Saturday, 9 July 2016


Arundel Cathedral: Our Lady & S Philip Howard 
One of our priests claimed a first in Arundel. As an Anglican he had celebrated in the Nave of the Parish Church. Ever since the Reformation that has been the Parish Church for the Church of England. Then after Anglicanorum Coetibus and his reception and Ordination in the Catholic Church he had celebrated Mass in the east end of the same church, which thanks to the Dukes of Norfolk had remained Catholic. So it is easy to see why such a place as Arundel was chosen as one of the Pilgrimage goals for the Ordinariate in this Year of Mercy.

The pilgrimage began in the Fitzalan Chapel, the quire of the old Parish Church, where our Ordinary was joined by a number of pilgrim priests hearing confessions in readiness for Mass. There, surrounded by the tombs of generations of Dukes of Norfolk and their kin the divided history of our nation became apparent. So many had suffered deprivation and worse at the hands of successive Tudors and Stuarts. Yet still the Duke of Norfolk remains, Earl Marshal and hereditary Marshal of England.
The Catholic East end of the Parish Church
So, for instance, the organisation of a Coronation is his responsibility. We processed, almost two hundred of us, from the Chapel across to the Cathedral. The Mass was celebrated by our Ordinary, Mgr Keith Newton, with a dozen or so concelebrants. who like the lay pilgrims came from across southern England. We were from Pembury and Deal in the east to Salisbury and Bournemouth in the west; from the balmy southern depths of  Eastbourne and the Isle of Wight to the frozen northern wastes of Reading and London.

Mass ended (when the organist finished his voluntary) with prayers at the shrine of St Philip Howard, one of the forty English Martyrs.

At St Philip's Shrine

Then we scattered across the town for lunch, and met again in mid-afternoon at the Cathedral for Benediction.
Communion being administered in the Cathedral

A great day, owing much to Fr Neil Chatfield's organisation. On unfamiliar territory his serving team did very well. Mgr Keith's sermon was especially apposite in such a setting. There were occasional logistical hiccups - a few people were mislaid for a while, there was no way of communicating with the Organist - but everyone seemed to have had a great pilgrimage, and greatly valued the chance of meeting and catching up with old friends and making some new ones.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

No Ordinary Day

St Thomas More dressed overall
St Thomas More in Iford is a Catholic Parish Church, the home too of the Bournemouth Ordinariate and also of a congregation of Syro-Malabar Catholics. Today our Ordinary, Mgr Keith Newton, experienced all three during his visit. He preached for the parish Mass, celebrated and preached for the Ordinariate, and joined in the procession in the afternoon in honour of Saints Thomas the Apostle and Alphonsa, The Kerala Indians really know how to decorate a Church for a Festival; later they added coloured umbrellas and banners; all very jolly.
First umbrella in place

For us in the Ordinariate July 3rd, being a Sunday, had no special mention of Thomas the Apostle - though of course he appears in the Ordinariate Canon of the Mass. It is good to know he is not forgotten in the Syro-Malabar Rite. The Anglican Church where I began to learn the faith was St Thomas' Keyham in Devonport. In those distant days we celebrated him on December 21st, the very darkest part of the year, and even if it fell on a weekday,and despite being only a few days before Christmas, there would be good numbers in church both early in the morning (7am I think) and in the evening.

Chatting over the Bring and Share Luncheon
Mgr Keith had a very upbeat message for us all, reminding us of our vocation to evangelize. After Mass there was a terrific buffet lunch prepared by Madeleine, Lisa and their helpers, and before he left us to go to the Festival Mgr Keith stayed on for a while to give us further encouragement and advice, and to listen to some of our grumbles. The collect alas was in  bowdlerised form once again ['that we, loving thee above all things, may obtain thy promises which exceed all that we can desire' has had it balance upset with the addition of 'in all things' before 'and above all things'. American inclusivity, I suppose - in case something feels left out; and might even sue!] And of course "man's understanding" has to become "our understanding". Thank goodness the Catholic RSV does not go down that particular PC road. But we overlook these shortcomings when we can have such a joyful and tuneful celebration.
St Thomas the Apostle and St Alphonsa ready for the processio
May Blessed John Henry Newman, St Thomas More, St Alphonsa and St Thomas the Apostle pray for us, and bring us into ever closer unity with one another and with our Blessed Lord.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Tin-Eared Liturgists

Wiiliam Topaz McGonagall 
Florence Foster Jenkins; what a woman! She almost provoked a riot at Carnegie Hall when she gave concert there. We have just been to see Meryl Streep in the role, at our little local Cinema in the Community Centre. She reminded me of other dear deluded souls, who thought they were something they were not. Thomas Bowdler was perhaps the greatest of them all, supposing he could improve on Shakespeare and make his plays more family-friendly and more 'relevant' (dangerous idea). Then of course there was the inimitable, but often imitated, William Topaz McGonagall of Dundee, who immortalised the great Tay Bridge disaster and thought he was writing epic poetry..

