Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Usus Antiquior now at Cambridge University

Long-time readers of the NLM will know that I am always particularly interested in hearing about Masses being offered with the more ancient Roman liturgical books within a university context.

As we enter Autumn and the academic term begins again, news came to me that Mass will be offered in the usus antiquior at Cambridge University on Saturday evenings (5:30pm) during Full Term, beginning Saturday, October 11th.

It is also worth noting the sung Mass is also offered according to the modern Roman liturgy in the Latin language every Sunday morning at 9:30am.

The announcement comes through the Fisher Society. One of their members kindly put together this information about the Fisher Society and the Catholic aspects of the history of Cambridge University.

The Church, and especially, the mendicants had had a crucial impact in the early history of Cambridge – Duns Scotus lived for some time in the Franciscan House of studies, and later St John Fisher, Chancellor of the University, catapulted the University to the forefront of humanism by persuading Erasmus of Rotterdam to teach here. Together with over 30 members of the University, John Fisher died as a martyr in the Protestant persecutions, and Cambridge became dominated by the Puritans. Only in the 19th century Catholics were once again allowed to matriculate, and Pope Leo XIII set up a chaplaincy for them. At the beginning, this community was very small, but today Fisher House has a Sunday Mass attendance of some 500 during term-time, in the last year over 15 converts were received, and over ten former students are currently preparing for ordination.

The latest important stage in its history was a successful fundraising campaign that will allow us to transform a multi-purpose hall that had to be rented out commercially during the week into a permanent and worthy church. The first step has already been undertaken with the commissioning of a splendid crucifix, a copy of the Cimabue’s cross for S. Domenico in Arezzo, executed in the Hamilton Kerr Institute, the University’s centre for the conservation of paintings, following exactly the original techniques (cf. NLM February 13, 2008).

Apart from preaching and catechising and the very active social life, the solemn celebration of the liturgy plays a great role in the work of the chaplaincy. Already since the 1980s there is a weekly Latin Mass with chant (the full ordinary and proper), and since about 2000 there have been occasional Masses in the Old Rite, beginning with an annual requiem for the legendary Alfred Gilbey, chaplain from 1932-1965. From humble and somewhat adventurous beginnings, it grew into a splendid High Mass celebrated in the chapel of Trinity College (this year on November 24) and was soon followed by a second annual High Mass for Vocations to the Priesthood, celebrated every May in St John’s College (cf. NLM May 10, 2006).

There has been much discussion about how best to apply Summorum Pontificum to the situation of Fisher House, and the present arrangements are somewhat experimental, in order to find out how to meet best the demands of the faithful.

Fisher House is situated in central Cambridge.

(Top Photo credit: Neil Baker)

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