Eleven years ago - that is on the 1st June in the year of the Great Jubilee, having begun our return journey from Rome and, having paused with our caravan near the shores of Lake Trasimeno on the borders of Tuscany and Umbria, it being, by our reckoning, AscensionThursday, a holy day of obligation in England and Wales in those days, we decided to aim to get to mass in the Church of San Francesco in Arezzo. This was one of my typically cunning plans since it meant that as well as getting to mass we would be able to see the celebrated fresco cycle of The Legend of the True Cross by Piero della Francesca- for a second time! Much to our surprise upon arrival, San Francesco seemed remakably quiet.
Eventually we found mass being celebrated- not at the high altar but in the chapter house - by a priest in red vestments. Clearly what was being celebrated was not the solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord but the feast, or memorial, of Saint Justin the martyr. This was the first time I experienced the Ascension being transferred to the following Sunday. I didn't like it then and I didn't like it later when our bishops in England and Wales took the same course. I'm not keen on the transference of other feast days like the Epiphany but the effective dropping of Ascension Thursday I like least of all because it disregards the Novena of the Holy Spirit. In all fairness to our English and Welsh bishops, it has to be said that they were far from being the first to jump on this particular bandwagon. That said, I hope that they will be among the first to jump off it.
In case anyone should get the wrong idea: I'm for jumping too!
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