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Days of Obligation

2015 January 17
by Gordon Reid

One of the joys of being semi-retired is that I no longer have to go to Mass every day. I know that may shock some of my faithful readers, but the priests among them may know what I mean. In a parish which has a daily Mass, and especially when there is no curate or other priestly help, the duty of saying Mass every day can become wearisome. And this is multiplied by those days when one has to say two or even three Masses. I know many a priest – and especially Roman Catholic ones – who have told me that there is something wrong with a system which leads them to groan when the next Mass rolls round. What was a joy and delight in their youth has turned into an  oppressive duty.

Of course, this is far less of a lay phenomenon. A layman can choose when he or she wants to go to Mass, and so usually the Eucharist remains a delight. But over the centuries the Western Church has developed a discipline which insists that it is a grave sin not to go to Mass on a Sunday and on certain other days of the year, which it calls “Days of Obligation”. Now, any properly formed Catholic Christian will want to go to church every Sunday and for the great feasts of the year, and indeed may want to go much more often, but it is far healthier that he or she feel they are going for the love of Him who instituted the Eucharist, and not because of any church rule.

The Anglican Church, from the Reformation onwards, broke free from this trap. In fact, the pendulum swung too far, so that in some churches you could find the Mass only once a month. But it swung back, and in the church where I was brought up, St Peter’s, Galashiels, the pattern was that of the majority of Scottish Episcopal churches of the forties and fifties – 8 a.m. Holy Communion; 11 a.m. Choral Mattins; and 6.30 p.m. Sung Evensong. Once a month, Mattins was replaced with a Sung Eucharist. And from the sixties onwards, that pattern changed again: the Mass in most parishes was restored to its proper place as the main service on Sunday. Sadly, along with that welcome recovery of balance, the practice of having a choir to sing Evensong on Sundays became rarer and rarer.

Meanwhile the Roman bit of the Western Church, after Vatican II, moved rapidly towards making the Mass so much the centre of communal parish worship that it also began to downplay all the other forms of worship such as Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, Vespers, Compline and the other parts of the Divine Office. In Europe, and I have no doubt in America, Cathedral Chapters voted to suspend the practice of having the Canons sing the office in public. But alongside this, a Saturday evening Vigil Mass was added in many parishes. At the same time, and due to many reasons, the number of vocations to the priesthood began to fall, so that the healthy position of having one priest with one parish and one church was superseded by a parish of , for example, and especially in Europe, seven churches run by just one priest. And the poor man, through sheer faithfulness, was run ragged trying to give each parish a Mass every weekend. Is it any wonder that the Mass may have become tedious to him?

The Eastern Churches have, on the whole, maintained the primitive custom of celebrating the Divine Liturgy just once a week. Of course, being the conservatives  and traditionalists they mostly are, nothing has ever been allowed to be cut out from the Liturgy and lots of extra bits have been added, including much of what we in the West would call the Divine Office, so that their Liturgy is a magnificent production of many hours’ duration. But at least it is only once a week, and the danger of the priest getting fed up with it is much less than in the West.

There are signs that the Western Church has realized the mistake of multiplying Masses in a time of declining vocations. The offices of Morning and Evening Prayer are being celebrated in many churches publicly, and are helping the laity, giving them a new kind of piety. Lay members of churches are being trained to lead non-Eucharistic worship and especially to take the Sacrament to the sick and housebound, sometimes straight from the Parish Mass, and at other times from the Tabernacle when they have time after their secular work. The modern notion that every priest has to say Mass every day is being phased out, with priests who are overstretched nevertheless realizing that their ministry will be greatly strengthened if they have a genuine day off. And for the weaker brethren who still hold to the view that a priest should say Mass every day, concelebration has been introduced to help them feel they have fulfilled the letter of the law.

