Monday, 27 August 2007

A Break from the Blog

I shall be away until 12 September, and hope you will forgive a break from the Cathedral blog until then.

Summer days, at last!

The Cathedral basks in late summer sunshine which, inexplicably, graces the Bank Holiday weekend. There is an unwritten rule somewhere, wearily subscribed to by most Britons, that all public holidays attract overcast skies and rain. This time, however, an exception has been made, and the holiday is set for fair, and, dare I say it, even barbeque weather!

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Fair Quiet, I have Found Thee There ..

After weeks of rain, a warm and sunny day sent me up to the terrace to see how things were faring. 'Very well' is the answer. Although a few plants are starting to look tired (notably the petunias), there are developments in other areas.

The arrival of a new olive tree, gifted by a kind parishioner, must mean that I now officially have an olive grove.

Grouped around the table, the trees provide a breath of the Mediterranean, and welcome shade. m

The pomegranite bush is in full crimson flower - I wonder if I shall see any of its mythological fruit?

Most excitingly, the limes are coming on well - this picture makes them look a little larger than they are, but a week or two of sunshine would bring them to ripen.

The lemons, so crucial to garnish our aperitif of choice, are not doing so well - but there are one or two hopeful signs.

By the pond, the fuschia is having a glorious late summer fling.

It has been a difficult summer for the plants, with incessant rain, cool temperatures and rough winds. I find it extraordinary how nature carries through.

In this beautiful space, the glories of God's creation are sung less formally, but no less beautifully, than in the great Cathedral nearby.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Mgr Ronald Knox

Another important anniversary; yesterday marked fifty years since the death of Monsignor Ronald Knox.

Ronald Knox (1888 - 1957) was a convert, the son of the Anglican Bishop of Manchester, and one of the great literary talents of the Church in this country. A friend of Chesterton (he preached at Chesterton's funeral in Westminster Cathedral in 1936), he was a prolific author and broadcaster. He was, too, one of the finest classical scholars of his generation, famous for completing the Times crossword each day in Latin! His works included many intellectual and devotional books, as well as a series of detective novels. However, Mgr Knox will be chiefly remember for his translation of the Bible, which remains popular.

His connections with Westminster Cathedral, if not many, are significant. Following his reception into the Catholic Church, he was confirmed here by Cardinal Bourne on 6 October 1917 - an occasion he found rather matter-of-fact when compared to the solemnity of his Anglican confirmation. However, he did later note that he found it a profoundly spiritual experience, like 'extra-breathing being added to his own', as Lady Acton recorded.

He was ordained priest at the Cathedral on 5 October 1919, 'on his own patrimony' - which meant that he was not attached to any particular diocese.
Following his battle against cancer and his last illness (he stayed at 10 Downing Street as a guest of his friend the Prime Minister while visiting doctors), he knew that his end was near. The Pope sent him a letter, assuring him of his prayers and commending his translation of the Vulgate. Mgr Knox was horrified to learn that his Requiem would be celebrated at Westminster Cathedral, believing he deserved something more modest. He underestimated the affection and respect in which he was held. Mgr Knox died on 24 August 1957 at Mells, and his body was brought to Westminster Cathedral on 28 August. The Requiem was celebrated on the following day by Bishop Craven, Auxiliary in Westminster, with the Cardinal Archbishop presiding. The homily was preached by the famous Jesuit philosopher Fr Martin D'Arcy. Part of that homily reads:

If we look back at the long list of his writings, we see that they have no other intent than to support either the natural or supernatural order of God's creation... he used his Dryden-like power of satire to ridicule the pretentious, the mystagogic and the sophistical. He had a deceptive simplicity, never pressing for novelty, but bringing our from God's treasures both old and new, so clothing it in words that it struck the mind with an unforgettable truth..

.. Though so precocious when he was young, his style is never singular, theatrical or conceited; he could be brilliantly original and amusing, but never vainglorious. And the reason is that whereas others might be doing God's work in parishes, in choir or in foreign missions, he felt that he must make perfect what it lay in his own special powers to do...

