Saturday, 18 August 2007

Eucharistic Congress II - the Children's Procession

Continuing the series of images from the Eucharistic Congress of 1908, the processions proved to be one of the most spectacular aspect of the event. On the penultimate day of the Congress, there took place the children's procession.

On the afternoon of Saturday 12 September, nearly 20,000 children came together from schools in and around the metropolis. They gathered at the Embankment but, owing to the wedding of a prominent Cabinet Minster at St Margaret's, Westminster, the procession was delayed for an hour. At three o'clock, the children were led down Victoria Street, carrying a hundred banners, and accompanied by parents, nuns and clergy.

The record of the events relates: "The course was rather a long one for some of the little folk, and many began to show signs of fatigue as they reached the top of Victoria Street; but turning into Ambrosden Avenue, their spirits revived, and the children broke into shrill cheers as they saw the Cardinal Legate with the Archbishop of Westminster and other Cardinals about him smiling down upon them from the balconies of Archbishop's House.There were not a few spectators whose eyes were wet as they gazed on the scene before them - the children wildly enthusiastic and the Holy Father's representative looking with loving eyes and raising his hands in benediction."

It was a triumph of careful planning. The record continues: "Then arriving at the Cathedral doors, the little ones with their teachers passed in until the great building could hold no more. Cardinal Logue thereupon delivered an address.... Meanwhile, thousands of children for whom there was no room in the Cathedral were taken, some to the Horticultural Hall, where they were kept happy and interested by the humourous eloquence of Fr James Nicholson SJ, others to the Hall in Buckingham Gate, where Mgr Grosch gave them a bright and stirring address. In due time, Cardinal Logue visited the Halls and spoke at length to the children in each."

Cardinal Michael Logue, Archbishop of Armagh, was one of the several distinguished guests at the Eucharistic Congress. In his address to the children, he said that he was delighted to see children in such vast numbers to take a leading part in such a memorable celebration in the centre of the great British Empire. They might differ in nationality and in many other things, but they were held together by the great golden bond of their faith. That faith was essential - the Cardinal said that to bring up children without faith was like trying to work a motor-car in the street without petrol.

Cardinal Logue quoted the text of St Mark, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven." The proof of our Lord's love for children is contained in these words, and he reminded the congregation that Our Lord had "subjected himself to all the vicisstudes of infancy and childhood, and went through youth and grew up, to all appearance, like any other child." Then, said the Cardinal, the Lord set before us all children as an example, of innocence, of generosity, but most of all of obedience. He concluded with a warning that their age was one of materialism, and that it was not enough for them to love the Faith; they would need to be nourished frequently in Holy Communion.

2 comments:

John the organist said...

How interesting that the Cardinal was saying what the Pope is saying now about materialism. What a very different world it was then! The society wedding holds up a procession!

Naomi said...

What a lovely post to complement yesterday’s Gospel! I wanted to thank you for celebrating Mass that day so beautifully—as ever. A wonderfully quiet stillness hung over the Cathedral as people gathered at the start of the weekend. Your homily—both suitably gentle and urgent—on the parallel passage in Matthew captured superbly how the purity and generosity of a child’s heart nurtures a love that is so open, so immediate (I was particularly struck by your describing God as being ‘impatient’ to reach out and embrace us). I was touched too by the way in which the entire Mass could exude this same, almost childlike, freshness and delicacy.

But, speaking of stirring Monsignors, I’m terribly sorry if I appeared to douse the flames of your brilliant exhortation earlier today! Although you have now made it difficult to say this without it seeming like a mere platitude, your ever-thoughtful homilies never exhaust their drive to provoke and renew. The living witness of the Cathedral is an inspiration to all who encounter it now as it was 100 years ago.