Sunday, 2 March 2014

Oh no! More pre Vat II flashbacks!

An incentive to be on time?

The great Fr Z has answered a query from one of his readers regarding what can be done about those people who are late for Mass?

'Course, that never happens at Latin, does it?

The reader asks if it was an issue before the Second Vatican Car Crash Council and here, dear reader, I am able step in with a reality check.

Yes, indeed it did happen; we were not saints in those days and, in addition to a lack of punctuality there was also the awful custom of leaving Mass at the last Gospel.

We are not talking big percentages here, in either instance.
 Something like 5% of the congregation would be either latecomers or early leavers, but I do recall the means by which the parish priests of Hounslow and Heston respectively tackled the matter.

Heston Parish was under the steady hand of  Father Walsh (later a fine bishop). His method of coping with latecomers was to lock the door as Mass began.

Then, maybe some time after the Kyrie, when the hammering on the door indicated that the 5% had gathered outside the church, then, and only then would Fr Walsh leave the sanctuary and open the door for them in person.

They would then slink in to the nearest seat, totally embarrassed and ashamed.

That strategy merits a place in the 'crude but effective' file.

It was quite wrong, of course, the Mass was in process and the celebrant had no right to leave the proceedings.

And now for Ss Michael's and  Martin's, Hounslow where the great Canon Musgrave held sway.

He had a legitimate way of coping with the early leavers when his curate, Fr Steer was the celebrant.

The Canon would hide himself away in the church porch and as the ELs made a dash for the exit after (logically enough) the 'Ite Missa est', he would pounce on them and drive them back in telling them in no uncertain words that "Mass has not ended, you know?"

Priests were not afraid to speak out then and behave as a true shepherd should behave.

And more.

In those days, those of us in the Catholic school system would be bombarded with information regarding becoming a priest.

The talks, by the PP or one of the nuns, would always end with the exhortation, "Pray to God boys, and ask Him to call you and tell you that He wants you for one of His priests".
Well, pray to God I did and it was a regular and fervent prayer but, I'm afraid that I asked God not to call me as the last thing I wanted to be was a priest.

Thankfully, the Almighty heard my prayer and I never received His call.

And finally, one small memory that illustrates perhaps the depth of reverence that was held then for the Eucharist.
When we returned home after Mass the first thing we did, following my father's lead, was to make the sign of the cross and drink a glass of water, to positively remove any fragments that may have been retained in the mouth.

Trivial? Overly pious? Maybe. But that is how we behaved then.

My, how we have drifted.


  1. No such thing as trivial and over-pious when it comes the 'terrible majesty' of the Lord.

    In the early Church, after the 'peace', the Priest would cry, 'the doors, the doors', and an official doorkeeper would close and lock the doors, to keep out the enemies of the Eucharist; but also to show a distinct separation between the Bride of Christ and the world outside. The doorkeeper would not let any unknown enter. But nowadays we cast everything to the peripheries and - somewhere between 'the doors, the doors' and now, the world became as sanctified as the non-existent sanctuary.

  2. You refer to a Fr Walsh and then observe that he became later "a fine bishop". I am curious as to who this could be. As far as I can tell the only UK bishop who could fit the bill, in terms of timing, is Bishop Francis Raymond Walsh, M. Afr. Born at Cirencester on September 15, 1901, and ordained priest on March 7, 1925, he was professed a White Father six years later, on September 9, 1931. He was appointed Bishop of Aberdeen twenty years later, on June 20, 1951, and received episcopal consecration at the hands of Archbishop Donald Campbell of Glasgow on September 12 following. The co-Consecrators were Bishop James Donald Scanlan (Glasgow born and bred but ordained priest for the Archdiocese of Westminster, then of Dunkeld, later of Motherwell (whereat I sang in his Cathedral Choir) and later again Archbishop of Glasgow. Bishop Walsh's resignation on July 22, 1963, was preceded, accompanied and followed by some controversy.

