy being able to sing the Office in choir, but I do look somewhat out of place among the biretta’s clergy. One of the choir said I should have a biretta for the office, possibly with one blade, and no pom-pom, just to fit in.; which I was rather taken with.

Recreation following dinner was much fun, with much Gin to go with it, and then a not so early night, only to be ready to be back up at 5 for the next day.

Which I shall tell you more about another time; right now it is time for bed. Noctem quietam…

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Latin Mass Society summer conference: Downside, 2010- an MC's Perspective

This may turn into yet another long post, so bear with me.

This was the first southern conference I'd MCed for, but the third LMS conference- I'd done the two held in Ushaw Seminary this year and last year, and so have been getting into the swing of things, and learning a lot and gaining a lot of experience each time.

This was by far the largest one I'd done, and had the added terror of a visiting Bishop, which meant Pontifical High Mass. Anyway, I'll begin at the beginning.

Drove down with Paul Waddington, the organiser- a good smooth journey. Both of us had brought a lot of stuff: I had in my bag, as well as the things I would need for the week, a red High Mass set, borrowed fromt he parish, and a stunning Altar Missal, also borrowed. Hopefully photos will come to light, which will show them off. Also brought a set of three albs, as well as my own personal stuff, like cassock, cottas, etc. I could barely lift my bag: the things we do for Jesus.

Anyway, smooth drive down, arriving late afternoon, having picked up Leo Darroch (the illustrious president of Una Voce) en route. We gt ourselves sorted, and waited for others to arrive. These included many who I had met at Ushaw, as well as the legendary blogger Fr. Ray Blake, who was to be a constant source of entertainment throughout the week. Went over to Wells to visit one of the conference clergy, who has the next parish to Downside, and were taken out to a very nice little Italian restaurant. Then back, having borrowed some towels (some of us didn't realise they weren't provided), then back to the Abbey for bed.

I think I'll do this in stages. Will say soemthing about the first full day later

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Dominican Doings

As you may, or may not know,. I have a great attachment to the Order of the Friars Preacher: The Dominicans; in fact it is my ambition, and I hope, my vocation to join them and seek my salvation and that of others among their ranks. The reasons for this are many and varied, and the subject of another post.

Being associated with a Religious order is (rightly) somewhat akin to being part of a family, even if you are still in the very early stages of membership, such as I am, being what is termed a “sniffer”, it means the world suddenly becomes very small, as you realise there are Dominicans everywhere. So, the weekend just gone, and the weekend previous to that saw me doing Dominican things; and very varied they were, but I saw many faces at both.

The first was one of the annual events of my hectic social kalendar (!) is the annual walking pilgrimage to Walsingham, organised by the Dominican Sisters of St. Joseph, based in the New Forest. We walk from a small place in Norfolk called Brandon over a distance of about 50 miles in three days, until we arrive at the Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham.

This is the 5th year I’ve done this, and am one of the few who can claim to have done everyone. Unsurprisingly I look after the field sacristy, and the liturgy, which is done in the Noble Simplicity which the Rite calls for. The music is mainly chant and good solid hymns; there is also the Office- Lauds, Vespers and Compline, every day, as well as many, many decades of the rosary along the way. (“the 47th sorrowful mystery: Mary Magdalene stabs Pontius Pilate”). All of this is offered for the conversion of England, along with the many blisters accumulated along the way.

The pilgrimage numbers average around the 30 mark; which seems to work as a number, as you get a chance to talk to pretty much everyone, however, I always feel I never have spoken to everyone. Most of those who go are student age, though this varies, there being some more experienced pilgrims, as well as some very young ones. However, good strong, solid friendships are formed with people you would not otherwise meet. This year I was able to make one or two friends who I feel will become very very close to me, as well as benefiting from the renewal of several other friendships which I have formed through this pilgrimage.

Fr. Benjamin, OP is the chaplain for the pilgrimage, and, as one would expect, his preaching is excellent, and his company on the road most enjoyable, being on hand to answer deep, knotty, theological questions of the utmost import, as well as counselling generally.

That is a brief synopsis of the first event, one that is a very important part of my year, and which I wouldn’t miss for the world.

