This year two have been elected into the Tower of Trent Hall of Honor and worthy to be presented with the Crimson Cross - the posthumous arena for those who have passed from this earth and having served faithfully in adhering to the Truths and Traditions of Holy Mother Church during their mission while alive.
Within one week in July of 2004 the world lost two traditional sacerdotal stalwarts in Father Oswald Baker and Father Paul Wickens. Today we provide a tribute to Fr. Baker and tomorrow we shall honor Fr. Wickens, both posthumously with the Tower of Trent Trophy and enshrinement into the Tower of Trent Hall of Honor. They join the 8 other dry martyrs of Traditional Catholicism.
Father Oswald Charles Baker was born on the first day of Our Lady's month of May in 1915, two years before the Blessed Mother of God would appear at Fatima. His birth was in the Angel Hotel at Clowne, Derbyshire, where his father was the landlord. In his youth the family moved to Great Yarmouth, where he attended the grammar school and, as reports confirm, soon lost his provincial accent. Finding himself drawn to religious life, he enrolled in the Campion House in Middlesex, operated by the Jesuits. From there he advanced to a prestigious Jesuit Seminary in France to become "a gentleman of St. Sulpice." However, the Jesuits were already into the politically correct mode back in 1938 when young Mr. Baker was asked to leave the seminary because he had published an article that suggested the Treaty of Versailles had been "too severe on Germany to be the basis of a lasting peace." As we can see from history, he was right. It would not be the last time he was right. By his own admission he wrote, "I was always a rebel."
Returning back to England, he tried to enter a Jesuit British Seminary but they had been forewarned that Oswald was one who would foment rebellion. Little did they realize the real rebels had already infiltrated the Church and were circulating errors that would have their explosion in the sixties. Rebuffed by the Society, Baker sought to earn a living selling books in Glasgow, Scotland when a Dominican he had met, after telling the priest more about his life and vocation, suggested that he become a friar.
Just as the corruption had already seaped into the Jesuit Order, so also the Order of Preachers. Oswald didn't last long with the white-robed Dominicans. Eventually, through the providence of God, he was introduced to a secular priest at Hyde Park. The priest recommended he enter the local Oscott Seminary in Birmingham, England. That worked to perfection and he was ordained in 1942 with war against the Axis in full throttle.
Throughout the next seven years he served as a curate at parishes in Luton, High Wycombe, and then Wyndham in Norfolk. In 1949 his bishop assigned him to the Church of St. Dominic at Downham Market in Norfolk where he was named pastor. There he remained for 26 years
Always a stickler for Catholic doctrine in being applicable to all things, he railed against the media's manipulation, bad grammar and even worse, bad theology and false reporting such as in 1953 when he took The Daily Telegraph to task for attacking His Holiness Pope Pius XII over contraception and other accusations. The mud-slinging against Pius had already begun and would continue over the next 50 years as the modern church would opt to dialogue incessantly rather than defend defiantly. That was what Fr. Oswald Baker was committed to: defending the Faith and the True Popes with every fiber of his being. He was loyal and dedicated and for this he ran into trouble with the apostate bishop of Northhampton Charles Grant.
After refusing from the get-go to abandon the rubrics of the True Mass, and having had enough of the New Order claptrap following Vatican II which he had been most leery of from the beginning and had held off saying the new abominations established by Anibale Bugnini and approved by a man who violently violated his papal vow not to change one iota of the constituted evangelic traditions, Father finally said: "Enough!" Rather, it was Grant who said "enough, this bloke Baker is prohibiting us from totally de-Catholicizing the populace by clinging to the zany idea that a Papal decree in 1570 takes precedence over whatever we decide today. Blimey, we must do something to discredit this chap." Just as the Newchurch of Vatican II has done to Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Archbishop Pierre Martin Ngo-Dinh-Thuc, and Father Nicholas Gruner to name a few, so also Grant set out to make an example of Father Oswald Baker. The Northhampton prelate not only badmouthed Baker, but twice ordered him to cease and desist what he had said for over 30 years - the Apostolic Mass of Sts. Peter and Paul - the Mass of All Ages - the infrangible Traditional Latin Mass codified infallibly by Pope Saint Pius V in 1570 in his landmark infallible Apostolic Constitution Quo Primum. When Fr. Oswald didn't blink, Grant went into a rage and commandeered Father's parish, sending in a New Order presbyter. But Fr. Oswald resisted, and the one sent by Grant had to offer the Novus Ordo in the local town hall. The people's attendance spoke volumes as to which they chose. Only a few attended Grant's "Mass" while even more flocked to Fr. Oswald Baker's Tridentine Mass at St. Dominic's. To show their support for Father and the True Mass, the faithful formed the "1570 Society" helping to raise money for Father to continue his resistance to the rebellion of Vatican II. Father Baker stated that if it was a war they wanted, then war it would be for "the new Mass is a sacrilegious parody of the true Mass: it is sinful to take part in it." He was echoing what Father James F. Wathen, a charter inductee into the Tower of Trent Hall of Honor last year, had written five years earlier in his irrefutable impacting work The Great Sacrilege
Because of the slander campaign launched by Grant, The Daily Telegraph assigned a reporter to attend Fr. Oswald's Masses and record any comments that might be used against him. Fr. Oswald was up to the ruse and felt if they want to hear something that should raff their knickers, he'd give it to them. He was quoted referring to the holy and mystical St. John of the Cross who as most remember, was incarcerated by his superiors because he sought to stand by tradition. Fr. pointed out that he was exonerated and went on to become Vicar General of Andalusia. Looking at the reporter, Fr. Oswald emphasized to the delight of his congregation that "There is something about them, these priests who gain a misleading reputation for disobedience. These bishops. They will have their little joke."
