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The Unseen St Clement’s (well, nearly!)

2012 June 10
by Gordon Reid

Everybody who is anybody sees the St Clement’s web site  - and I mean anybody – Archbishops, Princes and Princesses, Clan Chiefs, Cardinals ( well, the only two I know!), Bishops, Priests & Deacons, Subdeacons and not a few acolytes and doorkeepers! Plus a vast body of discerning laity. And there they admire the pictures and enjoy the music and, I hope, profit from the sermons.

But what they see is not the whole of St Clement’s worship. Much goes on unseen. There is a Mass every day, celebrated usually in the St John’s Chapel, a beautiful chapel at the back of the church, quite separate from the rest of the church. Evensong is said there every evening too. Some people come nearly every day; others just once a week, but these quiet services are very much appreciated by many.

St John’s Chapel was named this, I think, by the Cowley Fathers, who ran the parish for ten years or so, and whose order is the Society of St John the Evangelist. It has a fine statue of St John above its door. It also contains a baroque statue of Our Lady, before which the Rosary is recited every Sunday, and a beautifully carved wooden statue of King Charles the Martyr. The pricket stands before these twos shrines are never without votive candles burning. The altar has a haunting triptych of the Crucifixion with St Clement and St Catherine, our Patrons, by the well-known liturgical artist Davis D’Ambly.

Also unseen is the quiet work of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the hearing of confessions. In a church like St Clement’s we get not only parishioners, but also people from all over, coming to confession, quietly month by month or sometimes only year by year (and never, these days, week by week, as used to be the habit) facing up to their sins before the priest and receiving through  his ministry God’s loving forgiveness. As I said, confession is much less frequent than it once was, so the fact that we have five confessionals is a bit de trop! But I intend to have a big Penitential Service next Lent, and then we shall see all five in use at once and, indeed, maybe several other “confession stations” round the church.

And not only the clergy have a quiet ministry in St Clement’s. The church stands open every day, and our sexton, who has been in that post for 25 years, is always on hand to welcome people and either show them around or let them light votive candles at the shrines. Anthony would never  think of this as a “ministry” but that is what it is – service to the people of God.

This kind of worship and ministry can never appear on our web site, but it upholds all that St Clement’s means to the thousands who view our web site and who count themselves friends of our church.



6 Responses leave one →
  1. Scott Knitter permalink
    June 11, 2012

    Wonderful post, Father. While these are indeed unseen parts of what happens day by day at S. Clement’s, I hope at some point it will be possible to put one or more videos (or photo galleries) of a Low Mass and/or Evening Prayer at S. Clement’s on the website. We hope to do that on our site at Church of the Ascension, Chicago, sometime. While the benefits of being able to view a holy day Solemn High Mass are obvious, I think it would also be edifying and informative to have examples of daily liturgies (I’m thinking just one example of each, not necessarily an ongoing series).

    And while I’m here, good job with the kittens! They were fortunate to have you take them to where they will be cared for. Our two dear cats are from such a shelter and are unanimous in saying you did the Right Thing!

  2. Br Steven CR permalink
    June 11, 2012

    You are correct Father in saying that S. John’s Chapel was so named by the Cowley Fathers as they had been in charge of S. Clement’s for 15 years (1876-1891). The original chapel was in fact located in the old Parish House built in 1864 until its demolition in 1906 to make way for the present new Parish House of 1907 in memory of Julia Neill Mayer.

    Anthony is the longest serving member of staff at S. Clement’s and the best Sexton we’ve had. He performs an invaluable ministry to the parish in all that he does and the church is always spotless. While he may think of his title as simply a job, its as much of a vocation that shows in his dedication to the upkeep and maintenance of all the buildings and grounds.
    S. Clement’s is very blessed and fortunate to have him.

  3. Br Steven CR permalink
    June 11, 2012

    Yes Father, S. John’s Chapel was named by the Cowley Fathers who ran the parish for 15 years (1876-1891). Of course the original S. John’s Chapel was located in the old Parish House built in 1864 which was demolished in 1906 to make way for the present Parish House in 1907 as a memorial to Julia Neill Mayer.

    The daily round of Offices and Mass in S. John’s Chapel continues that tradition established by the Cowley Fathers but they would have also included the Little Hours of Prime,
    Terce, Sext, None and Compline as well.

    I’m so glad you mentioned Anthony. He is the longest serving member of Staff and plays an important part in the ministry of S. Clement’s. Being the Sexton is more than a job, its a vocation and his dedication and service is laudable. His maintenance of the church buildings is spotless. S. Clement’s is very blessed to have such a dedicated, hardworking employee whose ministry to everyone who visits is much appreciated.

  4. ambly permalink
    June 11, 2012

    I’ll “third” the commendation of Anthony’s ministry. He has always been gracious and hospitable in every way during the many times I have done my work at St Clement’s and the church is spotless – the envy of many parish churches in that way.

    nb the small image of St John was not always over the door as I recall it had come from elsewhere and I re-colored it and placed it there many years ago.

  5. Chris Bates permalink
    June 12, 2012

    Excellent post, Fr. Reid!!

    I would love to visit & assist at Holy Mass at St. Clement’s. It seemes like a most conducive place for prayer 7 communion with God.

  6. Paul Cooper permalink
    August 14, 2012

    As an occasional visitor, Friend, and sometime member of S. Clement’s, I am glad to be made aware of the wonderful service and ministry of Sexton Anthony. In that vein, I can contribute the following story about another sexton from an earlier time.

    From the days of my youth and active membership in the parish (1938-1959) — mostly in Father Joiner’s time, I remember Sexton Thomas Williams, who had a bed in the west-most basement room of the church and was always in evidence. He even got involved peripherally in a liturgical way, as I remember him carrying a small black canopy suspended from a long pole that slanted forward, thus enabling him to walk behind and shelter the priest who was carrying the Blessed Sacrament. It was most likely during the procession to the Altar of Repose in St. John’s Chapel on Maundy Thursday (early Thursday morning — about 7 am — in those days!) and again on the return of the Sanctissimum to the High Altar at the Mass of the Presanctified (9 am) on Good Friday. He was of course vested — as always — in a black Sexton’s robe or cape.) We knew him simply as Thomas — not sure when I learned his last name.

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