The second is a first for me- I went down to London to stay with someone I’d met on last year’s walking pilgrimage- lay Dominican and inveterate witterer Rosamundi, in order for us both to travel up to Oxford with Dominic Mary for the ordinations of three Friars, two to the priesthood, and one to the Diaconate.

I arrived late into London, having missed my train, thanks to the public transport of the city of Hull, and the non-appearance thereof. Made it to the wilds of east London, to sleep for not nearly long enough, then head to the Church of the Immaculate Heart on the Brompton Road (Oratory to the likes of us) for the 8am Mass, then jump into the car and off to Oxford. Dominic Mary is also a former Anglo-Catholic, so he and I were able to have a perfectly serious, half hour long, conversation about lace, and clergy we have known and loved (or not as the case may be- there are those less charitable than ourselves…). On arrival we availed ourselves of a spot of brekkers, then headed to St. Phillip’s books to drool over tantalising volumes, and then off to Blackfriars to get a good seat to watch what happens. IT was then people started to arrive, not least two sisters from the New Forest, and two friends from York, all of whom were beckoned to come and join our party on the back row. Also spotted were a newly wed couple, the female half of which I did AS level history with, now too long ago- we spent the entire time being rude to each other. As the day progressed, I realised not much had changed.

The Mass was solemn, dignified and everything the Liturgy should be. The Mass setting was Byrd’s Mass for 4 voices- a personal favourite, with a Communion motet of Ave Verum Corpus, again by Byrd, and another favourite.

I was also able to receive three first Blessings- from Fr David Rocks, OP, recently ordained for the English province, and from Frs. Thomas and Robert ordained that day. Indulgences aplenty, I hope!

The party afterwards was rather wonderful as well, and gave the opportunity to see many friend who I only see at this sort of thing- the food was magnificent, and the cakes for the ordinands were spectacular. What was best was drifting out into the garden, with it’s high walls, and mingling with so many people. All the joy of the Dominican life was expressed, with humour, fun, and serious thought taking place all at once, often in the same conversation. There was also that most glorious of things: banter; the rough and tumble of men who spend their entire lives living and working together.

We travelled back late, and then up again early for the High Mass at Brompton- as stunning as ever, then off to South Kensington for an afternoon in the park, before a very pleasant train journey back. All in all not a bad weekend.

This post has dragged on far too long now, and you’re probably all bored out of your trees.; however, one final note, do please pray for those ordained this year, and for several friends of mine who are discerning vocations to the religious life. May the Holy Spirit guide them always.

The Great MIssa Cantata at St. Charles, 4th July, 2010; an MC's perspective

To St. Charles, after climbing three peaks in one day, for what friends of mine describe as “’igh and ‘oly ceremonies”. I must confess I was still a bit unsteady after the previous day’s exertions, but there was no way I could miss this: a sung Mass in the Extraordinary Form in my beautiful parish church. It was the climax of w week long tour made by the choir of Fisher House, Cambridge, the Catholic Chaplaincy for the University of Cambridge; a most illustrious body! They had sung one or two concerts in the area, as well as a Mass in the EF at Scarborough, for which I was the MC. This had been surprisingly well attended, since it was at 5pm on a weekday evening; however, St. Charles was to be the highlight and grand finale.

Since I was on home ground, I was able to put out some of our more beautiful furnishings: the 19th century Gothic Chalice, Canon Hall (a legendary former parish priest of St. Charles)’s Missal, given to him as an anniversary of ordination present in the 1900s, with a colour illuminated Canon, and a near perfect condition Altar cloth, embroidered with “O Salutaris Hostia!” Quite what the exclaimation mark on it is for I don’t know; should one really be surprised at the appearance of the Saving Victim?

The music was, expectedly, superb, and mostly early polyphony, including a 10th century Kyrie, and a Sanctus that was out of this world.

It was an event I never expected to happen. At least not for a long while; but happen it did, and beautiful it was.

What struck me most was not the music, though it was beautiful, or Fr. Stephen's preaching, which was superb, not to mention no nonsense and had me in stitches the entire time; or even being able to stand at the High Altar of a church I love, assisting at a form of the Mass I love.


