Saturday 31 December 2016


Soon after the walls came down in Europe there began convoys of aid to many former Eastern Bloc countries. At St Stephen's House in Oxford we wondered what we might contribute; and decided that since education was our goal, we ought to give opportunites to come to study with us. Many people chipped in, and we had a succession of visitors. Perhaps the most memorable was Nicolai Moȿoiu. He came from Braȿov, in Romania, where his father was a parish priest. His wife was an oncologist, and Nicolai was destined for the priesthood. After a year in Oxford, during which time his wife also was able to go to the John Radcliffe hospital and see something of cancer treatment in Britain, they returned home. A few months later I was invited along with one of our students to Romania to witness Nicolai's Ordination.

It took place in a remote village in the foothills of the mountains of Transylvania. We set off soon after 7am in the dark. Snow became deeper as the cars climbed to Poiana Mereu. We passed many on foot making their way towards the church. This was not simply an Ordination; it was also the Consecration of a newly built church, and alongside Nicolai was another man who had been made Deacon with him a week earlier They were now both to be ordained Priests. The Church was to become not just a parish church, but also the church of a restored Monastic Community.

Welcoming the Bishop - his Deacon at his side. Nicolai the tall figure on the left, the young p-p in pink on the Bishop's left
A little after 9am the Bishop came, to be greeted with bread and salt a Crucifix and the Gospels, while the snow fell round us. The Deacons took him into the church. Stay close to me the bishop told me; not easy in such a throng, but there behind the Ikonostasis he was duly Vested for the Liturgy by the Deacons.  We circled the outside of the Church and the Bishop signed it on all sides with a brush loaded with oil on a long pole. When it came to preparing the altar, this was no prissy western performnce. The mensa was thoroughly scrubbed by assistant priests with their sleeves rolled up using water from plastic bowls. The oiling was no mere dribble but a thorough basting. When the whole Liturgy seemed to be drawing to a conclusion around 1pm the Bishop decided this was the opportunity to tell people their duties; which he did for another forty minutes.

 Then he was taken to rest for a while, until late in the afternoon we all met in the Village Hall for a feast. This was in pre-Advent, so fish was the main part of the meal. On the table were bottles of Whisky, containers of very good local wine, and teapots of what looked like very weak tea. It is water, said the Bishop to me: Water indeed! Firewater, rather - Tzvika, the local plum brandy.

Nicolai,  me and the Bishop as the Feast began

I was reminded if all this by a couple of photos (above) which I came across in preparing to move house: and in view of recent correspondence elsewhere about Consecration Rites thought it might be interesting. The three most imortant things I learned from Romanian Orthodoxy? That the liturgy was put into the vernacular in 1662 and no one seems to hanker after Slavonic; that it is perfectly normal for priests to be married: and that  Deacons are far more important for the functioning of the Liturgy than are priests.

Monday 19 December 2016


If there are no posts here for a while it is because we are moving; from Lymington where we have been happily for the past fifteen year.  We shall have to leave many friends, and the Ordinariate Mission in Bournemouth. And at least this post should not annoy or embarrass anyone.

St Thomas More, Iford: Bournemouth Ordinariate Mission's shared home
We have to downsize though - in particular we shall have a much smaller garden - and  we should have better transport links to at least some of our family. So Salisbury will be our new setting.

We had a very happy farewell after Mass on Sunday in Lymington, then further goodbyes over lunch at Brockenhurst - though in fact I hope still to help out locally until we depart - particularly with two Christmas masses in Lymington, and a few weekday celebrations until the removal vans come on January 10th.

Downsizing: our Edwardian Terrace
We look forward to getting to know the Salisbury Ordinariate Group rather better, and also the parishes in and around Salisbury - in the Catholic Diocese of Clifton.

Friday 18 November 2016

Fanaticism - the Ornaments of Churches Considered

A bench end in, I think, a Suffolk church. A poppy-head, they call it, though that is a distortion of the original term (poupée, doll's head). This is especially doll-like; a carved infant in swaddling clothes. It came to light when I was sifting through old photographs in preparation for a move. But look closely at the doll. It has been defaced, just one among thousands of pieces (we would call them works of art) which were so hated by 'reformers' in the sixteenth century upheavals during the Tudors' reigns, or a century later under the Commonwealth.

