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Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Memories of Michael Davies

The Sunday before last (25 September) I offered Mass for the repose of the soul of Michael Davies on the occasion of his anniversary. The Mass was kindly requested by the latest of my parishioners to start a blog (The Hilaire Belloc blog) and was attended by Maria Davies, Michael's wife.

Michael and my father were good friends. Their primary concern in the late 1960s as Catholic primary school teachers, was the collapse of Catholic catechesis and the rampant spread of modernist teaching which spread throughout Catholic schools in a few short years after the second Vatican Council. Along with others from Pro Fide, they campaigned tirelessly against the teaching of the Corpus Christi College which promoted the New Catechetics. It was eventually shut down by Cardinal Heenan after he was confronted with materials that undermined the divinity of Christ, though there was no official recognition of the problems it had caused or the justice of the cause of those who opposed it.

On a lighter note, I remember an experiment that Michael used to run with his class of 11 year old juniors. At the end of term, he would leave several piles of holy cards on his desk and simply tell the children that they could take whichever ones they wanted. Some of the cards had traditional devotional pictures of the Sacred Heart, the Crucifixion, or Our Lady; others (in equal numbers) were the sort that had come into vogue in the late 1960s with trees, flowers or snowscapes overlaid with a meaningful verse from scripture or some other source. He would chuckle and tell us that the children took most of the traditional ones but left the modern ones behind.

Michael's energies became particularly focussed on defence and restoration of the traditional liturgy, and it is his writings on this subject which are best known.

Michael came to my ordination in 1984 and attend the first usus antiquior Mass which I celebrated: the funeral of Agnes Waddelove on 7 January 2002. Agnes died on 27 December and her family asked me to say the old Mass. I immediately said that of course I would, and then on my way home realised that I only had a few days to learn how to celebrate it. I went carefully through the Ritus Servandus, then had a run-through with Fr Charles Briggs. With a good server I managed to get through without disaster. Michael Davies attended the funeral and was most encouraging to me. Afterwards he sent me some altar cards and a book of instructions.

Michael's funeral was at Fr Briggs' parish of St Mary's, Chislehurst on 22 October 2004. He had asked for Fr Edwards to be celebrant, Fr Briggs to be deacon, and myself to be subdeacon. In the event, Fr Briggs was not well enough to be deacon and Fr William Hudson of the ICKSP stepped in - but I remember thinking that Michael must have had his characteristic Welsh twinkle in his eye when making the request for three serving parish priests of the Archdiocese to celebrate Solemn High Mass in the old rite. (Remember that this was before the pontificate of Pope Benedict and Summorum Pontificum.)

When I think of Michael and my father, I often feel a little sad that they did not see the developments that have taken place in the Church. They would both have been ecstatic at the election of Pope Benedict and the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum. I'm quite sure they both would have started blogs. Imagine what a Michael Davies blog would have been like!

After our recent Mass for Michael, a correspondent reminded me of the message sent by the then Cardinal Ratzinger for the occasion of his funeral:
I have been profoundly touched by the news of the death of Michael Davies. I had the good fortune to meet him several times and I found him to be a man of deep faith and ready to embrace suffering. Ever since the Council he put all his engergy into the service of the faith and left us important publications especially on the sacred liturgy. Even though he suffered from the Church in many ways in his time, he always truly remained a man of the Church. He knew that the Lord founded His Church on the rock of Peter and that the faith can find its fullness and maturity only in union with the successor of Saint Peter. Therefore we can be confident that the Lord opened wide for him the gates of heaven. We commend his soul to the Lord's mercy.
There was a very good Memorial notice for Michael in the Remnant. If you scroll down to the foot of the page there are links to several other articles about him.
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