Monday, June 8, 2009

Monday Pilgrimage to Colebrook

To-day, being The Queen's Birthday holiday here in Tasmania (N.Z. and W.A. had it last week), there was the leisure to spend the day in devotion: young Tristan having been baptized last evening, his parents wished to dedicate him to Our Lady, and so events had been set in train that led to a pilgrimage being held...

How appropriate indeed!  The lessons at Matins this morning (I Kings, or I Samuel, i, 1-11) - the first ferial day after the great seasons of Septuagesimatide, Lent, Eastertide and Whitsuntide, as I noticed so forcibly while reading Matins and Lauds this morn before arising (wot, no Alleluia?) - were about Anna promising her hoped-for child to the Lord, since to-day the Church begins to read the four Books of Kings (or I & II Samuel and I&II Kings if you prefer), from the origins of Samuel, devoted to the Lord and the one to anoint first Saul, then David as King, to the destruction of faithless Jerusalem after her kings failed to keep fidelity with God.  (All this is to be understood as signifying Christ, the Promised One, the True King of Salem, the True Priest in the line of Melchisedech King of Salem, the Faithful and True, the One Israel longed for in the knowledge that mere man has no power of himself to save himself or to keep faith with God: only the Mediator between God and man can bridge the gap and establish the True Faith, to keep which by His grace is our salvation, to enter into which is by Baptism into His death, to consecrate ourselves to Him is the goal of this life and of eternal life.)

It had been decided that to begin with all would assemble by 10.30 am at Richmond, about 25 km from Hobart, and progress to St John's church there, the oldest extant church in the Commonwealth, praying the Rosary in honour of Our Lady Help of Christians, Patroness of Australia, begging her aid for all the pressing needs of our Nation and State, of the Catholic Church in Australia and in this archdiocese.  Despite the weather being cloudy and showery, twenty of us arrived and processed - singing the Rosary in Latin and the vernacular after the custom of the Christus Rex and Chartres pilgrimages - up to St John's, wherein Fr Tattersall and Steven led us in singing the prayer for our Pope Benedict, and then the Litanies of Loreto.  It was I suspect the first time since the Council that the Litanies were sung there in Latin... though back in 1995 I and others sang Vespers of the Ascension according to the Monastic Rite there.  We concluded after processing back to our cars about 11.15 am, and drove on the remaining 20 km or so to the tiny historic settlement of Colebrook...

At Colebrook, the beautiful and historic church of St Patrick, designed by Pugin, and built under Bishop Willson, has been restored (in an ongoing programme) by the Pugin Foundation; the latest addition is a devout shrine and statue of Our Lady of Colebrook, carved by French contemplative nuns and blessed by the local parish priest in 2008.  To Our Lady of Colebrook our pilgrimage had made its way...

First, at the heavenly call of the Angelus bell we knelt at Our Lady's feet and prayed that prayer in union with the whole Church Militant; and there we then concluded our Rosary, singing through to the final Salve Regina and prayer.

Next, the new Puginesque freestanding altar carefully moved to one side, and a portable organ brought into the chancel - separated from the nave by the restored rood screen, the only one of seven rood screens still preserved in a Pugin church - the old carven high altar was dressed for the Mass of the Ages, Mass as not celebrated there for forty years - and it was to be a Missa cantata, which records shew not to have been celebrated at Colebrook for more like seventy years.  How long, Lord, how long, cry the saints beneath the altar...

Just after twelve thirty Mass began.  Several of the choir were paratus, and in the chancel; it was great to be able to assist them by singing the Proper and Ordinary together with several others in the front pews, as I was kindly lent a Liber as I had been yesterday.  The Liturgy was a Votive of Our Lady, using the Common Salve sancta parens, with Mass IX (Cum jubilo) - Our Lady's Mass - and Offertory hymn Virgo Dei Genetrix, the Communion antiphon extended with the Magnificat, Our Lady's own song of humble worship, and after Mass that marching song of the Australian Church Militant, "Help of Christians, guard this land".  In consonance with the last item, the orations of the Mass were those of Our Lady Help of Christians.  (Piously, it transpired, on the few occasions the local priest is able to come and say Mass in this village, he chooses feasts of Our Lady: there had last been Mass here on the 24th of May, Our Lady Help of Christians, and before that perhaps for St Patrick, or else back in December for the Immaculate Conception.)

There were about twenty-five at Mass all told, including some who had travelled far to reach this church, this shrine and this Mass.  Fr Tattersall preached with reference to the Gospel, Blessed those who hear the Word of God and keep it, pointing out how supremely this was fulfilled by the Blessed Virgin herself, conceiving the Word in her heart by faith ere she conceived Him in her womb by the Holy Ghost (as Augustine saith), and remaining constant in her faith and Fiat through the events of Christ's childhood, passion and resurrection, until she prayed perseveringly in the Cenacle with the apostles and disciples for the promised Paraclete Who would energise the nascent Church.  How appropriate it was that Colebrook was formerly named Jerusalem!  Rightly could we triple name Our Lady as Help of Christians, Our Lady of Colebrook, yea, Our Lady of Jerusalem.  

Faith is the key, he continued: the church of St Patrick, Colebrook, is not merely an example of technical proficiency, but a testimony to faith, the faith of Pugin, the faith of Bishop Willson, the faith of our fathers (and, one may add, in its restoration this church witnesses to the faith still smouldering beneath the ashes).  In the face of the great needs of our time, we turn as Pope Pius VII did to Our Lady Help of Christians; as he returned to Rome in triumph after the defeat of his captor, the terrible Napoleon, whenas in men's eyes the Church and Papacy had seemed overthrown and finally doomed, he ascribed such unexpected deliverance to the maternal intercession of the Mother of God; thus likewise did the first bishops of Australasia, shepherding a poor convict flock in the face of oppression and bigotry, turn to the Blessed Virgin for aid under this hope-filled title.  By entrusting all our cares and affairs to her, we do but renew and bring to mind the consequences of Christ's committal of all men, in the person of the Beloved Disciple, to His Mother at Calvary; by dedicating ourselves to her, who is the First Disciple, Model of all believers, we find a sure path to rededicate ourselves and all ours to God, to Whom and by Whom we were forever consecrated at our Baptism.  Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God: that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

The Holy Sacrifice completed, soon afterward the final ceremonies of the day transpired: Tristan's mother was churched - there's a beaut service, the churching of women, their thanksgiving after childbirth - and Tristan dedicated to Our Lady at her shrine, whereupon we sang Sub tuum præsidium, that oldest extant prayer to the Mother of God: "We fly to thy patronage, O Holy Mother of God: despise not our petitions in our necessities, but ever deliver us from all dangers,  O glorious and blessed Virgin."

We concluded the festivities with picnic lunch in the park at Colebrook - did I mention that before Mass the clouds had rolled back and the sun shone bright, though it remained cold, our breath visible as we sang? - and a good time was had by all.  (After reading None in the church, I left for home about 3.45 pm, and reached Launceston at 5.30.)

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