This Puritan spirit has surfaced in many churches at many times. It was thriving in the East during the Iconoclast controversy. It spurred on the 11th Century reforms of Citeaux - though the Cistercians built great white-washed barns for themselves rather than destroying the churches of others. 
In the eighteenth century there were Parliamentary debates about whether it was fitting that stained glass originally made as a gift from the Dutch to Henry VII for his Chapel in Westminster might be allowed to fill the East Window of the Church of St Margaret Westminster - the parish Church of Parliament. That window had almost miraculously survived from the sixteenth Century, hidden by a succession of guardians; the last Abbot of Waltham, the Earls of Ormond, then Thomas Bullen (Anne Boleyn's father!). At one stage George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, owned it; and sold it to General Monk, who buried it through the Civil War. When New-Hall where it was installed by Monk fell into decay it was sold again; and eventually was bought in 1758 by a Parliamentary Committee set up to repair and restore St Margaret's. 
A little over a century later battles raged over liturgical attire and practice, and whether the Bishop of Lincoln might be permitted to wear a surplice and light candles in his private chapel. So perhaps it should not surprise us that the spirit of Puritanism is also found in Islam. Whether depictions of the Buddha or Pagan Temples in Palmyra, to ardent Muslims these are not works of art, they are an offence to true religion and only fit for destruction. We may not approve of the destruction, whether in our own history or present day Islam, But perhaps we can make a start at understanding people's motives, even if we do not approve of them - what was that about Cecil Rhodes' statue in Oxford?

Palmyra: now destroyed

Friday 28 October 2016

Naked I came into this World .....

Too Much Stuff
Downsizing, they call this exercise which my wife and I are currently undertaking. I was in the mid-cull of some more books when the phone rang. "How are you, Michael?" I asked when the caller told me who he was. "Dying" came the reply. And so he is, in a hospice preparing to make a good death.

That phone call shone a new light on what we are doing with a move. We are getting ready to die. So we certainly should not grumble about it, as I had been doing. It is a great opportunity for deciding what our successors might find useful or consider beautiful (as William Morris has it). If an item does not measure up to either, and is not essential for our daily living in the next few months, then OXFAM or the tip is the answer. A few special books might find particular good homes. Newman's 1843 Sermons from the University Church in Oxford are in the very middle of the picture above, and the Bournemouth Oratory must have a library.  But no books will be needed on our last voyage. Here we know we are just strangers and pilgrims (so good to have Our Lady of Walsingham for our Ordinariate's Patron), so let's try to value every opportunity for letting go of the encumbrances of STUFF.

More Stuff

Please pray for Michael Walter, Priest of the Church of England, and for St Christopher's Hospice.

Saturday 17 September 2016

Bridges & the Ordinariate in Dublin's Fair City

A first visit to Dublin has set me wondering. Bridges - Pope Benedict as Pontiff - Pontifex Maximus - the Bridge-builder - and the Ordinariate as a Bridge. In Dublin, where the population is predominantly Roman Catholic, there is a Catholic pro-Cathedral (below). It is a fine neo-Classical building. But why only a Pro-Cathedral?

One explanation I heard was that when the Irish Free State was set up a century ago it was supposed that the Church of Ireland, the Anglicans that is, would happily hand over one of the two ancient Cathedrals which had been in their possession since the Reformation. They could hardly need two such buildings within half a mile of each other.

Christ Church Cathedral

St Patrick's
Today a century after the 1916 Rising Christ Church and St Patrick's are both in the hands of the Church of Ireland. The former seems to do a great tourist trade, though it is largely a Victorian rebuild.  St Patrick's, too, had a make-over thanks to a Guinness (picture left). There seems to be a very generous spirit among the Irish. In the Castle State Apartments, which are used for grand events (such as the visit of the Queen to Ireland) the reception Hall still has on its walls portraits of Victoria and Albert, and of most of the Viceroys. The Chapel within the Castle also has the names of former Viceroys (together with St Patrick) carved along its balconies (below). Yet none of this has been vandalised. Other places which were once under Colonial rule have generally been less merciful towards their former overlords.