To conclude, there are large city parishes which have every reason to preserve a daily Mass, said at times convenient for different groups in their congregations. And I believe it should be emphasized that if someone has attended a weekday Mass, that may give him or her a  perfectly good reason not to go to a Sunday Mass. When I was Priest-in-Charge of St Michael’s, Cornhill, in the City of London, I found a lovely Sung Mass every Sunday (sung by a boys’ choir imported from a school in Kent) to which only about twenty people came. This was because although the City had a couple of million people working in it during the week, at the weekends there were only about fifty thousand there, and apart from St Paul’s Cathedral, they had the choice of a dozen or two churches within the Financial Square Mile, as well as hundreds of churches in other parts of London. While keeping this Mass going (St Michael’s was, after all, a parish church – though I had only two resident parishioners at that time, the caretaker at the Bank of England and his wife, both Roman Catholics!) I decided to put on a Sung Mass also on Fridays at lunch time, which I called the “Thank-God-It’s-Friday -Mass”. The format was: a small professional choir; a Missa Brevis of Mozart or some such, with the emphasis on the Brevis; a sermon by someone well known in either  Church or State, a Bishop or a Member of Parliament,  all firmly warned that they had only seven minutes; and a cheese and wine reception afterwards. I wanted it to be kept well within one hour so that people could return to work afterwards, though I soon discovered that many shared the happy-go-lucky attitude which resulted in the acronym “POETS Friday”, standing for (excuse the French) “Piss Off Early; Tomorrow’s Saturday”, and the wine and cheese element grew longer and longer! Well, the first TGIF Mass had about a hundred people, and after that it was standing room only, and I soon found myself being asked if attendance at this Mass would excuse someone from not going to their parish church two days later. It did not take me long to see that my answer could only be yes. Some of these people were returning to a weekly Mass after missing their Sunday Mass for quite a while, and I could only rejoice that I had helped them find a way of doing this.

I love the Mass in most of its different forms, and I’m happy to say I have seldom felt “scunnered” at having to celebrate it. (“Scunnered” is a very expressive Scots word meaning a strong form of “fed up”. You can “take a scunner” at something, which means you can barely face it.) I’ve usually been spared that, but know very well what some of my colleagues mean when they confess that they are finding too many Masses a problem. One solution to this is the strengthening and widening of the ministry of the  laity, and most churches seem to be taking this seriously, thanks be  to God.




2015 January 10
by Gordon Reid

I just came across this word in a book I’m reading, referring to a guy from Iowa. I wonder if the author made it up or if it is the usual word for inhabitants of that state. It made me think of some British equivalents, and I began to see that the  knowledge of some of the names we give to those who live in certain cities or areas would be a good test of a person’s grasp of British English. Here are a few.

I am from Edinburgh and so I am an Edinburger, but if I were from Glasgow I would be a Glaswegian. Someone from Manchester is a Mancunian, one from Liverpool a Liverpudlian. Returning to Scotland, if you are from Aberdeen you are an Aberdonian, if from Inverness an Invernesian, from Dundee a Dundonian.

These are all perfectly respectable words used by all and sundry, not as nicknames. But there are others, which only a person from a certain region would use and understand. I’m sure this is true of almost all areas, but the only one on which I could pass a test is my own original home, the Scottish Borders. Now we leave what are just odd endings to the original town name, and enter another world. Here are a few examples.

I was born in Hawick, and so I am a Teri (pronounced teery). An inhabitant of Selkirk is a Souter (pronounced: sooter); one from Galashiels is a Braw Lad (or Lass). This male/female name reminds me of one of the most hilarious of them all which comes from Linlithgow, where the inhabitants, male and female, proudly call themselves Black Bitches! This comes from the town’s coat of arms which features a black greyhound bitch against an oak tree (If you want to know why, you’ll have to google Linlithgow – it is a lovely story) and the local pub is called the Black Bitch.

But pub names are a wonderful topic, needing a study of their own. My favourite is the Salutation in Perth, which almost no one these days will know comes from the Archangel Gabriel’s greeting to Our Lady and reveals the hotel’s pre-Reformation origin. Just as the Dykes Bar in Liberton, an Edinburgh suburb, reveals its naming in a more innocent age!

“We’re not in Kansas now” or Iowa for that matter.

