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RIP Michael Davies - The passing of a true defender of the Faith
Michael Davies, who died on 25 September 2004, was a household word in traditional Latin Mass circles and well beyond. Perhaps no other single person promoted the cause of the Latin Mass as effectively as he did through his lectures and prolific writings which helped pave the way for Pope John Paul II's Indult of 1988. Michael Davies was also a contributor to 'AD2000' over the years and spoke at the Thomas More Centre during a visit to Australia in 1996 when he met B.A. Santamaria whom he admired greatly. The feeling was mutual.
Michael Foley, who provides this pen portrait and appreciation, is a Melbourne Catholic who has himself been actively involved in the Latin Mass movement in Australia since the early 1970s and was a personal friend of Michael Davies.
Michael Davies was born in Yeovil, Somerset, of a Welsh father and English mother. He was intensely loyal to his Welsh heritage, its culture and sporting activities. On completion of his secondary education, he joined the Somerset Light Infantry and saw service abroad, firstly in Malaya, during the Communist insurgency, and later in the Middle East, following the Suez crisis of 1956. He saw further service in Cyprus in the heady days of the Makarios civil war.
It was in his final year at school that he first started instruction in the Catholic Faith. He was received into the Catholic Church while serving with his regiment in Egypt.
Following his military service, Michael attended London University from which he emerged with an honours degree. This was followed by teacher training and a period of service in schools of the Archdioceses of Westminster and Southwark.
This placed him in the front line of the emerging trends in religious education, from the time of the appearance of the Dutch Catechism, in the heat and confusion following Vatican II.
Around 1969, networking of orthodox Catholics began to occur in both the UK and US. Michael came into the orbit of Hamish Fraser, an indomitable defender of the Faith in Scotland, who was not only a convert but a former Communist and union militant.
Hamish Fraser had been publishing a quarterly periodical Approaches for nearly a decade when Michael started writing special supplements. One of these was a manifesto on the catechetical disaster then emerging.
It was this which first brought him into contact with the Church in Australia, now catching up with the rest of the world in this area, with such publications as Come Alive, Christ Among Us and Move Out. Bishop Stewart, the then Bishop of Sandhurst, Victoria, was so impressed with Michael Davies' analysis that he provided a copy of it to every parish priest in his diocese.
Michael's apostolate of critical analysis of aspects of the post-Conciliar Catholic crisis gave rise to over ten major works on the pertinent areas of controversy and double that number of pamphlets. His trilogy comprising Cranmer's Godly Order, Pope John's Council and Pope Paul's New Mass is probably the best known of his works. These covered in a uniquely encompassing manner the doctrinal, catechetical, liturgical, theological, philosophical, historical, ethical and pastoral complexities of what was taking place in the Church in the name of the Council.
In his great legacy to the contemporary Church, he had few peers in the English-speaking world, and is worthy to be included in the exalted company of such defenders of the faith as G.K. Chesterton, Frank Sheed and Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
Michael Davies' long-term ambition of coming to Australia, which I had been encouraging him to do since the 1970s was finally realised in April 1996. Under the auspices of the Ecclesia Dei Society (EDS), I was responsible for the detailed arrangements for his lecture tour, which covered the mainland states, and was centred on the EDS Liturgical Conference in Sydney.
During his stay, he was honoured to meet the late B.A. Santamaria at a public meeting held at the Thomas More Centre. He also met a number of Australian bishops, and was well received by them as a credible commentator and analyst of post-conciliar Church events.
Michael was never known, either in his writings or in his contacts, to allow himself to become personal in his criticism or attack. He was decidedly well-schooled at being able to keep his focus strictly on the issues at hand, while politely disagreeing with his opponents, but always in a spirit of true Christian charity. This was the case even in dealing with high ranking Church officials.
It could be said that Michael Davies came to the summit of his role in the Church when he assumed the leadership of Una Voce, the international body promoting the cause of the Latin Mass, following the retirement of Dr Ericide Saventhem. As time went on he came to be much respected by the powers in Rome as one known and recognised for his fidelity, and for genuinely wanting what was for the overall good of the Church.
Michael Davies suffered a prolonged terminal illness which was already advanced when I was last in London in October 2003. He was still able to travel to Rome with me and was in remarkably good spirits, never letting on the seriousness of his condition. He stood down as the President General of Una Voce but without revealing the underlying reason.
Michael leaves behind a dedicated wife and four grown up children and their families. His funeral took place at Chiselhurst in Kent and in accordance with his wishes, it was a modest occasion.
I mourn the loss of a true friend, an examplary Catholic and a courageous soldier of Christ in our own times.
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 17 No 10 (November 2004), p. 13
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