Sunday, 12 July 2015

Wales, Wales

One of the cradles of Christianity in our land is Llantwit Major. St Illtud's was there in the fifth century, and there are standing stones and crosses from the Celtic past. Several are now installed in a former chapel, ruined at the Reformation, at the west end of the Church. Once there was a monastery too, where reputedly both Patrick and David studied. Some of the street names in the little town refer to the College which once was here.

West end of the church rebuilt recently, where the Galilee Chapel once stood
Rood stairs in the ancient parish church
Wales was the land of saints - which makes the present condition of the "Church in Wales" all the more distressing. You can read about it in a couple of the blogs on my list (Ancient Briton and Let Nothing you Dismay).It is an anomaly of history that though that church has been disestablished it has hung on to the buildings which it was allowed to take over at the Reformation. Yet everywhere, in place-names and buildings, the Catholic past shines through.

A couple of years ago I had the privilege of celebrating Mass in today's Catholic Church in Llantwit; a very workaday building, but one which is loved and [better still] is well attended.
God Save King James .. over an arch in Llantwit

Perhaps as a former Anglican I am more struck by the oddity of all the buildings from our Catholic past being now in the hands of protestant bodies. Those buildings were nationalised under Henry VIII and much of their property either taken over by the Crown or sold on to chums of the monarch. For a while the Church of England and the Church in Wales cared for their share in that inheritance and the churches continued to be used for Christian worship. Today many are being sold to the highest bidders, to be transformed into private houses. Worse still, some have been acquired as nightclubs (there is one in Southampton opposite the Mayflower Theatre) or even as places of non-Christian worship (the former St Luke's in Southampton is now a Hindu Temple). Meanwhile the Ordinariate has to go begging to have the a share in the use of already overused Catholic church buildings or (because the Methodists seem more generous than the Church of England) to buy churches which have become redundant.

20th century Rood against mediaeval wall painting
'Not fair', you might say; but then as grandma always insisted, "Life is not fair, and you'd better find that out for yourself". She was right. And few institutions are less fair than the dear old C of E in her present guise.
Torbay's Ordinariate (former Methodist) Church

                                 Thankfully other Christian bodies have proved more charitable.

Friday, 12 June 2015

The Long View

Sometimes – not very often – I have GREAT THOUGHTS; about the sweep of history, about the place of the Church in the present age, and where history is leading us.

I grew up in Plymouth (England): whence the Pilgrim Fathers set of for the New World; and whence Francis Drake, after finishing his game of bowls, went off to finish the Armada. His statue on Plymouth Hoe bears the inscription “He blew with his wind, and they were scattered” - claiming that the defeat of the Armada was proof of God's love for England and the Church of England. All this I gladly accepted: with the caveat that the Church of England was really the Catholic Church of this land, just 'with it's face washed'. We were truly Catholic; had not the Archbishop said that “The Church of England has no Doctrine of its own,only the Doctrine of the Catholic Church”? 

And that Archbishop was Fisher, the headmasterly pontiff who was no friend of Anglo-Catholicism.
Little by little, my doubts about this 'catholic' Church of England began to grow. Throughout the nineteenth century the ideas of the Tractarians had taken hold, despite a Protestant backlash. By the mid twentieth century, we were in serious conversations with the Roman Catholic Church; but by the time I was a member of the General Synod I saw back-tracking. Instead of the ARCIC agreements, the bulk of the CofE seemed happier with the Lima accord. We were all baptized, so we were all the same really. Then came Porvoo and the agreements about the interchangeability of ministry with Scandinavian Lutherans.

But the rapprochement with the Catholic Church still had an impact; from York Diocese the Archbishop sent a little delegation to Mechlen/Brussels, to remember the Malines Conversations, and I was a participant. Perhaps the tide was still flooding towards Rome?

Then, the Ordination of Women to the priesthood was approved in Synod with the necessary majority of two-thirds, though it was a close-run thing. A Cardinal had been invited to speak about how Rome regarded what we were doing; he warned us that our choice would either be for a Catholic Future or a Protestant one. The majority opted for the Protestant course.

I was asked by George Carey to help in holding things together. I would only do so if what the C of E was doing in ordaining women was reversible. Synod had said that nothing could be final until the whole Church, Eastern and Western, agreed. Since that awaited the Greek Kalends, I became Bishop of Richborough. It was a battle. In the parishes, I was well received; after all, the people had asked for me to be their chief Pastor. In the House of Bishops it was very different; and the Dean of Westminster, where I had been consecrated, expressed his outrage that I continued to be opposed to women's ordination. 

