|New York today...but could it be an everyday |
sight in London or Cardiff if the Reformation had not taken place?
The most obvious element would be that Westminster Cathedral would not exist.
No need for it. we would have Westminster Abbey just a few hundred metres away at the other end of Bulinga Fen.
And the same would apply for all those ghastly modern Catholic churches that look like something out of Dr Who; we would have many hundreds of traditional churches from the centuries before the 16th to worship God in.
But, that's the physical side of things.
What would WE be like today, we Catholics of the British Isles.
I ask that question because for three hundred years after the Reformation we have been 'invisible' Christians born out of the persecution of the Faithful up until the Catholic Emancipation act of 1829.
Prior to the Act most Catholics had endured a heavier tax burden than their Protestant neighbours and, if any passing non Catholic took a fancy to our horse, we had to hand over the reins and walk off.
Rather like handing over the keys to your VW Passat in today's world.
And we were not allowed to build our churches on main roads or in any prominent position.
I believe that such oppression has conditioned us today so that we still keep a low profile, not seeking out trouble, avoiding the limelight, playing the part of St Peter when he denied that he was a follower of the Lord.
We are grateful to be allowed to exist.
We keep quiet when friends extol the virtues of IVF or proclaim the joys of same sex 'marriage' and an equal, inclusive society.
And when the subject of abortion crops up, we steal away, anxious not to upset the status quo.
Am I being overly harsh?
Let's return to the picture of a Catholic Britain today with no illustrious history of the martyrs, no St Thomas More, no St John Fisher.
We would have Blessed Sacrament processions through the city streets, maybe (a bit of a big 'maybe') we would all stop at mid-day and say the Angelus - wherever we were, in the street, at the pub, in the office - just as we did before the 1530s.
And priests, some of them, would walk the streets freely in their cassocks and monks and nuns would be visible in their habits.
Holidays of Obligation would be real feastdays and there would be carousing throughout the land.
Catholics would be visible and able to wear crucifixes or rosaries without restraint.
But...I am overlooking one other hiccup in our recent history - the Second Vatican Council.
That, appears to share many of the outcome characteristics of the Protestant Reformation.
An emasculated liturgy, a removal of the more obvious signs of our Faith (Benediction, Confessions, priestly attire, crucifixes in the home, house blessings) and much more.
In some ways it would be better called the 'Second Reformation' because it finished the job started by Henry VIII.