Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Life under 6 Popes: Protected from knowledge of what was going on 1968-79

In 1966  I met the choirmaster of the local Catholic church, that was the parish next to my own in Chelsea.. He persuaded me to join the group. It was a world on its own although I didn't realise how atypical it was at the time. The main Sunday Mass was celebrated according to the new Rite in Latin (even before this was officially introduced).. This meant that all or most of the traditional repertoire could be retained. The church had an unbroken tradition of Gregorian Chant and Polyphony going back to the year dot. The choir managed to survive because there were enough dedicated  and experienced singers. I left in 1971 when I married for the first time. (I was sorry to leave. Little did I know that I would return in 1980 and spend 13 years helping to save the chor and cement its future.)  

During the intervening period two things happened which should have alerted me to the state of the Church at large. The first was the obvious storm created by the promulgation of Pope Paul VI's Encyclical 'Humanae Vitae'. In spite of this I didn't realise that the dissenters would go underground and actually  be encouraged by some priests (possibly for the sake of a quiet life, rather than conviction,) having decided they were free to conduct their lives as they pleased regardless of what the Pope had said. The second thing, which affected me personally took place during the preparation for marriage  at he church described above. We had one meeting with the priest, a curate, not the PP.  Having elicited the promise that any children of our union would be brought up as catholics, and having established that the paperwork was in order, he indicated that the meeting was concluded. I panicked because I did not think that everything had been covered.  Divorce for instance. Shouldn't the rules about that be explained.  The priest replied, 'What do you want to discuss that for. You are not even married yet.' Well I had tried. but I felt that my intended spouse was less than properly prepared. As it turned out, and unknown to me, he had no intention of having children, leave alone bringing them up as catholics. But that's another story. ( See posts about the eventual annulment. Consult blog archive.)  I don't know how many other couples were so poorly prepared by this priest but it's nightmarish to think about it now.

After the wedding, off I went to the depths of remotest Devon, Here again I was spoiled. The nearest priest was at Bovey Tracey, where he had refused to reorder his church for Mass facing the people, claiming rightly that there wasn't the space. I remember many conversations with him but one sticks in my mind particularly. I had said to him how distressing I found the growing habit of communion in the hand. He said 'Don't worry. You will live to see that abuse reversed. Probably I will not.' He was nearly 80 then and ended his days with the Dominicans at St Mary Church Torquay, where thank God he was allowed to offer his daily TLM.

Thus I came through the worst post-conciliar years without really knowing what was going on.
Came the 'year of three Popes' and we had a guest while the funeral of Pope Paul VI unfolded and then the election and coronation of Pope John Paul I... The guest was the choir master mentioned at the opening of this post. It was a turning point in many ways. Not the least because they were the first Papal ceremonies I had ever seen on TV.

The following year I was finally to grow up, and flee in tears from of a most abusive Mass at the Marie Assumpta Centre in Kensington, London. I had gone there for a Catechetics course. When I describe this Mass next time, I think you'll understand the tears, and above all the reason why I could not get out of there fast enough.

It did not occur to me at any point to blame any of the Popes for the blasphemy I was forced to witness,. and it  still does not.


umblepie said...

We lived at Ilsington at that time, and Fr Foley was our much revered parish priest at Bovey Tracy. My wife used to regularly visit him in his retirement at Torquay. I believe he always celebrated the TLM Mass, (extraordinary form as it has since been labelled).He suffered greatly as a result of all the enforced changes in the Church. May he rest in peace.

Jane said...

Well I never!

Our paths must have crossed!

At least I can say one thing for Bishop Budd. At least he never forced Fr Foley to say the 'new Mass'.

Father Foley was a wonderful priest. He crops up in my story again in later posts. My last connection with him was in 1984 when his testimony was influential in gaining my annulment. I was in London by then.

What year did he die? I never could find anything about him after his move to St Marychurch - although I knew he was a member of the LMS

umblepie said...

Fr Foley died on 1st January 2002.
My wife has a newspaper obituary cutting about him. She will forward a copy to you if you would like it. She will need an email address.
Once Fr Foley retired,he always celebrated the traditional Latin Mass.
I hope that you and your husband are well.
My other blog 'whitesmokeahoy' is still chugging along - a survivor of the 'papal flotilla'.
Best wishes, Brian.

Jane said...

Thank you very much for this Brian. I would love a copy of the cutting and will email you about it later today.

'The Oasis' sails alongside 'Whitesmoke ahoy' being, as far as I know, the only other survivor of 'Confiteor's' flotilla.

Jane said...

Brian, I now realise I don't have an email address for you. I'm not sure why you asked for an email address but here it is anyway.

If you email me via that in the ordinary way I can reply with postal address. Hope this helps.

Thanks again,