I’m really happy that Fr Hunwicke is in back in full production. I really do appreciate his erudition and vast experience as a parish priest. I certainly would not like to cause him any pain in this blog, still less quote him out of context. His blog is there for the reader to examine the articles fully and draw his or her own conclusions.
Fr Hunwicke has his own experience and I don’t know the guys in Brentwood. However, this article reminds me of some of my old liturgy classes at Fribourg University. Liturgical history and liturgical theology are matters you can’t do too much harm to. When it comes to learning to compose your own Eucharistic Prayers, I have to admit it goes rather too far. I had the impression of being in a cookery class with the meat, vegetables, spices and herbs and all the various pots you use to turn the ingredients into a dish! We had the anamnesis, the epiclesis, the words of institution, the diptychs – and I wonder if we were any the wiser at the end of it all. There was a religious sister in my class who always said how things made her feel. Perhaps it would have been kind to give the poor lady a fine silk blouse and tell her to enjoy wearing it!
As the old joke goes, you can negotiate with a terrorist, not with a liturgist.
I too have my memories of St Agatha’s church in Portsmouth. The big “do” there was the TAC College of Bishops meeting in October 2007, where the big item on the agenda was the movement towards the Ordinariates. Those few days were quite electrifying as we had Mass and Office in that fine church and heard rousing addresses and speeches by Archbishop Hepworth. This Letter was signed by the TAC College of Bishops in this church on 5th October 2007.
What did I think of such prospects? Certainly, it was all exciting as things seemed then. I really believed that the legalistic and bureaucratic underpinning of the Roman Curia was in some ways being dismantled by Benedict XVI in a kind of Catholic perestroika and glasnost. It would have been the only way the TAC could have become some kind of “uniate church” of Anglican tradition. Surely, the Church could dispense from canonical irregularities for the sake of a noble objective. Furious Curial and Papal backpedalling combined with the wishful thinking of Archbishop Hepworth, who one moment was leading a respectable-sized international ecclesial body, and was nobody the next moment. I was present at the meeting, but as a humble priest with no say in anything or decision-making power.
I returned to St Agatha’s in October 2010 for the Diocesan Synod presided over by Archbishop Hepworth and Bishop Moyer. I still have recordings of the speeches, which I have not had the stomach to listen to since then. Fr Maunder allowed me to celebrate an early morning Mass at the Lady altar, which I did in Latin according to the Use of Sarum. It was the feast of Saints Simon and Jude, and there was an elderly Church of England priest from Oxford in attendance. I remember the peace of those moments in that lovely church. Such a privilege would be denied me now if I asked for it, since I am not in communion with Rome as they are now.
St Agatha’s to me is a little like the Victorian house in which I spent my childhood. I would never go back, because I could not face the changes that have happened, either physical or moral. I am happy for the priests of the Ordinariate, but I suffered in those years 2010 to 2012. I did what I believed to be my duty by blogging the way I did. I was bitterly disappointed by Archbishop Hepworth when his impassioned words come to nothing, at least for him and many who stayed in the TAC. I will not return to St Agatha’s, ever.
St Agatha, the Virgin and Martyr who was horribly mutilated and killed for keeping her virtue, is one I now associate with my late mother. They share the same dies natalis, at least symbolically (I think of the change from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian in 1752). May they be together in singing the Liturgy of Heaven!