Wednesday, 30 November 2011

St Andrew and St Andrews

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed a Scottish connection.  Two of the three members of the Marylebone Ordinariate Group were brought up in Scotland, and this has had some influence on a number of the posts put up on this site.

For example, for vintage footage of proceedings at the 1948 Restoration Mass at Pluscarden Abbey, you might want to read our blogpost Scottish Restorations.  Alternatively, our blogpost on St Margaret of Scotland includes a lightning tour of Dunfermline Abbey, some photos of that fine building as well of Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the Lord Lyon King of Arms and the tomb of St Margaret.  There is also film of a recent celebration by FSSP clergy of a Solemn High Mass in St Mary's Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh.  Finally, one of our earliest posts, Saint Ninian, pray for us, included footage of the Holy Father's visit to Scotland in 2010, and talked of the life of St Ninian, that key figure in the history of the Church in Scotland.

With this background knowledge in mind, it can come as no surprise that we are posting on St Andrew, whose feast day falls today.  We include information on the saint himself, and on the town in Scotland that bears his name, and conclude with a very very fine hymn in his honour.

The first apostle (a former follower of St John the Baptist, he was the first to recognise Our Lord as the Messiah and to follow him), and the brother of St Peter (St Andrew brought St Peter to meet our Lord, whereupon they both received the call to become fishers of men), St Andrew is a prominent figure in Bible (as the disciple who brought the little boy with his loaves and fishes to Our Lord, for example), and also in the establishment of the Metropolitan See of Constantinople and in the founding of churches around the Black Sea.  The first bishop to serve in Byzantium, his influence in the region is enormous.

That he preached around the Black Sea is not in doubt, but it must be admitted that some of the specific connections he is traditionally said to have had are harder to prove.  It may be that in some cases, his undoubted travels around that area have led to the appropriation of his story to boost the credentials of certain of the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches in the region, but that's a story for another day, when this blog returns to rambling around Eastern Europe, as it did in our previous post on The Pope of Christian Unity.

Picking up on the topic of the relics of St Athanasius as mentioned in The Pope of Christian Unity, relics of St Andrew that were housed for many centuries inside the Vatican (including some inside one of the main pillars of St Peter's Basilica) were given to the Greek Orthodox Church by Pope Paul VI in 1964.  They are now housed in Patras, the site of the martyrdom of St Andrew.

In 1969, Pope Paul VI gave a further relic of St Andrew to Cardinal Gordon Gray, then Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, greeting the Scottish bishop with the words "Peter greets his brother Andrew."  The relic is now housed in the St Andrew's altar in St Mary's Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh, along with another relic of St Andrew, given by the Archbishop of Amalfi in the nineteenth century.

The way in which St Andrew is said to have met his death is by having been crucified on a cross in the shape of the X we now see in the Scottish flag, and from there in the Union Jack and multiple flags of Commonwealth countries and Crown Territories.  He is said to have been crucified in this way as he did not feel himself worthy to be crucified in the same way as Our Lord (echoing the upside-down crucifixion of St Peter for the same reasons).

So now indeed to Scotland, one of several countries to have St Andrew as its patron saint.  More specifically, to St Andrews, a beautiful town in the far east of the ancient kingdom of Fife.  St Andrews may very well now be famous for its association with the Duke of Cambridge and with golf, but for me it is associated with childhood visits, and later multiple visits with visiting friends and family (including now my wife and children) from England, to the ruins of the castle and of the cathedral. 

The castle is wonderful.  The best part, as far as I have been concerned as from the age of about five, is that you can still climb down into the mine and countermine that were built during the siege of St Andrew's Castle.  Once you have resurfaced and exited the castle, the game is to find, out in the street that runs outside the castle, the drain cover that sits over the end of the tunnel. 

As you might imagine, the history of the castle is very complicated.  The most famous episode followed the strong opposition of Cardinal David Beaton to the proposed marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots to the young Prince Edward (later King Edward VI) of England.  The fallout from this involved the burning at the stake of a protestant martyr (protestants were felt to have been in league with the English), the reprisal murder of Cardinal David Beaton and the hanging of his dead body from a castle window, and finally a siege of the protestants that then held the castle that lasted around a year. 

Until the Reformation, St Andrews had been the ecclesiastical capital of Scotland (even now, Cardinal Keith O'Brien is the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh), and the castle had been the home of the bishops and then archbishops of St Andrews.  After the Reformation, there were great and very lengthy struggles in Scotland between those favouring maintaining the episcopal office, and those of a more hardline presbyterian nature.  Upon the arrival in 1689 of the usurper, the office of bishop was abolished in Scotland, and the castle slowly fell into terrible disrepair.

The neighbouring ruins of St Andrew's Cathedral are no less spectacular.  The setting of the cathedral, at the edge of the land, looking out over the North Sea, merits the trip on its own, especially the view thereof if you approach St Andrews from the hillier south (ie from the direction of Anstruther). 

The site had been a centre of Christian worship for centuries when the work began on the new Cathedral in 1158.  It took well over another century for the 350-foot long building to be completed, with a dedication rite taking place in the presence of King Robert the Bruce in 1318.  The King placed a parchment expressing the nation's thanks to its Patron on the new High Altar.  Fire, repairs, expansion and enhancement marked its history, along with the appearance of several religious orders in this small town.  However, its altars were stripped in 1559, its images removed, the reliquary destroyed, and then over the next decades neglect and the collapse of one of its many towers began a long decline into ruin.

There are many places of worship under the patronage of St Andrew of course, particularly in places where there has been a large Scottish diaspora (though far fewer than you might expect in Scotland itself).  For example, the Catholic Cathedral in Glasgow, the Catholic Cathedral in Dundee, the Scottish Episcopalian Cathedral in Aberdeen, the Anglican Cathedral in Singapore, the Anglican (or rather Sydney Anglican) Cathedral in Sydney, and the Catholic Cathedral in Victoria, British Columbia. 

No-one seems to be entirely sure why Scotland developed such a strong cult of St Andrew, which it seems to have done long before the formal proclamation of St Andrew as the Patron Saint of Scotland, and even before the arrival of the relics of St Andrew in Scotland in the eighth or ninth century.  It is true that more prestigious patrons would be hard to find, the First Apostle, the brother of St Peter, certainly carrying some stature.

Prayers to St Andrew were famously made before the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, when Scottish soldiers wore the Cross of St Andrew on their tunics. 

The famous Declaration of Arbroath, considered a formal Scottish declaration of independence and single nationhood, took the form of a letter to Pope John XXII, in which Scottish nobles rejected the claim of the English that Scotland came under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of York.  The Declaration describes how Scots constituted a separate nation, with its own particular devotion to St Andrew, "Our Patron and Protector."

In any event, there was not the geographic connection that made St Andrew such an obvious choice for Patron Saint of the Ukraine, Russia, Greece and Romania (amongst other places).  It remains one of those unanswered questions.

Today's blogpost ends with the Hymn to St Andrew, by E M Barrett.  You can listen to the tune and find the sheet music here.   All the verses are very good, but the third and fourth particularly so, with echoes of Walsingham hymns and their twin themes of restoring the damage done at the Reformation and the conversion of the country. 

When Christ our Lord to Andrew cried:
"Come, thou, and follow me,"
the fisher left his net beside the Sea of Galilee.
To teach the truth the Master taught,
to tread the path he trod
was all his will and thus he brought
unnumbered souls to God.

