20 December 2013

Knife marks and Co Kerry

Today, after visiting the tomb of the last (indeed, the only) Catholic Bishop of Oxford in the Cathedral here, I dropped into the shop in the Chapter House to buy some hosts. Having a minute or two to idle around, I wandered around some of the Church silver kept there ... mostly stuff never used in the parish churches and kept in Oxford partly for safety and partly so that it can be on view. It must have been the way the light was slanting ... I was looking at a typically Anglican 1694 standing paten when I noticed knife marks criss-crossing on the surface of the silver. Then I realised several other patens on display were similarly marked.

Before the Catholic Revival, leavened bread was commonly used in the Church of England for the Eucharist [except in unusual churches like S Thomas's]. It was cut into cubes. In the cloister of Chichester Cathedral there is a monument, I think to an early nineteenth century canon, showing a Georgian chalice and paten with the cubes neatly arranged piled up on the paten. Clearly, some sextons cut the bread up on the paten itself, using a rather sharp knife.

Also in the Oxford Treasury I came upon a fourteenth century paten with knife marks. That, I presume, must have been in continual use before and after the Reformation.

As the Catholic Revival spread, unleavened bread became usual in the Church of England, even in rather 'low' churches. But, back in the sixties, there was a trendy fad for using 'real' bread. Happily, it was transient: its manifest inconvenience was a deterrent. But I do remember doing summer duty one summer at Cowes on the Isle of Wight four or five decades ago, and having to use buns. The crumb problem was an absolute nightmare. Not to mention the consumption of the Remains.

When I began my long and most pleasurable period of spending the summer vacations serving a couple of Anglican churches in County Kerry, I had to conform to the Irish canonical requirement of leavened bread. We soon became friends of Bishop Ned Darling and his wife Patricia, who visited annually on one of our Sundays there. "This is what we do", he explained. A slice of bread is squidged  by being rolled flat and thin, and is then neatly cut into rectangles. The crumb situation thus becomes no greater than with unleavened bread. But it means, of course, getting up a few minutes earlier every Sunday morning before setting out to say ones Masses.

Entre nous, I did use an ordinary priest's host as well. And I uneasily left to the Almighty the question of whether commercial sliced bread is or is not so adulterated as to be dubious matter.

Bishop Ned, by the way, was a pluralist in the finest, grandest, medieval manner; Bishop of Limerick, Ardfert, Aghadoe, Killaloe, Kilfenora, Clonfert, Kilmacduagh, and Emly ... well, to be honest, also of Inniscattery, united with Limerick around 1450. He signed himself differently wherever he went. When he came to us, he put +Edward Ardfert: in the Register. He and Patricia were a splendid, friendly, witty, couple.

Happy days.

5 comments:

Joshua said...

A priest, recounting his time as a seminarian in an Australian congregation of priests, recalled how one priest had the nervous habit, at the offertory, of taking up the paten - this was OF Mass - and using it as a pizza cutter in a most unbecoming manner, so as to ensure that the principal host was going to split neatly along the incised line cut by edge of said paten. The offending celebrant had to be commanded under obedience to desist from this curious practice, which he had developed in order to reduce to a minimum the problem of crumbs...

Matthew M said...

Sounds like those Old Anglicans did it the Eastern Orthodox way. Also it was done that way by the Gallican Rite Churches. Leaven Bread was used east and west until the 9th century when for some reason the Roman Church went all "Judaizing" and switched to unleavened bread. Although it upset the eastern churches they finally let it slide as the unleavened bread was still made in loaves and cut. Don't know when they switched from real bread to these thin cardboard rounds used today. I'm still annoyed.

√Čamonn said...

Bishop Darling was certainly not a medieval pluralist; his was a collection of dioceses enabled by the suppression of the Irish Dioceses that so exercised Newman et al. Of course it probably embarrassed Canterbury to have only one English Archepiscopal colleague in the Lords but four Irish ones!

Mick said...

Dear Reverend Father, I offer no opinion on validity. I do however relate this of a friend who was a Bakery Manager at a very large commercial bakery (read factory) in relation to sliced bread and its' high content of H2O/ I Quote "we are the only people that can make water stand up!"

Mick said...

Dear Reverend Father, I offer no opinion on validity. I do however relate this of a friend who was a Bakery Manager at a very large commercial bakery (read factory) in relation to sliced bread and its' high content of H2O. I Quote "we are the only people that can make water stand up!"