Monday, 1 January 2018

BRONWEN ASTOR Praying for Christian Unity

Today the Telegraph posted an obituary of Bronwen Astor, born Bronwen Pugh. She was, we were reminded, a famous model, daughter-in law of the fearsome Nancy Astor and chatelaine of Cliveden when it became notorious. I remember her though as a good friend in Godalming, where after her husband's death she had retired to a lovely country house.

The local Catholic priest had asked me, at that time Rector of Farncombe, if they might use a room in our church school for a weekly Mass. I suggested it would be far better if they were to use our church. Everyone seemed to think this was a good idea - except for two bishops, the Catholic Bishop of Arundel and Brighton and the Anglican Bishop of  Dorking (holding the fort during an interregum in the See of Guildford). Rather reluctantly they gave their permission.

St John's Farncombe
In Farncombe we had an ecumenical community, a group of ladies led by the formidable Carol Graham, many of them (like her) returned missionaries. Their Charism was praying and working for unity, and their House was the former home of the Revd Somerest Ward, noted Anglican spiritual director. They were greatly supported by Bronwen. She had set up a Retreat House in her home - she was a fairly recent convert from the Church of England to the Catholic Church, and was very concerned for all things ecumenical. When she heard of  the difficulties we were facing she used her considerable influence to persuade both bishops to permit this sharing as an 'experiment'.

Catholic Parish Priest of Godalming, present Rector of Farncombe, and me
 And so it happened that in December 2014 Fr James Rattue, Rector of St John's, invited me back to preach, That evening we celebrated forty years of the still-continuing 'experiment'. Catholics and     Anglicans in Godalming and beyond owe Bronwen Astor a great debt of gratitude 

  May she Rest in Peace.
Jesu, Mercy.
Mary, Pray.


Monday, 18 December 2017

LONDON. Are you surprised?

News of the appointment of  the next Bishop of London, Sarah Mullaly, has come as an early Christmas present for some in that diocese. For others it appears to have come as a shock and a distincly unwelcome gift. No doubt, though, they will find a way of living with the latest new reality, some by emulating the Bishop of Horsham and discovering they were wrong all along, others by drawing yet another line in the sand as they retreat up the beach, back towards an unyielding cliff face.

When the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was established, many of us who took the opportunity given us by the Holy Father were surprised. Friends who had previously declared themselves staunch Anglo-papalists discovered reasons why it was impossible for them to make the leap just now. In a year or two, when conditions in the Cof E became unbearable, they would jump, but not just yet. There was the children's education to consider, or the wife's work, or the need to build up a larger pension. Few admitted that their incumbency was too comfortable just now, or that they might have to amend their lifestyle.

As an Anglo-Catholic I had taught and believed that the Church of England was what it claimed to be, 'part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church' and that our task was to persuade the rest of the C of E that this was the case. Even when the ordination of women to the priesthood happened, we convinced ourselves (because we were told it constantly) that this was an experiment which could be reversed in future.

Since then the Church of England has been challenged with many other developments in society, easy divorce, abortion on demand, the Royal Family not just tolerating but celebrating adulterous relationships. and now the ability for anyone to change gender at will. Soon more in the Church of England will be celebrating same-sex 'marriages'. Yet it seems nothing will convince those who still call themselves Anglo-Catholics that the game is up, that there is no catholic future within the established church. What once seemed a local expression of the Universal Church now is quite clearly an utterly erastian, protestant body, sometimes dragging its feet but in the end determinedly copying society in the vain hope of appealing to the masses. A 'catholic' sect, a society for those who like that sort of thing, might be permitted for another year or two, before it is crushed under the weight of the zeitgeist and political correctness. The treatment of Philip North over Sheffield was not a one-off aberration; it is destined to become the norm, despite Philip Mawer.

There is no joy in writing this. I recall a church which could once claim to be stupor mundi, a scholarly compassionate body which was founded on the Apostles and the ancient Fathers and was prepared to speak the truth to power.  Ichabod, the glory has departed. So why will anyone with integrity still try to prop up this decaying corpse?

Thank the Good Lord for the new springtime of the Church, for Pope Benedict and his foresight in enabling the Ordinariates to happen, and for the Catholic Church which has welcomed home so many of us who were feeling bereft. There is still time for the rest of you; don't leave it too late. The message of Advent has never been more appropriate ... "while it is still today".

