Tuesday, April 08, 2008

St. Gregory the Great Catholic School, Oxford: Reforming the Reform and Offering the Ancient Rite to its Students

The following comes to us from one of our Oxford readers:

I thought you might be interested in the liturgical developments that have been occurring in... St Gregory the Great School, a Catholic Comprehensive School in Oxford.

Our Chaplain is one of the Oratorian Fathers from the Oxford Oratory, Fr Daniel Seward, and has been saying Mass in the Extraordinary Use for several years here in school. Long before the Motu Proprio was promulgated, Fr Seward and I ordered the liturgy in such a way as we felt was in the proper spirit of the liturgy, whether Novus Ordo, or Usus Antiquior. Ways in which we ensured that the liturgy was oriented properly towards the Lord was through the permanent use of the Benedictine altar arrangement, and the frequent celebration of Mass 'ad orientem'.

On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Fr Seward offered Mass in the Extraordinary Use in school, and from then on we have had Mass celebrated in this form every first Friday of the month, as well as on various other days.

In late March, His Grace Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham, under whose authority the school falls, visited the school and dedicated the altar in the Chapel. Prior to this, we had been using a corporal with a relic sewn into it underneath the altar cloth for Mass. The Mass of Dedication was celebrated in the evening with great solemnity... The Gregorian propers, the Litany of the Saints, and most of the Ordinary, were chanted in Latin by three coped cantors, each representing one of the religious orders resident in Oxford - an Oratorian, a Benedictine, and a Dominican. Unfortunately, the Fransican who was to also chant was unable to come.

During the ceremonies, the relics of Pope St Gregory the Great, and St Maria Goretti were sealed into the altar, and the altar anointed with Chrism, censed, and then dressed. The Benedictine altar arrangement was used, as usual, with seven candlesticks and crucifix, and flowers...

And finally, last Monday, the Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lady, there was a Day of Exposition and Adoration for vocations. It started with an opening Mass in the Novus Ordo, but 'ad orientem', with a set of modern but dignified Marian 'gothic' vestments and incense. The Blessed Sacrament was then exposed for the entire day, with constant adoration, and prayers led by servers and the Chaplain. The day concluded with Benediction, in Latin, followed by the 'Regina Caeli'.

Having spoken to many other people who live around Oxford, I can safely say that this is one of the only schools in Oxfordshire, and maybe even England, to have the Usus Antiquior celebrated regularly, and publically. I think that the school's liturgical life is exemplary of the kind of liturgy the Pope desires throughout the Church...

We can surely hope and pray that we will gradually come to see more and more of this, thereby reclaiming Catholic liturgical piety into the consciousness of our Catholic children.

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