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Heart, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, England
Aiden McRae Thomson
|Mystery Worshipper: Don Bosco.
The church: Sacred Heart, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, England.
Denomination: Roman Catholic,
The building: A blend of traditional and modern architecture. The large entrance
porch, narthex, and apse are in Victorian Gothic. North and
south nave extensions obviously date from the 1970s. There
are saw-tooth walls, apparently inspired by Coventry Cathedral.
The typical reordering as a result of the second Vatican Council
has occurred, with a new concrete altar at the edge of the
sanctuary, whitewashed walls, and loss of altar rails. The
tabernacle remains in the middle of the small sanctuary, and
the church retains an intimate and reverent atmosphere.
The church: The parish is affiliated with a primary school of the same name.
A member of Churches Together in Ilkley, Sacred Heart works
with the other Christian denominations in the town using a
common credal basis to bring the faith to the people of Ilkley.
No specific outreaches or classes were mentioned in the pew
leaflets. I approve of this absence from the literature, working
by the maxim of St Philip Neri to "desire to remain unknown."
The neighbourhood: The spa town of Ilkley is surrounded by countryside. The southern
slopes of the valley form Ilkley Moor, immortalised in Yorkshire's
anthem. Prehistoric man lived on the moors and left behind
stone circles and hundreds of rock carvings, including the
famous so-called Swastika
Stone. The equally famous cow and calf rock formation,
so called because many think the outcropping resembles said
animals, can be seen on the moors above the town. In the 20th
century Ilkley has become a relatively wealthy dormitory town
for the nearby cities of Leeds and Bradford, with a mix of
young families and older couples throughout the town.
The cast: The celebrant was a visiting priest identified only as Father
Simon. The Revd Msgr Kieran Heskin, parish priest, concelebrated,
proclaimed the gospel, and preached.
The date & time: Christmas Day, 25 December 2011, 8:30am.
have received a comment
on this report.
What was the name of
Mass of the Shepherds (Dawn Mass).
How full was
welcome you personally?
Yes. After I struggled to open the door, the lady handing
out the books for mass gave me a warm smile and wished me
a very genuine happy Christmas. Once in church, I was left
to my prayers, which is how I like it before mass.
Was your pew
A standard 1970s pew. Comfortable but with knee-cap removing kneelers.
How would you
describe the pre-service
Reverent until ten minutes before mass began, when the church began to
sound like a coffee shop.
What were the
exact opening words of the
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
What books did
the congregation use during the
Parish Mass Book;
instruments were played?
A small but real pipe organ, played with varying degrees of
musical sensitivity. The lusty singing of well known carols
covered some harmonic indiscretions.
Versus populum celebration
always distracts me, and the visiting celebrant introduced
several liturgical oddities.
Was the worship
stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
"Do the red, say the black." A simple said mass with hymns,
no bells or smells. Appropriately formal and by the book.
The mass was entirely Christ-oriented, yet celebrated facing
the people. The congregation were reverent and quiet throughout.
long was the sermon?
I forgot to time it, but it was just long enough to hold absolute
attention, despite being intense. I'd estimate about 10 to
On a scale of 1-10,
how good was the preacher?
8 – Msgr Heskin preached from a script, but this wasn't
noticeable. Anything above primary school level catechesis
wasn't mentioned – a shame, because the monsignor seemed
to have the congregation listening intently.
In a nutshell, what
was the sermon about?
The true Christmas gift is manifest in that stable in Bethlehem.
Christmas is not just for people who can celebrate with gluttony
and secular joy. We should put our selfishness and vanity
aside and give ourselves wholly to all men, as Christ does,
especially those who grieve or suffer – for whom he
has the greatest compassion. After all, our Saviour and his
Blessed Mother experienced the trials of the human condition
even at the time of Christ's birth.
Which part of
the service was like being in
When I first walked into the body of the church, a "wow" escaped
my lips – low lighting, candles, and a well placed nativity
scene set a wonderful atmosphere.
And which part
was like being in... er... the other place?
Ninety-five per cent of the congregation failed to use the
new translation of the mass, compulsory since Advent Sunday.
The competition was palpable by the creed, and I cringed every
time the congregants bellowed "and also with you" instead
of "and with your spirit". I hope these obstinate passive-aggressive
protests will be stopped.
when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing. The rite of the dash to the car began half way through
the recessional hymn.
How would you
describe the after-service
There wasn't any.
How would you
feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
9 – It would be unfair to evaluate the parish based
on a Christmas mass where visitors predominate, and the priest
is rushed off his feet. But if the parish priest celebrates
mass as reverently as he preaches, I would be a regular attendee
at the said masses if I lived in the area.
Did the service
make you feel glad to be a
Mass is mass, but reverent services always make me glad to be Christian.
What one thing
will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
From the homily: "Give ourselves wholly to all men, as Christ
does, especially those who grieve or suffer – for whom
he has the greatest compassion." Also singing "While shepherds
watched their flocks by night" to the tune of Cranbrook,
the melody of "On Ilkla Moor"!
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