But it was never truly a laughing matter to Fr. Oswald that so many were being deceived and ruining the True Mass - "the cherished Mystery of the Latin Mass" which he called "probably the most beautiful product of our civilization."
In the last Mass he officially celebrated before being sanctioned and cast to the catacombs to suffer as the holy Doctor of the Church St. John of the Cross did, Father in part stated from the pulpit the treasure of the Mother Tongue:
"The gifts of God to man are in a world which is often careless and irreverent. One of God's institutions which is lamentably possible to desacralize and impoverish is our liturgy, our Mass. We have heard much in recent times about the advantages claimed for Mass in the vernacular, the language of the people. In judging this matter, we shall be wise to bear in mind the disadvantages, and to see the matter in the perspective of history.
"The language of the people in the liturgy has a centuries-long history. Few would claim that where it has been tried, it has intensified religious fervor, increased holiness, led to a deeper religious enlightenment or strengthened the bond of unity or charity among the faithful. A liturgy in the vernacular has rarely filled a church. The opposite is true of the liturgy celebrated in Latin. It is expedient to recall the advantages of Latin. It is probably true that the most beautiful product of our civilization is the Latin Mass. It is certainly true that all the saints of all intellectual levels drew from the cherished mystery of the Latin Mass the wisdom, humility, charity, piety and spirit of sacrifice that elevated and strengthened them. When it is said that, with the ousting of Latin, something has gone, that something can be given a multiple definition - an exquisite elegance and dignity and pathos, a fervent devotion unmixed with ostentation, a centuries-old absolute sacredness, the clear margin between the sacred and the profane. A sacred language indissolubly linked with the Church's sacred music, Gregorian Melody, unfailingly inspires reverence, without sentimentality, and to attempt any vernacular substitute is to attempt the inadequate. It is to take the queenly mantle of the Church and to put the Church in overalls. The very soul of the Church is in her sacred music, in her sacred language.
"As Our Lord used beautiful parables to veil His precious truths, so Latin keeps a decent and beautiful veil over what is enacted by the priest at the altar. To read the Epistle and Gospel in English is to lift that veil somewhat, without yet casting it aside, bringing everything down to the level of the commonplace, exposing all to the general gaze. The truth about the Canon of the Mass, whose English version has been so hotly disputed, is that it most probably just cannot be satisfactorily translated out of Latin into any other language suitable for public recitation aloud. Does that really worry anybody? The Latin Mass has always been loved as it is, without question available in English if wanted, in bi-lingual missals, or if they prefer, those at Mass have always been free to pray their own prayers.
"Centuries of Latin has not, that anyone knows, alienated any soul, or caused charity to grow cold in any. The Church has kept the Catholics of the world united by the use of a single language, and if that bond goes, not only unity, but much else besides is immediately imperiled."
