22 January 2020

Derek Allen, priest

Today, I think, is the Year's Mind (or "Anniversary", if you are a cradle Catholic) of Fr Derek Allen, Principal of St Stephen's House, the once great Anglican Catholic Seminary in Oxford.

Derek took over as princial in 1962, upon the retirement after three decades of the legendary Canon Arthur Couratin, who had himself spanned the peiod between the exuberant, triumphalist Anglican Catholicism of the 1930s, and the reduced but still cheerful Catholicism of the post-War period. Derek maintained the ultramontane traditions of "SSH".

A product of "the House" was guaranteed to prospective incumbents as having been taught strictly according to the liturgical books of O'Connell; a "Staggers Man", so people were wont to say, would know exactly how to extract a fly from a consecrated chalice. I think, incidentally, I was one of the last group to have been so trained before the dismal days which followed 1968. I remember being asked, at a Mass Practice, to say aloud the Offertory Prayers, which we had been required to learn by heart. Most seminarians learned them in English; I launched into Suscipe sancte Pater  ... "Oh, all right" said Derek. My Staggers training then has stood me in very good stead since Pope Benedict unloaded Summorum Pontificum ... and me ... upon the Universal Church.

Stalinist Commissars ("Inspectors") used to visit the House in order to catch it inculcating Extreme Illegalities. On one occasion, clutching their notebooks, they dropped eagerly in upon "Mass Practices". They found one young man being trained to offer the Holy Sacrifice according to the Usages of the UMCA dioceses in Africa ... in Swahili. Another student (I think he was a Hiberno-Catholic Chavasse) was learning the Eucharistic Order of the Church of Ireland, with the liturgical manners so precisely codified by O'Connell, but strictly within the Irish canons and rubrics.

The poor simple proddies had, of course, been set up. It's the only sort of language they understand ...

I recall hearing a story about Derek's own First Mass ... that he elevated the Chalice with such joyous enthusiasm that some of the Precious Blood spilled over the lip. I wonder if any reader is able to corroborate that.

Fr Allen resigned in 1974 and served as pp of S Saviour's Eastbourne until his sudden death in 1991.

May he rest in peace.


7 comments:

Shaun Davies said...

I acknowledge your praise (I'd like to know more about him; very little information or obituaries available) of Canon Couratin, but didn't he introduce Westward facing Masses, the celebrant behind the Six Candles ? I was told that he advised people not to genuflect BEHIND a forward altar so as to prevent the appearance of a beheaded St John the Baptist. Surely this practice was unusual among Anglo-Catholics ? It is acknowledged,surprisingly, in The Rev. Sir Patrick Ferguson Davey's BISHOP IN CHURCH. Did they see it coming, even at that early time in late Anglo-catholicism ?

Scribe said...

Oh, Father, what fun it all was! How orthodox was such-and-such a priest about tarping? (Taking the Ablutions in the Right Place). What rules governed the lighting of the sanctus candle during Low Mass? I have long since fled to Rome,but have very fond memories of both triumphalist and cheery Anglo-Catholicism. Father, you are an important bridge between Then and Now; I think you should write a book about it all, a sort of latter-day sequel to Morse-Boycott's 'They Shine Like Stars'.

Dr Frederick Jones said...

Students used to joke that during the time of " Arthur" there were at St Stephen's House "three parsons and one God."

PM said...

Did your time at Staggers also coincide with that of that fine scholar and fine man John Cowdrey, who died a few years ago?

Mark Zorab said...

I am in possession of the red lined biretta of Fr Couratin given to me by my school chaplain at Cheltenham College one dear Fr. Sam Salter deceased, who also left me his framed copy of St. John Henry Newman's "Lead Kindly Light" which is signed, so presumably now a relic. I'm unlikely to use the biretta again as I'm leaving the Church in Wales at Candlemas, as unable to accept all the changes including a lady who becomes the new Bishop of Monmouth diocese and to whom I am unable to give canonical obedience. Any Takers for the hat? It is a size small.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

My dear Father Zorab

May I offer you my very best wishes. Will you be you entering into Fuller Communion?

I would myself be very happy to give a good home to either or both of your relics. My own biretta, which I had been using since I was deaconed in 1967, got lost last time I was in the West Country!

John H

Shaun Davies said...

Dear Scribe,
It's all very well to talk about TARPING, but please don't forget the excitements of KYGing (Kyrie in Greek) and GABing (Gloria at the beginning) Then you had the glories of KYG,GAB and TARP.
These cradle Catholics just don't know what they missed.