Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Downside Review (last installment)

Downside was a tremendous experience. The solemn liturgies in Downside’s glorious gothic church were inspiringly beautiful. It was wonderful to be able sing the Trad. Divine Office, I wish we could do that in the parish. It was so useful to be able to learn to say the Mass at one of the many altars and chapels in the Abbey church. Those of us who were learning High Mass were able to use the altar of St Oliver Plunkett whose body, minus its head, rests in a shrine next to it in the Church.

Most of all I enjoyed was the sense of fraternity amongst the priests, the solidarity, the sharing of our love for our holy Mother the Church and her liturgy. It can be a little lonely out there as a priest with a strong regard for the Church’s Tradition.

The accommodation was designed for adolescent girls rather than priests. We had the recently built girl's block. My time for using semi-communal showers has long since past. The bed was so narrow I fell out of it couple of times – a bit disconcerting in the middle of the night. I am not quite sure how those amongst us who had to visit the lavatory frequently through out the night managed.

It was amusing to speak to priests who never celebrated the Ordinary Form and laymen who never attend it, they seemed to think that in the “NO Church” we all had girl servers, always had tambourines at Mass, often had puppets or dressed up as clowns, never used the Roman Canon or chant or polyphony or had any experience of hearing confessions.

One of things that was lacking was any formal opportunity to share our experiences of promoting the Extraordinary Form of the Liturgy and of using it to enhance the Ordinary Form, “mutual enriching” as the Pope calls it.

What was really good was to have Bishop Athanasius Schneider with us, it was a bit sad that we priests didn’t have much of an opportunity to actually spend time with him and I am afraid I had great difficulty hearing him. At the lecture he gave, he spoke very quietly and read from a prepared text, which wasn’t too easy to follow, there was no amplification, one priest said he thought what he had to say was “magnificent” but many of us just didn’t hear, a great shame as he had come from Kazakhstan to speak to us. He became more audible when he left his prepared text and spoke off the cuff. I had only half realised that the Holy Father started to give Holy Communion only in the Traditional manner after he read Bishop Schneider’s book Dominus Est.

He had two stories interesting stories from Pope John XXIII’s secretary, Archbishop Loris Capovilla who is still alive, apparently once the Archbishop, to spare the aging Pope during a private Mass in Holy Week, shortened the Gospel text the Pope was reading. At breakfast afterwards the Pope asked what authority he had for doing so, and being told no decree of the Church had authorised his action John XXII told him never, ever to do it again. The other story was that the Pope had sent him off to the barbers because his tonsure had become indistinct, so much for Pope John’s apparent Liberalism.

What impressed me most about Bishop Schneider was that although he didn’t have much contact with us he spent an awful amount of time before the Blessed Sacrament in the Church, almost leaning over the bench he knelt at as if to get closer to the Lord. He was there just after six when I arrived to prepare for my Mass and he was there afterwards and when I went off to sing Lauds and still there when I returned. Whatever he said was about the reality of God in his Church but it was his demeanour which was one of prayer and of quiet episcopal humility that is well aware of human failings and yet fully aware that he is the successor of the Apostles. It was a great privilege to have been there with him and to have seen him at prayer.


Paulinus said...

There didn't seem to be a great deal of involvement of the community at Downside in the events. They celebrate the NO beautifully there, as it should be celebrated, but it seems odd to have had your conference there and only a handful of the community in evidence in the photos.

Et Expecto said...

The text of bishop Schneider's address and his sermon will be published in the fullness of time. So you will be able to read it at your leisure, father.

Fr Ray Blake said...

The community were very supportive, especially the Abbot, the saceistan Fr Boniface slaved away but I think joining us would have been quite disruptive to the regularity of monastic life.

Fr Michael Brown said...

The fraternity of good priests and the solemn liturgies are why I am so enthusiastic about these LMS training conferences. However eventually we will all be trained and it will be a pity to lose all this. That is why we need to start a priestly association which can build on these events and organise future ones at which we have good liturgies and speakers.

Leo Darroch said...

