Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Our Lady of Walsingham

Happy Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham - it's still got another twenty minutes to go! I had the privilege of making a pilgrimage to Walsingham today with my mum (a proper pilgrimage, with a set of Rosary mysteries on the way, during the time there, and on the way back, though as my mum pointed out, John Paul II rather threw a spanner in the works by introducing a fourth set of mysteries!). The Mass was of course a solemnity, and the Sisters of Walsingham, from Brentwood, processed the statue of Our Lady into the church to place next to the altar. There were priests from the diocese as well as from elsewhere, and the church was extremely packed. Bishop Michael gave an edifying homily about Mary's place in the work of our salvation, and held up her humility as an example to us. He also preached the same message I had heard from a different priest the last time I was in Walsingham - that is, a pilgrimage is never the end, but the beginning! Like the slipper chapel there, which is where pilgrims traditionally took off their shoes to walk the last mile to the old shrine barefoot, going on pilgrimage is an initial step which entails consequent conversion of life. Mary is not the goal, but the Mother who points us to our ultimate end, Her Son. Below is an excerpt from the litany to Our Lady of Walsingham (not the same excerpt I posted a year ago):

Woman who wondered, Remember us to God.
Woman who listened, Remember us to God.
Woman who followed Him, Remember us to God.
Woman who longed for Him, Remember us to God.
Woman who loves Him, Remember us to God.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Situation in Vietnam

Recently we have learned from our brother seminarians from Vietnam training at Oscott of the ongoing events in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, where Catholics are holding prayerful vigils outside the old nunciature, which the Communist authorities have seized and are beginning to demolish. The Catholic community has long requested the return of the building to the Church in Hanoi, but the authorities have gone back on their promise to return it, and are doing so without any justification. In a letter to both the Vietnamese President and its Prime Minister, Archbishop Kiet of Hanoi has said, 'This act is a deed that smears the legitimate aspiration of the Hanoi Catholic community, ridicules the law, and disrespects the Catholic Church in Vietnam. It is also an act of trembling morality, and mocking society’s conscience.' The authorities, says the Archbishop, have even spread false information about the protest and used interviews with mock 'priests' supporting the demolition to dissuade Catholics from challenging the demolition. As many as 5,000 people have been praying outside the fenced-off sight, under close supervision, including the seminarians and religious of Hanoi. The seminary and nearby convent, as well as cathedral and the archbishop's residence, have been blocked off while the demolition is taking place. (At the same time a Redemptorist parish in the city is protesting against the seizure of its property, and some of the protesters are being detained by the police.) Please keep the whole situation in Hanoi, and in Vietnam in general, in your prayers.

Incidentally, according to one source the Church property is to be demolished to make way for a parking lot, which ironically reminds me of the Joni Mitchell song 'Big Yellow Taxi':

'Don't it always seem to go, that we don't know what we got til it's gone,
They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot!'

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Vigil for Vocations

The other night we had a Holy Hour for vocations to the diocesan priesthood, and for the conversion of England. It seems Michael had became fed up with the state of things ('Everyone's up and joining these religious orders, so we've got to be radical!'), so he advertised the Holy Hour for 2-3 am. However, most of the seminarians assumed it was meant to be 2-3 PM! Quite a few seminarians came nonetheless which was very encouraging. Please continue to pray for the diocesan priesthood in England and Wales, that young men will consider this call seriously, and that we will be true and courageous servants of the Gospel.

I have been reading Lumen Gentium for one of my courses, and it has a beautiful reference to the Church's ministries:

'[Christ] continually provides in his body, that is, in the Church, for gifts of ministries through which, by his power, we serve each other unto salvation so that, carrying out the truth in love, we may through all things grow unto him who is our head.' LG 1, 7

Monday, 8 September 2008

Facsimile of the Shroud

Happy Feast Day of Our Lady's birth! This marks the 4th day of our return to seminary. On Saturday we went to see one of four life-size facsimiles of the Shroud of Turin, which is on display in an Anglican church in Little Aston. It was bought for the vicar's wife by a friend off Ebay, of all places! I went along, fairly indifferently I must admit, as I had already seen the Shroud in Turin some years ago and was never incredibly struck by subsequent pictures I had seen of it.

But the afternoon was a very wothwhile experience, largely because of the way the presentation was laid out. On first walking in we were confronted with the negative of the Shroud, which shows up much more clearly the scars and blood stains than the actual shroud does, and accompanied with this was scientific evidence of the shroud's credibility, as well as quotes from the Scriptures that set the scene and turned the display into a meditation on the Passion. All the seminarians that came were visibly awed by what they saw and read. At the end of the display was the facsimile itself. I thought particularly poignant a piece of artwork which depicted the Cross, composed of the words of Psalm 22 ('All who see me mock at me,/ They make mouths at me, they wag their heads').

This visit grounded my own visit to Baddesley Clinton the day before, a Catholic manor in Warwickshire where Jesuit priests hid during the Reformation. On at least one occassion they were forced to use its priest holes to escape the spontaneous search of Queen Elizabeth's priest hunters. I guess the priestly vocation, lived well, will always be open to public humiliation and even persecution. It is well for us to remember that while living relatively comfortably in seminary!