Saturday, 16 June 2012

Pugin, Augustine and the Sacred Heart

Ramsgate 018
Tiles from the Chantry chapel at St Augustine's Ramsgate (sorry about the feet)

Fr Roger Nesbitt once referred to the high speed train through Kent as the "magic train." I took it yesterday and whizzed from Ebbsfleet to Ashford in 18 minutes. The next two legs, either side of Canterbury, were slower, but I was at Ramsgate Station in less than an hour.

The Pilgrimage of the Sodality of the Five Holy Wounds began with Missa Cantata in the Church that Pugin himself regarded as his ideal Church. It was a windy day and for lunch we packed out a small cafe perched over the sea.

After lunch, we had an excellent talk and tour given by Catriona from the Pugin Society. Fr Marcus Holden, Parish Priest of Ramsgate and director of the Shrine of St Augustine of Canterbury, spoke of the significance of St Augustine himself. We finished the day with Benediction, including the Litany of the Five Holy Wounds and the Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart.

It was very much a family day, with lots of young children. They seemed to be fascinated by the details of the Church. At one point, I saw two of the smaller ones sitting on a prie-dieu, and tracing the intricate carving with their fingers. The sheer visual beauty of Pugin's masterpiece must have made an impression on all of them.

Having been catapulted back to Ebbsfleet on the magic train, I drove over to St Mary's Chislehurst to celebrate Low Mass and Benediction (again including the Act of Reparation.) To finish, we sang this stirring hymn:

I remember in my youth that this was one of the hymns most despised as old fashioned, a prime candidate for consignment to the dustbin of pre-Vatican II relics. It was held up as an example of shallow sentimentality (unlike the modern hymn "does a motherrrrr forgeeeet her baaaybeeeee..." for example.) In the 1970s, anyone who did not expunge "To Jesus heart all burning" from their repertoire would risk the kind of contempt reserved for those who failed to nail formica over their panelled doors, smash up their Edwardian fireplaces or cover their tiled floor with padded vinyl.
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