By Patrick O'Donovan
A FIFTY YEAR OLD church is not old even by English Catholic standards. But St Peter's in Winchester is different and worthy of celebration. For. historically, its area is one of the sources of the restoration of the Old Religion to England.
It is a large solid, gothic church. It is tall, ftill of light, unfussy and has a quiet nobility. It stands near the old and magnificent gaol which is now turned to commerce and has had a dissident chapel inserted like a false tooth after a right into its facade. Its street is known as Old Jewry. It keeps hiving off new churches all over the city well, two anyway. It is not my parish but I regard it with affection.
Anyway, Winchester was a place where some kept a practical sympathy for Catholicism long after it was proscribed. It has the oldest Catholic cemetery in the country. it is a place of great mortal charm, but it looks choc-a-bloc to me. So I beg you not to write to me to use my influence to get you in.
But in Winchester, apart from five city and six Hampshire martyrs. there has been a long tradition of Catholicism. There was a humble chapel in
1740. But in 1791, when it was permissible to build Catholic chapels, the parish priest, Dr Milner, built quite a large one in what is now called Carpenter's Gothick •Ehis meant that the windows were pointed and the Olothick detail appliqué.
It was not a scholarly
-though Dr Milner wrote what is still the best history of Winchester. But it was stripped of its delicious frigperies and the shell of it is still among the church cornplex. Dr Milner went of to be Vicar General of the Midland district -a great man.
Another parish priest, John Henry King, arranged the building. He was a down-toearth priest who became Bishop of Portsmouth with the title of Archbishop, and I don't know anyone, even including Ronnie Knox, whose memory is so much loved.
Anyone who might have made one of the recently fashionable anti episcopal remarks about him would have got an eyeful of knuckles from the most modern curate.
He was my late father's patient. He had a great spot on his forehead which always seemed to me a bad advertisement for dermatology and Dr O'Donovan. But then every blemish, every pain and every gravestone is, in a way, a symptom of the human and inevitable failure of a doctor or surgeon.
Great Mass for St Swithun
SO THEY SET up a great Mass on the feast of St Swithun the Winchester saint last week. Well, it was not great in the sense of a baroque Mass.
There were the priests on the altar, young and old, who in their time had served this church. The people sang their heads off in Latin the "Missa de Angelis" of course, which purists dismiss us late and degenerate plainsong but which seems to run like cheerful hubbies in English Catholic blood.
A full, long church, a sanctuary charged with priests, a good organist, a choir to sing at Communion time, friends, it was wholly enjoyable if that is the right word. I telephoned one of the young priests there to get a detail or two for this column. Though my wife and I had heen at the very back, he reported that 1 was seen to look profoundly moved. What, asked. does that mean? He said I looked lugubrious. What is one meant to do on such occasions? Rollick?
The bones of Jane Austen
THE PERSECUTIONS are over. The mayor of Winchester, who is a lady. and her husband attended. This is a small but justifiably proud city. As cities go, it is among the most splendid for its scale in the world. tucked like a treasure into a fold of hills, surrounded by those grassy humps of antiquity that decently preceed the arrival of Christianity.
Its Cathedral is vast. It is a long Gothic tunnel, lined with the chantry tombs of England's pre Reformation great. Otherwise, it is lined with the memorials of one of the most military gallant counties in England, Under a black slab, it also has Jane Austen's bones.
Anyway, the Mass at St Peters went its splendid way. And when it was over, the
Vicar Capitular, Canon Mullarkey. led the mayor to the front entrance. She walked clown the aisle singing the final hymn which she seemed to know by heart.
During the celebrated Mass they used two elegant light and silver chalices that looked early 17th century English. The strangest use of such precious things I have seen on a television broadcast of the Mass. It was being celebrated by a line of priests with Cardinal Conway presiding. It was in that Carmelite church in Grafton Street. Dublin. It must he one of the busiest churches in the world.
For most of the day it is so busy that it sounds like a railway station, And people who come and go are not
sightSeers, b u t shoppers making a "visit". When. in front of the Irish government, the Cardinal, who is not a small man, came to the elevation he lifted up a chalice that was scarcely bigger than a thimble.
It looked almost absurd and
yet it was tremendous. For such chalices were used by priests in disguise in Ireland. They are small enough to fit in a pocket or a satchel and attract no notice. But. alas, I cannot recall what the Mass was for.
Curse on the parking ticket
THERE WAS a strange case reported from the town of Iglesias in Sardinia recently. A Jesuit priest, called Antonio Furreddu, was given a ticket by a traffic policeman.
He paid his fine with a money order for some E1.50 and on it he wrote: "Two thousand curses to the unfriendly policeman and the town of Iglesias."