New Year; New Home.

2014 December 30
by Gordon Reid

It has been a couple of months since I wrote in this blog, the reason being that either I had nothing much to write, or too much  to write.

But now that I have a new home, all looks different. I have an apartment, and just being able to say that  makes quite a difference, as those of you who have moved home will testify. If you have a period between jobs, with no settled base, it can produce a feeling of insecurity and almost amazement at how vital it is to have a place you can call home. My experience has been off-set, of course, by the fact that, during this period of waiting,  I have been able to travel to Scotland and England and to several places in the USA to stay with old friends. However, lovely though that has been for the last four months, it is wonderful to have a place I can call my own again.

The new apartment is a spacious, airy loft conversion in a fine 1907 building in Center City, Philadelphia. It is on Arch St at 11th St, just opposite where the Convention Center ends, almost opposite the Reading Terminal Market. (For those of you not familiar with Philadelphia, I must explain that the Reading Terminal Market is not a place where old books go to die, but one of the best indoor markets in America, occupying the grand space that was once the terminal building for the railway to Reading, Pennsylvania). I am on the fourth floor, so have a fine view of William Penn sitting on the top of City Hall, and also of some of the highest skyscrapers of Center City. These are all illuminated at night, sometimes in startling colors.

Apartment living is something I have never done before, and I am enjoying it very much. Thinking back, I realize that, apart from a few years in London, when the Diocese in Europe allowed me, as Vicar-General, to buy a house in Islington, I have lived all my life in buildings owned by the Church (and even the Islington one was partially owned by the Diocese). I was  thirty before I lived in my own Rectory and had to feed myself. Till then, it was one College after another: Edinburgh University, Edinburgh Theological College, Keble College, Oxford, Cuddesdon Theological College, Salisbury Theological College. And in the one job where I might have had to look after myself –  my Curacy at St Salvador’s, Edinburgh – I had rooms in the house of a great lady of the parish, who fed me as though I was in imminent danger of starvation.

Thereafter, I lived in a succession of houses  and apartments, all owned by the Church. And some of the apartments were bigger and grander than the houses. The Rectory in Stockholm for example was, it is true, on one floor only, but it had thirteen main rooms, plus staff quarters off the kitchen; the Deanery in Gibraltar had  been the Officers’ Mess for the Royal Engineers in the 19th century when they were constructing the miles of tunnels that exist inside the seemingly solid Rock.  I don’t know how many officers it accommodated, but it consisted of two large houses joined by bridges and with multiple additions  outside and in the lovely garden, which was full of tall palm trees. I did  have to look after myself in these Rectories and Deaneries in Edinburgh, Inverness, Ankara, Stockholm, London, Gibraltar and Milan, but in all of them I had domestic help. Indeed, in Gibraltar, whenever I had a cocktail party or big dinner party, the Royal Navy base would always be able to supply sailors who cooked, were waiters, and cleaned up – Dean of Gibraltar seemed to be a naval rank!

So for the first time I am on my own and responsible for feeding myself. But if you could see the piles of fruit and vegetables, the stalls full of fish and meats of all sorts, the Amish stalls with home-made pickles and jams, and all the other things in the Reading Terminal Market, you would see that I am unlikely to starve! I can cook a few things, and now I think I will learn to cook many more, with the help of some great cook books, such as  those of the delightful Elizabeth David (the aunt of a great friend of mine, incidentally), I  should begin to enjoy what up till now has been just a chore. Those of you within reach will be invited to be the subjects of my experiments – you have been warned! As for cleaning, I know a splendid team of young ladies who descend on a place like locusts and  in a very short time have it polished and cleaned within an inch of its life. Once a month should be enough for an apartment this small.

“Small” is a relative word, and my loft space is about 1200 square feet and the ceiling about 16 feet. All the duct-work is exposed, so there is one huge silver pipe and some black ones. My bed is in a balcony up some open stairs – one of the oddest places I have slept, but fun. It is over the kitchen, which is part of the main space, and the bathroom, which is not, I’m glad to say!  All in all, with a laundry space and two large closets, I have more than enough room.  The space under the stairs now holds the bar, so come and have a drink if you are near. My address is 1027 Arch St, #406, Philadelphia, PA 19107. Happy New Year to you all.





