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