St Patrick & the Duke of Devonshire

Best of all, outside the City Hall stands a postbox proudly bearing the cipher of Edward VII. Is it possible that in England we could improve relations between the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches? Not with another endless round of ARCIC conversations but with a more generous attitude to sharing. Perhaps the best thing I did in fifty years of ministry as an Anglican priest (perhaps the only really good thing) was to start the experiment of the shared use of St John's (Anglican) parish Church. That was forty years ago, and both Bishops were determined it would just be an experiment. The experiment seems to be working, and still between the early Communion service and the later Parish Eucharist there is a Roman Catholic Mass in St John's. I know there are other instances of such sharing - but it ought to be commonplace. In many Anglican parishes a small congregation struggles to find the money to keep the building standing; yet often (and this is mostly true in our larger Cities) a neighbouring Catholic Church is bursting at the seams and has to have a succession of Masses throughout the day to accommodate everyone.

There are so many other things we could and should share. Within the Ordinariate I think particularly of our friendships. Can we not engineer meetings when Roman Catholics and Anglo-Catholics might meet socially and talk freely about our concerns, instead of sniping and point-scoring at a distance? I think I am still a life member of Forward in Faith - yet I do not even receive New Directions any longer, nor am I invited to the annual Assembly or any of its meetings. What are we afraid of? So many Anglican clergy have remained in the Church of England for good and honourable reasons, and we Roman Catholics should honour this instead of implying that they are just cowardly. It is good that Fr Paul Benfield writes about Anglican matters in our Ordinariate magazine. Perhaps there could be a reciprocal arrangement for New Directions? [And since writing this I find that such an arrangement already exists; Simon Cotton has a column. Sorry I did not know this before I wrote - just hope we can increase and build on all the contacts we have]

When Newman left the Church of England, he described it as The Parting of Friends; yet I have a copy of Pusey's University sermons, a copy he had given to his daughter Mary. In it he has written a footnote in his own spidery hand telling of a very kind correspondence between him and Newman forty years after Newman had left the University Church in Oxford. (His memorial, rt. in the Dublin Catholic University Church). We really should be keeping all our friendships in better order, if we are to make the Ordinariate a bridge rather than an obstacle between our two communions.

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Liturgy: the work of the People

“We do not come to the Church to celebrate what we have done or who we are. Rather, we come to celebrate and give thanks for all that Almighty God has done, and continues in His love and mercy to do, for us.  What He does in the liturgy is what is essential; what we do is to present our ‘first fruits’—the best that we can—in worship and adoration. When the modern liturgy is celebrated in the vernacular with the priest ‘facing the people’ there is a danger of man, even of the priest himself and of his personality, becoming too central."

Of course Cardinal Sarah is right. There are these dangers in vernacular liturgy celebrated facing the people. I could wish though that the good Cardinal had also pointed up some of the dangers in a liturgy not "understanded of the people" (Cranmer, I believe) and also in 'ad orientem' celebrations.
It is possible for a mass to become so liturgically correct, so observant of every foot-note in Fortescue and O'Connell,  that those celebrating (not least, but not only, the Servers) can lose sight of what they are about. I have witnessed 'North end' celebrations in the Church of England which were deeply devout and prayerful. Equally I have seen priests celebrating Mass facing the apse who have been quite switched off - and certainly inattentive to the needs of the worshippers as they gabbled the Latin and dropped into supposedly pious inaudibility, while self-important servers fussed about the altar. 
When we began to adopt the westward facing Eucharist in my CofE days I tried, with my curates, to recognise some of the pitfalls of that change. We spent time together with members of the congregation working out how best to introduce liturgical change. Yes, one could become too informal, more a ringmaster than a celebrant. It was more important than ever to focus on the sacred elements rather than on one's fellow worshippers. Those dangers are still present now that I am a Catholic . Attentiveness, attention to the text, clarity of speaking, refusal to rush, all these and more are needed to give the Mass its proper dignity. There is no place for idiosyncratic modes of speech, or elaborate gestures.
The Ordinariate, I hope, brings with it as part of its patrimony a reverence for "the beauty of holiness". But this does not depend on choreography of Byzantine complexity, Latin vestments more suited to the Knave in a pack of cards than to the reality of the human body, or language from fourth century Rome or sixteenth century England. Repeatedly through history there have needed to be reforms, usually of over-elaboration and clericalism in worship which have treated the laity as mere pew-fodder. We should be grateful to Cardinal Sarah for reminding us that all our worship ought to be focus on the Almighty. Perhaps, though, his particular remedies are only suitable for relatively few Cathedrals and greater churches. More important by far is to get the music sorted out. Drop the meaningless ditties of the 20th Century or the maudlin attention to death of the 19th. Restore to the Catholic Church some of the treasures of hymnody and psalmody from previous generations [and our own], and there is a chance that the people will discover something of God in the Church's worship. For where two or three are gathered together in his name (and no advice in scripture on which way they should be facing) there is the Lord in the midst of them. (Matt.xviii 20)

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?

