Comments on the finer points of yesterday's Liturgy, the Extraordinary Form celebrated solemnly in Westminster Cathedral by Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, I will leave to liturgical experts. As a simple Anglican priest (not the only one there), I was just as fascinated by the impromptu gathering after Mass in the piazza outside. It was full of exuberant joy as friends greeted each other and new friends were made. Everybody either knew everybody or was keen to talk to everybody. I'll tell you what it reminded me of: a poem by John Betjeman about Anglo-Catholicism in that equally exuberant period of the great Anglo-Catholic Congresses when everything seemed to be going our way:
We, who remember, look back on the blossoming May-time
On ghosts of servers and thurifers after Mass,
The slapping of backs, the flapping of cassocks, the play-time ...
And it reminded me of what Ebbsfleet and Forward in Faith events are like. Mind you, at Westminster there was a feature rarely common in the Church of England: the small, glowing chattering Philippino ladies running round our legs with their bags of pious goodies just bought from one of the shops: 'Father, will you bless these?' We could do with a few shiploads of them at S Thomas's. I'd bless their nick-nacks any day of the week.
I found myself wondering if this is what all new movements of the Spirit are like. Could it be that when old cultures have had their time, are crumbling, have the grass growing all over them, God's New Gift is very probably going to look like this?
There was another thing that reminded me of our Anglican experience. Betjeman's poem speaks of 'extreme ' colonial bishops leading us in song, and Eric Mascall's brilliantly satirised 'Ultra Catholic' got his Confirmations done by colonial bishops from far-off Mission Stations. For perhaps obvious reasons, Roman Catholic traditionalists, while happy enough to host one of Cormac's suffragans when offered, seem to come into their element when they get a Latin American bishop or Cardinal. I suspect that there is here a break-down, not of canonical proprieties (because I am sure that all the correct procedures are gone through on these occasions) but of previous associations and bondings. Ditto with us.
Betjeman ended his poem like this:
Yet, under the Travers baroque, in a lime-washed whiteness,
The fiddle-back vestments a-glitter with morning rays,
Our Lady's image, in multiple-candled brightness,
The bells and banners - those were the waking days
When Faith was taught and fanned to a golden blaze.
Yesterday, at Westminster, it was very good to see our beloved Roman Catholic brethren getting a glimpse of the Waking Days.