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Saints of England

Back in the day there was in the Church of England's Calendar a celebration on November 8th for "Saints and Martyrs of England". The propers for that day came under "Group Commemorations" in 'Lesser Festivals and Holy Days' .. and you might have used those same propers just nine days earlier to celebrate (commemorate?) The Reformation. The Collect was unspecific: "Almighty God, you call your witnesses from every nation and reveal your glory in their lives. Make us thankful for their example and strengthen us by their fellowship that we, like them, may be faithful in the service of your kingdom.' Luther, I suppose, and Zwingli and the rest. So far, so bland.

Alolng Offa's Dyke
It is perhaps part of our Patrimony that has us (in the Ordinariate) celebrating a Feast on Wednesday next called simply "All Saints of England" (or if you are across Offa's Dyke "All Saints of Wales"). So I started researching the propers for the day. Maybe the Ordinariate web site could help? That simply announces Whilst we await the publication of the Divine Worship Missal, Ordinariate Groups and Missions have access to the Order of Mass and the Ordinariate Calendar but not to the Propers
The Ordinariate Missal is kept in St Osmund's, to which I do not have ready access, and the Lectionary is an American publication so misses out anything specifically English (such as the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham); not much joy there, I suspect. If there ARE propers in the Ordinariate Missal I shall, of course, use them. Meanwhile a little liturgical ingenuity (another part of the Patrimony?) might be required.

Now the Irish are pretty good at keeping up their national end. They have, in the Roman Missal, propers for All Saints of Ireland on November 6th. Readings, Psalm &c can happily be lifted from this, recast in RSV (American Catholic) usage and printed off. Prayers will have to be 'thee-d' and thou-d' to fit in with the Ordinariate's notion of Tudor English, but it will probably work.

Someone's notion of Tudor architecture
Still I have a conundrum over the collect. There are two given us in the Customary, a third is in a collection called "supplement of Canticles and Collects", then there is the Irish one. Here they are for you to compare and contrast.
1. (Ireland) Lord, grant us your grace more abundantly as we keep the feast of all the saints of our land; we rejoice to be their countrymen on earth, may we merit to be their fellow-citizens in heaven.
2. (Customary #1) We beseech thee, O Lord, to multiply thy grace upon us who commemorate the Saints of our nation:that, as we rejoice to be their fellow-citizens on earth, we may have fellowship also with them in heaven.
3. (Customary#2) O God, whom the glorious company of the redeemed adore, gathered from all times and places of thy dominion: we praise thee for the Saints of our own land, and for the lamps that were lit by their holiness; and we beseech thee that, at the last, we too may be numbered among those who have done thy will and declared thy righteousness.
4.(Customary supplement)  Grant, we beseech thee, almighty God; that we may in all things be comforted by the intercession of holy Mary, Mother of God, of all the holy Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors and Virgins, and all the Saints of England; and that like as we do call to mind* their godliness of life; so we may be effectually defended by their help.

No D----d merit
I expect Fr Hunwicke will tell me exactly what I MIGHT have done; and I expect Mgr Andrew will instruct me in what I SHOULD have done. And others will complain that I am washing linen in public (though it seems pretty clean to me).
If I had a choice, I think 2 is favourite: just a straightforward bit of half-timbering applied to the Irish collect, with no mention of MERIT (it was King Edward VII, I think, who said he liked the Order of the Garter above other decorations because "there was no d-mn-d merit in it".) 4 is altogether too florid and wordy, and makes the Saints of England (whom we are celebrating) just an appendage to the Glorious Company of the Apostles ktl. But I expect I shall use it, since it seems to be the one we are meant to use at Mass that day. Oh dear - Cranmer was alway so much more succinct.

*'as we do call to mind' indeed! Very Tudor-bethan; very half-timbered. Why not just "as we recall"or "as we remember". And what does "effectually" add to the sense in this prayer? Grrr.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Why St Pancras?

St Pancras Station, Gothic Revival fantasy
St Pancras New Church
Say "St Pancras" to an Eglishman and this is probably what springs to mind - the great  Railway Station on the Euston Road and George Gilbert Scott's Midland Hotel. If he thinks a bit harder he might even come up with and idea of the church a little way along the same road. That Church has a ridiculous Greek Revival version (in Coade Stone) of the Caryatids on the Acropolis in Athens. Those fearsome women have nothing to do with the boy-martyr St Pancras though perhaps they predict something about the Church of England.. Then again, if the person you asked is local to Somers Town, he might direct you to the Old Church to the north of Euston Road; a church which looks as though it really belongs in a country churchyard - and which gives the district, and the station,its name.

