Cardinal Burke at Ramsgate

Sacred ministers, tired children, hard-working parishioners and many visitors from far afield are now home (or still on their way) from a wonderful evening at St Augustine's, Ramsgate. The Rector of the Shrine, Fr Marcus Holden, invited Cardinal Burke to celebrate Pontifical High Mass at the throne. Fr Louis Poucin de Wouilt came all the way from Gricigliano to MC and did a great job with discretion and quiet authority. He was only ordained priest last July for the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest and took charge of the ceremonies with exemplary calm and expertise.

I have some experience of Pontifical Mass but am by no means an expert, so I mugged up with Fortescue and Ahearne & Lane but was still rather nervous at the prospect of being Deacon for the Mass. Fortunately, since I sing Mass every Sunday, chanting the Gospel is not so daunting, but it is easy to go suddenly blank at various points, wondering what comes next that is different from the usual High Mass. Thanks to the Lord, I don't think my mistakes were too obvious.

It was a full day. The rehearsal for sacred ministers was at noon - it was great to have a convivial lunch afterwards with a good group of clergy and laity. Since I am only just over ten minutes drive from Ramsgate, I got back to do a little work at the desk before returning. In the meantime, the servers had their practice at 4pm. I was proud to have two servers from St Austin and St Gregory, Margate on the packed sanctuary.

In fact, the whole place was packed in a way that perhaps hasn't been seen for some time. The sanctuary choir was filled with Norbertines, Oratorians, Benedictines, Knights of Malta and brother footsloggers of the secular clergy, as well as servers old and young. In the nave and aisle, it seemed as though every element of Pugin's architectural masterpiece was complemented by the living faithful who came from far and wide to be there for the historic visit not only of a Cardinal, but of a man of courage and fidelity in his witness to the faith committed by Christ to the apostles.

It was a privilege to be with Cardinal Burke at the prayers before and after Mass, and to assist at the splendid ceremonies which give way at the heart, to the simple, yet awesome offering of the sacrifice in which the highest prelate is equal to the simplest curate when humbly, with fear and trembling, exercising his priestly power over the body and blood of the Lord who comes in silence and mystery to dwell among His people.

At the reception afterwards, His Eminence was generous with his time, affable and approachable, welcoming young and old with kindly words and a blessing. His sermon was commented on by everyone I spoke to - doubtless the text will be available soon. I am looking forward to a trip up to London tomorrow to hear him again when he will be speaking to the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy at St Patrick's, Soho Square.

Photo credit: Mulier Fortis

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