Monday, September 15, 2008

Solemn High Mass at St Mary`s Cathedral, Newcastle

On Saturday night I had the honour of being celebrant at a Solemn High Mass at St Mary`s cathedral. This was an important occasion as it was the first such celebration at the cathedral that we were aware of since the introduction of the missal of Paul VI. The Mass was organised by the Hexham and Newcastle branch of the Holy Family Guild to mark the 40th anniversary of the encyclical Humanae Vitae.

Here in the sacristy before Mass are the clergy. On the left is Fr Emerson, the UK superior of the FSSP. I first came across Fr Emerson in 1983 when he was celebrating Mass in the Station Hotel just across the road from the cathedral for the Society of St Pius X. It was good to have made it across the other side of the road to the cathedral at last! It was hard to imagine in 1983 that that day would ever come twenty-five years later. On my left is Fr Phillips, the parish priest of Stella, who often takes the role of subdeacon on these occasions. Also pictured are Fr Angus and the cathedral curate, Fr Warren, who also preached at the Mass.

There are plans at the cathedral to move the altar further back from the front of the sanctuary. In its present position it made the arrangements for the EF a little difficult but I`ve managed in more restricted spaces. (A nuptial Mass at St Joseph`s Hartlepool many years ago comes to mind.)

Unfortunately very few pictures appear to have been taken of the Mass. Here is the best.

Here is a somewhat shakier one.

The vestments were a lovely set acquired from the Poor Clare convent at Darlington. The decoration is eighteenth century mounted on material in the 1930`s.

Unfortunately very few singers turned up for the Mass and the choir of three and an organist were rather stretched to make an impact in the cathedral. If we are fortunate to return to the cathedral I hope that we can make sure there is a large enough choir for the Mass.

Fr Warren preached very well on the theme of Humanae Vitae. I hope I`ll be able to get a copy of his sermon.

The Mass was very well attended with a large number of young people there. Madame Evangelista has given her own impressions here. It was somewhat strange that a number of Latin Mass stalwarts from the diocese were not there but maybe the thought of coming into town on the night that Newcastle United fans were angry about the situation at the club deterred them.

We had a full team of servers and it was also good to see that three of the cathedral`s own serving team came along too.

After the Mass there was a dinner at the Assembly Rooms where at a rather late hour three talks were given. The last speaker only finished at 11.30pm which was beginning to feel well past my bedtime. The longest talk came from Mr Pollard who spoke vigorously of the demographic danger arising from the lack of young people in Western society.

Many thanks go to Fr Leighton, the cathedral dean for giving his permission for this Mass. I hope it can become an annual event as a sign that Pope Benedict`s words in France yesterday hold true in the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle:

No one is too many in the Church. Everyone, without exception, must be able to feel at home, and never (must he feel) rejected.


Mike Forbester said...

Considering there were only 3 of us singing, I thought we did very well!

Pity that some people pulled out though, which would have made life a lot easier, especially in dare I say, a venue which doesn't have the most generous of acoustics, which meant we had to work very hard indeed...

Mind, the bits of the recording I've listened to so far, sound ok.

madame evangelista said...

The vestments were really very beautiful. I didn't realise there were only 3 singers - I have sometimes noticed in the past at the Cathedral that the further away you sit from the choir, the louder they sound (I suppose it's the sound bouncing back off the walls), so I don't think the singing was quite as thin as you'd imagine. Am glad you were pleased by the number of young people there. I do hope the Mass can be held again next year.

Am glad I wasn't there for the Assembly Room talks though: from past experience, sometimes people with 'demographic concerns' make me nervous.

Anonymous said...

Yes the vestments are rather pleasant, almost Pugin in style. Matching orphories on the albs instead of lace would have set them off to perfection.

The Station Hotel was rather a grim setting for the liturgy so I am glad, on that count, that Fr. Emmerson managed it across the road.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Glad you like them OB. I wa told they were eighteenth century vestments and I`d seen such vestments in the Bowes museum belonging to the Poor Clares or Carmelites so I wasn`t expecting Gothic.
I agree: I don`t like lace with Gothic vestments but we`ll know better another time although I don`t expect we`ll find albs with matching orphories.

PeterHWright said...

A most interesting post.

I see what Father means about the altar being too far forward for comfort. I think many re-ordered sanctuaries have exactly this problem. There really is not enough room for celebrating ad orientem, whether it is the "old" Mass or the novus ordo. And when Solemn Mass is celebrated, there is hardly room for the sacred ministers. In such cases a moveable table altar is better.

Moreover, most of the sacred space behind the altar is lost because of its forward position. It would make sense to move it further back.

Here, the local church has a semi-circular apse. Years ago, the gradine and candlesticks were moved back against the wall, so that the altar, which remains on its original site, could be used either ad orientem or versus populum.

Anonymous said...

I did mean to say apparels rather than orphories. Although certainly you would be most unlikely to match them I would suggest plain or very simple golden apparels to the base of the alb and its sleeves and for the amice would look very good indeed. The same material could then be used to vest the missal and Gospel book.

It is a shame to see a splendid Gothick structure like St. Mary's suffer from modern fashion in sanctuary arrangements. Perhaps in time...

Anonymous said...

Now there's a first. I put 'orphories' into Google, and it comes up with no matches found. I think that must be close to unique for a correctly spelt word (I assume it's correct). We're obviously into the outer reaches of arcane knowledge here. Would one of you kind Gentlemen like to enlighten me?

Fr Michael Brown said...

Old Believer, I knew what you meant but I too forgot the word I needed was apparel.

Seeker, I didn`t bother to check the spelling for orphories but it should be spelled orpheries. If you Google orphery you will find what it is. A search on `appareled alb` will illustrate what Old Believer meant.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Mike, the acoustic certainly did no favours. Well done for battling on. I`m looking forward to the Rudgates at Brinkburn with the Josquin Ave Maris Stella Mass. Music always sounds glorious in Brinkburn`s acoustic.