When Andrew’s hour had come, and he
was doomed, like Christ to die,
he kissed his cross exultingly,
and this his noble cry:
“O noble cross! O precious wood!
I long have yearned for thee;
uplift me to my only good
who died on thee for me.”

The faith that Andrew taught once shone
o’er all this kingdom fair;
the cross that Jesus died upon
was honoured everywhere.
But times once changed and Andrew’s name
was for a while forgot;
the cross, though set in kingly crown,
became a sign of shame.

St Andrew now in bliss above,
thy fervent prayers renew
that Scotland yet again may love
the faith, entire and true;
that I the cross allotted me
may bear with patient love! ‘
Twill lift me, as it lifted thee,
to reign with Christ above.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Newman House London - Ordinariate Open Meeting Report

Another post from one of our roving reporters, this time from a member of the Marylebone Ordinariate Group, who attended an open meeting held last night at Newman House in Central London, where Monsignor Newton addressed a gathering on the subject of the origins of the Ordinariate, and its growth this year and in the future.

The meeting started on a positive note for me, being pleasantly surprised both by the venue and the numbers in attendance.  Members of various London Ordinariate Groups were present: North, South, Central and Marylebone included.  There were also some in attendance from the Westminster Archdiocese, representatives of the Friends of the Ordinariate, and a good number of practising Anglicans keen to find out more.

Proceedings began with Evensong, in the newly-approved (for the interim) Ordinariate form, led by Fr Peter Wilson.  One cradle catholic remarked that she knew that she was experiencing Anglican patrimony from the enthusiastic and lusty singing. 

Monsignor Newton then gave an introduction to the Ordinariate.  Anglicanorum Coetibus had been an extraordinary gesture of true charity by the Holy Father, in the spirit of unity.  It was, too, a fine example of "receptive ecumenism" where one asks not "What do the other traditions first need to learn from us?" but "What do we need to do to learn from them?"

The Catholic Church had raised no obstacles to unity since Vatican II, whereas the Church of England had erected many, not least the ordination of women, and it was clear now that there was no longer any place for Catholic Christians in the Church of England.  The Catholic Church had listened to those Anglicans who had sought unity with their Catholic brethren, Anglicans who had always recognised the Pope as the head of the Western Church and prayed for him by name, and the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham had been the first fruit of the Holy Father's response to their plea. 

Members of the Ordinariate recognised how blessed they had been by the opportunity given to them and had joined in response to the call for unity, and most certainly not because they saw the Ordinariate as an escape from the Church of England.

A great deal had happened in a very short time and there was still much to be done and much to learn, but already a mission was recognisable.  In a country that still viewed Catholicism with suspicion, if not downright hostility, yet where the established church had long ceased to hold the central role in the religious life of the land, members of the Ordinariate could do much to remove that suspicion and hostility, particularly as we brought with us, as part of our Anglican patrimony, the idea that a priest ministered to all in his parish and not just to those who came to his church.

Very encouraging to see that the Ordinariate continues to grow and develop, and is preparing itself for ongoing dialogue with potential new members. 

Monday, 28 November 2011

Lands of the East Awake, Soon Shall Your Sons Be Free

On a couple of occasions so far, this blog has featured information and photographs provided by "roving reporters", friends of the Marylebone Ordinariate Group who visit a particular place or attend a particular event that we think might be of interest to some of our readers.  For example, in our early October post Interactive Exchange, we included a picture of the new Porziuncola built at the National Shrine of St Francis in San Francisco, taken by a friend of our group who happened to be there on business, and who, having read our post Universal Church, felt inspired to see the place for himself.

(Followers of recent discussions about the Anglican Bishop of London will be interested to note on the subject of the Interactive Exchange post that it includes another snapshot of the Nero-esque canopy that sits over the episcopal throne at St Mary's Bourne Street whenever Dr Chartres comes to call, ostrich feathers and all.)

Today, we focus not on San Francisco, but on Hong Kong.  When I lived in Hong Kong (from 2003-2007) with my family, I visited the Anglican Cathedral ot St John there many times, that still being the regular place of worship of our roving reporter today.  However, this weekend, having followed the news of the arrival of a relic of Blessed John Paul II in Hong Kong, he decided to attend the 0930 Mass at the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, on Caine Road in Hong Kong. 

Dr Chartres might be interested to know that the new translation of the mass is not yet in use in Hong Kong.  The Catholic Bishop of Hong Kong has decided that it would be better to take a little more time to prepare the faithful for the new text in terms of catechesis, and so the people of Hong Kong will need to wait until December 2012 before being able to say "and with your spirit".

Our correspondent noted the presence of a large and varied congregation, which was communicated efficiently, and the preaching of a solid homily on watching and waiting. He was particularly pleased to hear the singing not only of O Come O Come Emmanuel, but also of the Rorate Coeli (in Latin), usually known to us in our Bourne Street days as the Advent Prose.   

Once Mass had ended, there was time for a short visit to the newly received relic of Blessed John Paul II.  The photo below comes from this visit (the other photos above were sourced from the internet).

Before leaving Hong Kong, we must include this fascinating youtube video, showing very a number of very powerful processions taking place at the Catholic Cathedral there in 1931.   I very much doubt that many readers will have seen bishops wearing solar topees before.

Back home at St James's, we had neither O Come O Come Emmanuel nor the Rorate Coeli.  We are not complaining though, what we did have was excellent.  This blog cannot claim that the choice of recessional hymn was influenced by our blogpost yesterday, with its link to a triumphant performance of Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending, one of the most stirring of Advent hymns, and a piece of Anglican (indeed Wesleyan) Patrimony.  Rather, we can rejoice in having had the same musical reaction to the arrival of the first Sunday of Advent as Fr Colven.  The organ voluntary at the end was the very well known JS Bach chorale prelude on Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (BWV 645).  The Mass sheet reported that all six of the Schubler chorale preludes were going to be played, but the Marylebone Ordinariate Group had left the building and headed off for a post-Mass drink before we could find out if that was really going to be the case.

Perhaps we shall sing the hymn on which that Chorale Prelude is based during Advent at St James's.  The words of this hymn, which is Lutheran in origin, are based on the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, contained in the Gospel of Matthew.

Wake, o wake! with tidings thrilling
the watchmen all the air are filling,
arise, Jerusalem, arise!
Midnight strikes! no more delaying,
"The hour has come!" we hear them saying.
Where are ye all, ye virgins wise?
The Bridegroom comes in sight,
raise high your torches bright!
Alleluia! The wedding song
swells long and strong:
go forth and join the festal throng.

Zion hears the watchmen shouting,
her heart leaps with joy undoubting,
she stands and waits with eager eyes;
adorned with truth and grace unending!
Her light burns clear, her star doth rise.
Now come, thou precious Crown,
Lord Jesus, God's own Son!
Hosanna! Let us prepare
to follow there,
where in thy supper we may share.

Every soul in thee rejoices;
from men and angelic voices
be glory given to thee alone!
Thy presence never more shall leave us,
we stand with angels round thy throne.
Earth cannot give below
the bliss thou dost bestow.
Alleluia! Grant us to raise
to length of days,
the triumph-chorus of thy praise.