St Pancras Old Church
But why St Pancras? The boy martyr, who stood up to the Roman Emperor, became hugely popular throughout Europe, and it is even possible that Old St Pancras in Somers Town is on the site of one of the first churches ever built in England. That does not explain why, just fifteen years after the Norman Conquest, the first ever Cluniac monastery in England was also dedicated to St Pancras.

William de Warenne was charged by the Norman Conquerer, William, to subjugate a great part of Southern England. He established his power base in Lewes, which guarded the approach from the South, the cleft in the South Downs giving access from the coast towards London. On the hill he built a great Fortress.

Lewes Casstle Keep
In the valley, he established a monastery, the Priory of St Pancras.  It was the first Cluniac house in England; following the reformed Benedictine rule established a century before at Cluny in Aquitaine. French, of course. But again, WHY ST PANCRAS? The steadfastness of the teenage Christian boy Pancras against the Emperor Domitian had resulted in his becoming the patron saint of oath-takers. William the Conqueror based his claim to the English throne on his insistence that Harold had sworn an oath that he would support William as King of England on the death of King Edward. In that great propaganda publication, the Bayeux Tapestry, Harold is shown taking his oath on a sacred reliquary - containing, it is said, the bones of St Pancras. So the Priory, like the Castle, is establishing the claims of the Conqueror to the English throne.

Harold swears to support William's claim - on the bones of St Pancras the oath-keeper

Five centuries later another king with a tenuous claim to the English throne, the Welshman Henry Tudor, also set about dominating the kingdom by force. The Priory of St Pancras in Lewes, one of the wealthiest religious houses in England, was demolished by Thomas Cromwell, employing an Italian skilled in attacking cstles. He undermined the walls, set fire beneath them, and brought the entire building to the ground. Cromwell sold off the building materials at great profit. Less survives than of almost any other monastery. There is a corner of the Monks' dormitory and a fragment of the Reredorter, the lavatories - that's all that stands above ground. The Priory was so huge that you  might gain an impression of how immense the other buildings must have been if this was just the loos.. Henry VIII also enlisted a Saint's aid - by removing him from the Kalendar. That was Saint Thomas Becket, named by Henry 'Thomas Traitor' - but that's another story.

Remnants of  Lewes Priory

Lewes Town chooses not to remember its monks, who ran schools and hospitals and cared for the poor. Instead they hold Bonfire parades, burn the Pope in effigy, and make much of the seventeen Protestants burned at the stake in Mary Tudor's reign. That is rather how history has been taught in England since the Reformation - it is written by the winners.  Foxe's 'Book of Martyrs' supplanted all memory of what was lost through the suppression of the Monasteries and the breach with Rome. Mary is called 'bloody', while the blood on the hands of Henry, Edward and Elizabeth is conveniently forgotten and the Catholic martyrs expunged from the record. If you want to start to get the record straight read Eamon Duffy* Diarmaid MacCulloch* and other modern historians. They throw a rather diffent light on "Merrie England".

* Eamon  Duffy: Saints, Sacrilege & Sedition; Voices of Morebath;Reformation Divided; The Stripping of the Altars &c.
* Diarmaid MacCulloch: All things made new; The Reformation - a History. The Later Reformation in England &c

Friday, 15 September 2017

Money Talks

A brief visit to Oxford gave me a chance to call in at my former College, Pembroke. The porters were most welcoming, and expressed amazement that I had matriculated such an aeon ago - in fact in 1955. Now you may not be able to name many of the alumni of that place. Michael Heseltine was an undergraduate there, though it is said that he would slip across the road to Christ Church on every opportunity to give the impression that "The House" was his real home. Among my own contemporaries, Dick Lugar was a Rhodes scholar who became a leader in the U.S. Senate. Then there is a plaque outside the library commemorating a great benefactor of America, James Smithson. If you have been to the States you cannot have missed the many branches of the Smithsonian, from museums in New York to the Zoo in Washington D.C. Again, if you are a devotee of Victorian Church decoration, you will also know the name of Charles Eamer Kempe, whose stained glass occurs in so many churches.

