Ordinations and Springtime

I don’t know which was the more beautiful and impressive, the Ordination at St Patrick’s, Soho Square, in the heart of London, or the First Mass in Balham, in the southern suburbs.<p></p>
This is all about the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. On this April weekend, with a sense of springtime, two new Ordinariate priests have just been ordained. And they are making history. Up to this point, all the priests of the Ordinariate have been former Anglican priests. But these two new young men, Fathers Daniel Lloyd and James Bradley, were just Anglican deacons of a few months standing when they decided to join the Ordinariate. They represent a new generation. They have completed their training and formation in full communion with the Catholic Church, and now they have been ordained as Catholic priests.

St Patrick’s is a beautiful church, and a famous one. It was built at a time when there were still legal restrictions on Catholics in Britain dating back to the grim years of persecution in the 16th and 17th centuries. Just recently, under the inspiring leadership of Father Alexander Sherbrook, the church has been gloriously restored – it is all clean and fresh with gleaming marble and glittering gold and silver, and it is a centre of young Catholic life in London. They hurry here for Mass, for confession, for talks on the Faith, for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, for evangelisation and missionary work. A small core group of members of the St Patrick’s Evangelisation School undertake to commit their lives to God in service and study for one full year, and their joy and faith radiate out with a message of hope to others.

It was an ideal church for this ordination Mass. Bishop Alan Hopes presided, and Mgr Keith Newton, who leads the Ordinariate, preached. There was glorious music and the church was packed to capacity, with people sitting on the floor and standing at the back. Those attending included, of course, friends and family of the two young ordinands, but also members of the Ordinariate from far and wide, and great numbers of people who simply wanted to share in the joy and the goodwill.

Alas, too many Catholics in Britain do not know or understand about the Ordinariate. It was founded in response to the Holy Father’s appeal in Anglicanorum Coetibus, to groups of Anglicans who wished to unit in full communion with the Catholic church. They enter as a group, priest and people together, and they retain their traditions and their patrimony. Hymns, habits, heritage – whatever can be brought into communion is brought with enthusiasm. There are now a good many Ordinariate groups in Britain – more were established at Easter. They are of course unable to bring their Anglican church buildings with them, so they simply have their own Mass in the local Catholic church – or join in thge local parish Mass.

But many Catholics do not know about this, or are confused. “Ordinariate” is an odd word, and the whole thing seems so new. Explanations are needed, and good publicity – but people doin’t always read Catholic websites or Catholic newspapers and they don’t always listen when priests teach or explain things.

They are missing out. The Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is very, very good news. It is going to make a big difference to evangelisation in our country. It offers hope, it gives massive scope for evangelisation, and it is the logical outcome of the ecumenical discussions that began in the 1960s and produced the various reports of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission.

All “cradle Catholics” notice one thing immediately at Ordinariate events – the splendid hymn-singing! We know only too well that “Catholics can’t sing” – my goodness, Anglicans can, and do! It lifts the roof – a rousing, inspiring, magnificent sound which lifts the heart and touches the soul.

There will be a number of other ordinations for the Ordinariate during this coming year. The former Anglican clergy bring so many gifts as they enter into full communion with the Catholic Church: their preaching tradition, their sense of fresh commitment, the sacrifices they have made.

As I write this, I have just returned from Father James Bradley’s First Mass. For the past year, he has been based at Holy Ghost parish in Balham. Many EWTN viewers will have seen him at World Youth Day when he chanted the Gospel at the welcoming service for the Holy Father in Madrid. The parish priest at Balham is Father Stephen Langridge, who is also the diocesan Vocations Director (diocese of Southwark). Balham is a big and busy parish with great numbers of young families. It is a good place in which to learn what it means to be a parish priest. Father James will stay on there while he continues his studies. There is plenty to do in the parish and he has already been busy as deacon there.

The Mass this morning was joyful. The choir – already a very good one – was supplemented by Ordinariate singers, and we had a magnificent 16th-century Mass accompanied by baroque instruments including a dulcian. Father Stephen preached an inspiring sermon which took us to the New Testament scenes of Christ calling his Apostles, and drew us into the drama of the great adventure of Christian life and mission. As Mass ended, and Father James went to give thanks at the Lady Altar, the Regina Caeli was sung and he left a bouquet of flowers before Our Lady and then went to give one to his own mother with a warm embrace. Then people lined up to recieve his blessing – and then flowed out from the church and into the parish school where a delicious buffet lunch and wine was waiting.

A happy, happy day.