Thursday, 30 July 2020

The New Normal of Holy Mass

Having talked about the ‘new normal’ last week, I said that I might talk through some ‘new normal’ things about Holy Mass this week. The first thing I want to do is to draw a line between the older liturgy (sometimes called the Latin Mass or Extraordinary Form) and the new Mass which was written in the 60s. I have no interest in debating liturgy etc., frankly I can’t be bothered. Blood, sweat and tears have gone into that, and my life on earth is too short. What I want to do again, is to show how the ‘new normal’ is not new at all, but rather that the things that we have been doing for the past decades have been a ‘blip’ in the practice of the Church. You see, the Old Mass developed through centuries. It knew plague and disaster. It had changed so that the Priest and the People were kept safe while at the same time the Mass could continue to be offered. 

What are the things which have been banned in the new rite? The sign of peace (always optional in the new rite, but not a part of the older liturgy); receiving the Precious Blood (only the Priest receives this in the Latin Mass); people doing readings and bidding prayers (I have no idea why our Bishops say that bidding prayers are dangerous, but there you go - but these things do not exist in the older Mass); the length of Mass (we are instructed that the older forms of the said Mass should not be too long); speaking while administering the Sacred Host on an eye level (the Old Rite has the person kneeling, so there is no exchange of breath); the cleaning of the hands by the Priest (in the Latin Mass we have prayers when we thoroughly wash our hands before we come out, then more to say at the offertory - and guess what, they take about 20 seconds!, and then the Priest touches nothing with the two fingers with which he will administer the sacred host - which is why we keep those fingers together while saying Mass); we can no longer speak words of consecration over hosts which are exposed on the altar and which the people will consume (we usually give communion from the Tabernacle in the Old Rite - a practice that was scorned when I was training to be a Priest, but which, guess what, is now best practice!). 

In fact the only thing that you will find at variance with the ancient practices, and what the bishops are now imposing, is communion in the hand versus communion on the tongue, and I’m afraid that is more to do with ideology than health - I touch a higher percentage of hands than I do tongues when I administer Holy Communion, and since the virus lives on surfaces, I do not lick the door handles and pews when I come into Church, but I do touch them!

So… a lot of what we ended up with in the past years after the New Mass was written in the 60s were quasi Protestant practices, dressed up as ‘early Church’ but which came from a history, tradition and context which was not Catholic. It was fine for the Methodists all to receive the wine in little cups, because it was only ever wine - that is their theology. Communion in the hand has to be at odds with our belief that ever particle of the Sacred Host is the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of Christ, and I pop it onto an unclean palm, and if any drops off, well, they drop off. If you don’t believe that It is God, and the Protestant communities don’t, then there is no harm in it. In ‘simplifying’ the liturgy not only did we get rid of the layers of symbolic meaning, we also got rid of the centuries of development which gave rise to it. And that development included plague and disease. Of course Mass is safe! If it’s done in safe way. The Old Mass is safe because that’s how it adapted, the new one isn’t because it never existed in a time of disease, and as soon as one comes along all of those things which are its hallmarks have to be banned - the new normal starts to look like the old one. 

The new normal reached behind the stuff that we have been doing, to an older liturgy which breathed plague air, and survived, which looked on the sick infectious with disease, and kept going, and which was offered in the midst of pandemics and infestations, and which kept everyone safe. 

Perhaps we can learn from this, to think twice before we dismiss what the development of the ages has given to us.

Monday, 27 July 2020

Mass figures 25/26 July 2020

The Mass figures for the weekend 25/26. 

The figure in brackets the lower end of how many 'units' can attend. A unit can be one single person, or a whole family/household/bubble - or even those who have travelled together in the same car.So the figure in the brackets can increase. So in Shepton it may be only that 40 single people attend, but if they are in bubbles/families/households/cars, then the number can be much larger.

