Ordinations: Catholic League report from Westminster

11 06 2011

From the Catholic League:

Friday 11th June saw five men, long-serving and dedicated pastors from the Church of England’s priesthood, ordained to serve the embryonic parish groups of lay faithful that have accompanied them into the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, as priests of the Catholic Church. As at Southwark the previous Saturday, the event was marked with an air of intimate belonging to the Church as the one Body of Christ, as it was attended by the regular Cathedral congregation and the friends, supporters and pastoral groups of the five clergymen. Also in attendance were Sisters Carolyne, Wendy and Jane of the Marian Servants of the Incarnation, the monastic religious community that has been at the spiritual heart of the Ordinariate since before its formal establishment. In the sanctuary – or, as Catholic idiom would say, on the altar – were fifty priests, eight deacons, his excellency the Ordinary (Mgr Keith Newton ProtAp) and Bishop Alan Hopes (the Bishops’ Conference’s Episcopal Delegate for the Ordinariate), concelebrated with his grace the Archbishop of Westminster.


This being scheduled in the Cathedral’s regular 5-30 pm slot for its daily Solemn Mass, the ordination liturgy benefited from the ministry of the outstanding Westminster Cathedral Choir. As we have tried to do with each of the great liturgies surrounding the foundation of the Ordinariate, we offer some reflections on what happened and how it exhibits the Catholic liturgical and spiritual patrimony, the Anglican liturgical and spiritual patrimony which in a real way originated from the Catholic and is now being given its own honoured space with the fullness of communion of the Catholic Church, and how, almost imperceptibly over the years, there has taken place that marvellous exchange of gifts from the one to the other that actually lies at the heart of spiritual ecumenism – that desire to excel in holiness that leads to convergence upon Christ and thus unity in his heart, mind and Body.

The Entrance Hymn was Edward Plumtre’s stirring paean to the Church’s unity and the constancy of the disciples, Thy hand, O God, has guided thy flock from age to age, set to Basil Harwood’s fine tune Thornbury. Both are important parts of the story and identity of Anglicans, especially Catholic-Anglicans and we have contemplated that in our report on the Southwark priestly ordinations (here), where it also served as the Entrance Hymn. Once it was ended and the Archbishop  was censing the altar, the Choir immediately took up the  proper Introit, Sacerdotes Dei, with its Gregorian melody. This rather bore out the point Fr Mark Woodruff has made in his essay, Hymns: The Sound of Commmunion in our Special Edition of the Messenger, Anglican and Catholics in Communion, that it is possible, thanks to Anglican patrimony’s experience and historic usage, to ensure that the English hymn does not simply supplant the Propers that are actually integral to the Mass of the Roman Rite, but can be skilfully deployed to complement them, whether in the parish setting or on great occasions in a Cathedral. In Catholic worship at mass, hymns are here to stay. The Gregorian chant patrimony is thankfully being retrieved and its integrity respected, but exposing the wider body of worshipping Catholics to it once more and making it more accesible to them will not aid necessarily be aided by abolishing the vernacular hymns, crafted over centuries of liturgical usage in other traditions, that have been embraced by the Catholic community and indeed internalised as they have found service in expressing the belief and adoration of Catholics too. Much benefit can be gained from these two great traditions of Christian praise meeting in their integrity, coming to terms and serving to enrich the Church’s liturgy as they are set in their appropriate place.