Despite his being banned from St. Dominic's, his parishioners bought him a house to serve as his Traditional Chapel, enabling him to continue the resistance by providing an oasis in the desert of desertion of the True Faith. Soon the fame of his loyalty to the Traditional Latin Mass and staunch resistance to the "abomination of desolation" introduced by Paul VI and continued erringly under John Paul II soon spread across Britain and to the European mainland; so much so that word reached Archbishop Lefebvre in Econe, Switzerland who decided to send some of his young priests to England to take up the same cause as Fr. Baker. Father Oswald was receptive to this but began to grow suspicious when he realized that the Archbishop was giving too much credit to what he called heretical non-Catholic popes. For Fr. Oswald made it known that one should adhere to another holy Doctor of the Church's teaching - Saint Robert Cardinal Bellarmine whose 5th Opinion in his landmark De Romano Pontifice stated that "a heretical pope automatically loses his office." Needless to say he was labeled a sedevacantist by the Society and others and this caused a split in his congregation because of the misunderstanding by so many as to what the situation really was - it was a time of epikea - emergency - in the Church and supplied jurisdiction had trumped ordinary jurisdiction for with the new rites of sacraments introduced by Paul VI, their validity was greatly, if not fully, called into question.
In 1984 when asked by a reporter about John Paul II, Fr. Oswald asserted that "he was no more Catholic than Ian Paisley - and no more a pope than Billy Graham." As we can see by the late Pole's heretical actions over his "pontificate", Fr. Baker was right on both accounts. Father was favorable towards another Archbishop, Archbishop Pierre Martin Ngo-Dinh-Thuc, pointing out that "He was formerly Archbishop of Hanoi. In 1970, at the age of 73, he resigned, over Paul VI's rapprochement with Communism. The rest of the family was martyred in Communist Vietnam (his brother president of the Republic of Vietnam was assassinated in November of 1973.] The Archbishop has three doctorates, in philosophy, theology, and canon law. He was previously a seminary rector, and the founder of Vietnam's principal university. He rejects the Conciliar Church, which emerged from Vatican II, as a heretical sect, and therefore its hierarchy as apostates from the Catholic Church." As one commentator pointed out, Baker believed Thuc did the right thing in "locically and fearlessly rejecting John Paul II as no pope" and concluding that the Apostolic See was vacant. Father noted that the archbishop considered ordinations and Episcopal consecrations in the Novus Ordo as "doubtfully valid." Thus, Fr. Baker validated as necessary Thuc's consecration of bishops from many countries to ensure the continued Apostolic Succession. What impressed Fr. Oswald was that Thuc made a dignified and open declaration of his convictions.
And convictions are what sustained Fr. Oswald as the slander and backbiting continued into the nineties where less than two dozen remained faithful. It is interesting to note that when a certain Hollywood actor by the name of Mel Gibson, long before he ever began his masterpiece project The Passion of The Christ, bought a home nearby and began attending Fr. Baker's Masses on Sunday, attendance increased dramatically. Sad that it took a personality to attract them back, when all along they had the greatest Personality Who ever lived present Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity at each and every Holy Mass and in the Tabernacle. This is one of the problems in the Traditional movement that the personalities and viewpoints of certain priests are weighed more than the very fact that he is merely an alter Christus whose personality and charm or personal opinions should never get in the way or persuade one from not attending the True Mass as decreed infallibly by Pope St. Pius V to be said "in perpetuity."
In 1997, crippled by spinal problems, he left his home parish to accommodate his handicapped status elsewhere. Yet, despite the tremendous pain, he continued to do what he was ordained to do: Say the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. As opinionated as Fr. Oswald Baker was throughout his life, he never let it come between his duty as a shepherd to his flock in striving for 62 years as "a priest forever according to the Order of Melchisedech" to provide the necessary nourishment of the True Mass. According to the London Telegraph on the day of his death at the age of 87, his final words were "I am ready to die." And to which when he did pass from this earth shortly after, we can only pray Our Lord welcomed him to the Heavenly kingdom with the words each and everyone of us long to hear: "Well, done, good and faithful servant."
Appropriately his Requiem Mass and Burial was held on the historical feast of two others who refused the sitting hierarchy of Britain nearly 5 centuries earlier - Saint Thomas More and Saint John Fisher. Father Oswald Baker learned well and exemplified to all the course all who wish to be truly Catholic must follow - even if it leads to a bloody or, in the case of Fr. Oswald and so many like him, a dry martyrdom for Christ and the Faith He founded which Fr. Baker gave his entire life for and who stood as a sign of contradiction against those who would deviate from the Faith while being an ideal for winning more souls to Christ's One True Church.
Thus, The Daily Catholic proudly proclaim today, Monday, May 30, 2005 be declared Father Oswald Baker Day throughout all of Christendom and we hereby are honored to present him posthumously with the Crimson Cross Tower of Trent Trophy and welcome into the Tower of Trent Hall of Honor.
For charter members honored in our inaugural presentation of the Tower of Trent in 2004, see Charter Recipients of the Tower of Trent Trophy