Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sung Mass in Milton Manor

Yesterday we were fortunate enough to attend a Sung Mass at Milton Manor House just south of Oxford. This house was bought by the Barrett family in 1763 and remodelled to include a chapel. Being in recusant times, it is quite hidden inside but complete with a choir loft and beautiful stained glass windows. It was a votive Mass for Our Lady (Salve Sancte Parens) with a Gregorian Chant Schola, but not a full complement of servers. I had not been to such a Mass, but it made perfect sense with the size of the chapel, and the risk of suffocation had incense been used! For more go here.

Bishop Richard Challoner consecrated the chapel in 1771, and many of his Mass endowments are still kept, and indeed used. Fr John Saward wore his vestments at this Mass (above) and read from the same altar cards that Bishop Challoner would have. It is magnificent that such a place is preserved and used for its original intention. We are much indebted to Mr & Mrs Mocklet-Barrett for their kind hospitality, and to their ancestors who helped keep the Catholic faith alive in this part of the country.

Prayer for the Beatification of Richard Challoner:
O God who made your servant Richard a true and faithful pastor of your little flock in England, raise him, we beseech you, to the altars of thy Church, that we who have been taught by his word and example may invoke his name in heaven, for the return of our country to belief in the Gospel, and to the unity of all Christians in the one Church of Jesus Christ. We ask this through the same Christ our Lord.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Requiem for Fr David Higham

Oulton Abbey, Stone
Wednesday, March 11th 2009
(Sung Mass in Traditional Rite)

Father David Higham died at Oulton Abbey on Saturday 22nd November 2008. When I wrote a eulogy about him, I was overwhelmed by the response from people who knew Fr Higham, especially his old novices from Farnborough.

I only knew Fr Higham in his last couple of years in the context of his support for the Latin Mass Society in Worcestershire (my wife's birthplace), but I daresay that Oulton Abbey had great significance in his life. It was to this community that Fr Higham 'fled' both in the early 90s upon leaving Farnborough, and in 2008 upon being struck down by a Stroke. He must have cared compassionately for the sisters there as chaplain, and it was there he was compassionately cared for in his final days.

He was a testament to the fatherly love a Priest should have for his flock, and his consideration in providing the traditional Rites of the Church for his faithful was truly moving. When asked, he even gave Wendy her 'Churching' upon returning to Mass for the first time after giving birth, despite never having performed such a ceremony, understandably, in his many pre-conciliar years as Monk-priest!

We were very sorry to have been prevented from attending Fr Higham's funeral due to freak traffic conditions (although over 150 managed to attend), and hope to be able to pay our respects in this simple way.

Above: Fr Higham saying a Requiem Mass on Sunday, November 5th 2006

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hard Work

I am on a brief respite during a gruelling fortnight of 'on-call' medical duties. I find 12 hour shifts very difficult, and especially when one is feeling ill (I have succumbed to several colds and viruses this winter). It is our Christian duty to carry on in the midst of trials:
For unto this are you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow his steps. Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. Who, when he was reviled, did not revile: when he suffered, he threatened not: but delivered himself to him that judged him unjustly.
(1 Peter 2:21-23)

And so I am reminded not to behave downtrodden. After all, junior doctors have it much easier these days.

But it is often when we carry heavy burdens that we resort for the course of least resistance and let our feelings cloud our actions. For instance, when I hear the remark "You're too young to be a Doctor" from the umpteenth person, be it patient or nurse, it is easy to remark "well obviously that's not true!" in a rude and brash fashion. I am also reminded that it is the height of flattery to be called 'young'. Sadly I too often assume a lack of confidence in my medical ability, which I'm sure is not the case.

