LouRDEs maw IN six crriFs
Papal Blessing for 'Six Halls'
ONLY a few hours before thousands gathered in Lourdes for the opening of the Centenary Year by Cardinal Gerlier, thousands in England were paying their tribute to Our Lady by their presence at the Six Halls Festivals — of London, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle and Bradford.
RepOrts on all the Festivals are given by "C.H." Reporters and Correspondents: Carrying a erosq weighing 50 lbs. this German pilgrim, Ernst Walter, rests on a milestone on the Tarbes-Ismrdes road. Aged 60, lie left Berlin IWO months ago to get 10 Lourdes in time for the opening
of the Centenary Celebrations.
BERNADETTE (AM) BISHOP) UNDER FIRE
IN a week in which there were many reminders on radio and television of the Lourdes centenary, last Friday's " Press Conference " on B.B.C. Television, in which Bishop George Dwyer was " under fire" was memorable. Under the chairmanship of Francis Williams the team of newspapermen fired questions at the Bishop of Leeds which ranged from whether Bernadette was an hysteric in need of psychiatric treatment to whether the .same might also be said of those who are cured at Lourdes today.
'the non-Catholics in the viewing public must have learned quite a lot about St. Bernadette and Lourdes. They also learned that the new Bishop of Leeds is an outstanding natural T.V. personality. Catholics will for long treasure the recollection of the smiling Bishop wagging his finger at Francis Williams as he told him: " Your trouble is that you are a Puritan— it is probably because of your Fabian past." Both his case and his personal triumph were helped by the grimly unsmiling editor of the Church of England newspaper, who emerged as the most irreconcilable opponent of the Bishop and of everything which Lourdes symbolises.
A new series of airmail stamps, with the same picture of the dome of St. Peter's as appeared on the previous issue, has been issued by the Vatican Post Office. The new series consists of 500 lire red and 1,000 lire green stamps.
WE had a Catholic "Entente cordiale" when at the Royal Albert Hall, London, on Monday. France lent us her Boy Scouts who, appropriately dressed. mixed
Bernadette at the Grotto.
We saluted France with the " Marseillaise," and honoured her Ambassador. Exactly 50 years ago the hall was for the first time packed with Catholics come to protest, at the bidding of Cardinal Bourne, at a Government ban on a proposed outdoor procession of the Blessed Sacrament in London. That was during England's first, and only, Eucharistic Congress.
Since then Catholics have never failed to pack the Albert Hall when summoned there to mark some Catholic event, or to protest when our united voice had to be heard.
Every seat was sold for each of the two performances. Everyone now knows the tuneful refrain of Fr. Duval's Bernadette song — "Tap your sabots, Bernadette." It is an easy tune, and mastered the first time by the huge audience.
It was a three-part Festival: first, the Rubbra Cantata, then the famous priest-guitarist, finally Hugh Ross Williamson's mime.
Eamonn Andrews opened the proceedings with wisecracks that came easy to his numerous TV fans, and in a reference to Fr. Duval, who only the previous Saturday had appeared with his guitar among the skiffle groupers of a well-known B.B.C. show, said: ,,In a Six Hall Festival we do right to get in a touch of the ' SixFive Special .." Prolonged applause greeted the entrance of -Fr. Duval, who had told me he was particularly pleased at having before him in the audience his mother, who is 74 and who had for the first time in her life travelled by plane to come and hear her son. The guitar started right away with " London Airport." Then there came the long-awaited " Bernadette" air, which Fr. Duval had composed especially for the occasion Hugh Ross Williamson's mime was particularly tricky, arid it could easily have gone wrong, had it not been for producer Patricia Foy's painstaking care in intro dyeing modifications in the distribution of voice parts. Due to bad acoustics in the old hall, this intervention was essential for success.
Patricia Connor, taking the lead, together with other actors. mimed the commentary spoken off-stage. The author caught the meaning of Lourdes when he ended his drama with the hushed words of Bernadette: " I have never seen her look so beautiful," and the final comment as the little figure receded down the steps and into the darkness: "She went away to her life of prayer and suffering."
Then came Fr. Basset's annotincement that the Holy Father had sent his special blessing, and this was at once followed by its solemn bestowal on the huge gathering by the Archbishop of Westminster, who, together with Bishop Craven and other distinguished guests, occupied a box in the principal tier.
