Friday 20 March 2020

The Last Mass

Yesterday was the feast day of St. Joseph. I made traditional Italian zeppole di San Giuseppe before getting down to work. I began work early, for I had obtained permission to knock off at five to go to Mass. It would be the last public Traditional Latin Mass approved by the Archdiocese, for the Scottish bishops have now suspended all public Masses because of the coronavirus.

Fortunately for my state of mind, I had just finished writing an article about Trump's announcement of the use of the malaria remedy hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19.  I was feeling hopeful and even took Benedict Ambrose's announcement that the 17:20 train had been cancelled in stride. 

"Call a taxi," I said and arrayed myself in, more or less, the blue outfit I wore to Polish Pretend Son's 2018 wedding. Not the hat. It was too cold for a straw hat. Instead I wore my "Russian" bearskin (teddy bearskin, really) hat, the one that makes me five inches taller. And I also wore my late friend Angela's pearls. I'm so glad Angela was not sick in the time of coronavirus. 

I dabbed on rose perfume, put on my "outdoor" gloves and got into the taxicab before B.A. The driver, who had been at home with his wife all day, was garrulous. The taxicab smelled of bleach. Business is terrible, we were assured, which is why our driver had been at home, waiting to be called out instead of looking for fares that simply aren't there. He had just bought his taxicab, so this is a bit of a worry, but he was more grateful than worried, having bought the least expensive car he could. He told an amusing story against Uber: apparently a young lady was recently kicked out of an Uber car after she sneezed and had to take a proper cab after all. 

The fare was £25, which is a lot for poor Mr. and Mrs. B.A., but we enjoyed the seeing the sun set over the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art One and also, as B.A. pointed out, its Neon announcement that "Everything is going to be alright." Then we kept a metre's distance from our fellow TLM devotees as we exchanged remarks about the pandemic going into the church. 

Well, what can I say about Mass? It was the Feast of St. Joseph, our priest wore white and gold. There were three young-man servers as well as John the Middle-Aged M.C. Silent Stuart, who is always the thurifer, was thurifer to the bitter end. There were Euan and Sam. They came out of the sacristy, processed down the Epistle side of the church and then up the central aisle. Mark (the Other Mark) sang the choir parts, and at one point his wife Annabel (a brilliant soprano) added assistance. 

There were none of the missals (left to us in Fra Freddie's will) or a Whyte Sheete for St. Joseph's Day, so if we didn't have our missals (I think I left mine in Father's house chapel) we had to rely on our Latin. My Latin is generally good enough for the Gospel, if not the Epistle. There were between 35 (my count) and 38 (Mark's count) of us altogether. Only eight of us were women; we seemed to be mostly young men--and a hitherto unknown dog. The dog sat by the back doors and occasionally complained.

In his homily, Father struck a cheerful note, assuring us that he would continue to say Mass and that he would pray for us as always. We could be confident that we would still receive all the graces that we would have had, had we continued going to Mass. However, I still though longingly of the 18th century, when at least the laity could have sneaked out into the countryside and found Mass awaiting us in the heather. (Possibly some delightfully fanatical Polish priest will row up the Firth of Forth and there will again be Mass in the heather.) 

After Mass, we all prayed the "Prayer in Times of Epidemics" from a new Whyte Sheete Father asked us to take home.  Then Other Mark began to sing a hymn to St. Joseph, which he (and at least one other young man) read from his smartphone. The chorus, which eventually we all learned to sing, is as follows:

Dear St. Joseph, spouse of Mary
blest above all saints on high,
When the death shades round us gather, 
teach, O teach us how to die, 
teach, O teach us how to die.

Apropos, no? I felt a bit sad again and had to remind myself of splendid hydroxychloroquine, second cousin, surely, to the good old Gin & Tonic. Also, the way to die, if you can manage it, is probably cheerfully, giving as little trouble to those around you as you can: very C.S. Lewis/G.K. Chesterton/the Queen. Or so I said to B.A. as we walked towards the dreaded bus stop in the gloom.