Shepton Saturday 6.00pm - 16  (40) - down 19
Glastonbury Saturday 6.00pm - 38 (50) - up 3
Cheddar Sunday 9.00am - 24 (25) - down 6
Shepton Sunday 9.00am - 29 (40) - up 1
Wells Sunday 10.30am - 28 (16) - up 6
Glastonbury Sunday 10.30am - 25 (50) - down 11
Cheddar Sunday 11am - no information
Glastonbury Sunday 12.15 - 31 (50) - down 1
Glastonbury Sunday 5.00pm - 32 (50) - up 19

Our number this weekend were down 11 on the weekend before over the four parishes. 

223 people came to Mass in total. Our Mass figures would normally have been 573.

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Mass Figures

Here are the Mass figures for last weekend. The figure in brackets the lower end of how many 'units' can attend. A unit can be one single person, or a whole family/household/bubble - or even those who have travelled together in the same car.So the figure in the brackets can increase. So in Shepton it may be only that 40 single people attend, but if they are in bubbles/families/households/cars, then the number can be much larger.

Shepton Saturday 6.00pm - 35  (40)
Glastonbury Saturday 6.00pm - 35 (50)
Cheddar Sunday 9.00am - 30 (25)
Shepton Sunday 9.00am - 28 (40)
Wells Sunday 10.30am - 22 (16)
Glastonbury Sunday 10.30am - 36 (50)
Cheddar Sunday 11am - no information
Glastonbury Sunday 12.15 - 32 (50)
Glastonbury Sunday 5.00pm - 13 (50)

The only Mass to be careful about at Wells, and Cheddar 9.00am is getting full. The Masses that can easily expand, because of the size of the Church are at Glastonbury. We estimate that the range of number of people that can be accommodated in Glastonbury is 50-120 (with and in suitable bubbles!!!)

Before lockdown the average number of people attending the four parishes was 650. We estimate 250 currently attend.

There is still no obligation to hear Sunday Mass.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

The New Normal Grrrr

If you managed to look at the blog and the little talks/homilies, then you may have come across one called the ‘New Normal’. If you did then you’ll know that I’m not too keen on the phrase (hence the ‘Grrrrr’ in the title).

I believe that this is not a ‘new normal’ but rather that what we have been living through for the past 60 or 70 years has been profoundly un-normal. From the 1950s onwards we started to believe that science and technology and society would be able to sort everything out. We would only ever go forward. Things could and would only get better. Even when new diseases came (AIDS in the 80s) we found a way to live with it. We became richer. Life became easier. We had more gadgets. We had access to everything at our fingertips. Early on, we threw off the old ways ‘that was what we used to do, we are new and different now - things have moved on, things are better’. This involved liberation, free to do what you like, and with whoever you like. And there were no consequences.

What a lovely world. I’d like to live there. I’d love to live there. Who wouldn’t? But of course it wasn’t real. We don’t all get richer. We can’t do anything we want. There are consequences. And science and technology is not going to get us to live forever in a paradise on earth. That was our ‘normal’. That is what the world told us was true. When our faith told its ancient story of sin and redemption, of turning from self to become like Christ, of obedience, of eyes fixed on heaven and not on the passing baubles of this world… well we know what happened, don’t we? Our Churches emptied, our Priests ran off, our convents closed, people did not know the faith, and if they knew it, then they did not accept it. “I’ll have a slice of religion please, but that one over there. The one with all the topping on that I like. Not the other bit, you can keep that.” We fooled ourselves that we were in charge, both in the world, in society and in the Church. Guess what… we’re not.

A virus comes. The world stops. Our eyes are opened. We are mortal. Stuff happens. We won’t live forever. We can’t eat money. If no one phones you, then no one phones you. Science has not solved this one, and if it does, guess what, there’s another one just round the corner. Actions have consequences. The ‘freedoms’ we prized have led to death, rioting, the destruction of the our places of worship and our statues. To the slaughter of life in the womb, and life in the care home. To the devaluing of what it means to be a human being so much that I can decide that I will be anything or anyone I want, and if you don’t like it I’ll have you sacked and hated and threatened.

