Tuesday 21 March 2017

Solemn High Mass of St Joseph

Some photos from last night`s Mass.

The Westland Singers

`A highly privileged diocese`

So yesterday we celebrated the feast of St Joseph with a splendid Solemn High Mass. Pictures to follow. That was what the diocesan ordo said was to happen. However the cathedral celebrated St Cuthbert and is celebrating St Joseph today. What of St Cuthbert for the rest of the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle? I might have thought being a patron of the diocese and a solemnity he might still have made an appearance somewhere.

Others have noticed this too. Rubricarius left a comment on the previous post and Ttony of The Muniment Room has drawn attention to this. In 1865 March 19th was a Sunday. This is what his English ordo for 1865 has to offer:

19 SUNDAY, Third of Lent, semidouble. Violet. First Vespers of St Cuthbert, commemoration of the Sunday. [In Diocese of Liverpool, Plenary Indulgence, and in Diocese of Southwark, Plenary Indulgence for eight days for St Joseph.]
20 Monday St Cuthbert, Bishop Confessor, double. White. [In Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, Patron, double of first class with an Octave. Creed. Plenary Indulgence.]
21 Tuesday St Benedict, Abbot Confessor, double. White.
22 Wednesday St JOSEPH, Spouse of the BVM, double of the second class (transferred from 19 March). White. [In Diocese of Plymouth, St Edward, King Martyr, double. Red.]
23 Thursday St Patrick, greater double (transferred from 17 March). White. [In Diocese of Plymouth, St Joseph, double of the second class (transferred from 19 March). White.]
Not only does St Joseph step out of the way for the third Sunday of Lent and St Cuthbert but also St Benedict, moving him to the 22nd! But then St Joseph was known for his selflessness and willingness to stay in the background. Interestingly St Patrick was moved around too, to the 23rd. 

Rubricarius drew my attention to an interesting aspect of all this. St Cuthbert in H and N had his own octave! In Lent! I was surprised that St Joseph didn`t merit an octave but then again he wouldn`t mind... Rubricarius wrote to me saying: the praxis was conceded by specific grant of the Holy See to very limited number of dioceses but no further ones allowed from 1895. Did you realise you are living in a highly privileged diocese?

An octave of St Cuthbert in the middle of Lent would be exciting. Would this  mean a relaxation of Lenten discipline through those days? I wonder when it stopped? In fact I`m a fan of octaves at the best of times. Clearly the Pentecost Octave needs restoring as a priority but then we could have the others too. I wonder if there is an Ocatve Society pressing for their restoration?

Still it`s strange about the cathedral. Rubricarius thinks it must be in the hands of Rad Trads.


I went down to church to celebrate the 12.05 OF Mass to find confusion in the sacristy. John our weekday server, had said his office using the H & N setting on Universalis and found it said today was St Joseph`s day and yesterday was St Cuthbert`s. As he had just finished lighting the 29 candles we had set out in St Joseph`s chapel as well as the big six and the Mass was for an intention of his I gave him the benefit of the doubt. `If the cathedral can do it then so can I` I thought. Also we hadn`t had OF Mass at St Joseph`s yesterday as I celebrate on Monday at St Wilfrid`s.  At the start of Mass I explained the situation but found myself informed by Pat who was near the front that there had been a mistake in the ordo and that it should be St Joseph today. if this was true I thought we would have been emailed to inform us of the situation.  While I`m here a happy St Benedict`s` day today for those who are celebrating his feast today!

Monday 13 March 2017

Solemn High Mass for St Joseph`s Day.

This year, as March 19th falls on the third Sunday of Lent, the feast of St Joseph is transferred to Monday 20th. St Cuthbert seems to be kicked into touch this year so far as I can tell.

There will be a Solemn High Mass at St Joseph`s on Monday 20th March at 7pm. Music by the Westland singers: details to follow. Refreshments afterwards in the Ingram room.

The Sacred Ministers will be the usual suspects.

The usual suspects

UPDATE: Music will be;
Kyrie and Gloria from Little Credo Mass in C, Mozart K257
Sanctus, plainsong, 
Agnus Dei, Mass of St Joseph, Gruber,
Communion Motet: Jesu, rex admirabilis Palestrina

Wednesday 8 March 2017

Learning from St Joseph`s, Benwell

On Sunday evening I was delighted to entertain some old friends who used to work in Newcastle but now work in Berlin. They are Evangelicals and very involved in their local Lutheran church. On Sunday morning they had been for the Sunday service at St Joseph`s, Benwell, Newcastle. That may sound strange as Evangelical churches are not normally dedicated to St Joseph. You`ve probably guessed: St Joseph`s until recently was a Catholic church of the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle. In fact it still features on the Taking Stock website as a Catholic church. I`ve never been inside but had always thought it would be worth a visit one day but never made it. The design is unusual for a Catholic church in the North East with its large dome. On Sunday they were celebrating their first anniversary as an Evangelical place of worship. ( No mention of Lent on the service sheet.).

The last Catholic parish priest of St Joseph`s was Fr Jim O`Keefe. From what I heard the parishioners were told that their church needed urgent rewiring which would cost £40,000 and as they had no money it would have to close. It was sold to the Evangelicals for £1. Fr Jim has been leading our diocesan review Forward Together In Hope since then which has just concluded its three year review of the diocese, looking at how we manage decline. 