This week, though, in the Ordinariate liturgy, we have discovered another contender for the title 'King of the tin-eared'. I do hope someone can tell us who it is who manages, with just a word or a phrase, to destroy the poetry of Cranmer's collects. Is it perhaps the same person who fiddled about with the Prayer of Thanksgiving? I wrote about those amendments in a previous post. Here is what Cranmer gave us in the collect for Trinity IV:

"O God, the protector of all that trust in thee,
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy;
increase and multiply up on thy mercy,
that thou being our ruler and guide,
we may so pass through things temporal,
that we finally lose not the things eternal:
Grant this, O Heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ's sake, our Lord."

Our liturgical genius, whoever she or he might be, excised the phrase
'that we finally lose not the things eternal' and substituted
'that we lose not our hold on things eternal'.

Does this improve the sense of the collect? Does it make the rhythm, the poetry, any better? Does it substitute acceptable catholic theology for Cranmer's protestantism? Surely none of these things. It just makes the collect end 'CLUNK' for all of us who have known the original from our earliest days. There are many more examples of this sort of rabid tinkering, and I shall hope to point them out as they occur in the liturgy. Then perhaps when our beloved Ordinariate Divine Worship comes to be revised in a century or two these 'improvements' can be reversed.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

A Missionary Church

A Great Day Out
In my Anglican days we were often being encouraged to support missionary societies but we seldom heard about our need to be re-evangelised ourselves.

Fr Gerry in his Cloth of Silver
Then, when we were brought into the Catholic Church, we discovered that many parishes depended on priests from overseas. Our very first home as an Ordinariate Group was at Our Lady Queen of Peace in Southbourne, where the parish priest, Fr Gerry Onyejuluwa, made us greatly welcome. He is from Nigeria, one of a number of priests from the Missionary Society of St Paul working in this Portsmouth diocese.

Today was very special for him as he celebrated his twenty fifth anniversary of Ordination. He had friends from across the globe celebrating with him, and it was good to be there. Fr Gerry was surrounded by concelebrants, among them Fr Brian Copus of the Ordinariate. I arrived too late to concelebrate, but I had been able to offer the 9.30 Mass in Lymington for Fr Gerry. The preacher was Fr Ron Hishon. He spoke of his own time in Africa, and how despite his best efforts his first attempts at Pidgin produced gales of laughter. It helped us all to realise just how difficult it must be for mission priests in England, from Africa or from other parts of the world, to leave home and family and adapt to our curious ways.

The Altar Party surrounding Fr Gerry
It was good to catch up with friends from our time at Southbourne - we are now located down the hill in Iford. Good too to meet some of Father's friends and family. Like the congregation, the food was both African and English, and it was great - and plentiful. The rain kept off, and it was altogether a splendid occasion.

Food & Fellowship after Mass

Friday, 17 June 2016

Custody of the Eyes

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here: Cuddesdon theological college
Edward Knapp-Fisher of blessed memory, sometime Principal of Cuddesdon Theological College, then Bishop of Pretoria, and ultimately Archdeacon of Westminster, had many favourite sayings. When he found any of his charge at Cuddesdon engaged in ribaldry - a not uncommon occurrence - he would pass by muttering "vapid hilarity". If he found anyone idle during a work-period, he would say "custody of time". Such sayings produced a good deal of mirth among us would-be ordinands. But I was reminded of Edward at Mass this morning. 

Everything God gives us is precious: so time is not to be wasted. But sight too is precious, and we must not misuse it. The reading at Mass was a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount. Today our Lord was telling us that where our treasure is, there will our heart be also.  He continued by speaking of the eye as the lamp of the body. "If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light;
but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness".

In the daily Mass there is little time for a profound homily, but this saying of Our Lord seemed to need some comment. Just as our mouth can take in poison which will harm the whole body, so the eye can take in sights which will also infect and harm us. We are constantly assaulted with images, and some of them are very damaging to us. It is not just that pornography is never more than a mouse-click away when we are on line. Every  newspaper, every TV programme, is capable of  producing seductive images to distract us from the right path. Thus custody of the eyes is important for Christians; we must always be alert, ready to look away, to switch off. 

