Friday, 27 June 2008
Wednesday, 25 June 2008
Apart from finding a very dead thrush under the sofa, he's been fairly quite.
But I though you might like to know the kind of company he keeps. Here's what one of his friends has been getting up to... http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/wiltshire/7473409.stm
If you are travelling from the A46 you skirt the Badminton Estate and pass on the right hand side the astounding Worcester Lodge, designed by William Kent and about the best bit of architecture for miles about. But I've not got a photo, apologies.
St Lawrence is the original parish church and was essentially abandoned in Victorian times when a new church, dedicated to St. Michael, was built just a few hundred yards along the street. This has saved St. Lawrence from being brought in line with the thinking of the Ecclesiological reformers and so it retains the appearance of a Georgian parish church. It was built in two campaigns, the nave and chancel in Norman times and a transept in the early C13th. This has resulted in a somewhat unusual L shape.
This is a famous photograph taken of the interior by that exceptional photographer of churches and cathedrals Edwin Smith. I plan to do a post on him sometime as his photographs capture the magical essence of these buildings like few others. I find it amazing that this photograph was taken as late as 1961.
You can see the same bench in the Edwin Smith photograph.
The church was restored very sensitively in the 1980s and retains a special atmosphere; it is very intimate and pleasingly unfussy. The woodwork is painted an unusual but authentic limey green.
About three years ago I first visited the church and it was then vested in the Churches Conservation Trust and obviously unused. When last there I was surprised to find it once again being used for parish worship. It may be that with falling numbers the Victorian replacement was no longer needed and the parishioners of Didmarton have returned to their original parish church. The only downside is that some accommodation for modern expectations of comfort have been made, so there is rush matting covering the stone flagged floor and modern chairs in that part of the nave which previously had no seating.
The workings of the clock hang down through the transept roof and the loud ticking fills the air.
Less than a mile away is the Church dedicated to St. Alrid at Oldbury-on-the-Hill. This is very definitely not used and has no prospect of ever being used again. It too is vested in the Churches Conservation Trust but here the decision seems to have been made to allow it to slide into quite sleep. It has been made watertight but no more.
It was first built in the C13th., much altered in the Tudor period and again in Georgian times.
It too escaped the Victorians and is much more rustic than St. Lawrence. It is dusty, there are birds nesting inside, and even a few weeds growing in the floor of the nave but somehow it too is special.
Tuesday, 24 June 2008
Elkstone is situated high on the Western Cotswolds, not far from the main road, ( A417), between Cirencester and Cheltenham. It seems quite a mysterious place, a tiny village, several converted barns and a great church which is partly hidden among trees and to all appearances turns its back on the village.
There is a very striking tympanum over the main door, which as is very common in the West of England is not at the West end but to the West end of the South side of the nave.
The tympanum is surrounded by a great band of dogtoothing and beak heads and is obviously an expression of the great work going on on the continent at this time. It depicts Christ in Majesty, surrounded beasts, ( Evangelists?), and is probably among the best work of its date in Gloucestershire.
As you can see the head of Christ has been hacked off.
Inside the effect is almost entirely Norman and the church is dominated by the very fine double chancel arches. The first one has been restored, mainly due to subsidence of the masonry but the second one is in more of its original state. They create a fitting entry to the wonderful chancel itself. It is low and entirely stone vaulted, which is quite rare, especially as the vaults are decorated by strange and unusual visions. At the point where the ribs of the vault interlock there are four beasts heads. There is a lovely , very tiny, East window of the virgin and child and the whole chancel is suffused with a golden light from a similarly small window in its south wall.
The whole place is very quiet and mysterious. If you visit, try the little door to the left as you enter the chancel. If you find it open, climb the tiny staircase and you will emerge above the chancel into an unusual feature, a columbarium or pigeon loft. Why is it here? No one knows.
The tower to the extreme West of the church is very fine and quite too grand for the church. It was built in the late 1300s at a moment of great prosperity for this little hidden hillside.
Monday, 23 June 2008
It is time again to remember some of the English Martyrs. Sunday was the feast of St. John Fisher and St Thomas Moore and today is the 400 anniversary of the martyrdom of St Thomas Garnet, nephew of St. Henry Garnet.
There is a really excellent sermon at http://romanmiscellany.blogspot.com/ and another at http://valleadurni.blogspot.com/2008/06/god-and-country-homily-from-few-years.html , and yet more here http://friendswithchrist.blogspot.com/2008/06/great-day.html.
