Wednesday 15 September 2010

Mass at Consett (posted 25/01/2010)

Father Brown, in his piece introducing me to a wider audience (for which I am very grateful!), mentions the TLM which began in St Dominic's, Newcastle upon Tyne, after the publication of Ecclesia Dei adflicta.  I know that I was one of the first, if not the first, to answer the call to celebrate the TLM there.  He also remembers the Mass at Consett, on September 29th, 1995,  which he celebrated and at which I preached.  He adds that "Unfortunately there was never another EF Mass again at St Patrick's".  I have to hold up my hand and say that I was to blame for that!
The Missa Cantata had been arranged to celebrate the Bicentenary of Crook Hall, a house within the parish of St Patrick's to which the students from Douai College in the Low Countries used as a temporary resting-place when they fled from the terrors of the French Revolution.  The church of St Patrick's was indeed crowded with people and the singing was tremendous.  There were also a large number of local priests there as well.  And in my sermon I said some unforgivable things!  I have come across a two-page resume of that sermon, and if I may I would like to quote some of the things which I said and which so upset the clergy.
I said: "The decades from 1950 to 1970 were good ones for the Church in this diocese; they were years of confidence and growth; during that time 50,000 people became Catholics.  Then something changed in the late 60's and '70's.  .... the Mass was changed: the altars were turned around, the priest was made to face the people, the language became English, and many of the words of sacrifice were removed from the Mass.  Most of us priests welcomed these changes with joy because we were sure they would lead to a great explosion of growth in the Church.
"But it didn't happen, did it? Priests, monks and nuns left in droves.  And the lay people, where did they go?  Since 1970 the Church in this diocese has lost 2,000 people a year," and etc etc along those lines.
But then I finished with a final flourish: "I want this Latin Mass to continue and to thrive, running alongside the New Mass, not because I want anyone to feel threatened by it, although I am sure that some of the Modernists will feel so, and certainly not as a centre of opposition to the New Mass, but as a basis, an exemplar, of what the Faith always was, so that those who go off to the wider, and wilder, shores of theology will have somewhere to come back to, a secure base from which to pass on the Faith."
I took this idea from either Cardinal Ratzinger or from Mgr Klaus Gamber, but you can see why the clergy were so incensed. Fortunately, after Mass I went into the parish hall to meet the laity, and so avoided a lynching in the presbytery.  Pope Benedict has said something similar in Summorum Pontificum and so I now feel vindicated.
But, still, Father Brown, it was all my fault!

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