All Saints/All Souls 2014

2014 November 3
by Gordon Reid

This year’s configuration of the Feast of All Saints and the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed is probably the most pesky possible (I hope my American English has chosen the right word!)

If you follow the old rules precisely, as St Clement’s does, you will have three High Masses on three consecutive days: All Saints on Saturday, November 1; Trinity 21 or Pentecost 22 on Sunday, November 2; and All Souls transferred to Monday, November 3.

Many churches reckon that it is unlikely that they would get their people to turn out three times in three days, so they make other arrangements, as I have discovered here in Washington, D.C. where I have been  staying with a friend for a a few days.

I went this morning to a well-attended High Mass at All Souls Church. This was a Mass of All Saints, which is perfectly legitimate within the Octave of All Saints. I have known All Souls since I swapped parishes for three weeks with its then Rector, Fr John David Van Dooren, and I was Archdeacon of Italy and Malta and Chaplain of All Saints, Milan. I  had a splendid time in DC, and Fr John David enjoyed three weeks exploring the country round Lake Como (and, incidentally, burying  some of my parishioners!). The choir of All Souls sang some beautiful anthems, but oddly, there was a very long list of the departed which was read out at the offertory. This would normally be done on All Souls, not All Saints.

This confusion of the two feasts is common, I think, but it is a pity, since All Saints Day should be our rejoicing in having one day when we can  ask for the intercession of all those Christian souls who have reached the perfection of heaven and now participate in God’s work and purpose in a special and powerful way. All Souls Day, on the other hand is, as Hispanic cultures in particular call it, the Day of the Dead, when we pray for our loved ones departed that they may be blessed in their continuing journey towards the perfection of Heaven, which we call Purgatory.

This evening, I went to the National Cathedral at 6 p.m. for a Requiem Mass beautifully sung to the Durufle setting by the men and girls of the Cathedral choir. This was again a concession to getting everything over on the Sunday, but perfectly defensible, since it was held on the Sunday evening, the Eve of All Souls. I would rather have seen it done in black vestments rather than the white that was worn, since this again confuses the  two feasts, but otherwise the Requiem was splendid. However, again we had to endure a very long list of the departed being read out, which was tedious and lengthened the service unnecessarily.

One solution is simply to print the names in the bulletin and lay the cards requesting prayers on the altar during the Mass. But another solution is one which I first heard in Hamburg when I was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative at a service commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the fire-bombing of Hamburg, Dresden, St Petersburg and Coventry. With representatives from  all these places as well as several others in local and national governments, Hamburg Cathedral was crowded. The service was pretty long, and it was made even longer by a group of protesters who stood and shouted for about twenty minutes right at the beginning. The Bishops and others in charge simply let them shout themselves out, rather than attacking them, but eventually the police escorted them out peacefully. And the wonderful thing was that three voices continued reading  in Russian, German and English, the names of all  who had died in these ghastly attacks. There were so many, that the reading of their names had begun early in the morning and continued till the evening. So all through our two hour long service, one could hear in the background these three calm voices reading out the names very slowly. It did not interrupt the Mass and was extremely moving.

That way of covering the two hundred or so names at All Souls church and the National Cathedral might have been equally impressive. I don’t know, since it wasn’t tried, but it would have avoided the fifteen minute solid reading of names, which interrupted the flow of the Liturgy.  I’d like to hear it done on a small scale, perhaps reading the names quietly from the offertory till the end of the Mass, or however long they lasted.

As you can see, we retired priests have great ideas the minute we are let loose! Happy All Saints Tide and may the souls of all the Faithful Departed rest in peace.