The setting of the Mass was Mozart’s Missa Brevis in B flat, K275. This is pure Catholic patrimony from Catholic Salzburg. Or so you would have thought. At the time of its first performance (believed to have been on old St Thomas’s Day, 21st December, in 1777) one of the soloists was the castrato Francesco Ceccarelli, a friend of the Mozart family and for whom the Mass was written. Ceccarelli was renowned for his technique and the beauty of his soprano-register voice and his performance was much praised. But, even though his way of singing was thought very suitable for Church, his fame was as a singer at the opera and the Court. It lent weight to more “traditionalist” Church musicians’ criticism that Mozart’s B flat Mass was theatrical and even mocked the text of the liturgy. Indeed the Agnus is long and is set, furthermore, as a gavotte, which has led some to compare it to a gavotte at the end of his opera style, Die Entfuehrung aus dem Serail. In other words, it was not seen by some as authentically sacred music. In 1903 Pope Saint Pius X issued his motu proprio on sacred music, Tra le Sollecitudini, in which he criticised the use of theatrical music at worship, especially where it had the effect of rendering the people passive spectators, as if they were attending a concert rather than actively participating in the liturgy (leitourgia, the work of the people). He ordered the wide restoration of Gregorian chant so as to enable the faithful’s “active participation” in the Mass and the Divine Office. Mercifully, however, the development of the great tradition in which this motu proprio stands as a milestone has not deprived us of the great and joyous creations of a former age and culture and above all Westminster Cathedral Choir sets the standard on how it is possible to worship God at a Catholic mass in the vernacular, with a world-class choir, Gregorian chant in Latin, the “active participation” of the faithful (in the responses, the Litany, the hymn Veni Creator, the Sanctus and acclamation, the Our Father and the Agnus, as well as in some judiciously deployed gems from the English hymn tradition. What a treasury of traditions and gifts from many parts of the Catholic Church’s own patrimony and what it has united to itself from other Christian traditions and – evidently – eighteenth century secular entertainment culture.

As at previous diaconal ordinations in the Westminster Diocese for the Ordinariate, the Archbishop prayed the prayer of thanksgiving for previous ministry in the Church of England immediately after the rite of Election by the Bishop and Consent by the People, rather than immediately prior to the Litany of the Saints, its originally intended position when devised in 1995 (see this post for more details). Indeed this is where the prayer was placed at Southwark St George’s Cathedral the preceding Saturday. Its use is at the discretion of the Bishop of the diocese in which the clergy are ordained for the Ordinariate, but it is interesting to see the different views on where it is best placed – as part of the invocation of God’s grace, or as part of the candidates’ presentation. On reflection, the Westmisnter view seemed appropriate that each of these men was not simply being chosen as a candidate for the presbyterate exactly like others, but as people with a long and faithful life behind them as ordained ministers and pastors. In the best ecumenical spirit, the Catholic Church was not merely embracing them as new Catholic priests, but uniting to herself their whole ministry, identifying it and recognising it, owning it and making it a facet of her own life and identity.

There followed a magnificent homily from Archbishop Nichols, evoking (as had the Entrance Hymn) the words of the Epistle from Ephesians 4, where St Paul describes himself as a prisoner, but a prisoner in the Lord, totally held by him and bound up with him. The archbishop went on to meditate on the unity of the Body of Christ, the unity of the priestly life but also how the unity in the knowledge of Christ that is at the heart of the Church’s life is to be known in none other than the fullness of its communion, which the new priests will now be serving and working: “the saints together make a unity in the work of service, building up the Body of Christ.” The full text can be read here.

The Archbishop, followed by Bishop Hopes, Mgr Newton and the fifty priests, among them several of the new Ordinariate priests who had been ordained at Southwark the previous weekend and former Anglican bishops Mgr John Broadhurst and Mgr Edwin Barnes, laid hands on the five candidates. After the Ordination prayer, the new priests were vested, not in silence as at Southwark, but as we sang the first three verses of Veni Creator Spiritus in Latin and not in Cosin’s translation for the Anglican Ordinal as at Southwark. So having sung of the spiritalis unctio and the septiformis munere, the seven were anointed with Chrism. At Southwark the new priests, it seems, washed their hands, but at Westminster their unction was suffered to remain and imbue itself. The remaining verses of Veni Creator were sung as the people brought the eucharistic gifts and the Archbishop performed the porrectio instrumentorum to each new priest, their specific commissioning to celebrate the eucharist for and within the People of God with the means to do so: “Accept from the holy people of God the gifts to be offered to him. Know what you are doing, and immitate the mystery you celebrate: model your life on th emystery of the Lord’s Cross.” Then the Archbishop, Bishop Hopes, the Ordinary and the other priests exchanged the Peace with each of their new brothers in the priesthood. Each of these immensely personal and solemn acts of the Church as a Body, from the laying on of hands to the gift of peace, took place, as the Ceremonial of Bishops provides, without organ or choral accompaniment. This enables the faithful to enter into each aspect of the unfolding rite and its symbols, watching and contemplating, praying and giving praise and thanks to God. As the time slips by unnoticed, the dimesion is eternal.