Ronald Knox was a sensitive man, responsive to joy and sorrow. He was always himslef, and his priesthood did not subtract from his qualities; it multiplied them. He created loyalties wherever he went. All of you who knew him will have tales to tell of his touching gentleness and humanity. What the Catholic church in this country owes to his personality and influence cannot be measured. Let us now in grateful memory pray at the altar that God may forgive him any trespasses and receive his soul into eternal rest.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Happy Birthday, Your Eminence!

Today the Cardinal celebrates his 75th birthday. We are filled with joy, and wish him Ad Multos Annos.

One of the privileges in working at Westminster Cathedral is the contact it brings with the Archbishop. Although his duties range wider, there remains a particular link with the symbolic seat of his authority. We chaplains are fortunate to see Cardinal Cormac regularly, to be present at the ceremonies where he presides and preaches, and to come to know him more informally.

As Administrator I have drawn greatly upon his advice, and his impressive ability to see issues in the widest possible context. The Cardinal is always supportive and frequently challenging, and with his guidance the Cathedral has undertaken new initiatives to spread the gospel and bring people to prayer.

But above all, for me and the Cathedral clergy, the Cardinal’s evident concern for his priests and people, his consistently positive outlook, and his unfailing approachability, have been an inspiration and a joy.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Eucharistic Congress III - the Sectional Meetings

The Sectional Meetings of the Congress took place in the Royal Horticultural Hall, in Vincent Square, just behind the Cathedral, and these photographs are kindly supplied by the management of the Hall. The formal record states:

The Chair was taken by the Cardinal Legate, who opened the meeting by reciting a short prayer to the Holy Ghost, after which he requested the Archbishop of Westminster to undertake the direction of the proceedings. His Grace, having read a selection from the numerous telegrams of sympathy and adhesion received from all parts of the world, called upon Abbot Gasquet to read his paper.

In the image above, Cardinal Bourne is making the opening address. Abbot (later Cardinal) Gasquet, great historian that he was, opened the Congress with a talk entitled The Holy Eucharist in Pre-Reformation Times.

In subsequent sessions, further papers included The Royal Declaration, by the Viscount Llandaff, on the very contemporary question of institutional anti-catholicism; Abbot Geudens on The Neglect of Sunday Mass; The great liturgist Adrian Fortescue on The Orthodox Church and the Holy Eucharist, and Canon Laurence Cosgrave on Guilds and their Relation to the Holy Eucharist.

The international aspect of the Congress was marked by a number of sessions held in nearby Caxton Hall in French, of a notable scholarly complexity; Revd Jule Lebreton on Le Dogme de la Transsubstantiation et la Christologie Antiochienne du Ve Siecle, or Dom Pierre de Puniet on Fragments Inedits d'une Liturgie Egyptienne Ecrits sur Papyrus.

The Catholic Times described the setting at the opening of the first sectional meeting:

Ten o'clock witnesses the filling of the spacious Horticultural Hall, a magnificently lighted oblong building with vaulted glass roof. the platofrm, which occupies the greater part of thre width of the hall, is backed by a rich drapery of red silk and velvet, a canopy in the centre of which are the papal arms. The front of the platform is gracefully decorated with alternating white and yellow flowers, with an abundance of green supplied by ferms and plants...

The room is rapidly filling up! ladies, perhaps, predominate, but men are plentiful, and bishops and abbots are greeting their friends. exclamations in french testify that our neighbours form acorss the Channel are anxious to improve their knowledge of our language and to promote the religious entente cordial. The appointed hour is already passed, but only by a few minutes, when the Cardinal Legate arrives looking none the worse for his great effiorts of last night. A bell is sounded, and the Cardinal legate recites the prayer "Veni Sancte Spiritus". Speaking in French he asks the Archbishop to undertake the direction of the first sectional meeting. The Archbishop rises to make some important announcements. innumerable telgrams have arrived form cardinals, arhcbishops, bishops, pilgrims at Lourdes, and societies in connection with the Blessed Sacrament from all parts of the world.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

The Queenship of Mary

An image of the Lady Chapel taken from the south gallery, to celebrate today's feast, and a couple of pictures of the interior of the chapel.