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.

Thursday 7 April 2016

A Timely Warning

The past few days I've been on Retreat at the Oratory School, led by the Rector of the Shrine at Walsingham, Mgr John Armitage. Five of the priest retreatants were members of the Ordinariate, which was a good proportion. The addresses were good, the prayer time very helpful, but as always I took a book or two along.
Mgr John Armitage
One of  those (plucked at the last minute seemingly at random from our bookshelves) was Leslie Paul's "Sir Thomas More" - a short biography which my wife had when she was still at school - so it is not in the forefront of  Thomas More scholarship. One paragraph though caught my attention. Maybe it is because years ago I went to Romania with one of our St Stephen's House Ordinands, to attend the ordination of a young Orthodox priest who had studied with us in Oxford for a year. In one of the churches in Brasov was a map of Europe - England out on the edge, at the centre Romania. During that visit we went up into the mountains of Transylvania. All I knew about that part of Europe was the name of Vlad - whom we called "The Impaler". In Romania though he is a national hero, who saved Christendom from the invading Turks.

This came back to me as I read a page in Paul's book  on Thomas More - here it is:
"The Papal supremacy was, in More's eyes, the guarantee of the spiritual unity of  Christendom. It was useless to pretend that the Bishop of Rome was just as other bishops; to assert this was to discredit Christ's word to Peter. And if Christendom rally existed, then it must have a head for the same reason that a country had a prince; the head was either Pope, or General Council, or Pope appointed by General Council. If the unity was broken by denying the papal supremacy, then, no matter what justifications might be produced for it, the victory was one for the forces of darkness.They needed little encouragement. More asserted that the surrender to the 'great Turk' within a nation meant ultimate victory for the infidel who was fighting his way up from Constantinople into the heart of Europe in More's own lifetime; and whose menace was so little understood that one Pope at  least was prepared to make an alliance with the Turks in order to defeat his European enemies, and the Lutherans would rather the Turks had Rome than the Popes.Such was the measure of European folly. The papal supremacy and European unity went together,destroy the one and it would be impossible ever again to guarantee the other; disorder and dissension would increase everywhere, and Christ's church itself be endangered. In disowning his debt to Europe, Henry VIII was turning his back on European civilization, and More was virtually the only layman in England who saw what it all implied for the future."

Hagia Sophia debased with Minarets: so what of St Paul's in London?
We need a new Statesman of More's calibre to tell our politicians that any deal which would let Turkey into the European Union would be madness; that to speak of "Christian Ideals" without mentioning Christ or his Church is purest fantasy; and that we should discriminate carefully which 'refugees' we allow into the country - persecuted Christians first, then other minorities suffering at the hands of Muslims. Remember history.

Sunday 6 March 2016

The Mother of us All

The Prodigal Son... or the parable of the two sons - was given us today for the second time in nine days (we heard it as the Gospel two Saturdays ago). Had we been celebrating the Scrutinies we should have had the Man born Blind. But nothing about  Mothers. The Catholic Church really misses so many tricks; and none more than on Mothering Sunday. Passing the Anglican Parish Church today the street was clogged with cars - no doubt because of the popularity of Mothering Sunday. They seem to do better on this day than we do.

Perhaps the Ordinariate can try to remind Mother Church that the whole "Mothers' Day" business came from popular Catholic piety. We should not let people suppose that it is the invention of florists - any more than Easter is just a confection of the chocolate egg industry. There used to be so many popular festivals, Whit Walks at Pentecost, clipping the Church in mid-Lent. Today the Catholic Church is too puritanical. We need to get out on the streets carrying images of our Patrons in procession,  When our post-enlightenment Englishmen and women go on holiday, they are often fascinated, thrilled even, at the exuberance of continental Catholicism. We should bring back some of that colour and joy.

