Saturday, 24 July 2010

Rejoicing and feasting

After my post on Bishop Conry the other week, I really didn't think I would have anything kind to say about a bishop for quite some time. It's not that I'm a judgmental man, though I do make judgments; as Chesterton said, the only point of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to close it again on something solid. Still, since Bishop Conry seems only slightly worse than many of our mitred shepherds, I've taken to not looking too closely, a bit like a man who is expecting an accident from a certain direction.

Well, what do I read this week in the Catholic newspapers but that the bishops of England and Wales have requested and obtained permission for four new feasts commemorating St Gregory the Great on September 3, St Thomas Becket on December 29, the English Martyrs on May 4, and St Augustine of Canterbury on May 27. A long article in The Catholic Herald explains that the Congregation for Divine Worship has approved these feasts. Oh frabjous day, you say, callooh, callay, he chortled in his joy.

But hang on, hang on. There is something I don't quite understand here. Pardon me if I'm wrong but aren't these four saints already saints, and don't they already have feast days? So what exactly did the English bishops ask for and what exactly is the result of this decision by the CDW? As low as my opinion of most of these men has sunk, I cannot believe they are hoping for the merit of setting up these feasts, like some latter-day government claiming the merit of instituting democracy (although, when I think of it, that's practically what our last government did!), or like some kid standing next to a fancy car in the hope the passing girls think it's his.

So what is this about? Can some liturgist please enlighten me?


  1. According to the piece by Anna Arco in the Catholic Herald", "Elevating these saints’ days to national feasts means they will take precedence over the Church’s universal liturgical calendar and must be celebrated in England and Wales".

    However, having had a quick flick through the general calendar, I can't see that there were any clashes with the existing memorials of these saints anyway, so it really isn't clear what has been achieved.

    The list of Patron Saints of Europe seems to receive additions on quite a regular basis. Maybe there's a perception that this needs to be balanced with some new national feasts?

    Like you, I'm struggling to understand the motivation.

    Incidentally, why hasn't Bede been elevated?

  2. Raising these particular feasts from 'optional' to National Feasts in England and Wales, taking precedence over individual diocesan calendars, might be political or even trying to make ammends for our having lost the Ascension and other Thursday feasts to Sundays.

    However, the move isn't a bad one. Gregory 'had a heart for' the conversion of England and sent Augustine into this mission territory where only by chance really did he fine a welcome.

    The English Martyrs were just that, at the hands of their brothers and they consciously went abroad to train for the priesthood for that very purpose. The laypeople amongst their number, like Thomas Becket, knew the fight for the Truth at first hand and were willing to die for it.

    These saints struggled and fought for England. The elevation of their feasts on the eve of the Papal visit may a political 'scene setting' as well as a rallying cry for all of us to get to Mass on those days and ask those saints to help us to be more like them.

    If these saints were invoked at every parish Mass in England and Wales on these particular days without exception (as the CDF appears to be suggesting), well who knows, England just may "come back to Our Lady".

  3. I had no idea they were only optional! But then my knowledge of the 1969 calendar is rather limited.

    Nice reflexion, Rovete. I do hope you are right.

  4. While having no claims to liturgical expertise – other than the ability to read even when in red, and hoping that Roveto is right - there does seem to be a disconnect between the hierarchy moving perfectly good Major Feasts to Sundays and then agitating for more solemnities. But having achieved the goal, what now? Will there be some special celebrations on these feast days? A procession, perhaps? A Solemn High Mass in usu antiquiore?

    I’m not holding my breath on this and conclude that this may be just an ‘ad hoc’ event, to be listed in the appendices of missals as: “festae pro aliquibus locis” once seen and thence forgotten. I may be wrong. Lightning has been known to strike twice in the same place.

  5. I'm still a bit flumoxed by this GOR. But then I'm working towards a big deadline on Friday and I'm barely able to remember my own address at the moment. Hey ho.

  6. Further reflection. In line with Roveto’s thinking, the ease with which the CDW granted this request may have to do with the new Re-evangelization of the West initiative recently announced by the Holy Father. I take that initiative to be a sort of ‘return to our roots’ process, reclaiming the place the Church and the Faith had in the public square lo these hundreds of years past.

    Whether that was in the minds of the requestors is unknown, but if we give them the benefit of the doubt, then this would not be a bad thing. The blood of the martyrs being the seed of the Church, so to speak. But then we will still need to see what they will do with this. I think a return to solemn renderings of Father Faber’s “Faith of Our Fathers” would be a minimum on the feast days. But it should include the oft-omitted verse (especially in the Ireland of my youth…):

    “Faith of our fathers, Mary’s prayers
    Shall win our country back to thee
    And through the truth that comes from God
    England shall then indeed be free
    Faith of our father, holy faith
    We will be true to thee till death”

    Just a thought…

  7. We always sang that one in Manchester!