Friday, April 11, 2008


On Tuesday I caught the train to Birmingham and went to Maryvale. This was at the suggestion of Dr Andrew Beards who directs the philosophy course there and who used to be part of the Latin Mass group on Tyneside. As cardinal Cordes from the Vatican`s Cor Unum pontifical council was going to talk on the encyclical Deus caritas est he suggested it might be a good time to visit., I had been once before to Maryvale shortly after ordination for a course on Newman for priests but that was a long time ago. I`d only ever had one other trip to Birmingham, in 1983 when I spent a few days of Holy Week at Oscott.

On the way down I read through the encyclical. I had picked it up when it first came out but hadn`t finished it. I really enjoyed reading it and thought there was lots of useful stuff for sermons in it. The cardinal had spoken to the English bishops at their Low Week meeting the previous day. He gave his talk despite being a little unwell. There was a very good turn-out and it was interesting to learn about the work of the Cor Unum council in directing charitable work in the Church. The cardinal did very well in fielding questions afterwards, only the first of which, from Edmund Adamus, (who was at Ushaw in my time and who was a priest of the Salford diocese before taking on his role of Director of Pastoral Affairs for the archdiocese of Westminster) had much to do with the encyclical. The second question was put by a man who thought that the encyclical made Humanae Vitae redundant. No-one could quite follow this but the cardinal dealt with it with good grace. There followed a couple more off-topic questions and then the cardinal had to leave to catch a plane to Rome.

One of the joys of this trip was seeing quite a number a people I knew. I caught up with a priest colleague who is also now a canon lawyer and whom I`d not seen since leaving Ushaw. As we talked about Summorum Pontificum I was sad to note that he took an extremely restrictive view of what constitutes a `stable group` in such a way that he had never considered the encyclical might contemplate new stable groups emerging who want the Mass as opposed to pre-existing groups of marginalised Catholics. The new document should clear all this up.

The next morning I celebrated the Extraordinary Form in the tiny Sacred Heart chapel pictured above set up for Mass. While the main chapel has been happily re-reordered since my last visit (the tabernacle now being restored to the middle of the sanctuary wall) this is not true of the historic Sacred Heart chapel. It was the first chapel consecrated to the Sacred Heart for public worship in England but the tabernacle is still firmly attached to the right hand side of the wall a mere two feet from the centre. I hope one day the tabernacle may be restored to a central position. The altar must be one of the smallest in England but where there`s a will there`s a way and Mass was duly celebrated!

I was kindly given a lift back into Birmingham by `Augustinus`, an exile from the North East and who sometimes comments on this blog and elsewhere. I enjoyed learning about all the good work done at Maryvale in forming an educated laity and I look forward to perhaps visiting again.


Volpius Leonius said...

I admire your skill at been able to say Mass on that Father, must have been quite a challenge.

Anonymous said...

I spoke to one bishop who seemed very 'sniffy, at what Cardinal Cordes had said to them...but that was no surprise. Perhaps he had asked them to be more Catholic in their approach to good doing?
Hmmmm.... that altar, more like a small credence table! I once saw an old army chaplain's portable'field altar' that looked to have more room on it. I suppose it beats seminary professors' coffee tables.

Fr Michael Brown said...

I think it would struggle to be a useful credence table! Yes I remember those coffee tables at seminary. Alas I wasn`t in the group that was presented with Mass on the floor in one prof`s room.

Interesting to hear the reaction to Cardinal Cordes: I would`nt have thoght what he had to say about charitable work would be controversial unless he had some misgivings about things like Cafod`s `ABC` approach to the Aids problem in Africa.

Anonymous said...

Methinks he did indeed touch a raw nerve with regard to CAFOD activities, which is why there might have been some episcopal sniffiness!

Sounds like a successful visit, if that was the case. I'm sure the talk to the bishops would have been at the highest level of politeness, but the message should have been very clear nonetheless. It's about time someone from Rome told a few home truths to our lack-lustre bishops.

With regard to the altar, it was good to read that you had said the Old Mass there in front of the Sacred Heart window, despite the limitation of space. I'm sure that our martyrs said Mass in more limiting circumstances.