Usually my mini-homily produces no response. Today was different. Clearly this message had hit home with a few people, and some took the trouble to say so after Mass. Once again I am indebted to Edward Knapp-Fisher, a great college Principal and a faithful teacher - may he rest in peace.. The college where he was head is no more, swept away in the amalgamation with Ripon Hall which produced a hybrid beloved only by theological college inspectors. Neither the anglo-catholic ethos of Cuddesdon nor the liberal evangelical zeal of Ripon survives today. The place may look similar, but Edward Knapp-Fisher would not recognise it. Indeed he once told me privately after preaching at St Stephen's House that he knew where the real Cuddesdon was now to be found... but I could not possibly divulge his answer.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Where did they find THAT?

We have been using the Ordinariate Missal and none other for some weeks now in our small corner of Hants and Dorset. Increasingly I have found it's been little details which have become most trying. Many of the prayers from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer I remember from years of use, so when there are tiny but apparently meaningless alterations I have to keep my eyes fixed on the page instead of just praying the prayer. Why did they do it? Where did they find it?

There are several such trivial amendments in the Prayer of Thanksgiving - the invariable post-communion prayer in our Divine Worship Missal. So, for example, the original Prayer Book version reads "we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son which is the blessed company of all faithful people". Divine Worship omits "which is"... and so provides an unnecessary jolt for those of us brought up on BCP.  Another dislocation occurs when  "we most humbly beseech thee" becomes baldly "we humbly beseech thee".  Changes made for no perceptible reason.

A longer omission occurs earlier in the prayer. "We most heartily thank thee for, that thou dost vouchsafe to feed us, who have duly received these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food" &c. In Divine Worship this is abbreviated to "that thou dost feed us in these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food". Now if there were some consistent attempt to abbreviate and simplify such an emendation might be make sense. But that appears not to be the case. When it comes to the prayers over the gifts, far from simplifying there is a sudden outbreak of volubility.

I had supposed that we have to thank our transatlantic cousins for all the annoying oddities in our Missal. Certainly the ones I have so far quoted can be laid at the door of the "Book of Divine Worship" of the old American "Anglican Use" Roman Catholics. So I went to that book to see if the prayers at the preparation of the gifts came from there. "Whence it shall" seemed a  peculiarly American construction. Not so, and I apologise for having thought it. No, BDW has, like the Roman Missal in its most recent English form,"It will become for us the bread of life".

The Upstart Crow at work (rt): with Kit Marlowe 
So perhaps someone can help me understand just whence this verbiage comes? Is it maybe from the so-called "English Missal" beloved of many Anglican Papalists (most of whom, it seems, managed not to hear about Anglicanorum Coetibus).  And why? It is a terrible case of half-timbered English, which is used much more effectively in 'Upstart Crow' - incidentally one of the best things on Television for the Shakespeare Centenary. Perhaps that is the answer. When our Liturgy is revised, as surely it needs to be before it infects other parts of the Catholic Church, the Commission might ask Ben Elton to look at the language. At least he would give us a few laughs.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Wiseing Up after Dumbing Down

For so long 'dumbing down' has been the path taken by many institutions. The National Trust and English Heritage have sometimes seemed determined to turn the country into a kiddies' theme park. Is there just the beginning of a return to sanity, a real attempt to recognise the history of the places in their care? Certainly the latest English Heritage members' magazine has given me some hope. Instead of highlighting the "Murder Mystery" events taking place at Rievaulx this summer, they have a major article on ILLUMINATING THE PAST.

Rievaulx: in the care of English Heritage
It is not long since the history of Monasticism was either ignored (as the National Trust would do at such sites as Mottisfont - Rex Whistler and rose beds being far more entertaining than old ruins) or the 'history' would recount familiar fables about the debauched lives of monks and nuns, and the wonderful clean-up job done by our late gracious monarch Henry.

Now English Heritage is opening a new museum and visitor centre in Rievaulx devoted to telling the story of how the religious life was led there for four hundred years. There is recognition of the holiness of the monks of Rievaulx, witnessed by the many lay people seeking monastic ground for their final resting places. We read how the decline of the Abbey after the devastation of the Black Death was followed by a great revival in the 15th Century. The Heritage magazine goes on to tell how the place was flourishing right up to its ruination at the 'reformation'. It even has put in its museum a great mass of lead, melted down from the abbey's roofs and windows, which, it says "vividly evokes the rapaciousness of Henry and his followers".

Mottisfont: House North Side, formerly Nave and Crossing of the Church
Even the National Trust now has a little (albeit rather shabby) account of the Priory of Mottisfont before its annexation by one of Henry VIII's chums. Are we then at last getting away from the Whig view of history? Can we hope for even the Church of England one day admitting its complicity in the blackest period of our nation's history, when the Church was plundered so that the Tudors could finance their anti-Catholic vendetta? It may be only one step in the right direction, but English Heritage should be congratulated on taking such a step. Can we hope that even the BBC might one day follow suit and atone for the distortions of Ms Mantel's Wolf Hall?