Saturday, October 31, 2015

Christus Rex Pilgrimage Diary

This year, I kept note of my experiences on the Christus Rex Pilgrimage… on which the following are based.

I flew out of Tasmania to Victoria just after 2 pm on Thursday 22nd October, and dallied at the airport till Simon collected me at five o'clock in his already pilgrim-filled minivan. I was dropped off at my hotel in Ballarat a little after 6:15 pm, and then attended the sung Requiem (advertised for 7 pm, but beginning at 7:17 pm) at the Cathedral, just around the corner. The full Gregorian propers were chanted, along with extra verses for the Introit, and the whole De profundis, interspersed with the repetend of the Lux æterna, at Communion time, after which the choir sang Anerio's polyphonic version of the Requiem Introit. About the only slight suggestion I would venture is that an extra verse or two of the Offertory could with advantage be chanted, in order to fill up the time. The Missa cantata concluded with the recessional hymn "The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended".

A little later, having registered, I had dinner and a pint or two with Hugh at a local Irish pub, before walking to a nearby supermarket for breakfast supplies.

Friday morning began very early for me, at 5 am, as I wanted to be properly organised for the pilgrimage. I headed to the Cathedral at 6:10 am, and after the usual announcements and greetings from 6:30 am onwards, Solemn High Mass (Votive of the Holy Cross) began at 6:45 am. In addition to Mass IV and the Gregorian Propers, the choir sang Guerrero's Per signum crucis and Byrd's Ave verum. Mass concluded just after eight o'clock, followed at once by the blessing of pilgrims, so we all left the Cathedral and began walking after eight thirty.

I believe there were a little under 400 pilgrims this year.

The walk out from central Ballarat, via the cemetery, was pleasant, as was the climb up through the hills to the north. We stopped in the forest for morning tea at 11:15 am, and reached Creswick for lunch at 2 pm. A few of us, unwilling to face the unappetising Subway vegetarian rolls provided, had a fasting lunch with beer at an establishment on the main street, before rejoining the pilgrims at 3:15 pm.

The afternoon route was a change to that taken on previous years, and was most attractive, taking us across gently rising country through to Kingston (where we stopped for afternoon tea at 5 pm). At 6:45 pm, just a quarter hour from Smeaton, I was collected by car and taken to the mobile chapel, since Fr Rowe required a server for his Low Mass, but apart from that I walked the whole day quite comfortably.

After Mass, we spent from 7:15 to 8:30 in putting up the tent and so forth, before joining the rest for the pilgrim meal, then a drink at the pub and so to bed at 10:30 pm.

Saturday morning I arose at 5:30 am, and after the usual pilgrim breakfast we all resumed walking just before 7:15 am. Morning tea break was at 8:40 am (a little ahead of schedule), and then we walked on to Campbelltown, reaching it at 11:15 am. High Mass coram episcopo (Votive of Our Lady Help of Christians, Patroness of Australia) lasted from 11:48 am to 1:18 pm. The music was sublime: as always, the full chanted Propers, with Mass IX, enhanced by the Slavonic Sub tuum during the Offertory, the polyphonic Czech Sanctus, Josquin dez Prez's magnificent motet Ave Maria… Virgo serena at Communion, and O sanctissima to conclude; the choir then sang the Romantic Panis angelicus as a fitting meditation after Communion.

Lunch followed, then some of us caught a lift a bit less than a kilometre up the road and quenched our thirst at the Black Duck Tavern from 2 to 2:30 pm.

The walk across three hills to Sandon was tiring as always, but we reached the Catholic cemetery there at 4:30 pm, and conducted the usual devotions in supplication for the faithful departed, before the afternoon tea break there. At 5:22, we pushed on to Newstead, arriving fairly exhausted (if I do say so myself) at 7:05 pm. Again, putting up the tent and then lining up for a shower took a long time, and we didn't get dinner till nearly nine o'clock; I had planned to go for a beer at the pub but was completely done in and went to bed by a quarter to ten.

On Sunday, my alarm rang at 5:30 am, and strangely I didn't have to wait so long to access the shower! By six I was back at the tent, which had to be taken down of course, before heading to breakfast at 6:45 am. We were on the buses by 7:20 and headed off via Maldon at 7:34, beginning our last day's walk at Mulberry Lane at 8:13 am. Our morning tea stop was reached at 9:40 am, and after crossing the last hills we lunched at Kangaroo Flat at 12:40 am. An hour later we headed off to Sacred Heart Cathedral, reaching it at 2:55 pm.

The Bishop of Sandhurst welcomed us to his cathedral with the usual blessing, and after prayers Pontifical High Mass was sung by the retired Bishop of Christchurch. A glorious Mass indeed, with Missa Papæ Marcelli and many beautiful motets, such as Palestrina's Sicut cervus, concluded at 5 pm. The organist played Widor's Toccata as the recessional. After Mass, again the thirty-strong choir couldn't resist singing a few more motets…

As David remarked, no cathedral in Australia would have such splendid liturgy ordinarily.

Having prayed, and then collected my bags, I checked into the adjoining motel and freshened up, before walking over to the Queen's Arms for the après-pèlerinage dinner. The establishment was absolutely packed, with two bishops and priests galore alongside the many laity, and a good time (and many a refreshing beverage) was had by all.

On Monday morning, a final High Mass (of the feria) was sung at 9:10 am, followed by, not the expected buffet brunch, but lunch at the nearby National Hotel from about eleven o'clock onwards. My ride to the airport departed a little after 1 pm. I arrived there at 2:45, and tried to change to an earlier flight, but given bad weather I had no change but to keep to my earlier booking. Instead, I wandered the airport (how boring that place can be!), and my flight was delayed till 8:30, and I didn't get home from the airport until a few minutes past ten at night.

Another wonderful Christus Rex Pilgrimage: I look forward to next year!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Off on Pilgrimage

Tomorrow I head off to Ballarat, there to embark on the annual Christus Rex Pilgrimage to Bendigo. It is the 25th Pilgrimage, and will be my seventh. ¡Viva Cristo Rey!