THF. BISHOP of Chester (C of -E) has put his .foot down. Ile wants to make it mandatory for his clergy to wear clerical collars when on duty. This raises the question of when a priest is not on duty.
The second question is who is going to take a blind hit of notice. I intend no discourtesy but the Middle Way, the via media, of the Anglican Church is almost as wide as it is long and most Anglicans, I would hazard, arc proud of this and compare their state as glorious and .English in comparison with the imagined rigidity of Rome.
An Anglican clergyman has to do something pretty scandalous to he hooted out of his living or it must be proved that pastoral communications have broken down within the parish. I don't think that anyone in Chester is going to be driven into the Mountains of Moab for wearing the wrong collar.
Take another look at the "dog collar", It really is a ludicrous item of clothing. It looks uncomfortable. It looks as if its wearer were being humiliated with some peculiar badge.
I recall that during the last war in Europe I had a friend whose abandoned delight was to wear one of those high collars with a black bib or dickie attached. You could just clip it on and tuck it in to your tunic and this ribald man was transformed. He looked like a ravaged chaplain.
Once he went to a British military party in Europe forgetting the sacred appendage at his neck. Talking with senior officers, he started to talk about the idea of Unconditional Surrender for the Germans. (The war was on but not for him.) His language grew cnpurpled. His political vehemence took over. He is eloquent but uninhibited. Suddenly a Brigadier put a hard on his shoulder, took his drink away and said: "I say, steady Padre." It was not too easy to get out of that one. (it was not me.) Clerical every day walking out uniform is comparatively new. St Benedict just advised some suitable local cloth. But the orders did later put on great. eeveloping uniforms, if only 10 save them from liturgical hypothermia in ancient choirs. I don't know what the poor parish priest before the Reformation wore about his daily life.
Once all educated priests \yore cassocks except when out hunting or in bed. In France, for example, they wore bands that flapped from the neck. All the pictures of the Cure d'Ars show the hands of the sort that our barristers still wear in court and which are sported by the dignitaries of Oxford and Cambridge on their more delicious occasions.
The clerical collar, as far as I can discover, came to Britain, wafted by Pius IX and insisted upon by Archbishop Manning who had more power, though not so glorious a cathedral, as Chichester. (Westminster was practically built over his dead body.) In England when the Catholic priests emerged from their imposed secrecy, they wore black suits and linen stocks that came up to their ears. Even monks stumped into their cut price choirs dressed like farmers in mourning. What should the well dressed priest wear? A friend — a fierce and most dangerous cleric — says he invented that little slip of celluloid that slips into a sort of pocket at the neck and can be whipped out if the party is getting out of control. It is in fact oddly elegant,
Ronnie Knox used to ,wear a Roman job as big as a horsecollar. it was a very narrow thing. Fr D'Arcy wore a towering Roman job that looked like the Castel San Angelo wound his neck, I never saw him in anything else.
Cardinal Heenan was a high collar man. but I've seen him whip it off — and in Rome and say, "phew!" Most young priests hate the things — unless they accept them as part or their calvary.
Personally — old biretta hat that I am — they can wear what they like. I do, however, think that there should he some public sign about their person that they and God have set themselves aside a little. But, the bliss of it, it is not a very important question. I think that ordinary people take some comfort in the outward sign of some man's inner commitment. Ent, told, mind you I'm only told, that it's possible in Portugal for a young priest never even to have owned such a thing.
Great oaks in the making
IF NEWS were about great and good things this, li.kc a processional cross, would have led the paper. But being what it is, it is tucked away in a corner of the Charterhouse cloister.
went last week to the Pastoral Centre for the diocese of Portsmouth. They were holding one of their periodic RN moral leadership weekends. The young men and women, with a few from schools, came from a Friday afternoon to a Sunday evening for a course in their 1-aith.
It is organised by the chaplain of two shore establishments called HMS Daedalus and HMS Collingwood — he is Fr Phelim Rowland — and he'd got about 50 young sailors and wrens of various ranks to attend. The Navy itself helps to pay for it but the Navy itself, being gravely over spent, is trying to cut down on it in the interests of economy.
There was an atmosphere of the most extraordinary gaiety about this isolated house. There was horseplay in the corridors and attention at the lectures and no apparent observance Of rank, The young men who predominated looked on the whole tough and abominably healthy. The girls were pleasing and con sidered themselves equals. There was a considerable course of lectures. One lot was given by Ursula Fleming who studies pain.
So strike me, she was telling these young sailors how to pray. She is a sturdy, handsome lady. She was dressed in trousers and a fisherman's smock and she was telling them about posture.
