AS IF, WITH THE recent announcement that a certain St Andrean couple are getting engaged, there wasn’t enough for us to expend our idle chatter about, the University of St Andrews is thrust into the fore on an entirely separate matter. Damian Thompson, the provocative and informative Catholic Herald editor and indispensable Daily Telegraph blogger wrote a blog entry — Catholic students at St Andrews ‘can’t have the Latin Mass’ — relaying the claims of a student that he and a stable group of students have asked to have a monthly Mass in the Extraordinary Form, found a priest willing to say it, and have been denied. Fr. Z, the world’s most famous clerical blogger, soon picked up the story as well and made a few comments of his own.
The reality of the situation, it appears, is far removed from the one student’s claims. The venerable Fr. Halloran, parish priest of St. James and University Catholic Chaplain for decades, recently retired and is now, I believe, in Ghana. ‘Pelicanus’, a commenter on Fr. Z’s blog who is a current St Andrews student, offered the following insight:
Since September we have had a new parish priest and chaplain. He has had many issues to deal with on taking up office: the Chaplaincy building, Canmore, is falling down; £100,000 has just been spent on a new roof; the ordinary form parish liturgy requires an overhaul, not least to the times of Mass, as he has to serve two outlying parishes. The man has a lot on his plate.
A week ago I wrote father a letter asking him for the extraordinary form, which would be celebrated once a month by our local FSSP priest. I am aware that Damian’s source (whom I shall refer to as “X”) has been pursuing the matter and that X has very little patience. Yesterday, I took this item from Damian’s blog to Father as soon as I was made aware of it. Father explained to me that he had only received requests from me and from X (and not fifteen people), and that his response to X had been that while he had made enquiries at the diocesan level about this and that the question was not closed, he wasn’t in a position to take it forward for the next few months.
A new priest needs time to settle in to his parish and the chaplaincy that goes along with it. It’s clear that there’s a certain amount of adjustment the parish needs to make in terms of the regular Mass schedule, and there are pressing financial and maintenance concerns. All the priest apparently told X was that it would have to wait a few months. Pelicanus cautiously notes that X’s actions are a “tactless show of impatience”, and I can’t help but agree.
Meanwhile, there’s a splendid Mass in the Extraordinary Form being offered just an hour’s train ride away in Edinburgh at the Church of St. Andrew in Ravelston, easy walking distance from Haymarket rail station. An hour’s travel on a Sunday morning — I can easily remember — seems a lot to a student. If there’s as many as fifteen who would be willing to attend a monthly liturgy in the Extraordinary Form, I’d be pleased as punch, and obviously the parish-priest/chaplain should be accommodating. But likewise the students must accommodate the priest and be respectful of everything he’s got on his plate at the moment.
The most frustrating part of Damian Thompson’s blog is its opening line: “Why is Summorum Pontificum a dead letter in Scotland?” This is especially irritating because the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh is the one diocese in Scotland where the motu proprio has quite obviously not been a dead letter.
Cardinal O’Brien, our archbishop, has been effusively welcoming and, as Seraphic comments on Fr. Z’s blog, “has been a true friend and pastor to those in his diocese who love the Extraordinary Form”. Since graduating from St Andrews I’ve lived in two dioceses — New York and Cape Town — and still, after the local bishop is prayed for in the Mass, I always add “and our Keith Patrick, too!” We love our Cardinal and are very proud to have him.
It sounds like we have a case in which one student has been irrational and excitable and thought to play the media circus card. As usual, it will probably just blow up in his face. I hope that within a reasonable amount of time, after the new chaplain (whom most students are praising) has settled in, provision can be made for a monthly Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Until that point, it sounds like there’s at least one student at my alma mater who needs to learn the virtue of patience.