Rather it was the congregation. The vast majority hadn't seen this for many, many years, if at all; there were far, far more than we expected, around 140/150, so there weren‘t nearly enough sheets or Mass books to go round. Few brought their own Missals, but they followed it, just about. They managed to work out what was meant to come next, and I hope some of them realised that the differences in structure between the two forms of the Rite are not very great at all. There were some false starts, but by the Credo, they were well into it, and the almighty clatter of kneelers as they all knelt for the Incarnatus, testified! (I seem to remember Ronnie Knox remarking, in the Mass in Slow Motion, on the creaking of chairs that testify our homage to the God made Man.)

I was talking to a few beforehand, and a goodly number could remember it, and were extremely pleased to be present, if only for nostalgia: to be able to attend Mass as they did when they were children. It was interesting the little things they remembered, and what stuck most in their memories, such as the Elevation of the Chalice, and most strongly of all, kneeling at the Altar rails, and receiving Communion- this was what brought most of them so much joy. One lady in particular, I noticed, as I went along with the Communion Paten, needed considerable assistance walking- she was very small, very frail, very hunched and helped along by someone who gave the appearance of being her daughter; but once she was at the rail, she knelt, and one got the impression that nothing on earth would have stopped her kneeling to receive her Lord. She knelt upright, and received, then, as we passed on, I noticed her companion help her to stand again, and supported her as she went back to her place. I think that moment, most of all, struck me as the most beautiful, and it was a very great privilege to be there to see it.

This is not to denigrate in any way the superb work by Matthew Ward and the Fisher House choir, who’s early polyphony was beautiful. There were truly moments when “we knew not if we were in heaven or on earth”.

It would be nice to think this would be the first of many. And it would be nice to see something like it happen again; but nicer still to have even just a Low Mass in that church, say one Wednesday evening a month, even just to show people the simplicity of the Rite, as well as the grandeur.

Now a High Mass….

A full set of photos can be found here, courtesy of the inimitable Mike Forbester of Rudgate Ramblings, amongst other places:

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Mountain Climbing Ended

Well, they aren’t really mountains, but never mind- they felt like it, from my somewhat limited mountain climbing experience, and anyway, who ever let the truth get in the way of a good story?

I shall not bore you with the rest of the journey; there is only so much one can say about putting foot in front of foot. Though for some of you, with a cruel sense of humour, I suspect you might enjoy the image of me scrabbling up Inglebrough, on all fours, in the finest Gollum impression, as I realise I daren’t stand up straight. There was also associated swearing.

Most of us made it up all three of the peaks I think, and to be honest, I couldn’t have done it without other members of the group urging me on. Sadly, I can’t claim membership to the 3 peaks club, as my official time was 12 hours and ten minutes, as I was at the rear of the party, and us slow-coaches stuck together, so although I got a burst of energy, and if I’d spurred on, I didn’t want to leave the other chaps behind. We don’t leave one of our men behind, etc.

But I did make it, nonetheless and feel proud enough for that, given my (seemingly) death defying cliff climbings and river crossings; though the children running up and down it all did seem to spoil it slightly. I think my character is suitably built up by it, and I’ve learned that I am definitely better on the flat.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Go tell it on the mountains; part 2

Up early and into town to do some shopping to get essentials such as Kendal Mint Cake, and a new thumb stick, as my one is back home, and I hadn’t had chance to go and get it. All well and good- both were acquired much more easily, and much more cheaply than I expected. So off to Mass at St. Charles. Had lunch after that, in the presbytery, with the Fathers, and a couple of lads (one of whom is well known to the blogging world as the author of Bashing Secularism, and is off to Valodalid next year for his pre-seminary year for the Diocese of Middlesbrough) who were off to the highly successful “Invocation“ weekend at Oscott- all very pleasant indeed. I then popped off to finish packing (as well as starting to pack, it must be said) and to get some bits for the Extraordinary Form Mass which was taking place the following day. The, disaster number 1: I had misplaced my walking trousers- good roomy combats, which dried quickly and were very hard wearing. So had to dash out and get some more- succeeded in this and we were back on track. Fr. Paul and myself drove to Long Preston (well, Fr. Paul drove), to a very nice little place, who’s name escapes me, where I had rooms booked for the, and very nice they were too, with friendly and very obliging staff. A good dinner, and an early night.

