Thursday, October 30, 2014

St Benedict's Priory Salisbury 2014: Keeping the Flag Flying

Sadly, just a short trip this year, but well worth it. This was my first visit as a priestly oblate, but all was in order. I only saw two of the monks this year and it was clear that the community is still doing things even if they are unable to accept new postulants. The prior was attending a conference at Mirfield and Dom Bruce attending a function at the House of Lords.

This left Dom Francis and Dom Kenneth to hold the fort. They have built their new chapel complex in the same vein as the chapel when they moved in. Dom Francis celebrated his golden jubilee in March having professed fifty years ago in Nashdom Abbey. His is a life lived by the Rule and clearly he has thrived from it.

We were joined by a small contingent from St Alban's Romford who are also holding the fort being the only Forward in Faith Parish in their deanery in Chelmsford. This is a situation which I have known well from my experiences in the CofE. Whilst the hierarchy of the Established Church say that all theological positions in the priesthood of women debate should be allowed to flourish, they do not say that they should be enabled to flourish. That is a much different matter.

My own experiences were that, when a Forward in Faith Parish fell into interregnum, the PCC were "encouraged" to drop the resolutions because the bishop had a "wonderful new priest" for them who would only come if the resolutions were dropped. I have even heard tell that some dissenters to the Ordination of Women vote in 1992 were prevented from voting so that the measure could pass. There is a lot of politics in the Established Church and much which has come in from the culture, not from the Divine!

So there we were, Dom Francis the last Nashdom monk, Fr Hingley and his companions in the last Catholic Church in that deanery and myself in the tiny Anglican Catholic Diocese of the United Kingdom.

We share much in common - a rejection of Anglican Calvinism, a love of Benediction and Solemn Evensong and that sense of humour that only Anglo-Catholics possess. Of course, I'm in a different part of the Catholic Church from them and it remains to be seen whether we will be able to accommodate more in our little Anglican Catholic Church which can guarantee Catholic Orders and Apostolic Succession, unlike the CofE.

Of course, we can all be taken over by a sense of nostalgia and dream of the happy days of Fr Patten and his enormous biretta, of the sound of plainchant over the Burnham evenings, of Dom Gregory Dix giving the bishop's grand-daughter a shilling for locking the bishop in her Wendy-house. Of course, it's the now that we have to worry about. For us Anglo-Catholics, it's a case of witness.

We're often criticised for our flamboyance and fretting about the length of lace on albs. People wonder why we bother to wear saturnos and cinctures and maniples and piping. They don't understand that we do so because of the unique colour of our Christianity. Yes, of course it's possible to celebrate Mass with a chipped tin mug for a chalice, but if we have the means to make things a beautiful as possible, then we should.

Flag-flying is important. We priests wear our collars to demonstrate the visibility of the Church in society. We may not always be the best exponents of the Church, but the Church is still there. Catholicism is a highly objective and sensual expression of the Christian Faith. We believe wholeheartedly in the presence of Our Lord with us and we are proud to show it. We are also able to laugh with others (usually at ourselves) and enjoy the sights, sounds and colours which remind us of Emmanuel.

Of course, the world finds us a bit ridiculous, but we laugh and say, "fools for Christ" and pootle on waving our banners and flags, presently in declining numbers and hostile environs. Nonetheless, when the last Anglo-Catholic is laid to rest, the occasion will be a bang, not a whimper!

No comments: