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.