Wasting time over breakfast &c. nearly led me to be late for Mass, but in the event my map-reading bore fruit, and I arrived right on the stroke of 10 am at the Oratory of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Rutland Street, St Albans. (I later learnt the amusing coincidence from the celebrant that he had been a member of the Plymouth Brethren prior to his conversion, and that the present chapel used to belong to the same sect.) The congregation of about 25 were singing "O purest of creatures" as an entrance hymn; Low Mass with two servers followed.
Fr Clement Mary, F.Ss.R., is a Scotsman, and read Mass with excellent diction and pronunciation, since his accent better fits the continental vowels - I hope one day to hear Mark, the Scots blogger now soon to join the F.S.S.P., likewise praying at God's altar. It was not a dialogue Mass (the servers alone responded); before preaching, Fr read the Epistle and Gospel in English (for the Epistle and Sermon, he wore a biretta, having laid aside the maniple as usual, and read the Gospel bareheaded; before the sermon, we all said a Hail Mary); there was a Third Confiteor; and the Leonine Prayers were read kneeling after Mass. The final hymn was the Redemptorist favourite, "Mary from thy sacred image" - a fine old Dutch copy of the Icon of Perpetual Succour hung as an altarpiece.
Mass, as I had surmised, was of the Sunday after Ascension; it was noteworthy how to-day's Epistle is full of the best advice on the moral life (Luther rudely noted that "whoever arranged the readings from the Epistles was 'a friend of works'"), and very neatly divides up into the Little Chapters to be read at Terce, Sext and None this day.
The sermon itself reminded me in the best way of Fr Rowe's clear doctrinal preaching, adducing many useful examples from the saints: as the Dove of the Holy Ghost visibly appearing at the ear of Popes St Gregory the Great and Gregory VII, indicating their gracing with the Gift of Wisdom; and the illapse of the Spirit's ball of fire into the heart of St Philip Neri, permanently expanding his heart, fulfilling beyond measure his fervent prayers to be made a fit instrument of the Holy Ghost, to the extent that he trembled with joy and Divine love, needing to beg God to abate His consolations, lest he die. We ought have the greatest of devotion to the Third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, Equal to the Father and the Son: if we be in the state of grace, Love dwells in our souls, is the Soul of our soul, and thus (as St Teresa of Avila avers) we have no reason to seek after transient things and vain, seeing as nothing outside can compare with our heart's Treasure: we each of us are, like St Ignatius of Antioch, to be surnamed Theophorus, "God-bearer" - hence, grieve not the Spirit! He it is Who perfects our knowledge and love of Christ, and is the Sanctifier and Lifegiver. Thus the Blessed Virgin and the Apostles prayed, and only when He came was the work of saving souls made active and fruitful: all had been prepared by Our Lord, but it was expedient that He return to heaven, that the Holy Ghost come and fulfil all things.
Fr Clement was very pleasant to speak with at the parish cup of tea afterward, and explained that, several of their singers being away, it would be appreciated if I bolstered the choir for their sung Mass for Pentecost! (The Propers will be recto tono, it seems; but he wants me to sing the Sequence; the Ordinary will be good ol' de Angelis and I expect Credo III.) Veni, Sancte Spiritus! As Pentecost is very dear to me, this is a wonderful thing to be asked to assist in.