Sunday, July 17, 2016

IT IS THE MASS THAT MATTERS - 2002 PILGRIMAGE IN BRISBANE

SAINT BRIDGET'S CHURCH, RED HILL
"AS OFTEN AS YOU DO THIS........"

It took an encounter in a car workshop to set me on my pilgrim way.


I had been saddened and confused  by recent events. Two weeks earlier it had been announced that no public Masses were to be celebrated whilst the Diocesan clergy attended from 3rd to 7th June,2002,  a Retreat at Banyo Seminary. A truncated version of the Divine Office Morning Prayer was proposed to take the place of Daily Mass.




In a Northern Suburbs car workshop I was handed a photocopied slip of paper by a salesman who received one  from his boss, who had received one from ......It detailed "Daily Masses celebrated during the month of the Sacred Heart from 3rd June to 7th.". Poorly typed and far from being an aid from the Archdiocese to the Faithful, it was simply Christ's Faithful co-operating to get round their abandonment.


This simple slip of paper set me on a 5 day Pilgrimage around the Archdiocese.


"......YOU SHALL DO IT IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME"


Yes, I had been saddened and confused. Saddened by the calculated decision of the Archdiocesan Authorities not to organise the large numbers of retired clergy, religious clergy, and/or visiting clergy from surrounding Dioceses to provide daily Mass at strategic centres. Indeed, they went further, and made no effort to publicise the many Masses celebrated by the Religious Order clergy they knew would be available.A friend had suggested a specific solution for one church but had been put off with an incoherent and embarrassed response from the  relevant authority.


I had been confused too - how to react? How to cry out against this wrong, this example of contradiction of official duty? I firstly distributed copies of this slip of paper to others in my Parish. They received them with keen gratitude. Then I determined to continue my custom of assisting at Daily Mass by pilgrimage to some of the churches listed.


SIGNS OF THE TIMES


The central controllers of "pastoral planning", carefully shaped by documents brought back from Milwaukee, where they had been developed to suit Archbishop Rembert Weakland (who was about to be deposed by the Holy See for his homosexual liaison and more, disclosed days before), and which had been given a dose of localising process, had begun to have their effect. Even tenured Priests who were not judged "politically correct"could expect to have their responsibilities either swept away or impossibly increased unless they conformed. Their offence might be doctrinal orthodoxy, devotion to the Mother of God, love of the liturgy, failure to use "newspeak", or fidelity to the Holy Father or even calling heresy "heresy".


As I spoke to Priest friends and friends of other Priests I began to learn how reluctant many Priests were to attend the Retreat. Several previous mass clergy gatherings had an unhappy history in the Archdiocese. They had led  to those not "politically correct"being badly treated and being thoroughly alienated, many returning to their Parishes and having little more to do with what went on in the Archdiocese. Some had died years later beloved by their people but virtual strangers to their fellow Priests; some remain.


Many Priests were reluctant to attend, not only because of this unhappy history, but because of the compulsory abandonment of public Masses for the period of the Retreat.


".......WHO COME TO YOU IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING"


Grey and humourless, the group of pastoral planners and their Milwaukee influenced collaborators, had arranged that daily public Masses should be suppressed during the Retreat. Why? No doubt the Rockhampton rationale was put forward to the Archbishop - the people have to get used to Priestless Parishes. But not a few have suggested it was not to prepare for such a disaster, but to help engineer it. The same administrators had recently taken control of all of the communications apparatus of the Archdiocese.


It was appropriate that authority should be used to secure maximum attendance at a Priests' Retreat. But there was a perverse twist to this policing - in at least one case - and no doubt others. Very heavy pressure was brought to bear to ensure that a Priest did not celebrate a public Mass during the Retreat even though his accommodation arrangements made it easy to do so. Many were in the same situation.


I heard of one such case on the Sunday evening before the Retreat, and of the grievous hurt and scandal rightly felt by the Priest. He was sickened by the thought of it. He slept badly, his mind refusing to let go of consideration of this perversity, this great wrong; the frustration of a good Priest's natural wish to make his Lord present to His people in the daily Mass.


"...I WILL NOT LEAVE YOU DESOLATE".


After a night of tossing and turning ,I was up earlier than usual to attend 7.00 am Mass at Red Hill. The great red brick pile of St.Brigid's - based on the fortress-like Cathedral of Laon in France- stood starkly on its steep hilltop against the Winter morning's sky. 


