Imagine this ... the great gaunt prison at Princetown on Dartmoor, cold always, colder in February; a priest (with bag) waits in the dark outside the entrance until it opens at 6 o'clock. Upon admittance, he goes ... not to the Anglican Chapel, but to the Methodist meeting-house. He sets up his altar; lays out his vestments; then goes into a corner to hear Confessions. That done, he vests, and celebrates (what we are now bidden to call) the Extraordinary Form of Holy Mass with a small congregation. At the back, sitting quietly, are some probably bemused Quakers ... yes, I did say Quakers. Oh ... and did I mention this ... the priest is an Anglo-Papalist.
I heard recently that some Methodists are in a few days going to be celebrating the Conscription Act of 1916; celebrating the fact that it had a provision within it for Conscientious Objection. This was, of course, a great advance on the clever notion of sending "conchies" to the Front in sealed trains so that they could be court-martialed and shot for refusing orders in the presence of the enemy. But the 'tribunals' were very sparing in accepting that those appearing before them were genuinely conscientious objectors. So the prison was full of some six hundred conchies; Welsh Marxists only prepared to fight in a class war; religious fanatics with precise interpretations of the Prophet Daniel; mathematicians; scholars; musicians; actors; miners; farm labourers. And Quakers. Since these inmates were unlikely to escape and, had they done so, might have been very little danger to Society, I rather wonder if the choice of this cold and remote place for their incarceration was another piece of the cruelty engendered by the war-fever of the time.
Fr Bernard Walke, Vicar of S Hilary in Cornwall, was the priest involved, and he said his Mass in the Methodist Chapel because he was denied use of the Anglican Chapel. He was a pricipled opponent of the war, an admirer of Pope Pius X "who when asked to bless the armies of Austria replied, 'I bless peace and not war'. I [Walke wrote] had also instituted the service of Benediction on Sunday evenings, as an act of reparation to the Sacred Heart for the wrongs of war, and as a means of uniting ourselves with our enemies in that Sacrament that knows no frontiers."
Father had himself been beaten unconscious by a mob while addressing a peace meeting in Penzance.
He faced that mob with the same quiet courage with which, after the War, he faced the Protestant mob which came with crowbars and wrecked his church.
I wonder if anyone will trouble to remember Father Walke during this centenial 'celebration'; I would wager Not. Tridentinist Anglo-Catholics with rigid principles are not the sort of public heroes for which facile modern fashion thirsts.
But how wonderful Grace is. I hope you see why some of us have a tenacious resolve to maintain our sense of community with such brave and holy priests (and their layfolk), separated heroes of the Catholic Faith.