This was the result of the “Old Normal” of the past 60 years. The ‘New’ one reaches back past all this nonsense to what we know is true. The eternal consequences of action: the humility of knowing that our true identity is in the eyes of God and the love of family and friends; the joy of scientific advancement, but responsible and serving us rather than driving us. Our eyes must be raised to Heaven. We stopped looking for a bit, and this virus has given us the opportunity of getting things in perspective again. Eyes up, my dear people, eyes up to God!

I might have a go at the New Normal of Mass next week. Guess what… it’s the same argument.

Friday, 17 July 2020

As we approach his octave day...

Our Holy Father St Benedict

Saturday 11th is one of the great feasts of St Benedict, our holy patron, after whom we are named. His main feast is March 21st, but this secondary feast is of a high rank for us. There are unholy doings attached to this date, and you may not be surprised to find that they involve the French!

There was a certain learned French Priest in the 7th century, who wished to go and venerate the body of Holy Benedict, and went to the place where the Saint had died, about 70 miles from Rome. There was no place which marked St Benedict’s tomb, so the Priest prayed, and the spot was revealed to one of his company. They dug and found two holy saints under a marble slab, St Benedict and his sister St Scholastica. They gathered the holy relics and took them back to Fleury in France. St Scholastica ended up in Le Mans. So this is how St Benedict ended up with two dates; the traditional date of his death, March 21st, and the date of his translation to Fleury, July 11th. The Italians and the monks of Montecassino either deny that this took place at all, or that the holy bones were swiped in a nefarious way by French priest or priests unknown.

So what about unholy doings? Well. Before 1066 ad, (and all that) and the slight little invasion by the French under William the Conqueror, we Benedictines celebrated our Saint on the usual day of March 21st… but, behold, here comes the French, and they keep the celebration on July 11th! The date of the triumphant translation (theft) of St Benedict to Fleury, and “hurrah for the French because we have the bone of St Benedict, so should be top nation and take over England”. The English monks were not too pleased at this, but the new Archbishop Lanfranc (starting life as an Italian, then a Benedictine Abbot in Bec in Normandy) was made Archbishop of Canterbury in 1070ad, after Archbishop Stigand had been deposed. So, to reinforce all things French in the New World Order under King William, Lanfranc imposed July 11th as the feast of St Benedict.

Such skulduggery! Such unholy doings! So dastardly! So underhand! So typical!

We English monks quietly obeyed… and had a huge celebration on both days! We are in the middle of St Benedict’s Octave - eight days of compulsory celebrations, so thanks Lanfrac, because we keep March 21st as well!

Thursday, 16 July 2020


I've said it before and I'll say it again... no shouting in Church.

Now it's official. This is from Government guidelines...

people should avoid singing, shouting, raising voices and/or playing music at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult or that may encourage shouting.


Friday, 10 July 2020

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

The Weekend Masses

Fish and Chips... yum, yum, yum.

Many thanks to all who helped out last weekend. Needless to say, we will continue to need help to keep our Churches open.

The numbers, understandably were not great, and we could easily have accommodated more, so if you want to come to Mass on Saturday or Sunday, then please do. But, as we have said, there is no obligation.

In other news...

Dom Anselm and I have a 'day away' - a Dies Non - the first Monday of the month, and so we went off, after the morning Masses, to Thornbury.

We went into a pub.
And ate fish and chips.
There was no one on the door with hand spray.
We were not two metres apart from other diners.
We did not have to wear masks.
We could go to the toilet.
We were handed a menu.
A nice lady spoke to us, directly in front of us.
She wasn't wearing gloves.
Neither were we.
We went out the same way we went in.

We had a lovely time.

I'm not entirely sure why it is more difficult to come to Mass than it is to go out for fish and chips in a pub.

But we obey... we obey... we obey...

Friday, 3 July 2020

Return to Mass

The Return of Public Mass

This weekend sees the return of Public Masses. We have been saying Masses throughout the lockdown, and praying for you all, especially those of you who we know have been in distress. You may not have known it, but we have held you in our prayers, as I know many of you have remembered us.

