We have a small group of priests of the diocese who are interested in the Extraordinary Form and who meet once a month for lunch. This has born fruit in that we have got to know each other better and from that we are co-ordinating our activities. So for the Year Of the Priest it was our intention to have High Mass in each of our parishes which we mostly achieved, with some Masses occurring after the close of the Year. For example, last Monday we had a High Mass at Coxhoe. Fr Swales, the parish priest, celebrated the Mass in thanksgiving for his fiftieth birthday and in thanksgiving for life. Given that the Mass was on a Monday at 12 noon it was good to see a congregation of almost 60 people. Some of these were people I`d not see for a long time. Fr Swales is a regular celebrant at the Sunday Mass at St Dominic`s, Newcastle and people from that Mass often make the journey to Co. Durham on a Thursday for his regular EF Mass at 12 noon. However that particular group seldom come to any other EF Masses in the diocese so it was a long time since I had seen many of them.
The Mass went very well and I hope Frank might send some pictures. We are becoming more familiar with High Mass. There will be another opportunity this Tuesday when Frs Swales and Phillips are joining me at Longbenton for High Mass for the feast of SS Peter and Paul. The next occasion will probably be the Mass at Brinkburn in September but I hope that after that we will continue to organise High Masses and go to new venues.
I`m a great believer in frequent High Masses. It was therefore interesting to read what actually happened before the Council in parishes in Lancaster in a post which Fr Paul Harrison made on his blog a while back. Fr Harrison is the diocesan archivist and revealed that his search of visitation reports for Lancaster diocese from 1924-1962 showed for two of the biggest parishes the following:
St Ignatius a very vibrant Jesuit parish in Preston, which usually had 6 priests. High Mass was on the principle feasts only and Missa Cantata once a month.
English Martyrs an equally vibrant secular parish which also had 6 priests. High Mass was, again, only on the principle feasts of the year. Missa Cantata was offered "only seldomly"
So it seems that liturgical life in even the best equipped parishes was very impoverished. It is consoling in a way to know that even before the Council I would have been dissatisfied with the liturgical life of the Catholic Church in England!