Thursday, 3 January 2013

Three men in a pew...

It's a weekday evening. It's the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. There is a high Mass according to the 1962 missal in a dingy church in the heart of the City. At the front pew are sat three figures. One, a woman in fact, who is always early (in order to have a chat with father), and two men, though they are not together. The woman is grotesque and a sycophant (well, they're all sycophants) and is sat right at the centre, as close to the sanctuary as humanly possible. There is one of these in every parish; you know the sort - a bully who hangs around the priest like a bad smell, sticks her nose into every aspect of parish business, and is obsessed with every word which comes from the mouth of her lord pope (and the sacerdotal phallus, I shouldn't wonder), likes to feel important. I wrote about one two years ago. Next to her, though a little way down as madam likes her space, is an ignorant man clutching an old missal while pretending to know his place in it. He is a used car salesman, would have us think that he is an expert (though his ''expertise'' is derived solely from a few pages in his 1958 (it's before the wicked Council!) copy of ''Fortescue,'' Michael Davies and the LMS magazine), tries to conceal his accent, drinks cheap wine, and likes to go home feeling fat and important at having once again witnessed to the papal lies contained in Summorum Pontificum and being part of a clique. It's that sort of ''I go to a traditional Latin mass every Sunday, my life is so wonderful'' triumphalism that puts people off religion. A wet brown paper bag of a man, who bows to the Lady Altar at every mention of St Mary - the quintessential closeted homosexual. Next to him is a nutcase whom nobody likes, a crypto-sedevacantist who believes that pope Paul VI lives somewhere in the jungles of Brazil, that the pope's cassock is actually made up of tiny white neo-Modernist demons, and sits in his armchair slapping himself and muttering when not making intercession unto Pius XII to deliver the church from the heresies of Vatican II. He lives with mummy, of course.

Mass begins as usual, with madam trying at once to sing with the amateur choir who can't sing in tune and copy the ministers at the altar. Bag man flicks through the pages of his missal and occasionally looks up and around to make sure people aren't observing his idiocy, while the nutcase sits back in his pew and drools out of the side of his mouth. The deacon of the mass trips over his lace curtains as he ascends the altar (serves him right as he began the ascent with his left foot), and is assisted back to his feet by the MC, a wise and benevolent man who is stuck in that unfortunate milieu. Mass continues with the usual cock ups, one part idiotic rubrics of the 1962 missal, two parts incompetence of the ministers. The MC turns to one of the acolytes and sighs audibly as the deacon struggles to pronounce the Latin of the gospel.

Then comes the sermon! The topic of the sermon is ''BVM so wonderful that she actually took her Son's place on the Cross,'' but somehow the preacher drifts into a rant about the evils of homosexuality, making intercession to the sacred foreskin, quoting the decrees of popes and trying desperately to conceal both his camp lisp and the identity of his own secret male partner. Of course, madam sat listening with a grin so ugly that it quite unnerved one of the servers, who turned away in disgust. Credo III is intoned by the celebrant and madam takes over, drowning out the sound of the choir and everybody else in the congregation. Bag man lets on he knows the words by chanting Patrem omnipotentem at the top of his voice and then moving his lips up and down; once again hoping that nobody sees him. Nutcase just sits there. The offertory comes and those half asleep in the congregation are woken to the sound of a great crash from the sanctuary - the clumsy deacon has only dropped the chalice! The MC rushes to the sacristy and collects a fresh host and purificator, as the deacon had trodden on both, and the mass continues. Bag man goes around with the collection plate - his way of getting out having to put any money in. A hush falls over the congregation as the celebrant reads the Canon, genuflects and elevates the wafer. Madam looks up and with abundance of tears says ''my Lord and my God'' as she worships the wafer. Bag man looks around with an expression that says ''where are we now, then?'' Nutcase stares at a man in another pew with a look of contempt.

Mass over, madam marches uninvited into the sacristy to help clear things away, and presenting the celebrant with a plastic set of beads, bought from the ''holy shop'' especially, she asks him to bless them. She then goes to wait outside to stop him again later. Meanwhile the bag man in his hideous overcoat comes up and congratulates everyone on a splendid mass, so wonderfully traditional and redolent of the liturgy of old Sarum (though devised not in such terms). The nutcase nods to the statue of the Sacred Liver and goes out to be tragically knocked down by a speeding motorist.

The sad thing is that this is based on real life experiences.
The photos are of churches to which I went often at one time. In fact, though I did not know that the photo existed until just now, the chap in the cassock standing on the north side of that ''lady altar'' is in fact me.


  1. You write: ''A hush falls over the congregation as the celebrant reads the Canon, genuflects and elevates the wafer. Madam looks up and with abundance of tears says ''my Lord and my God'' as she worships the wafer.''
    Since when is the consecrated Hos a ''wafer''? Patrick, have you apostosised only de facto, or also officially? I understand that you are no longer practising catholicism, but have you lost all respect and love for your former religion as well? I hope not...

  2. Albertus, there are no sacraments outside the Church. Since Rome separated itself from the Church in times past, it cannot possibly have valid sacraments. So therefore the ''consecrated'' host is just a wafer, and therefore Roman Catholics practice idolatry by worshipping the said wafer which is held aloft by a man wearing net curtains and an expensive apron.

    That is the long and short of it.

  3. The photograph with you in it shews a complete contempt for the rubrics and liturgical law. Where is the antependium?

    Your characters you have created in your post are horrifically real, indeed I think I may have met one or two of them!