2014 October 21
by Gordon Reid

I have often preached on how difficult the disciples found it to have patience and wait for the Lord to act, such as in the period between the Crucifixion and Pentecost. I can imagine the impetuous Peter exclaiming: “Well, he promised us the  gift of the Holy Spirit of God, but when is it going to happen?’ And then one of the quieter apostles calming him down,  perhaps reminding him that Jesus took about  thirty years before he  began his active preaching and teaching.

Now I find myself in such a period of waiting, and I find I am more like Peter than my calm sermons may have indicated!

I have been retired from St Clement’s less than two months, and I am already tired of waiting for the Lord to show me how to exercise my priesthood next. For of one thing I am sure, and that is that priests seldom retire in the secular sense of just walking away from all they used to do and abandoning all priestly ministry. Of course illness and failing powers may make anything but passive contemplative prayer or even active intercessory prayer the only thing left that the priest can do, and that is true also of lay people in similar circumstances. But I am reasonably fit (though I get much sympathy for my limp) and my mental powers are not totally faded away (though don’t expect brilliant repartee at 6 in the morning, nor even that I’ll  remember your name!); so I am eagerly waiting on the Lord and not making a very good job of being patient. Mine is the prayer of one of the saints who prayed “Lord, give me patience, and get on with it now.” I am eagerly waiting for the Lord to indicate what he would like me to do next..

However, as with everything else, the Lord acts through other people. I have been enjoying the hospitality of friends in Scotland, London, New Jersey, and here in Philadelphia, and this week am going to stay with my oldest American friend for a week or two in Washington, D.C. And all these friends have sensed my impatience and been a great help in exploring possibilities. One of these is to fill my diary with the invitations that have been coming in to preach and speak in friends’ churches all over the States and in the UK. I would love to do all these, but for that I will need a settled home from which to travel to these occasions. But what is stopping me from leasing an apartment immediately is that there are other suggestions,  to take on longer interim jobs – three months or six months or even a year. Then it would be foolish to pay a rent on an empty apartment. And then there are even other suggestions that I take on what in England is called a “House for duty” position which usually means that one takes the Sunday services and the equivalent of one or two days a week “duty” (marriages, baptisms, sick Communions etc) in return for which one is given the Rectory, which may be a vast old house or – more likely these days – a more manageable (but still four bedroom)  modern house.

So back to the beginning I am waiting – and it is a novel experience. On the one hand, I have plenty time to say the Divine Office in its entirety and pray through the Rosary slowly, rather than the dizzy rush round which used to happen. On the other hand, my day has no fixed structure and, although I have all the time in the world,  I find I am not very good at getting on with the tasks that I used to have to fit into spare minutes between Masses or interviews or visits.  So I will be glad of the prayers of my friends. My favourite at the moment is from the Psalms: “Up, Lord, why sleepest thou. Awake”! But maybe it is I who am sleeping; I have made a resolution to move my ass, as Balaam might have put it (but didn’t!)



2014 October 15
by Gordon Reid

Well, I’ve had my first six weeks of being Rector Emeritus of St Clement’s, and very pleasant it has been. I’ve seen old friends in Scotland and England and had time to talk with new friends. This was especially true this last week at the annual conference of the Society of Catholic Priests in Toronto. I met a dozen or two priests and seminarians whom I had know heretofore only by means of Facebook. However, I must confess my gratitude to Facebook, and how accurate was the   impression I had received about these new friends even before I met them in the  flesh.

One result of the SCP synod is that I have already received several invitations to preach in various parishes all over the States and even in one case to address the students of one of our seminaries. This pleases me very much, but I am still not sure what I would like to be doing for the next year or two while I am still, thank God, reasonably compos mentis and passably healthy. I am free from running a parish, but I certainly don’t want to sit about doing nothing. Maybe the readers of this blog can suggest ways for me to occupy my time?

I have always loved reading and writing more than anything else, and my new freedom will give me a chance to do more of both. As I think I mentioned before, I have been writing a sort of autobiography (Well, it must be if it begins “I was born in Hawick in the Scottish Border country on January 28, 1943″) but  I have tried to keep it light  in the manner of Colin Stephenson’s “Merrily on High”, and with that in mind have called it “Have Biretta, Will Travel”. It is almost finished, so my next step will be the agonizing one of submitting it to publisher after publisher till one may take it. However, don’t contact Amazon yet: it is far from that stage.

