Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Shrewsbury Masses in Monastic Sites

On Saturday, June 8 and Sunday, June 23, Masses were celebrated during the Year of Faith in two former Catholic abbeys. On June 8, the Bishop of Shrewsbury celebrated Mass at Shrewsbury Abbey:

The Mass was arranged by the Shrewsbury deanery with the permission of the Church of England and was celebrated by the Rt Rev. Mark Davies, the Bishop of Shrewsbury.

The abbey was full to capacity as hundreds of local Catholics and about a dozen priests turned out for the event on a blazing Saturday afternoon.

The Mass began with the singing of the Te Deum, in which the congregation asked for the intercession of such saints as St Winefride, whose tomb used to lie in the abbey, and such local martyrs as the Elizabethans Blessed Robert Johnson and Blessed Richard Martin.

[Shrewsbury Abbey, the site of Ellis Peter's Cadfael murder mysteries, is an Anglican parish now.]

Shrewsbury Abbey was founded in 1083 and by the early 16th century was one of the most wealthy and important of more than 600 monasteries throughout the country, and was ruled by a “mitred abbot” who also sat Parliament.

It was dissolved in 1540 by King Henry VIII and the shrine of St Winefride, today a patron of the Diocese of Shrewsbury, was desecrated.

Following improvements in ecumenical relations since the Second Vatican Council, Benedictine monks were about a decade ago permitted to celebrate Mass at the abbey for the first time since its dissolution.

The Mass at Norton Abbey was scheduled to be celebrated in the outdoor ruins of the Augustinian priory, but the weather did not cooperate:

Catholics in Cheshire have attended Mass on the site of a Medieval abbey church for only the second time since the Reformation.

The Mass at Norton Priory, Runcorn, was celebrated to mark the Year of Faith opened last October by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

It brought together more than 600 faithful from the five Runcorn churches of the Holy Spirit, Our Lady, St Augustine, St Edward and St Martin de Porres and the Frodsham parish of St Luke that make up Local Pastoral Area 12 of the Diocese of Shrewsbury.

Initially, an outdoor Mass had been planned amid the ruins of the former Augustinian priory but the uncertain weather persuaded organisers to transfer the celebration to the 12th century undercroft. . . .

The Mass was concelebrated by Runcorn priests Fr Peter Wright, who preached, and Fr George Malecki and by Fr Peter O’Neill, the parish priest of St Luke’s. The Rev. Deryck Sankey, a Warrington-based deacon, also attended.

The Mass was also attended by the children of six primary schools, with their families, as well as pupils and teachers from St Chad’s Catholic and Church of England High School, Runcorn.

The congregation included a small group of Kenyans who were visiting Runcorn from St Mary’s Catholic School in Nyeri, which is twinned with St Chad’s. . . .

Norton Priory has now become an acclaimed tourist attraction with an award-winning museum, managed woodland and 18th century walled gardens open to visitors.

Much of the original layout of the buildings – the cloisters, church, refectory and dormitory – can be seen, though few of the original buildings remain standing.

One of the greatest surviving items is an huge statue of St Christopher carrying the child Jesus on his shoulders [pictured in the article] which was preserved by the Brooke family and is now on view at the museum.

The Mass was only the second Mass to be celebrated at the site of the priory since the 16th century.

The first was celebrated by the priest and parishioners of St Augustine’s, Runcorn, about 30 years ago.

These are fascinating historical events! It is good for English Catholics to demonstrate their heritage in their native land, and it is very hospitable for the Church of England pastor to make his church available for the celebration of the Mass--but the church was consecrated for the celebration of Holy Mass and the Sacraments of the Catholic Church, after all!

[Both photos are from wikipedia commons.]

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