Friday, 24 June 2011

Norwich Ordinations to the Presbyterate of the Ordinariate: Patrimonial Reflections

Wednesday 14th June at St John's Cathedral, Norwich, saw the priestly ordinations of Father David Skeoch and Father Allen Brent. The two new priests of the Catholic Church were the first ordained to the pastoral clergy of the Ordinariate since the ordinations of the former Anglican bishops. We reported on this event in Cambridge in April, along with the candidates' interesting stories of their personal pilgrimages to this point.

This time, as Fr Skeoch (who leads a small pastoral group of lay Ordinariate faithful in the Ipswich area) and Fr Brent (who will continue to focus on his academic and patristic theological work, not least at the Augustinianum, the Pontifical Lateran University, in Rome) will be assisting and working closely with priests in the parishes of the East Anglia diocese where they live, the ordination took place in the diocesan Cathedral. Most sadly, the bishop himself, Bishop Michael Evans is seriously ill with terminal cancer and so Bishop Alan Hopes, the Bishops' Conference's Episcopal Delegate for the Ordinariate, was invited to administer the sacrament of Order in his stead.

The Entrance Hymn was Praise to the Holiest, sung to Billing, the tune familiar to Catholics thanks to its official imposition by the approval of the Hierarchy of the Westminster Hymnal in 1912. We have commented extensively on this tune and the history of its alternatives in our report on the Aysleford diaconal ordinations here.

As is the custom at St John's Cathedral, extensive use was made of cantor-led responsorial music. While this remains appropriate on such occasions as pilgrimages or in parishes where musical resources and proficiency are not fully developed, this is understandable. On this occasion, a "through"-setting of the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin or English would have been within the capacity of the clergy and faithful present (indeed this the case for the Agnus Dei, which was sung in Latin to simple Gregorian chant).

An important piece of Anglican patrimony that the Ordinariate can offer to the wider Catholic community is the confidence to sing the psalms through. A congregational response to a cantored verse is not an obligatory format - the response is to foster "active participation", but this can equally be achieved by the congregation being led in the singing of the whole text, whether in full, or perhaps antiphonally, or as a dialogue of the psalm verses between cantor and people. The words and the music of responses do not always prove weighty enough to invite the participation of the people anyway, so perhaps there is a case, after 40 years of using the present Lectionary to develop the participation of the people in the singing of the Gradual Psalm in the vernacular - we do not always have to rely on hymns for this, or leave the psalms as, effectively in so many parishes, a spoken exchange not dissimilar from a reading. The psalm should always be sung and Anglicans have a track record and knowledge base of how to achieve this through many centuries. (We will leave aside the question of the Gradual Psalm in the Anglican rite, which Cranmer abolished because it was at this point in the Sarum rite that the eucharistic oblations were prepared and transferred to the altar, laden with the heavy symbolism of sacrifice that he was anxious to undermine.)