He had thought my job was to persuade reluctant Anglo-Catholics to join the majority. Not so - in my innocence, or foolishness, I still believed that the Church of England was what it claimed to be, part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church – and that the task of Anglo-Catholics was to convince other Anglicans that our church was NOT Protestant.

Since my retirement that has become increasingly impossible. The Church of England has decided that it can determine the doctrine of Ordination, and despite the protestations of Rome and Constantinople it believes all doctrine is at the disposal of a General Synod of the Church of England. Indeed, the law has declared that is exactly where the Church of England stands. It is perfectly capable of altering any doctrine, not just concerning Holy Orders but even about the Holy Trinity or any other part of theological belief. Synod is sovereign.

So from the Nationalisation of the Church by Henry VIII and Elizabeth the State Church has veered ever further from its catholic origins. Meanwhile Catholicism in England has battled, and grown, and flourished. Persecution and penal laws gave way to a grudging tolerance in the 19th Century. In the twentieth a reigning monarch even made an official visit to the Pope. From a trickle of converts in the 1840s there has become a flood in the present age. I am told (can it really be so?) that a quarter of the Catholic Clergy in England began as Anglicans. Now as a Catholic priest I can say a mid-week Mass when there are forty or fifty Communicants – not in the middle of some great city, but in a little country church. Yet such numbers would be thought wonderful at a Sunday celebration in many large Anglican churches.
What began with the Caroline Divines in the 17th Century, blossomed with Newman in the 19th, and looked ready to recall the Church of England to her catholic origins has come to a grinding halt. Perhaps all that was necessary to prepare the way for a great Catholic Revival in England. How much longer will the Established Church be able to hang on to its heritage of buildings? How long before Parliament sees that it would only be reasonable to share out the proceeds of the Reformation once more? There seems to be a great appetite for History, evidenced by TV programming. When our compatriots come to understand that “we wuz robbed”, that the great Abbey and Cathedral Churches of England were designed and built by Catholics for Catholic Worship, and would be better used by Catholics today, then perhaps some of the blessings of the Establishment might be shared rather more fairly.

It is said the Queen used to refer to Cardinal Hume as “My Cardinal”. How long before an English monarch really does acknowledge the Catholic Church as the authentic church of this land? In the sweep of history we have only been a nominally Protestant Nation for five hundred of our two thousand years of Christianity.  

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Summer is icumen in

Picturesque remains of the Chapter House in front of Sandys' Mansion
Nothing controversial - just stick to gardens was the advice of a certain Monsignor of the Ordinariate. Ever obedient,so I shall. Mottisfont was an Austin Priory - renamed "Abbey" by later owners of the site. The first to profit from the ever-generous Henry VIII's decision to appropriate most of the church's property was a favourite courtier, William Sandys.

Unusually (though Francis  Drake did much the same at Buckland) it was the Church which was amended
The Crossing of the former Church
into a dwelling. Not easy to see on the South Side, Much more apparent at the back. There the outline of the arch of the North Transept can be discerned, and around the corner on the East side the monastic remains are still more clear.
Romanesque Capital

But most people do not visit Mottisfont for its archaeology, but for the gardens. They are now in the care of the National Trust, and are renowned for their collection of old roses - originally set out by the great rosarian Graham Thomas. It is a little early in the season, but the walls give shelter and a good micro-climate, so here is a selection of what is in bloom already.

So much beauty where once was desolation. Curious that the ravages wrought by Henry VIII on the church are now being self-inflicted by the Church of England as she flogs off first the Parsonage Houses and now many Churches - like Mottisfont, to be converted into desirable residences. Henry would not have let it happen - he'd have taken the money for himself rather than funding yet another Archdeacon. Oh, sorry,I was not going to be controversial.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015


A fragment of farmland within a half mile of  Hemel's estates
Hemel Hempstead was once a small market town set in rural Hertfordshire. Then the planners came along, London spilled over, and the result is the New Town. The Catholic Church has a considerable presence despite a shortage of priests, and the Ordinariate shares the Parish Church of St Mark, a Church within a Catholic secondary school. The Group has had a tough time, since for the past two years it has been without its own pastor. They have even bought a house for their priest - yet still they wait an appointment. There has been a succession of priests helping out. Today, and on one or two Sundays each month, Fr Anthony Homer commutes in from central London to celebrate their 8.45am Mass.

After Mass

It was a great pleasure for me to be able to concelebrate with Fr Anthony, and then with my wife to meet members of the Group  - many of them old friends from our time in St Albans, when we often went over to St Francis', Hammerfield, the former Anglican home of many in the Group. As in Bournemouth, refreshments after Mass provide part of the clue to how such a Group holds together. They know one another very well, and are supportive of everyone.