The Parish Priest was a legend in the Archdiocese - even he was attending the Retreat. But he determined to say one last Public Mass for his people before departing. The congregation of about 50 or so was devout and the liturgy meticulously celebrated. St, Brigid's is one of the finest churches in Brisbane with its austere soaring walls, the beautiful, but restrained, marble altar and altar rails. At Communion time - in simple but ever appropriate reverence, those receiving Our Lord did so kneeling at the altar rails as the Celebrant moved back and forth in the time - honoured way.




ST JAMES 'COORPAROO
On the Tuesday and the Wednesday I attended the 8.30 am Mass at St. James Coorparoo, which was convenient to the days' work.Under the care of the Augustinians, the church was built on a hill overlooking the city in the mid 1920's. In classical basilica style, its architecture is quite pleasing despite the modest materials. Efforts at morning prayer were obliterated by a vigorously-led recitation of the Rosary - which I very much prefer to recite in private.Mass was celebrated on both occasions with appropriate quiet dignity. The familiar face of one of my regular Daily Mass companions at the Cathedral, now at his own Parish church, was  pleasing. On the second day I arrived earlier still, in an effort to beat the Rosary reciters. No luck - they were in force and engaged in reciting a VERY long collection of prayers for every conceivable intention and remembering by name every member of the faithful departed and every retired Bishop, Priest and Religious for generations back ! For all their efforts frustrating my personal prayer, I had to say to myself "God love them"- and I'm sure he does.

Thursday of that week took me into the Northern Suburbs. High on its own hill stands the larger, modern fan shaped church of Saint Therese, in the care of the Franciscans.Indeed the hill at Kedron is a powerhouse of Franciscan spirituality including major colleges. The church is far larger than it seems from outside. It is one of the more successful examples of its type ( which I generally loath) - even providing a dignified and substantial Blessed Sacrament Chapel. The only discordant note is a HUGE wooden crucifix at least twice the size that any reasonable sense of proportion would suggest.


What a pleasure it was to find the beautiful and powerful Novena in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi in use. Prepared by the great Father Christopher Sharah of the Reformed Capuchin Brothers of Saint Francis, based in NSW it is a spiritual Treasury. The church contained about 100 people and Mass was celebrated with loving and gentle dignity.Again I recognised a friend and two acquaintances in the congregation - no doubt others in the congregation were also part of the Retreat Diaspora.


On the Friday morning, mists shrouded the river below as once again ,high on its own hill, the beautiful Mission-style Church of Our Lady of Victories, which commands a 270 degrees view to the horizon , welcomed us in.The Polish clergy here provide Masses in both English and Polish. The congregation of 30 included a solicitor and his son, from my regular Mass congregation and a regular interstate visitor I know. The reverence of the Celebrant was exemplary and humbling. The church is full of reminders of its Polish associations and is lovingly decorated and maintained.



OUR LADY OF VICTORIES, BOWEN HILLS


".........AND SOWED WEEDS AMONG THE WHEAT"


I reflected on the week, wondered how anyone charged with the care of Christ's Faithful could plan to isolate  them from the daily Mass. I felt sickened by all that.


I also took note of the controversy surrounding the Retreat leader - U.S. Bishop Morneau of the troubled Green Bay Diocese- whose associations with Milwaukee and the notorious Father McBrien, whose writings have been twice condemned by the American Catholic Bishops, speak volumes. What could one help but conclude?


Whilst the Clergy had their Retreat - forced to leave their flocks without organised Masses - I had been on pilgrimage. I prayed for the true success of the Retreat, but loathed and feared the alien attitudes to the Mass - and, no doubt, much else- revealed in the measures adopted.


How terrible the guilt of those who would plan, then manipulate clerics, to leave as many as possible of Christ's flock without the opportunity for daily Mass. I reflected on the times of anguish when my morning Mass and Communion had been the anchor of my sanity. 


Who would dare deprive those in great need of the means which Christ has used "from Age to Age"to nurture His flock? Who would dare!


"....I KNOW MINE AND MINE KNOW ME."


Within weeks my Parish Priest and a distinguished doctor would remind me that a British parliamentarian of the Nineteenth Century, advocating measures to suppress the Catholic religion by suppressing its Clergy, had said : "They act as if it is the Mass that matters!"


Those who love the Mass have, ever since turned his cry against his purpose.


What had I found on my pilgrimage? Marvellous orthodox Faith, devotion, prayerfulness, good humour and above all devout Celebrants of the Mass, most of them members of Religious Orders. Truly Christ's Faithful pleasing the Lord and frustrating the so-called "pastoral "planners!


Pray for the Church in Brisbane which has remained a victim of their ministration ever since , and pray for Archbishop Bathersby whose Retirement is due in just 7 and a half weeks.


And spare a prayer for all those responsible for this planning scandal.

No comments: