Sunday, 15 March 2015

Something Jolly

With today being Laetare Sunday and Mothering Sunday, my Irish ancestry (and my Catholic Faith) coming via my late mother, and St. Patrick's day later this week, I think there is an occasion for a bit of lively Irish music to lighten the dourness of Lent.

Please feel free to kick up your heels, should you feel so inclined...(as long, of course, as you don't feel tempted to try doing it as part of the Liturgy ;-)  ) ...

Laetare Sunday

Rejoice, O Jerusalem:
and come together all you that love her:
rejoice with joy you that have been in sorrow:
that you may exult, and be filled
from the breasts of your consolation.
I rejoiced at the things that were aid to me:
we shall go into the house of the Lord.
(Introit for Laetare Sunday)

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Absolutely Beautiful Irish Music

I just discovered this on Youtube and thought it beautiful - love the harp music and the clarity and purity of the singing.

Monday, 2 March 2015

London Suburban Catholic Churches 6 - St. Patrick's, Plumstead


This imposing church is of interest particularly because of its history, having been built as an Anglican church, and later 'converted'. This gives it some interesting architectural features which are perhaps uncommon in Catholic churches.

First, a little more about the history. St. Patrick's parish was established in the Nineteenth Century, principally to cater for the growing Irish community in the area, which had developed in response to the need for labour in nearby Woolwich Arsenal, and also with the large amount of speculative house building that was taking place locally in the late Victorian period. A permanent church was constructed in 1893 in Griffin Road. By the 1960's the original building had become too small for the needs of the parish at the time, and, serendipitously, at the same time the local Anglican diocese was looking to sell the redundant St. Paul's church, a grand-scale Victorian building, which was now too large and expensive for them to maintain. A deal was done, and in 1968 St. Paul's became the new St. Patrick's. The original St. Patrick's was converted to a hall for the parish primary school, and survives in this role today.
The original church, now part of the St. Patrick's Primary School

The church is large and constructed of red brick, and the brickwork remains exposed in the interior, to pleasing effect. The sanctuary retains its High Altar of marble with a simple, but dignified wooden reredos. Given the date that the church was converted to Catholic use, this must have been built by the Anglicans, suggesting that the Anglican worship here must have been quite 'High Church'. There are interesting sedilia on the Epistle Side, consisting of 3 niches with stone seats, which are at graduated heights - presumably the intention would be for the Celebrant to sit at the top, with the Deacon on his left, slightly lower, and the Subdeacon in turn below him, although this is hard to say since the sedilia have probably never been used in the church's Catholic days. The organ occupies a niche on the Epistle Side of the Choir. The font is located centrally at the West end of the church. All of these features being more typical of Anglican than Catholic church design.
View from the Altar, looking West

In the 1990's, the Sanctuary was reordered and relocated outside the original Choir, with an Altar on a platform with some seating around it, effectively putting the old chancel at a distance from the congregation, although the Blessed Sacrament remained on the old High Altar. Some years ago, this change was reversed, I believe under the direction of Fr. Michael Branch, the then Parish Priest, now P.P. of St. Peter's, Woolwich, and the table Altar moved back into the chancel, Liturgy being in the Novus Ordo, versus ad populum. It would, of course, be nice to see the original Ad Orientem High Altar used.

The Sanctuary during an Episcopal Mass  - note the High Altar in the background, and the arches of the triple sedilia on the right. The organ is behind the server wearing an alb

Over the last few years, there has been a considerable reordering of parishes within Southwark Archdiocese, and St. Patrick's, formerly a secular parish is now in the care of the Salvatorians. More recently, the former parish of Holy Cross, Plumstead Common, has been merged with St. Patrick's, its church becoming a chapel-of-ease.

Holy Cross Church, Plumstead Common

Saturday, 28 February 2015

London Suburban Catholic Churches 5 - Our Lady of Grace, Charlton

Another South-East London gem, Our Lady of Grace is located in the suburb of Charlton, which developed in the late 19th. Century as London began to expand into previously rural areas. Nearby is the remnant of the old Charlton village, and the Jacobean Charlton House, with its adjoining park. The Valley, home of Charlton Athletic Football Club, is also quite close.