I wouldn't want to leave a post that touched on the Schubler Chorales without including this one: very short, and touchingly simple.  It is BWV 648, Meine Seele erheb't den Herren, the German form of the Magnificat, another very appropriate text for this time of year.  Hearing it takes me straight back to listening to the piece being played by James Dalton in my student days, on the fantastic Frobenius organ at The Queen's College, Oxford.  By co-incidence, the current organist of St James's Spanish Place was an undergraduate at the same college a few years after me.

To conclude, a note of hope and optimism from Fr Colven's parish notes.  Much is said about 2011 having seen the largest number of new Catholics in England and Wales through the Rite of Election for many years, and indeed this is in no small part due to the creation of the Ordinariate.  However, Fr Colven in his notes cited as an example of the constantly evolving nature of our community that the 7pm Mass at St James's (one of six masses on a Sunday) is attended by a congregation of around 250, a large proportion of whom are young professionals, and also that St James's, in its plans to introduce a childrens' liturgy, has approximately 40 families signed up as being interested.  All this in a Central London parish, with the shifting demographics that that implies.

Let us give thanks for the growth in our parish and in the Church, both through the Ordinariate and otherwise.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

The End of the Year

Darkness has fallen over late November London, and the first Vigil Masses anticipating the beginning of a new liturgical year have been said.  Gold and green have given way to purple, and the last days of thanksgiving and great rejoicing have made way for a period of preparation. 

In our post last week entitled Christ the King, we reflected briefly on the sadness we feel at entering a new liturgical year without those beside whom we knelt at the communion rail for many years at St Mary's Bourne St.  That is not to say that we regret our decision to become Catholics: we most certainly do not, and we remain very grateful for the Holy Father's initiative of Anglicanorum Coetibus, but as with any Parting of Friends, unavoidably, there is a bittersweet edge to it. 

The post that has become by far the most read on our little blog is More than Words, which considers the implications for those who remain in the Church of England and who attempt to continue as faithful Anglo-Catholics, following the Anglican Bishop of London's latest pronouncements on the entitlement of Anglican clergy to use the new translation of the Roman Missal.  This sort of announcement, while it makes us more and more aware of the challenges faced by those of our brothers and sisters who have stayed behind, also makes us even more certain of the wisdom of our decision. 

An article in this week's Church Times (the main newspaper reporting on Church of England matters) reported Dr Chartres's comments, and mentioned how his edicts are to be interpreted at a parish that was historically a stronghold of Anglo-Catholicism.  The Vicar in that parish has announced that the Church of England's own liturgy, Common Worship, will be introduced from tomorrow, ending a 40-year tradition of using the Roman Rite, with all that that useage implied. 

For those in the Church of England who have no interest in the Ordinariate, then the Bishop of London's announcement and the issuing of the new translation of the Roman Rite, offer an opportunity to reflect, and to restate a more unambiguously Anglican position.  Perhaps that is what the good people of Holy Redeemer Clerkenwell have decided, and if so then it is of course their right to follow that path, and even if we might have wished that things were different, we must all wish each other all the best as we continue on our different paths.   For parishes in this position, wishing to move on and perhaps distance themselves from a more overtly pro-Catholic past, the latest developments might be welcome. 

However, there are still those in the Church of England who are in some turmoil over this. They may not feel ready to move to the Ordinariate or to elsewhere in the Catholic Church, but equally they have no wish to distance themselves even further from the Church founded on the Rock that is St Peter and his successors.  Our post More than Words concluded that the Bishop of London's logic seemed correct, but of course we would have found it a very unwelcome announcement during our own days as Anglicans.  As such, we understand very well how those in favour of using the Roman Rite in the Church of England must be feeling at the moment.

The easy, and in some ways over-simplistic, answer we could shout from the rooftops is of course to do as we have done.  Here in the Catholic Church, using a rite that expresses unity with the Pope and the Catholic Church is not something that has to be done secretly in corners, away from the disapproval of diocesan officials.  No, it is quite simply what happens every week and every day, without exception.

That over-simplistic answer understates many difficulties of course, and as former Anglicans we understand just how challenging it can be to make a decision to move.  We do not intend to be glib or smug about this, and we most certainly do not intend to be gleeful or triumphant : few are sadder than we are that the hopes of ecclesial unity that once seemed so real, even so very recently, are drifting further and further into the realms of fantasy.  Our blogpost on the first Feast of Blessed John Paul II compared the joyful hopes of unity that existed at the time of that great man's visit to the UK in 1982 with the situation today.  We too shared the dreams of Anglo-Catholicism that a form of corporate reunion would one day take place. 

Well, like the darkness falling over November London, we fear that the Bishop of London's letter is another step along the way towards the end of that dream.  As an Anglican bishop, he has every right to demand a more Anglican vision for, and practice in, his diocese, especially now that ever more accessible alternatives exist for those who wish to share, and to express, communion with the Successor of Peter.  Who can doubt that another step will come with next year's General Synod of the Church of England: the overwhelming support of Diocesan Synods across England (except that of London and that of one other diocese) for certain legislation that is unlikely to advance the cause of Catholic Unity must surely give some foretaste of what is ahead. 

The Church of England is, after many years of attempting to be many different things to many different people, moving towards a more confident and clear definition of itself.  That may not be the definition that we would have chosen for it, but it is the definition towards which its democratically elected system of governance is moving.  One may disagree with the idea that religious truth is something that depends on the assent of a majority, and one may say that something is either true or it isn't, regardless of whether people like it or not : but, as a matter of fact, the Church of England operates in that way, and has decided upon a certain path, and it has the right to follow that path.  The Church of England does not need our approval for any decision it makes.

So is it unkind, or is it actually rather merciful, for the Bishop of London to have written his letter in this way at this time?  Is he kicking people when they're down, or is he doing everyone a favour and asking them to make a decision about the future they truly want? 

Enough.  Let us not intrude further.

As we now enter Advent, a period of preparation, a period of readying ourselves for the marking of Christ's coming and of contemplation of his second coming, and a period when we focus on the Four Last Things and what might be our own futures, it is time now for a little Anglican Patrimony (in fact, almost Methodist....). 

One of the most powerful Advent hymns, as indeed already posted by our friends at the Facebook page of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending.  In the link in the previous sentence, you will find this majestic hymn in all its glory, with organ, timpani, trumpets and descant.

O, Come Quickly.  Alleluia, come Lord, come.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

From the Bishop of London, through St Clement, to the Emperor Napoleon

Thanks to our previous blogpost More than Words having been shared on Facebook (if you are not a member of our Facebook group, please think about signing up, the link is in the right hand sidebar of this blog), then having been highlighted by the Ordinariate Portal blog and then finally having been referred to in a few other blogs, we have had very many more visitors than usual over the past couple of days.  A warm welcome to any new readers who have stuck with us and who are now reading their first post-big event blogpost here.

This blog started with the intention of documenting the arrival of our Ordinariate Group in the Catholic Church, and by reporting that we were quite happy with where we had ended up.  Early posts talked of the background to the decision making process, steps along the way in that thought process and then recounted some early experiences.  As time has gone on, posts have gone up based on streams of consciousness inspired by thoughts of the saint of the day, or from some news article or developments or blogposts elsewhere.  Occasionally, we have even strayed into the dangerous field of commenting on what is happening of relevance to our Anglo-Catholic friends still fighting the good fight in the CofE, as we did yesterday: but when commenting on Ordinariate-related matters, as seen from either side of the Tiber, we tend to focus on the happy landing we have had, rather than on the challenges facing those we have very sadly left behind on the other shore.

