Sunday, October 25, 2009

St Michael's, West Brom'

A puritan survey of Staffordshire in 1604 remarks that there were 'many popish' in West Bromwich. In 1807 Fr Francis Martin arrived at Bloxwich and later, in 1827, St Mary's was built in Walsall, which served the surrounding Catholics in the region. Since then a thriving mission developed in West Bromwich, with numerous conversions to the Catholic Faith.

In 1830 building began on a church in the Early English style, with turrets at each corner. It was opened on 21 November 1832 and dedicated to St Michael and the Holy Angels, and was one of the first Catholic churches to be built after the Catholic Emancipation (original foundation stone can still be seen, right). It was designed by Joseph Ireland and financed in large part by its first parish priest, Hon Fr George Spencer CP (interestingly an ancestor of Lady Diana Spencer). As well as West Bromwich it served Oldbury, Tipton and Dudley.

On Census Sunday in 1851 there were five hundred people at Mass. The priest of 1877, J.J. Daly, described the mission as also extending to Perry Barr and Handsworth (north Birmingham), and remarked "the character of the place and the social tone of the whole district" was "antagonistic to the Church" by which he was referring to drunkenness with widespread poverty.

In the mid-1870s Daly rebuilt and extended the church towards the corner of St Michaels Street and the High Street. Designed in an Early English style by Dunn & Hansom of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the church is of Birmingham brick with Bath stone dressings. It consists of a sanctuary flanked by side chapels, aisled nave, with an organ gallery at the west end. This cost £3000, of which one third was raised by Daly in New York. The south-west tower and spire, of Ruabon brick and Hollington stone, were added in 1911 by architect Edmund Kirby. The church was consecrated in 1917, and is what we have today (right).

Although I don't know the exact details, it seems that during the 1960/70s various alterations to the sanctuary were made (cf. Photo left, taken during the forty hours). The angels painted on the east wall have since been white-washed, and the handsome wooden carved reredos depicting all the Holy Angels was removed (St Michael is the only one who remains and is situated now on the north side of the nave). The high altar has been removed along with its gradines and a new stone one set up in the middle of the sanctuary. The rood loft has also disappeared. The solid marble altar rails remain, as does the intricate stained-glass windows, including a eastern rose window which now has a large crucifix hanging below.

On Wednesday, November 4th at 7:30pm there will be Solemn High Requiem in the Extraordinary Latin form for deceased parishioners, benefactors, and priests (including of course Fr George Spencer). Ensemble 1685 will sing Richafort's polyphonic Requiem setting. This will be the first time an "old-rite" Mass has been said since the 'changes'. It will be a real treat for the Black Country and we expect to draw a large crowd, God willing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Good news for Anglo-Catholics

Rather than having to fully swim the Tiber, as the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman had to, I read the following article:

Catholic News Agency

The Vatican this morning announced that the Holy Father has approved the erection of 'Personal Ordinariates' within the Anglican community who wish to be brought into full communion with Rome. There are already Anglican Use parishes in America, and the creation of these will apparently "allow Anglicans to enter into full communion whilst maintaining some aspects of the distinctive Anglican spiritual patrimony".

Rather than rejoice at this development, notice how the prelates of the two sides, Catholic and Anglican, scrabble around trying to pick up the pieces of 'ecumenical dialogue'. I can only assume ecumenism must mean agree that we're all equally wrong. They say this is a furthering of the last 40 years in acknowledging what we have in common. Rowan Williams desperately pleads to his bishops that he's sorry not to have "alerted" them earlier, as if this is some sort of new strain of Swine Flu. No, it's Rome openly extending an open hand of compassion asking her seperated children to return. Not a product of "joint working" or "mutual enrichment".

So, please Anglo-Catholics, avail unto Rome, the successor of St Peter the prince of the Apostles, and escape communion with a fractured body of liberals, protestants, sodomites and feminists. "One more thing and I'm out of here" or so the joke goes, with traditionalist Anglicans who keep seeing their church disintegrate. Now there is a positive reason for them to come to Rome.

But what will it mean to maintain distinctive aspects of Anglican spiritual patrimony? Perhaps the same thing as maintaining a distinctive 'spirit of Vatican II' patrimony: one which, at its heart, seems to have sought to destroy the Catholic faith and its practice and beliefs from their very core: Liturgy. The Protestant 1662 book of Common Prayer and its creation by Cranmer has been strikingly compared with the Catholic 1960s post-conciliar reform. How can these be used as authentic bastions of true Catholic patrimony? Perhaps now that we are about to get a semi-decent English translation of the liturgy we are moving in the right step, towards Cranmer. What a sorry state of affairs.

Only time will tell what these structures will consist of; will the priestly orders which have been previously proclaimed as "totally null and void" need to now be con-validated by Catholic bishops? Will the faithful need to be "received" into the Catholic Church? Will the Anglican Baptisms be examined for possible invalidity (especially if conducted in free and easy evangelical wings of the Anglican communion) and therefore offered conditional Baptism? Somehow I doubt it.

