Saturday, 14 October 2006
Rosary Crusade of Reparation
I was in two minds as to whether I'd make the effort to go along to this... I've been feeling under the weather this past week, and I knew that my ankle wasn't going to be able to hold up for the actual walk (not unless I wanted to be off work for a week!!) And another factor to consider was that we had our SPUC parish lunch today as well.
I decided to compromise... I went to the lunch first, but left before the talk started (I shared a table with the speaker - a brother from the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal: these chaps are "awesome" - and I was therefore able to explain my early departure!) and then I drove down to the Brompton Oratory in Knightsbridge, London. I'd originally intended to go by tube from North Greenwich, but heard that there were engineering works... I didn't actually need much of an excuse to drive - I find it very relaxing.
The journey took an hour and a quarter (most of the last 20 minutes was searching for an available parking space, so going round and round some side roads) and then I went in to the Oratory. Believe it or not, it's the first time I've actually been inside the church. I've been to a few events held in the rooms next door: just never made it to the church.
My first reaction was "WOW"!! Let's just say that there is little room for doubt that this place is a Catholic church... if it wasn't covered in marble, it was painted with cherubs or religious scenes. Michelangelo eat your heart out. And statues everywhere.
The Oratory is deceptively big: it doesn't take up much room on the Brompton Road, but inside it just seems to go on and on. Wonderful place.
I arrived well before 3pm and after having greeted an old friend, Lizzie and promised to catch up with her at the end (she's been studying with the Community of St John somewhere in France for the past few years) I settled down to pray a rosary and to await the arrival of the procession.
We knew that the procession had arrived because of the flashing blue lights of the police motorcycles which had accompanied the procession from Westminster Cathedral (in Victoria - yes, London is a confusing place!) and the cheer which went up to thank the police escort. Then hundreds of people started pouring in to the church. In a most un-Catholic manner loads of people made their way to the front. After a minute or two the reason became obvious: the church was full. Many people were standing, some sat on the bases of the marble pillars, and the side chapels all had their seats fully occupied. I'm not good at numbers, but there must have been close on two thousand people present.
Then the statue of Our Lady of Fatima was brought in by the Catholic Police Guild - this had led the procession through the London streets. We sang Marian hymns with gusto, and recited prayers, and there was a sermon given by Fr Tim from the Hermeneutic of Continuity. Hopefully he will post the full text, because it was a real corker.
I think one of the most moving parts of the experience was when the statue of Our Lady was carried to the chapel of St Mary Magdalene: we sang "The thirteenth of May at the Cova d'Iria" and apparently there is a tradition in Fatima of waving goodbye to the statue with a white hankie. A few people were prepared, but the rest of us waved our white prayer sheets during the "Ave Maria" chorus. Hundreds and hundreds of white prayer sheets all being waved as the statue was carried away. Another of those "wow!" moments to treasure.
Outside I couldn't find Lizzie, but bumped into Dan Cooper (a stalwart of the Faith Movement from when it started up in the John Fisher School, Purley), and then Jamie Bogle (husband of Joanna who has such a lovely blog - Auntie Joanna Writes) and finally bumped into Joanna herself and her mother Ursula.
It was especially heartening to see the number of mantillas in evidence! And finally, it was wonderful to see so many young people and young families give up their Saturday to go on a procession through the streets of London in reparation for sin and blasphemy. I'm with the Holy Father on this one: the Church is alive, the Church is young...!