The greatest Pembroke man of all, though is undoubtedly Sam Johnson, the grand Cham, Doctor Johnson of the Dictionary. Because of his poverty, alas, he was only at Pembroke for a very short time, and far from getting a Doctorate then he went down without taking a degree. Yet the College makes much of the association, and even had reproductions made of his tea mug - a vast thing, he must have had wealthy friends by the time hecame to consume such quantitites of tea.

In recent years it was decided to rename the College Chapel. There is a painting in the Reredos of  the risen Christ, so you might have supposed it would be called the Chapel of Christ.That might have led to confusion with Wolsey's college over the road, since it is no longer called Cardinal College/.At any event, it was determined that the name should be "The Damon Wells Chapel".

Was the great Damon Wells perhaps one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales? Not so. Then who was he? Google the name and you will find a dozen claimants. This one is a former member of the college, apparently. On a fund-raising visit to the States an atheistically minded Master of Pembroke was, it is said, a little embarrassed to return to Oxford with a great endowment from the said Damon Wells - earmarked for the Restoration of the Chapel. He contnued to be very generous. We cannot know whether his generosity depended on the renaming of the Chapel, but at any event the Chapel now bears his name.

There was a temporary notice planted at the Chapel's entrance on one particular Gaudy night, bearing
Pembroke, John Betjeman's favourite Oxford College.
the new name. And curiously that was removed during the course of the celebrations - I cannot imagine who did such a thing. Yesterday, on visiting the College, I discovered a permanent notice affixed to the building announcing "The Damn Wells Chapel" - no, sorry, it read "The Damon Wells Chapel". Do visit when you are next in Oxford. But if you go ignore the notice and enter the Chapel. You will see the organ case (Wren's work from the Sheldonian) and a great deal of stained glass, plaster ceilings, and painted statuary, all the work of Kempe. Once there, perhaps you can say a prayer for former students; and include among them, of your charity, Damon Wells. I'm sure he needs it.
A section of C E Kempe's ceiling decoration.

Kempe's Glass - much more dense and heavy than his usual church work.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Welsh Requiem

At rest in Abergavenny Priory Church of St Mary

Today, among the ancient splendours of the priory church of Abergavenny, hundreds gathered to pray for the last and only PAB ofWales. The initials stood for Provincial Assistant Bishop; but Dai Thomas used to delight in telling us that 'Pab' was also the Welsh for 'Pope'. He was appointed just as several of us in England were designated PEVs - Provincial Episcopal Visitors. But whereas those posts continue in England, at least in name,  in Wales the bishops refused to appoint a successor to David Thomas.

St Mary's Abergavenny
So today the many Welsh priests and people who gathered to mourn a wonderful Father in God were also mourning the death of something else; the Church in Wales itself. There had been in Wales a remarkable flowering of the Catholic Revival in the Anglican Communion, Today many asked me what they were getting in the newly appointed Bishop of Llandaff. Since I live in Salisbury they supposed I must know the Dean who was soon to become their chief pastor. In fact as Dean I only know her by repute - I have only been in Salisbury since January. But I certainly came across her when I served on General Synod. I could not, in all honesty, say much to encourage the Llandaff clergy, for she has been an enthusiastic supporter of all things 'liberal' in the Church of England, from women's ordination (naturally) to the claims of the so-called LGBT community - though I understand those initials are no longer enough; they do not include the whole gamut of those who suppose their sexuality is fluid, to be chosen or discarded according to whim, Anything new seems to commend itself to the Very Revd June.

'John the Baptist' according to the caption on a metre high exhbit currently in Salisbury Cathedral
The idea of this being a requiem for the Church in Wales is not mine; several people independently said this was how they saw today. No more scholar bishops of David's calibre. No more genuine pastors who cared for their clergy. Just diocesan apparatchiks appointed because they went along with the spirit of the age.

One priest said "Ah, but though this is a death perhaps there will be a resurrection?" I could only point him to three former Provincail Bishops who attended today as 'ecumenical visitors'. Keith Newton, John Broadhurst and I were all present to pray at the funeral of a much loved former colleague. David had attended many meetings of PEVs when we were trying to discern how we could save something of the Catholic nature of the Church both in England and in Wales.  All three of us have discerned that the only hope of preserving the best of Anglicanism lies in responding positively to Pope Benedict's generous offer to us in 'Anglicanorum Coetibus'; the opportunity for bringing some of the treasures of Anglicanism, not simply liturgical words, but a syle of worship, and a pastoral spirit learned over the years - in the Church of England and also in the Church in Wales.

