Some little while ago, happily subdeaconing (despite never, in all the multiple ordinations I have so enjoyed, having actually been made a subdeacon) behind Fr John Osman (celebrant) and Fr Daniel Lloyd (deacon) at that wonderful Ember Saturday Mass with the five Prophecies, I recalled how this Mass, originally a Vigil, used to be the regular occasion for Ordinations, the respective Orders being conferred one by one between the readings. Where suitable, one of each category of the newly-ordained then discharged his new ministry, for the first time, in that very same Mass. A beautifully edifying practice which, with predictable determination, the post-Conciliar Coetus tasked with revising the Rites of Ordination decided to abolish. But my own Ordination to the Diaconate took place in 1967, before the new fads (which, incidentally, Vatican II had never mandated) had done their worst. Accordingly, in that blissful far-off age, the act of Ordination of Deacons still took place before the Gospel of the Mass, so that one of the neodiakonoi could then sing it.
The custom of the Church of England at that time was that the new Deacon given the honour of chanting the Ordination Gospel was the one whom the Bishop's Examining Chaplain deemed to have written the best 'Deacons' Papers'. Herein lies the moral dilemma I wish to put before you. You see, I thought it would be rather nice for Mummy if I myself had that honour. She liked to see her boy doing well. And I happened to know (I think we were given his address so that we could send our essays directly to him) that the Bishop of Oxford's Examining Chaplain on duty to mark the Papers that year was a priest who was a keen adherent of an organisation called MRA (Moral Rearmament) which tended to plant certain code-words in its propaganda literature.
You know what I'm going, tot post annos, to confess. Yes ... I planted a number of these expressions (entirely obiter, I hasten to add) in my essays. And, hey presto ...
Which of the commandments did I transgress? I knew you would be able to explain that to me.
I did get a sort of comeuppance. I am hopeless at liturgical chant, so all through the pre-Ordination Retreat ... and during the Ordination Mass itself ... I was consumed with nervousness. To this day, I can remember that wretched Gospel (from S Luke Chapter 12) with its ending " ... and find them so-o, blessed are those ser-ervants". But I did get through it, much to the surprise of Fr Michael Watts (Staggers), the Precentor (his ashes now in that little plot behind the Cathedral's Lucy Chapel, together with the remains of so many of the Patrimony ... quorum animabus propitietur Deus).
Then, off to the Luna Caprese for lunch with Pam, with Senior Daughter (the poor little mite was still in utero but I'm sure she enjoyed the food), and with the third female then in my life; Mummy, you will be glad to be reassured, was pleased.
Long time ago. So very much water under Folly Bridge ...