Saturday (i)
Up at 3.45 (!), feeling fairly chirpy (!!) washed, shaved, said Matins, met up with everyone else and met up, bleary eyed with everyone else. Conversation was unsurprisingly limited at this point; for some reason; I suspect there is much to be said for Wilde’s remark that only boring people are brilliant at breakfast. Well this was some hours before breakfast; well this was many hours before breakfast, so we stood no chance.

We drove the 10 miles down winding roads, until arriving at the starting point of the official café (for reasons of health and safety, you sign in there, so they know if anyone is still up on the hills when it gets dark,. It also means if you do it in 12 hours, they invite you to join the 3 peaks club., which gets you a tie and other exciting things.

We were there too early to sign in properly, so left our names and the approximate time we started out (5am). However, by the time we set out, it was nearer 5.20, which is important, as you shall see later.

So off we all set; up the Pen-y-ghent; it was cool, and pleasant, but the going got steep very quickly; I set off at a fair old lick, working to the principle “if t’were done, t’were best done quickly”; I was soon some way ahead of everyone else and able to turn round and have a look at things. The views up there were really breathtaking; I shall make a primitive attempt at uploading some photos, not taken by me, and the better they are for it. Anyway, we lost our first walker at this point, who had said they were not overly keen on the idea anyway and were just along for the ride. We climbed a bit further, and began to talk to each other, as we woke up a bit. This was the thing I enjoyed most- getting to talk to people with whom I worship week in and week out, but who, for various reasons, I never get to meet, or talk to properly. This climb was perfect for that, and one of the reasons I went. It was shortly after this that the first Unpleasant bit happened: scrambles. Now, I’m not a great one for heights, it must be said, but what I like even less are depths- that sudden sensation that there’s nothing between you and quite a long drop and a bloody death/brutal injury; and the ground is uneven, and something could go at any minute. I call this the Argggggggggggggggggggh! Effect; it was not helped by several factors, which I need not bore you with here. Thankfully I was talked up by other members of the party who saw my plight, and were very kind and patient. It was at this point I realised, that, actually, this was going to be harder than I thought and there were not a few times I thought stuff this for a lark. However, I got to the top, got my breath back (I was wheezing a bit on that first one, I must admit), it was quite nice- you couldn’t see a thing, the top was thick with cloud, it was nice and cold, which was nice, as I was already rather warm. The back of my shirt, where my pack was, was ringing wet by that stage. Horrible. It was not for the first time I began to think of Lord of the Rings (a fairly obvious connection, I thought) I also thought “I bet those *!£%$*&^$^)*(&)&**%$%$”$%&^&^(*ing hobbits didn’t have this trouble.” But, so far so good.

What was interesting were the other people we saw along the way- the charity Marie Curie had a fairly large scale walk going on, with important officials, with badges. The first pair we saw overtook us on the way up the hill; dressed fairly normally- it was only when we were at the top we discovered them changed into costume- a gorrilla suit and black tie with NHS 50s glasses, which was an entertaining sight before 7am. The friendliness of people along the way was nice as well- we were all aiming for the same thing, so there would be words of encouragement to the people we passed, and the same in return. Just goes to show: you put people in a nice place and they tend to be nice to each other.

As we descended, I realised that this was a problem in itself, as once again, the ground was uneven, and the danger of me wounding my pride was somewhat great! However, my trusty thumbstick came in very handy and I was able to plant that before moving- it meant my progress was slow, but I soon caught up again.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Go tell it on the mountains; part 1

Preamble and Prologue:
Contrary to the popular belief of my friends and cronies, I do not spend all my time vegetating in front of a book somewhere, with a pipe clenched between my teeth drinking too much (though this is a frequent occurrence), or hiding in the cool, darkened precincts of a sacristy, gently handling antique lace and silk (it would be nice if this were more frequent), or indeed staggering about the place in evening dress, wondering where the Drones club is. I do in fact enjoy some forms of gentle exercise. One thing I enjoy very much is long distance walking- I go on a walking pilgrimage, organised by the admirable Dominican Sisters of St. Joseph in the New Forest, to Walsingham every year (not from the New Forest though- usually from Ely).

