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?

Thursday, 28 April 2016

After Malines

York Diocese decided to have a little revival of the Malines link back in the 1980's; I'm not sure of the date, maybe it was 1981, just sixty years after the original conversations had been started by Cardinal Mercier and Lord Halifax. Whenever it was, I was there because many of us who went were chosen because we were elected representatives of the  diocese on General Synod.
Lord Williams of Oystermouth

Now there is another revival of Malines: Vatican Radio News tells us
"Catholic and Anglican theologians have been meeting together near Rome to discuss ordination rites within the two communions, as well as the significant ecumenical implications of Pope Francis’ recent document ‘Amoris Laetitia’. A meeting of the Malines Conversation group took place from April 17th to 22nd at Rocca di Papa, south of Rome, culminating in an ecumenical evensong celebrated by Archbishop Arthur Roche of the Congregation for Divine Worship."

Cardinal Danneels
On that visit from York diocese we met many leading Belgian Catholics. Chief among them was Cardinal Godfried Danneels, at that time Archbishop of Mechlen Brussels; and he has been chairing this new meeting together with Lord Williams of Oystermouth - better remembered as Rowan Williams, one-time Archbishop of Canterbury.

Curiously, there appears to be no-one there from the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. I say "curiously" because the erection of the Ordinariates seems to me to be one of the fruits, indeed perhaps a very rare and precious fruit, of the otherwise rather fruitless ARCIC conversations of the last forty-seven years (Really. I have checked - amazingly that is how long ARCIC has existed). 

There was a comparable lack of imagination when the Holy Father convened the consultation on the Family. At that time others said how contributions from married clergy might have informed the discussions. Now a similar opportunity has been missed with the Malines revival. It almost looks (surely this cannot be so?) as though the Ordinariates were seen as an embarrassment, to be hidden away from polite ecumenical discourse. From our perspective as members and so insiders, the Ordinariates are a great step forward in ecumenism. When will official Rome and Canterbury also share that opinion?

Monday, 25 April 2016

Twisting a Tale of the Ordinariate

That Latinate wonder, Fr John Hunwicke (whom God preserve) has posted a cautionary 'Tale from the Ordinariate' about the experience of a Priest who presumed to replace a "eucharistic service " (curious name, since the Eucharistic Prayer is missing from it) with a real Mass. He was met with considerable annoyance by the lay people ousted from their ministry. I have not experienced that; indeed when I have offered to say Mass on a day usually served by the laity, the extraordinary ministers here in Lymington have seemed very happy to have the Mass rather than simply Communion from the Tabernacle. What's more, if I turn up unannounced on a Sunday and concelebrate with the parish priest, there is a little shuffling about at the back of church while the lay ministers decide who will stand down; but someone always does, to allow me to administer Communion instead of one of the lay assistants on the rota.

Our Lady of Mercy & St Joseph: Lymington Catholic Church
We are very fortunate in this part of the vineyard in having a few retired priests around. This morning Mgr Peter Ryan said the Mass of St Mark and I concelebrated with him. He is retired, from the diocese of Liverpool, and has a very busy retirement ministry, On Wednesday I shall be able to give our Ordinariate priest in Bournemouth a little time out - which I expect he will fill with hospital visits since he is Chaplain to the Royal Bournemouth as well as Parish Priest of St Thomas More AND pastor of our Ordinariate Mission. On Thursday I regularly say Mass for Fr Marcin the Polish parish priest in New Milton - and this week I shall also substitute for him on Friday. On Saturday I am usually in Lymington, enabling our Parish Priest to get to one of the other churches in his care. That evening I am also celebrating the vigil Mass of Sunday for him - and on Sunday morning both the Parish Mass and the Ordinariate Mass at St Thomas More, Iford. Never a dull moment - and I know this is very much how things are for my fellow 'retired' Ordinariate priests.

I think some of the Bishops of England and Wales recognise this; but apparently there are some who are a little reluctant to admit that the Ordinariate is a gift to the whole Church. They are content for us to fill gaps; yet I understand they are reluctant to make room for further newcomers from Anglican Ministry. Their argument seems to be that Anglicanorum Coetibus was set up to bring entire congregations into the Catholic Church and they see no need for admitting individual clergy. I believe this is very short-sighted. We have a few seminarians in training, but not enough to fill the ranks of priests who will retire in the next few years. There are some very good Anglican clergy ready to join us; but not if there is no bishop ready to ordain them as Catholic Priests at the request of our Ordinary. I know, for instance, of some Anglican School Chaplains who are contemplating the move. They cannot come with a group of laypeople. There must be an opportunity for such men to be made welcome in the Catholic Church. Perhaps we should all remember what dear Papa Benedict said about the need for generosity towards former Anglicans. Maybe remember too that the aforementioned polymath Fr Hunwicke had been for most of his ministry a School Chaplain. There are also parish clergy who look forward to a move into the Ordinariate.

If there is to be continuity and if the Ordinariate is to fulfil its vocation (spelled out most helpfully by David Murphy in his recent "Reflections" - you can read them on the Ordinariate Expats' blog, 'Ordinariate News') then we must have a continuing stream of priests coming from the Anglican tradition, bringing with them their pastoral skills and particular Anglican charisms. I do hope the hierarchy will be supportive of our Ordinary in ensuring a succession of priests for the Ordinariate.