St John Fisher
While we have of course many churches dedicated to the English Martyrs, incl St. Thomas Moore and St. John Fisher, I sometimes wonder if we don't feel a little uncomfortable these days making too much fuss of those who died for the Faith at the time of the reformation in England. I have heard people try to play things down, " Of course, they only went as far as putting people to death during quite a short period, and after that Catholics were tolerated to a certain extent", as someone said to me lately, or, " you have to understand things from an historical perspective".
St Thomas Moore
Sunday, 22 June 2008
What is so very striking is how very much times have changed, not just in the U.K. but also in Rome. Cardinal Hume and many of the hierarchy seem to have believed that the papacy of John Paul II was somehow a conservative interlude, and we would after his death return to a more liberal ethos. At the time few probably expected that papacy to continue for so long. Of course few expected the Anglican Communion to unravel as quickly and badly as it has, or for the Church of England to be hijacked in such an aggressively progressive direction. It now appears that all the Cardinal's hard work and sacrifice has been cast aside.
And yet you are left with a feeling that everything was done for a genuine heartfelt reason. He felt that he was living at a crossroads in Christian History and had a huge part to play which he did with great humility. But his innate Englishness did not allow him to think really long term, or as part of the Church as a whole. I think he was a little too self deprecating, especially, as being the type of English, intellectual, churchman he was, he should have been aware of the strange dichotomy within the Anglican Church. A little story might illustrate. I was at dinner with some people about a year ago. There were ten or so around the table. Conversation was generally about Culture, Church music, Church Conservation, etc. At one point my rosy cheeked neighbour leaned towards me and said, " I must be true, really, mustn't it, the scriptures, eternal life and all that". Afterwards, as we were leaving, another guest and I were talking in the street, he said " I must dash I'm reading the lesson at XXXX Church at 8.30 in the morning. ". I said, " Well, so am I, here in our local church". At which point he pulled himself up a bit and asked, " At The Anglican Church?", to which I replied, " No, at our little Catholic Church, around the corner". He put his hand on my shoulder and laughed good naturedly, " Dear Boy, that doesn't quite count, I think you'll find it's not the same thing at all, you know".
All said, however, you can not but love Basil Hume the man.
I think the powerful effect which Cardinal Hume's personality and his deeply held commitments had on his fellow churchmen may go some way to explaining the refusal of today's hierarchy to take on board Benedict XVI's revitalisation of the church through a reorientation of the liturgy, a reassertion of Catholic identiry, and a firm hand on the rudder of the Bark of St. Peter.
Saturday, 21 June 2008
After death he was at his own request taxidermied and the result was eventually presented to London University College as a teaching aid. He was put on display in a very nice glass fronted case and is still to be seen today. The head is a replacement as it did not take very well to the preservation process and eventually became the target of student pranks when it would be stolen for a dare.
But seriously, very seriously http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7462934.stm.
It was news yesterday and has already slipped off the radar. And don't you just love the solutions proposed.
There is not really a village to speak of at Duntisbourne Rouse but there is a most wonderful church. It is one of the most hidden gems in the gem studded part of the world and quite difficult to locate. The Duntisbournes, Rouse, Leer, Abbots, are stone built villages hidden in the valley of the Dunt Stream, to the north of Cirencester, Gloucestershire, but seemingly at the end of the world.
There is an old weather beaten, unpainted, wooden signpost half hidden in the hedgerow and a rickety wooden lychgate in a gap in the foliage. Alec Clifton-Taylor in his book The English Parish Church as A Work of Art, describes it as one of his favourite churches in the whole of England and is very taken with the slight angle at which one approaches it along the path. In other words it is not aligned with the path. Such little irregularities are part of the fabric of the English scene.
There is some debate as to the exact age of the church but it is now thought that it actually straddles the critical date of 1066 A.D., so some of the stonework is Saxon and some is Norman. The little saddleback tower was completed in the late 1500s. You can see that the windows are all of different dates.
The porch is completely stone built, unlike the one at Kempley which is substantially wooden. Here we are in the Cotswold Hills where good stone is everywhere under your feet but good timber is scarce. On the gable of the porch is a Mass Dial, a sundial used to tell the time for Mass.
Inside it is the simplicity and honesty the impress. It is as if nothing has changed for hundreds of years. There are simple oak box pews, a Jacobean pulpit, a fine strong plain Norman chancel arch, some unusual panelling in the chancel, very little stained glass, and just a little medieval painting surviving here and there, in this case just decorative patterns. The simplicity of it is moving, the very stones of the floor are worn by generations of worshippers.
The churchyard itself is magical, sloping quite steeply down to the tiny stream which gives the villages their names. There are some good tombs and the remains of a churchyard cross. The few neighbouring houses are all of the same stone and the gardens are full of simple flowers and vegetables. Everything is right.
