I have plenty of catching up to do, and I intend to devote some blog space to the papal visit to the United Kingdom, sometime later this week. I managed to see the Mass in which Blessed John Henry Newman was beatified this morning, via the BBC. It was some quite good coverage I have to say. It certainly put any Dutch efforts to shame. The tv news in this country managed to devote all of three minutes to the visit on Saturday evening and succeeded in completely ignoring the 200,000 (!) people who were overjoyed to see the pope. Of course, in this country, anything that makes people happy is suspect, unless it is depraved. So, naturally, the attention was on loudmouthed protesters who, it must be said, have in instinct to hog the camera, and share how shortsighted and egotistical they can be. Yes, it made me angry, can you tell?
I watched the televised Mass with two seminarians at the St. John’s seminary in Den Bosch. I was a guest there from Friday afternoon until today. Part of the reason that I was there was an invitation from one of the seminarians (who also organised this summer’s Bootcamp, which is mostly where I know him from), and the other was the consecration of the two new auxiliary bishops of the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch: Msgr. Jan Liesen and Msgr. Rob Mutsaerts. I had never attended a bishop’s consecration, and I was quite curious about it.
Well, in short I can say that they do these things rather more exuberantly than us up north. Not only do they have a whopping big cathedral, but they also filled it to full capacity and then added throngs of bishops, priests, guild members (in full medieval regalia) and camera crews. And then, once the bishops were properly consecrated, they took it outside, where one of the guilds welcomed the new bishops with music and a flag display. The city of ‘s Hertogenbosch was going to know there were two new bishops.
Frederick has a proper selection of photos (or a selection of proper photos, perhaps?) in his blog, but I also couldn’t leave my camera alone…
On Friday evening, seminarians, priests, the bishops elect and Cardinal Simonis gathered to pray the so-called Akathistos hymn, an elaborate prayer to the Blessed Virgin that comes to us from the Orthodox. Akathistos simply means ‘not seated’, so the hymn is sung standing. I was in time at the seminary to attend a last rehearsal, but in the end I did not join the seminarians and priests in the sanctuary. Lack of a suitable alb and singing voice was the main reason. Instead I joined the 100 people in the congregation.
Afterwards there was a small reception at the seminary, where I was recognised as the writer of this very blog by three or four people. I also met the aforementioned blogging seminarian and some Twittering Catholics. Putting faces to names is still a pleasant passtime.
And then, one moment you’re just a guy in the congregation, the next you’re having breakfast with two bishops. It’s been a good weekend for me personally. Of course the entire madness surrounding the consecration is a great experience, but simply staying at a seminary, to be part of life there, for however short a while, is a good thing. It focuses me a bit more on what actually matters, and in that way this has been a very short retreat of sorts.