25 October 2009

Apostolic Constitution

A splendid meeting in Westminster, with hundreds of laity and priests and bishops and seminarians.

How remarkable was the enthusiasm - especially among the younger priests and seminarians - for the Holy Father's generous initiative.

The laity shared this sense of a wonderful historical moment, but had their own concerns about property; about whether the C of E would let it follow the Ordinariates.

I printed in New Directions quite recently a sermon which, knowing that something like the Constitution was imminent, I preached at our Patronal Festival at S Thomas's in July; in which I pointed out that our medieval churches were not built by Protestants or Liberals; and neither were the new slum churches built by the great Anglo-Catholic clergy of the Victorian period. The C of E, which is a dab hand at declaring churches redundant, has no need to be mean to us.

But there is a theological point here, and I think the Laity were entirely right in their concerns.

Churches, in Catholic Tradition, are massive and significant Sacramentals. They were consecrated in lengthy rites with powerful symbols; the tracing of alphabets on the floor; the anointing of the Consecration Crosses inside and out; the consecration of Altars and the sealing within them of the relics. I was reminded of this recently as I read the Opera of Benedict XIV; a King - John - of Portugal had had an entire and very grand prefabricated Chapel made in Rome (yes: the one which featured so prominently in the recent V & A Baroque exhibition). The king had asked the Pope himself to consecrate it before it was transported to Lisbon. And he did. And he wrote to the King to tell him that he had done so; and reminded his Lusitanian Majesty that the rites of Consecration are so lengthy and so tiring that the Pontificale permits a second person to take over towards the end and actually sing the Mass. But, says this admirable Pontiff, "I did it all myself".

Our churches are not, as one enthusiastic young priest seemed to imply, fairly insignificant pieces of property. They embody the love and the history and the memory of the communities which built and sustained them.

Why should the Liberals have them?

So that they can sell them to property developers?


johnf said...

"They embody the love and the history and the memory of the communities which built and sustained them"

well said Father.

I get dismayed when I hear about Catholic Churches built by the contributions of parishioners - who were not well off - being sold off by Bishops. All those jumble sales, collections, football pool sweepstakes, ...

Independent said...

St Bemedict's Ardwick Manchester is now in secular hands so is the Church of Our Lady of Mercy and St Thomas of Canterbury Gorton Manchester. Both could serve the needs of Anglicans in communion with Rome. Perhaps they might be purchased and reopened?

Independent said...

sorry typing error - Benedict's

Священник села said...

There are few places, alas, where the verse of Canon Mascall would be appreciated. I've always loved 'the Thomist and the Palamite were walking hand in hand' but more to the point today:

The Ultra-Catholic
(By the Revd Dr. E. L. Mascall)

I am an Ultra-Catholic-No ‘Anglo-,’ I beseech you,

You’ll find no trace of heresy in anything I teach you.

The clergyman across the road has whiskers and a bowler,

But I wear buckles on my shoes and sport a feriola.

My alb is edged with deepest lace, spread over rich black satin;

The Psalms of David I recite in heaven’s own native Latin,

And, though I don’t quite understand those awkward moods and tenses,

My ordo recitandi’s strict Westmonasteriensis.

I teach the children in my school the Penny Catechism,

Explaining how the C. of E.’s in heresy and schism.

The truths of Trent and Vatican I bate not one iota.

I have not met the Rural Dean. I do not pay my quota.

The Bishop’s put me under his ‘profoundest disapproval’

And, though he cannot bring about my actual removal,

He will not come and visit me or take my confirmations.

Colonial prelates I employ from far-off mission-stations.

The music we perform at Mass is Verdi and Scarlatti.

Assorted females form the choir; I wish they weren’t so catty.

Two flutes, a fiddle and a harp assist them in the gallery.

The organist left years ago, and so we save his salary.

We’ve started a ‘Sodality of John of San Fagondez,’

Consisting of the five young men who serve High Mass on Sundays;

And though they simply will not come to weekday Mass at seven,

They turn out looking wonderful on Sundays at eleven.

The Holy Father I extol in fervid perorations,

The Cardinals in Curia, the Sacred Congregations;

And, though I’ve not submitted yet, as all my friends expected,

I should have gone last Tuesday week, had not my wife objected.

Independent said...

E.L.Mascall's "The Recovery of Unity" (1958) Chs 9 and 10 on the Church and the Papacy is perhaps relevant. I wonder how far the present reforming Pope fulfills the vision of Dr Mascall?

Andrew - I may be wrong but I always understood that the verses you quote were written by Fr Forrest. Please could you provide a reference?

motuproprio said...

'Pi in the High' by E L Mascall Published in 1959, The Faith Press

Священник села said...

Motupropio has it exactly.

You can find the Thomist and the Palamite online at:


johnf said...

Andrew, Motuproprio


Independent said...

Thank you for the information, Mp and Andrew.