Cardinal Griffin led them in homage to St. Aidan
By Patrick Grimley FROM the Western Isles of Scotland where St. Aidan spent part of his life as a monk, from the mining villages and industrial towns of northern England where the saint planted the Faith, even from the Netherlands where Douai and Ushaw College priests acted as missionaries—from these and other parts of Britain came 50,000 pilgrims last
They were led by Cardinal Griffin, taking part in his first public engagement since his illness, and by representatives of the Hierarchies in Britain.
They came to pay homage to St. Aldan who died in the north 1300 years ago after sixteen years of missionary work among pagan pirates, during which he established Christianity and made Catholic England possible.
Loud cheering greeted Cardinal Griffin as he walked through the aisles of pilgrims after having occupied the Throne at the altar for two hours during the Solemn Pontifical Votive Mass of St. Aidan, said in the open air, with Mgr, Joseph Masterson, Archbishop of Binningham, as Celebrant.
The Cardinal walked the two hundred yards to and from the altar to the main avenue, but for the remaining short distance to the College buildings he used a car. He had a special cheerful smile for the many children held up by parents to receive his blessing as he went to and from Mass.
When he arrived at Ushaw College on Saturday he was fatigued after his long journey, but on Sunday morning he walked for a considerable time in the grounds and was very cheerful.
It was appropriate that the sermon should have been preached by Archbishop Campbell, of Glasgow, for he is a native of the Western Isles where St Aidan was a monk, and he is a fluent speaker of Gaelic, the laaguage in which the saint converted the people of Northumbria, using the royal St. Oswald as his interpreter.
The scene at the celebrations was idyllic. The huge altar, which bad taken three weeks to erect, stood out white against the natural green setting.
Beyond. reaching to the distant Durham Hills, rolled the countryside, a patchwork of colour, golden where the corn was ripening and lush green where the land is for pasture. And above the landscape rose the Tower of Durham Cathedral.
The countryside still shows traces of the paths that St. Aidan trod on foot.
For hours before the celebrations began long lines of buses—stretching at times for a mile—crept towards Ushaw from all directions. A thousand buses were commandeered to bring the pilgrims, and in addition there were hundreds of motor-cars, bicycles and motor cycles, while hundreds of people unable to obtain transport walked the five miles from Durham.
Through the spacious College grounds wound long processions of people to take their places in front of the altar, each parish having its distinguishing banner, and some of the people carrying folding Chairs for the aged, or go-carts for the infants.
For two hours the processions continued in the most orderly fashion until all were comfortably settled. The five-acre playing fields were covered by the congregation.
The scene was a kaleidoscope of contrasting colours. On each side of the altar were the white surplices of the 170 choirboys. The vestments of the celebrants were golden, and conspicuous on either side of the altar were the purple robes of the Hierarchy.
But dominating the scene was the lonely figure on the Throne. his scarlet robe and train showing out clearly.
In his sermon. Archbishop Campbell said: "There is no nation which lacks pride in its great men, or refuses to honour them. The yardstick, however, of true greatness for Catholics is a false one if it excludes religion and morality.
"No man can be truly great who refuses to bend his knee to his Creator. St. Aidan, the great Saint and Bishop whom we honour on this day and in this part of the country, so familiar to him in his Apostolic journey, surely merits inspired words of praise.
"St. Aidan was the bearer of the name of the Lord and the herald of His truth from Iona to Lindisfarne.
" Modern scholars with no axe to grind and no position to safeguard agree in repudiating what is sometimes said, that the Celtic Church of St. Aidan one of the brightest jewels was something distinct from what they are pleased to call the Roman Church.
"The Celtic Church acknowledged the Pope of Rome as its visible