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.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake