Our Lady's Mirror

Spring-Summer 1958

The College of S Augustine saying Matins in the Shrine church
We are trying to get the Mirror out at more regular times: January 1st, April 1st, July 1st, October 1st, so that readers will get their copies on or about these dates. We hope this will not be wishful thinking, as it is very difficult to get down to the Mirror work with all the interruptions one has to suffer in a place like Walsingham. Now that is the explanation for this number to be not really a double, but a Spring-Summer copy, and we hope it will be out in time! We had a severe bout of snow in February, with several storms, and were cut off from the surrounding villages for a couple of days. We had no electricity, and in March there were biting winds; both the Parish Church and Shrine were like refrigerators. Holy Week and Easter passed off happily, and on Easter Monday we started the pilgrimage season. It seemed as if the 1957 fixtures had hardly finished and there had been no breathing space. Time flies so! Since the publication of the last MIRROR, when we sent out envelopes inviting readers to help by taking a share in the honour of maintaining lamps to burn in the Holy House, only one hundred people, two parishes and one Religious Community have responded. This is a remarkably small number considering that there are over three hundred Priest Associates, many with parishioners, and our MIRROR readers, to say nothing of the members of S.O.L.W., who altogether run into thousands! But the time is still young, and this note may either stir more readers to send their mite, or possibly offend them for being reminded! I hope not the latter. While we are always pleased for day pilgrims to have a special Mass, it is, however, necessary for them to bring their own priest to say it, and if they want a Sung Mass (which usually can be arranged) we must ask them to provide the servers, singers and organist. The College is too small a body to be able to put on extra Masses. As it is, we have low Masses to serve as well as our own daily Chapter Mass said or sung at 9.30. At the time of writing, two parishes have written, each wishing for a Sung Mass, one in the Holy House and one at the High Altar at the same hour; which is quite all right, as we have said, if they provide their own people to do it. But as previously stated, it is obvious that at the moment we are too understaffed to provide for this ourselves, much as we should like to. Pilgrims especially, frequently express surprise at the way things are organised and run at the Shrine, and only a very few realise the amount of work that has to be put in in preparation before and during a pilgrimage, especially on such days as the annual Whit Monday event. When one realises how this goes on in a smaller degree all through the summer from Easter until mid-October, week after week, one is forced to ask the question, “How could all this be done and maintained without the Shrine office staff, who are responsible for the financial side of the work, and the College of S. Augustine?” For the running of each pilgrimage, the cleaning of the Choir, etc., before and after each visit, the serving, the singing, the offering of the daily Intercessions and Rosary, etc., etc., depend on the members of the College, without whom the smooth running of the pilgrimages and other events in the Shrine could not be maintained. And yet this is not the primary work or most important of this or any other holy place: what is essential is the maintenance of the round of prayer. Morning by morning at 6.15 the College is in choir to recite Mattins, Lauds and Prime. Again, after Mass and Holy Communion, they are there for mental prayers, followed by Terce, Chapter Mass and Sext. Before the mid-day meal they make their visit to the Blessed Sacrament. None is said at 2 o’clock except on certain fast days; Vespers and Compline at 5.20; besides their private devotions. This work of God is offered for the Church, Catholic Reunion, for the world, for the Guardians and members of the Society, as well as pilgrims and those being interceded for in the Holy House. Prayer and work, work and prayer is the call to those who come to the College, as S. Augustine directs in his Holy Rule, which is the foundation of our life. The life of the Walsingham College is a modernised form of that lived under the rule of S. Augustine since the 5th century. Their houses were particularly popular in England from the 12th to 16th century. The Canons of S. Augustine and other bodies of men living under that rule were communities between the monastic and the secular clergy, and in some measure having the characteristics of both. The Augustinians, while living in community, were much freer than the monks and less independent that the secular clergy. Their houses were very numerous in this country. Their members varied much in number, but the majority of these Colleges (or Communities) had only four or five professed brethren, with the exception of a few larger houses, consisting of a dozen or fifteen in life vows. They were not by any means all priests, and there was little difference made between the Brothers and those in Sacred Orders, except that the Prior (Provost, Warden or whatever title was given to the head) was usually in major Orders. By the 15th century, however, the choir members were generally priests, deacons, sub-deacons and acolytes. The habit consisted of a girded gown or cassock, with a rochet or surplice and cappa. The mozetta replaced the cappa from Easter to All Saints’, together with a tall biretta worn by all indiscriminately. The colour varied, and might be white or grey, but more usually black. The noviciate lasted for one year, after which life vows were taken. At Walsingham, a postulancy of at least three months is required, followed by a noviciate or, as it is called with us, a period of junior membership lasting for at least two years, after which profession is made in chapter and installation in choir. This profession is made with a life intention, but subject to renewal every three years. Candidates for ordination are not received, and applicants should have finished their military service before coming to the College. THE ORGAN IN THE PILGRIMAGE CHURCH When the extension of the Pilgrimage Church was being planned, Cedric Arnold, the well-known organ builder of Thaxted, Essex, was requested to make suggestions for the provision of a suitable instrument. The following historical details have been