People talk about 'comfort reading' (Decline and Fall, Have his Carcase, and Zuleika Dobson are some of mine) but there can also be Comfort Video-Watching. The other day I watched the full video of blessed Benedict XVI's Mass in Westminster Cathedral. It really is fun unexpectedly spotting Good Eggs on screen. Among the concelebrants, the great Mgr Andrew Wadsworth (Yes!! I hear everyone's cries of Vescovo subito!!! What a lot I owe to him!); and an Oxford friend, now much missed, Yakoub Banglash, nonchalantly poised in front of one of the cameras. And there is fun too in noticing the Bad Eggs ... not that I ever did spot the photogenic features of Kieran Conry.
The Mass was probably very close to being what most of the more moderately modernising Fathers of Vatican II imagined they were signing up to when they voted for Sacrosanctum concilium; Latin dominated, including the Roman Canon; but there were some Propers and Intercessions in English. In the Canon, it is always interesting to listen carefully to those senior concelebrants who have parts of the Great Prayer assigned to them to deliver individually. Cormac Murphy O'Connor, who had the good fortune of being ordained well before the Rupture and thus for more than a decade had experience of saying the Canon daily, was smooth and accurate. So, interestingly, was Cardinal Keith O'Brien (he had a couple of years of it). Archbishop Vincent Nichols (ordained in December 1969), on the other hand, gave the impression of not being quite within his comfort zone.
There was just one slight whiff of dissatisfaction; His Grace the Archbishop of Cardiff did not conceal that Welsh Catholics were rather disappointed that the Sovereign Pontiff's itinerary had not included the Principality. Hardly surprising. I didn't blame His Grace for giving everyone, in retaliation, an extensive experience of the Welsh Language! Served them right! And I had felt that Pope Benedict should have been allowed to go to Walsingham; I recall that his Predecessor had also wished to go there, and was irritated to be prohibited (you may remember that, as a consolation prize, S John Paul II was told that our Lady of Walsingham would be at his main Mass; he couldn't see her when he arrived to celebrate Mass, and gave peremptory instructions that she should at once be moved onto the Altar itself). A recent correspondent, a Catholic priest not of the Ordinariate, wrote to me: "English Catholic Bishops are more likely to be found in Lourdes than in Walsingham; and I think that the fact that the Catholic Shrine and associated plant in Walsingham is so shabby and underfunded in comparison with its Anglican counterpart is a reflection of the way in which Catholics tend to undervalue Walsingham". I'm not too certain about the individual details in that critical verdict, but the essential point is an interesting one. Are some Catholics still uneasy about the Anglican initiative at Walsingham, or irritated by the brilliantly conceived and truly Catholic spirit of Fr Hope Patten's elegant Holy House and Shrine Church, each so very much unlike a barn?
And Oxford. I wonder why he didn't come here? Could it have anything to do with the aggressive secularism of so many in the modern University? Or were the English bishops opposed? When preaching the University Sermon in Latin in the University Church (the sort of thing that still happens once a year in Oxford) soon after the papal visit to England, I lamented at some length on the sadness that so very erudite a Pontiff should not be able to visit this great shrine of all the scientiae, and to see Newman's Altar and Newman's Pulpit (which I was at that moment preaching from). I still think the same. And Benedict XVI would have been the first to understand that Blessed John Henry belongs to Anglicans as well as to Catholics, and that Oxford is the symbol of that. Cardinal Manning might have agreed too ... you remember his criticism of Newman ... "the old Oxford literary Patristic tone" ... such crimes ...
A couple of attractive ecumenical opportunities went down the drain there!