There is a surprise. Made possible by the steeply sloping ground, hidden under the chancel is a tiny one cell chapel, accessible from the outside, which feels infinitely old, a single dark, low vaulted room with a single tiny window in the East wall. It reminds me very strongly of those tiny oratories you find in the Southwest extremities of Ireland but which date from centuries before.
The church is still used for services but as the villages are within easy reach of one another the service moves from one church to another. I have no idea what attendances might be.
( I should point out that unless otherwise stated all the churches I post about are Anglican/ Church of England. They were, almost without exception, built for Catholic worship, but due to historical circumstances, ( " that's one way of putting it", Ed.), there are very very few medieval parish churches still in Catholic hands. )
Thursday, 19 June 2008
Situated North West of the City of Gloucester, on the border with Herefordshire, set among rolling countryside where in Spring there are masses of native wild daffodils, is the pink rendered and stone towered medieval church of St. Mary at Kempley. The village itself is a mile or more away to the Southwest and at the turn of the C19/20th. a new church was built in the village in the Arts and Crafts Style.
The medieval church is Early Norman and has a tunnel vaulted chancel almost entirely covered with wall paintings of approximately 1130A.D. They were completely whitewashed over at the Reformation and rediscovered in 1872. At that time they were covered with varnish to prevent their deterioration but soon began to darken until almost nothing could be seen of them. A brave person discovered in 1955 that only the varnish had discoloured and it could safely be removed to uncover the paintings in good condition underneath.
In the centre of the barrel vault of the chancel is the Logus or Christ in Majesty, seated upon a rainbow, his left hand holds an open book in which are written the monograms IHC and XPS. His right hand is in the process of benediction. He is surrounded by the sun, moon and stars, seven golden candlesticks, and the symbols of the four Evangelists, and in each corner is a winged Seraphim.
On the east wall of the chancel is a very fine figure of a bishop in Mass vestments, green Gothic chasuble, short plain miter and a very long maniple.
The twelve apostles are ranked on the north and south walls of the chancel
In the nave there are lots of other paintings of several dates in various stages of visibility, including a Wheel of Life which is apparently very unusual.
There are also images of the Three Mary's at the Empty Tomb, which is said to be a depiction of that event as enacted in the Medieval Miracle Plays, and several others incl. a group of men wearing extraordinary plumed hats. It is much more difficult to make sense of the paintings in the nave, partly because they are in a less good state of preservation and partly because, unlike the chancel, they do not form a complete, thought out , sequence but jostle together.
There is also quite a bit of nice glass, mostly dating from the late C19th., and thankfully not too dark or intrusive. I really like the East Window which is by Charles Kempe, depicting angels presenting the infant Christ with the instruments of the Passion, though I have heard it described as " in poor taste" and " unfortunate". There is also a lovely little window, in the nave, by the Wheel Of Life painting, with some very good painted glass with symbolic representations of the Virgin, eg, Hortus Conclusus, Font of Ivory, etc. dating from early in the C20th century.
Among other marvels is probably the oldest church roof timbers in England, ( hidden by a early C17th ceiling), and what is widely regarded as the oldest church door in the country, three planks cut from the same log, with the original ironwork.
The church has an extraordinary atmosphere whether you find it completely deserted or with a few tourists about. It is very well cared for, with fresh wild flowers on the altar, and well dusted, though I could not find any indication that any services take place. If you go to visit bring a picnic lunch, otherwise there are slim pickings about.
Needless to say I was barefoot.
Such is life with Oliver Badcat.
I do feed him, you know.
Wednesday, 18 June 2008
The name of this society reminds me a little of one of my most heart stopping moments. I came home from college to my rented flat, about 20yrs ago, probably after sharing a drink or two with fellow students. I flicked on the television to the BBC. A solemn announcer said, "There follows an important NEWSFLASH", and the scene cut to an even more solemn newsreader behind a desk. He said, "I regret to inform you that following the breakdown of secret negotiations this evening full scale hostilities have broken out between the USSR and the USA and her Allies. We have confirmed reports the a large number of nuclear missiles have been launched from Russia. The Department of Defence estimate the time to impact at approximately 12 mins. This does not of course apply to viewers in Wales and the West Country who will have Coronation Street followed by the News.
Cue jaunty music.......
I collapsed in a gibbering mass and watched the rest of the sketch show.
I am a tremendous fan of the LMS and won't have a word said against it but in this realm we never seem to have societies who cover England, Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland; I just wonder if we might have a little more " clout" that way.
