... because it's S Agatha's Day! So I'm taking a day off from the grim business of Fr Butler of Brentwood and his depressing friends to congratulate the people of S Agatha's Ordinariate Church in Portsmouth, with their admirable Parish Priest Fr John Maunder and Mgr Robert Mercer, the great missionary Bishop of Matabeleland, now in Ordinariate retirement.
They graciously invited me to preach at their Patronal last year; it was the first preachment I was able to take on after I smashed my shoulder. By a happy chance ... no: soon-to-be Saint John Paul II once wisely observed that there is no such thing as Coincidence in Divine Providence ... I broke that shoulder in Rome, where I was booked to preach, during the annual FIUV bash, at S Agata dei Goti!!! That is a unique church in Rome: it was once an Arian church. Perhaps S Agatha should be the patroness of those who rescue churches from schism for Catholic use!
S Agatha's in Portsmouth, of which the Ordinariate has the use, was sold off by the C of E as redundant. It, also unique, is the only place in England ... I think ... where you can see a church built by the Anglo-Catholics in the days of their high glory, full of the most exquisite artwork and shrines, now in Full Communion with the See of S Peter and offering worship in the finest tradition of Anglican Catholicism. As campanologists will know, S Agatha is Patron of all those concerned with bells; and our Senior Grandson Ewan, a passionate and brilliantly competent bell-ringer, was given a go, when we were there last February, during the inaugural peal in the restored S Agatha's.
The good news is that if you live within range of Portsmouth, you haven't missed the boat with regard to this year's festival. S Agatha will be celebrated this coming Saturday at 11.00. Superb music by the Newman Consort from Oxford. Preacher: Abbot Cuthbert from Farnborough.
WHY GO TO ROME ... OR SICILY ... WHEN YOU CAN GET THE REAL S AGATHA SO MUCH CLOSER HOME?