The guidelines for opening the Churches are a combination of Government and Diocesan guidelines. We will run through some of the implications in a moment. The most obvious is the change in the Mass times and the number of Masses, both during the week and on the weekend. We have had to be influenced only by the size and layout of each of our four Churches, and trying to coordinate times. The Bishops have not reimposed the Sunday Obligation, so if you wish to come to Mass, then please think of coming to a weekday Mass instead of Sunday. The numbers will be very restricted. The average number allowed at each Church is approximately as follows: Glastonbury 50; Cheddar 25; Shepton 30; Wells 16.

Now that the Churches are open for public Masses, the previous ‘Church Opening times’ are no longer in place. Thank you to all who facilitated our Churches being open. We will still need one person at the door at each Mass, and people to clean the Church after each Mass. We will be in touch if you have helped so far, and if you can help in the future, please let us know. Per week, under the new timetable, Wells will have 3 Masses (two weekday one weekend), Shepton 3 Masses (one weekday, two weekend), Cheddar 3 Masses (one week day two weekend - Fr Wally will also offer weekday Masses in the Classroom), Glastonbury 5 Masses (two weekday, three weekend - as well as daily Latin Mass to which all are welcome). This maximises the number of people we can say Mass for, as well as us keeping somewhere near sane.

The Mass schedule is on the next page of this extended bulletin. Note the changed Mass times, especially that there is no Vigil Mass in Wells. For Vigils and Sundays: there is an additional Vigil Mass in Shepton at 6.00pm (Saturday), an additional Mass in Cheddar at 11.00am in the Classroom, and an additional Mass and changed Mass times at Glastonbury. Please let people know these changes if they do not have access to the internet.

Concerning Mass: Please keep a 2m distance where possible (including coming up to Communion - except in Wells, see below). Use the hand sanitiser when offered. Communion is under one kind, and at the English Masses this must be in the hand. Please leave your collection in the basket provided (please consider making your offering by standing order). There are no Sacristans, Readers, Servers, Bidding Prayers, Extra-ordinary Ministers, shared hymnbooks or Mass leaflets. Singing is not permitted. As you leave Mass, keeping your distance from others and please do not congregate around the doors of the Church. At all other times the Churches have to be kept closed, so that they do not need to be deep cleaned before each Mass. If you have keys, please only enter the Church at the advertised times, or by arrangement with one of us. We have no choice about any of these. We had to get written permission from the Diocese and if we do nor follow these guidelines, then they will be completely closed again.

Because of the very limited numbers, the Sunday Mass in Wells is for people who cannot travel, and who have been isolated/vulnerable. We have been given permission to administer Holy Communion in a particular way so that the Church in Wells can be opened again. If those for whom this is intended are not allowed to make use of it, then we will close this Sunday Mass and say an additional Mass elsewhere.

The format of this new bulletin will change in the coming weeks, but we no longer have the luxury of thinking of my Mass, or even my Parish. We need to know everything that is happening in our four Churches. As someone once said, we are all in this together. Please travel to Mass and be considerate of the needs of other people.

This all seems terribly draconian… but it is better than what we had a week ago. We do not know how long this situation will continue for, but it is going to be months at the very least. If we get into good habits now, then it will be easier in the long run.

We will see you soon!

Thursday, 2 July 2020

New Sunday Timetable

New Mass Schedule

Vigil Masses:
6.00pm Shepton
6.00pm Glastonbury

Sunday Masses
9.00am Cheddar
9.00am Shepton
10.30am Wells (those who cannot travel, etc)
10.30am Glastonbury
11.00am Cheddar (Classroom with Fr Wally)
12.15pm Glastonbury (Latin)
5.00pm Glastonbury

Please note:
There is no longer a Vigil Mass at Wells.
The Mass times in Glastonbury have changed, and the Latin Mas has moved from the evening.

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