Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Confession can be an occasion of sin

Many years ago, our curate was Fr Edward Bushey, a shy but charming priest who had previously been at Westminster Cathedral.
Apparently, whilst hearing confessions at the Cathedral some thug opened the door and punched him in the eye, blackening it as a result.
 I don't know if the thug was actually reacting to a penance or whether it was a random attack.

He was duly prosecuted and Fr Bushey carried on smiling piously, in the best sense of the word, until he joined my home parish of St Michael and St Martin, Hounslow.

There he wasted no time in improving the level of altar serving, gently coaching us until, at the ripe old age of eleven years we were MC-ing Missa Cantatas and generally putting the noses out of the 'men' who always hogged the senior positions for themselves..

Fr Bushey was a pragmatist and Saturday mornings were spent with half a dozen of us servers, routinely going over our moves on the sanctuary until we were as perfect as a ballet company.

In fact, Mary O'Regan once told me that the River Dance (or, Irish dancing as I suppose we should call it) had its origins in the time of Catholic persecution in Ireland. The young men and women used to gather at the village crossroads of an evening and translate the actions at Mass of celebrant and server into a choreographic form.
 Arms had to be kept at the sides as Cromwell's Puritans thought it sinful to hold one's arms in the air.
So, secretly, yet publicly, the moves of the Mass were learnt and committed to folk memory.
And of course, Fr Ronald Knox used to describe the Mass to young people as a slow and elaborate dance.

But, back to Fr B. With Fortescue in hand he would direct us around the sanctuary, stopping every so often to say "Is that move sensible?" or, "We don't need to geneuflect there because you have not crossed in front of the tabernacle".
In this way a sensible pattern of devout yet practical serving emerged; something that the purists would choke over today  but then, every church is designed differently (more so today) and I was minded in later life of the qualifications for young men and women wishing to be waiters.
BTEC, the examining body, used to insist that silver service took place from the the left and clearing from the right. This rigid principle was applied even if a customer was jammed against a wall and the result would invariably be soup all over the place.
 Common sense should dictate in situations such as that and, indeed, upon the sanctuary.

Here is an extract of Fr Bushey's obituary from the Archives of The Catholic Herald - please remember him in your prayers, we need more of his pith today.

"Fr Edward  Bushey died peacefully on 20 March at Nazareth House, Isleworth, Middlesex. He retired in 1983, took up residence at St Vincent's Presbytery, Osterley and later at Nazareth House, from 1990 to 1996. He was content and appreciative of the care and attention he received from the Sisters.
Edward Bushey was born on 21 April 1911 at Enfield, Middlesex, one of three children. His brother and sister are both deceased. He attended Chingford Primary School and from 1925 to 1929 studied at St Egbert's College, Chingford, run by the Brothers of Mercy. He worked for an Insurance Company for four years then spent one year at the House of Studies, Edmonton, before entering the Diocesan Seminary at Allen Hall, St Edmund's College in 1935. He was ordained priest by Archbishop Myers on 7 June 1941 for the Diocese of Westminster.
His first appointment was at The Rosary Church, Marylebone, from 1941 to 1946, which plunged him into a city of incendiary bombs and all the hazards of air raids. He survived, and in 1946 decided to join the Benedictine Monks at Buckfast Abbey, but after 18 months as a novice he returned to the diocese. He was appointed a chaplain at Westminster Cathedral where he served from 1947 to 1956.
His last appointment as an assistant was at SS Michael and Martin, Hounslow (1956-1964). He was appointed parish priest at St Anthony of Padua, Radlett, where he served from 1964 to 1980".


  1. Thanks for an interesting post, Richard.

    I am sure I have come across Fr Bushey's name whilst going through old Westminster Cathedral periodicals. It's nice to put a character to the name.

    Over the years, I have met a few priests who have been physically assaulted by people, usually ones with some kind of mental health problem or hatred towards the Church.

    The man who baptised me as a 16 year-old was punched in the face after Mass one evening, but that was in Holyhead -- a normal occurrence in that town!

    Another priest I knew, now dead (RIP), was attacked in the Confessional by a parishioner, who suffered from schizophrenia. The event really affected that priest, and I don't think he was ever the same afterwards.

    God bless


  2. May Father Bushey rest in peace. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the Mercy of God, rest in peace.

  3. Dylan, many thanks, he was a kind and gentle soul. Remind me never to visit Holyhead.

    Fr EW, thank you, may we remember all departed priests in our prayers.

  4. Wonderful days when altar serving was a skill and getting it right a source of pride and joy. In the N.O. there are often many servers but do they actually DO anything?