In the next few months, I am going to concentrate on close friends, fidelity to the Divine Office, and making a new home for myself in a space that is going to  be minute compared with the Rectories and Deaneries I have inhabited. That should be challenge enough. My freedom will be very different from that of a prisoner let out of his tiny cell; mine will be the very opposite, but none the less exhilarating for that.


Canada and the SCP

2014 October 10
by Gordon Reid

I’m loving my very first visit to Canada, and wondering why I didn’t do it long ago. Of course, I’ve seen only a little bit of Toronto, but I’m enjoying it very much. The first thing to strike a Brit who has lived in the USA for eleven years is the welcome sight of Her Majesty the Queen of Canada on most of the coins and  bank notes. The second thing is that the bank notes are made of some sort of plastic and there are bits of them that you can see right through. Talk about a transparent currency!

The architecture of center city is  stunning. As well as the lovely collection of old ivy-league the colleges which make up the university campus where my conference its being held, there are some stunning ultra modern buildings such as the Museum of Toronto’s extension which is all glass triangles leaning  over the street in preposterous but satisfying planes.  Utterly pleasing to the eye, unlike the ghastly Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh which tried the same sort of thing but ended up looking as appalling as the childish politics that go on inside it. (You will be glad to see that even in early retirement I haven’t lost all my prejudices!)

Our conference is the sixth annul meeting of the North American bit of the Society of Catholic Priests, and is half-way through. I was honored to be asked to give an hour-long meditation at the very  beginning, and ended up doing it in twenty minutes, since the traffic from my hotel moved at snail’s pace and I was late. But it gave my brothers and sisters extra time to drink coffee and chat, and the twenty minutes was quite enough to say what I wanted to say, since all I missed out was the pious silences between sections which would have turned a talk into a meditation. I simply took the three words of our Society’s title “Society of Catholic  Priests” and mused upon each of them. I said each was vitally important: “Society” (pace Mrs Thatcher) was the  only way humans could exist, and the more loving their societies and their loving intermingling with others, the more like they were to the Society of Societies, the Blessed Trinity, where we have three Persons so in love that we can call them One God. Then “Catholic” was obvious in that we are all Anglo-Catholics, but I did emphasize how happy I was the we just said “Catholic” with no hyphenated bits. That might annoy our Roman Catholic brethren, but not half as much as it annoys me when I see other quite sensible RCs say that an Anglican who has decided to be an RC was “received into the Church”! And then “Priests”  because all eighty of us at the conference and the many more who couldn’t come are either priests or seminarians. I was, I’m afraid, rude about those clergy who hardly ever wear their dog collars and say they are a barrier to contact with ordinary people. Nothing could be further from  the truth. How often I am asked to bless people or pray with people in the streets of Philadelphia, and the brethren enjoyed my tale of being picked up by a young Irish cop driving his cruiser in Philly who got  me to climb in and hear his confession as he drove around! He wouldn’t have done that if I’d been in jeans and a sweater. Anyway, though I compressed this and a lot  more into twenty minutes it was well received, and those who asked for the script will just have to read this instead, since of course there was no script.

But there were scripts from the two main speakers yesterday who delivered talks on our conference’s theme of George Herbert. One was incredibly academic and compressed, with dates and names and wonderful quotations from George Herbert’s poetry flowing fast and furious. It will have to be read in a  quiet hour. The second was just as learned but delivered in a throwaway English manner which made its points about demythologizing Herbert by a wide-ranging comparison of his 17th century rural parson’s life with the life of a priest in the 21st century. Both were splendid.

And on a sunny but sharpish autumn day in Toronto, I’m about to set forth to hear more wisdom, and I’ve said nothing yet about the lovely chapel where we have sung Matins, Evensong and Compline, and the lovely High Mass in St Thomas’s celebrated by the Archbishop of Toronto. By writing this I’m afraid I have missed public Matins today, but I did say the modern Roman version in Italian an hour or so ago, so the loving and blessed Trinity may just forgive me.