AS far as Catholic occasions go, nothing of quite the same importance has happened since "The Dream of Gerontius" was given on the same platform in Birmingham Town Hall when Cardinal Newman was still a living memory and Eiger was in his prime: a very different occasion, of course, but with the same eternal theme, the soul's spiritual integrity. Hugh Ross Williamson is said to have paid Birmingham the compliment of saying that he liked their treatment of his Mime the best of all: which is not surprising because Bernard Heplon. the producer, is the resident producer and director of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. and he had as his righthand man, so to speak, Agnes Skivington of the Birmingham Crescent Theatre.
BRADFORD massed choirs, the choir brought together to sing Rubbra's Cantata at Bradford's St. George's Hall would, if it were kept together, be outstanding. High praise must go to Ernest Bradbury, the music critic of the " Yorkshire Post," who conducted, and who, incidentally, is a non-Catholic. The finale of the Mime really brought Lourdes into the hall. It was the candlelight procession, with " sick " carried to the grotto brancarcliers who live in the Leeds diocese, while the universality of the devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes was shown by national groups in costume who crowded the stage. Actors. speakers, choir, and audience joined in the Some of the pilgrims who walked In procession from the parish church at Lourdes to the Rosary Square tor the High Mass opening
the Centenary Year.
singing of all the verses of the Lourdes hymn. At the end the telegram from the Pope was read by Bishop Dwyer.
expressing his pleasure at the celebrations in England in honour of the centenary of the Apparitions at Lourdes was read by Archbishop Heenan at the end of the Liverpool performance of the Mime and the Cantata. The Archbishop also said that he would not praise the artists, since they were doing it in honour of Our Lady. All the 1.800 seats in the Philharmonic Hall were full; huge parties had come from as far afield as Preston, Wigan. Southport, and many surrounding towns in Lancashire and Cheshire. T. St. John Barry related the story of the miraculous cure of Liverpool-born Jack Traynor, and also recited two poems about Our Lady, The narration to the Mime was spoken by John Gregson, who also provided the continuity for the rest of the programme. Dr. J. E. Wallace conducted the performance 61 the Cantata, sung by Doreen Wedgewood, Joan Cooney, the Liverpool Philharmonic Choir, and a children's choir from Notre Dame Collegiate School, Evcrton Valley.
IT was the sincerity of the telling • of one of the world's simplest stories that really held 2.500 people in the Newcastle City Hall literally spellbound during the performance of the Mime and the Cantata. But this was not surprising, since an absence of " ballyhoo" has been a feature of the production right up to the final dress rehearsal last Friday. Pere Duval's songs were sung by Cy Grant, and many of the audience, at his request, joined him in singing them. The festival was introduced by Ted Kavanagh. There was, however, one disappointment: that there will be no repeat performance. For hundreds of Catholics in the Hexham and Newcastle diocese, this is a very real disappointment. At the end of the festival, Bishop Cunningham the auxiliary Bishop of the diocese, gave his blessing.
N audience of 2,500 people filled the Free Trade Hall to capacity to give a rousing reception to the Manchester performance of the Mime and Cantata. The climax of the evening was the finale of the Mime, when on one side of the giant stage there was a crowd of 1858 pilgrims, including Hungarians and Italians in national costume, while an the other there was a crowd of modern pilgrims, including coloured people and Ukrainians. After the Mime, Fr. Agnellus preached a three-minute sermon, followed by the blessing. The Lourdes hymn was sung by all the 250-strong cast, and the audience, which on Monday night included Bishop Parker of Northampton. Bishop Beck saw the Festival on Tuesday night. as did the Lord Mayor of Manchester. Alderman 1 eslie Lever, M.P.
A PROCESSION in which repre sentatives from 20 different countries, each under their country's banner, were to take part was arranged for the finale of the pageant staged at the City Hall, Hull, yesterday (Thursday) to mark the centenary of the Apparitions at Lourdes. Called "The Story of Lourdes,' the pageant was written by Kevin Carroll. According to the latest reports available on going to press. every seat in the hall had been taken; Bishop Brunner of Middlesbrough was due to attend, and many parties had arranged to come in from the surrounding villages, including some from Barton on the other side of the Humber.