I have some photos of the Abbot of Downside enjoying a very friendly meeting with Bishop Schneider but have declined to put them on the blogs. It was a reasonably private occasion and I thought it best to leave it at that.
As Fr Blake has said, Dom Boniface, as sacristan, did a wonderful job in ensuring that vestments and side altars were available at all hours of the day and that everything behind the scenes went off very smoothly.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Fr Michael,
Of course you are right
but how?

Paulinus said...

I'm pleased to hear it. As you say, their monastic duties come first. IIRC Dom Boniface was educated at an SSPX school, so is sympathetic to the ER. He certainly celebrates the NO with great dignity and reverence.

Maurice said...

This is all wonderful. I'm so pleased it went well.

I am concerned, though that there should still be a space - among the more orthodox clergy -for those of us who love the Church, the Pope, the liturgy etc., but don't feel able to celebrate the EF because we are daunted by it and uncertain about it. Is there still a place for us? We who strive to offer the NO with dignity and can never see ourselves offering the Ef for fear of getting it spectacularly wrong and stumbling over the Latin etc.? What of us? Are we not faithful too? Is there emerging a kind of polarity between EF and NO priests - and is the implication the only EF priests are the really orthodox ones?

I'm not being churlish - just worried that all the slogging out of my guts that goes on to celebrate worthily and well is not seen as orthodox any more.

Oh. And by the way, on any given Saturday I am easily exhausted by the many confessions I have to hear. It's a joyous burden. But, am I orthodox for not saying the EF? I just can't see me ever being confident enough to do so? Do I count? Am I valid? Am I welcome? It'd be an absolute tragedy if we became as 'separated' as the clergy in the C of E ...

Fr Ray Blake said...

Thank you Maurice,
A useful observation.
It is where your heart is, what your intention is, that is what matters.
For me I think that the EF, is helpful, very helpful, it is not just the ritual and the words it is much more the spirituality. Doing the same thing as the saints did helps to form their spirituality.
...I must think on what you said, a "yes" or "no" is tempting but I think a too simple a response.

shadowlands said...

Maurice said

"Do I count? Am I valid? Am I welcome? It'd be an absolute tragedy if we became as 'separated' as the clergy in the C of E ..."

Ask Our Lady to show you your sonship, as her Priest. This will give you a true confidence in the validity of your ordination, unshakeable by man or tradition. If she wants you saying the EF Mass, you will do it, with the courage she gives you. If you make a mistake, blog about it, and give other nervous order priests the courage to have a go, in spite of all the critical eyes reporting on them. Jesus will only be looking at your heart, as Father Ray said ( although he used less words to say it than I have,with my diatribe, sorry).
In the meantime, keep doing the next right thing. If you fail, pick yourself up and start again. That's how I live, although I'm not a priest. I'm just on a twelve step program!

Hestor said...

I really can't understand why Maurice is making such a straw arguement. The old rite has only been lifted from its shackles three years ago and priests are only beginning to see what was lost. Those devoted to old rite are now only beginning to be less demonised and villified.

Has Maurice even looked into trying to offer the EF? If Latin is his problem, perhaps he should remedy that? Wasn't it John XXIII who said that all priests of the Roman rite must be thorough in Latin? Does Maurice even try to offer the Novus Ordo in Latin (as it should be strictly speaking)?

Jackie Parkes MJ said...

I have out of necessity been attending more NO Masses with girl altar servers, extraordinary ministers, Holy Communion given to people standing & on the hand & guess what the reverence is palpable.
I feel sorry for the priests who think they are saying an inferior Mass this way since it is the same Eucharistic sacrifice. It has done me good to see the reverence & come out of my self-contained cocoon.
I don't think these people are going to hell..& I'm much more comfortable with the OF as the EF..

mikesview said...

What is the present state of Catholicism in Kazakhstan, where they are fortunate enough to have Bp. Schneider as their ordinary?
The fact that he is there, in (to us) practically total obscurity, suggests a case of subtle side-lining, perhaps?

Fr Ray Blake said...

He is Kazakhstani!