Wednesday, June 01, 2011

It was fabulous, magnificent, wonderful...

...at St Patrick's, Soho for the Re-Opening following huge renovations. The church is a glory of gold and white and paintings and beauty, with gleaming marble and glittering candles, and it was packed to overflow with people standing in every possible corner,and out into the street, while a choir poured out Mozart and Palestrina,a roar of voices joined in the Mass responses... and we had the Archbishop of Westminster plus a Bishop from Denver - the church has strong links to the USA - a great array of clergy, Franciscans and Missionaries of Charity, seminarians and office workers and teenagers and older people, distinguished guests from across Europe, and hundreds and hundreds of friends of St Patrick's from across London and across Britain...

We began outside in Soho Square, a vast crowd gathering around the church. After beginning the ceremony with prayers, Archbishop Vincent then called on Father Alexander to "Open the Door!" and the doors of St Patrick's slowly opened to reveal the glorious, new gleaming interior and the crowd slowly, slowly moved forward...

The Mass was glorious. James McMillan had written a special piece of music, there were fine old hymns like "Praise my soul, the king of Heaven", and lots and lots of glorious music from the Church's fabulous storechest of the centuries. It was the Feast of the Vistation - a most wonderful day on which to be celebrating, everything just sort of fitted together beautifully - and the Archbishop preached about Mary carrying Christ, the Light of the world, along the dusty hills and pathways of the Holy Land, on her way to meet Elizabeth and how we, and St Patrick's, must carry this Light, take it to every corner...

As Mass ended, Father Alexander thanked the architect, fund-raisers,designers,and more, presenting each with a commemorative medal...and then handed over to the final speaker, a homeless man who had found refuge at St Patrick's, and who spoke from the heart and magnificently, summing up all that St Patrick's means and will mean to so many people...

It's not just the church which has been been renovated, but the whole building, including the ancient warren of cellars and underground rooms, all now rebuilt with large comfortable spaces and a new kitchen and everything bright and clean and welcoming , so that the homeless and the students and all the people who belong to the various groups which have found a home at St Patrick's can flourish. We all surged down there - wisely there was plenty of water and fruit juice in addition to wine and snacks, because it was all dreadfully hot - and there was so much greeting of old friends, and the press of TV cameras and the clatter of hundreds and hundreds of voices...

The celebrations continue tonight with Vespers and a talk from papal biographer George Weigel, and as I write this I am about to hurry to be there...

5 comments:

jacquelineparkes said...

Sounds wonderful...thanks for the post..

Elizabeth said...

Makes me wish I'd been there.

Ally said...

It looks absolutely spectacular! We will definitely make a trip into town to take a look.
Great!

glory said...

always enjoy your descriptions Joanna, Thank you.

Anonymous said...

You can see the photos of all three reopening events (Mass with Abp Nichols; Vespers with Bp Conley followed by George Weigel lecture; Cardinal Pell Mass) here, taken by Andrew Stuart:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/andystuart/sets/72157626733349035/