During the summer, the chapel is the scene of a great number of weddings, its beauty and intimacy. Much of the mosaicwork was completed by a team of female mosaicists, led by Gertrude Martin - here she is in 1913.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

The Sea of Faith

St Peter, viewed across the Cathedral, seems to ride above the waves.

Monday, 20 August 2007

The Pope in the Sacristy

This fine image of Pope Pius XII may be found in the outer sacristy: I've always throught the spectacles are especially well rendered!

The base bears an inscription:

Presented by the sculptor
George E Campbell FRBS
Exhibited Royal Academy 1958

I cannot find out anything more about the sculptor (FRBS = Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors). However, it is interesting to note that this fine image was exhibited in the year of the Pope's death, and, while somewhat overlooked, it is good to know that this great Pope is serenely contemplating us as we process out to Mass.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Relics of the Consecration

An earlier posting about the consecration of the Cathedral in 1910 here explained the custom of tracing the greek and latin alphabets in piles of ash across the floor of the building, as seen above.

Yesterday, Miriam - our archivist extraordinaire - came across these relics of the occasion, hidden in the vaults. The greek letters can be seen in the photograph of the consecration, placed next to the piles of ashes. Each letter was copied into the ashes, traced with the tip of the Archbishops' crozier.

The two canvas rolls, one containing a greek, and the other a latin, alphabet are too small to have reached across the nave of the Cathedral, and so I wonder whether they were used in a chapel - perhaps the Lady Chapel - for a similar ceremony.

I am baffled as to these wooden paddles. They were found with the other items - and would welcome suggestions as to their usage.

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.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Sir Muirhead Bone

Described as the 'British Piranesi', Muirhead Bone (1876 - 1953) was a scottish artist who specialised in etchings of buildings under construction. Although largely unknown today, in his time he was celebrated for his epic productions, and was Britain's first official war artist in 1916.

We heard about the etching above some time ago; it was seen at the Fine Art Society gallery, and although we could not afford to buy it, we were allowed to take a full-size print. it shows the construction of the Baldacchino in 1906. Note the Edwardian dress, the walls unadorned with marble, and the galleries incomplete.

Yesterday, our archivist Miriam came across a second, earlier, etching in the Architectural Review for 1902. It shows the incomplete Cathedral (it was opened in 1904). There is as yet no organ, or organ screen, and at the back on the right, smoke comes from the chimney of a small hut. A fascinating record of the construction of this great architectural space.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Views from the Roof

Some splendid views taken by Sarah, Cathedral Facilities Manager, on a recent tour of the Cathedral roof - at a lower level than the viewing gallery of the campanile, but enabling a great deal of detail to be seen.

Looking east, towards the Palace of Westminster, the great bulk of the Victoria Tower of the parliament buildings can be seen on the right. To the left, Westminster Abbey, with its white towers blocking the view of Big Ben. Note, at the extreme left, the Gherkin (officially '30 St Mary Axe').

The view of St Paul's Cathedral used to be unimpeded; now we can only glimpse it through office blocks.

Here, Big Ben hides itself behind the Abbey, while the Gherkin rises further east, in the City of London.

To the south, the vast bulk of Battersea Power Station, designed by Giles Gilbert Scott (also responsible for Liverpool Anglican Cathedral). Every few years, we hear of plans to convert it to some commercial or popular use (cf Bankside Power Station, another Gilbert Scott building which has found a new life as the Tate Modern gallery). Nothing seems to be done, and this empty shell falls into further disrepair.

To the west, a fascinating view towards Kensington. On the right, the italianate campanile of Imperial College. Further left is the dome of the London Oratory at Brompton. Just below, and to the left, the smaller white tower of St Columba's, the principal Church of Scotland building of the capital. In the centre, just left of the crane, rises the open crownwork of the Victoria and Albert museum (London's best!). Alas, the monastic twin towers of the Natural History museum are lost in front of the tower block now rising to the left of the V&A. On the far left, lower down, is the bulk of the Victoria Thistle hotel, rising above Victoria station.