Last week the English (and Scots) Ordinariate celebrated its first year of existence — and did so in style, with a pilgrimage to Rome led by our Ordinary, Mgr Keith Newton. You may already have seen photographs on other websites; this is just a personal sketch of what happened to us in those memorable six days.
We flew from three different British airports, Heathrow and Gatwick and Bristol — and some even came by train. We began as strangers, and certainly ended as friends. It is so good to learn about others' experience of new beginnings, often with only a handful of people setting out as Catholics. Some of the priests are now running Catholic Parishes, others are supporting themselves and their families in various chaplaincies while involved with their Ordinariate Group and also nearby Catholic Parishes.
The young director of music from Buckfast Abbey somehow conjured a choir out of a group of disparate pilgrims, and managed some wonderful music, plainchant and Anglican hymnody, different for every Mass. We even found the confidence to sing in the packed Audience Hall to the Holy Father and assorted Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, Religious and faithful laity from around the world. "Praise to the Holiest" by our Patron, John Henry Newman, can seldom have been heard in such a setting.
But then, we also sang in St Peter's, bringing our Anglican Patrimony into those walls created by Michaelangelo and Borromini, adorned with sculptures and paintings of great beauty. More than one of our party was in tears by the end of that Mass, when we gathered before the tomb of Peter and said the General Thanksgiving from the 1662 English Prayer Book.
So much of the Pilgrimage was about 'coming home', back to our origins. In San Giorgio Valabro — it sounds so much more exotic than St George's in the Marsh, which is its translation – we remembered John Henry Newman, whose titular church this was when he became a Cardinal. There a couple from my own group in Bournemouth were received and chrismated into the Catholic Church by Mgr Keith, and their delight at being in Communion with the Holy Father and the entire Catholic Church inspired us all.
St Gregory's was also a matter of going back to base, for it was from this monastery that Gregory the Great sent monks to convert England — among them Augustine of Canterbury and Paulinus of York, to say nothing of the first bishops of London and Rochester. By this time the Italian media had begun to catch up with our Group, and the Ordinary had to stay in our Hotel fending them off so that we might continue our pilgrimage undisturbed.
Although it had rained on our first day, the weather grew ever better by the day. On Thursday we went up into the hills, to Subiaco and the roots of Western Monasticism. The Sacro Speco or holy cave is where Benedict led a hermit's life for three years, before beginning to build his first monastery, now known as St Scholastica's, it is the only survivor of the ten original foundations. The others have been destroyed down the years by invaders, by earthquakes and other such disasters. The hospitality in St Scholastica's was in the great Benedictine tradition. We sunned ourselves on the terraces, yet less than a fortnight before there had been such a snowfall (the greatest in fifty years) that they had been cut off for days, and many trees were brought down by the weight of snow.
So many people made us welcome wherever we went. The kindness of the parish priest at Santa Maria del Popolo on our last morning was typical of the generosity of everyone we came across. There is a genuine interest in the Ordinariate, a sense that something great is just beginning to bud and blossom. I hope the few pictures posted here might give a little flavour of what we were given during our days of thanksgiving for the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. There are more to be added, but it is late and my computer is refusing to download any more just now. Good night!
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