Wednesday, 27 February 2008

The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly on the Plain

Just thought I’d take advantage of a surge of blogging energy to blog about the half-term trip to Valladolid, Spain which some of us went on a month ago...

Valladolid is the home of St. Alban's Seminary, an English seminary begun by St. Robert Persons in 1589 in order to train priests to come back to England and minister to the Recusant Catholics. Among the martyrs associated with the seminary are St. Hernry Garnet, St. Henry Walpole and Blessed John Plessington. The seminary, following the example of other continental operations like Douai and Rome, was a gift of the Spanish Crown, and hence reverts back to the Crown once it fails to be used any longer for the training of priests. Today, because it is no longer feasible to use it as a full-time seminary, it is used by many dioceses as a pre-seminary year for accepted applicants, where they learn the Catechism, develop a life of communal prayer and liturgy, and experience a profoundly Catholic culture. Close by are the cities of Avila and Segovia, where the two friends St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross respectively led a renewal in the Church through the newly formed discalced Carmelites.


Situated on the top of a hill and closed in by a great stone, turreted wall, the city of Avila supposedly provided Teresa with the inspiration for her mystical work, The Interior Castle, which talks of the different steps on the way to perfect union with God. She was first a nun in the Convent of the Incarnation, which lies a 10 minute walk outside the city walls. For the first half of her life in the convent she was drawn between ‘friendship with God and friendship with the world’, but in mid-life she read the Confessions of St. Augustine, and underwent a conversion of spirit, desiring to live a more fervent life in the service of God. She also received many spiritual locutions from Our Lord, in one of which she saw ‘the sorely wounded Christ,’ and these helped her to search for God more single-mindedly. She founded the convent of St. Joseph’s which resides in the city walls, where the sisters lived a more primitive observance of the Carmelite life. Seeing her cell in the Convent of the Incarnation, small and dark, with a little ledge and a small fireplace from which to cook her supper, was the most humbling thing from our visit to Avila.

I also enjoyed seeing the musical instruments which are kept there, for they indicated that St. Teresa and the nuns were accustomed to living out their faith with joy and creativity.

More about Segovia (home of St. John of the Cross) later!

Back from Ushaw

We're back from the British Seminarians' Football Tournament, which happened at Ushaw Seminary (by Durham). Thanks for the prayers, the said injured has recovered and we were all able to come back together. We beat Ushaw and lost two games, including one to the fleet-footed Scots from Dun Scotus who swept the tournament. It was a wonderful chance to talk to seminarians from other seminaries, to see how things differ for them, and how much of what we do is the same. Most importantly, it encouraged us in our vocation and helped us realise that we are not alone as future priests in Britain, while at the same time allowing us to relax in a normal setting and just have a bit of fun. Ushaw's lack of Latin, Greek and Hebrew classes had at least one Oscotian considering a transfer up north ( sed non mihi est...). All seminarians have academic study as an integral part of their formation, as is called for in Pope John Paul II's Pastores Dabo Vobis. It is important today as ever that we are able to 'give an account of the hope that is within us' through a clear and studied understanding of our faith. Another important aspect of formation is pastoral work, which Ushaw seems to have a lot of. At any rate, a good time was had by all of us at the tournament, and we thank Ushaw for putting it on, at the same time looking forward to a chance to redeem ourselves against the footie victors!

Saturday, 23 February 2008

The dangers of football

A few of the lads are currently up at Ushaw seminary because of an inter-seminary football game but please say a prayer for one of our players who we have heard is now in hospital with concussion.

I knew there was a reason why I've never felt the urge to play football!

Tuesday, 5 February 2008


I'm sat in the library, with my coat on because it's so cold, it's getting dark and I'm TRYING to write an essay on philosophy of law, and so for the sake of my mental health I would just like to say...


Sunday, 3 February 2008

Candidacy Retreat

As Henry mentioned in the last post about the football match (commiserations to Wonersh) some of us have just been away on a mini-retreat.

We've had the very pleasant experience of being able to stay overnight at Oulton Abbey, a small community of Benedictine Nuns near Stone in Staffordshire, a short drive from Oscott. They are an extremely hospitable community (I think of only two actual 'Oulton Abbey nuns') who provided us with an abundance of good food, lest we faint along the way.

The purpose of our stay was to spend time reflecting on Candidacy. By this I mean being admitted as a Candidate for Holy Orders, the prospect of which is on the very near horizon for those of us who were on the retreat. Candidacy is an official by the Church that a person has a vocation to Diaconate or Priesthood and the Church asks God's blessing on the person and admonishes him to care for his vocation so that he might be able to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

We will find out in a few weeks whether we are to be admitted as Candidates and I think the Rite will be celebrated in early April. Suddenly, the six years of seminary formation which faced us in our first year seems to be whizzing past!

Prayers please!!!

Benediction in the main Chapel at Oulton Abbey after our Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament.

Oscott vs. Wonersh

Yesterday was a long day, as we had the Wonersh seminarians over to play a football match, a rematch long anticipated! The day started with a candlelit procession and Mass at 7.15 in the morning to celebrate Our Lord's Presentation in the Temple. The cloisters echoed with the refrain, 'Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuae Israel' - Simeon's words to God on beholding the child Jesus - 'A light to enlighten the gentiles, and give glory to Israel your people.' It was a beautiful way to start the day.

The game was very competitive, and there were loud supporters on both sides. Wonersh managed to lead off 2-0, but we equalised before the second half. After a rest at half time we came back hoping to tire Wonersh out and take the lead. Both teams scored another goal. With only a few minutes to go, Wonersh took the lead 4-3, which seemed like the end of it. But our dean came back with a thundering charge down the centre and put one past the goalie to draw the game at 4-4. Both teams thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Now we have the tournament at Ushaw to think about after half-term.

Say a pray for Michael and Luke, who are on candidacy retreat this weekend.

Friday, 1 February 2008

A mother's witness

A few weeks ago this story came out about a young mother in Norfolk who gave her life for her newborn baby. Lorraine Allard, who discovered that she was in the advanced stages of cancer, refused to terminate her pregnancy at 23 weeks in order to undergo chemotherapy. Instead she waited for her baby's premature arrival at 26 weeks, saying, "If I am going to die, my baby is going to live." Her husband, already the father of three daughters, held by his wife's decision. "I can't begin to describe how brave she was. Towards the end we knew things weren't going well but she was overjoyed that she had given life to Liam." Liam was born on November 18, weighing less than 2 lbs., and his mother was put on a chemotherapy course straight away. Nevertheless she died two months later, having managed to visit her baby at the hospital four times.

It is incredible to hear of people like Lorraine and Martyn who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to give their children a chance to live. May their witness reawaken us to the gift of new life, and give us the courage to make sacrifices on its behalf. May it help break down the idea in our culture that children take away a person's freedom. On the contrary, many abortions are undergone because of pressures put upon women by the fathers, her parents or through her own low self esteem, whereas Lorraine was obviously at peace making the choice she did. May she rest in peace.