The Vigil at Blackfriars, Oxford, was packed; and despite the poor weather which made it necessary to squeeze the congregation into the cloister whilst the New Fire was blessed (just) outside, the whole spirit and character of the occasion came through magnificently. This isn’t a ‘review’, but I have to say that the inimitable fr Lawrence Lew OP,* currently the Cantor at Blackfriars, had worked with the Choir and musicians to create a Vigil which was musically, as well as liturgically, stimulating : you had a feast for the ears which ended spectacularly when fr Robert Verrill OP played the congregation out with his own amazing virtuosic take on Charpentier’s ‘Prélude à Te Deum’ . . . the well-deserved applause was for fr Robert’s playing; but truthfully the whole Vigil deserved no less. (And yes, I know that’s not what the liturgy is all about; but I also believe that good liturgy, especially good thoughtful liturgy, deserves encouragement : more on which topic in the near future !)
Easter Sunday ? Well, as the journalists had prophesied, there were record attendances . . . unfortunately for the media, they were exceptionally high, not low !
I spent much of the day at the Oratory in London; and it was remarkably obvious that numbers were up. The 09:00 only finished at a minute or so to 10:00, because of the number of Holy Communions, which left the 10:00 (completely full) starting late at about 10:05 . . . and it too, even with four priests giving Communion, including at two side altars, overran; not finishing until 11:10 . . . and then a full church had to empty and a new, and even larger, congregation to find somewhere to sit !
Even with five priests giving Holy Communion, including the two side altars, that Mass overran by more than 10 minutes : which meant the congregation were just starting to leave the church at 12:40 – ideally timed for the 12:30 Mass ! (I guess that that must have started close to 13:00, given the huge crowds who had to get out !)
If you have read other blogs, you will know that this was not an unusual experience : attendances everywhere seem to have been up . . . perhaps the media animosity of recent weeks has something to do with it : who knows ? All I do know is that many thousands of Catholics heard Mass yesterday, throughout the world, and – in common with their brothers and sisters of other Christian traditions – rejoiced in the offer of Salvation which the Resurrection brought for all mankind : the ‘Light of Christ’ which Easter brings to shine forth over the whole world.
My Followers and readers, and my numerous fellow-bloggers, have been much in my prayers throughout the last four days. I pray that God will richly bless you all : and particularly, that my fellow-bloggers may continue to be inspired to defend and promote our Catholic Faith in a world of animosity, where so many seem determined only to do the devil’s work for him.
May the Light of Christ, risen in glory, shine upon you all; and may the Joy of this Easter fill your hearts throughout this Easter season.
‘Normal Service’ (ie my usual vapid witterings on various topics) will resume tomorrow.
* And not only Cantor : he also managed to take a number of splendid photos during the Vigil, including the one above, others of which you can see here.