This is the second post in a series – Two Masses. The first covered parish Mass at Walsingham.
I’ve also recently been to Mass with the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, the part of the Catholic Church which is formed of those who have entered the Church from the Church of England. This was at one of the Ordinariate’s local groups; as a former Anglican myself, I’ve been interested in the development of the Ordinariate, but until now I’d not seen them at work, as it were.
Media coverage of the Ordinariate has been frankly a bit bemused – but then one shouldn’t expect a largely sectarian media to have much of a clue about these things, unless there’s a hint of controversy. The trend of reporting has focussed on what those in the Ordinariate have rejected – women priests and so on – rather than what they have embraced. They have been painted as reactionaries, conservatives with outdated views, old people unable to change.
Yet from the experience of meeting members of the Ordinariate, this is very different from the reality.
Mass was celebrated in a Catholic church; not the most inspiring of buildings, but it serves. The rite was Catholic – in fact exactly the same as that celebrated in our own Catholic parish; the Ordinariate is working with Rome on a liturgy which will incorporate more Anglican elements. The congregation numbered around 50; probably a third of the numbers we would have seen at our own parish Mass. The age range was wide, from babes in arms to the elderly, with a representation of all ages expect perhaps late teenagers (but then we don’t see many of them in our own parish either!).
The liturgy was celebrated lovingly and carefully. one could tell that language matters here; that people care about what they are saying. The changes to the English translation of the Roman Missal which took effect nine months ago are still far from embedded in Catholic parishes, where one will often hear the laity (and sometimes the clergy) stumbling and slipping back to old words; here there is no such confusion, no mumbling. The scriptures are read and the prayers prayed; and the hymns are sung. Oh, are the hymns sung. The 50-odd people here had more volume (and more expression) than the 150 in our own parish, by a considerable margin.
The homily was effective, and kept to a good length; communion was prayerful and orderly. The Regina Coeli was sung after Mass (it being then noon); again, accurately, clearly, and at a good volume.
And afterwards, a friendly, joyful gathering, with food and drink. I don’t know whether this is usual, or whether this was special because the Ordinary was visiting, but it certainly added to the sense of a very real community.
If this is the way the Ordinariate can be expected to continue, then it can indeed be the sort of influence the Catholic Church in England needs. For the Catholic Church in England still retains a sense of otherness, of discomfort in its surroundings; a sense sometimes that it still has no right to be here. It still half-expects its priests to be Irish, its buildings to be Italianate, its essence to be foreign. Of course, in a sense, it is foreign; we are citizens of another country as well as this one, subjects of the King whose claims are not territorial as much as of a Queen whose realm England is. If the Ordinariate can bring with it the simple sense of belonging, of Englishness, of the naturalness of being both British and Catholic, then it will do our Church a great service.
There is a connection between this Mass and the one at Walsingham, and not simply by way of the name of the Ordinariate. I will return to that in another post, soon.