Mgr Keith Newton, Ordinary, presented his candidates for the priesthood to Bishop Alan, who then preached this homily. The Prayer of Thanksgiving for previous Anglican ministry was not offered, because it had already been used at the candidates entry to the Catholic clergy when they were ordained deacons at the Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge (see our report here). During the Litany of the Saints, Our Lady was invoked as Mother of God, Seat of Wisdom and Lady of Walsingham; and, alongside the local saints like St Edmund, King and Martyr, and St Felix, Apostle of the East Angles, there were some interesting invocations reflecting the interests of the two candidates. St Lazarus recalls Fr Skeoch's membership of the Order of St Lazarus, an old order of chivalry under the Protection of His Beatitude Maximus V Laham, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria. For some time the order has been open to ecumenical members and this is how Fr David has belonged to it and served as an Anglican chaplain within it. It is part of the story of his journey into the Catholic Church's fullness of communion. St David of Scotland is, of course, Fr Skeoch's own patron saint. Fr Allen's scholarly interests and patrons were represented by the Latin Fathers, St Augustine and St Cyprian, St Ignatius of Antioch and, of course, Blessed John Henry Newman. Fr Brent's Christian name, Allen, could be a Celtic name meaning "Rock". In Cornwal there is a St Allen's Church, but this saint was not invoked under this name. Perhaps, however, it can be identified with Cephas, St Peter the Apostle (invoked alongside St Paul), the Rock on which the Lord builds his church and with whose successor the two new priests now serve in the Catholic Church's full communion. An interesting invocation, passing almost unremarked, was of Saint Maria Goretti, an early twentieth-century girl of 11, living near Nettuno on the coast south of Rome. She died as a result of a strangling and stabbing attack (11 times) from a 20 year old neighbour whose attempts at rape she resisted, crying out that they were a mortal sin and not what God wanted. Maria could not be saved and died looking forward to being united with the Mother of God and her Son in heaven. She forgve her attacked (who according to the lights of the time was a minor and was sentenced to life in prison). Years later, thanks to the patient and redemptive ministry of the local bishop, Msgr Giovanni Blandini, and unsettling visions of the martyr in his dreams, he came to repentance and attended her canonisation in 1950. He ended his days as a Capuchin lay brother. Pope Pius XII referred to her as the St Agnes of the twentieth century, a Virgin Martyr for our times. Her resting place and shrine is in the crypt of the Basilica of Saint Mary of Graces in Nettuno. The image of Our Lady of Nettuno, St Mary of Graces, is the medieval image of Our Lady of Ipswich, second in popularity to Our Lady of Walsingham. It was rescued  thanks to sailors at the destruction of the shrines under Henry VIII and came to Naples, whence it later arrived at Nettuno. The association of the image with Our Lady of Grace is the same in Nettuno as it had been in Ipswich. It shows the Mother of God, seated on a throne attending to the Christchild on her lap, an image closely related, too, to the representation of Our Lady enthroned and enthroning her Divine Son as "Seat of Wisdom", a title under which she had been invoked at the beginning of the Litany. In recent years, the pilgrimage to Our Lady of Ipswich has been revived at the medieval Anglican Church of St Mary Elms. Since 1987, with the Catholic faithful at St Pancras Church, there has been an ecumenical guild of Our Lady of Ipswich, praying for Christian Unity, which was instrumental in restoring a Shrine and setting up a new image in 2002.

Very strangely, during the Laying on of Hands by the bishop and the priests, which is directed to take place in silence, the organist improvised at length. This solemn moment of prayer and expectancy is almost the most deeply moving point, immediately prior to the prayer of consecration to priesthood, in the entire ordination rite. But, sadly, there is an assumption in some avenues of the Church music world that all gaps and liturgical actions have to be covered up with sound. But, just as a hymn would have been inappropriate at this moment and a choir anthem a distraction - there is a reason why the rite enjoins silence - the organ accompaniment was, doubtelss inadvertently, obtrusive. Not knowing how long the imposition of hands would last, there was no chance that the music could be structured, although there were occasional quotations from Veni Creator. So this was neither a composed organ voluntary, nor a designed and crafted extemporisation. Clearly the organist was doing as instructed, but with no idea of how long to play, there was no chance that the music could take form. A judiciously selected collection of pieces that can come to the rescue when there are unexpected hiatus is usually better than "organ filler" for any significant length of time, but allowing the lturgy to subside into silence as it prepares to embark on its next course is usually best, especially where silence is integral to it.

Regrettably, the clergy and faithful were not supplied with the words of Veni Creator during the investiture with the chasuble and stole, and so this was delivered by the fine cantor, Chris Duarte, who is director of music.

The Hymn in place of the Offertory chant at the Presentation of the Gifts was We pray thee, heavenly Father, upon which we have commented exhaustively here. We need only add that, according to Julian's Dictionary of Hymnology, with the publication of the English Hymnal in 1906, the author, Stuckey Coles, actually issued re-written words for verses 2-4 that he had devised for a confirmation classy at Wantage and which had been published in Hymns Ancient & Modern. The new verses, celebrating "the Catholic oblation" were obviously written when at Pusey House he felt able to much bolder in articulating explicit Catholic teaching.

