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Friday, April 24, 2009
Ushaw: laughter and good red wine
Hillaire Belloc would have been able to predict the mood at the Conference dinner of the LMS Priests Training Conference in Ushaw. Although (in the 'good old days') the boys' school which shared the site with the seminary had an austere reputation, and the seminary prompted some mixed feelings with priests who had trained there more recently (one warned us against scheduling future conferences there in February...), the LMS conference was a joyful occasion.
The men who built Ushaw may not have been very generous with second helpings of suet pudding but they cared a lot about architecture. The main chapel is stunning, and it is surrounded by tiny chapels intended for private Masses, all of them beuatifully and elaborately decorated. These chapels, which can't have seen many Masses since concelebratation became the norm in the 1970s, were used so heavily at the Conference, that private Masses - nearly all of them Traditional - had to be scheduled in two waves, at 6.15 and 7.15am, followed by Lauds at 8am (which itself was followed by breakfast). I was privileged to serve two Masses yesterday morning, first of Fr de Malleray FSSP, who had been giving tuition at the conference, and then the irrepressible Canon Noonan, who attended the conference as a trainee.
For my money the glorious sight of the great chapel with Solemn Mass, with two choirs, more than a score of priests in choir, and a good number of local faithful, was surpassed by the bustle of the enormous sacristy and the whisper of private Masses at innumerable altars in the early morning. Traditional groups have long been able to put on the occasional 'big Mass' in a nice church, but what the conference represented is the re-establishment of the Traditional Mass as part of the tool-kit of parish priests all over England (and not forgetting a participant from Glasgow). It is wonderful to see Ushaw College doing what it has done for two centuries: enabling the training of priests in the Church's great liturgical tradition.