Today's post is not about the trials and tribulations of Anglo-Catholicism.  There are enough people writing about that already.  Instead, a few brief thoughts on St Clement (with absolutely no mention of Philadelphia).

St Clement, one of the very earliest popes, is one of the names from history that provides a connection with the time of Christ.  Pew fodder like me (sometimes referred to more politely as the laity) so often hear all these marvellous stories from the Gospels, but without the occasional dose of historical perspective, this can sometimes risk appearing to be rather remote.  St Clement, who became Pope at the end of the first century AD, is said to have been ordained by St Peter, and was in Rome at the time St Paul was (and was possibly one of the Romans to whom the Epistle to the Romans was addressed).  He may well be the Clement referred to in Philippians 4:3.
And I entreat thee also, my sincere companion, help those women who have laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement and the rest of my fellow labourers, whose names are in the book of life.
The one surviving document of his, a Letter to the Church in Corinth, is considered among the earliest, indeed possibly the earliest, Christian document after the component books of the New Testament.   The significance of this early letter for those with an interest in Roman primacy and in the threefold structure of Holy Order is that the letter includes authoritative admonitions from St Clement about events that have taken place in the Church in Corinth, and reminding his readers of the hierarchy of the offices of bishop, priest and deacon. 

It is one of those texts that sits very uneasily with the charming but not necessarily entirely accurate image conjured up when people talk cosily of something being "very early church", a term which for some reason now often appears to mean something closer to Quaker prayer meetings than to the highly ritualistic worship of the first century Jewish temple or indeed the very early Church (as Fr Hunwicke has discussed on his blog far more eruditely and eloquently than I ever could). 

St Clement, along with two of the other early popes (Linus and Cletus) are mentioned by name in the Roman Canon.  For those of us who follow the text week by week in the missal (covered by the singing of the Sanctus, the Celebrant's words are usually inaudible at St James's at this point), this provides yet another historical link to the first century.

St Clement's life, as one might expect for a Christian leader at that time, did not end pleasantly.  He is said to have been exiled to a colonial outpost near modern day Sebastopol in the Ukraine during the reign of the Emperor Trajan, and at some point thereafter, he was martyred by being thrown into the Black Sea tied to an anchor.  Given his importance as one of the very first popes, St Clement is almost always pictured in at least mitre, and often in tiara.  When it comes to images of his martyrdom, this leads to some rather interesting results, as this picture shows. 

The Basilica of San Clemente in Rome houses the tombs of St Clement (and of St Ignatius of Antioch).  This minor Basilica became one of the sites frequented by Blessed John Paul II during his years as Pope, on occasions when he wished to pray in particular for Poland, his native land, and for the countries of Eastern Europe.  The reason for the Pope John Paul's many vists was that the Basilica also contains the remains of St Cyril and Methodius, saints who evangelised much of Eastern Europe, and who in 868 brought the mortal remains of St Clement to Rome.

New readers of this blog may not be aware that many of our posts end with a rather tenuous link to a piece of music.  The Alleluia for a Mass of St Clement celebrated today is Tu es Petrus, of which the awe-inspiring setting by James MacMillan, as sung at Westminster Cathedral last year for the Holy Father's visit, is included in the right-hand sidebar of this blog.  The search is then for an alternative setting for inclusion today.  As St Clement was a Pope who struggled with (and was eventually killed by) secular powers, I find my mind somehow turning to Pope Pius VII, a Pope who spent his entire Papacy struggling against French Imperial interference. 

One of the most humiliating moments of his papacy must have been his participation in the extraganza and cavalcade that was what we in English usually call the Coronation of Napoleon, but in fact is properly called the Sacre de Napoleon, the Consecration of Napoleon (French royalty having been consecrated with chrism by the Archbishop of Rheims as the key moment of their formally becoming monarch, rather than the crowning being the crucial thing that people remember).  Huge pressure was placed on Pope Pius VII to attend, and despite recent assasinations of Church officials in France, and against the advice of the Roman Curia, Pius did end up attending (how voluntary this decision was is a matter of debate).  As every school boy and girl used to know, at the crucial moment, Napoleon took the crown himself and placed it on his own head, before himself crowning the Empress Josephine.  The humiliated Pope could do no more than stick to the script and announce "Vivat Imperator in Aeternum", before listening to the choir sing first the Te Deum and then, during the acclamations of the people as Napoleon processed out, "Domine salvum fac imperatorem nostrum Napoleonem".

The Papal Procession had earlier set off for Notre Dame from the Tuileries led by a bishop, carrying a processional cross and seated on a donkey (does that almost count as quasi-Anglican Patrimony, thinking of Aunt Dot and her camel, Fr Chantry-Pigg and the Towers of Trebizond?).  When the Pope arrived at Notre Dame and processed in (minus donkey I suppose, there is no donkey in the David painting of the event), the choir sang the Le Sueur setting of Tu es Petrus.  There you go, I warned you that I liked tenuous links.

St Clement, pray for us.

Monday, 21 November 2011

More Than Words

The new translation of the Mass is hitting the headlines.  As from next Sunday, it becomes compulsory for Catholic parishes in England and Wales to use this new, and in our view much-improved, translation.  The new translation was used for our Reception Mass on September 3rd, and seems to hit the right note between faithfulness to the Latin original, appropriate register and comprehensibility.  There might be one or two things that each of us might have altered, but overall this is a huge improvement. 

Yet the headlines are not about next Sunday's introduction.  Many if not most Catholic parishes have been using the new translation at least occasionally since September, and before long the previous translation will become firmly part of the past.  No, the headlines are about the Anglican Bishop of London and his approach to the use of the new translation in his diocese.

As former Anglo-Catholics who were based in the Diocese of London, it was often slightly difficult to know what to make of Richard Chartres, the Anglican Bishop of London.  On the one hand, he was more happy than one would have thought to go along with what some would see (although I certainly never did) as the "excesses" of Bourne St liturgy and ceremonial : in the first photo below, you see him giving his blessing in a Martin Travers chasuble and wearing a maniple; in the second the "Nero-esque" (not my name for it) Bourne St episcopal throne canopy, under which he has sat; indeed he even failed to flinch when a gremiale was thrust over his knees during a confirmation.  So for these smaller things, he would play ball.

For the bigger picture, it was often rather hard to tell to what extent there was sympathy with an Anglo-Catholic viewpoint.  One read some rather direct criticism of him and his alleged lack of tolerance for Catholicism (and indeed Anglo-Catholicism) on certain blogs and in certain newspapers.  One heard much gossip from what the Bishop of London was said to have called the "Anglo-Catholic Travelling Circus" about various things he might have said or done.  His views at the start of appointment processes as to who might be suitable candidates for the incumbency were often reported to be felt by those in the know to be, let us say, sometimes rather interesting.  All this, though, was nothing particularly unusual in the context of the history of relationships between Anglo-Catholic parishes and their diocesan bishops: in fact, it was really rather mild.  One might even say that the relationship was collaborative. 

Broadly, he let life at Bourne St continue pretty much untouched.  In no way did he give the appearance of following the example of his c19th century predecessor Charles Blomfield, pictured below, who insisted upon the departure of the then incumbent of St Barnabas Pimlico (the neighbouring parish to St Mary's Bourne St) following Protestant riots against ritualist practices in St Barnabas.  Nor did he in any way remind anyone of Blomfield's successor (second picture below) as Bishop of London, Archibald Campbell Tait, who went on to become Archbishop of Canterbury, and who once in that role was one of driving forces behind the passing of the Public Worship Regulation Act 1874, which led to the imprisonment of some of those in the Church of England who used what were seen as "Romish" or "Popish" practices.

