FATHER ANTHONY ANDREWS 8th Feb 1933 - 22nd July 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                          "I am quite sure the soul can outshine anything."

 

“We are speaking of a great man”. These are the words of a dear friend of Father Andrews spoken to me the other day as we began to remember him. That friend added “He let you be yourself”. How often did I hear Father Andrews recite his old school teacher’s maxim: “know yourself, accept yourself, be yourself” ? It might seem odd to those fooled by the stern facade, but self-acceptance was in fact the key to understanding Father Andrews. He knew his faults and he accepted himself nonetheless and he accepted others in the same way. How else could one so conservative and traditional have allowed a brash Australian like me, whom he met on the corner outside this church take up residence in his house? How else could such a diverse range of people, of different faiths and cultures including atheists and even women be counted amongst his friends? Most recently his carers, from so many different faiths and backgrounds, each one easily accepted into intimate contact without hesitation or complaint. The simple truth is Father Andrews was not the stern unbending figure he portrayed himself to be. He was however shy and so he found it difficult to openly show the love he felt, and as one who lived close to him for so many years I can assure you he felt it and he felt it intensely for many of those here today. Sometimes in private he showed this openly:

 

I once remember finding him in the Vicarage kitchen with tears in his eyes. I was shocked since I had never seen him openly emotional like this. I asked him what was wrong and he told me that a young Muslim man had been shot in the parish and killed and without thought I stupidly said “well at least he is not your problem” and Father Andrews responded by saying “every soul in this parish is my responsibility” and he continued to stun me by adding “I should have been tougher with him when he came to me for confession”. Father Andrews heard the confession of a Muslim man and he wept at the news of his demise.

 

The paradoxical nature of stern a traditionalist with a secretly open heart was increasingly apparent as the years went by. As one friend of his recently said to me “he knew love”. I could not tell you how many times I witnessed him giving out large sums of money at the door of the vicarage and no matter how preposterous the story he was told he almost always gave something and he certainly always listened. At one point the situation got out of hand with the word having gone around that a Vicar was giving out money for nothing and so he made a sign which still sits there saying ‘NO MONEY IS EVER GIVEN AT THE DOOR’ and not long after this I witnessed him handing out a very large sum of money to a single mother with her baby in a pram. “You’ve become a saint!” I mocked and with deadly seriousness he rebuked me saying, “I am not holy”.

 

Indeed for Father Andrews life was a struggle on many levels: He suffered particularly in his heart due to the division that had occurred in the Anglican Church. He felt this acutely but his faith was not diminished by it saying simply “I am sure Jesus can sort out all the mess”. He was a great admirer of another traditionalist who continued in his office until the very end, Pope JPII. Like John Paul II, in the end he suffered so much in his body and he felt so diminished in his capacity to provide succour to those who came to the door that he struggled in his office and felt this failing deeply. Once I recall a man apparently in the grip of a psychosis demanding that Father Andrews pay his airplane ticket to Singapore. When refused the man became physically aggressive and Father Andrews had no choice but to close the door on his face. Soon I found him fuming in his study, surrounded by his mountain range of books, which usually brought him comfort but on this occasion unable to find peace in knowledge for his anger was not with the man but with himself as he said “I feel so useless…I should be able to do something!”.

 

But he did do something. He bore witness to the truth he believed in. He believed in tradition, in the proper way of doing things because he believed this was the key to unity. Sometimes the way he went about this stopped others in their tracks. One Halloween he stood in front of a group of children dressed up screaming “trick or treat?” and Father Andrews pausing for a moment replied “No! This NOT America!” and slammed the door shut in their painted faces and smirked as he retired into his study pleased both with himself and his ‘trick’. Bishops got the same tricky treatment, when asked to consider retirement by the then Bishop of Kensington he paused only momentarily to count how many Bishops of Kensington he had known and replied “You are the twelfth Bishop of Kensington I have served under, good afternoon” and got up and left without further explanation. Abrupt? Oh yes! Difficult? Certainly! Determined? Most definitely! He was determined to carry out what he saw as his duty to his faith and nothing would distract him.