St Joseph`s, Benwell, as it now is

The Evangelicals were from Jesmond Parish Church which has long been a flourishing community. Technically they are part of the C of E but the links seem rather complicated. Nonetheless JPC set about planting a church in Benwell at St Joseph`s. They had already done this in Gateshead in St Wilfrid`s parish where they built on the work of an independent church in the Old Fold to create Holy Trinity parish where they have built a new church. My guests told me how one hundred or so members of JPC were sent to get St Joseph`s off the ground. They worked hard and by what they called `sacrificial giving` raised over £1 million to restore the building. Through hard work and professional skill motivated by faith they have made St Joseph`s into a flourishing community with a congregation of nearly three hundred.

Meanwhile FTIH seeks to review the Catholic situation in the North East. The talk is of building flourishing communities and supporting smaller communities. I suggest we have something to learn from JPC. I have a small parish in a challenging area of Gateshead in St Wilfrid`s parish. There the small congregation have been following closely the developments of FTIH worrying that they may be earmarked for closure. No closures were announced at the big meetings to conclude the process held on 9th February but the threat is still there. Could we ever imagine a large, prosperous Catholic parish such as St Charles, Gosforth or the cathedral sending a hundred parishioners to St Wilfrid`s every Sunday to help revive the parish and start `sacrificial giving`? They would have to start a programme of evangelisation which means we would have to know and love the Catholic faith and have a zeal to pass it on to others. That would mean absorbing the Catechism of the Catholic Church and using the means that have been produced to teach it in an appealing way. It seems unlikely at the present despite the efforts of the diocesan evangelisation team. The reported remarks of the new Superior General of the Jesuits about how he hates to hear talk of doctrine summed up the problem. All we seem to hear about is decline and the goal seems to be to remove priests from their role as pastors and reinvent them as chaplains to lay-led communities. I don`t understand how that will create flourishing Catholic communities. As I heard said at the last deanery meeting we are moving the deckchairs on the Titanic as the band strikes up "All are welcome".

If the Catholic church was a business seeking to promote itself (wait a minute though, the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle is now a limited company: that sounds like a business!) surely we would play to our strengths. What has the Catholic Church got to offer that is unique and appealing? Things like an unbroken tradition of teaching from the age of the apostles, having been the religion of this land down to the Reformation, timeless beauty in its architecture, art, music and liturgy, the lives of its saints come to mind. For my point of view promoting the appeal of the Mass of the Ages as found in the Extraordinary Form should be a major part of this. It`s not going to go away and despite the lack of promotion or even mention of it in diocesan circles the Extraordinary Form continues to attract. The congregation here at Gateshead continues to impress by its steady growth and the number of young people who attend. Our Ordinary Form Mass on a Sunday has benefited from immigration too with parishioners from Roumania, Hungary, Israel, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, China, India, Slovakia, Poland and Germany. St Wilfrid`s does have a flourishing Sunday community of nearly two hundred people in the weekly Polish Mass.  They don`t seem to have been involved in the FTIH process but they are young and keen. We could learn from their enthusiasm to preserve their Catholic culture too. 

What JPC has done in Benwell surely has something we can learn from. I hope our Catholic communities will indeed flourish but they can only do so if they are well-formed in the faith as handed down from past generations.

Monday 6 March 2017

CD Review: 1: Mass and Vespers of the Assumption from Fontgombault

One of the discs I received over Christmas was this recording by the monks of Fontgombault. I`m glad to say that I`ve been there once when I went for a retreat with a group of English priests in the 1990`s. This disc is a re-issue of recordings originally issued in 1973 with five pieces added from the 1990`s which include the opening and closing organ pieces.

I`m no expert on chant. I have been to a number of `chant for beginners` days which only left me more confused and increased my admiration for those who can sing it. Being used to a five line stave I never really understood why it`s easier to sing chant from a four line stave but I`ve no doubt it is. The last introduction I went to said it was simply a matter of remembering the tonic sol-fa but that didn`t help very much either. 

The Fongombault monks sing with a meditative mellifluous style. All the chant both the propers and ordinary are accompanied by the organ. I like this as it gives warmth but I have had differences of opinion with  others who believe chant should be sung unaccompanied. However for me the discreet organ accompaniment is a plus. The highlight of the Mass for me was the gradual Audi Filia. I love hearing the full setting of the gradual at Mass and value the opportunity for reflection between the epistle and the Gospel but I have met people who don`t think it`s suitable in a parish setting. I`m not sure why. The soaring notes of this gradual moved me. 

There is a technical problem in that although the track listings on the cover are in the right order something has gone wrong with the disc so that the gradual is followed by the Creed and then comes the Alleluia verse. Strangely there is no recording of the offertory antiphon. I know it`s not in the missal for the Ordinary Form although I understand it is in the new chant books but I thought it would be here given that the conventual Mass at Fontgombault is not Novus Ordo but  a 1965/67.

Second Vespers begins with track 11. Here again the running order gets confused as the second psalm (Laudate pueri) precedes the first (Dixit Dominus) on the disc. Similarly after the Magnificat the track listing gives 21 Salve Regina, 22 Organ recessional and 23 Angelus bells (followed by general bell-ringing) but on the disc the bells come immediately after the Magnificat after which there is the Salve Regina and closing organ music.

I`ve listened to the disc twice now and am very pleased to have a reminder of Fongombault and hope one day to visit again.