St. Thomas More Fought The Same Evils We Fight Today
ALTAR IN HIS HONOUR UNVEILED AT CHELSEA
A beautiful altar dedicated to St. Thomas More was solemnly unveiled last Sunday, in the Holy Redeemer Church, Chelsea, in the presence of a large congregation.
'T'he great English saint lived within a stone's throw of the church which has associated itself closely with. St. Thomas since his canonisation Those who were present at the ceremony will remember it for three things, the new altar itself, the plain chant music which has become a speciality of this church, and the special sermon for the occasion by Fr, George Burns, S.J.
The altar which stands on the Gospel side of the basilica-like church was designed by Mr. Robert Preston. It is ill Portland stone relieved with good colour. Behind the figures are two large volutes, loth with a scroll at each end, and turning
upwards in the middle to support a little cornice in the form of a sepulchre.
On this is the Agnus Dei reclining on an open book, with the seven seals with the letters A.W. in gold on each.
Behind the altar is a good painting of the
Martyr by Mr. Cyril Mahoney. In the background is depicted the choice that lay before the future martyr: on one side is the Tower of London with a scaffold being erected; on the other is More's house in Chelsea.
The unveiling ceremony was performed by the parish priest, the Rev. J. Valentin, who sang the Mass that immediately fol
lowed. Priest, choir and people all cooperated in a full liturgical service, a Missy Dialogata, under the direction of the Rev. Anthony Thorred, who has long trained the choir and congregation to sing in accordance with the letter of the Papal teaching.
The CATHOLIC HERALD Music Critic, who was present, writes:
"The choir has already achieved an admirable flexibility and accuracy.
Two Suggestions to Improve the Chant "Sir Arnold Bax was present at the service last Sunday and expressed his appreciation of the chant.. I put to him two suggestions which I thought could immediately improve the chant at the Holy Redeemer church.
"One, that the organ should be cut out, even on the most joyful Sunday of Lent. Two, that the pace of the singing should be
quickened. He agreed with the first; but thought the pace was all right."
As regards the organ accompaniment it is well to remember that the voices are untrained and therefore not powerful enough to fill the church.
" Plain chant achieves its liturgical propriety by refusing to tolerate the selfsufficient seductions of secular music. And to harmonise it, however tastefully, is to destroy it. •
Speech Music "Also, apart from lyrical airs like the /eyrie and Agnus Dei, the chant is speech music, and as such should have sufficient pace to ensure the clear intelligibility of the language structure."
Holiness in High Places In his sermon Fr. George Burns took as his theme the words of Christopher Hollis. " When they killed More, they killed Holiness, Justice. Learning and Laughter."
Reminding the congregation of the earthly greatness of More, he pleaded for the necessity of Holiness in high places, "Pray, brethren, for Holiness in high places; pray for the men who today in high station, are striving to build up Christian States on Christian principles; pray for the formation of such men in our Catholic educational institutions."
Gentleman's, Not Gospel's Code Pleading for the restoration of learning, he said, " Who can assert that the Protestant public-school system inculcates holiness?
"Does it not boast that it has its own code—the code of the English gentleman —wholly, or at least in part, divorced from the Gospel? And why do we need to borrow from it, to contaminate ourselves with its influences?
"Have we not our own traditions, our own background, our own system of character formation?
" Only yesterday was I by the bedside of a schoolboy, racked with suffering in his head. 'And he constantly thinks of Our Lord crowned with thorns,' said his mother to mc. Christian Holiness in the young."
Turning to justice, he gave a picture of the world as it i5 today after the death of what More stood for.
" Persecution has prospered exceedingly in our century of secular and scientific
illumination. Liberal France—did it not persecute the Religious Orders and banish them from her shores?
" Does not modern Germany boast that
it is anti-Christian and anti-Catholic? What shall be said of Russia? Have I not seen the desecration of Catholic churches in Spain and have I not lived with, known and loved the victims of Atheistic Communism in that country?"
Our Fight Against Impersonalism
The importance of St. Thomas More would grow as the century proceeded. "He will stand as the Sign and the Symbol of our own resistance to the modern tyrannies : the mechanisation of human life, and the complete subordination of the human person to those vast impersonal economic. forces which threaten to engulf, throttle, sway and dominate our Christian freedom, our Christian inheritance, our glorious Christian ideas and ideals. "There are those who fight under the sign of the clenched fist and there are those who fight under the sign of the raised arm. We can abstract from them both. We fight under the Sign of the Cross."
No Easy Saint
Reminding us that St. Thomas was not an easily made saint, but one who faced difficulties, hardships and weaknesses, he ended by reading the Saint's beautiful meditations on the Agony in the Garden.
Referring to the true meaning of Christian Holiness, he said it did not merely mean the. doing of a number of good and praiseworthy acts—but it was the inward character, which resulted, under God's Grace, from the doing of them.
"It is the glory of St. Thomas that he strove, from boyhood to manhood, for the realisation in himself of this inward character, this conformity to the likeness of Christ.
Holy as a Schoolboy, Even as a Lawyer " He was holy as a schoolboy; he was holy as an undergraduate—a harder task; he was holy as a lawyer, harder still; he was holy as Lord Chancellor of England, and in this he showed heroic sanctity."
They had killed the idea of Holiness in high places. Examine the history of England for the last 400 years and see whether you could find a man, holding high office in the State, who found his inspiration, his strength, his guidance in Christian principles. It was not the social guidance of the Popes, but the selfish greed of the Politicians which built up the industrial wealth of nineteenth century England and the accompanying miseries and afflictions.
Man Chooses " Behold the. picture of St. Thomas: do you not see him as a man in the act of making a choice?
"For sanctity--and the effort towards sanctity—always involves a choice within
a choice. Not, of course, that he ever debated between Christ and Satan : under the Standard of Christ, there are degrees and levels of service: there is the hard task and the easier task, the good and the less good . . and St. Thomas not only passed his life in sanctifying grace, but was actuated, impelled, directed by the dictates of actual graces, co-operating generously with his own will in the Following of Christ through the Cross . .. until it came to the final choice between his Home-and the Tower „ . This Sacrifice of the Mass—here in this church on this day—we must offer up for the realisation of those great ideals for which he died.
Can We Forget?
"Can we forget the great crimes, sacrileges, blasphemies of our modern world! Can we forget the great apostasy of England in 1538 when Walsingham was pillaged and the image of Our Lady publicly burnt in Chelsea! Reparation, then, my brethren, through the Sacrifice of the Mass —of this Mass: offered up by us all in a spirit of simple joy and thanksgiving . . never forgetting the sins and sufferings of the world, never ignoring the Cross.
" Holiness, Learning, Justice and Laughter . , do we not need them today! 'Sing your Creed, then, and affirm with song and psalmody your real belief in the Communion of Saints: your vital contact and union with the Our Blessed Lady, St. Thomas and the Saints in triumphant glory."