Therefore, it is hard to know if he realised quite how much fuss his All Saints' Day Ad Clerum letter would cause.  In our time as Anglicans, he didn't make such public pronouncements on this sort of thing.  There was the odd comment here and there, made as an aside to a group, in a speech to Diocesan Synod or in a reported conversation, but in general these were not of massive significance.  This Ad Clerum letter is different.

Whether one agrees with its thesis or not, the letter does rather seem to be rather good for what it intends to be: it is a very clear statement of where Richard Chartres sees the Anglican Diocese of London being, and of where he sees it as going.  Ignoring some very good things he says that few could object to (in general terms) about the eucharist, the bishop and the local church, and also some remarks he makes on the importance of the sacraments; and ignoring some rather exciting glossing over of things (eg disagreement with Catholic teaching, eg transubstantiation being dismissed as a sort of temporarily useful attempt at explaining something), it strikes us that the letter is saying precisely the sort of thing that an Anglican bishop is perfectly entitled to be saying.  That the Anglican Bishop of London, in 2011, doesn't agree with the teachings of the Catholic Church shouldn't really shock anyone.  Nobody ever thought that Richard Chartres was an Anglo-Catholic in the way that his predecessor Monsignor Graham Leonard was, and to be fair, he has never marketed himself as such.

What is the specific issue at stake?  The little challenge that Richard Chartres has thrown out is that he has made it very plain that the new translation of the Mass should not be used in the Diocese of London.  Anglo-Catholics already knew that the mere existence of this new translation provided them with a real challenge.  Neither ignoring the new translation, nor adopting it, would prove easy.  Those who used the 1970 translation, having prided themselves on being in line with Rome, would find themselves using a liturgy authorised for use neither in the Church of England nor in the Catholic Church.  Those who wished to take up the new translation would have to be inventive in their justification for doing so.

The always interesting Fr Trevor Jones, Vicar of St Peter's London Docks (where the famous Fr Charles Lowder was once Vicar (having earlier been a curate at St Barnabas, Pimlico)), summed it up like this in a paragraph from his much-to-be recommended Peterite blog
My local SSC chapter both used and talked about the changes a few weeks ago, I know younger priests who plan to make the move in September and November but there has been little wider discussion ( of which I am aware). I am aware of priests who have chosen each of the three options, 1: Change to the new translation at once, 2: change to an amended CW in order to retain the old agreed texts. 3: Stick with the present ( and unauthorized from any source) translation. The first has the virtue of clarity, Western Rite (as we once called it) is Western Rite and thus an Anglo-Catholic default, the second has the virtue of indicating a loyalty to norms that derive from historic Anglican forms and re-engages a previous Anglo-Catholic default position ("use what you can from official Anglican sources, add what is missing"), the third position is one within which I can see no virtue, but I am sure that at some forthcoming meeting someone will offer a plausible argument to me; Anglo-Catholicism, the home of the plausible argument!  POSTED AUGUST 7th 2011
There seems much jumping of the gun in the use of the new Missal, in the pre-fab form which is authorised from this Sunday. One cleric told me that the Ordinariate were already allowed to use it and he thought of himself as the Church of England wing of the Ordinariate and thus permitted. It's hard to think what to say to that.  POSTED AUGUST 31st 2011
The difficulty is not so much that the Bishop of London is strongly critical of any of his clergy adopting the new translation.  Rather, it is his argument for taking this approach.  In short, he says that Anglicanorum Coetibus has called bluffs : those who wanted to use texts issued by Rome that express communion with the Pope have headed off to the Ordinariate, those who remain should not be following instructions issued by the Pope to those in that other communion.  His conclusion is that if people in the Diocese of London use the new translation, they are rejecting the instructions of both the Catholic Church and those of the Diocese of London.

Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith has written a very good post on this topic in his blog for The Catholic Herald. 

Fr Ed Tomlinson, in his typically forthright style, picks up on the fact that Anglicans using the Roman Rite used to argue for this approach on the basis of promoting moves towards unity, but wonders how those who are not attracted by the Ordinariate (or by otherwise joining the Catholic Church) can still say that their reason for choosing the Roman Rite would be connected with the promotion of unity with the Catholic Church.  His question is :
... how can any sane person turn to Rome for spiritual authority having just chosen to stand with Canterbury on matters of ecclesiological authority?
He might not have put it quite as bluntly as Fr Ed did (even if his message was pretty direct), but the Bishop of London's underlying point is exactly the same as Fr Ed's.

Finally, Fr Ray Blake in his blog says that the Bishop of London's words might be a little harsh on those affected in the CofE, and cites an amusing anecdote about the late, great Archbishop Amigo of Southwark.

We have to say that we struggle to disagree with the Bishop of London on this.  Now, of course you could very reasonably respond "You would say that, wouldn't you."  Given the decisions we have made and the path we have taken, it would be utterly bizarre if we didn't: but that, of itself, doesn't make the conclusion incorrect.

To calm everyone down after that, to mark today being the Feast of the Presentation of the Virgin, here is a very fine piece of Josquin, thanks due to Eoghain Murphy for his advocacy of this excellent setting (just wait for 1.52).

Our Lady, pray for us and for the Unity of Christians.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Christ the King

We now approach the final days of the Church's year.   There is one more great feast day to come before we move into a new year, and into the penitential and preparational season of Advent.  In the modern calendar, the last Sunday of the liturgical year (ie tomorrow) is the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe.  Pope Paul VI moved the date of this feast in 1969, previously it had been celebrated on the last Sunday before All Saints' Day (and still is when the Extraordinary Form is used), which was the date set in the encyclical letter Quas Primas of Pope Pius XI, promulgated on 11 December 1925.

There are some rather good images of Christ the King, including the Van Eyck above, and indeed the rather more traditionally devotional image shown below (which I rather like).  However, we should not make the mistake of assuming that the feast is only about the time when the request expressed in the words of the Pater Noster "Thy kingdom come" have been fulfilled, even if Pope Paul VI's placing of the feast at the end of year points in that direction.

The feast is also about the ways in which Christ is already the Universal King.  In his Angelus address on the Feast of Christ the King in 2006, Pope Benedict XVI said that "The Cross is the 'throne' from which He demonstrated the sublime regality of God-love."  He went on to explain that Christ the King is not about human-style power, but about service and love, with the perfect example of acceptance of this being the life of the Virgin Mary. As a result of her fiat mihi, "God exalted her over all other creatures, and Christ crowned her Queen of heaven and earth."  

If you have trawled through the details of the right-hand sidebar of this blog, you might have spotted that the there is an embedded youtube video of Blessed John Henry Newman's Lead Kindly Light, sung by the late, great Irish tenor Frank Patterson.  Perhaps it is my Celtic blood, but I must confess a fondness for his performances of church music: so be warned, there will be more links in the future.  Frank Patterson was not only a talented tenor who sang for Popes and Presidents, but he was also a devout Catholic and indeed a Knight of Malta.  Having offered a brief prayer for the repose of his soul, we turn to his stirring performance of Hail Redeemer King Divine.

