Monday, March 31, 2008

St Catherine's Trust Family Retreat

As usual, this Easter I attended, and sang at, the Fraternity of St Peter's Easter Triduum services in Reading, England. This year is the third time they have done these, and the first in St William of York, where we did not have to schedule the services to avoid a novus ordo set of services in the same church. As St William of York is the less-used of two churches in the parish, we had the run of the place. Fr Benjamin Durham FSSP was the celebrant, assisted by a Fraternity seminarian, Marek Grabowski (who had coincidentally taught at the St Catherine's Trust Summer School in 2007). The picture shows Fr Durham blessing the Easter fire; there are some more pictures here.

This is also the third year the St Catherine's Trust has held a Family Retreat, which we run n addition to our Summer School for children. In recent years there have been a number of other Retreats which use the Traditional Mass (usus antiquior), either in England or from England, based in a monastery on the Continent, but there is nothing large-scale which can accommodate families with small children. This year we had about 150 people all told, up from 13o last year and 100 in 2006, from Easter Friday afternoon to Low Sunday lunch.

The inspiration for the Family Retreat is the Easter Retreats at the big English monasteries, which have been going in some cases for many decades. Ampleforth, Downside and until recently Worth Abbey all let in hundreds of people for three or four days over the Triduum, when their schools are on holiday. With some activities laid on for children, parents can attend the spiritual talks, and of course everyone can participate in the liturgy. Clearly there was a gap in the market for something along these lines with the Traditional Mass, and although it would be difficult to call the necessary priests, servers and singers away over the Triduum, we can do it either over the weekend of Passion Sunday (as we did, with the later Easter, in 2006) or Low Sunday (as we did last year and this).

The St Catherine's Trust Family Retreats have each year been led by Fr Andrew Southwell; this year we were privileged to have Fr Thomas Crean OP to assist him, especially in hearing confessions. This proved particularly providential as Fr Southwell lost his voice in the course of the weekend, and Fr Crean was able to celebrate Sung Mass on Sunday. With two priests we were able to have Low Mass before breakfast as well as Sung Mass later in the day (before lunch), and on Saturday Fr Crean celebrated Low Mass in the Traditional Dominican Rite.

In addition to Sung Mass each of the three days, we had Sung Compline on Friday and Saturday, and Sung Vespers on Saturday, as well as public
Rosary each day, and spiritual conferences from Fr Southwell and Fr Crean. The children, divided into two age-groups, also had talks from Fr Southwell, and other talks and activities.

On Saturday evening we had a fascinating talk from a visiting speaker, Mrs Daphne MacLeod, about how to teach the faith to one's children. Mrs MacLeod, the redoubtable Chairman of Pro Ecclesiae et Pontifice, was a teacher in Catholic schools, and latterly a headmistress, over herlong career, and told us about the training she had received before the 'New Catechetics' were introduced after Vatican II, both as a teacher and as a member of the Catholic Evidence Guild under Frank Sheed. The claim is frequently made that it is impossible to introduce complex doctrines, like the Trinity, to children, but Mrs MacLeod explained that in the old days not only did they think it perfectly possible but they were actually trained in the appropriate techniques. In the case of the Trinity this included St Augustine's famous analogy of the Mind, its Knowledge of itself and the Love between the Mind and its Knowledge. Traditional Catholic catechetics was not stopped because it didn't work, or because it failed to produce Catholics who maintained their practice of the faith, or vocations, but because of a rejection of the doctrines it was successfully imparting to the young. An article by Mrs MacLeod on how the New Catechetics were introduced can be read here; her new book 'Will Your Grandchildren be Catholic?' can be bought from PEEP.

At the Sung Masses we had a small liturgical schola, and you can hear them in the first video, which goes from the end of the Epistle to the beginning of the Gospel on Low Sunday, taking in the Alleluia and Greater Alleluia, and in the second video, which is the Offertory of Friday's Mass followed by the Vespers Hymn (we frequently sing the corresponding Vespers Hymn at the Offertory). Low Sunday weekend is a particularly joyful time, liturgically speaking, including the end of the Easter Octave. The Octave is closed with the Gospel of St Thomas the Apostle, whose incredulity is changed to the great confession of faith: "My Lord and my God!" As the Commion verse has it (see the final video), 'noli esse incredulus, sed fidelis'.

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