To be continued.


Last week in England, September 17 -27

2014 September 27
by Gordon Reid

Well, my  month in the UK is almost over and I am able to say that I enjoyed it all enormously but I am longing to get back to Philadelphia! Although (or perhaps because) my  life as a priest has taken me to many  places, I have always enjoyed returning home after a holiday. So I will fly gladly  from London to Philadelphia on Tuesday , September 30.

There will be regrets, of course, since I have  so enjoyed meeting up with old friends in London this last week. I have been staying with Prebendary Bill Scott in his house which is beside the Chapel Royal of St James’s Palace, where he is Chaplain to Her Majesty the Queen and Sub-Dean of the Chapel Royal. His home is very handy for two of my favourite clubs, the Carlton and the Oxford & Cambridge, so I have used them quite a lot to entertain friends to lunch or dinner.

On Sunday, I went to the High Mass at St Mary’s, Bourne St, where Fr Scott used to be Vicar. The Liturgy is quite similar to that of St Clement’s and has the advantage of the choir’s being in a gallery at the back where the organ console is also located, which means that the congregation have an uninterrupted view of the sanctuary and the altar. The Propers are sung in English rather than Latin and I enjoyed hearing the whole congregation singing the Asperges – also in English. The liturgy has been adapted so that the Asperges is the communal confession and the celebrant pronounces the absolution when he gets back from  sprinkling the congregation. This is the only confession in the mass, since the private preparation has been omitted and there is no other confession in the middle of the mass. The preacher was Fr Stuart Leamie, who was one of  the seminarians at Salisbury Theological College when I was on the faculty there, and I caught up with news of old friends from those days over a couple of pints at the Duke of Wellington, the pub favored by some of the St Mary’s congregation after mass, (though most have a glass of champagne first in the Presbytery library!).

The weather has continued to be fine  and warm, so I have spent quite a lot of time just walking in the parks and streets of the city. Only once have I been to the theatre, though there are many tempting shows on, and that was to a tiny theatre in Vauxhall where a cast of four put on a highly amusing play to just thirty or forty of us. The theatre could have seated only about a hundred, I suppose, so it didn’t seem too empty. Fr Bill knows the routes of the buses intimately, so we got one from Vauxhall to Soho right after the play and finished the evening off in a very good restaurant there. Since I left London, the law has relaxed about drinking in public, and the streets outside every pub were mobbed, and since there is a pub every few yards in Soho, it was difficult to make any progress. But we got to the restaurant in the end  and had an excellent meal.

I will be  praying this weekend for my successor at St Clement’s, Fr Rick Alton, as he is instituted as Rector on Monday, September 29, the Feast of St Michael & All Angels. It is a lovely day to be commissioned for this work, as we are all called to be angels (the Greek “angeloi” just means messengers). We have a wonderful message to proclaim, and St Clement’s under Fr Alton’s leadership will continue the work of proclaiming the message of God’s love, especially to the poor and needy (and they can be millionaires as well as bums!)  God bless Fr Rick and all who assist him in this wonderful work through St Clement’s in the years to come.








































But the atmosphere was happy and friendly and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.


Norwich, September 16 – 20

2014 September 22
by Gordon Reid

I’ve just  spent a few days in the lovely home of my old friend, Canon Jeremy Haselock, in the Close of Norwich Cathedral.   Fr Jeremy is the Precentor and Sub-Dean of the Cathedral, and he and the Dean and other Canons, are housed in some splendour in the Close of that magnificent Cathedral. Living there for a few days took me back to the three years I spent living in the Close of Salisbury Cathedral, when I was Chaplain to the Theological College there. One of the great glories of the Church of England (for which she may be forgiven many things that are not so glorious!) is the maintenance of 43 Cathedrals (44 if you count my old Cathedral in Gibraltar) where the daily round of Mass, Matins and Choral Evensong has been preserved for centuries).

