Page 5, 11th December 1953

11th December 1953
Page 5
Page 5, 11th December 1953 — WEEK AT WESTMINSTER A WEEK OF JUBILEE

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Locations: London, Nairobi


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Greatest centre of prayer

"THERE is no other place of worship in England which attracts such crowds," said Mgr. Ronald Knox, preaching in Westminster Cathedral on Sunday night to a congregation of more than 3,000. This was the first sermon of jubilee week celebrating the official opening of the Cathedral 50 years ago.

"Fifty years is a very short space of time for a cathedral to get on the map," said Mgr. Knox. "Westminster Cathedral is not

famous for its fashionable weddings like the Oratory, nor for its preachers like Farm Street.

"The cathedral makes no appeal to our religiosity. It has no cosy corners. Beauty it has, but it is the beauty of proportion. It has a quality of mystery.

'In guide books' .

"What wonder that it should be in the guide hooks. In 50 years the cathedral has risen to rank with St. Paul's and the Abbey, and even the candid atheist visiting London for the first time puts it third among the churches in which he ought to have a look round."

Whereas the Abbey is a national shrine at a Coronation and St. Paul's is a "mascot." the cathedral "is a house of prayer" where crowds flock to pray in greater numbers than anywhere else in England, said Mgr. Knox. If proof were needed of Mgr. Knox's words it has been visible in the huge congregations which filled the cathedral each evening for the special sermons by the Provincials of the principal religious orders.

The principal celebration of the jubilee week was the Solemn Pontifical Mass offered by Cardinal Griffin on Tuesday and the sermon preached by Bishop Cowderoy of Southwark. The Mass was followed by the Papal Blessing and the singing of the Te Deutn,

Bishop Cowdcroy said : "We have seen days of persecution and suppression. as well as days of glory and of peace; we have drunk the bitter-sweet cup of martyrdom here in England, and we have come now to happier times of liberty and toleration.

"But it has been a great struggle to survive, and the amazing vitality of the Church is seen in that Catholic Revival of which Westminster Cathedral is both the fruit and the symbol.

"Westminster Cathedral is a new, modern cathedral, but from its archiepiscopal chair is taught the Faith of our fathers. that Faith which foolish men thought to have been crushed and cast without the land.

"But that Faith, thank God, is returning again. For what man, be he Catholic or not, can enter Westminster Cathedral and not recall the time when in this country there was but one Faith, the time when from their cathedrals throughout the length and breadth of the land Catholic Bishops taught exactly the same religion as is taught in Westminster today.

"No longer is the ancient Faith taught from the Bishop's chair in those venerable fanes of old England. .

First prayers

"Let us never cast aspersion on the goodness and the faithful intentions of those who worship within our old cathedrals and who are not to be blamed for what is not their fault: but it is an historical fact, which only the most ingenuous simplicity could fail to recognise, that in the modern Catholic cathedrals of England today you will find the same rites, the same things, the same beliefs and the exercise of the same authority which our forefathers knew and loved: you will not find them in those other cathedrals of the past."

The jubilee week marks the month rather than any particular anniversary day when the cathedral was officially opened for public worship in December, 1903, People first prayed in the magnificent Byzantine building on Lady Day, nearly nine months earlier, when the Lady Chapel was formally opened. The first service at the high altar took place in June: it was the Solemn Requiem Mass for the founder, Cardinal Vaughan, whose body lay in state at the head of the nave.

Cardinal Vaughan had said he wanted "a live cathedral." and gave the architect, John Francis Bentley, a free hand in the design. Bentley did not live to see it through: he died in 1902.

Benedictine hope

The two sermons preached in the cathedral on Monday and Tuesday evenings by Abbot Byrne of Ampleforth and Abbot Butler of Downside recalled the fact that Cardinal Vaughan's original hope had been that the English Benedictines would return to Westminster, where they had sung Divine Office in the Abbey for nearly 500 years before the Reformation.

For various reasons. this proposal came to nothing. Instead, a choir of Cathedral clergy was formed and the Divine Office was sung on the Eve of Ascension Day in Westminster for the first time since the 16th century.

To illustrate the central place occupied by the cathedral in the Catholic life of England, the Jesuits, Dominicans and Franciscans as well as the Metropolitan Chapter are represented in sermons preached by Fr. Desmond Boyle, S.J., Fr. Hilary Carpenter. O.P., Fr. Agnellus Andrew, O.F.M., and Canon John Geraerts.

Missing after raid

An African nun is missing after a Mau Mau raid on a mission at Klangone, near Nycri, says a Nairobi report. The raiders stole a biretta, a pistol and ammunition, and f150.

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