On a personal note, approaching the turn of the liturgical year gives pause for reflection.  This is not just in the way it always does, thinking of lost family and friends throughout the month of the Holy Souls, and of the Four Last Things in Advent, and indeed of the joy and hope to be brought by Christmas and a new year.  For members of all the Ordinariate groups, this is the end of the liturgical year in which we left our (yes we admit it) much loved Church of England in order to share, with much joy, the priority given by the Holy Father to Christ's fervent desire that all should be one.  Therefore, with sincere thanksgiving for our welcome in the Catholic Church through the Ordinariate, we also pause to pray for all those we have left behind in the Church of England, noting that we now for the first time enter a liturgical year without them. 

Coming from St Mary's Bourne St, the Feast of Christ the King is a particularly potent memory.  This was, and continues to be, marked in quite some style at St Mary's.  We send our friends there every good wish for tomorrow's event. 

For old time's sake, here is a photo taken from the organ gallery at St Mary's during the celebrations for Christ the King in 2009.  The author of this blogpost is acting as subdeacon, another member of Marylebone Ordinariate Group is on the far left at the altar rail, and it wouldn't surprise me if the third member of our group were also somewhere in the serving group. 

One Bourne St tradition at Christ the King that we can happily copy on this blog is the inclusion of the Hallelujah Chorus.  So, here it is.  A very happy Feast of the Christ the Universal King to you all, and please join your prayers with ours as we prepare to enter a new year.

Our Lady, pray for us, and may the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Petrine Works Old and New

Today is the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilicas of St Peter and of St Paul.  St Peter's must surely be the most well known church building in the world, and forms the heart of the Vatican City.  You might have noticed that we have modified the title design of the blog in honour of this great building.  In spite of being so well known, as mentioned in last week's post on the Basilica of St John Lateran, St Peter's is not, as is commonly assumed, a cathedral, and it is not where the cathedra of the Bishop of Rome is situated.

However, St Peter's is the obvious photo used whenever the Vatican or the Roman Church is mentioned, and as such it is an immensely powerful symbol of the Catholic Church, recognised outside the Church and by people with absolutely no interest in Catholicism, Christianity or religion.

The Basilica of St Paul outside the Walls (Basilica Papale di San Paolo fuori le Mura) is perhaps slightly less well known (apart from a brief burst of fame in 2008, when there was media speculation about its Abbot, Edmund Power, potentially having been in the running for the post of Archbishop of Westminster), but like St Peter's and like St John Lateran is one of the four ancient Papal Basilicas to be found in Rome.  The fourth is Santa Maria Maggiore, of which more some other time.

The sites of both Basilicas have been places of pilgrimage from very early, and indeed long before it became "safe" or "established religion" to perform such acts of devotion.  Henry Vollam Morton, the journalist and travel writer (perhaps best known for being the first to break the story, in the Daily Express, of Lord Caernarvon and Howard Carter's opening of the tomb of Tutankhamun) put it like this in his 1959 book This is Rome :
It is extraordinarily interesting that Roman pilgrimage began at an…early time. Pilgrims did not wait for the Peace of the Church [Constantine’s edict of toleration] before they visited the tombs of the Apostles. They went to Rome a century before there were any public churches and when the Church was confined to the tituli [private homes] and the catacombs. The two great pilgrimage sites were exactly as today—the tombs, or memorials, of St. Peter upon the Vatican Hill and the tomb of St. Paul off the Ostian Way.
People have oftened question whether the ancient relics in St Peter's and St Paul's are what they say they are. However, much investigation has been carried out on this.

Years of architectural work at St Peter's (exploring areas of the Basilica that had not been accessible since the 9th century) led to Pope Pius XII proclaiming in December 1950 that although we could not be absolutely certain at that time that the remains in St Peter's were indeed those of St Peter, certain convincing evidence had come to light that pointed in that direction, and that therefore it was believed that the tomb of St Peter had been found.  Tradition held that St Peter had been buried on the Vatican Hill, and that since that time, martyrs, popes and other Christians had been buried nearby : the architectural work certainly showed that the Vatican had been built over a cemetery that dated back to the right period.   At the lowest level of the various levels of burials, an aedicula containing bone fragments wrapped in tissue with gold decorations and precious murex purple : this would certainly indicate the burial of someone considered to be of great importance.

Further work, including the discovery of an inscription, and the testing of bones showing that they belonged to a man of 60-70 years of age, led to Pope Paul VI declaring in 1968 that the matter was now beyond doubt.

As to the remains of St Paul in the Basilica of St Paul outside the Walls, the formal confirmation of the discovery of the white marble sarcophagus of St Paul was made in 2006 (although a 19th century chronicle entry from the Benedictine abbey next to the Basilica comments briefly on the discovery of the sarcophagus). The sarcophagus was then analysed until 2009.  Carbon dating carried out during that process showed that the bone fragments found in the sarcophagus of St Paul did indeed date from the first century AD, and that grains of incense and pieces of purple linen had been found alongside the bone fragments. Pope Benedict XVI announced in December 2009 that this seemed to add convincing weight to the uninterrupted tradition that the remains of St Paul's are buried in the Basilica.

For some light relief before the next section of this post, which gets a little serious, here is a selection of photos of St Peter's accompanied by the Sanctus from Schubert's Mass in E flat.

The Holy Father begins his travels to Benin today, a country that, along with most of Africa, is seeing exponential growth of Catholicism (Benin has roughly 500,000 more Catholics than it did ten years ago).  This growth sits oddly with the crazed cries of much of the media whenever the Holy Father visits or talks of Africa, virtually accusing him of personal involvement with a deliberate campaign of mass murder.  The fuss when Pope Benedict visited Cameroon and Angola two years ago, when the media extracted one sentence from his in-flight pre-visit address to journalists and spoke of nothing else was utterly scandalous, yet absolutely predictable : no talk of the growth of the Church in Africa, no talk of Church schools, Church hospitals, Church activity to support and treat those with AIDS and other diseases, Church orphanages, Church aid to the poor, and of course no talk of anything even vaguely touching on the spiritual. 

I hope the point is not silly, but this is the precise opposite of the way the media treated the recent death of Sir Jimmy Saville.  There was much talk of his immense and unquestionably marvellous charitable deeds (for which he received a Papal Knighthood), which was very welcome publicity for doing good works : but there was no mention of him attending Mass on an almost daily basis.  There, no credit could be given to Sir Jimmy's Catholicism, but when there is anything for which it is believed (rightly or wrongly) that "blame" is "needed", then the media are very keen on blaming Catholicism as a whole, and indeed the Pope himself.

Let us hope and pray that the media are going to be slightly more balanced during this trip, but sadly it seems that the media are not only sex-obsessed but lazy : a quick search on the internet reveals that the same old blinkered nonsense is being rehashed, of course entirely removed from the full context of the discussion.  Nobody expects all journalists to agree with what the Pope says, nor to praise him, but it would be nice to have a proper, reasoned discussion, rather than just be witness to the de-contextualised slinging about of extreme accusations.

Anyway, the work of this modern Successor of St Peter is for the "common good", just as was the work of St Peter himself.  Let us wish the Holy Father well on his trip.

St Peter, St Paul, all Saints of Africa, pray for us.

