People who don't know what to do with Westminster Cathedral really are asking for some facetious suggestions to come their way. Crass and vulgar philistinism deserves scornful sarcasm -eg, use it for a super bingo hall, or sell it to the United States, or arrange for gladiatorial combats between trads and trendies.
More seriously, the first thing anyone who cannot appreciate the Cathedral should do is to go into it and thank God they have it at all — materially, and all it stands for. The Metropolitan shrine was built at the latest moment before inflation made it impossible, and as an act of hope and Faith. Be Catholic with a small c and with a big Cl
The outworn jibe that the style is un-Engl ish — was Gothic exclusively so? Did it not come from northern Europe? Cannot and should not a universal Church select styles from the whole world? You know Cardinal Vaughan did not want to compete with the venerable Abbey up the road.
The argument could be used to obliterate the Oratory, the former pro-Cathedral, an italianate baroque building, and no doubt some there are, insensible to tradition, and to ecumenism in the original sense, who would like that.
I hope no cultivated Catholic would want to sweep away the City Wren churches, or an old nonconformist chapel (such as the Countess of Huntingdon's at Worcester) or any other building of the unusually rich and varied heritage of British ecclesiastical architecture such as preservationist bodies like the Georgian Group or Victorian Society try to save.
Indeed, having so recently feasted on the magnificent festival of Islam, sympathies should be wide enough to embrace mosques, from Isfahan to Cordoba (many, in Spain, now Christian churches).
Westminster is one of the very few Catholic cathedrals in the British Isles at all. Dublin's is tucked away in a side-street, a living reminder of Ascendancy prejudice, while in the same capital a mere handful of Protestants have two.
Liverpool, however spectacular, was finished against rising costs. Many • think Galway is fine, but some do not; Cork and Leeds are small, Southwark reconstructed postwar, and so on.
Agreed, Westminster is not best suited for the new liturgy. For that matter, most of the Anglican Cathedrals have not seen the ceremonial they were built for, during four centuries.
Inside Westminster lie the sacred bones of St John Southwell who died to ensure we have any Mass at all; Challoner, who carried the ofttimes guttering light of the Faith in dark, penal days; Cardinals who are the only ecclesiastics in this realm to carry the Apostolic Succession down from the days of the saints whose chapels tie either side of the widest nave in England.
One remedy is to give parity of esteem to the older rite. Under the Indult obtained by the late Cardinal Heenan, buried on the right of that nave, it is perfectly legal to do so.
As for the nether regions, really one is tempted to suggest a nice little torture chamber for those unworthy of their national religious shrine: or what about an aotogia-fit in the piazza out front? This itself shows the very City Fathers have more appreciation of the building. Certainly one can rarely go to it without seeing considerable numbers of people there, let alone at times like Christmas Midnight Mass when many have to be turned away.
What shall the Cathedral be used
for?.Worship! As triumphatically as we can. There is not much sign of reunion in the dim and distant future, and if ever it does come, they arc going to join as, aren't they? If the day dawns, the perfect setting, mellowing, and coming up to its first century, will be there for Ponitifical High Mass — led by the Primate of England, the Cardinal Archbishop — and the Te Deism Li:tannins.
(Dr) Gillian Hawthi Wimbledon, London, SW19.
Multitudes of people love Westminster Cathedral: it is beautiful, and anyone who views it with "horror ' is not only myopic, but has a warped sense of values. For upwards of 80 years the Cathedral has witnessed, not only in its material aspect but in the daily round of its ordered Catholic worship, to the glory of God and His Holy Church. All through these long years the Mass has been offered on countless occasions (for the Cathedral exists principally for that exalted reason), and although the "new look" in the sanctuary — the High Altar is rarely used — detracts to a marked degree from the beauty and solemnity of the liturgy which was evident in the days prior to Vatican II, yet the heart of the matter is still central — Our Lord still has his rightful place in the Cathedral's worship. Your jibe of its "uselessness" ill becomes a Catholic newspaper, and will be urgently repudiated by great numbers of people who find peace within its walls, among whom the writer is honoured to be numbered. Gerald M. Bird London, SW I.
