Sunday, November 23, 2008

As others see us

We used to have people like Chesterton and Belloc coming here when they were in Brighton, Lord Alfred Douglass was a parishioner here in his old age. Today we had Amy Welborn the American Catholic writer and commentator, in transit from the USA to see family in Rome.

I just found this on Amy Wellborn's blog, this morning was a bit chaotic, the first time we did Orbis Factor and half our servers were away. I was a bit anxious about Amy getting back to Gatwick.

When I cooked up this little layover side trip, I had hoped to have time to run down and wave to the English Channel. But no, I didn’t get down there soon enough, I was pressed for time afterwards, and besides before Mass…it was cold! Afterwards, it was markedly more pleasant, despite a scattering of rain.
The ride down was pleasant, complete with sheep-in-field sightings and English-people-taking-walkies-in-the-field-with-their-dogs-in-the-morning-mist sightings as well.
So, Fr. Ray Blake’s parish, St. Mary Magdalene, is about a 5-minute taxi ride from the train station and about a 12-minute walk. (I know - I did both!). Brighton certainly seems like an intereting place - what little I saw of it. It’s a gorgeous little stone Gothic church, chock full of statues and art and just a strong sense of connectedness to the truth, to the Communion of Saints, to beauty. The congregation was diverse - young and old, babies, various ethnicities. The music was led by an energetic and quite capable schola that sang quite a bit of Latin, including the Introit of the day. The congregation joined in much of it, as well.
To me, it was a fascinating mix of the deeply, and deeply-felt tradition. There was precision, but no fussiness, great care with the ritual, which was expressive of deep prayer. There was incense. There were servers, young and old. People came and went. I have to say, there was almost an Eastern Catholic feel about it, of deep, prayerful worship which is active and engaged. It’s hard to explain - how can something be solemn yet lively, invigorating and energetic? That’s what happened here. Kudos to what seems like a wonderful parish, complete with the hospitality of coffee afterwards, which I was sorry not to be able to enjoy…
because I had not noted when I left the station what time the next train back up to Gatwick was, and had a 2pm flight to catch. As it turned out, I got there right in time (accompanined on the walk back to the station by a very nice fellow named John who chatted with me about the global financial situation. We agreed it’s not looking good.) - right on time for a train just about to pull out, the first of two times I would get that lucky break on Sunday…


Anonymous said...

I did Father, Thanks.

PeterHWright said...

Isn't it extraordinary what memories can be re-ignited by someone else's reminiscence.

I remember, now, the first (and last) time I saw St. Mary Magdalen's, Brighton.

It was 1970. I was still a university student, but by then had acquired a (rather tatty old) car. I had heard that this was one of Brighton's oldest Catholic parishes, and was interested to see some of Blount's work.

So, on the way to the Dover - Boulogne car ferry, I stopped off in Brighton for a visit.

The church at that time was unwrecked !

All success, therefore, to Fr. Ray's planned restoration. I hope it comes to fruition. It will be a project most deserving of support.

Anonymous said...

To be compared to Eastern liturgy is a compliment indeed!

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