Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pontifical Requiem Mass

I know its been a while and you've probably all seen and read reviews elsewhere but this was our first experience of such a Mass so we would like to express our wonder and awe to you dear readers.

The atmosphere in Westminster Cathedral was wonderful, everyone dressed in black, women wearing black mantillas. The choir was incredible, we had always thought all Requiem Masses had to be simple chant but this Mass was polyphonic. The Bishop did a very good job considering the pressure he was under as the first Bishop of England and Wales to say Mass in the Extraordinary Form since 1969.

There were so many rituals we have never seen before that intrigued us and roused many questions such as:

Why does the Bishop wear a chalice veil on his lap?
Why are there two Deacons and a Priest wearing a cope? (One of the Deacons may have been a Sub-Deacon wearing a Dalmatic instead of a Tunicle and the priest may have been a Deacon wearing a Priest's Biretta of course)
Why couldn't the Bishop remove and replace his own Mitre?
What is with the conference of clerics surrounding the Bishop everytime he returns to the faldstool?

It was a wonderful experience nad one I hope to have again. Unfortunately the Absolutions at the Catafalque were cancelled at the last minute but hopefully that will be restored next year.

The only thing that ruined the day for us was after Mass outside the Cathedral when we overheard some dreadful 'ecclesial bitchiness' criticising the Bishop's homily, his Mitre and the mistakes he made. His homily was good, he spoke about the importance of preparing for one's own death and how we shouldn't take that important time of life away from a person who is dying, as well as the importance of praying for the dead.

Many prayers were said for Bishop Arnold among the Seminarians and we hope that is not the last time we see him or indeed any other Bishop in such an important and privileged position.


Ottaviani said...

The person in cope is an assistant to the Bishop and used in Pontifical High Masses. There were usually more when the Pope celebrated a papal high mass (I think).

And I think the chalice veil on the bishop's lap is wipe the perspiration of his fingers, just like the maniple was to wipe a priests forehand and face during mass. I maybe wrong.

Fr PF said...

What looked like a chalice veil is called a Gremial; its function is to keep the chasuble clean, as Ottaviani suggested.
They were a deacon and subdeacon; often in High Mass sets the dalmatic and tunicle look the same, but only the deacon wears a stole.
Any cleric can wear a biretta - even untonsured seminarians used to wear them, especially orthfully Catholic ones!
Until the 1970s, a bishop never removed or replaced his own mitre during Mass; this was always done by someone else. The practice of do-it-yourself probably arose out of episcopal annoyance with MCs, as this was not an easy manoeuvre. The first time I had to do it, the bishop had to tell me to "Push harder", as I was too timid about pushing the mitre down his head and it would probably have fallen off later. One of our community tells the story of an incompetent MC who had trouble with the mitre right through the High Mass. The last straw was when he put it on back to front with the "caudae" (the two tails at the back of the mitre) hanging over the bishop's face. What he went to turn the mitre round, the infuriated bishop said "Leave it - and let them all see what a fool you are!"

Orthfully Catholic said...

Fr PF & Ottaviani

Thank you for your comments they are very helpful!

Fr, I know that any cleric can wear a biretta but I believe your clerical status is shown by what is on the top of your biretta. This biretta had a 'pom-pom' and I understand that to be a priest's biretta. Is this true or have I been spun?

Fr PF said...

I had always presumed that pom-poms were available to all who were not religious (-Passionists traditionally wore birettas without them). If there is such a distinction, I would have thought that the dividing line was more likely to be (major) orders than priesthood as such. Results of my research: Noonan’s 'The Church Visible', an interesting but not always accurate book, agrees with you; Wikipedia ‘Solemn Mass’ article says subdeacons and higher; Wikipedia (Italian version) says black biretta with black pom-pom (fiocco) is for priests and ‘ammessi al presbiterato’ and that before Vatican II it was also for clerics and ‘ammessi al seminario’; Fortescue seems silent on this question; nineteenth-century Italian texts refer to ‘berretta nera con fiocco’ for seminarians. My opinion: if there is such a distinction, it is based on custom, and that custom was not universal but existed only in certain places, e.g. the United States but not Italy (-as for England, you should ask some elderly chap who still has his memory in working order).