Thursday, 17 November 2011


Readers could be forgiven for expecting that today's blogpost would follow the Hungarian connection of yesterday's post on St Margaret of Scotland by talking of St Elizabeth of Hungary, that noble and pious woman who gave to the poor and adhered to her vows despite many challenges.  St Elizabeth of Hungary's feast day falls today, but she is not the subject of this post.

Since our Ordinariate group was founded on 3 September 2011, the Feast of St Gregory the Great (indeed one of our members took the name Gregory as his chrismation name), and since we have already talked of St Gregory the Illuminator, it seems like a good idea to bring to your attention a saint with surely one of the most exciting appellations around, St Gregory the Wonderworker.

St Gregory the Wonderworker (being the literal translation of St Gregory Thaumaturgus, and also called St Gregory of Neocaesarea) is, as his name suggests, associated with obtaining many miracles through his powers of intercession, even during his lifetime.  There are reports of his obtaining that a lake be dried up, of his holding back a rising tide by placing a staff in the ground, of him and a Deacon hiding from the authorities by taking the shape of trees and of him causing rocks to move.  St Gregory of Nyssa also records that St Gregory the Wonderworker was the first known person to see a vision of the Virgin.

Beyond this though, he is of interest for some rather more everyday things.  Many a bishop, priest and deacon will recognise in St Gregory the Wonderworker the impact that administration and workload have on the time available for clergy to maintain a spiritual life and pursue studies.  Those involved in apologetics, evangelism and catechesis will appreciate his examination of just what it was that made Origen such a convincing converter of the unbelieving - not only sound argument, but strong conviction, sincerity and a powerfully persuasive style (and even the odd outburst of temper). 

The bishops of 3rd Century Asia Minor are of huge importance to anyone studying the phenomenon of the growth of the Church.  Not only were they numerous (a community needed to have only 10 souls in order to be eligible to have its own bishop), but they were hugely influential and succesful.  Their local legacy endures much more obviously to this day than the local legacy of the no less numerous bishops of North Africa of around the same period, of whom Fr Colven spoke so interestingly in a recent homily at St James' Spanish Place.  Of all of these prelates of ancient Asia Minor, St Gregory the Wonderworker stands out on account of the sheer provable historicity of his life and works.  He is better and more fully documented than many before and after him, and his own writings add to the body of evidence of his approach and teachings.

An interesting text from this Pre-Nicene Father is his Declaration of Faith, which does not sound at all unfamiliar to any of us even today.
There is one God, the Father of the living Word, who is His subsistent Wisdom and Power and Eternal Image: perfect Begetter of the perfect Begotten, Father of the only-begotten Son. There is one Lord, Only of the Only, God of God, Image and Likeness of Deity, Efficient Word, Wisdom comprehensive of the constitution of all things, and Power formative of the whole creation, true Son of true Father, Invisible of Invisible, and Incorruptible of Incorruptible, and Immortal of Immortal and Eternal of Eternal. And there is One Holy Spirit, having His subsistence from God, and being made manifest by the Son, to wit to men: Image of the Son, Perfect Image of the Perfect; Life, the Cause of the living; Holy Fount; Sanctity, the Supplier, or Leader, of Sanctification; in whom is manifested God the Father, who is above all and in all, and God the Son, who is through all. There is a perfect Trinity, in glory and eternity and sovereignty, neither divided nor estranged. Wherefore there is nothing either created or in servitude in the Trinity; nor anything superinduced, as if at some former period it was non-existent, and at some later period it was introduced. And thus neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abideth ever.
The Gradual set for a Mass celebrated on the Feast of St Gregory the Wonderworker is a very well known text indeed, coming from the first reading set for Mass on this day, Ecclesiasticus 44:16. 
Ecce sacerdos magnus qui in diebus suis placuit Deo.  Non est investus similis illi, qui conservaret legem Excelsi.

Behold a great priest, who in his days pleased God.  There was not found the like to him, who kept the law of the Most High.
Which setting of that glorious text to include today (even if the choral settings one might choose are not of entirely the same text)?  This blog has already linked to the awe-inspiring setting by Bruckner, as sung at Westminster Cathedral during the Holy Father's visit in 2010.  Therefore, the obvious choice would seem to be the Elgar, as sung so regularly in our days at St Mary's Bourne St, and as sung at St James's Spanish Place on the occasion of the visit of Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Mennini, on St James's Day this year. 

This is perhaps not the best edition, shall we say, of the Elgar, but the photos are wonderful.

St Gregory the Wonderworker, St Elizabeth of Hungary, pray for us.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

St Margaret of Scotland

November 16th is, in the modern calendar, the Feast of St Margaret of Scotland.  Another occasion to talk about Scottish pre-reformation church buildings, as well as the Saint of the day.  In a recent post, we talked about Pluscarden Abbey, Dunblane Cathedral and Dunkeld Cathedral, this time the focus must be on Dunfermline Abbey.

Born in Hungary around 1045, granddaughter of the exiled King of England, Margaret grew up in the pious atmosphere of the Hungarian Royal Court of "King Andrew the Catholic".  Her family returned to England for a few years, and then fled north to Northumbria after the Norman invasion.  Legend has it that the family was attempting to return to Europe when a storm blew their boat north and brought them to land in what is now the town of North Queensferry (a place I remember well from my childhood).  A few years later, Margaret married King Malcolm III of Scotland and became one of the most well known of those who have held the title Queen of Scots.

She is remarkable for several reasons.  First as a mother of eight children : three of her sons became Kings of Scotland, one of her daughters married King Henry I of England, another married the Count of Boulogne (the elder brother of King Baldwin I of Jerusalem), and yet another son became Abbot of Dunkeld.  She is also well known for her works of charity, indeed the towns of North and South Queensferry are so named because she provided for there to be ferry services there for pilgrims to cross the River Forth from Edinburgh to St Andrews in Fife.  Another reason for her influence being so strong is that, like St Cedd, St Wilfred and St Hilda, she was a key mover in ensuring that the practices of the local church conformed to the practices of the Church as a whole. 

In 1072, King Malcolm and Queen Margaret invited the Benedictines to send some of their number from Canterbury to turn Dunfermline Abbey (which had started life in the ninth century) into a Benedictine Priory Church.  The Abbey was properly founded, with Geoffrey of Canterbury as its first Abbot, in the reign of King David I (not, as was subsequently claimed for the purposes of increasing the cult of St Margaret, under King Malcolm and Queen Margaret).

Dunfermline Abbey itself holds a remarkable place in Scottish religious history.  Turned over to the crown after the Reformation, during which it was sacked, the Abbey was caught up in the Episcopalian vs Presbyterian difficulties of the 17th century, at one time having both an Episcopalian Bishop and a Presbyterian minister running parts of the building.  At the time of the early 19th century splits in the Church of Scotland, its minister first decided to join the Free Church of Scotland, then returned to the Church of Scotland. 

The Abbey is also a potent symbol of Scottish nationhood, not only on account of its royal foundation by Malcolm and Margaret.  Legend says that the mother of William Wallace is buried there, and it is known that King Robert the Bruce is buried there (Dunfermline became the burial place of Scottish kings after the Norwegian occupation of Iona, and has received more Scottish royal dead than any other place other than Iona).  The Bruce's remains were exhumed in the early 19th century, when extensive reconstruction work was needed following the collapse of the Abbey's tower, and he was subsequently reburied in the fervent atmosphere of 19th century romanticist Scottish fantasy (it's OK, I can say that, I'm Scottish....).

