Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bathurst to Sydney

It was a special privilege on Wednesday to attend the Mass of an old friend of mine – especially as he used the new translation of the Eucharistic Prayer.  Despite alerting me to this forward-thinking move (quite licit, of course, and happening more and more in anticipation of the official changeover), I managed to momentarily surprise him by replying "And with your spirit" at the outset of the Preface dialogue.  Unfortunately I couldn't remember the rest of the changes in wording of the people's parts...

Earlier that day, I visited Bathurst Cathedral.  Apparently it bears the unusual joint dedication of St Michael Archangel and St John Baptist because the two pioneer priests in Bathurst had each named an earlier church there after their respective name-saints Michael and John, and when the decision was made to build a larger, finer edifice, to be the Cathedral of the new diocese, the only alternative to a feud or duel was to re-use both names!

Most regrettably, the place of reservation of the Blessed Sacrament (off in the north transept, in what was once the nuns' chapel) is scarcely fitting, and ought be improved upon pronto: it looks like Granny's antique dresser or meatsafe.

I eventually realized, given the kneeler and chairs before it, the corporal in front of the curtains, and the lamp (way over to the right, out of shot), that this odd thing was the tabernacle....

As Bp Elliott remarks in one of his works, it is quite wrong to separate the Sacrament from the Altar – if (as is the norm in cathedrals) there is to be a separate Blessed Sacrament chapel, it should have its own altar; the Sacrament could be reserved on or near it, in a fitting tabernacle or Sacrament House.  This would also make for a smaller and more convenient venue for weekday Mass. 

The sanctuary was re-ordered, in what by Australian standards is a fairly conservative way, at the time of the Council, by moving the table of the high altar forward.  The carpet is, well, typical for the era...  I wonder what happened to the old episcopal throne?

Most bizarrely, the deceased bishops of Bathurst are accommodated, not in a crypt (for Bathurst is criss-crossed by underground streams, even under the Cathedral, rendering excavations impractical), but in a room in the steeple!  Talk about bats in the belfry.  Apparently their charnel house resembles a walk-in luggage locker, with the caskets each on a shelf.  Bishops and priests do make very strange decisions sometimes.

Before leaving the Cathedral, I prayed before Our Lady of the Central West at her altar just off the nave midway down its length.  May she intercede for the good of this diocese!

Later in the day in Bathurst, I had the pleasure of an excellent lunch in good company: it's always most enjoyable to engage in conversation with a well-read, cultured person, while partaking of the best of the local gourmet produce.  Moreover, thanks to his extensive knowledge of wines, we shared a smooth and most drinkable bottle of petit verdot grown near Canowindra (close to Cowra).  It was hard to drag myself away in mid-afternoon; I do hope I'll be back from time to time.

On to Sydney!  The drive through Lithgow was easy, but the steep Victoria Pass caught me unawares – quite luckily, since I have a fear of heights, and would have brooded on its approach overmuch, instead of just driving it.  It brought me up to the first of the Blue Mountains townships, Mt Victoria, over a kilometre about sea level.  First, a meander through various other of these settlements, including a detour through Katoomba (where for lack of time I had to forego visiting the lookout overlooking the Three Sisters that I remember from a visit as a child); then, the long, slow descent toward Sydney, as the shadows lengthened.  By the time I was down to Penrith and onto the freeway, it was dark – for a long way, the traffic shot along, but then there was a real snarl once Homebush was passed.

I was very impressed with myself for finally getting out of the heavy traffic and correctly turning off Paramatta Road just two blocks from my friend's place.  It's only 205 km from Bathurst to Sydney, but it was a tough and wearing drive I found.

John was a very gracious host, and it was good to meet his flatmate, Sydney (yes, that's right).  We all talked away till the midnight hour...

I twitted John about his peculiar taste in sacred art: what do readers make of this shrine to St Sebastian that graces his library?

The painting is an original artwork by an inmate of Pentridge Prison

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