Sunday, 15 June 2008
Behind the scenes at the Pontifical Mass
The video clip above shows a part of the recessional at the end of yesterday's Pontifical Mass and it prompts me to post a few personal comments from the experience of assisting at the Mass.
You can see that I was walking slightly behind His Eminence who held the crozier in a not entirely vertical position. For anyone who is second assistant Deacon on such an occasion, I can warn you that you are liable to be stabbed in the foot by the crozier - as I was twice! I learned to keep out of the way.
The vestments we wore were heavily embroidered with gold thread but practical in that their Roman form allowed for all the necessary movement during the ceremonies. I now feel much more confident about taking a mitre off - something I have not had much experience of in the past since Bishops nowadays tend to do this themselves.
Fr Conlon, the Assistant Priest, had the job of moving the Missal stand and Missal - made of solid brass, it weighted about twenty pounds. Fr Southwell and I knelt on the marble altar step as required during Holy Communion. Since this lasted approximately fifteen minutes, I found it rather difficult to get up and move again. I felt a little chastened since one or two of the torchbearers, also kneeling on bare marble, could give me at least ten years.
I very much agree with Fr Symondson's observation that the sanctuary of Westminster Cathedral was shown at its best, being used for the purpose for which Bentley designed it. The marble decorations in the floor are a help too. Fr Southwell and I were able to stand symmetrically by placing ourselves in opposite marble "diamonds" and it was always easy to find the centre of the floor where one needs to genuflect.
One of the men who came to the Mass with Mark of Rise and Pray told us in the pub afterwards that he was using his hearing aid in order to benefit from the loop system. Since the microphone was left on, he got much more than the sermon, being able to hear those directions that are drowned out by the choir: "Get the mitre, GET THE MITRE!" etc.
Often at traditional Masses, there is a chance to catch up with old friends. Yesterday was an embarasse de richesse. There were many good friends at the Mass whom I did not the the chance to see and greet. As ever, I met many new friends too: people who come up and say "I don't know you, Father, but I read your blog." I am always very grateful to meet such people - you convince me that this blog is worth writing and that it is a genuine apostolate. Thank you for saying "Hello."