To the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King in Liverpool in fulfilment of a long-standing Holy Week custom went I this morning. One reason- and perhaps the main reason I have kept up this habit- is quite simply that I like to hear the Passion sung. In fact they do it rather well in Liverpool - although, sadly, that is not the clergy but three cantors from the choir. In the past I recall a couple of cantors assisting a priest who sang the part of Christ. Now, alas, the clergy appear totally incapable. Why this should be so I know not. I am simply happy to hear it sung. To paraphrase the old Heinneken advert- the sung gospel reaches the parts simple speech cannot reach.
On my journey there I had other sad thoughts like "How sad it is that the scousers have all become protestants!" And "how irritating that several members of the choir wear academic hoods! It makes them look like Anglicans. How embarassing for them!"
It is true. Several of the gentlemen of the choir wear academic hoods over their cassocks and surplices. Doubtless they are very proud of having gained degrees from presigious universities but is God's house the place to trumpet such things? Or are they used in order to advise the tone deaf hearer that the wearer has demonstrated the ability to sing to graduate level and if you don't appreciate it then it is your failing? To me however, as a rabid papist, it just looks appallingly Anglican.
Did I mention that I was a rabid papist?
So there I was, having parked my car underneath the cathedral, when I noticed a priest putting money into the pay and display machine. I didn't think that one was expected to pay when attending a service and I wondered if I should point this out to him. Then a little demon - I think- said, "Keep quiet! They may have changed the rules so that you have to pay now- besides, he's finished paying now- at least this way you can plead ignorance". Then I came to my senses: what was a real priest doing paying to park at the cathedral? All this in a split second.
Now, ladies, please avert your eyes!
Having, susequently, emerged from the gents I waited for other members of the family to rejoin me whereupon the afforesaid priest asked me for some directions which, despite being a visitor myself I was able to give. Now giving directions to lost souls seems to be part of my vocation since where I live in the countryside is a veritable (non-mohammedan) Mecca for travellers who have gone astray! Thirty miles or so from home and I was still being useful: Deo Gratias!
The priest had looked strangely familiar and all of a sudden it occurred to me that this had been none other than Monsignor Keith Newton, the Ordinary of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Had I not seen the glint of a gold chain that doubtless held a pectoral cross under his jacket? "No oo! You're imagining things." I told myself.
The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Vincent Malone who, in his opening address before the blessing of the palms, welcomed as concelebrant none other than Monsignior Newton!
Now, if only I'd met him years before, I could have said "The Catholic Church IS the true Church you must join it!" Today all I could manage was "Down that corridor, on the right, Father"!
I am afraid it quite went to my head! After mass I was to be heard saying, "Don't look now, but that chap behind you on the mobile phone looks awfully like the famous composer James Macmillan. It couldn't possibly be him, though."
Or might it?
The Queen Mother?
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