I attended the recent Mass for the new shrine at Corpus Christi, Covent Garden, and it was a testament to the glory of the service that I didn’t fall asleep once. I like my Masses Latin, low and short. This lasted two-and-a-half hours. But it was spellbinding, with superb music and a witty sermon by Cardinal Nichols.
About three-quarters of the way through, we processed around Covent Garden with the Blessed Sacrament. I personally didn’t see any onlookers kneel (I’m told one or two did), but then I didn’t see any men selling apples and pears either. Covent Garden used to be a real market where you could weigh and squeeze fresh fruit. Today it’s a tourist shopping centre. Traditional British fare of pizza and chips goes for around 500 quid.
The Catholic Church is breathing life back into Old England, and Corpus Christi Church is an obvious place to start. First opened in 1874, it was built in reparation for sins committed against the Blessed Sacrament during the Reformation. Sadly, it fell into decline and disrepair. The truth is that the English church has been through two iconoclastic periods: the 16th-century Protestant one and the liberal revolution of the Seventies, which did just as much to strip our altars and degrade our churches. The latter reforms were sadder because the Catholics inflicted them on themselves. There was no glorious martyrdom this time around. Just self-harm.
Today, however, a new spirit is stirring. Popular devotions are back; confessions are on the up; and a new generation of priests is reviving beauty and the Old Rite. It’s a restoration. In 10 years’ time, the Corpus Christi procession will be a feature of many local churches – and the English unbelievers will watch and think, “Ooo, that looks interesting. How do I join in?” That’s the way you convert. With magnificence.