For the Offertory Chant, the Choir sang Giovanni Gabrieli’s Iubilate Deo – Rejoice in God all the earth; the man who fears the Lord shall be blessed. May the God of Israel unite you an dbe with you himself … Serve him with gladness. We have already commented on the important musical influence of Giovanni’s uncle Andrea on a succession of Church musicians, Catholic and Protestant, hinting how there is a deep root of Anglican and Evangelical Lutheran patrimony there, even if it is not immediately obvious in so obiouvsly a Catholic and indeed Counter-Reformation piece of music (Andrea’s O sacrum convivium). Now here was a piece by his nephew, setting a psalm and perhaps indicating even more powerfully the growth of an exciting new departure in Church music in the tranistion from the Renaissance to the Baroque, that would not only set the terms of reference for Schuetz and Bach, but also Purcell and Haendel, and the composers working subsequently in the ongoing Anglican choral tradition.

At the Fraction, the lengthy Agnus from the Missa Brevis K275 was not used and the congregation joined together in singing the Agnus from Mass VIII, De Angelis. Mozart’s Agnus was not cut, however; it served as the motet during Holy Communion. After the Communion Antiphon Ego vos elegi, all sang the hymn Alleluia, sing to Jesus by William Chatterton Dix  (1837-1898). Knowing hymn writers’ and composers middle names is one of the by-ways of Anglican patrimony. If you have been raised as a choirboy – the decline of the church boys’ choir is the loss of a unique nursery for priestly vocations and pre-formation – you tended to find time on your hands. The alternative to a rebuke from the choirmaster for misbehaviour was to pore over the available reading material, namely the hymnbooks and the Book of Common Prayer. Thus did you become conversant with the Table of Kindred and Affinity, the Articles of Religion (including the one about the unworthiness of the minister not hindering the sacrament, always a comfort during a long sermon), the hair-raising Commination service, and the service of Baptism for them that are of Riper Years. You also learned the names and dates of the hymn and tune writers: William Chatterton Dix (more famous for As with gladness men of old), Vincent Stuckey Stratton Coles (Ye who own the faith of Jesus), John Mason Neale (the peerless translator of Greek and Latin hymns into English hymn-verse), Frederick Arthur Gore Ouseley, Bt. (composer), Bishop William Walsham How (For all the saints), and not forgetting John Henry Newman (Praise to the holiest in the height). Dix was named for a Bristol forger of medieval poetry, on whom his father had written a biography, Thomas Chatterton. It was not this that prompted William to write sacred verse, but a bout of severe post-traumatic depression following a lengthy illness that almost cost him his life. The words of Alleluia, sing to Jesus are much loved and well known by Christians of many English-speaking churches, but the hymn has a line which made it especially resonant with Anglo-Catholics. Having hailed the Eucharistic Christ as Bread of Angels, the lines “Intercessor, Friend of Sinners, earth’s Redeemer, plead for me” recall the terms of a particular avenue of Catholic Apologetic within the context of Anglicanism and the Anglo-Catholic and Tractarian traditions’ efforts to catechise their fellow Anglicans in classic Catholic belief. Without pressing a distinction to far, while Roman Catholics might talk of offering the sacrifice of the mass, Anglican Catholics in a period where Catholic belief and interpretatoin is being proposed in a progressively more convincing way might explain that the Eucharist is a sacrifice, but not one that is a repeat of Calvary, but one in which (as the Prayer Book’s eucharistic Prayer of Consecration has it) “the full perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world” is not merely being commemorated by us on earth, but by Christ the “sole Mediator” as he pleads his sacrifice before the Father. This little turn of phrase by Dix is a vein through which the blood of Angl-Catholicism has run and it evokes an important part of the history and formation to the Anglican patrimony that, through the Ordinariate, is currently being united with the Catholic Church’s own consciousness. It comes from a time when an understanding of Catholic belief was being commended to Protestants in the Scriptural terms that they might understand and even come to accept. After all the Decree on Ecumenism 80 years later stated how important it was for dialogue to take place between different parts of the Christian Church not only so that we could all understand our different doctrinal approaches better but also so that we could express doctrine more aptly and truthfully. In this little flashback to the early second half of the nineteenth century we see that, indeed, no part of Anglicanism – Evangelical, or Anglo-Catholic, or classic Broad Church or Liberal Protestant – exists in a vacuum. All have been formed in a conversation with each other, a dialogue through history that has even been a bitter argument at times, but is nonetheless an exercise in the quest for comprehensiveness, the search for fullness of communion in faith and life together in the Body of Christ. It is important to remember that the Ordinariates, far from detaching the Catholic wing of the Church of England (as some critics have said) actually makes available to the Catholic Church access to this rich and deep tradition of dialogue and mutual formation, of Catholic Apology, of the ecumenical search for reconciliation and the resolution of theological difference in the one ecclesial Body. It is clear that members of the Ordinariate, lay and clergy, are not stereotypical Anglo-Catholics, but people who have drawn themselves together from various Anglican traditions, bringing with them varied customs, histories and cultures. This is not only a gift enriching the Catholic Church in England & Wales; it is potentially massive contribution to its ability to engage more deeply in ecumenical dialogue with other Christians and to its effectiveness at explaining and commending its faith and life in Jesus Christ – Catholic Apologetics.

