Dylan Parry: Joyful Scenes at St James’, Spanish Place

19 01 2012

Hundreds gathered from all over the UK to attend Solemn Evensong, Procession of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction at St James’ Spanish Place on Sunday. The occasion was the celebration of the first anniversary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. The church’s parish priest, Fr Christopher Colven, kindly gave his permission for the event, which was organised by the Marylebone Ordinariate Group.

Mgr Keith Newton, Ordinary of the Ordinariate, presided over this solemn and joyful act of thanksgiving. He was joined in the sanctuary by Bishop Peter Elliott, Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne and Episcopal Delegate for the establishment of a Personal Ordinariate in Australia. Also present were Mgr John Armitage of the Diocese of Brentwood, Fr Christopher Colven of St James’s, and several Ordinariate clergymen. The Abbot of Farnborough (a former Anglican) and some of the Abbey’s monks, as well as representatives of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and other organisations within the Catholic Church were also present.

Evensong began with Sir Hubert Parry’s introit, I was glad. The Responses were set to Bernard Rose’s music, whilst the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis were by Stanford. The congregation joined in the singing of Newman’s Praise to the Holiest in the Hight and also sang William Dix’s Alleluia! Sing to Jesus! during the Eucharistic Procession – which happened to be an extremely moving experience for me. Elgar’s beautiful setting of O Salutaris hostia was used during Benediction, followed by Stanford’s Te Deum and Déodat de Séverac’s Tantum ergo. St James’s Choir did an excellent job in transmitting something of that Anglican musical and liturgical patrimony which the Ordinariate has now brought with it into the universal Church.

During the sermon, Mgr Keith Newton reflected on the great joys and blessings that have come with being in full communion with Rome. He also used some words written by Bl John Henry Newman to express the sense of security that he himself now feels, despite the practical worries that still face the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. In a letter to Cardinal Herbert Vaughan’s father, Newman wrote: “I have not had any feeling whatever but one of joy and gratitude that God called me out of an insecure state into one which is sure and safe, out of the war of tongues and into the realm of peace and assurance. This is my state of mind, and I would it could be brought home to all and every one, who, in default of real arguments for remaining Anglicans, amuse themselves with dreams and fancies.”

Mgr Newton went on to express his gratitude for the things that God has achieved both for himself and for those who followed him into the Ordinariate, saying: “This evening we have much to be joyful and thankful for. For the gifts and spiritual riches of Anglicanism which nurtured our faith; for the warmth of welcome and support we have received from so many Catholics; for the vision, love and faith of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict.” He ended his homily with those powerful words once spoken by the late Dag Hammerskold: “For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes.”

It was a great privilege to join members of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham for this celebratory evening of thanksgiving. For the first time since its erection last year, I was made fully aware on Sunday of the gifts that the Ordinariate is bringing with it to the wider Catholic Church. It was especially wonderful to witness the Eucharistic Procession – I doubt that most of our Catholic parishes in England and Wales would show as much reverence and love for Our Lord truly present in the Blessed Sacrament.

Sitting in the congregation at St James’s for Evensong also confirmed for me that we have an extraordinarily prophetic and wise pontiff in Pope Benedict XVI. Acutely aware that only the Successor of St Peter has the ultimate mandate to secure the unity of Christ’s flock, he seems more than willing to “put out into the deep” (cf Lk 5:4) so that “they may be one” (cf Jn 17:21).

God bless our Pope!
God bless the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham!


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