Friday, October 22, 2021

An Ordinariate Pilgrimage in Scotland

On Saturday, October 16th, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham held a highly successful day pilgrimage to St Ninian’s, Tynet and St Gregory’s, Preshome in Morayshire, northern Scotland. The theme of the day was to look at the ways the Catholic community had survived the penal periods of the 17th and 18th centuries, and to acknowledge that many of the same strictures faced Episcopalians in Scotland at that time. Indeed, many who attended the day had been received into full communion with the Catholic Church from the Scottish Episcopal Church.

The day began at St Ninian’s with a glorious Sung Mass according to the Ordinariate Rite. This church, sometimes referred to as ‘the Bethlehem of Banffshire’, is a place where the Catholic Faith was ‘cradled’ during the harsh and difficult days following the Reformation in Scotland. It was built in 1755, at a time when Catholic worship was still not legally permitted in Scotland, the oldest surviving Catholic church in the country to have been built after the Reformation. On the outside, it looks like a row of cottages…
however when one enters there is a simple but beautiful 18th century church.
The liturgy was enriched by a small schola of talented singers from Aberdeen, brought together for the day by Dr Shelagh Noden. Matthew McVey played the organ superbly, which his grandfather actually built, and which had its first public performance at the Mass. The principal celebrant of the Mass was Fr Len Black, Group Pastor of the Scottish Mission of the Ordinariate with fellow Ordinariate priests, Fr Cameron Macdonald and Fr Stanley Bennie concelebrating. It was a great joy to be able to welcome 3 novices from Pluscarden Abbey, who with Fr Abbot’s permission, joined us for the day pilgrimage and served at the Mass.
The church had been beautifully decorated with floral arrangements by Suzanne Jobson, arranged in a style used in Holland by Catholics to secretly honour Our Lady when it was not possible to set up images to her. The arrangements were crowned by white lilies, so long associated with Our Lady, and within the foliage there was an abundance of flowers with a Marian context.
The musical setting of the psalm was composed by Thomas Errington, one of a number of Anglican psalm tunes that Dr Noden has discovered in a long forgotten choir book belonging to the Catholic seminary on the island of Lismore off the west coast of Scotland, founded in 1803. It was very moving to hear it sung again in the context of the liturgy. Errington was a seminarian from the northern English College of Ushaw in County Durham in the early 19th century, who had been sent to Lismore to aid his health. He was a composer and musician who went on to study for the priesthood in Rome, but sadly died before reaching ordination. In her talk at Preshome, Dr Noden was able to point out other Catholic churches, such as St Cuthbert’s Durham, which were using Anglican liturgical chants in the early 19th century. The group found this surprising - but of course it was of particular interest to those who had themselves come from an Anglican background. The practice of using Anglican psalmody in the Catholic Mass seems to have spread further than Lismore and Ushaw, and the English bishops eventually banned the practice in 1838 – the fact the Anglican liturgical chants were banned indicates their use must have been widespread at this time.
Thankfully in the Apostolic Constitution of 2009, Anglicanorum Coetibus, the document commends the use of ‘liturgical celebrations according to the books proper to the Anglican tradition, which have been approved by the Holy See, so as to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the members of the Ordinariate, and as a treasure to be shared.’ That treasure was certainly shared at the Mass at Tynet.
After a picnic lunch, we heard a little of the history of the church at Tynet and then we made our way to St Gregory’s Preshome, where we learnt of its history and importance in the rebirth of Catholicism in Scotland. The party were amazed to discover such a beautiful church that time has passed by. The visit was completed with a group photograph and a fine rendering of the hymn, Faith of our Fathers.
The last visit on the mini-pilgrimage was to St Ninian’s churchyard on the Braes of Enzie, where the group had the opportunity to see the beautiful Dawson Mausoleum. This octagonal building was built in 1939 to the design of Reginald Fairlie as a Requiem chapel. The stark interior contains a simple stone altar and carving of Christ the King by Hew Lorimer, himself a convert from an old Episcopalian family. Our visit finished with prayers for all who had gone before us in the faith and the singing of the Salve Regina as the final act of worship.
The day was one of worship and exploration, of meeting new friends and gaining greater insight to the Catholic heritage of this part of Scotland. People left full of enthusiasm that another similar pilgrimage should be planned in the near future. It was a privilege to have many non-Ordinariate Catholics with us on the day, allowing us the opportunity to share some of the particular liturgical traditions that nourish members of the Ordinariate in the Catholic Faith - a treasure I do hope we shared.

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