Sunday, August 31, 2014

More about Papa Stronsay

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Such has been my busy-ness, and also thanks to some technical problems with my PC, I didn't have a chance to write properly about my visit to the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer on their island, Papa Stronsay, in the Orkneys, where they have their monastery.

All my life I've had Summer holidays in a remote West Highland community, so the idea of being accessible only by sea, having your own electricity generator, and things like post and food being subject to weather conditions, are not entirely new. For most people, they represent a bit of a shock. You realise, out here, that you are at the furthest reaches, or a little beyond the furthest reaches, of the postal system, the health service, of everything commercial or governmental which we take for granted.

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Such places are a challenge to live in, and even more so to make a living in. Everything which requires the help of an expert, spare parts or materials, or sending your own things out to any kind of market, is made complicated and expensive. The flip side is that once you get up there, you are obliged to adapt yourself to a different pace of life. You can't do things instantly. You can't whiz off to the big city. You can't put your plans into immediate execution. You do have a lot of physical things to do from which there is no escape. But you don't have the ringing telephone and the bleeping twitter account, the commute, the gossip, or the dealing with other people as frantic as you are.

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This has the effect that the stresses and exhaustion of life you have been trying to ignore catch up with you. It also means that the spiritual things you have been trying to ignore can catch up with you. In other words, it puts you into a contemplative frame of mind.

I realised when I was up there that Papa Stronsay, the ancient stronghold of the pre-Viking monks re-colonised by the sons of St Alphonsus, is ideal as the base, and the retreat, of the community. Their vocation and charism is to do serve the Church as missioners, and to make this effective by combining it with the contemplative life. So, and I think this is unique in the Church, they alternate by seasons, between living as contemplatives and going on the mission. Papa Stronsay could not be bettered as the base of the contemplative side of this double vocation.

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The contemplative life has never been about staring at one's navel: the Office, spiritual reading, and private prayers, has since the Desert Fathers been combined with physical work. The Desert Fathers used to weave baskets: Orare et laborare. Not all kinds of work are equally suited to the contemplative life, and the emphasis has always been on physical work where possible. The Sons up on Papa Stronsay have sheep, beef and dairy cows, hens and geese, pigs, a couple of donkeys, and a large greenhouse with a fantastic array of fruit and vegetables, which we sampled while up there.

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Their work as missioners has not yet begun in earnest, since at the moment the number of priests is still low, and they now have to provide priests for their house in Christchurch, New Zealand, as well as for the community on the island and the chapel on Stronsay Island, the tiny island next to their own which nevertheless runs to things like a post office, bank, and a regular ferry service.

They have a steady number of young members at different stages of training, and we will be hearing a lot more about them over the next few years. Readers of this blog know that Fr Michael Mary gave an electrifying concluding talk at the LMS One Day Conference in London in the spring: you can hear it here. They will also be leading the St Catherine's Trust Family Retreat next spring, in the Oratory School: Friday 10th April to Sunday 12th April 2015.

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More photos here.You can keep up with the Sons of the Holy Redeemer, and support the work of the Sons, through the Friends of Papa Stronsay.

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Reflections on Walsingham

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This year's pilgrimage was only the fourth walking pilgrimage the Latin Mass Society has organised. It
is I think the most complicated event the Society has ever organised, more complicated even than pilgrimages overseas and our priest-training conferences. Only on a walking pilgrimage do we have to have our own catering team, for example, and a complete travelling sacristy. We can't subcontract any aspect of it, to professional caterers or choir for example, and every Mass is in a different church.

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This year we had two minbuses and a van, as well as a landrover with trailer and various private cars, accompanying us across the country. Matthew Schellhorn, our musical director, was able to conjure up a polyphonic group for the Sunday in the Shrine, which was pretty miraculous. In terms of engaging professional singers, we are a long way from anywhere at a very difficult time of year, and in the middle of a bank holiday weekend.

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The effort was worth it. We had excellent liturgy, with the help of our band of seminarians from the Fraternity of St Peter and our volunteer chant schola. We had excellent food, thanks to the amazing efforts of the four-strong volunteer catering team. The support vehicles were everywhere we needed them to be. And the morale of the walking pilgrims was fantastic.

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When we got to Walsingham, it was interesting to see the reaction of people who wandered into our Masses by chance - on Sunday in the Reconciliation Chapel, and on Monday in the Slipper Chapel. On Sunday, we picked up a lot of Irish Travellers, and others, from Youth 2000; there were also lots of Catholics of Indian origin around the place. They clearly got enough out of it to join us on the mile-long procession after Mass to the Priory Grounds, in many cases with bare feet, where we venerated the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham. It illustrates the universal appeal of the traditional liturgy and devotions.

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On Monday, after our little Missa Cantata in the Slipper Chapel, I had interesting conversations with two young people who were are Youth 2000, who had been drawn to the chapel, from across the field where Youth 2000 was packing up shop, by the Gregorian Chant. They both expressed their frustration at the kind of liturgy Youth 2000 had to offer. I don't have any beef with Youth 2000, indeed I don't know what exactly they do, but if there is anyone who still thinks that what 'young people want' is some sloppy spontaneous liturgy with badly-performed sub-'folk' music, I would ask them a simple question.

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Have you actually talked to them about it?

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Pro-Life Witness this Saturday in Oxford

OXFORD PRO-LIFE WITNESS

Saturday, 30th August 3pm-4pm


Please note these guidelines (on advice from the police) for the pro life witness which we have had to implement as we have recently had counter-protesters.