In any case, once the whole mess is sorted out perhaps the Anglo-Catholics will explore a unique and authentic English Catholic spiritual patrimony: The Sarum use of the Roman Rite, or the various other ancient missals used in medieval England. Vatican II, in its constitution Sacrosanctum Conciliam (paragraph 4), indeed recommends such preservation, as does the post-Trent reforms in the Bull Quo Primum (paragraph 4) when it promulgated the Tridentine Missal. Being Catholic does not necessarily mean being Roman, as the Anglicans may be pleased to realise when they look in horror at the way we have destroyed and ransacked our temples in the last 40 years.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Pius XII on Newman

On the anniversary of John Henry Newman’s reception into the Catholic Church (9th October 1845), The Newman Cause website publish the full text of Pope Pius XII’s letter to the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Griffin, marking the 1945 centenary celebrations. The Pope’s letter is a striking witness to Newman’s incessant quest for truth, and to the profound significance of his conversion for the modern Church. It also powerfully highlights the special bond, symbolised in Newman, between the Catholic Church of England and Wales and the Apostolic See. The Pope chose this occasion to remind the Archbishop of Westminster: ‘ever since the first days of Christianity you have treated Our Predecessors, not as citizens of an alien country, but as Fathers that loved you.’

To our Worshipful Brother Bernard Griffin, Archbishop of Westminster
Pius XII, Pope

Worshipful Brother, Health and Apostolic Benediction.

A century has now all but run its course since John Henry Newman, the pride of Britain and of the universal Church, came to harbour after his long voyage in search of Catholic truth. With anxious and loving care he had sought it; with ready assent he acknowledged at last the warning accents of the Divine Voice. You, as the president of the English and Welsh Hierarchies, have written to Us most dutifully, in your own name and that of your fellow Bishops, with the request that We should share with you this happy opportunity for recalling his memory. Such a request must not go unheeded; We bear you a father’s love, and you have good cause for rejoicing; nor do We forget the close relations which, as your ancestral records show, have existed from the earliest times between England and the Holy See. As you know, ever since the first days of Christianity you have treated Our Predecessors, not as citizens of an alien country, but as Fathers that loved you. Not once but many times heralds of heavenly truth have reached those islands of yours, sent by the Apostolic See to teach you Christian ways while they were still unknown to you, or to revive them and restore them to their former estimation when time had loosened their hold on you.

Read more at:

The official website for the Cause for Cardinal Newman's Canonisation

Monday, October 05, 2009

Maddy & Brutus

Requiem for Grant Roberts

May He support us all the day long of this troubled life till the shadows lengthen and the evening comes and this busy world is hushed and the fever of life over and our work is done: then in your mercy give us a safe lodging, a holy rest and peace at last.
- Cardinal Newman

It was a moving occasion this morning to be present for the Requiem Mass and Absolutions of Grant Victor Roberts. He led a very quiet life, and indeed did not want a eulogy at all; but for me it was peppered with his presence in the sanctuary of the Holy Liturgy. He knew the roles of the servers so well; MC, thurifer, acolyte, torch-bearer... that he was comfortable doing any of them with humility and honour. It was fitting that his Requiem today was endowed with the beautiful Rites of his Catholic Faith. Unusually, taking place just before the 40 hours devotion, the sanctuary was arrayed with a multitude of candles.

Fr Paul Chavasse was celebrant, leading the coffin into church with the recitation of the Subveníte. A short office was then said, after which the Mass was begun. The cantors chanted sombre psalm tones. There were a great many priests in choir, about eight, all holding unbleached candles. Other Oratory Fathers joined the line up around his coffin for the absolutions (above). The hymn 'Praise to the Holiest' was sung, as well as 'Just as I am' which included the poignant words:
"Just as I am, of that free love,
The breadth, length, depth and height to prove,
Here for a season, then above,
O Lamb of God, I come"

May the Angels receive him in paradise,
And Our Lady of Walsingham pray for him.
Requiescat in pace.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Rare Sung Requiem

Sung Requiem
St Michael & the Holy Angels, West Bromwich
Setting by Jean Richafort (1480-1547)

Wednesday, November 4th at 7:30pm
Followed by refreshments
260 High Street
West Bromwich B70 8AQ

A very rare performance of a High Renaissance masterpierce by ensemble 1685

Ensemble 1685
Formed by Richard Jeffcoat from singers he worked with at Coventry Cathedral, this enterprising group is now in its fifth year, and has notched up more than 300 performances. 1685 was the year both Bach and Handel were born, but, in addition to performances of Bach Passions and Handel's Messiah, the ensemble sings in all styles, and in every kind of performance context. A special interest lies in seeking out the correct context for performances of sacred music, and this rare performance of the Requiem Mass by a Franco-Flemish composer from the 16th century will be greatly enhanced by its context within a Latin Mass.

Jean Richafort (1480-1547)
This polyphonic setting of the Ordinary of the Requiem Mass was composed in honour of the composer's teacher, Josquin Desprez, following Josquin's death in 1521. Richafort held several posts in the Low Countries but also appears to have been attached to the French Court. The Requiem uses fragments of the older composer's work hidden in the rich texture of 6-part writing. This is a very rare performance of a High Renaissance masterpiece, and perhaps it will be performed liturgically for the first time in this country. As far as I know, this will also be the first Traditional Latin Mass in the Black Country in 40 years! Please give it your support!

With thanks to Fr Louis Hong Le (Parish Priest) and Mr Patrick Fahey for helping to organise it.

See my LMS Blog for more details of Latin Masses in the West Midlands.

New Archbishop of Birmingham

I have just been woken up by a text message telling me that Bishop Bernard Longley, current auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, will soon be the new Archbishop of Birmingham.

Apparently this will be announced by the Holy See shortly, according to Times Online.

I will not pretend that this doesn't excite me! But rather than make a critique of his history and orthodoxy, which I have no idea of, I will simply say the simple things please simple minds like mine... and the picture on the left, copyright of the Latin Mass Society, is from the 2005 Traditional Rite Confirmations in Westminster. Hurrah!