Sunday, May 18, 2014

Embassy Chapels in London and the Mass

Here's some more interesting news from the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham: a special Mass at Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Gregory, the Ordinariate parish in that part of London to honor the Portuguese Ambassador to the Court of St. James:

The Portuguese ambassador to the United Kingdom is to attend Mass at the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham's central church in Warwick Street, Soho, next month as part of efforts to restore historic links between that church and the Portuguese Embassy. His Excellency João de Vallera, along with other representatives from the Portuguese community in London, will be at the 10.30 a.m. Solemn Mass on Sunday 15 June, Trinity Sunday, which falls at the end of a week of celebrations to mark Portugal's National Day on 10 June.

The Warwick Street church, Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Gregory - which Cardinal Vincent Nichols dedicated to the life of the Ordinariate in 2013 - was built on the site of a Catholic chapel which had served the Portuguese embassy in London in the early eighteenth century, when the embassy was located in Golden Square, Soho. That original chapel, built during the Marques de Pombal's term as ambassador from 1724 to 1747 (and subsequently leased to the Bavarian Embassy), was badly damaged during the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots of 1780. It was rebuilt in 1789-90.

Beginning in the reign of King James I, from my reading, the embassy chapels of Catholic nations in London became sites of worship and the sacraments for Catholic English men and women. The ambassadors of the Court of Spain opened the chapel of St. James, Spanish Place (which for awhile hosted several Ordinariate events) to Catholics and the ambassadors often pleaded for the life (and exile) of Catholic priests arrested and condemned to death or, failing that, would make sure the martyred priest was supported during his execution with prayers. See for example the execution of Blessed Thomas Maxfield. Obviously, the Portuguese Embassy chapel served the same purpose for Catholics in London.

According to the announcement of this event:

The Mass will combine a flavour of the Anglican patrimony which the Ordinariate brings to the Catholic Church, with a Portuguese feel. Music by the Portuguese composer, Manuel Cardoso, will feature, alongside pieces by English composers including Herbert Howells and John Stainer. The Mass will be celebrated according to the Ordinariate Use, which integrates centuries' old Anglican prayers into the Roman Rite.

It's almost too bad they could not have included some of the music of Samuel Webbe, the English Catholic composer who served as organist in both the Sardinian and Portuguese embassy chapels in the 18th century.

Refreshments will be served! Portuguese wine and finger-foods (aka petiscos e doces?)!

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