The Rosary Crusade of Reparation yesterday was an overwhelming expression of Catholic devotion in the heart of London. About 2,000 people walked in procession from Westminster Cathedral to the London Oratory, saying the Rosary and singing hymns. The Metropolitan Police ably escorted the procession, stopping the traffic at the various junctions and clearing the roads as the throng of people wound their way past the embassies in Belgravia and the chic shops of Sloane Street. Chanel, Prada, Christian Dior, Gucci, Hermes and Versace all gazed at Our Lady of Fatima, then Harvey Nichols and Harrods where the anti-fur campaigners were briefly drowned out by the Ave Maria.
The procession was led by the processional cross, young servers, the young men of the Confraternity of the Precious Blood, the Knights of Malta and the clergy. In the picture below, you can see Andrew Swampillai, Fr Wadsworth (purple pom-pom on the biretta), Jamie Bogle, Fr Philip de Freitas, myself and Fr Basden (of Clapham Park). Talking to the marshals is Commander Neville McNally.
The Crusade involved "people of every race and language". There were Philipinos, Sri Lankans, Indians, Nigerians, Ghanaians, Spanish, Colombian, Canadians, Jamaicans, and who knows ... Birettas were not the only headgear in evidence. For this occasion, Mantillas were also commonplace - everyone was able to express their Catholic faith and devotion. It was great also to see a number of seminarians from Wonersh who had come to the procession on their day off. Many thanks to John Chandler who kindly agreed to take some photographs on my camera.
The principal statue of Our Lady of Fatima was carried in pride of place. However, people brought other statues and crucifixes and lots of different banners to walk in procession.
After the people flocked into the Oratory through all the available doors, took up all the seats and standing room round the Church, the procession entered. Pictured below, in the uniform of the Knights of Malta, is Julian Chadwick, the Chairman of the Latin Mass Society. The LMS made all the practical arrangements for the procession including marshalling and stewarding, contacting the police who provided outriders to stop the traffic, and all the publicity and materials for the people.
Gordon Dimon, the LMS Master of Ceremonies looked after the procession itself. Once we were inside the Oratory, the Oratory MC took over, assisted by the Confraternity of the Precious Blood. At the Oratory, there were more hymns, a sermon, enrolment in the brown scapular, a "Farewell" to Our Lady and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Below, we see Fr Ronald Creighton-Jobe preparing to incense the statue of Our Lady of Fatima which had been carried by members of the Catholic Police Guild.
Below is a view of the full Oratory Church with myself in the magnificent pulpit, preaching to a vast congregation. More about that shortly (it was terrifying!)
The Crusade concluded with Benediction, given by Fr Ronald Creighton-Jobe and assisted by Fr Rupert McHardy as Deacon, and Fr Michael Lang as Subdeacon. After Benediction, we processed to the Lady Chapel where the Salve Regina was sung. And I mean sung! It was a moment to warm the heart of any good Catholic. About 2,000 people, kept in time by the splendid organ, bellowing out this ancient chant in Latin, honouring our Blessed Mother with their full hearts and voices.
This occasion must rank as one of the most splendid manifestations of Catholic faith in our country in recent years. The numbers have been swelled by the immigrant Catholics who have come to form part of the Catholic Church in London. At the same time, the clipped tones of the English middle and upper classes demonstrated that the Church is truly Catholic. There was no snobbery here - and no inverted snobbery. All were as one, witnessing to the faith they love, taking Our Lady onto the streets of London, and filling a Church that represents the high-point of English Catholic restoration - and not only in the 19th century.
I would encourage anyone who is dismayed by the falling numbers of clergy, or massgoers, or marriages, to come next year. This event neither seeks nor receives any official encouragement or support. If any ecclesial activity could be said to be of the people of God, it is this. You want to see the Church alive and kicking? Here is where the action is.