Off to Barchester the other day ... I like to try to get there once a year for old-time's sake ... firstly, to visit Mrs Proudie's monument ... and to look at the site of the shrine of S Ewold, marked nowadays by four candlesticks around a vase of flowers (not all plastic) on the bare Cathedral pavement ... ... amusing how modern Anglicanism tries to stake out some claims to continuity but in so doing seems simply to emphasise its historical ruptures and emptiness.
I don't only go to Barchester to visit the Departed. I meet up (why nowadays does one have to "meet up" with someone rather than simply meeting them?) with a friend from our Anglican days, Fr ****. Sadly, I found him incredibly (yes!) depressed. Eventually, he came out with it. "John ... I don't know whether I can with a good conscience continue to celebrate public Masses any more."
He explained that, in retirement, he has had a routine of saying Mass on Thursdays in the church of S Philomena (Virgin) down by the Railway Station (in modern English, "the Rail Station"), to enable the pp to get away for his Day Off. That Mass has been Novus Ordo (rather than the Authentic Use of the Roman Rite which we had both learned at Staggers back in 1966).
For us old gentlemen, there are indeed practical problems about the Novus Ordo; things like all the books one has to juggle with ... Missal; Lectionary; Intercessions ... the endless fiddling around and all the fuss and bother ... it's all so complicated and convoluted, as if deliberately designed to catch one out. Especially as compared with the streamlined simplicities of the Authentic Mass.
On one of the last few occasions before I finally gave up the Novus Ordo, there were just two elderly ladies there. At Communion time, both came up and one of them announced to me "I am the Eucharistic Minister". I simply couldn't think what I was supposed to do to each of of them, or in what order.
But for ****, it is the basic propriety of actually using the Novus Ordo rite AT ALL that increasingly now worries his conscience. Qua rite, it strikes him as somehow indecens sacerdoti. He explained:
"It's certainly not because I doubt its validity. I don't even question its liceity. After all, if you went to a windswept beach in January and found a Council Notice saying 'It is licit to skinny-dip from this beach on cold winter's days, BY ORDER', that wouldn't actually make it illicit for you to keep your trousers on and to button up your overcoat, would it?"
"Er ... n-n-no . .. I stammered, shivering a little. Indeed, I have never vastly liked either skinny-dipping or the Novus Ordo.When I was a toddler during the War, there was also the (Valid and totally Licit) Codliver Oil Problem.
But **** had not finished. He went on:
"It's ... well, the Novus Ordo has got rather inextricably bound up, hasn't it, with the whole excruciatingly horrible phenomenon of Bergoglianism. It's as if, by celebrating that Mass, one is associating oneself with the errors and heresies and general cultural nastinesses of this ghastly pontificate; it's as though, in celebrating it, one is siding with all the bullies and liars around the world who are gleefully taking part in the persecution of orthodox Catholic individuals and families."
Dangerous stuff, this, I thought. Surreptitiously, I checked that there were no Bergoglian spies or delatores lurking behind Priscilla Proudie or the plastic flowers. I quietly murmured the ancient prayer in necessitatibus to S Ewold: "Beate Ewolde Confessor, in tempore malo Dux noster et Protector ..." etc..
Then **** came up with his specific question:
"So, John, here's my question to you. Do you think I should give the Novus Ordo totally up and henceforth refuse to celebrate it at all?"
I'm afraid I was at a loss how to help him.
What should I have said to the poor chap, not to mention his poor conscience, in his moment of need? O All ye Blessed Casuists, assist us both!