Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The Archbishop's Visit

June 19, 2016 will go down in the annals of our little Traditional Latin (Extraordinary Form of the) Mass community as a festal day of purple and gold, for that was the day the Archbishop of St Andrew's and Edinburgh, i.e. our bishop, came to our Mass.

This was the first time any ordinary of Edinburgh had ever come to the Edinburgh FSSP Mass, and so--despite the end of the university term--a record number of trads turned out to welcome him. B.A., with the Schola in the back, gave up counting after 90. (If you live in a city of Catholics you will laugh at that number, but Catholics make up  only 15% of the Scottish population, and Catholics who go to Mass are a minority of this percentage, and so Catholics who ever go to the EF... Well, you get the picture.)

I was delighted when I saw taxicabs of Glaswegians arriving from the railway station, for I had been haunted by the fear that the Archbishop would look out over a mere fifty or sixty of us (or fewer, if some families had gone on holiday or retreat) and think, "Is that it?" Some people can make it to our Mass only once or twice a month, either because of transportation difficulties, or because they have duties at other parishes, or because the after-Mass social scene is so beguiling elsewhere, e.g. the Edinburgh Uni CSU. (Well, that is where most of the eligible girls are, let's face it. The Girl Guides are as yet too young.)

Edinburgh regulars stood about outside or hurried in, most of them looking happy and some even excited. Someone official had asked me to take photographs, so I brought our new camera, which I was uncertain how to use. I'm not really a picture-taker, and I dislike being distracted during Mass by extraneous stuff. However, poor B.A. has to sing almost all the time, and the altar servers spend Mass run off their feet, so I suppose it is fair.

While the Master of the Schola played a prelude, the Archbishop came out of the vestry door, preceded by John the Grizzled MC, into the car park, and went in the door to the porch where he blessed a crucifix and was inexpertly photographed by me.  Then he processed up the aisle to where our priest and the altar servers where already waiting for him, while I scurried up a side aisle taking more photos and feeling like a lemon. He genuflected and sat in a chair over on the left, i.e. the Gospel side, and everyone looked at him. He, however, kept his eyes on Father for the whole mass, except when he had to acknowledge a genuflecting altar server or bless something or give us the homily.

Just before the homily, Father introduced him and gave the announcement that Elaine, one of our tea ladies had died. Elaine, a large round lady with white hair, had been a part of the Edinburgh Latin Mass community for over thirty years. Father said that today's visit was a fruit of her work for the TLM, which intrigued me for mostly what I had seen Elaine do for the TLM--and this is actually very important--was heft a heavy teapot at the after-mass Cup of Tea of Peace. I don't remember Elaine ever taking holidays, and she was rarely ill, so she has been inextricably part of my Sunday life. From the pew beside me, our most frequent Glaswegian visitor gasped.

I thought about Moses, who was allowed to see the Promised Land and yet died before he could go in, for Elaine had known about the Archbishop's visit, but had died a week before he came. However, this is a false analogy for the supernatural end of human life is not episcopal blessings but the true Promised Land of union with God.  And then the Archbishop gave his homily, which was a good, juicy, stern one, with lots of Latin quotes from the Gospel, which was the one about laying down your offering before the altar to go and make peace with your neighbour before continuing worship. He told us that it was not enough to love the Mass; we had to live in charity with our neighbour. Being trads,we lapped it up, and when he was done, we sang the Credo at the top of our 90+ voices.

After Mass had ended and the Archbishop had followed the rest of the sanctuary party down the nave and up the side aisle into the vestry, the MC came out to chivy the altar servers (or something). He was grinning from ear to ear. Was he relieved all had gone well? Was he flushed with power of being allowed to boss a bishop around a sanctuary? Perhaps he was just reflecting the general mood.

The Archbishop stood in the sunny car-park and greeted the flocks that hung about shyly, in twos and threes, in couples and in family groups, getting up the courage to go and shake his hand or kiss his ring. I was so busy taking photographs, I couldn't think of anything to say when my turn came except, "May I introduce some of our friends from Glasgow?"--which totally ruined the impression that  all 90+  sheep were his sheep. Bien lá, as my nephew Peanut would sigh.*

I took lots of photos in between greeting and chatting with fellow parishioners (as we aren't really, but parishioner is such a useful word and we don't have a real parish of our own, weep weep) and then pursued His Grace to the parish hall where I took more photos. I do hope he didn't mind, but it just meant so much to us that he came to visit.

Many of us keep up with our "parishioners" who go to London or abroad, and I put my photos on my Facebook page so they could see them. A trad mother of two now living in South Asia wrote to me that she almost jumped out of her chair when she did.

The Archbishop mentioned in his homily that he has been trying to meet everyone in the past few years he has been our ordinary, perhaps so we would not get the wrong idea, but as a matter of fact, I think we were just so pleased that we were being treated like everyone else, instead of merely being tolerated or ignored as those embarrassing people, as in years (and bishops) past. And of course as trads we were highly enthusiastic about having the Peter of  St.Andrew's-Edinburgh among us. Personally, I enjoyed hearing the Archbishop's Scottish accent laying down the law (in English and Latin) from the pulpit. Not to put too fine a point on it, there are not a lot of Scottish priests, let alone bishops, in Scotland.

*Nulli, Ma Belle Soeur, Peanut and Popcorn are all at the Historical House, currently sleeping off their jetlag. They are staying with us for a bit before continuing their trip to Berlin. Peanut and Popcorn are the most Frenchified Canadian children I have ever met. Their parents shout at them in parks in both English and French and the children reply in either Anglo or Estrie. Pierre Elliot Trudeau, that great architect of Canadian bilingualism, among much worse things--hopefully he made it into  Purgatory at least, poor man--must be proud.

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