But somehow she had got them to shed their conventional inhibitions. She sat and murmured to a room full of them, got them to take their shoes off and balance broom sticks on their fingers as an exercise in concentration, taught them to sit at attention when in Church, taught. them to rise for the Gospel, breathing in as they did so, without breaking the concentration and no one mocked.
As she went on, telling them not to call the Mass "boring" Or to judge the performance of the priest as if he were a performer, they listened with interest and without awe.
She got them to genuflect balancing the broom stick and then to do the same without. She was getting them to involve their all in their prayers. And her rapport with these young people was gentle and entertaining and quite unforced, The other speaker was Dom Leonard Vickers, a youngish Benedictine priest from Douai. He had them hard at work thinking for themselves about things they had taken for granted, about the liturgy. about what is the Church, about the natures of human and divine.
And they worked at it in groups as if it were exciting. No concessions were made to them and the subjects could have stumped the most rarified Newman Society.
They had discos in the evening and a bar and bare discipline expressed in naval terms, like "pipe down" for "lights out".
But the climaxes on Saturday and Sunday were the Masses in the spare, modern church at Park Place.
They came in chatting and then seemed utterly to commit themselves. Now I contradict everything I have written here before. Everything I profess to dislike was done. There were guitars and a folk Mass called the Israeli Mass and it was marvellous and naturally intense. When it came to the bidding prayers, one of them prayed for a friend up on a murder charge.
When it came to the liturgy of the Eucharist, everyone stood packed around the altar. They joined hands and swayed to sing the Our Father, And when it
came to the Kiss of Peace a sort of joyous riot broke out. The boys kissed the girls, gently, There was a milling about to shake hands. At least two young men said to me "Peace be with you — Sir?"
Sunday Mass was at midday after a morning of work. When it was over they opened the bar. But most of them stayed behind to sing hand clapping hymns for the fun or something else of it. • Perhaps there is something special in the community spirit of the Royal Navy. Perhaps these were the special ones left after all the lapsed Catholics had dropped off the tree. I, myself, have never seen anything more hopeful for the future of the Church.
And the people who chose to come and to participate without mockery or tedious embarrassment, some looked like tough nuts, some looked and sounded intellectually deprived, some seemed to be people for whom the sky is the limit. All together, they looked like the future.
A mix-up in the Mass
MISTAKES will happen even in the best regulated columns and nowhere more frequently than here. But now, and oh the luxury, I am talking about the errors of others.
The Sunday Telegraph has been putting its elegant foot in it lately. It seemed to have got the Latin Mass mixed up with the Tridentine Mass and to suggest that the latter might be restored by Rome.
In fact a form of the Tridentine Mass may be said with special permission in this country by priests who consider themselves too -set in their ways to change. One of them, I know, calls it the
A Mass in Latin may be said anywhere and at any time. The vernacular version most of us know is simply a translation or this. There is notnmg daring or even faintly illicit about it. True, many priests have lost their Latinity and would make a sad hash of it. But we arc actually encouraged occasionally to use this form.
Then in its colour magazine the Sunday Telegraph had a picture of the Pope carrying a monstrance with a reference to him at Mass. But lest I seem to be carping, a year or so ago The Observer had an article about Catholicism in its colour magazine. It had an illustration of a priest fully vested for Mass all in blue. Which was jolly hard luck. I believe they use blue vestments at the Abbey of Montserrat in Spain and have,a set at Downside.
was once involved in a television programme which included excerpts from the Mass. Someone had dubbed in some magnificent music over the consecration. It was, unfortunately, the Credo.
But the errors are innocent nowadays and it takes real concentrated Ulster malice to get the Pope's titles wrong. And we have a Catholic information Centre where any idiot reporter can telephone for the obvious. I could not live without it. But you can't check everything.
If you cannot recall the name of the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury who shot a keeper dead while out hunting, where on earth do you look? I referred to him in a mad outburst on blood sports. Someone has written to say that it was Archbishop Abbot who in
did theHampshire. The at Bramshill The coroner's jury returned a verdict of unintentional homicide. Four bishops elect refused to accept their consecration from him. He was in a sort of limbo until the King, as Supreme Governor of the Church absolved him from all censure. Just thought you would like to know.
A DEATHLESS (or should it be deathly?) advert from an American newspaper. We now know all about mod cons and 2 rept. But this stumped even me? Perhaps it ought to be in a Christmas competition for translation into the sort of prose Gibbon or Queen Victoria might have used. But do not despise it. We couldn't and wouldn't produce anything so ferociously confident.
"GOT A PET ELEPHANT — You'd like to be buried with. If not your favourite pet how about your overweight wife or five relatives. We've got six choice sites at Ft. Lincoln together with marker priv's. Only $285 ea. $1425 fur five. Get the sixth one free. Call 832-2000x and ask for Mr Gerard."