St. Gregory sending the mission to the English
Most of us have heard and used the first three terms, though, of course, Extraordinary Form appeared only with the release of Summorum Pontificum. The term Gregorian Mass is a new one to me and I suspect to most people. What exactly is meant by this term? We know it refers to the Extraordinary Form but what's the connection? We could even ask which Gregory is involved? It can't be referring to Gregorian Chant, firstly because this can be used, you could say should be used, just as much in the Novus Ordo, and secondly it is a question of forms of the Rite not externals, like music, and thirdly the Cardinal is far too sharp to muddy the waters thus.
He must have been referring to Pope Gregory the Great, pope for 13 years, from 590 ad to 604. In his fairly short pontificate he accomplished an immense amount, including sending St. Augustine on his mission to convert the English, (an ongoing project). He, like St. Basil, but to a much greater extent, was a supreme liturgical reformer and he essentially set the Roman Rite of Mass on the road to being what we refer to today as the Extraordinary Form. He codified the Canon, placed the Pater Noster at the end of it, eliminated the Prayers of the Faithful and gave a great emphasis to what we now know as Gregorian Chant. It might not be going too far to say that he as instrumental with establishing the idea of Traditio, the handing down from one generation to the next something ineffably sacred to be cherished and slowly, organically developed.
Tuesday, 17 June 2008
Sunday, 15 June 2008
One of the first things to mention is the crowds. I arrived early, entering the cathedral just as the consecration of the 12.30, English language, Mass was taking place. I was glad to see some people, obviously there for the Cardinal's Mass, kneeling in the side isle as they waited for confessions. The portable altar was still in place at 1.00pm and I began to distress myself that it was going to remain. I was obviously not going to have to worry about seats at this point so I went for a wander around Westminster arriving back at the Cathedral at about 1.20pm or so. The portable altar had vanished without trace. Already every seat beyond the crossing was taken, apart from a block reserved for the LMS. I got a seat six rows back from the crossing. By 1.50pm it seemed that every seat in the cathedral was taken and indeed people began to stand around the pulpit, and at the crossing. By the time Mass started there were people standing in the side isles and at the back of the Cathedral. The LMS reps were obviously taken aback by the numbers and opened up their reserved seats to those standing. They also ran out of Mass books and an appeal was made for those who had brought their own missals to pass the Mass Books on to those who were without. There was a tremendous atmosphere building and people began to turn in their seats, looking back down the nave at the scale of the congregation.
The Mass itself was absolutely beautiful, vestments, altar, music, everything was the best it could be. There were a few moments of confusion here and there but they signify nothing.
It was wonderful to see the cardinal being vested at the throne, first, I think it is done like this, in the vestments of a deacon, then priest, then bishop. Though they were made of fine silk it did put me in mind of a warrior being prepared for battle and if you pop over to Fr. Blake you will see that such is the case, http://marymagdalen.blogspot.com/2008/06/my.new.hero.html
And there's a video on Massinformation, the Anglican site, http://massinformation.blogspot.com/2008/06/what-extraordinary-week.html. You can see how the Cardinal wields his crozier, more like a battering ram than a walking stick. The footage is of the very end of the recessional procession, almost at the vestry, and they've picked up a bit of seed by then. They processed down the nave with the utmost of stately dignity.
The Mass was beautifully sung by they CATHEDRAL CHOIR. I have been disappointed in the past that even when the LMS publicity has stated that the cathedral choir would sing it was not they. Westminster Cathedral Choir is quite possibly the best church choir in the world, and when they sing it really sounds like the sublimest form of prayer. They are not just preforming they offering their song to God. I noticed at one point early before Mass the boys of the choir lined up across the sanctuary being shown how to receive Holy Communion, which they subsequently did, all on the tongue, directly from the cardinal.
I hope the LMS will publish the text of the cardinal's address as, 1 with his strong accent and the acoustic in the cathedral it was sometimes difficult to hear him and 2, it was quite concentrated, each point being covered in only one or two well thought out sentences. It was reasoned and balanced and I thought, " this man is a true pastor of souls". He assured us that the Vatican and Pope Benedict are well aware of our attachment to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and encouraged us, while at the same time telling us not to be polemical about it and the Novus Ordo, which he stressed is equally valid. He stressed that the Mass is a sacrifice and that the true way to actively participate is by joining ourselves with the sacrifice of the priest.
Then he mounted to the altar, and first his mitre and then his scull cap were removed and he stood bareheaded before the altar of God. Then as the cannon went on, first the deacons and then the assistant priests, stepped back and he stood alone to offer the sacrifice in silence. In such moments it seems to me that only the true Catholic view of the world and God's relationship with it make any real sense.
