Now that’s what I call a proper pilgrimage
SIR – If Jonathan Wright (Feature, July 22) is seeking a real penitential pilgrimage with no sightseeing aspect whatsoever, may I recommend to him the annual Pentecost pilgrimage from Paris to Chartres? He will walk 25 miles on the first day, 27 on the second, and a mere 18 on the third. He will be tired and footsore; he may well have developed blisters. He will find that the living conditions are, to put it mildly, primitive; if he has been a member of the Armed Forces, educated at an old-style public school or been in prison (or preferably all three) this will not be a problem, but otherwise it will merely add to the penitential aspect of the pilgrimage.
There may be blistering heat; there may be torrential rain. There will almost certainly be mud somewhere along the route. He will undoubtedly have a terrible time.
On the other hand, he will be part of something quite extraordinary. About 12,000 pilgrims took part last year – the column takes an hour and a half to pass a given spot, and is a very powerful witness to the faith.
All the Masses are in the Extraordinary Form, and along the way one prays rosaries (sung in English, French and Latin). There are meditations, Confession, hymns and walking songs, and good old-fashioned conversation. It is an opportunity to do something really challenging for one’s faith and for God.
A proper pilgrimage, in other words.
Lydeard St Lawrence, Somerset
Rites and wrongs
SIR – The duty of a bishop to safeguard against abuses in the “ministry of the word, the celebration of the sacraments … [and] the worship of God” is clearly defined in c 392:2 of the Code of Canon Law. This obligation to “defend the unity of the universal Church … and so press for the observance of all ecclesiastical laws” derives from the bishop’s task of defending “the unity of the universal Church” (c 392:1).
Liturgical laws and rubrics exist to ensure that, in the celebration of the sacraments, worshippers should not be subjected to the celebrant’s “personal preference or taste”, as Cardinal Nichols recently requested (report, July 15).
While these same laws and rubrics permit legitimate variations within the celebration of Holy Mass, they also forbid practices which, in recent decades, have been foisted upon the faithful in parishes and seminaries as a result of an individual priest’s “personal preference or taste”. A blind eye has often been turned to abuses, but keen attention has been invested on limiting what is actually permitted by liturgical law.
Fr Abeler SJ (letter, July 22) argues against Cardinal Sarah’s proposal that priest and people should face eastwards for the celebration of Holy Mass – a legitimate option according to the rubrics of the Missal. At the same time, he admits that he and a number of his confrères refuse to use the new English translation of the Mass, prepared and approved by the Conferences of Bishops and recognised by the Holy See. In so doing, are they not imposing their own “personal preference”?
It is in a situation such as this that the local Ordinary should quickly intervene to safeguard the integrity and unity of the Roman Rite.
Fr RSJ Crichton
St Mary’s,Griminish, Isle of Benbecula
SIR – A Mass said facing towards the east would help all to focus on the priest being our mediator before God. This would also help remind us of the importance of the priesthood, when for a few moments at the Consecration the celebrant becomes another Christ, an alter Christus (the word alter meaning “one of two”).
Such an intimate closeness with Christ is a very forceful affirmation of God’s True Presence in each Mass. Thus, the wonderful privilege of a man for a few moments becoming Christ himself is really a very exciting invitation to enter the priesthood.
From this perspective, the laity would see priests in a much more positive and attractive light. It is, in my opinion, much harder for the congregation to see the priest as our mediator and as an alter Christus when, facing the people, he turns his back on the direction from where Jesus’s Resurrection from the dead is symbolically and visually present.
We now have an opportunity to become better informed about the Mass and to explain more confidently to our non-Catholic friends how precious each Mass is. Surely that is what our hierarchy wants too?
SIR – Further to the excellent and informative letters of Richard Eddy and Fr Wolfgang Abeler SJ (July 22), and others I have seen elsewhere, revealing different approaches to thedirection the priest faces at Mass, no one has mentioned that all-important second post-Resurrection celebration of the Eucharist at Emmaus, which the post-Vatican II Mass could be said to resemble. First, we have the Word. If the reader does their job properly, likewise the priest reading the Gospel, all hearts should glow within us at the huge richness and wisdom of Scripture and the recall of the happenings of Christ’s life, teaching and death; also, the history of the early Church and letters revealing the thinking of the Apostles.
But then comes the critical moment – they knew him in the Breaking of the Bread – they realised he was truly there with them now. This is why I believe the priest should face the people: we can see that all-important act – that taking of the Bread and the Cup – and at that moment we should be able to venerate him in the sacred elements until we later receive them, and know that he is just as much with us now as he was firstly to the Apostles at the Last Supper, but again, post-Resurrection to all of us who walk the Christian path.
His coming at the Last Day is a faraway matter. Does it have the same importance in our lives as his coming now, today, and each day till the end of time in that act of Breaking Bread and Taking the Cup?
Elizabeth Price (Mrs)
May on marriage
SIR – Why did Tim Montgomerie (Comment, July 15) fail to mention that Theresa May allowed herself to be persuaded by Lynne Featherstone to in turn persuade David Cameron to introduce the Same-Sex Marriage Bill? No wonder her father did not want her to canvass in his parish. But in this context what does it mean to remain a regular churchgoer?
Mr Montgomerie says: “We don’t really know what kind of Conservative she is.” But perhaps we do have a better idea now that we know she is in the same spiritual camp as Cameron.
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