This last weekend I was pleased to be able to take part in the UK’s Annual Ordinariate Festival, this year in the form of a Jubilee Year of Mercy pilgrimage to the national shrine of Blessed John Henry Newman at the Birmingham Oratory.
The pilgrimage began with a service of Evensong in St. Chad’s Cathedral, sung by the Cathedral choir, who made a very valiant effort of singing an Anglican-style evening prayer, which they apparently enjoyed very much.
After the Evensong and a reception where I was able to catch up with many friends, we were all looking forward to a talk on Newman and Vatican II by Fr. Ian Ker, the famous Newman expert. Unfortunately Fr. Ker was held up in traffic and we were lucky to have a couple of impromptu talks on the Friends of John Henry Newman and on Newman’s bereavement letters and his colloquial style before making our way to our hotels.
Fortunately I had booked a hotel across the road from the one at which most of the Ordinariate pilgrims were staying and so I was able to join the Hemel Hempstead group for a drink and a very interesting conversation in the bar. We were later joined by Monsignor Newton after his pizza supper.
On the next morning, after coffee and a chance to get to know some more people (in my case, Father Bernard Sixtus of Cardiff and his two young sons), we celebrated Solemn Pontifical Mass in the Oratory Church.
Monsignor Newton was visibly moved at being able to carry Cardinal Newman’s crozier and in fact compared his own position with Newman’s in his homily (“we have at least one thing in common: we are both not bishops and yet we are able to use pontificals”). It has never felt more fitting to sing Newman’s famous hymns and to raise the rafters of the Oratory with our singing.
After Mass we were able to venerate the relics of the Blessed and pray for some time in his Shrine Chapel (with the crozier quickly returned to its glass case).
Lunch gave me a chance to continue my conversation with Father Bernard Sixtus, who is himself half-German and studied at the Bundeswehrhochschule (the German Armed Forces University) in Hamburg. Father Bernard is the Director of Religious Education in all the schools of the Archdiocese of Cardiff as well as pastoring the Ordinariate group which celebrates in the Cathedral. I was also glad to meet the Torbay group who have bought their own church in Chelston. The pastor’s wife, Mrs. Lashbrooke, explained how the family is already living in the slightly rearranged parish hall, hoping that it will one day be able to be converted into a proper prsbytery.
There then followed talks by Dr. Stephen Morgan and Fr. Ignatius Harrison before Solemn Benediction. Since I had to leave early to catch my train, I shall allow Father John Hunwicke to tell us about the talks and Benediction in this report from his blog:
What a splendid way for the Ordinary, Mgr Newton, to conclude the Ordinariate observances he has organised for the Year of Mercy! A large gathering of priests and laypeople went on pilgrimage to the Birmingham Oratory, Blessed John Henry Newman’s own home and Church, along the Hagley Road.
The Oratory Church is an exquisite building, mirroring an earlier expression of Renaissance architecture than the full-blown baroque at Brompton. (If you want to ‘do’ Italian Renaissance art and architecture, you don’t need to go to Italy or even to the Victoria and Albert Museum: just go to the two Oratories … where, especially on Sundays, you can see what it’s all for.) At the Ordinariate Pilgrimage Mass on Saturday morning, I think it is blabbing no secret to say that Father Keith felt very emotional when he was given our Blessed Patron’s own crozier to carry during the Mass. After lunch, we heard two fine addresses, both by proven good friends of the Ordinariate: Father Deacon Dr Stephen Morgan upon Newman as Doctor Amicitiae and the relevance of this to the New Evangelisation; and Father Provost Ignatius Harrison, about our Anglican Patrimony in terms of our splendid Ordinariate Missal, which he thought gave much finer renderings of Latin originals than the ICEL Missal does. Father felt that we needed to be thoroughly distinctive … this is our great contibution to evangelisation … and thought that our own ‘Use of the Roman Rite’ did this very well; although, like many of us, he hoped that this would be ‘work in progress’ and might be edged closer to the dear old English Missal.
The Pilgrimage concluded with Solemn Benediction … a very Patrimonial service … with the English Hymnal translation of “Tantum ergo”. It was particularly appropriate to the place, types and shadows have their ending echoing Newman’s “ex umbris et imaginibus in Veritatem”.