A classroom in not an ideal meeting-place; but better than nowhere.

Brian Cox is Chair of the Group's Council, and despite a cataract operation earlier in the week was present to introduce the Novena which our Ordinary is asking us all to support.  Mgr Keith visited Hammerfield a week ago; but had no further news about a permanent Ordinariate priest for them. There are former Anglican priests on the way to Ordination within the Catholic Church; but there seems to be some resistance to ordaining individual priests for the Ordinariate - instead they are expected to go down the 'ordinary' (that is to say Diocesan) route.

Pray for the Hemel Ordinariate
Unless there is a relaxation in this insistence, the Ordinariate is doomed to die out within a generation and Pope Benedict's vision will have been frustrated.. Surely the Ordinariate  must be able to produce and ordain its own men? The argument appears to be that Anglicanorum Coetibus was designed for Groups of Anglicans. So it was. But individuals can join, and that needs to include Anglican clergy who may, or may not, be accompanied by other lay people. There are Groups without priests. There are Anglican clergy seeking a ministry within the Catholic Church. Where is the problem?

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Rapid Deployment

Adonia alongside at Seville
There are many advantages in being retired; one is being available in an emergency. Just such an emergency happened at the end of last week. Fr Roger, Port Chaplain in Southampton, rang asking if I could be free for the next four days. A Crew member had died suddenly on a P&O ship, and they wanted a priest on board at once. So the next morning, with two of the support team from Carnival (the parent company of P&O and Cunard) I flew to Seville.

You don't expect to come across a large ship parked in the middle of an inland City; but the Guadalquivir is a very substantial river, and Adonia, the smallest of the P&O vessels can get right in.

A room with a view: Seville
Once on board, our task was first to meet as many of Kevin's colleagues as possible. He had been Officer with special responsibility for the ship's technical stores. He was equally liked and respected by every part of the ship's company. We were able to celebrate a Requiem Mass for him on Saturday evening - our first day at sea after Seville, and so a time when many of the Crew were available (at 11.30pm).  It was a very special Mass. The musicians on board wanted to play a tribute, so we began with a  Jazz number, which originated as a funeral march in New Orleans. They ended with "When the Saints go Marching in" - but because Kevin was no Southampton supporter many found that a bit ironic!

Support team meeting some of the Officers

After the evening Mass on Sunday - the main Dining Room
Edridge, Maitre d' from the main restaurant, read the first lesson. A Goan like many of the Crew he had been a frequent jogging companion of Kevin's. The Captain read the second lesson and Phil Gowland, another Officer, spoke movingly about their friendship and read some words from Kevin's wife Maureen (Mo) who had also been working on board when Kevin died.

Next morning the Captain invited me to assist him in leading the ecumenical service for the passengers, saying some of the prayers and giving the Blessing. The same evening I celebrated Sunday Mass for the Crew.

Seville was an unexpected pleasure; I had a little time free on the second afternoon in port and got as far as the Cathedral.  What an amazing complex of buildings that is!  Not perhaps the sort of Church you would want to attend every Sunday, but for a special occasion, Wow!

Among the Orange Trees of the Cloister - the Cathedral Tower started out as a Mosque's Minaret 

 On the site of a Mosque from the time of the Moorish invasions, the interior of the Cathedral is witness to the richness of South America - a silver Altar, and a reredos entirely covered in gold leaf. No wonder Drake wanted to intercept the Spanish Treasure Fleets.

Cathedral High Altar in Seville Cathedral

The Crews' private oratory behind the Mess TV

Equally well-loved though, and prayed in, is the little chapel created by the crew from a small space in their Mess. The crew members are mostly from Goa or the Philippines, and the devotion of these hard-working men and women puts us to shame. The ministry of the Apostleship of the Sea (Stella Maris) is greatly appreciated. Having served as Chaplain on Adonia at Easter I was welcomed back like a long-lost brother on my return. The few devotional cards I had been able to take with me at such short notice were seized eagerly; and I said a little to some of them about Our Lady of Walsingham, and her patronage of us members of the Ordinariate. [You may spot OLW on the right of the picture].

