Thursday, 8 November 2012

Down Pompey!

Having a few minutes to spare in downtown Portsmouth (Pompey is the slang version of the name, just in case there are any American Catholics still viewing after the Great Obamaville Chainsaw Massacre), I found myself within a few minutes of St John's Cathedral, alma mater to such eminent theologians as Worlock and Hollis.

The external architecture of this fine building is typically Victorian; red bricks surmounted by lots of stone squiggly bits (I have a Master's in The Built Environment doncha know?).

Internally, it's typically Anglican in decor and furnishings......that is really good except that, it's supposed to be a Catholic Cathedral.

Why, I wonder idly to myself as I ritually drown my rubber duck each nightly bathtime, why are Catholic Cathedrals so devoid of candle trays at the feet of statues?
 Come to think of it, there are precious few statues, perhaps that's the answer.

OK, St John's did have one tray at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and one sans candles at the Sacred Heart statue (just in case odd irate Pompeians fill up the combox with complaints).

But, after saying my prayers, I found myself  wondering what it was that was missing in this church.

There were some beautiful statues including an outstanding Pieta, the stained glass was, OK - ish, if you like Victorian stained glass.

But there was something else, something almost undefinable missing.

It lacked a presence, that was it!

No, more than that, it lacked the Presence. It was, I have to say, a very Anglican type experience.

The main altar could have done with some adornment to make it less of a Protestant table and the tabernacle could have been centrally placed behind the main altar.
That might have done it.

The large statue of St Peter has a printed plaque beneath it carrying the words of the 'Our Father'. It reads:
"Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be they name, they will be done..."etc
Were they typos or were they remnants of an olde Hampshire dialect?
Someone will enlighhten me no doubt

Of course, it's barely a month since Bishop Philip assumed the chair so he must be allowed some space within which to work change but it would be good for the Diocesan mother church to exude a little more of a Catholic aura.

Afterwards, I just had time to call in to the Cathedral shop to pick up some candles (with the 3 days in mind) you never know, a candle holder for our crucifix and Jane Mossendew's CTS booklet on God and Gardens, an excellent guide to plants, flowers and garden layouts all framed within aspects of the Faith- great.

Next step, on to Kingston and Henfield - the latter to see my eldest sister whom is much loved by all.

Yours in haste.


  1. Your mention of "presence" strikes a chord with me. I have always found Anglican churches to be lacking. It is, as you say, the absence of The Presence not the general mustiness that for years I thought it to be. There is very little in them to pique the senses.
    Poor old Pompey. A Franciscan friend of my father used to go to football matches when based in Portsmouth. (He always wore the Roman collar). He said that a home loss always prompted fans to a resigned: "Poor old Pompey".
    Please do give the new bishop time. He must have one of the most unenviable tasks in the EWBC. He cannot turn the "spirit" of V2 leviathan of forty years around in forty days. He must do it by persuasion, example and subtle command.
    One of the fruits of V2 is that the princes of the Church can no longer issue edicts and interdicts without a wholesale flight of the faithful brainwashed in the "priesthood of the laity".
    First he has to get around him like minds. It will be very hard to prise off the existing bureaucracy surrounding his office. It's going to be a slow job.

  2. I get exactly what you mean by 'the presence'. A couple of my non-Christian friends visit the nearby Catholic chapel to pray regularly. Whenever I ask them why or what do they receive; the inevitably say that they experience a great sense of peace in Church which they don't experience anywhere else.

    Where the Lord is, His peace remains:-)

  3. Please light a candle at St. John's for our American government, which proposes to solve the problems of oppressive bureaucracy and high taxes with more bureaucracy and more taxes.

    Our new senator from Texas is a lapsed Catholic and quite possibly a New Man of the Henrican type.

    Ora pro nos.

    -- Mack


  4. Genty, yes, of course, Bishop Egan needs time but I also hold hard to the view that, when taking on a new job you make your mark within the first week so that the message goes out loud and clear. Putting some serious context into the Cathedral would be fairly simple and painless, I believe.
    Mack, you have our prayers, especially over the next four years.
    Remedia, peace follows Christ, it cannot materialise where He is absent, we agree on that I know.

  5. I thought that Cathedrals were supposed to have Blessed Sacrament Chapels rather than tabernacles on the high altar. Am I wrong>?


  6. Ttony, you may well be right, I made the comment in good faith but, after reflection, I am pretty certain that (and how I hate this phrase) 'years ago' when sanctuaries were created to fulfil the needs of the Latin Mass (and before bishops became popelets) we did have tabernacles behind the main altar as well as Blessed Sacrament chapels. I could be wrong, memories are funny things.

  7. Perhaps it might be as well to view this link.
    it explains a great deal of what is happening in our Catholic Churches today