Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Requiem and Gilbeyness



One of my parishioners was talking about a funeral in a Anglican church he is going to next week and the music, readings, eulogies that he fears he will have to endure. It is going to be a funeral to console the mourners, 'to celebrate the life of ...' and for people of little faith but with a wish that somehow the dead might in some way continue. A lot of it seems Christ-denying, rather than Christian, hardly surprising he says, since none of those organising the service believe.

Next Wednesday by contrast I have a funeral in the old rite. Neville Hinton, whose funeral it is, left strict instructions that it was to be low Mass, according to the pre-1962 books, that there was to be no panegyric or preaching, and no singing during the funeral. After the funeral, we might burst into the Salve, though strangely he made an exception, that the Dies Irae could be sung, though that would not be exactly liturgical. So, though it might have been possible without much effort to have had a High Mass, especially as one of the priests Neville had a particular affection towards is coming from abroad but even without him a Missa Cantata would have possible, but it will be Low Mass as he wanted.

Neville understood despite his love of the good things in life that ultimately a funeral is not for those who are left behind but for the salvation of the faithful departed, and that despite everything, what matters is the Mass offered for a poor sinner. There is something so very Catholic in this: the imagery the priest on behalf of the whole pleading for the soul of the corpse who lies before the altar.

Neville was one of Mgr Gilbey's earlier Cambridge converts. I never met Gilbey but a former parishioner was one of his students, he told how he and one of his friends were asked to deal with a radiator problem in Fisher House, so they followed the heating system through Gilbey's rather gracious house, when they came to the attic where Gilbey's bedroom was, the carpeting and decoration stopped, in the bedroom itself there was only, lino a surplice left over a prie dieu, a small cheap wardrobe and his bed, which had no mattress on it just a rough blanket covering the springs, it was here he slept. When they told the Monsignor they had been into his bedroom he looked a little uncomfortable and said, 'I don't expect you to tell anyone about that, will you?'

There is something very English about all of Gilbey's students that I have met. There is almost an indelible mark on their in their characters, they take 'gentlemanliness' to an almost supernatural level, it is a little more than just the Cambridgeness of a previous generation. They are good company, always rather gracious. well mannered and civilised and yes posh, and yet above it all -in the attic- there is something very ascetic, especially in those who have got into the various scrapes and falls that many of them seem to have done because there is a certain daring wrecklessness amongst many of them.
I can understand Neville's agitation when as he began to lose his memory and lost the Missal Mgr Gilbey gave him on his reception into the Church, one of the few things that travelled with him wherever he went.

12 comments:

Fr Seán Coyle said...

Probably some of your readers have watched and listened to the homily given a week ago by Fr Paul Scalia at his father's funeral, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIq1fYzMhcc . It was a wonderful proclamation of the Resurrection. The homily proper begins at 2:30.

JARay said...

One of the things that I always remember is singing a Requiem for Pope Pius XII. I am sure that this was the very first one that I ever got to sing. You can work out for yourselves how long ago that was. I particularly remember "In Paradisum deducant te Angeli.." and I though then just how appropriate that is. I would love it if I could have the same when my time comes but I have no idea at all who could actually do the singing of it.
Ah well!!

Liam Ronan said...

Dear Father,

Thank you for your edifying reminiscences. I want you to know (as I am sure Neville Hinton is already aware) that I had enrolled this Catholic gentleman in the Rorate Caeli Purgatorial Society on 11 February 2016 having read an earlier mention of him in a previous column of yours.

May he rest in peace. It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead.

The link for the Rorate Caeli Purgatorial Society is here:

http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2016/01/reminder-rorate-caeli-purgatorial.html

vetusta ecclesia said...

The Gilbey family used to live near my village in which at one time there was an occasional Sunday Mass in a "chapel" (it was more of a hut) in the garden of some parishioners. When Mgr Gilbey was visiting he would sometimes celebrate this Mas, arriving in a Rolls, swathed in purple, to celebrate- in a hut! I felt this, like your anecdote, typified the Catholicism of this great and holy man.

Michael Crabb said...

I share a birthday with Monsignor Gilbey, 13th July, which I always recall, as according to an obituary he used to say it was appropriate as a Catholic that it was the thirteenth and neither the day before or after (The Battle of the Boyne and Bastille Day respectively). May he and Neville rest in peace.

Scott Woltze said...

Thank you for telling us yanks about the wonderful Msgr. Gilbey.

David O'Neill said...

JARay; depends where you are as (at 78) I can still sing the 'In Paradisum'!!

JARay said...

Much appreciated David but I rather think that you would be a little too late on the scene. I can give you four years but that is all. You may follow me but at our age it could well be the other way round. My family history goes well into their nineties.

Jacobi said...

Go on Father, have a High Mass and sing the Dies Irae, or at any rate break the rules and have it. After all when the chips are down. I know that only very nice people seem to die these days, but, Presumption?

My inclination I think will be to cry out for Mercy!

Mike Hurcum said...

I remember the first time I heard Dies Irae. !0 years old at at St Brendan's Bristol the memorial for the old Boys. We paraded marched from out school to the Pro Cathedral up the road in Clifton. I have never forgotten and will never forget nearly 700 boys sing Dies Irae. I was earth Shattering and mind boggling. I have felt most of my life that catholic boys threw down the gauntlet and faced eternity and challenged the world to face us. It is a tremendous pity that last year I was at and old boys reunion in Bristol and very few were present what ever has happened to the spirit of those young boys. I thought that it would never be vanquished.

Bill said...

JARay:
I have discussed my funeral with my priest with specific hymns to sung, none of which are the type prevalent today. When discussing my wishes with a young priest [not now my present pastor] he asked me what is the In Paradisum. I had to sing the first very words for him. That hymn is a marvelous example of Catholic theology. As a member of the boy's choir we sang all funerals at my parish. I especially liked the Dies Irae--wonderful.

Celia said...

Nice to see a reference to Mgr Gilbey. His 'We Believe' was instrumental in getting me to return to the Church. I'd read so much depressing 'liberal' stuff, which put me off the post-Vatican II Church and he was a breath of fresh air.