Charlton House

Formerly a diocesan parish, the church is now in the care of the Spiritans (formerly known as the Holy Ghost Fathers), following restructuring in the Archdiocese of Southwark a few years ago. The previous Parish Priest, Fr. Michael Leach is a former Capuchin friar, and an old friend of mine.

Church Interior, looking West
The interior of Our Lady's is beautiful. The Sanctuary was reordered just prior to Vatican II, apparently with the removal of a fussy, and not particularly meritorious, reredos to allow the incorporation of a Calvary and a picture of Our Lady, behind the High Altar, in the manner often seen in Spanish churches.
Church interior, looking East
The fine presbytery is interesting in that it boasts a Blue Plaque, to William Henry Barlow, a Victorian engineer.
Photo of plaque
The Blue Plaque

File:William Henry Barlow High Combe 145 Charlton Road Charlton SE7.jpg
The Presbytery

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

London uburban Catholic Churches 4 - St. Bede's, Clapham Park

Church Entrance

This delightful church will be well-known to many traditional Catholics from the London area, as it was one of the first in the suburbs to cater for those with devotion to the Usus Antiquior Liturgy, and has incorporated regular Traditional Latin Sunday Masses into its life for some considerable time, thanks particularly to the Parish Priest, Fr. Christopher Basden, and the formidable Fr. Andrew Southwell, former Monk and devotee of the Old Rite, as well as various clergy who have served in the parish as visitors over recent years.

Fr. Basden

Fr. Southwell
The church itself is one of some twenty-one, so called 'Ellis boxes', endowed by the benefactress and convert to Catholicism, Miss Frances Ellis (1846-1930) in the early 20th. Century, who stipulated that the churches she funded would be small, simple and Romanesque in style, culminating in very distinctive buildings in various locations across the South-East of England. The full list of these is shown below.

Miss Frances Ellis

  • St. Benet’s, Abbey Wood
  • St. Gertrude’s, South Bermondsey
  • Our Lady of the Rosary, Brixton
  • St. Helen’s, Robsart Street, Brixton
    (since merged with Corpus Christi, Brixton)
  • Holy Cross, Carshalton
  • Holy Cross, Catford
  • Our Lady of Grace, Charlton
  • St. Vincent de Paul, Clapham Common
  • St. Bede’s, Clapham Park
    (Miss Ellis lived next door in the house that is now the presbytery)
  • St. Gregory’s, Earlsfield
    (since replaced)
  • St. William of York, Forest Hill
  • Ss. Philip and James, Herne Hill
  • St. Wilfred’s, Kennington Park
  • St. Bartholomew’s, Streatham/Norbury
  • St. Matthews, West Norwood
  • St. Thomas the Apostle, Nunhead
  • St. James the Great, Peckham Rye
  • St. Francis de Sales & St.Gertrude, Stockwell
  • Ss. Simon & Jude, Streatham Hill
  • Our Lady of the Assumption, Links Road, Tooting
    (since replaced)
  • St. Boniface, Tooting
  • St. Elpheges, Wallington
    (since replaced, the original church now acting as a parish centre adjacent to the new building).

Miss Ellis, in fact, lived in the house adjacent to St. Bede's, and worshipped there regularly.
Church Interior

St. Bede's has a simple exterior, and a light, airy interior with several strikingly beautiful details, emphasised by being small in number and creating high spots in an otherwise plain setting. Sadly, the original Sanctuary was lost due to reordering, but this is more than compensated for by fine Liturgy.

Usus Antiquior Mass at St. Bede's
As well as the Traditional Latin Mass, St. Bedes also has thriving Latin Ameican and African-Caribbean communities, and from time-to-time hosts Masses in the Ethiopian/Eritrean Gheez Rite.

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