Sunday, 15 June 2008

Where to begin?

The Pontifical Mass at the Throne celebrated by Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos in Westminster Cathedral. There is so much that could be said, my mind and indeed emotions are still in a bit of a spin. I don't have any pics I afraid as my camera would appear to have died. I think Badcat has been playing with it when I'm not around.

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,

And there's a video on Massinformation, the Anglican site, 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.

Fr. Tim Finigan was indeed at the receiving end of that crozier

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, 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!!!)

1 comment:

Vernon said...

A very wide selection of photos of Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos's visit are now on the usual web site at

A colleague and I were the LMS's official photographers and thus had access to places that the general pubic do not - hence some very different views of the ceremonies.

The new Administrator of the Cathedral is Fr. Christopher Tuckwell.