A Roving Causerie
By G. E. ANSTRUTHER
A priest of the Society of Jesus is usually ordained at an age which provides that his golden jubilee, as Fr. Clement Tiger, S.J., reminds us in Stella Maris, may generally be looked for " either in Purgatory or in Heaven." Fr. James Ignatius Robinson, the beloved Spiritual Father of Campion House at Osterley, is of the small minority who keep that celebration on earth. He completes today his fiftieth year of priesthood. May the end of his life's path be still some way over the hill.
Fr. Robinson has this in common with a golden jubilarian in our Rederriptorist annals, that his ordination was hurried on because, according to the medical view, Le had not long to live. This gloomy forecast of upwards of fifty years ago happily turned out to be one of the profession's bad shots. The veteran is still at work, and has carried on for the past eight years the duties at Osterley which Fr. Charles Blount had to relinquish by ill-health.
At his jubilee Mass of thanksgiving this morning, Fr. Robinson will have among his assistants in spirit since they cannot be there in the flesh, a multitude who have profited from his ministry • at Wardour, Preston, Boscombe, Clitheroe, and elsewhere in England, and overseas in the Society's South African mission field.
Shakespeare's " poor, infirm, weak and despis'd old man " was not in the walk to Westminster last Sunday, or if he was he had managed to shed his weakness and infirmity to an astonishing extent; for certainly there were in the procession many hundreds of the elderly and a fair number of the aged, and at the end of the march these stepped it out as bravely as their juniors.
A special salute of honour was deserved by marchers who had left eighty years and more behind them. As for the merely elderly of " seventy plus," these latter would probably resent the suggestion that their pedestrianism that afternoon was anything out-of-the-way. Two members at least of the Hierarchy bore their years lightly, en route, among the septuagenarians. The Southwark men were proud of the personal leadership of their ArchbishopBishop; and the Bishop of Portsmouth, in every sense of the phrase, was not far behind.
Compliments have fallen, this week, to Billingham-on-Tees, in County Durham, by reason of a piece of literal church extension which the local Anglicans have done in the right way. Within modern recollection Billingham was a village: it is now a busy industrial town; so the parish church of St. Cuthbert has been doubled in size to meet the larger call upon religious resources.
It would have been easy to have disfigured this ancient fabric, a building set up in the Ages of Faith and holding many pieces of Anglo-Saxon ornament. Earlier than the tenth century, to which parts of the present church are assigned, there was in all likelihood an earlier church on this Durham hill. Thanks to the architect chosen, Mr. -G. E. Charlewood, St. Cuthbert's, one learns, has grown in size without loss of dignity, a circumstance for which Catholics, whose faith makes them owners de lure of England's pre-Reformation Houses of God, may be profoundly thankful.
In Billingham, for Catholic purposes, it is not to the ancient grey tower on the hillside that the faithful can now make their way; but this decade has seen the opening of the church of St. John the Evangelist in Cowper Lane, where four Masses on Sundays are needed to provide for an increasing congregation.
Moving the pointer a county further south, from Durham to Lancashire, one may make a halt at St. Peter's, in Seel Street, Liverpool, in order to wish that parish, while 1938 is still with us, a happy hundred-and-fiftieth birthday. When this Merseyside outpost was started, in 1788, Bishop Matthew Gibson's Liverpool flock was but a small one. The opening of the new church, thirty years later, in the time of that prelate's brother, Bishop William, made an eventful day for the faithful of the city.
Nowadays, visitors in plenty, from other parts of England, are drawn to the works in progress on the great cathedral site on Brownlow Hill. Many of them, it may be feared, are without time or inclination to explore further Catholic interests in Liverpool's central areas. A look in at the Benedictine priory church in Seel Street would introduce them to a shrine of many memories.
* * * * Whereabouts is the earliest known English hymn to Our Lady? Dom John Stephan, of Buckfast Abbey, points us, for answer, to the Bodleian, where his researches brought him, a few years ago, to the Early English MS. text, and the melody, of a thirteenth century work in which the music is a beautiful medieval composition in " modern " style. This hymn, Dom Stephan considers, has not obtained up to now the recognition it deserves, whether from the musical, literary, or devotional point of view.
Musical readers of the Buckfast Abbey Chronicle can test for themselves the merits of this ancient work. Not only does that quarterly reproduce the music, in a transcription based upon that published, many years ago, by the Early English Text Society, but it prints also a transliteration of three out of the original eight stanzas.