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.