Ex Fide, the blog of the self-styled 'Premier Sacristan' of St Magnus the Martyr in London, always has interesting posts and two recent ones caught my eye. The first deals with their commemoration of the Translation of the relics of St Thomas of Canterbury - a feast of interest to me from my days at St Thomas here in Oxford. Clearly a rather splendid occasion - and a topic to which I shall return.
The second post also has an Oxford connection, starting as it does with Colin Stephenson's Merrily on High. Fr Stephenson had been vicar of St Mary Magdalen's in Oxford, a church I used to periodically attend in my early days in the city. More than anyone else it was Stephenson who made 'Mary Mags' the "highest" church in the Church of England before he went to Walsingham. The post and its comments, which are worth looking at, are here.
The post is a series of reflections, as indeed are the interesting comments, to which I will add my halfpennyworth. Anglo-Papalists who abandoned the heritage they had assumed did not do themselves, or the tradition they espoused any favours. Indeed it was where that tradition was preserved that Anglo-Papalism and Anglo-Catholicism had serious pulling power - it was a significant factor which kept me within the Anglican orbit for a long time.
Happily, nay, mercifully, things have moved along on the other bank of the Tiber . Those Anglo-Papalists who value the beauty of holiness expressed in traditional forms will be far safer and ultimately far happier within the proposed Ordinariates, or within the widening traditionalist movement within the Catholic Church. They should value and preserve, or indeed revive, their ceremonial practices, and bring them on board the barque of Peter. Yes, bring your lace and folded chasubles - they really can be the new and living way.
Which brings me back to St Thomas. Whatever the intricacies of the dispute with King Henry II, and indeed not a few of the English hierarchy, and however much issues were lost sight of or changed out of recognition, one thing St Thomas did believe in and stress was his fidelity to the Holy See in the person of Pope Alexander III, but also to the Papacy in principle. St Thomas, whatever else he may have been, came to be seen as a martyr for the independence of the Church under the Pope. No wonder King Henry VIII was so determined to destroy his cult. So yes, it is good to see St Magnus Martyr celebrating St Thomas, but, with great respect and genuine concern, may I suggest that they should perhaps give some thought to what St Thomas might, conceivably, be saying to them,particularly in the present circumstances of Ecclesia Anglicana.