Ordinations: Catholic League report from Brentwood

11 06 2011

Saturday 11 June 2011 saw the ordination of seven priests for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in Brentwood Cathedral. At the request of Monsignor Keith Newton, the bishop of Brentwood celebrated the Solemn Mass with the Ordination of Priests, together with priests from the Diocese of Brentwood and the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Before the Mass began the clergy gathered across from the cathedral church as the bell tolled.  The Entrance Hymn, Praise to the holiest, has become something of an Ordinariate showpiece already – especially with the beautiful and moving tune Billing; a happy cocktail of Anglican and Catholic patrimony perfectly fused, just like the author of the hymn, Cardinal Newman.

The particularly effective arrangement by Andrew Wright, the Master of Music at Brentwood, was performed at the beatification of Cardinal Newman in 2010 and provided a very moving opening to the ordination Mass in Brentwood.  The tradition of well-appointed hymnody so often found in Anglican churches, as we shall see later, is clearly alive and well in Brentwood and the robed choir (cassock and Anglican-style surplice) made an impressive impact as the procession entered through the west doors.

The bishop began the celebration with warm words of introduction, recalling the historic nature of the day and linking it to the Solemnity of Pentecost and the Memorial of St Barnabas – both of which he went on to mention in his homily.

The Penitential Rite was concluded by the Kyrie from Palestrina’s Missa brevis, which we promptly followed by Gloria ‘de Angelis’, in Latin and helpfully printed in the Mass booklet in square notes.  The translation underneath the Latin lyrics made use of the new translation of the Missale Romanum which will come into use in England & Wales later this year.

After the Opening Prayer, the Liturgy of the Word began and was completed by the singing of the gospel to a modern tone.  After this the candidates were called forward by name for Presentation, Election and Consent.  The candidates were presented by the Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, Mgr Keith Newton.

This was followed by the prayer of thanksgiving for ministry in the Church of England, and the homily.

In both the homily and the closing remarks at this Mass, the bishop of Brentwood made it very clear that he understands and respects the unique nature of the relationship between the Ordinariate and the Diocese.  He was particularly notable for his pastoral and caring acknowledgement of the fruits of the Anglican tradition and his genuine wish to see these – together with the people who bring them – implanted and given space for growth, within the Catholic Church in England & Wales: truly united but not absorbed.

After the homily, the Examination of the Candidates took place, followed by the Promise of Obedience.  In Religious communities, it is normal for these to be made to the Ordinary even if they are not the ordaining bishop; it would be a powerful symbol of the nature of the hierarchical structure of the Church, if a similar practice were adopted with a non-episcopal Ordinary of a Personal Ordinariate, especially when the ordination takes place in a church which is not of the Ordinariate.

After the Litany of the Saints and the Concluding Prayer, the bishop laid hands on the candidates and prayed the Prayer of Consecration over them.  Then, as they were vested in the stole and chasuble, the hymn Come down, O love divine was sung.

This setting of words by Bianco da Siena, was translated by Richard Frederick Littledale (1833-90).  Littledale, who was an Anglican priest, was born in Northern Ireland.  He was very much within the Tractarian tradition of the Church of England, serving in parishes in Norwich and Soho, London, before taking early retirement due to ill health.  Despite writing a book entitled Plain reasons against joining the Church of Rome in 1880, he was a prolific translator of liturgical texts of the Latin and Eastern rites.  These included the Offices of the Holy Eastern Church (1863) and a number of devotional books.  He also wrote on the liturgical ritual of the Church of England in Catholic ritual in the Church of England (1861) and The Altar Manual (1863-77).  He is also known for his translation Christ enthroned in highest heaven.

The tune, Down Ampney, was written in 1906 by Ralph Vaughn Williams and was included in the English Hymnal. It is typical of the post-Victorian hymn tunes of RVW, which often sought to draw on the English folk tradition more than the developed hymn-tune tradition of more Protestant and non-conformist sources.

After the Anointing of the Hands and the Presentation of the Bread and Wine, the Kiss of Peace followed with the singing of the Latin Veni Creator Spiritus.  The contemporary Catholic practice of using a large dish-like paten is one which is almost entirely alien to Anglicans, especially those of the Anglo-Catholic tradition.  To someone from that tradition it can seem incongruous to be presented with a gothic gold chalice and a dish full of hosts, rather than the traditional charged chalice and paten with host.

During the Preparation of the Gifts, the choir once more took charge of the music and very proficiently performed Elgar’s Spirit of the Lord.  Sir Edward Elgar, himself a Catholic, was a further link with the Ordinariate’s patron, Blessed John Henry Newman.  It was Elgar who composed a setting of Newman’s Dream of Gerontius. Today’s anthem, however, was very much of the Anglican cathedral tradition.  It is this sort of work that can be found on the music lists of Anglican cathedrals for Sunday Evensong – traditionally the slot in the week when a longer anthem is deemed appropriate.  It was a very effective Offertory Motet; setting words from the 1903 work The Apostles including Isaiah 61 and Luke 4.  Elgar, despite his Catholic roots, sets text drawn from the Authorised Version, the so-called King James Bible:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because He hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor:
He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted,
to preach deliv’rance to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,—
to preach the acceptable year of the Lord;

To give unto them that mourn a garland for ashes,
the oil of joy for mourning,
the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they might be called trees of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.

For as the earth bringeth forth her bud,
and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth;
So the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because He hath anointed me to preach the Gospel.

The Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer was then prayed by the bishop before the Sanctus from Missa de Angelis was intoned and the Eucharistic Prayer begun.  As at the diaconal ordinations in Wanstead, one of the Eucharistic Prayers for Masses for Various Needs and Occasions was used (B – God guides the Church on the Way of Salvation), concelebrated by the priests of the diocese and ordinariate.  Some of the new priests took a part in the Eucharistic Prayer and it was encouraging to hear the words ‘Keith our Ordinary’ recited publicly and aloud for the first time at an ordination.

After the Agnus Dei – sung from the Missa brevis setting by Palestrina – a cantor sang the Latin plainchant communio and the choir then sang Colin Mawby’s setting of Ave Verum Corpus during the distribution of Holy Communion.

Sweet sacrament divine was sung during Holy Communion and then, after the Prayer after Communion, the Ordinary thanked those present for their help in preparing the celebration.  The rapport between the Ordinary and Bishop McMahon is obviously good – these are two men who complement each other’s jurisdiction by a genuine and mutual respect for the roles they undertake in the name of the Church.

Bishop McMahon responded with equally generous words, expressing again his personal joy and pleasure at the establishment of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, which he described in relation to Mary as ‘her Ordinariate’.

At the end the Pontifical Blessing was given jointly by the bishop and Mgr Newton.  This is a liturgical gesture usually reserved for ecumenical celebrations but here, for the first time, the sight of the Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions joined in a sacramental sign which no person can dispute, was strong.  Liturgically it might be wise not to be repeated on a regular basis – for fear that, if nothing else, it appears too much like an ecumenical service – but at this warm and historic ordination, it had a very special and profound meaning.

By the end of the Mass, for the first time again, there were an equal number of priests of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in the building, as priests of Diocese of Brentwood.  It’s growing, and growing fast.


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