It seemed like such a good idea at the time. Fr. Paul, the curate, put a note in the parish newsletter (or pewsheet as I insist on calling it, much to my PP’s confusion) saying that he, and one of our parishioners, who had some experience in the field, were organising an attempt on the three peaks to raise money for the parish’s restoration fund. All well and good. A good idea, though I, after all, I enjoy walking, as I mentioned above, and it was in a good cause, and I’d always fancied a stab at the three peaks, as most of my experience of walking had been on the flat, so some hill walking would be a nice change; so I duly signed up, in my blissful ignorance, and went along to the meeting, collected my sponsor form, then collected my sponsors.

Now, people said it was tough, but I thought “Pshah!”, as is my wont; people say that about lots of things, and it’s never that bad. I was entertaining visions of gentle to steep, well laid out paths; a challenge, maybe, but nothing too taxing. Nothing that would leave my legs sore for three days afterwards, surely?

I was Wrong; dear me, was I wrong.

Anyway, let us begin our tale at the beginning...

to be continued

Sunday, 4 July 2010

The Patriarch, you say?

Before I start posting, I ought to explain this blog's title; in order to do this, I ought explain a few other things.

I have not always been the Roman Catholic I am now, in the murky and distant past, I used to be an Anglican, would you believe, and a card carrying Anglo-Catholic at that; part of this included being a member of the Guild of Servants of the Sanctuary (the GSS; known by other names, which we need not dwell on here); this very illustriously titled guild was a guild for servers. Now; the GSS had it's own Office (a version of vespers, dating from the days when the Roman rule was that you had to fast from midnight before making you Communion, which many Anglo-Catholics followed, so obviously you couldn't have an evening Mass, so you had an evening Office instead, if you were in a devotional guild. The guild Office is rather lovely. And the most lovely thing of all is the Office Hymn, for which the tension was palpable. There'd be a pause, after the short chapter, and then the organist would quietly pre-intone the opening line, which the officiant would then sing... "when the patriarch was returning", and the there would be a burst of sound as the hymn was taken up "Crowned with triumph from the fray!"

Who was this patriarch? He was Abram, returning from victory in battle, and along the way he meets Melchisidek, who was the enigmatic king of Salem, who offered bread and wine, for he was priest of God most high. The hymn then takes the image of offering bread and wine, forward to the last supper, and the sacrificial nature of it, and the redeeming act of the Cross, eternally linked together. And then it moves forward again, to Masses offered, day by day upon our Altars. A most beautiful hymn, the text of which I shall give below.

But the blog is named thus after that hymn, which is a translation from a 12th century Cluniac breviary. The Latin of which, I would give my eye teeth for. It is possibly the finest openign line of a hymn, with the exception of "Light's abode celestial Salem". I daresay there shall be a few posts on my favourite hymns to come.

So; who am I? I am based in Hull, in the parish of St. Charles Borromeo. Where I have the honour of serving at the Altar, and helping in the parish in anyway I can. I am an active member of the Legion of Mary, as well as an experienced MC of both the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite. I have a love for liturgy, it's development, it's history and it's future. I was safely brought up in the Anglican tradition, and have a great love and respect for it's patrimony, but find myself to take it's present state seriously, and therefore made the descision to convert 5 years ago. I am, at present discerning a vocation to the religious life, and to priesthood. I daresay more details will manifest themselves.

I also don't often read things before I send them, so be warned.

I also apologise in advance if what I write is deadly dull and of no interest to anyone but me.

The hymn:

When the Patriarch was returning
Crowned with triumph from the fray,
Him the peaceful king of Salem
Came to meet upon his way;
Meekly bearing bread and wine,
Holy Priesthood's aweful sign.

On the truth thus dimly shadowed
Later days a luster shed;
When the great high-Priest eternal,
Under form of wine and bread,
For the world's immortal food
Gave his flesh and gave his blood.

Wondrous Gift! The Word who fashioned
All things by his might divine,
Bread into his body changes,
Into his own blood the wine;
What though sense no change perceives,
Faith admires, adores, believes.

He who once to die a Victim
On the cross did not refuse,
Day by day upon our altars,
That same Sacrifice renews;
Through his holy priesthood's hands,
Faithful to his last commands.

While the people all uniting
In the sacrifice sublime
Offer Christ to his high Father,
Offer up themselves with him;
Then together with the priest
On the living Victim feast.

Laud and honour to the Father,
Laud and honour to the Son
Laud and honour to the Spirit,
Ever three and ever one,
Consubstanial, co-eternal,
while unending ages run.