* We will all stand on the grass just in front of the Church wall. Please will everyone stand in a row. Young (and fit!) people can stand up on the wall if they choose.

* The Holy Rosary will be led by Fr John Saward and he will not raise his voice in response to the protesters' noise. Our responses will also be quiet and reverent.

* Please will everybody not enter into any discussions/debates with the protesters - the advice is to completely ignore them and to not make eye contact. (Evil hates to be ignored.)

If you would prefer to pray inside the Church, please know we have Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament throughout the hour.

++++++


PLEASE try and support this vigil- unborn babies have no voice but ours. This is a spiritual battle which God is blessing!

Info: Amanda Lewin. 01869 600638

All meet in the Church of St Anthony of Padua for Exposition and a prayer, then we stand at the Entrance to the John Radcliffe Hospital, Headley Way, Oxford.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

LMS Walsingham Pilgrimage: Part 2

Part 1 here.

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After Mass at Oxburgh Hall, we had breakfast in the village hall. As usual our catering team had set up there ahead of time, in order to provide us with not only tea, bread and jam, and cereal, but porridge, now established as a Walsingham Pilgrimage tradition.

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And so we walked on, to Harpley, where the village hall there was the venue for our evening meal. Again, throughout the pilgrimage the catering team provided us with freshly cooked, hot meals. On the Saturday evening it was a sausage casserole with couscous.

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On the final day our walk is shorter: we arrive at the Catholic Shrine at about 1pm. During this day's walk we carry the processional statue of Our Lady of Walsingham, which can also be seen on the procession during the Oxford Pilgrimage in October. We file into the shrine complex, and after a prayer to Our Lady (above), we have a break to prepare for Mass at 2pm in the Reconciliation Chapel (below).

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This chapel is always a challenge for photography; on a sunny day like last Sunday the sanctuary is very strongly lit from the back, with large plain-glass windows, and with remarkably orange tungsten lights shining from the ceiling. It is said that the design was inspired by Norfolk barns. If you want to know what they look like, there one here.


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At Mass we picked up the coach and car pilgrims, and a large number of people who were in Walsingham independently. There were a good number from Youth 2000, for example, including a lot of Irish Travellers. We had a congregation of about 300.

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With a considerable crowd, therefore, we processed after Mass to the Priory, venerated the site of the Holy House, and had our final devotions and blessing from Fr Cahill.

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For those staying overnight, we had a sung Mass in the Slipper Chapel, the centrepiece of the Catholic Shrine, where the shrine image is to be found. It is tiny, but we spilt out into the area around the door, and brought in as many chairs as possible.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

LMS Walsingham Pilgrimage, Part 1

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From Friday to last Sunday 60 pilgrims walked the 55 miles or so from Ely to Walsingham, assisted by about 20 volunteers. It is impossible to convey the experience of this kind of pilgrimage, but I have at least a few photographs of it. In this post I'm looking at the first half of it.

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We gather on the Thursday evening for a meal together, before the very early start on Friday morning: Mass is at 6:15am, in the Catholic parish church of St Ethelreda's. It is nevertheless a High Mass, with deacon and subdeacon, and a schola led by Matthew Schellhorn, composed of walking pilgrims. Mass was celebrated by our Chaplain, Fr John Cahill, assisted by the newly ordained Canon Altiere ICKSP (deacon) and Alex Stewart, a seminarian of the FSSP. After breakfast, Fr Cahill gave us the traditional Blessing of Scrips and Staves, and of the pilgrims themselves, in the church.

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We then went to Ely Cathedral. We prayed for the healing of schism, and looked around the places where the medieval pilgrims would have gathered, before setting off into the countryside.

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There's no hiding the Catholic past of the ancient cathedrals of England. Above is a superb gothic chantry chapel. No Masses for the dead have been said there for some time, alas.

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Much of the first day we walk along a path next to the Great Ouse. We prayed the Rosary, we sang, we heard meditations from our priests, and we walked more than 20 miles.

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On the second day, we walked for a hour or so before breakfast in order to get to Oxburgh Hall, where the Bedingfeld family very kindly let us use their historic private chapel. Having served local Catholics for centuries after the Protestant Revolt in secret chapels in the house, they eventually were able to build a neat little church in the grounds, with a wonderful medieval German reredos. Canon Altiere was the celebrant.

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After Mass Canon Altiere gave us all his 'first blessings' as a newly ordained priest.

To be continued.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tyburn Walk 2014: Sunday, 31 August

The Tyburn Walk, originally organised by the Guild of Our Lady of Ransom, was the annual commemoration of the Catholic martyrs who were executed in London during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The walk followed the route that was travelled by the martyrs from the Old Bailey (site of the former Newgate Gaol) to where they were executed near Tyburn Convent, Marble Arch. It first started in 1910 and is a solemn commemoration
of those who died for the Catholic Faith.

This year the Latin Mass Society has organised the walk, on Sunday 31 August, which follows the traditional route, starting from St Sepulchre's Church in the City (opposite the Old Bailey), moving via Soho Square, where Mass will be offered, on to Oxford Street finishing at Tyburn Convent on the Bayswater Road just beyond the end of Edgware Road where there will be Benediction. The starting time will be 2.30pm and it is expected to reach Tyburn between 4.00pm and 5.00pm.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Photos of Papa Stronsay

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At long last I've made it up to the Orkneys to see the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer in their island monastery. I'll blog about it properly when I get back from the Walsingham Pilgrimage, but you can look at my photos here.

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In the mean time I will attempt some live blogging from the pilgrimage. The signal is pretty limited in Norfolk, however, so no promises.

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