Obsequies of the Very Reverend Fr. Jonathan Robinson, Cong. Orat.

[The following is a guest submission coming from an Oratorian at the Toronto Oratory (who wishes to remain anonymous) detailing the recent funerary rites for the death of their founder and noted author, Fr. Jonathan Robinson.]

* * *

On the afternoon of Tuesday June 9th, the Fathers and Brothers of the Toronto Oratory gathered to receive the body of their Founder and Superior, the late Fr. Jonathan Robinson. Vespers from the Office of the Dead was sung, and Matins from the same Office later in the evening; there followed a Night Vigil of prayer. Lauds from the Office of the Dead was sung on Wednesday morning, June 10th, preceding the Solemn High Mass of Requiem at 10 o’clock.

The Sanctuary was draped with mourning bunting and the altar dressed with a black antependium and a cloth of handmade lace decorated with doves and clover. Silver candlesticks were fitted with unbleached beeswax candles, around an austere crucifix with ebony black mounting. Large floral displays are discouraged at Requiem masses; instead two memorial wreaths were in place, fashioned from grapevine, laurel and ivy, symbolizing the victory of immortality. These wreaths, in addition, were decorated with the epithets Pater (Father) and Fundator (Founder), a gesture honouring the memory of Fr. Robinson and simultaneously evoking both St. Philip Neri and St. John Henry Newman, the influence of whom upon him had been so profound.

The vestments were a richly embroidered set acquired by the Oratory several years ago. Two new black copes had been designed and produced by the Oratory sacristan, and were worn by the cantors at Lauds and Vespers. The hoods of the copes feature a highly stylized embroidery of acanthus leaf in raised cord, which in the Christian tradition connotes both suffering and the immortality which, in union with the Cross, is its fruit. The dramatic contrast of gold on black speaks of the hope of resurrection posited by God as the remedy for the darkness of extinction.

A Benedictine Monk once commented that “it is befitting to celebrate worthily and with dignity the obsequies of a founder”. We believe this is especially true in the case of Fr Robinson, who in his preaching, his writing, and in the community he founded, did so much to inspire and consolidate the authentic renewal of the Sacred Liturgy, both in the Church in Canada and farther afield.

Join in the conversation on our Facebook page.