Anonymous said...

I clearly must take spelling lessons. Just looking at Roulin's rather beautiful 'Vestments and Vesture' I was surprised to find the spelling 'orfreys'.

Anonymous said...

Father Brown,

Congratulations on your Mass at the Cathedral, I would have loved to have seen it for myself - I've yet to experience the EF. Unfortunately this was the first I'd read of the Mass - so a little to late as they say.

I'm not much of a traditionalist [at the moment anyway], but would love to see the EF celebrated as I've yet to experience it. However, I really enjoy the Ordinary Form as it is the form I was brought up with but I do respect other peoples thoughts and views and therefore whole heartedly agree with the decisions from Pope Benedict regarding Summorum Pontificum. I believe those who grew up with the TLM should have the right to go and celebrate it as they did pre-Vatican II.

It's good to see that people aren't being excluded, so, in turn I hope we still have the Pauline Mass for many years to come as I do love it. Celebrated reverently and abuse free it can be a wonderful experience.

As Pope Benedict said, all Catholics "must be able to feel at home". Catholicism mustn't be a war between Traditionalists and Liberals we must act as one to praise and worship our Blessed Lord.

On another note. I hope all is well in Forest Hall, I have relatives in your Parish. I live a little further South [in Seaham] - my Parish being St. Cuthbert's. I lurk around your blog quite often but until now I haven't posted.

I hope all is well.


Fr Michael Brown said...

Dave thanks for your comment. I`m sure we`ll have the Mass of Paul VI for a very long time to come (although with a much improved translation soon I hope).

I hope you get to experience the EF `live` before too long. There are two Sunday Masses on Tyneside and I have a sung Mass on the first Sunday of each month at SS Peter and Paul`s Longbenton at 6pm.

There is normally a Low (said) Mass at Forest Hall on a Saturday morning but the next one is not until October 11th.

If you do come along do say hello.

Anonymous said...

Fr Brown, yoy forgot to tell Dave that there is also a Sunday TF Mass at Thornley at 9.30 a.m. every week. It is probably closer to Seaham than is Newcastle or Gateshead.

Anonymous said...

Fr Brown: You say: "It was somewhat strange that a number of Latin Mass stalwarts from the diocese were not there but maybe the thought of coming into town on the night that Newcastle United fans were angry about the situation at the club deterred them." As someone who is sometimes regarded as a 'stalwart' I was not at the Mass because of arrangements made before the announcement of the Mass; neither Ryanair nor EasyJet make refunds in order that one may attend Mass.
Saturday night in Newcastle is not everyone's favourite place (and I notice that the cathedral doors had to be closed at one point) but it might also be that not everyone felt that the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae was something they wished to celebrate!
Not being at the Mass, may I ask if those attending had to sign an attendance register; how else do you know that a "number of Latin Mass stalwarts" were absent? Or did you mean the dinner afterwards (which involved listening to speakers until 11.30 p.m.)? I think we should be told!

Fr Michael Brown said...

Sceptical, no need for an attendance register as I could see that quite a number of the regulars from St Joseph`s or St Dominic`s weren`t there. However there was a good turn out over all with quite a lot of young people. It would have been a good oportunity to have had some information about the Latin Mass Society available.

Anonymous said...

I made it along, as well as my wife and one of the children (teenage male). We were a little disappointed that the music team was not larger, though the quality was there (well done those that were singing). Last year, quite by accident, we found ourselves at a TLM in France, and we wondered what the English version would be like. I did enjoy the solemnity, a very reverent Mass. We did however find ourselves itching to join in. The temptation to recite the Pater Noster out loud was very strong, and I only just held myself back. My wife however just had to sing the Adoro Te - it was one of the hymns at our wedding. Whilst I appreciated the Mass very much, I missed the direct participation that the ordinary form offers. Going home I found myself looking forward to the Sunday sung ordinary form so I could exercise the vocal chords. (Was it St Augustine who said that singing was praying twice?). As Dave said above, all power to your elbow in making this form available, and I'd encourage people to experience it at least once.

maris said...

Thank you very much for the post and the pictures. The vestments were astonishing indeed.
I think it was quite impressive despite the apparent lack of room, and the choir did really well for that many singers. Also, Fr. Warren's homily was exceptional. Thank you all who contributed! :)

Anonymous said...


I was not aware that this mass had been scheduled, but I am delighted to your report. Although I am from the Newcastle, I now live away, but try to keep up to date with developments on the TLM front in the diocese. May there be more such masses.

Ps. I have only just stumbled across your blog, which I think is excellent.

DG, London.

Anonymous said...

Great to see the Cathedral being used again for the Mass for which it was built. Pity the mensa of Pugin's High Altar is no longer there to be used.

Claire said...


Mass was beautiful, but I was extremely disappointed that the music chosen was so obscure that no-one could join in the singing, even with the Salve Regina at the end! I think this was a huge opportunity missed for such a showcase.

Fr Michael Brown said...

For those who were concerned about the music at the Mass for one reason or another, Mike Forbester, who was leading the singing now has his own blog and you can read his views there.

Fr Michael Brown said...


Your reaction is not unusual. One of the first things people mention when they are more used to the OF is the lack of external participation. A distinguished Jesuit once said that the EF requires `the use of different muscles` to the OF in order to participate. Maybe it`s aprtly to do with personality but I`m quite happy to be at Mass where the choir does all the singing and yet still feel I have participated. The Cum Jubilo Mass that the choir sang is one of the better known Masses so in theory people ought to have been able to join in. If we ever do this again we`ll need to think more about the music.