In April 2010, in our Anglican days, a small group of us from St Mary's Bourne St travelled up to Oxford to attend a conference on the subject of Anglicanorum Coetibus held in Pusey House. In one of the breaks between the fascinating talks that day, we joked with The Revd Canon Dr Robin Ward, Principal of St Stephen’s House, as we pointed to two of his students, James Bradley and Daniel Lloyd, and together wondered, perhaps in fact only half in jest, if we were looking upon the last two catholic ordinands in the Church of England.
I doubt that any of us there that day would have believed that only two years later, almost to the day, we would, as Catholics ourselves, be gathered in the magnificently restored St Patrick’s Soho Square to witness the ordination of those two young men into the Catholic priesthood at a service in which Dr Ward read from the Letter to the Hebrews of how Our Lord “learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.” Here is a photo of Dr Ward during the reading of that lesson, standing in the pulpit where, as he pointed out himself on his Facebook page, the great Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Servant of God, had once stood to preach.
As the two deacons lay prostrate before the altar and we invoked the prayers of Our Lady of Walsingham, the Holy Angels, the Saints and Blessed John Henry Newman, we did so with the confidence of those who had been guided by such prayers, and by the grace of God, into full union with Holy Mother Church. At the moment Bishop Alan Hopes (himself a former Anglican) consecrated Fr Bradley and Fr Lloyd to the dignity of priesthood we gave heartfelt thanks that we had been brought to witness the ordination of the first two men not previously to have served in the Anglican priesthood to offer their service to God as priests in his Church in the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.
In his homily, our Ordinary, Monsignor Keith Newton, quoted from ‘Aaron’ by George Herbert, the divine of our very own Anglican Patrimony.
Holiness on the head,
Light and perfection on the breast,
Harmonious bells below, raising the dead
To led them unto life and rest.
Thus are true Aarons dressed.
Profaneness in my head,
Defects and darkness in my breast,
A noise of passions ringing me for dead
Unto a place where is no rest.
Poor priest thus am I dressed.
Only another head
I have, another heart and breast,
another music, making live not dead,
without whom I could have no rest:
In him I am well dressed.
Christ is my only head,
My alone only heart and breast,
My only music, striking me even dead;
That to the old man I may rest,
And be in him new dressed.
So holy in my head,
Perfect and light in my dear breast,
My doctrine tuned by Christ, (who is not dead,
But lives in me while I do rest)
Come people; Aaron's dressed.
We have included a large number of photos of Saturday's Ordination Mass in an album on our group's Facebook site (which you can reach through the link on the right-hand toolbar of this blog - do sign up to "like" our group page if you haven't already done so). A small selection of our favourite photos is set out below. For those readers with a connection to St Mary's Bourne St and St Barnabas Pimlico, you might recognise below the Very Reverend John Salter in one of the pictures, another former Anglican, and since 2002 a Melkite priest in full communion with Rome.
After each ordination to the Sacred Priesthood, there is always a First Mass. Members of the Marylebone Ordinariate Group managed to attend Fr Bradley's FIrst Mass in Balham, and Fr Lloyd's First Mass in Oxford.
As feeble and ignorant Central Londoners, we do not know much of what lies beyond Zone 1, and we referred to this on our blogpost about our previous visit to the parish of Holy Ghost, Balham. Therefore, there were, we regret to confess, those of us who were unaware that true beauty might be found in Balham. It may famously be the Gateway to the South, but it is not widely known as the Stairway to Heaven. Some of us trod our way rather warily from W1 to SW12, the marbled magnificence of St Patrick’s Soho Square fresh in our minds. What a wonderful surprise lay in store for us, for there in Nightingale Square at the Church of the Holy Ghost we found a haven of beauty that should be a compulsory stop on the itinerary of every church architect and parish priest in the land wishing to discover what can be achieved with taste and simplicity.
One would have described it as tranquil but we arrived just as the congregation from an earlier mass was leaving, and the area was awash with small and excited children. We are not so small but were just as excited as we were about to witness the First Mass of Fr James Bradley, whose ordination we had witnessed on Saturday.
There are few occasions more joyful in church than the First Mass of a priest. In his homily Fr Stephen Langridge was to remind us of Blessed Theresa of Calcutta's injunction to priests to “celebrate each Mass as if it were your first Mass and your last Mass” and when we witness the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass being offered at the hands of a newly-ordained priest it is as if we too share in it for the first time.
After the rich liturgical diet of the Sacred Triduum at St James’s, Spanish Place, and yesterday’s ordination one could be forgiven for becoming a touch jaded, especially upon hearing of rumours of guitars in church (ever an uncomfortable reminder of the worst excesses of some of the more popular misinterpretations of the Second Vatican Council). Yet again would Balham prove the folly of blind prejudice. The songbirds themselves were surely listening in awed silence as the sound of floated, accompanied by authentic Spanish instruments in their correct context.
On leaving the church, one parishioner was overheard saying to another "What is this Ordinariate then?". Her friend replied "Oh, it's what they call the Church of England nowadays." This reminded us of the challenge continually ahead of us, that of spreading the word about what the Ordinariate is and what it does. Efforts such as mentioned here must continue to be made (we know that there are plans afoot to do exactly this). Yet, perhaps that casual remark between friends was closer to the truth than we had at first recognised - where else now was that vision of the Church of England to which we in our Anglo-Catholic days had adhered?
We returned to Marylebone humbled, joyful and full of thanksgiving for the start of the ministry of Fr Bradley.
We will report on the happy occasion of Fr Daniel Lloyd's First Mass in the next few days. Thanks be to God for giving us these two new priests.
Sacerdotes Domini incensum et panes offerunt Deo et ideo sancti erunt Deo et non polluent nomen eius.
The priests of the Lord offered bread and incense to God and therefore they shall be holy to their God and shall not defile his name.