  4. I afraid to say I've encountered many of these characters as well. I still attend and indeed answer the 1962 rite of the Mass but more than anything else it's the people who push for it that set me on edge. We have a self-important snobbish little M.C. who knows far less about proper rubrics than he likes to pretend and our local LMS representatives think everything is just bloody marvellous no matter how many clumsy errors the servers make or how dire the choir is.

  5. Joseph, thank you for your interesting response to my fictitious story, albeit based on real people. I'm glad I'm not the only one who is fed up with the hypocrisy and hauteur of these people. What riles me most is that the few who still read this blog accuse me of being unChristian whenever I write about them, yet they have no qualms about rubbishing people like Tina Beatie and +Rowan Williams, not to mention all homosexuals, to their hearts content and nobody thinks twice about it. I have no doubt at all that most self-taught ''liturgists'' in RC traddie circles know only their copies of Fortescue and O'Connell, have never actually read the rubrics of the Missal or the Ceremonial of Bishops, would die a death if you asked them to put on a solemn Mattins and Lauds, yet think they are experts and like to tell everyone about their expertise.

    Vile, nasty people. I'm glad I have nothing more to do with them, though I can honestly say that there are exceptions to all this, and I left one or two of them with regret.

  6. There's a great desire to be "seen" at a 1962 rite of the Mass that I find distasteful. Foolish men imagine themselves the intellectual betters of those "luke-warm Sunday Catholics" who trudge to the Pauline rite Mass to parrot the jarring new "translation" we are currently yoked under. They sit in the pews smugly pretending they know which collect is being said from behind their shiny new Baronius Press re-prints, it's depressingly funny really.
    The entire concept of Tradition has been deeply marred by men like this. Our pre-Reformation forefathers would scarcely recognise current attitudes towards the Pope for example. To an Englishman in the 1520s the Pope was a name that got read out during the Mass or you saw printed in a Primer. He was the Successor of Peter and all that but men didn't wait with baited breath for his every word to drop from Rome. The English Church was under the papal authority from a distance, not a puppet stringed to the papal finger-tips as She is to-day. The sorry line of frilly dagoes we've had for the last 500 years has done little to nurture Tradition, just centralise and strip down were it suits. Don't like all those Psalms in the Breviary? fuck it, and fuck all the saints and holy martyrs they've succoured down the ages, lets whittle 'em down so the lads can get to lunch. The Pope seems to have forgotten he is the custodian of Tradition, not the sole arbiter of it.

  7. Joseph,

    Spot on and hilarious if I might say so!

    Twenty-plus years ago a friend of mine managed to see through Lefebvrism six months earlier than I did. My friend had noted exactly the same pattern as you have. Those attending the Lefebvrist chapels felt a smug satisfaction of feeling they were better than their neighbours who went to the NO. It is really all about the attempt to resolve psychological inadequacies. The 'TLM' scene gives a wonderful playing field and sense of cultic identity. The Liturgy, of course, does not really matter as it is not the primary driver at all.

    1. Indeed Rubricarius, and on a rather more flippant (and admittedly somewhat shallow note) - the women who attend the 1962 rite! Merciful God! I know I should be disposed towards Christian charity and all that but as a 24 year old non-celibate heterosexual, they're all routinely hideous, practically falling over each other to fawn at the priest once Mass has ended. Never a looker in the bunch either, never, it's a choice between Agatha Horse-Face or Doddering Doris every time. No wonder they're all so potty for those full-face Spanish mantillas, you lift one of those veils off at your peril I say! They all labour under the delusion they are possessed of fine singing voices as well. Bloody dreadful.

  8. Joseph, I know exactly what you mean - indeed you speak more shrewedly than many who are accounted wise.

    When I went to the church at Blackfen (seen in the photo, though I cannot remember when that photo was taken, nor what I was doing) there were two kinds of parishioner - Traddie, the ones who eshewed the Novus Ordo and had little, if anything, to do with the other kind of parishioner - the ordinary, down-to-earth Roman Catholic. Many's the time that I listened with interest and concern to the complaints of the latter group, who accused the former of being divisive and arrogant, and most of the time I agreed with them. There are many good people in places to which the Traddies have come (and taken over), and it is these ordinary people whom I left with regret. Unfortunately I won't ever see them again as I will not go back to a place of worship from which I was thrust like a leper, nor to any place where the bastardised liturgy of 1962 is celebrated.

    While I no longer agree that the bishop of Rome has any special place in respect to Church Tradition I understand your sentiments about the English Church before the Reformation. The pope was indeed just a name to the vast majority of people, and you are correct about the legacy of the Tridentine period and the puppet nature of the modern ''Church in England and Wales.''

    Basically traditionalism is what happens when you replace Tradition with something else. In the case of Rome, this would be the pope, a man who has assumed authority made up by political accident, convenience and ambition, and which ultimately has no foundation in Tradition or Scripture.

  9. This entire thread is the pot calling the kettle black. Honestly, Patrick, are you in a position to sneer at brethren in the pews when you don't even warm one on Sundays? What did "Blessed Tolkien" write to his son about attending Mass with "the usual bourgeois crowd"? Better to take his Christian advice than to sneer at others. Sure there are lots of odd and unpleasant people at Mass. "Here comes everybody" and all that. But while Mass is going on, I've got my focus on the altar and the sacrifice, not on what people are doing in the pews around me.

    And besides, I'm no better than them. And neither are you.

  10. Well, pews are actually an innovation. As for my own shortcomings, don't I know them all too well? Having said that, I can't see that I have said anything here that is in any way unreasonable or untrue.

  11. Well, I'm not very fond of pews either. Can you imagine Chartres with them? The horror.

  12. After facing the right way, the removal of pews (except around the walls for the elderly and infirm, is probably the next most effective step that can be taken in the recovery of the sacred liturgy.