Norwich is just 16 miles from Walsingham, where the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham was restored in the 1920s by the Vicar of the village, Fr Hope Patten. The Shrine was second only in popularity to that of St Thomas a Becket in Canterbury until both were suppressed at the Reformation. After Fr Hope Patten’s initiative, the work was developed by my dear friend, Canon Colin Stephenson, who popularized the Shrine, so that now it is a focus of devotion to Our Lady for the whole Church of England and not just the Anglo-Catholic section of it. Recently, Justin, Archbishop of Canterbury, who comes from the Evangelical wing of the C of E, walked the “Holy Mile” barefoot, and then gave Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament to pilgrims.

Fr Jeremy drove me there and I lit candles in the Holy House for St Clement’s and all my friends, living and departed. The Holy House was built in the 11th century by the Lady Richeldis, Lady of the Manor of Walsingham. It was a replica of the  house in Nazareth where our Lord grew up, and the motive for building it was to provide a substitute place of pilgrimage for English pilgrims who could no longer go to the real site because the Holy Land had been taken over by the Saracens. The modern parallel hardly needs pointing out.

Our devotions finished, we called on Bishop John Salt, the erstwhile Bishop of the lsland of St Helena in the South Atlantic, who has now retired to Walsingham. We carried him off to a pub in a village nearby which was a delight. No modern “improvements”, ale from the casks, a menu that would make city restaurants blush, and dogs lying about all over the place! Then a drive back to Norwich through autumnal countryside, through narrow country lanes flanked by trees bowed low with apples or bright  with bursting chestnuts. Truly a magical time to be in East Anglia. Thank you, Fr Jeremy.

Scotland, September 7 – 14, 2014

2014 September 16
by Gordon Reid

Having often told American friends that the gorgeous scenery of Scotland is due to the fact that it rains every day, I am now forced to eat my words and report that for the whole of last week there was not a drop of rain. On the contrary, the sun was so hot that I had to use sunscreen, a substance usually as unnecessary in Scotland as air-conditioning! I was staying with friends in the village of West Linton in Peeblesshire, just a 20 minute drive south of Edinburgh. Their gardens were full of flowers, including a huge bank of sweet peas  whose scent was wonderful. I did little but sit on their deck with a book or two and a glass or two of something cool and refreshing.

A couple of days I went into Edinburgh and met up with various friends at the New Club, which in true British fashion (like the 13th century New College, Oxford) is actually the oldest club in Edinburgh. Everywhere the talk was of the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom, and windows all over the city proclaim Yes or No. I liked one which said “Aye” and another which said “Mebby”. Most said Yes, but that is not necessarily a certain indication of the way the vote will go, since several windows with No posters in them have been broken by Nationalists. In fact, the more I see and hear of the bullying tactics of the Scottish National Party, the more I hope that my fellow Scots will rejoice that we are also British and vote a solid No majority on Thursday.

On Sunday I celebrated the Mass of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the 14th century Rosslyn Chapel where the Priest in Charge is my old friend Fr Joe Roulston who used to assist me when I was Rector of St Michael & All Saints in Edinburgh. The chapel was built by Knights Templar and is quite magnificent. Those of you who have read “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown or seen the movie will recall the crucial role this little chapel played in the story. The famous “Prentice Pillar” stands behind the High Altar and is an elaborately carved pillar, so much more ornate than all the other pillars that it was rumored that within it was hidden something very precious, perhaps even the Holy Grail, the cup used by our Lord at the Last Supper. I think it is more likely that it once contained a relic of the True Cross, and if so, what a privilege it was for me to be offering the Mass of the Holy Cross just a few feet from that pillar.

I came south to London yesterday, leaving Edinburgh in that thick mist and fine rain which had been remarkably absent all week, and am now on my way to Norwich to visit Canon Jeremy Haselock, who as well as being Sub-Dean of Norwich Cathedral and a Chaplain to Her Majesty the Queen is also a Guardian of the Shrine of Our Lady of Clemency in Philadelphia. I will continue this travel blog from there.