Monday, 12 March 2007

The Boy Bishop 2007

For the second year running, the Cathedral Choir School has revived the medieval ceremony of the Boy Bishop, to mark its patronal feast, on old St Gregory's Day.

The Administrator had judged the sermons of all top year boys, and the winner was called forth at the end of the Patronal Mass, and enthroned as Boy Bishop.

Above, the Bishop preaches his sermon, praising St Gregory for not heeding the reluctance of St Augustine in evangelising the English! Below, the new Bishop prepared to process out after Mass.

Flanking him were two Boy Canons, swathed (not to say lost) in the canonical furs!

The medieval practice of the Boy Bishop varied from Cathedral to Cathedral, some celebrating it on the feast of St Nicholas, others on the Holy Innocents. In each Cathedral, however, the (adult) Bishop would vacate his seat for the fully attired chorister to take over from him. The chosen boy was surrounded with magnificent ceremonial: at York, the Boy Bishop was taken in procession around the Diocese visiting churches and monasteries, while at Gloucester he received lavish presents from the nobility. The Boy Bishop would always preach a sermon, which attracted huge crowds. The practice was banned at the Reformation, but has in recent years been revived at Gloucester and Hereford Cathedral. Here at Westminster, with our strong sense of continuity with English medieval Catholicism, it is good to see an ancient tradition reborn with such enthusiasm.

Below, the Boy Bishop is pictured with his Canons, and Fr Tim Dean, the Chaplain to the Choir School.

The ceremony at Mass is conducted as follows;

After the concluding prayer, the candidate comes forward and sits in the faldstool. The celebrant stands near him and says this prayer:

Lord, who hast set before us the example of children,
that we may learn of them
the ways of wisdom and purity of heart;
grant to this thy son
that, like the young prophet Daniel,
his eloquence may lead his elders into the ways of truth.
Give him faithfulness,
That, like the boy Samuel, he may hear your divine prompting.
We ask this though Christ, our Lord.

The candidate is vested as Boy Bishop by his attendants in a cope. A mitre is palced upon his head, and then removed.

The Headmaster of the Choir School says:

I am still young, and you are old,
And I am shy, afraid to tell you what I think…
But great age does not give wisdom,
Or longevity sound judgement.
So I ask you for a hearing;
Now it is my turn to tell you what I know. (Job 32; 6, 9)

The Boy Bishop delivers a short sermon

He concludes with this prayer:
Lord God, who raise up the lowly
And set aside the mighty,
Receive our praise, and bless us with your presence.
May the prayers of St Gregory
Who, seeing the children of this land,
Was led to establish the faith in England,
Guide our school, and our families in the ways of truth.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord.

We ask Our Lady, who raised the infant Jesus,
To look upon us, her children, as we pray

Hail Mary …

The celebrant gives the final blessing.
The Boy Bishop processes with the celebrant to the sacristy.


Lawrence Lew OP said...

Bravo! I notice also that Fr Tim is wearing a beautiful vestment embroidered with Dominican saints. Interesting...

Peter Simpson said...

Most impressive! Any chance of making me a cardinal-deacon?

Anonymous said...

Great tradition; no really, I think it's one of those treasures of medieval Catholicism that is sorely missed in a dour post-Reformation setting. So it's a sacremental?

Marston Magna said...

Good to see the crozier that Cardinal Hume used so often in use

Rev. Daren J. Zehnle, J.C.L., K.C.H.S. said...

Wonderful! Thank you for reviving/continuing this tradition!

I'm curious to know how the celebration is received by the laity in Britain.

Anonymous said...

Am I allowed to hope that a partial restoration of the Sarum Rite isn't far behind? :-)

Anonymous said...

In picture #8, what is in that--what looks like a--glass cupboard behind the "bishop"? Chalices etc....

Mark Langham said...

II - ues, it's a wonderful Dominican chasuble, reserved for very special occasions.

Rev Daren - very well recieved, with a certain amount of bemusement!

St columba - those are the display cabinets in the Cathedral sacristy, containing some of our treasures. Undoubtedly, the subject of a future blog.

Anonymous said...

It looks like the mitre, cope and furs are rather 'oversized'. Is this intentional or because there are no smaller sizes available?

Anonymous said...

how about girl bishop? when?

Anonymous said...

Very nice, I was worried, after my last few visits, that the nice vestments were beyond the locked door saying 'here be dragons' and that the key had been lost. As a matter of interest, the Boy Bishop still exists in a number of Anglican churches, notably here .


PS, I might have a maniple that matches the chasuble, which I will send you if you promise to use it!

Unknown said...

Fascinating! Thank you for this!

Jeffrey Smith said...

Good idea. More old ways need to be revived. I'll also look forward to that post on the treasures.
One question, though. I'm rather fanatically fond of stone. What exactly is the yellow stone used in the columns?

Mark Langham said...

The yellow stone is Verona marble.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that the tradition of a boy bishop has been revived in the Diocese of East Anglia also.

Anonymous said...

I was mistaken with regards to East Anglia. They have not revived the tradition of a boy bishop.

Anonymous said...

It may interest readers of this blog that an English speaking Catholic boarding school in France celebrates this tradition also...

(go to NEWS then scroll down til 'Boy Bishop, St Nicholas’ Day, 2006')