We will be reporting on our visit to Fr Hunwicke's priestly ordination at the Oxford Oratory on Wednesday evening shortly, but since this post is ready to go, there is no reason to hold it up.
The liturgical photos in this blogpost were sourced from the famous New Liturgical Movement blog and from the Papa Stronsay blog. Fr Hunwicke has long had a strong connection with this community of Transalpine Redemptorists, and all Ordinariate members were delighted that several of the community travelled all the way from Orkney to Oxford and London to share in their priestly friend's special events.
We also have a couple of photos of our own, as you will see below. None of us felt able to take pictures during the mass itself, so caught up were we by the beauty of a very expert celebration of this ancient and powerful form of offering the most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The depth of one's sense of participation in the rite was incredible, the feeling of immediacy and indeed of intimacy quite overwhelming. All three of us from our group who attended have attended masses in the Extraordinary Form before, but this one surely had a very particular importance for us.
Some travelled from Orkney to be there, others from Hythe, Brighton, Balham and indeed I travelled from Paris via Pimlico. As I walked from home in Pimlico towards the Oratory, I passed by St Mary's Bourne St, our former home in our Anglican days. In the bright sunshine of the morning, I reflected on so many very happy days there, not least (as I was on my way to an 1130am mass) of many Saturday morning 1130 services at St Mary's, and of friends of many years who were still Bournestreeters. While we have left friends behind there, we have also found many new friends in the Catholic Church, both inside and and outside the Ordinariate, and so there was a certain symbolism as I thought of leaving the small but lovely St Mary's in my wake on my journey up to the much larger, utterly spectacular and definitely no less lovely London Oratory. Dr Robin Ward's phrase of "a larger room" was very much in my thoughts.
Arriving in the empty Oratory was sensational in itself. On previous visits to the Oratory, it has been a matter of waiting for the 10am mass congregation to leave before joining in with the throng waiting to enter for the 11am Solemn Latin Mass, or of joining the crowds filing in for a big event (such as the thanksgiving mass celebrated by Archbishop Vincent Nichols at the Oratory for the Beatification of Blessed John Henry Newman). Not this time.
When I arrived, there were but a few people in that most beautiful of buildings, scattered around, each in silent prayer. I moved to near the front, where I recognised Fr Ray Blake (who has posted extremely interestingly on yesterday on his own blog), and armed with the Oratory's mass book for the Extraordinary Form, I said some suitable preparatory prayers.
Mass itself was wonderful, witnessed by a congregation of around 45-50. Celebrated at the side chapel of Our Lady of Victories, it was the perfect way to welcome such an eminently gifted, learned and holy man into the priesthood of the Catholic Church. Some of the Papa Stronsay photos capture members of the Marylebone group preparing to receive the Host from Fr Hunwicke.
After mass, Fr Hunwicke offered first blessings at the main altar rail. It truly was one of those "tingle down the spine" moments to kneel there, to hear Fr Hunwicke pronounce the blessing in Latin (included a very suitable reference to Blessed John Henry Newman), to kiss those priestly hands and, in thanksgiving and indeed in awe, to contemplate the journey we have made together into the Catholic Church, answering the Gospel call to Unity.
The author of the Supertradmum blog, who very kindly introduced herself to us after mass, has posted that the congregation included what seemed like a mini-convention of Catholic bloggers. The links provided from this blogpost prove her correct. She also wrote (as did Fr Ray Blake) of the beauty of the vestments, and indeed of the entire celebration of mass. How wonderful that on this quiet Thursday morning, we were able to mark such a special occasion in what truly was the beauty of holiness.
Another Ordinariate blogger, Monsignor Barnes, with his RAF background, would have appreciated the flyover by a Lancaster bomber that went almost directly overhead as we stood outside talking after mass. While the flyover was related to the nearby opening of the memorial to Bomber Command, it certainly added even more of a sense of a special occasion to our day.
Perhaps one Sunday we shall be able to persuade Fr Colven to invite Fr Hunwicke to say the 0930 Extraordinary Form mass at Spanish Place, and then to stay on to preach at the 1030 Solemn Latin Mass. As former Bournestreeters know very well, Fr Hunwicke is a marvellous preacher, and we rejoice that we in the Catholic Church now have him with us in full priestly orders, able to celebrate the sacraments for us and to preach the Gospel with his characteristic insight, erudition, holiness, charm and humour.