During the Canon Bishop Alan commemorated "Michael our bishop", not mentioning Keith Newton as Ordinary; so, even though this question of who is commemorated in an Ordinariate litrugy taking place in the church (including the principal church) of another diocese is not settled, it seemed to reinforce the sense that the ordinations were being seen locally as an East Anglia diocesan event.

At Holy Communion the Hymn was apparently chosen by Fr Skeoch (doubtless matching the selection of Newman's Praise to the Holiest, apt for the expertise of Fr Brent): O Bread of heaven, beneath this veil. It was written in Italian by St Alphonsus Maria de Liguori (1696-1787), founder of the Redemptorists and Bishop of Sant'Agata dei Goti in the Kingdom of Naples. His Italian verses appear to have come to England through the 1830 publication in Turin of his Canzoncine Spirituali, a copy of which found its way to the London Oratory library. Translations of many of these hymns, written to excite the piety of ordinary people, especially the urban poor, were edited in a collection by Charles Coffin in 1863, Fr Edmund Vaughan (1827-1908, also a Redemptorist) supplying many of the verses, including this one, from the 1830 book in Italian. Vaughan as a translator suits St Alphonsus' hymns, as both were concerned with mission to ordinary people and especially the poor, and popular, direct, devotional preaching. This is why the hymn remais to this day one of the most popular and heartfelt Catholic eucharistic hymns. By 1912 its popularity was such that it was firmly included in the Hierarchy's only authorised collection, the Westminster Hymnal, to a tune by Henri Friedrich Hémy (1818-88), a native of Newcastler and son of a German military bandsman who came to England with the Duke of Buccleugh in 1797. He was a celebrated musician in the North East and became Professor of Music at Ushaw College, near Durham. He wrote a number of tunes for Catholic hymns, including Stella for Hail, Queen of Heaven, the ocean's star and this one, Tynemouth, for O Bread of heaven. Later Richard Terry, musical editor of the Westminster Hymnal, wrote new harmonies for Hémy's tune and this is the version in wide usage today.

At the end of the Mass, Bishop Alan, as he always does, thanked everyone who had taken part and made repeated the warm welcome he had made to the Ordinary at the beginning. Thereupon the Cathedral Dean, Fr James Walsh, went to the lectern to express the warm appreciation of the diocese to Bishop Alan for stepping in to confer the ordinations in Bishop Michael Evans' stead, whose greetings he conveyed to all assembled. He congratulated the new priest ordained to serve within the diocese, but made no mention of the Ordinariate, and there was no reference or welcome to the Ordinary. Mgr Newton then went to the lectern and thanked the Dean for the Cathdral's generosity, but went on to point out that the ordinations were to the priesthood of the Ordinariate, and that "the way it works" was that he as Ordinary had invited Bishop Alan to ordain, not the Diocese of East Anglia. That point gently and well made and hopefully understood in a warm spirit, he went on to pledge, as he had on previous occasions (especially in his excellent homily at Birmingham), the vocation of the Ordinariate as established under the provisions of Anglicanorum Coetibus to work hand in hand with the local dioceses, support their life and witness, and for its clergy to be brothers and close collaborators with their priests.

The final hymn was the increasingly popular hymn to Our Lady of Walsingham, Joy to thee, Queen within thine ancient dowry, to Herny Smart's appealing Victorian tune, Pilgrims. The hymn's provenance is hardly known. Any intelligence on its origins is eagerly sought.

Two particularly gratifying pieces of Anglican heritage now cherished in the Catholic Church, and signs of all our hopes for Church Unity and the reconciliation of all Christians, were the pectoral  crosses worn by Bishop Holes and the Ordinary. Mgr Newton wore the pectoral cross in the shape of the badge of the Society of the Holy Cross, an Anglican priestly confraternity in which he had been a leading figure and which had presented with it on his episcopal ordination in the Church of England for the see of Richborough. Bishop Alan Hopes wore the pectoral cross that had belonged to Mgr Graham Leonard as Anglican Bishop of London, prior to his retirement and ordination (sub conditione) as a Catholic priest.

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