 

For he felt a deep sense of gratitude to this parish for its loyalty, commitment and bravery to continue joyfully serving during difficult times. How often he would retire to his study and say “they are remarkable” or shake his head with happy disbelief at the sums of money raised by such a small and committed group. He knew very well that he depended on you all, and he desired right until the end to be your priest. Perhaps here Father Andrews stands out most of all, his will to live and serve was truly remarkable. Many times I offered to make arrangements for him to be able to stop and retire and he would say simply “I want to go on” and nodding I knew why and it might seem muddle headed to the rest of us who are not possessed by such a will as he, but the reason he wanted to go on was for you because you went on for him and because he wanted you to go on after him and for the tradition to continue. This was his deepest wish.

 

Until his recent period of grave illness, his extraordinary discipline and devotion, which underpinned his faith started early each day as he woke up at precisely 6.15am and at precisely 7.15am walked into the corridor underneath the sign, which reads ‘my grace is sufficient for thee’. Father Andrews really trusted in that. It might seem redundant to say so, but he was a ‘man of faith’. I once asked him if he really did believe in the idea of ‘abandonment to Divine Providence’ and he said simply “to depend on God everyday is a profoundly Christian thing” and in his last days as he heaved the heavy cross of his failing health he found comfort with that thought. He knew his end was coming but he did not run away or give in, but said simply “I will stay here for as long as He keeps me here”. These were not just words, he hired a personal trainer and with great courage began formal exercise classes even as his mind and body failed him, rarely complaining, and when I told him what an agony it was to watch someone ageing and fading who had once been so bright suddenly become so dim, he looked at me and with a peaceful, gentle, knowing smile, and said: “I am quite sure the soul can outshine anything”. I was amazed and delighted when he said this, he lifted my spirit with these words, but then it is no strange thing as I indeed realise, his dear friend was right, “We are speaking of a great man”.

 

(A tribute from a close friend on 4th August 2016)

HOMILY BY MONSIGNOR FATHER BRUCE HARBERT:

In the year nineteen hundred and sixty three, I was staying in the mining village of Goldthorpe, South Yorkshire, where my friend Father Andrews had recently been appointed Vicar, although he had not yet reached thirty years of age. Being on holiday, I had risen late from my bed, and was enjoying a mid-morning bath, when I was startled by a booming voice declaring 'I am the Resurrection and the Life'. It took me a few moments to realise that the voice was that of Father Andrews, and that he was at the gate of the Churchyard, beginning the Burial Service from the Book of Common Prayer For a deceased parishioner. Now we hear the same words spoken over his coffin. I am the Resurrection and the Life. In choosing to begin their Burial Service with the words 'I am the resurrection and the Life', the devisers of the 1549 Prayer Book were setting a new tone. The medieval service had begun circumdederunt me gemitus mortis, 'the groans of death have surrounded me' and in what followed, the note of fear seemed to sound more loudly than that of hope. This somewhat gruesome response to death developed in later years, with the incorporation into the Requiem Mass of the Dies Irae and its chilling evocation of the last judgement. Black vestments, sometimes adorned with skull and crossbones, added to the atmosphere. Arresting settings of the Requiem Mass by Mozart, Berlioz and Verdi invited a wider audience to savour the Roman liturgy of death. And then in 1963, only a couple of months after my startling experience in the Goldthorpe bathroom, the Second Vatican Council mandated that the Roman rite of funerals be revised in order to express more clearly 'the paschal character of Christian Death'. In this, as in so many of their decisions, the Fathers of the Council were seeking to recover forgotten elements from the early centuries which, they judged, would be valuable in the evangelisation of the contemporary world. Many of them had visited the Catacombs and seen the inscriptions on the tombs of doves and olive branches with the words in pace, 'in peace'. They knew there were other Christian ways of responding to death than the one with which they had become familiar. Accordingly, when the rites were revised, we were permitted to sing Alleluia and 'Glory be to the Father', black vestments were discouraged, and 'I am the Resurrection and the Life' found its place among the permitted texts. The Pope had caught up with Cranmer. This development led unsurprisingly to an over-reaction. White vestments became the fashion, inappropriately jolly songs began to be thought suitable for funerals, and little space was left for the mourners to express their natural grief. Secular pressures played their part. A decline in religious faith and practice among the population led people to speak of a funeral as a 'celebration of the life' of the deceased. Larger questions concerning the meaning of life and death were brushed aside. Through all this Father Andrews ministered faithfully in Goldthorpe and Notting Hill. He was not one to follow fashion. In his study he had a statue of Saint John Mary Vianney, the Curé of Ars, who served a single parish for 41 years. Father Andrews was here in Notting Hill for 42 years, faithfully delivering and preserving the western liturgical tradition, which, as he knew, contains great treasures for the Christian people. Part of Cranmer's motivation for placing 'I am the Resurrection and the Life' at the start of his Burial Service, was his determination to exclude all prayer for the dead. Not long ago I watched a recording of a memorial service for Dr Ian Paisley. His widow spoke movingly of his last hours and expressed her confidence that, when he seemed to be breathing his last, 'his next breath would be taken in heaven'. 'Now that's true Protestantism', I thought - no Purgatory for Doctor Paisley. But it is interesting to see how the idea of prayer for the dead is becoming more acceptable in the media. After some massacre, spokesmen will say 'our thoughts and prayers are with' not only the bereaved, but ‘those who have died'. War memorials inscribed with 'We will remember them' and 'their name liveth for evermore' are beginning to seem dated. Prayer for the dead arises from a deep human instinct. That instinct implies the doctrine of Purgatory, a conviction that we can change after our death, and that the prayer of the living assists that change. So our liturgy today weaves together two strands - confidence in the promises of Christ, and prayer to help Father Andrews on his journey. His body lies, as is traditional for a priest, with his head towards the altar, reminding us of his constant posture, facing the people to teach, guide and lead his them. But now that he has been taken from us, his face has turned towards the Father. He makes his journey towards God, and we seek to speed him on his way. We join in the prayer that he said so often: 'Eternal rest grant to him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him'. At his baptism, Father Andrews was given the name Anthony. If you asked him which Anthony, he would reply 'Anthony of Egypt', the hermit. Saint Anthony is renowned for his temptations, which Saint Athanasius graphically recorded, and many artists have sought to depict. But when his temptations had receded, and he left his place of seclusion after twenty years of solitude and struggle, he was found to be transformed. Here are the words of Athanasius: Antony came forth as from a shrine, . . . filled with the Spirit of God. Those who saw him wondered at the sight, for he had the same bodily characteristics as before, and was neither fat, like a man without exercise, nor lean from fasting and striving with the demons, but he was just the same as they had known him before his retirement from the world. And his soul was free from blemish, for it was neither contracted as if by grief, nor relaxed by pleasure, nor possessed by laughter or dejection, for he was not troubled when he beheld the crowd, nor overjoyed at being saluted by so many. Anthony was still alive at this point, but I think we can see his transformed humanity as a foretaste of the transformation promised to all of us by Saint Paul, as Our Lord's Transfiguration was a foretaste of his Resurrection. The transformation we are promised does not turn us into somebody else, but makes us more fully ourselves. Tuis enim fidelibus, Domine, vita mutatur, non tollitur, as we say in the requiem preface - for your faithful, O Lord, life is changed, not taken away. Father Andrews endured much suffering in recent years, from which he is now delivered. He looks forward to the transformation promised him by Christ, who is the Resurrection and the life. May the Lord restore the joy of his youth. I commend him to the intercession of Saint John Mary Vianney and Saint Anthony, his patrons. And I commend him to the patron of this church, with the traditional words of the Requiem Mass: may the holy standard-bearer Michael lead him into the holy light: which God has promised to Abraham and to his seed of old. Finally, I should like to recall the song of the Angel at the end of Blessed John Henry Newman's poem 'The Dream of Gerontius'. It speaks of purgatory, not as a place of torment but as a cleansing lake, and beautifully expresses our confidence in God's mercy:

 

Softly and gently, dearly-ransom'd soul,       

In my most loving arms I now enfold thee,

And, o'er the penal waters, as they roll,       

I poise thee, and I lower thee, and hold thee.

 

And carefully I dip thee in the lake,       

And thou, without a sob or a resistance,

Dost through the flood thy rapid passage take,       

Sinking deep, deeper, into the dim distance.

 

Angels, to whom the willing task is given,       

Shall tend, and nurse, and lull thee, as thou liest;

And masses on the earth, and prayers in heaven,       

Shall aid thee at the Throne of the Most Highest.

 

Farewell, but not for ever! brother dear,       

Be brave and patient on thy bed of sorrow;

Swiftly shall pass thy night of trial here,       

And I will come and wake thee on the morrow.