Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth...

...ordained today in St John's Cathedral.  Significant in all sorts of ways and for all sorts of reasons...just one of which was that this was the first time that the Internet has been used to enable every Catholic school and parish in a diocese to watch  the ordination of its new Bishop, and thus to share in real-time in this great event. The diocese stretches across Oxfordshire and Hampshire, but also across the Solent and even further across the sea to the Channel Islands...and everywhere people gathered in schools and church halls to  watch and listen.

It was thrilling to be part of this: once all the rather complicated technology was in place and I had mastered the bits that I needed, it was just a case of settling down to the task of providing a commentary that was as good as I could possibly make it. What an enormous privilege to be involved in this way:  I will remember today as something special for always.

People started to arrive. Seats at the front were reserved for the Lord Mayor and Mayoress, the local Member of Parliament, etc. There was a massed choir with people from different parishes. Seminarians arrived, to act as altar servers.

The good Sisters from the New Forest were amused to see me  disappear into my cupboard, with headphones and microphone, and took a pic (if they send me a copy, I'll post it here). Once the cathedral began to fill up, I closed the door to seal myself in, and we began.

The Liturgy speaks for itself and much requires no commentary: what was needed was an introduction, setting the scene ("In this cathedral, built in the reign of Queen Victoria, a new chapter opens in this 21st century: today the eighth Bishop of Portsmouth will be ordained here...") and listing, for example, some of the dignitaries present (to anyone with a sense of history, Portsmouth  has delights: it was pleasing to be able to list "The Lord Lieutenant of the Isle of Wight" and "The Commodore of HMS Nelson").  Then, when the great procession (over 20 Bishops, 4 Archbishops,  and goodness knows how many priests deacons) had made its way up into the sanctuary, and the sacred ceremonies began, the aim was to give just enough information to bring out nuances or relevant pieces of information...for example, in the choice of saints invoked in the Litany (St Faustina, Blessed Pier Georgio Frassati,  Blessed John Henry Newman...new names from the JPII and Benedict  beatification and canonisations) or in the visual drama (Mgr Egan lying prostrate as the chant wafted over him).

The anointing was impressive - Bishop Hollis pouring oil on his successor's head - as was the sight of deacons holding the Book of the Gospels over the new Bishop...I suddenly though of the funeral of  Bl John Paul, and that Gospel Book on his coffin, the pages slowly turned by the wind until the book itself closed of its own accord. "Recieve the Gospel and preach the word of God with unfailing patience and sound teaching" said  the prayer in today's liturgy, and that is what every good Bishop does and must do...

And this one made a promise to do just that, in his words to us all at the end of the Mass. He spoke of the failure of  politicians, educationalists and others to oppose moral relativism and the "culture of death" and pledged that he would be an orthodox bishop, clearly affirming his loyalty to Christ and the Church. Powerful stuff. We have a good man  here at the service of the Church. Deo gratias.

1 comment:

Luke said...

The diocese is truly blessed to have as her leader such a faithful bishop. His inaugural address certainly set the tone for the years to come. It's been reported that, according to a well respected priest, +Philip wished to, rather than celebrate with festivity following Mass yesterday, instead have Exposition in the Cathedral where he could spend time, one presumes in thanksgiving before Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Of course this didn't happen but at Sung Vespers he led his Cathedral Chapter to the Blessed Sacrament for devotions. There he consecrated himself and his priests and us the diocese to the Sacred Heart. The future looks bright surely in our country for the sake of the kingdom.