Tuesday, 15 September 2009

High mass in West Heath for Our Lady of Sorrows

This evening my fellow blogger and local LMS rep Dr. Matthew Doyle had organised a High Mass in the 1962 missal at the church of St. John Fisher, West Heath. At last, things are beginning to move in Birmingham and the Black Country for the extraordinary form. Until Summorum Pontificem Catholic traditionalism here was virtually in a ghetto: a tiny minority of stalwarts confined to a poorly attended Sunday indult low mass in St. Catherine of Siena, Bristol Street, and then later in the cloister chapel in the Birmingham Oratory.

This was only supplemented by the occasional private mass, usually in the Oratory. It was very rare for the 1962 missal to be celebrated in any of the other parishes in the region, mainly because there was a lot of suspicion and bad feeling against it and it’s followers a decade ago. And this was very often from many clergy and laity who were otherwise loyal to the orthodox faith and church’s magisterium. I can remember well the bitter disputes about the ‘Tridentine Mass’ and the untold resentment that they caused 15 years ago. It was seen as ‘schismatic’, ‘right wing’ by some, while some traddies were saying the Novus Ordo was heretical and invalid!

However, those days are at last gone. The former Oratory cloister chapel indult mass has been moved into the main church, and now it is effectively another Sunday mass, like all the others. Numbers attending have considerably increased, attracting many newcomers. But not only that, it is beginning to move out the Oratory into the other parishes in the city. St. Chad’s cathedral had it’s first EF mass for 40 years last year, while an EF mass will hopefully be arranged in St. Michael’s, West Bromwich, in November. The change in atmosphere has been very noticeable on all sides, and vastly better.


This has been the second High Mass celebrated here this year, with the last of the parish's patronal festival of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More. (See Matt Doyle's report here). Some of us in the Oratory choir as well as our organist came along to provide the music, and we had a Gregorian mass with Mass IX Cum Jubilo as the ordinary. At the end of it, I had the comment from one lady, "It was wonderful, it is like looking into the future". If only Robert Mickens of Tablet fame could have been present to overhear this! Well, here are some photos I took from the choir gallery:



The chants for the mass of Our Lady of Sorrows are notoriously difficult, so for the Gradual and Alleluia we had to default to singing in monotone. The Stabat Mater sequence we made a heroic attempt at, and while it was very beautiful chant, we thought it better to sing it to the Stabat Mater hymn melody. However tonight showed that you do not need major resources for good music for a high mass. With just 4 singers, and our very able Oratory organist with his brilliant improvisations on a poor electric organ, we created a quite impressive sound which was much appreciated afterwards. What a pity the church’s original pipe organ has given up the ghost: it had a excellent sound.





Canon of Mass



There was a buffet in the parish hall afterwards, and hopefully more high masses will be coming in the future. A low mass has been organised for this parish on the Feast of the Holy Rosary on Wednesday 7th October at 7.00pm.

1 comment:

Dr Matthew Doyle said...

Thanks Oliver. Despite less people there this time, it was a magnificent occasion with wonderful chant and a full complement of servers. It is good to note that the celebrant was the parish priest, his first public EF mass said. Also all the red servers are the parish's own lads.

God bless.