22 January 2024

Doubly tearful (2)

Did Mr Cheesemeadow, the great Victorian architect, ever stray from Barsetshire into the Diocese of Oxford?  Mgr R A Knox would know ... but I am pretty sure he did. The High Altar of Dorchester Abbey bears all the signs of his attentions. Behind the mensa there are the words Ecce panis Angelorum Factus cibus viatorum. I suspect that these words will be familiar to most readers.

I wonder why it is that Lauda Sion can move me almost to tears. Perhaps it has something to do with the way, towards its end, that the stanzas become each a line longer ... almost as if Holy Mother Church plangently and clamantly piles on more rhymes and more rhetoric as she hurries to her conclusion.

So I could not but notice that, to the North and to the South of the Altar, there are some more words from the same sublime Sequence: to the left, Bone Pastor, Panis vere; and to right, the South, Iesu nostri miserere. But then I stopped. Quite apart from their context within the hymn, I have seen these lines before.

Please forgive me as I step back a little. For some years I weas fortunate enough to run the Latin Summer School organised by the admirable Latin Mass Society. And, for some years, we met annually in a Franciscan House in Flintshire, North Wales. There are good things there: a statue of our Lady which A W Pugin sent to the great Exhibition; some characteristically mega-wonderful Harry Clarke glass ... how the fortunate Irish should pity us poor English because they have so much of his work, and we have so little. 

In the early days after the Restoration of the Hierarchy in 1850, that part of North Wales was within the Catholic Diocese of Shrewsbury (pronounced ShrOwsbury by the cognoscenti). And the first Bishop of Shrewsbury, Dr James Brown, did quite a lot of building there ... most of it now converted into nice remunerative little flats. My former Fellow Seminarian, Fr Mark Elvins, is buried in the cemetery. And so is Dr Brown. And, on his solidly Victorian grave, there are lots of Latin quotations and inscriptions. "Ah", I cried, "just the stuff". So I incorporated lots of the Latin into my teaching. The students (weather permitting) had to discover the Latinity ... and translate it.

You know what I'm going to say:  Bone Pastor, Panis vere, Iesu nostri miserere is, if my recollection does not deceive me, among the crowded episcopal pieties.

The sentiments, in Dorchester, accompany a despoiled Anglo-Catholic milieu, in a place where, in happier times, the Faith was strong. 

But, as the Franciscans in Pantasaph themselves wind down, I wonder if a depressing parallel could be discerned.

1 comment:

AJ P said...

Unhappily the Franciscans have now left Pantasaph.