A beautiful moment occurred as the congregation took up the Recessional Hymn. The Archbishop knelt on the sanctuary steps and received the first blessings of the new priests, kissing the hands that will now be Christ’s own, that he had chrismated minutes before. The hymn had served as the Entrance Hymn at their diaconal ordination in Easter Week (see the relevant post here), St Fulbert’s Ye choirs of New Jerusalem, translated by Robert Campbell 1814-1868). As this hymn is in English, it is tempting to say that this hymn, much loved at Easter in all parts of the Church of England, is part of the Anglican patrimony. But Campbell was a Catholic advocate from Edinburgh. Henry John Gauntlett’s tune (note the middle name) is looked forward to by Anglican choirs and congregations as soon as they see it is listed, for they know what is coming. At the end of the strophes comes the tune’s own distinctive “Alleluia, Amen”. This was not used at the diaconal ordinations at Our Lady of Victories; perhaps Catholic liturgists are not aware of this custom. But at Westminster, when the organist continued to play, everyone knew what to do. Indeed, Alleluia, Amen.

The League, which was represented by four trustees (Fr Mark Woodruff, the Revd James Bradley who attended the Archbishop as deacon at the altar, David Chapman and Cyril Wood), warmly congratulates Fathers Gordon Adam, Peter Andrews, Timothy Bugby, Mark Elliott Smith and Antony Homer, promising our prayers for their people and the Ordinary in the tasks ahead evangelisation and of working for and living out the Christian Unity in Catholic communion of which the Archbishop spoke.

Sadly we cannot be present at each of the Ordinations or write a reflection on the momentous events that are unfolding, but we promise our prayers for all the new priests, all the groups of the faithful, as well as all those others who are discerning their path to service in the Catholic Church in the Ordinariate.


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