In praise of St. Agatha’s in Portsmouth

Fr Hunwicke departs from his series on “liturgists” to write:

Gaudeamus omnes in Domino …

… because it’s S Agatha’s Day! So I’m taking a day off from the grim business of Fr Butler of Brentwood and his depressing friends to congratulate the people of S Agatha’s Ordinariate Church in Portsmouth, with their admirable Parish Priest Fr John Maunder and Mgr Robert Mercer, the great missionary Bishop of Matabeleland, now in Ordinariate retirement.

They graciously invited me to preach at their Patronal last year; it was the first preachment I was able to take on after I smashed my shoulder. By a happy chance … no: soon-to-be Saint John Paul II once wisely observed that there is no such thing as Coincidence in Divine Providence … I broke that shoulder in Rome, where I was booked to preach, during the annual FIUV bash, at S Agata dei Goti!!! That is a unique church in Rome: it was once an Arian church. Perhaps S Agatha should be the patroness of those who rescue churches from schism for Catholic use!

S Agatha’s in Portsmouth, of which the Ordinariate has the use, was sold off by the C of E as redundant. It, also unique, is the only place in England … I think … where you can see a church built by the Anglo-Catholics in the days of their high glory, full of the most exquisite artwork and shrines, now in Full Communion with the See of S Peter and offering worship in the finest tradition of Anglican Catholicism. As campanologists will know, S Agatha is Patron of all those concerned with bells; and our Senior Grandson Ewan, a passionate and brilliantly competent bell-ringer, was given a go, when we were there last February, during the inaugural peal in the restored S Agatha’s.

Of course for those of us formerly from the Traditional Anglican Communion, St. Agatha’s holds a special place in our hearts because this is where in 2007 the TAC bishops solemnly signed a formal petition to the Pope asking to come into full communion with the Holy See as well as signed on the altar a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Msgr. Robert Mercer was not only a missionary bishop of Matabeleland for the Anglican Church, he was a missionary bishop for Canada of the TAC here, having left the Anglican Church over its descent into apostasy through the ordination of women.
What a blessing he was to us and how thankful I am for having known him.
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1 Response to In praise of St. Agatha’s in Portsmouth

  1. Pingback: In praise of St. Agatha’s in Portsmouth | Catholic Canada

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