Could it be used as, or in conjunction with, a Liturgical Centre (suggested in your columns recently by Fr Patrick Kilgarriff) — as a centre for the study and performance of English liturgical music (that is, music written for the English language — not plainsong adaptations). It would encourage the composing of new music as well as making use of the lovely psalmody, chants and anthems that are the glory of the Anglican cathedrals. Thus in time we might rid our churches of the appalling Victorian hymn-tunes, etc — now proliferating — also perhaps get the New Rite rewritten in good literary English.
Most of that would be fee-paying. As a further money-spinner, the Cathedral could be used frequently for concerts, sacred and profane, and other suitable occasions. As remember it, the Sanctuary is large enough for a full choir and/or
The Cathedral will still be needed for great events, if not so splendiferous as in former days.
(Mrs) Clare Hourihane Bournemouth, Dorset.
I was interested in the complaint ("The Herald says", March 10) that Westminster Cathedral calls for full, stately ceremonial and is not an easy home for the new rite, But, may not this argument be turned inside out in order to point out that the new rite does not fit Westminster Cathedral!
If, so, does it not illustrate the impoverishment of worship which has all too often gone with the so-called liturgical reforms'? May it not be that every effort should be made to enrich the new rite with traditional ceremony in such a way that West minster Cathedral again becomes relevant.
You ask your readers to suggest how Westminster Cathedral can be used. May I suggest that its future should lic along its maintenance as a great shrine of Catholic belief expressed through the development of liturgy, outstanding church music and ceremonial?
If this end be achieved, the rest will follow as the shrine ministers to the regular worshipper and the tourist alike. Never mind about mutterings of "triumphalism". Catholic achievement has as much right to exhibit itself as any other. Great architecture, great music and a developed aesthetic ceremonial are an aspect of thc symbolism which is essential to religion in this contribution which they make to this purpose. (DR) F. H. Amphlett MieklewrigIn London, SE29.
As one member of the Steering committee who, at the invitation of Cardinal Heenan, helped to launch the recent Cathedral Appeal. I now take up your invitation to write and say what I Wink the Cathedral fund should be used for.
But first one must say what it IS used for. Daily there are large numbers of people at the Masses and many hundreds of people go to the Cathedral regularly for Confession.
On all major feasts the Cathedral is filled to capacity as it is on all occasions of Important celebration. There arc now very many first class concerts held in the Cathedral and most of these attract large crowds. .In a real living sense the Cathedral is the home, the focal point, of English Catholics.
One criticism I make is this:. I offer it in all sincerity. I am a life member of the Friends of York Minster and also of Salisbury Cathedral. The annual subscription to become a friend of Westminster Cathedral is £12. The subscription for Life Membership of the Friends of Salisbury Cathedral is little more than this.
Very few of my friends, many of whom love the Cathedral as I do, and who arc ordinary salaried workers like myself, can afford to become a Friend of Westminster Cathedral. The high subscription is ridiculous.
I think that the Cathedral authorites could do far more to attract the ordinary Catholic by introducing far more cultural activities. The liturgical music is not sufficiently advertised; one only has to look at the list of London's Sunday services in the Daily Telegraph ono Saturday to see this.
London nowadays is permanently full of foreign tourists, tens of thousands of whom are Catholics. What is done at the Cathedral to welcome them? I have attended Mass on Sundays at Westminster Cathedral pretty regularly for 20 years, yet never do the clergy make themselves known.
For example, after all Masses on Sundays at Cardinal Gray's Cathedral in Edinburgh there are priests at the doors waiting to say a few words to the often large congregations.
On one occasion, last summer, after an evening Mass at Liverpool Cathedral, Archbishop Worlock shook hands with every single member estm nf st the er 1 scrag teh ce od nr agir engeaet needs n t.
be far more welcoming towards the ordinary Catholics who use it. I'd like to feel I was sharing in the life of the Cathedral — even though I live outside London.
Peter Tate Chestfield, Kent.
You asked for suggestions for the future of Westminster Cathedral. One glance at the façade supplies the answer. Surely we have on our hands the answer to a muezzin's prayer — the Westminster Mosque complete with minaret.
The first Arab to slap down six million cash secures this bargain.
P. O'Leary London, SW3.
What to do with Westminster Cathedral? Why, hand it over to the St Pius V organisation for the celebration of the Tridentine High Mass! What else?
(Miss) D. Meyerhof Uxbridge, Middlesex.