The tomb of St Margaret herself, within the ruins of the Lady Chapel, was restored and enclosed on the orders of Queen Victoria.

More recently, the Abbey has shown itself to be very open to recognising its complicated but stunning religious history, and in 2005 invited Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, to preach, the first Catholic to preach in Dunfermline Abbey since the Reformation.  That same day, the Lord Lyon King of Arms formally presented new armorial bearings to the Abbey in the person of its minister.  The Lord Lieutenant of Fife and the Earl and Countess of Elgin were in attendance.

In order to provide some relevant music, I tried to find a youtube link to some Robert Carver, a Scottish renaissance composer of some rather good polyphony, but could find none.  I recommend the recordings made by Andrew Carwood of Carver's works.  Instead, maintaining the theme of the Scottish hierarchy, here is a video of Cardinal O'Brien assisting at an FSSP Solemn High Mass in St Mary's Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh. 

St Margaret of Scotland, pray for us.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Remembrance Sunday 2011

A Solemn Mass of Requiem was celebrated yesterday at St James's, offered for the repose of the souls of all those who have lost their lives in the wars and conflicts of the last century.  Being used to the way Remembrance Sunday is marked in the Church of England, and never having attended a Remembrance Sunday Requiem Mass in the Catholic Church, we were not entirely sure what to expect, but what we did find was very very pleasing.

The church was beautifully prepared.  As I had arrived slightly early, I had the opportunity to take a couple of pictures without causing too much disturbance, before too many people had arrived and begun their devotions.  These two photos show the black altar frontal on the High Altar, and the poppies both before the High Altar and on the hanging on the pulpit legilium.  You might spot that beeswax candles were used (not just on the altar, but around the church), as is appropriate for a requiem. 

After the Creed, which ended almost exactly at 11am, a trumpeter played the Last Post and we began the observation of two minutes of silence.  Then, the trumpeter played the Rouse, after which we moved on to the intercessions.  Pairing these two bugle calls in this way always seems to be much more theologically appropriate than ending a period of silence with the Last Post : the night time call, the Last Post, is followed by a period of silence and reflection, before the call of the Rouse (being the call to rise, not the call to wake up, which is the Reveille). 

Even the arrival of the procession was moving, first the thurifer and four acolytes bearing requiem candles, then the Cross being borne by an army officer in dress uniform, and finally, after the MC, three concelebrating priests (Frs Colven, Irwin and Kavanagh) in black chasubles. 

As usual, the music was of the highest quality, the six part Victoria Requiem being sung.  The solo chant section of the end of Offertory, the Hostias, was as haunting as ever.  After Mass, instead of the usual recessional hymn, we sang two verses of the National Anthem while the sanctuary party joined us in facing towards the High Altar.  I wish I had had the nerve to take a photo of that moment, but perhaps next year. 

In posts earlier this month, both on Armistice Day, 11 November and on All Souls' Day, we referred to our duty to pray for the dead, along with some explanation of why this is such a strongly Catholic approach.  Fr Colven brought this very clearly into focus once again in his Homily yesterday, noting that the Church instructs us to pray for the departed.  Praying for the Living and the Dead is indeed one of the Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy.  So, once more, let us pray for the repose of the souls of all the faithful departed, especially those who gave their lives in war, that others might live in freedom and in peace.

Let us conclude with the words of the Angel's Farewell, the conclusion of the Dream of Gerontius, written of course by Blessed John Henry Newman.  At his point, Gerontius has died and is now referred to as the Soul, and is guided after death by his Guardian Angel, past demons of hell and briefly into the Beatific Vision, before being gently placed in Purgatory by the Angel.  The Angel addresses the Soul in the following words.  
Softly and gently, dearly-ransom'd soul
In my most loving arms I now enfold thee
And, o'er the penal waters, as they roll,
I poise thee, and I lower thee, and hold thee.
And carefully I dip thee in the lake,
And thou, without a sob or a resistance,
Dost through the flood thy rapid passage take,
Sinking deep, deeper, into the dim distance. 
Angels, to whom the willing task is given,
Shall tend, and nurse, and lull thee, as thou liest;
And Masses on the earth, and prayers in Heaven,
Shall aid thee at the Throne of the Most Highest.
Farewell, but not forever, brother dear,
Be brave and patient on thy bed of sorrow;
Swiftly shall pass thy night of trial here,
And I will come and wake thee on the morrow.  
Farewell! Farewell! 

Lord, Thou hast been our refuge: in every generation;
Before the hills were born, and the world
was, from age to age Thou art God.
Bring us not, Lord, very low: for Thou hast
said, Come back again, O Lord! how long:
and be entreated for Thy servants
The organ arrangement of this beautiful piece was played as retiring voluntary yesterday at St James's.  Here is a recording of Janet Baker singing the original.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Requiescant in Pace

November 11 is still marked as a national holiday in France, and so I find myself at home in London, having a poppy on my shopping list (they are unknown and hence unpurchasable in France).  That the French still have a national holiday and that we will have, in many places, a two minutes silence today and also a national ceremony this Sunday, shows that there is still, in our consciousness, a deep awareness of the significance of what sacrifices have been made in our name.  Yes, there may be the odd silly and unpleasant incident reported in the Daily Mail, where foolish students flying high on drink or drugs, on the spur of the moment, desecrate a memorial: but even they, in moments of cool sobriety, have some awareness of the sacrifice that others have made for them.

There may now be no World War I veterans left to act as a living link to those who gave their lives, but the importance of the National Act of Remembrance is undiminished, not least because we have seen so many other wars since the "War to end all Wars", that those who fought in World War II, Korea, The Falklands, the First Gulf War, and even in today's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, remind us of the debt that we as a civil society owe.

One can only hope and pray that the protesters outside St Paul's Cathedral, whose very freedom to act in the way they now act stems from those who gave their lives for their country, will not disrupt any of the commemorations to be held at St Paul's. 

From a religious perspective too, we have a duty today.  We must give thanks for all those who gave their lives, for those who have come home injured mentally or physically, and for those who still today risk everything for others.  Some may not agree with the cause of each individual war or battle, but it is surely beyond doubt that the soldiers, sailors and airmen involved are doing their duty, and doing so at enormous risk to themselves.  We must also ask for those who mourn lost family and friends to be comforted.  We must contribute in almsgiving, perhaps through the simple gesture of buying a poppy, to support those who support those in need.  We must pray for the military chaplains, who provide comfort, support, prayer and the sacraments to the forces.

Most of all though, we must offer prayers for the repose of the souls of all who have given their lives in war. 

In paradisum deducant te Angeli; in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Ierusalem. Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere æternam habeas requiem.

Fr Ray Blake shared this photo on his blog recently (a link to his blog can be found on the right hand sidebar of this blog).  It shows Mass being celebrated in 1946 in St Paul's Cathedral, Munster. 

We pray for all victims of war, of all nationalities, those who died in war, and those whose lives were changed by war, whether through bereavement or upheaval. 

Instead of the usual Faure or Durufle, or even Victoria or Lobo, here is the Introit from the Requiem Mass set by Esteban Salas y Castro, an eighteenth century Cuban priest, teacher and composer.  To me, it seems a little less sombre than many a setting of the Requiem Mass, something which does not seem entirely inappropriate, given that a Requiem Mass is not solely an occasion for grief, but also and much more so an occasion for prayer for the departed and for joyful hope in the life of the world to come.

Requiescant in pace.