Friday, 16 November 2007

St Edmund's Day

Friday is normally my day for saying Mass in the local school. However, today I had the privilege of celebrating the Solemn Mass at St Edmund's College, Ware, on their Patronal Feast. St Edmund's is now an independent Catholic school but it claims descent from the English College, Douai, established by Cardinal Allen in 1568. For much of its history the school has existed alongside the seminary. Cardinal Heenan separated the two in the 1970s, when he moved Allen Hall to Chelsea, but the historical heart of the Archdiocese can most certainly still be found at St Edmund's.

The school must be the only one in Christendom to claim 20 saints and 133 beati. Just walking into Pugin's chapel you stumble over the tombs of many Vicars Apostolic of penal times, and there is an interesting Douai museum - where, for example, you can see Bishop Challoner's mitre and blue cassock (though it doesn't look very blue in my photo):

The sacristy is also unusually comprehensive for a school, and boasts many vestments from Fort Augustus Abbey as well as those that once belonged to Dr Adrian Fortescue.

The school liturgy was impressive - the music included part of Vivaldi's Gloria, there was a good degree of reverence (doubly impressive given that many pupils are non-Catholic) and at the end of Mass a large relic of St Edmund of Abingdon (a bone from his left leg) was taken around the chapel by Fr Pinot de Moira, the resident priest. We are told that one of the students, Cecil Heathcote, was seriously injured during a game of football in 1871. His life was thought to be in danger and so the College President brought the relic to his bedside. From that moment the young man recovered and returned to perfect health.

Fr Pinot, by the way, is a College institution - he came to St Edmund's as a boy, was trained for the Priesthood there and has spent almost all his 51 years of Priesthood at the College. The children obviously love him and today he chose to accompany a group ice-skating rather than join the senior staff for a festal pub lunch!

Mass finished with a rousing rendition of 'Sing England's Sons'. Here are some verses:

O, for thy zeal, the spirit which inflammed thee,
Bidding men trace the rough ways thou hast trod!
Raise up, blest Saint, a band of brave crusaders,
Heroes for Faith, for Pontiff and our God.
Father St Edmund, thy pilgrims cross life's sea;
Lead us home to Jesus; and home, sweet Saint, with thee.
Pray that the waves in storm now furious raging,
Threatening to surge o'er Christ's own Heav'n built rock,
May soon be stilled at the gentle voice of Jesus,
And peace shine o'er Rome's Shepherd and his flock.
Father St Edmund, thy pilgrims cross life's sea;
Lead us home to Jesus; and home, sweet Saint, with thee.

Now, that's what I call a school hymn!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Particuarly interesting to me as a university module I am re-sitting in January (I hasten to add due to illness not stupidity)is Reform and Reformation in England & Ireland 1485-1558.
The tutor being a full paid up Jesuit.
I think Im entitled to a Papal Honour for defending foreign seminaries against the charge of being the Islamic Madras (sp) of their day. Its odd how 19 year olds can come up with that nonsense.
My proposal is that nobody under 30 should be allowed to go to university and nobody over 10 allowed to teach in them. The quality of learning and teaching would rise

12:22 am  
Blogger Miguel José Ernst-Sandoval said...

So, what happened to the theological seminary at Old Hall? Is it now defunct or has it been moved?

11:47 pm  
Blogger Fr Nicholas said...

The theological seminary ('Allen Hall') was moved to Chelsea (Central London). This was to make it more 'relevant' and closer to the people, but many people regretted the move. Seminarians (who often come from secular jobs) need space for mind and spirit. St Edmund's is in rolling countryside and yet is near to many major commuter towns, which would give plenty of scope for pastoral work!

9:01 am  
Blogger Miguel José Ernst-Sandoval said...

How sad. I have an old book that describes the grounds of both Ushaw and Old Hall. I was rather looking forward to seeing them someday.

8:01 pm  
Blogger Michael said...

Any chance of photos of Fr. Fortescue's vestments?

The mitre is outstanding.

8:40 pm  

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