Thankfully, some of our folk seem to be getting the message. At the end of Mass there was a bucketful of daffodils, and the children distributed them as people left Church. But can't we remind our precious liturgists (I use the adjective in more than one sense) that Mothering Sunday happens because the old Epistle included the phrase about "Jerusalem above, which is the mother of us all". We are not shy about Mary - so why not thank God on this day for our earthly mothers, for Mary the mother of the Lord, and for mother Church who nourishes us all?

Tuesday 23 February 2016

Defending the Nation

Portchester Catle: Roman Walls, Norman Keep -and on the hill above, A Palmerston Fort.
Old haunts for a day off: Jane had trained as a teacher in Portsmouth, her second job was at Arundel Street School. While she was there we met - I was serving my title in the City at St Mark's in North End. Today though it was the Navy which occupied us - a visit to the 'Historic Dockyard'. During our time (heavens - more than fifty years ago) the Dockyard was still expanding - it even swallowed up St Agatha's Portsea. Now it has shrunk drastically; 'Gunwharf Quays' is a shopping experience, and much of the rest has been handed over to the heritage industry. A harbour boat trip set us thinking.

Tudor Round Tower at the harboour entrance; in the sea beyond a Palmerston Fort
The Romans had seen the importance of the great natural harbour, and built their Castle at its northern end. The Normans after their invasion fortified the castle, built its keep and a church within the walls. In Victoria's reign Lord Palmerston persuaded Parliament of the need for a chain of forts; on the hills behind Portsmouth and out at sea; one of these is now a hotel, where you could stay overnight for something over £200. They are known as Palmerston's Follies.

With these static defences there were also ships. Henry VIII had the misfortune of seeing his flagship the Mary Rose sunk during a battle with the French just off Southsea Castle. We could not see her today; she is having yet more money spent on her preservation in the recently constructed museum right next to Nelson's flagship, Victory. That vessel too is being restored once more; her masts are down so she looks a little ragged.

Workmen in the Bows of Warrior
We did, though, go on board Warrior. She and her sister ship (long since scrapped) were State of the Art vessels in 1860. Even now the scale of her boilers and engines is astonishing. Within thirteen years she was out of date, and began a downward spiral.Then in the 1970's she was rescued, and many millions were spent on her restoration. Today once again heritage lottery money (£2.5 million in the latest fork-out) is paying for more work. All this expenditure on heritage is no doubt very commendable. But what about the Navy of today? As we went round the harbour there were just four vessels which are still in commission. One of them, a destroyer. is, I think something of an embarrassment to the MOD. Cheese-paring had meant the engines originally fitted were not up to the job, and are having to be replaced.

Amending a new Destroyer
I love the Royal Navy. My father served from Boys' Service (in 1926) until he was invalided out a couple of years after the war. He had been on submarines before the war, and on destroyers throughout the Russian Convoys. In that campaign he was mentioned in despatches, and carried shrapnel in the back of his neck until he died. His last commission was on a netlayer, HMS Guardian, one of the smallest ships in the fleet. Some of my happiest childhood memories were of being taken on board ships - the smell of tar and engine oil is tremendously evocative of those days. Eating in the Wardroom (a rare event) was incredibly special.

I wonder though if the admiralty has its priorities right. There are more admirals in the Navy today than there are ships in commission. Huge sums are being spent on two aircraft carriers - but not yet on the aircraft to fly from them. There is wrangling about replacing the ageing fleet of nuclear submarines.About all this there is a whiff of Palmerston's follies - no shot was ever fired in anger from any of them. Perhaps though that was the point; they were a deterrent.
Boat-builders at work

One place that really thrilled us on our visit was a great shed where old craft were being restored or re-created. There they undertake training courses for people wanting to learn about boat building, and on display are many different craft - a boat from a Royal Yacht, a two man midget submarine (the cockle-shell heroes), all manner of small tugboats and sailing vessels. At Dunkirk it was largely amateur sailors who risked their lives to rescue troops from the beaches. Maybe one day we shall have to look again to our volunteers, when the Navy has shrunk too small to keep us safe.

Haslar and Gosport on the West Bank of the Harbour: what a sky!