The next port of call was Tangiers. I did not have time (or inclination) to do any sightseeing - but it was interesting to catch a glimpse of Gibraltar; I had last seen the Rock when I went to Malta and back as a young child. On that occasion my mother had saved up twenty pounds to pay the fare - no 'accompanied postings' then, unless you paid for it. She had earned this princely sum by scrubbing floors.My father was a submariner at that time.  I think I was two years old when we came back to England a couple of years before the war..
Crew at work setting up the gangway ashore
After the brief stay in Tangiers we sailed up the coast of Portugal before reaching on Monday the port of Vilagarcia de Arousa in Galicia, in the North-west corner of Spain. We were very near Santiago but there was no time for even the briefest of pilgrimages. Instead we went by Taxi to the airport at Vigo - and there our trials began!  There was fog, we were endlessly delayed and eventually caught a plane to Madrid after spending some seven hours in the terminal, not knowing whether we would ever get away. There were no announcements in anything but Spanish, and very few of these. Only one of the two employees on the Iberia "Help" desk had any English at all.
 Vigo Airport - no 13.45 flight
Would we ever get away from Vigo? We did, but only in time to miss the connecting flight from Madrid to UK,  so we were put up in a hotel. The flight home they found for me meant a 5.50a.m. departure from the hotel. I am not very good on four hours sleep.
Support team from Carnival enjoying Vigo Airport

 So if you DO go to Spain by air at any time, try to avoid Vigo airport -  and the ministrations of Iberia airlines.

 From Heathrow
it was bus to Woking, train to Brockenhurst and taxi home - and eventually bed for a little recovery time. But I would not have missed it all. A great experience, and I was glad to be invited to undertake this by the Apostleship of the Sea. It is a Catholic Charity well worthy of your support, So many seafarers are away from home and family, church and sacraments, for such long periods. The care given by Port Chaplains around the world, and by Chaplains (when they are permitted to function on board ship) are greatly valued.

Nearly Home

Sunday, 26 April 2015

What will it take...?

This morning I had a round trip of forty miles to say Mass. Fr Bill, the Parish Priest in Southbourne, is off work after an asthma attack. Meanwhile another retired priest was celebrating in Lymington, where I live, because our Parish Priest, Fr David Adam, is off work with a back injury. Just up the hill from us is the Priory of St Joseph, and their priest, Fr Richard Saksons O.Praem. is in hospital..

So, dear friends still ministering in the Church of England, may I ask you that if you believe (as many of you do) that your future lies in Communion with Peter in the Catholic Church, why delay an longer?  Your ministry is needed now. What will it take to persuade you? You are concerned for your present faithful Anglo-Catholic congregation. Of course you don't want to abandon them; but one day, through retirement or death, they will not have your ministrations. Look around at neighbouring former Catholic strongholds and see what has become of them. Your people are going to have to decide at some time, and far better that you should give them a lead while you still can.

There is a pressing need today in the Roman Catholic Church in this country for more priests. The faithful are there, ready and waiting - and hugely appreciative when a priest makes an effort to help them, whether the journey is twenty miles from Lymington, or the distance from Thames to Tiber. Daily I am grateful to Pope Benedict for making it possible for groups of Anglicans to enter the Catholic Church together. On this day when we hear Our Lord in the Gospel say that he has other sheep, not of this fold -  can we do more to realise what he said -"there will be only one flock and one shepherd".

Monday, 20 April 2015

Party time

The garden comes into its own for a party
Hospitality is one of those elements of the Patrimony which some say is Benedictine. The recital of the daily Offices by the clergy, saying the entire psalter each month, is another. It would be a good exercise to try to discern just how much of what we take for granted in the Patrimony is in fact inherited from the Monastic formation of the Church in England. At any event,  our Ordinariate Group responds to every chance of a party.
F rDarryl and head Server Trevor

We've had a summer luncheon for our Ordinariate Group each year, and Fr Darryl was happy for us to continue the tradition this year. So on Sunday after Mass about forty of us (which included a few non-Ordinarians - Catholics who regularly support us and seem to enjoy worshiping with us at St Thomas More, came over to our house in Lymington.

John and Teresa are off on a week's  cruise soon!

Sadly a few were prevented from attending by illness or prior commitments, but it proved a very happy occasion; not least because in such a setting you can talk to people you would otherwise not know very well. The weather was much better than forecast, and some bad brought their own garden chairs, so there was room for everyone.

Some took to the house to avoid any possible insects!

Once again, there was food and drink enough and Jane had provided two hot main dishes and any number of puddings, cheese &c.We filled not just the house and garden, but also the conservatory .The overwintering plants were pushed out to take their chance... fortunately we avoided any frosts before I cold restore them to shelter.

Some of the younger guests enjoyed chippolatas on the grass

If the Ordinariate is to flourish, it will have to make many more such occasions - we cannot rely on just one or two annual get-together in Westminster or Walsingham. Perhaps we need to start inviting other groups to join us across a region? I'd quite fancy a run down to Torquay, or up to Reading - and they'd enjoy Bournemouth, I think. We don't always have to go to London to meet! What do you think?

Jane dispensing food at the serving table