    1. Hughie, yes, you are right. The controversy was over the fact that Bishop Walsh's housekeeper was a divorcee. The parish biddies got to work and made mischief but, anyone who knew this man knew, instantly, that there was nothing in the nasty rumourmongering. He was a most devout and humble man. May his soul rest in peace.

    2. Thanks for clarifying, Richard. The reason I am interested in Bishop Walsh is that he was the priest sponsor (I don't know the correct term, will have to find out) of a family friend, Fr Pat Boyd MAf, at his ordination in the newly consecrated Cathedral of Our Lady of Good Aid, Motherwell, on May 25, 1948. At the same time Pat's younger brother, George, later Canon, became the first priest ordained for the newly erected Diocese of Motherwell. They were ordained by Motherwell's new, first bishop the Rt Rev Edward Douglas. (The good bishop -- who also resigned in somewhat controversial circumstances; the Apostolic Delegate had come to Motherwell to discuss with him rumours, malicious and untrue, of impropriety concerning he and his housekeeper; unfortunately Archbishop Godfrey fund him slumped drunk on the kitchen floor; going from running a seminary to running a diocese, and a newly created one at that, had proved too much for him; but he was by most accounts a lovely man and my daddy spoke very highly of him; this all occurred just as Godfrey was being appointed Archbishop of Liverpool -- was consecrated in the new Cathedral a month earlier, on April 21.) Fr Pat and Canon George clebrated their Golden Jubilee at a Mass celebrated in their, and my now, home parish, Holy Family, Mossend, Bellshill, in May 1998. They were joined on the altar by a great friend of Canon George's Cardinal Winning. They had been in the same class at Our Lady's High School, Motherwell, before going on to the seminary. (Prior to comprehensivisation, Our Lady's, my own alma mater, proud boast was that it produced more priests than any other school in the UK, and quite possibly Ireland as well.) Fr had two long spells in Zambia but during his frist appointment after ordination was as a teacher (Latin and French) at the junior seminary, St Boswell's. One of his pupils was Archbishop Michael Fitzpatrick, Apostolic Nuncio Emeritus to Egypt.

  3. In the Byzantine Rite the priest sings 'The doors, the doors! Let us be attentive in wisdom' before the singing of the Creed, which takes place between the Offertory and the Canon.

    I remember there was always a gaggle of men outside the church door who would only pinch out their cigarettes and go in as the Mass was starting. My mother told me there was one persistent latecomer at 'Rosary, Sermon and Benediction'. He once arrived as the congregation were singing the hymn 'Immaculate, Immaculate', so they changed the chorus to 'O Mac, you're late'.

    The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) ruled that the faithful fulfilled their obligation if they were present for the Offertory, Consecration, and Priest's Communion. This is worth bearing in mind if you don't want to miss Mass but your car has broken down and the only Mass available is a 'pop' Novus Ordo.. You'll still need earplugs, or better still a personal stereo (or whatever they call them these days) with Palestrina on it.

    1. John, technically, so we were told, one had to arrive at Mass before the Gospel and not leave until the IME.
      In terms of courtesy, however, I'm sure we agree that we should be there at the beginning and the end.

  4. My parish priest is always late for Mass, God Bless Him. A better priest you could not find.

  5. Sixupman, ah, but a priest may be late for commencing Mass. The laity, however, should not be late once Mass has commenced (in an ideal world).

  6. Isn't it amazing how some latecomers are so regular in their time-keeping so as to always arrive the same number of minutes late! Punctilious, diligent in their late-coming!

  7. SS Michael and Martin was my parish church for 15 years, just about remember Canon Musgrave and Father Steer, when Canon Musgrave died, Canon McKenzie, wonderful man! replaced him.This church was responsible for my deep rooted faith, I was so fortunate to grow up in that parish.

    1. Eileen, we lived at 106 Bath Road, now the entrance to the school.