A magistrate's court gave him a suspended sentence for this contempt of court. Al the hearing the policeman appeared with his leg in plaster. He had fallen and broken it soon after the order had arrived. Pow, I think but not pri,ptcr ht,c.
Memory lane at Hastings
ON SUNDAY. July 25. at 5 pm, Mass will again be said among the ruins of Hastings Castle. A chapel was built there while the Battle of Hastings was still within living memory.
It came to he a college of canons with a dean at their head. It was a Chapel Royal and therefore outside the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Chichester.
Most of the time Mass would have been said in the Sarum rite, but as it was an accepted stopping place for distinguished visitors from across the channel, perhaps even Eastern rites were sometimes heard here, though it would never have seen the Tridentine rite. By the time this was established, the chapel was abolished.
St Anslem preached here and Si Thomas Becket was dean for a time. The custom of saying this Mass was
started by the Guild of Ran som. For many years the parish used to go in procession from their church to the castle. But processions seem to embarrass people nowadays unless they are angry ones at least in the southern part of the country. Also they get in the way of the traffic.
The Mechelen Conversations
THEY USED to be called the M a lines Conversations before Flemish nationalism made us all to mind our manners. Cardinal Suenens, the primate of Belgium, concelebrated Mass in the morning with Bishop Patrick Casey of Brentwood and in the afternoon there was an ecumenical service at which the Primate of England, Archbishop Stuart Blanche, prayed, and the present Earl of Halifax read a lesson.
This is the third time such a ceremony has happened in the marvellous cathedral which is a delicious blending of Gothic and baroque. They recall t h e conversations
between the second Lord Halifax and Cardinal Mercier. Ile was a rich, High Church, landlord from Yorkshire with Whig tendencies, who cared passionately about reunion. The great cardinal, buried in the side chapel where the mass took place, lies magnificent in bronze, as emaciated as Manning. He shared the same hunger.
The talks happened in 1921. 1923 and 1925 and, ohstensally, achieved nothing. 'They did, however, break the tradition of unmannerly abuse or silence that had lasted for 400 years between Catholics and Anglicans. They were assisted by theologians and historians. They were the real start of the ecumenical movement, through the ecclesiastical authorities of the day. from both sides of the altar. regarded them with profound suspicion.
Halifax yearned for reunion, but believed that the Anglicans were already the Catholic Church in England. He would accept the leadership though not the jurisdiction of Rome. Speaking in Nt h.11 would now be considered old fashioned theological terms that were a mite surprised over how much they had in common. The subjects they discussed are more alive now than ever.
They discussed such subjects as the nature of papal authority, the possibility of a married clergy, the possibility of an independent Anglican Church in communion with Rome, a vernacular liturgy.
the desirability of the Eucharist under two kinds. The talks laid the foundation of the respect that many Continental Catholics have for the learning and the good manners of the Anglicans.
There is a plaque in memory
of the second earl on the wall of the side chapel. 1 went to a previous service where Dr Coggan, then of York, read the gospel and the Anglican choir from Brussels sang. The many Belgians found the new English vernacular a little. daunting and they sounded like a transept full of Charles Boyers at prayer.
Changes at Aylesford
AYLESI ()RD PRIORY has become a very special place of pilgrimage in England. This has nothing to do with this fact, but 1 lived there _when it was a private house still, for several summers before the war.
It was then half in ruins as a result of fire. But it was a marvellous place for children,
with the river Medway, rather
smelly at low tide, running under its garden wall, a medieval gateway and a great courtyard of stables at the hack. There was even a horse or two.
1 was there too when they hrought hack a relic of St Simon Stock, who was horn in the town at the bottom of the hill, and they had High Mass On what used to be our lawn. It was a joyous sort of day, with the sun shining and the tide in. There was a Carmelite cardinal seated on a throne wearing an enormous rough brown rappa inagna. De Valera was in the congregation.
I can hardly find my way about it now, it is so utterly changed. But it hums with life as places of pilgrimage should. St Simon is not a very famous saiot, which is odd, but, an Englishman, he made a great mark on the Church the sixth order.
They have just had a meeting there of the Association for English Worship. Its purpose is to promote good English in the liturgy and the adaptation of the liturgy to suit the national culture. As so many seem to care so passionately about the liturgy, I thought some might like to join it. The address is: 6 Little Dippers, Pulborough, Sussex.
There is also a useful booklet put out by the Association for Latin Liturgy. This lists the places where you can hear the Mass in Latin. it can be obtained from 11 Barton Close, Cambridge, CB3 9L9. It also supplies various Latin texts and will answer enquiries. Neither of those organisations is in any sort of rebellion. They are as orthodox as Aylesford itself.