The lady next to me was Nigerian, ( I think), and covered her head with a bright yellow and gold spangled wrap which reached to her knees. She sang the Pater Noster, from memory, softly with the Cardinal. The Liturgical Police have obviously not caught up with her yet. Nor with the Cardinal who kept his maniple on while giving the sermon. Shouldn't he have taken it off?
(One thing which does slightly annoy me among Latin Mass aficionados is Liturgical nitpicking. Two " gents" in the row in front had a high time of it when the configuration of ministers and servers for the gospel went a bit astray and when the wrong epistle was on the point of being read. One had already commented that the candles on the altar were lit in the wrong order. But I am sure that as the Extraordinary Form becomes more " normal", this kind of attitude will diminish. I hope so.)
As I went forward for Communion the sound of the entire cathedral singing Adoro Te Devote, with, as we passed row after row of people on their knees, their individual voices becoming distinct and then being replaced by the next row, brought me as near to tears as I've been in many a day.
Afterwards the piazza was thronged with happy people.
Can I suggest that as many as possible should write three short letters: one to the Latin Mass Society thanking them for organising the Mass , one to the Cathedral Administrator for facilitating the mass and for all their help, ( for instance I believe the vestments came from the Cathedral, and I know that the Mass Books were printed by the Cathedral), and one to the master of Music thanking him for the choir's wonderful contribution for which they gave up their free weekend time.
The Latin Mass Society, 11-13 Macklin Street , London WC2B 5NH,
Mr. Martin Baker, Master of Music, Westminster Cathedral, Francis Street, London SW1P 1QW.
The administrator has recently changed so it might be more appropriate to write just to that title, also at the above address. N.B. It has been very kindly brought to my notice that the new administrator is Fr. Christopher Tuckwell.
Vernon Quaintance has many really superb photographs up, http://www.traditionalcatholic.org.uk/ The site is great but takes a long time to load and is very slow in moving on from one set of photo's to the next which may be due to the amount of traffic or the superb detail of the imaged contained therein.
(Oh, and I briefly accosted Mulier Fortis afterward, but had to dash to catch a coach. I had booked my ticket without allowing any time for hobnobbing afterwards! What was I thinking!!!)
Friday, 13 June 2008
About half an hour ago a hedgehog walked in my front door off the street and spend some time wandering around my sitting room. With all those sharp spines I think Oliver Badcat might have met his match. I can't imagine where it came from as I live in the centre of a large village, ten yards off a very busy A road.
Thursday, 12 June 2008
On the question of the bishops and the M.P. I am very glad to hear that some bishops are actively canvassing for priests able to celebrate the Extraordinary Form. And it is excellent to hear a priest who is sympathetic to the issue discuss the practicalities involved.
I tend to agree with him on the question of Low Mass; my idea of it is as something quiet, deeply spiritual, etc but in reality I come away unfulfilled. It could be countered that the Mass is not about me at all but a sacrifice offered to God. But it is meant to offer us consolation as well. Perhaps our world has moved on so much that I no longer "get it". ( There was after all a genuine reason why Vatican II called for a reform of the Missal, even if what we got was nowhere near their intention. )
But above all I hope and pray that we might have as Fr. Ray suggests reconciliation with the Past.
Oh and GET TO WESTMINSTER CATHEDRAL ON SATURDAY.
In which of the " Worship Events " in each of these pairs of photographs would you like to actively participate?
(You can click on the images to enlarge if it helps)
This or This?
Would you be surprised to find that the first image in each pair is from the Anglo Catholic side of the Anglican Church and the other image from the Roman Catholic Church?
I wonder what a difference it would make to our Catholic Church were we to facilitate the "crossing over" of our Anglican Brethren en mass. As far as I know the powers that be are very willing to accept individual conversions but not very interested in groups. It might be interesting to speculate why? After all those coming from Anglicanism are likely to be doing so because of strongly held faith and convictions, ( on women priests and bishops, openly gay clergy, remarriage of divorced persons, etc.)
(Of course I could be talking through my clown's hat.)
Wednesday, 11 June 2008
The picture essay section is interesting, with sections on Mass Dials,The Easter Sepulcher, Post Reformation Communion Arrangements, etc.
Of particular interest is the section headed Organisations, which provides a good list of organisations concerned with churches as buildings and as part of history.
Oh and beware of the horrid pop-ups!
Tuesday, 10 June 2008
Oliver has retired, at my suggestion, for an evening of quiet meditation in the back bedroom.