It seems that almost every time I have attended Mass at Westminster Cathedral over the past year, something newsworthy happens in connection with the Ordinariate. Yesterday seems to have been no exception. Before announcing what the news of great joy is (in the unlikely event that you don't already know), here is yet another of my grainy pictures, this time showing the procession leaving after the 5.30 Mass yesterday evening.
There were several things that struck me about yesterday's Mass. The fact that the animatrice not only had an excellent voice, but that she was extremely useful (my experience of witnessing people perform this role before has not always been as happy). The powerful intercessions, asking God's blessing on and guidance for those preparing to make their Advent confession, and equally for the priests preparing to hear Advent confessions. The singing of O Come O Come Emmanuel by the congregation, which seemed to fill over 80% of the seating, impressive on a bitingly cold December evening.
One thing, more than anything else, stood out yesterday. It wasn't particularly seasonal at all, and indeed I have witnessed it before (including precisely one week ago), but it really spoke to me yesterday. Canon Christopher Tuckwell was the Celebrant : at the censing, as he stood alone under that magnificent baldacchino, facing the Cross on the altar, it really was the clearest vision imaginable of the priest going into the holy of holies, preparing for something truly momentous, going alone to the altar in persona Christi to offer that most perfect sacrifice. Somehow the simple sight of a solitary figure standing before and then moving around that massive and splendid altar generated a clarity of vision that I had rarely experienced before.
Back to the great news. You may have noticed on the Ordinariate website, or in their newsletter, or even on the Facebook site of the Marylebone Ordinariate Group (if you haven't yet signed up to "like" our Facebook page, please do so), that there is a special anniversary coming up. On January 15, it will be exactly one year since that momentous day in Westminster Cathedral when Monsignor Newton, Monsignor Broadhurst and Monsignor Burnham were ordained as Catholic priests by Archbishop Vincent Nichols. That day was the day on which the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was formally erected.
That day was also of huge importance in the progress of the members of the Marylebone Ordinariate Group towards becoming Catholics. The huge and joyous congregation, the sense of warmth and welcome and that this was precisely the right thing to be doing, the dignified liturgy, the excellent music, the feeling of there being a shared purpose and a shared set of beliefs, the goal of Christian Unity coming nearer: these were all factors that combined to become a significant influence on us and no doubt on many others.
Therefore, it is only right that this day should be marked in some way.
At 5pm on Sunday 15 January, by kind permission of the Rector, Fr Christopher Colven, there will be a service of Solemn Evensong and Benediction (in the rite approved for use in the Ordinariate) at St James's, Spanish Place. Monsignor Newton will preside. As St James's is the parish church in which the Marylebone Ordinariate Group meets, we are of course particularly delighted about this event.
(Those of you who have not yet read William Oddie's excellent book The Roman Option, written in 1997, which sets out with astonishing prescience a vision of what is only now beginning to come to fruition, will not have seen the excellent letter included as an appendix to the book : it was a letter written in 1995 by Fr Colven when he was the Vicar of the Anglican parish of St Stephen's Gloucester Road, talking to his parishioners about his decision to join the Catholic Church, and the possibilities for some of them to do the same. It is most definitely worth reading.)
Much is in the planning still for this service of Solemn Evensong & Benediction, and so cannot yet be revealed, but this promises to be a very exciting day. We have much to give thanks for, and much on which to ask for guidance. Marking this occasion in the form of a Solemn Evensong & Benediction, perhaps one of the "trademark" services of Anglo-Catholicism and yet perfectly adaptable to Catholic worship, in such a beautiful church seems exactly the right thing to do.
We ask you all to publicise this event as widely as you can, perhaps by sending this blog article to your friends, sharing the Facebook link to this post, and/or by increasing awareness of the event in any way you can find. We want Ordinariate members, all Catholics, any interested Anglicans, and indeed all wellwishers to be there to express their support by their presence and through their prayers. The Ordinariate is the Holy Father's personal project, and certainly all Catholics will most surely want to do everything they can to advance it.
Even as we watch and wait in the last days of Advent, in preparation for the great Solemnity ahead of us this Sunday, let us give thanks and praise to Almighty God for the existence of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, for the nascent Ordinariates in the USA, Australia and Canada, and indeed for Pope Benedict XVI's marvellous initiative of Anglicanorum Coetibus.