Some outraged local readers may wonder why they didn't know there was a 18:15 TLM for St. Joseph at the church yesterday.  One answer is that I found out through Facebook from Other Mark, so if you don't use Facebook you were out of luck. I was so burdened with cares that when I was thinking of people who ought to know, I thought only of an Austrian physicist--possibly because I knew he could walk there and would not be tempted to take a germy bus.  UPDATE: Another answer is that it was on the FSSP website, which too few of us read.) 

I am now fanatically anti-bus and got on a double-decker one last night only because, like B.A., I couldn't bear the thought of another £25 taxicab ride. A man four rows down coughed shallowly into his coat at intervals. For awhile I thought it was the young Pole beside his wife/girlfriend three rows back and looked with horror at his reflection in the window as he greeted an equally Polish pal, shook his hand, and the pal immediately put his shaken hand on a bus pole. Teach, O teach us how to die. But it was the chap behind him, after all.

"Trzymaj się," the maligned Pole said to his friend when latter went downstairs to alight in Portobello. Take care.

"Trzymaj się!"

Take care, everyone. My gloves, as per my sister-in-law's instructions, are going back into a 9:1 water-bleach solution.  


  1. That malaria drug hasn't yet been proved effective against COVID 19 in a single patient. Trump was getting things wrong as usual and the US FDA immediately corrected him and clarified that they have not approved it for COVID 19 (but that doctors can prescribe it off-label.). I don't know why you would feel reassured by anything Trump says. Just a few weeks ago, he said that the US had it under control. Now, everything is canceled and I'm afraid that if I leave the house to go grocery shopping, my immune compromised husband will catch it from me and die!

    1. Well, it was proved effective in some French patients, which is why I felt reassured. Unfortunately, I was working so hard at getting the Trump comments out fast that I didn't have much time to listen to what the FDA man said. However, as I said, I felt optimistic because of the French success.

    2. Here's a link to the French study.

    3. I'm not a journalist, but if I were, I would obsessively fact-check everything this man says. Fauci immediately corrected him immediately after when he took the podium. Will you post a correction to your Lifesite article?

    4. Me? No. I don't have access to anything on LifeSite once it is posted. However, I have sent a note to my editor about your concern. FWIW, my article is factual: I reported exactly what Trump said (minus the "I [did this]" and "I [did that]" stuff). It take it you are not a fan of your president.

  2. In the U.S. he's regarded as either a joke or a man who can do no wrong regardless of any evidence that people bring up. The man isn't known for telling the truth. He won't even admit that it's raining when it clearly is.

    His arrogance is infamous. Despite never serving in the military, he insists that he knows more than any of our generals. I could go on and on about all the awful things he's done. Hearing about his decisions and his defensive fan-base is depressing for me.

    If he ever does manage to say something true, his track record for lying will incline people to not believe him like in "The Boy Who Cried Wolf."

    1. Well, I promise not to mention him again on my blog. I've always tried to have a non-partisan blog although occasionally I have said some testy things about mass migration (not ordinary migration but MASS migration) which made some readers extremely upset. This is all the more ironic for the fact that the largest and arguably most marginalised migrant group in my geographical community is Polish, and I have worked very hard to learn and speak Polish---but now I am completely off topic and talking about myself again!

  3. It's your blog Seraphic however I sincerely hope you don't self censor just because a very important public figure is divisive and can raise the hackles of some folk. I didn't see anything wrong with you quoting him, he is the American president and is on the news daily in the UK and Ireland as you know. I am glad he closed the American border to China back in January. I think these 2 island nations need to do the same with our European neighbours too. The Good Lord put a sea around us, I wish we'd use it. Why we're still allowing external entrants while putting ourselves on voluntary lockdown is beyond my comprehension.

    By the way, is it soaking woolly gloves in a basin of 9 parts bleach to water you're doing? Overnight or a half hour or anywhere in between?



    1. Hi, Sinéad! It's cotton gloves. It's just for an hour or two. I don't know how long it's supposed to be, but my guess is an hour is more than sufficient.