Why choose the Traditional Mass to start an evangelisation initiative? That is really what we have done by choosing it to open our 150th Anniversary Celebrations. Our celebrations are about inviting people into or back to the Church and to be honest those are coming to speak are coming to explain why we worship and believe as we do.
There is an item on today's Gloria news cast from the Trent diocese newspaper which suggests the exact opposite of what we are doing, I am afraid we ar trying to create a spectacle.
In part we have followed what happened when our curch opened the nave, until then everyone was crammed onto the sanctuary, with altar on the south side of what was to become the Lady Chapel. Then they employed professional singers and an orchestra, they had the Haydn Imperial Mass* (the Nelson Mass), we can't afford that so it is Schubert in G for us. But it seems that they wanted to encourage people to come and gawp or be awed by unfamiliar Catholic spectacle. They simply wanted people to come, to take pleasure in what was happening, to be moved, to find others were praying around them and experiencing our first High Mass as a profound spiritual but also cultural and sensual experience.
We deliberately followed our fore-fathers' example: the structure, the ceremonial are most probably almost as unfamiliar to Catholics today as they were to Brighton Protestants 150 years ago. It would seem that the nave of the church was built for the growing number of Catholics in the town but also to draw in non-Catholics who might be moved by seeing the Catholic Church at worship.
It is easy to forget that so much of the missionary work of the Church was done through its worship and the old Mass; the people of Kent were moved by Augustine's chanting monks, the Jesuits were rowed up South American rivers to the sound of violins, flutes and voices. Engaging the heart and senses seems to have been the first act of missionaries in the past, using beautiful music, stimulating a sense of wonder, causing people to reflect and to be still, to recognise God as Beauty, to look for his presence in their hearts.
In the newsletter last Sunday -space was a bit short- I put this:
Why are we using the Older Form of Mass to open our 150th Anniversary Celebration?I suppose I should have stressed that people should try and invite youmger people rather those who have had 40 years of having this type of celebration art the arts that surrounded it rubbished.
• Because we want you to bring friends along - both religious and non-religious, Catholics and others.
• We want to present worship that is beautiful and part of our ancient liturgical Tradition.
• We want something that presents the essence of the Catholic Faith simply and experientially rather than word based.
• Something which is deeply rooted in our western cultural tradition and where the music will be part of the celebration rather than an adjunct to it.
• Something that can be approached on many different levels by different types of people.
*We can't afford to put on the Nelson, we are settling for Schubert in G