Well, crikey o’rielly, what a day. I just got back from York from one of the most jaw-dropping Catholic events ever. Sung extraordinary form Mass in York minster in honour of the feast of St Margaret Clitherow. I’d say it was just as remarkable as the Cofton Park Mass during the Papal visit.
The LMS had estimated there would be 200 to 400 attendees, there were well over 700 of us. At communion they ran out of the body of Christ and had to turn a goodly number away even though only two thirds or so went to receive.
Our contingent turned up 10 to 15 minutes before the start of mass and by that stage the choir of york minster was already standing room only, there were york minster ushers running around with extra chairs but the congregation filled a none too shabby portion of the nave too, york minster being one of the biggest Church’s in Europe.
Due to turning up relatively late I luckily managed to grab a temporary seat right between the two sections of the choir, the really rather good Rudgate Singers, so I had Byrd’s mass setting for five voices in perfect stereo sound, and it was STUNNING.
Fr Stephen Maughan was also on top form both at the Altar and in the Pulpit, though if you know him well you know that’s guaranteed if you see his name at the top of the bill. I just hope to God his career in the Church isn’t hampered by being so wonderfully Catholic but I don’t want to jinx his chances by indulging fantasies of the ascendancy of orthodoxy on that point.
Margaret Clitherow was perhaps one of the bravest martyrs who ever lived, refusing to plead to the charge of sheltering priests so her children wouldn’t have to testify at a trial (and potentially implicate themselves) she was thus given the punishment of being crushed to death. A death so horrific that not even stony face executioners had the barbarity to carry the sentence out, they had to hire some beggars to do it for them, and on Good Friday of all days.
So then, an extraordinary form mass, in a now Anglican minster, in honour of a Catholic Martyr and Saint of the reformation. Ecumenism is an interesting thing is it not? It was truly wonderful to bring Catholicism back to a building built by Catholic hands, hats off to the dean of chapter for such a great gesture of friendship towards us Papists. But being there the contradiction of what we believe as Catholics juxtaposed with the knowledge of the Anglican ownership of that building brought some subversive thoughts into my mind.
Thoughts like, How could you possibly remain Anglican for one second knowing that your denomination exists because of martyrdom such as this? How could you remain Anglican and know the beauty of the ‘old rite’ only exists in the Catholic Church? How could you remain Anglican and know that for no good reason you have cut yourself away from the ancient belief of the Church in the Holy Mass? a belief Christians throughout the ages have willingly given their lives for.
Anyway, we processed through York, which was quite a spectacle, suddenly around 500 or so Catholics appeared traipsing through the shambles of York with a gaggle of Clergy at the front praying the rosary (unfortunately we couldn’t hear a word of the rosary because we were in the middle of the procession.)
Things I noticed as we passed by were, firstly the buskers, one who played the lord is my shepherd on his piano, and the guitar band who played sunday bloody sunday as we passed by Ann Summers of all places.
There were a group of kids who; when one of them saw the clergymen said to the rest; “hey there’s this weird group of people in white saying really weird stuff, lets go and check it out” and they ran to the front of the procession to see what was going on.
There was a man who looked rather rough around the edges, who may well have been homeless, who genuflected for the whole lot of us, with his dog barking like crazy beside him.
As we arrived at English Martyrs’ Church York for benediction we heartily sang a Salve followed by benediction with the O Salutaris and Tantem Ergo by Thurlow Weed, and adoremus in aeternum by Gregorio Allegri, all three of which were understated and achingly beautiful.
Benediction also included the prayer for England which was heartily boomed out by one and all, followed by veneration of the relic St Margaret’s hand. During the veneration of the relic faith of our fathers, god of mercy and compassion and lord Jesus think on me were sung from memory. Faith of my fathers always makes me emotional. Being a convert I can’t help but think of my family. Then the final liturgical note we had the Laudes Regiae to hammer home Christ’s kingship and victory, perhaps even over the travesty that was the protestant rebellion.
Lastly we had tea coffee and biscuits in the parish hall, and the hardy few who had stayed to this point relaxed knowing we were in the company of friends and like minded full blooded recusants.
I get frustrated when Bishops rest on the laurels of the Papal visit (something they didn’t really have much to with its success) when they could be doing the work of the apostles bringing about Catholic events to match it in beauty and significance, just like this one. It is left to the LMS to boldly go where Bishops fear to tread, hats off to all involved.