Some Welsh clergy I know are worried about whether they would be ordained as Catholic priests; there might be something which could become an obstacle for them? But none of us now in the Ordinariate had any certainty of being 'recycled'. The first essential was that we believed what the Catholic Church believed. We were then received into the Roman Catholic Church. Only then could the process of discernment begin. All I can say is that the process has been unfailingly generous towards us, and that we all are sure we made the right decision, I know, because I have lived in Wales myself at various times and have family living there now that as David Thomas used to say "Things are different in Wales". Indeed they are - but no longer, I fear, for the better. The future looks increasingly bleak for orthodox Christians in the Principality. Yet with an enthusiastic leap of faith the Ordinariate could grow from its small beginnings - there is currently a group which worships in a chapel in Cardiff Cathedral - into something which the English Ordinariate would come to admire and even envy.

John paying tribute to his father.
I have to say I was almost in tears today as David's son John spoke of his father, and led us in singing. That spirit is something the whole church needs; part of the Welsh Patrimony which is at present missing but which will be a gift to the entire Catholic world, For us to be a part of today's celebration was a real privilege, Diolch yn fawr - as always, you were very kind and made us 'ecumencial visitors' feel at home. Do know that in your turn you will be very welcome with us. You are needed. Join us in this great catholic renewal.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Investing in the Church's Growth

 'How is the Ordinariate managing financially?' I was asked the other day. 'Surviving', said I. But then today I read the Church Commissioners' results in their annual report subtitled "Investing in the Church's Growth".[H.T. to 'Thinking Anglicans'] They made returns of 17.1% last year. The Church Commissioners manage, the report tells us, investable assets of some £7.9 billion - yes, billion. If you prefer to see the figures written out, that is £7,900,000,000. Well done the Commissioners. In my little way I helped contribute to that fund, by getting a local Agent to handle the sale of our Parsonage (for about £2.6k more than the Diocese was quite ready to accept) and then getting the same Agent to act for us, rather than the Diocese's man, when we sold off some other small parcel of land. Eventually the diocese profitted from that parish by about half a million pounds - which the diocese persisted in referring to as our 'windfall'. All the clergy who joined the Catholic Church after 'Anglicanorum Coetibus' had done similarly, if not through land deals then by running numerous Planned Giving campaigns.

Now I am very glad still to be in communion with the C of E Pension Fund, if not with the rest of Anglicanism. But I do wonder if the Commissioners might not do some little thing towards assisting at least with life insurance for younger members of the Ordinariate - and perhaps even encouraging the Anglican hierarchy to share some of its church buildings.  Had a clergyman died while still an Anglican his widow and family would have been greatly assisted from the Commissioners' investments. If one of these same former Anglican clergy, now a Catholic priest,  should die (absit omen )  the Ordinariate will have to bear the entire responsibility for those they leave behind. Yet the fund which the Commissioners manage, formerly Queen Anne's Bounty, derives very largely from the Catholic sources which were nationalised at the time of the 'reformation'. Even those little plots of land which I sold when a Vicar had come ultimately from the Religious House which provided a Vicar and Church for that parish. Queen Anne graciously endowed the Church of England with a little of the money which had come to the Crown from such pre-reformation Catholic sources.

I suppose it is too much to expect there will be any such generosity. After all, the Ordinariate seems not to be seen by Anglicans as a generous Catholic gesture towards those Anglicans who really believed what the C of E consistently said, and still says, that the it is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Instead we Ordinarians seem to be thought of as somehow renegades, denying our birthright. Yet many of us found it increasingly impossible to remain in an Ecclesial Community which allowed itself to be blown about by every new wind of doctrine - or of fashion. Surely Christian Mission might very properly be funded from the ancient endowments set up in large part by our Catholic forebears? How good it would be if we separated Anglicans could be drawn into conversation and fellowship with the rest of the Anglican Communion - or at least with the Church of England - while there is a recognisable part of that Church of England yet surviving. For as a commentator in "Thinking Anglicans" has said, in response to the Commissioners' Report, 'many congregations advance towards extinction' and 'we will soon have the paradoxical situation of an impregnably flush fund providing periodic subventions to the tattered remnants of a Church'. Together we could make a future, genuinely 'investing in the Church's growth'. Kept apart our situation in England becomes ever more like that in Ireland - where one church hangs on to ancient buildings, with everyone at least called 'Very Reverend', while Christianity can mostly be found in a quite different part of the vineyard.