kindly supplied by Mr. Arnold. The specification is given here for those who may be interested. One Manual CC to G. 56 notes Pedals, CCC to F. 30 notes Stops 1. Pedal Bourdon 16ft. Wood 30 pipes 2. Open Diapason 8ft. Metal 56 pipes 3. Clarabella 8ft. Wood 44 pipes 4. Dulciana 8ft. Metal 44 pipes 5. Stopped Bass 8ft. Wood 12 pipes 6. Principal 4ft. Metal 56 pipes Action mechanical throughout except to bass of Open Diapason – tubular pneumatic “British” 1.6h.p. blower It was in November, 1936, that Fr. Patten first wrote regarding the possibility of an organ for the contemplated extension to the Shrine; but after the builder had paid several visits to Walsingham, it was felt that circumstances did not justify the placing of an order. In January 1938, it was suggested that a good second-hand instrument should be purchased from a nonconformist chapel, but nothing came of this either. On 1st May 1938, Fr. Patten wrote to say that they were no nearer being able to buy an organ, but enquired whether a small instrument could be borrowed for the dedication on Whit Monday. The builder then offered to have available a small one manual organ by the end of the month; the arrangement being that it would be supplied and lent free of charge for six months, after which it would be removed, the Shrine authorities paying the cost of cartage. The organ came from Widford Parish Church near Chelmsford, Essex, where a new instrument had been recently installed, but which incorporated most of the pipes from the old one. The builder originally was John Raymon Rust, of Chelmsford, and the date probably about 1860. Thus the bellows, soundboard, case and a few odd bits of old action were restored, and other available pipes were fitted to form the present stops. The Open Diapason Bass and the electric blower were brand new. The organ was completed, delivered and erected before the end of May and was used at the Dedication of the extension on Whit Monday, 6th June. By September it had been decided that the organ should be purchased, and the agreed figure was £100 including the blower! This organ, which was only put in as a temporary makeshift, has given good service over the past twenty years, but a complete cleaning and overhaul is essential in the near future if the instrument is to function in a musical manner. At the present moment it is so choked with dust, candle-soot and discharge from the heating system (now disused) that tuning has become virtually impossible, whilst the sounds emitted are becoming increasingly unpleasant. The action is noisy, and in some places it is held together by odd pieces of string fitted by the organist in times of crisis. Unfortunately, however, there is no money available to meet the considerable expense which the work of restoration and cleaning would incur. The estimate is that it will cost nearly £150 to do this work – but the power and effectiveness will remain as they are. Even if these essential works should be completed, the organ will still retain its original specification, and will still be inadequate to perform its wide range of tasks. In its present position on the North side of the Choir, much of the sound is absorbed by its immediate surroundings, so that even “full organ” is inaudible to members of the congregation if the singing should be at all lusty and strong. The reverse also applies, and the unfortunate organist is so overwhelmed by the sound of the instrument that he can hear no noise from the congregation. Thus all too often the quality of the singing is poor simply because the present equipment makes it impossible for the organist to provide the “lead” which is essential if pilgrims with different choral traditions are to sing with one voice. Then again, the rapid stop changing which is called for in accompanying Vespers is notoriously difficult to do really well, and the mechanism has even developed faults sometimes from the hard knocks it has inevitably to sustain during the process; two manuals are indispensable for this purpose. The keyboard is in a position where it is possible to see only the top of the stalls on the South side of the Choir, so that the organist is virtually blind as well as deaf so far as concerns the service which he is trying to accompany. Even long experience of these conditions fails to relieve the feeling of strain which develops into an absolute nightmare on great occasions in the Shrine. Readers will, therefore hardly be surprised that the present organist wishes to see the installation of a new organ specially designed for the many tasks it has to perform, and which will meet all its demands in a way worthy of the Shrine and its traditions. In spite of the current high costs of organ-building, the present time is particularly propitious for raising this matter because the Shrine has recently had a very good offer of a two-manual organ which has been removed from a church not very far away, and which could be satisfactorily adapted for Shrine requirements. Using the soundboards and timber frame of an old instrument is the best way of overcoming the present shortage of properly seasoned wood. Furthermore, in the case of this particular organ, the pipe-work is such that it could be successfully adapted and re-voiced to suit and, it is hoped, to overcome the poor acoustics of the Shrine Church. The cost of this work would be approximately £2,000, a figure which is most reasonable in the light of current prices in the trade. Many pilgrim visitors would like to hear the Shrine more worthily “musicked”, and every person to play on the present instrument has expressed the wish that something better will be provided. It is obviously not possible to make yet another general appeal for funds to enable this work to begin, therefore, our only hope is that some wealthy client(s) of Our Lady may be moved to provide enough money to enable this particular work to be carried out. A new organ is undoubtedly the most useful and most delightful gift that could be conceived. Kenneth Condon, L.T.C.L, Organist of Shrine articles: 'Lest we forget - dates of interest'; J R Windsor-Garnett, 'The Irish Church Today'; Herbert Ashley, 'The Annunciation Group'; Leo Shirley Price, 'Mary, Queen of Workers'; 'the parish church of St Mary, Burnham-on-Crouch' photographs: three photographs of the College of St Augustine in the Shrine church [one above]; two organ pipes; reliquary and cross-reliquary left by Fr Corbould to the Shrine; three photographs of St Mary, Burnham-on-Crouch