The truth is, I have never really had to 'take up my cross' in a meaningful or comparable way. Pope Benedict reminded us last August that "In today’s world, where powers that divide and destroy appear to dominate, Christ does not stop making us a clear invitation: who wants to be my disciple, let him forswear his own egoism and carry with me the cross." It is by uniting our own suffering to Christ that we "fill up those things that are lacking in Christ's sufferings" in our flesh, for Christ's body, the Church (Colossians 1:24). St Paul taught eloquently about our own interdependence in the Body of Christ, a mystical concept which points to the great reality of Christian life: That we never suffer in vain.

Perhaps the Holy Father is deeply hurt by the criticism levelled at him all week. It seems that from the very beginning of his Pontificate there has been a desperate attempt from all quarters to undermine his influence, tarry his reputation, and spread untruths about him. But ultimately his divine mission of promoting Christian Unity, of healing Christ's body which has been torn, must suffer these criticisms. (That is not to say that the fiasco with SSPX was unavoidable - surely Vatican PR must take some of the blame)

All this serves to draw into focus where our role and responsibility lies. Internal unity must always come first for the Pope, perhaps at the expense of pandering to so many other political pressures. For myself, my responsibilities lie with my family and with my patients. Which means I MUST work 12-hour shifts even when it hurts my head!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Happy Birthday Damian

Although my brother died over eleven years ago, I will never fail to cross this date without thinking of his birthday. Today he would have been 32 years old.

I have written a great deal about Damian previously, for the occasion of the 10th anniversary of his death. Now it strikes me how close his birthday is to that of Madeleine; a reminder that with life passed there will forever be Life continuing. It is perhaps with the bitter taste of death and grief that I am able to rejoice all the more for Life still to come.

I must stress that grief was so excruciating for me, that it was only by Grace that I managed to hold onto Life. The vision which was etched so deeply in my mind, as a saving thought amidst the Vale of Tears, is that of Family. This concept has many layers, and I am experiencing it most clearly on a day-to-day basis within my own household. But Family, for me, has certainly evolved over the last decade. With a brother gone, my whole experience of Family changed. This also happens painfully when older members of the family are lost, since they act as the cement, holding together different strands of a family.

When I imagine my brother as a 32 year-old, it is difficult to see him any differently from the last day I saw him; I was saying good-night to my big brother, having just watched the entire Star Wars Trilogy into the early hours (just released on video as a Special Edition) before I went back to boarding school, and him to University. He was a figure of wisdom and authority for me. The years after that were certainly dark, and misguided for me. I struggled to find my way perhaps because I didn't have him to look to any longer.

As I passed Damian's final age of twenty, I began a family of my own. I got married, had a baby, and found myself a father. I feel now as if Damian is very much a part of me and what I have become. He was blessed with an innocence that not many 20 year-olds manage to maintain, and one family member recently remarked that he is well placed now to make prayers for the young members of our family.

Damian will be forever young. Which is ironic because in life he suffered from the clutches of ill health and tiredness. Damian tasted death his whole life. He made friends with it, and thus distanced himself from the sort of bitter resentments that many of us feel we can harbour. It was only when he passed away, that I was faced with the same reality:
Which being put out, our body shall be ashes, and our spirit shall be poured abroad as soft air, and our life shall pass away as the trace of a cloud
(Wisdom 2:3)

In time, however, I managed to learn something more of that life which Damian seemed to absord and dissipate through his broken body:
The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them.
In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure was taken for misery:
And their going away from us, for utter destruction: but they are in peace.
And though in the sight of men they suffered torments, their hope is full of immortality.
Afflicted in few things, in many they shall be well rewarded: because God hath tried them, and found them worthy of himself.
(Wisdom 3:1-5)

Damian borrowed my pocket Jerusalem Bible whilst studying. I think it was easier for him to carry around. This last passage from the book of Wisdom was underlined boldly in pencil. I hope for some of it to be etched on his gravestone.

Damian would have been a great Uncle to Maddy. He loved kids and was great with my baby brother. If he was still alive I'm sure he would be spreading even more joy. But my heart rests content knowing that the people he did touch, are still spreading that joy today.

Requiescat in Pace