Thursday, 24 September 2009

Our Lady of Walsingham

Of all the places Our Lady could have chosen, she decided to come to East Anglia. Over nine centuries ago, a noble woman, living in the gently rolling hills of north Norfolk had a vision of Our Blessed Mother, who told her to build a replica of the house where the Angel Gabriel appeared to her, announcing the conception of Our Lord.

We were reminded in a commentary at Mass today, that this ancient devotion to Our Lady, which is strong here in her Dowry, that as her statue was burned during the Henrican reformation, they were not only burning Our Lady, but they were also burning Our Lord. At the foot of the cross, Christ willed that she be our mother, and we be her children. Mary leads us to Christ, for without her, He could not have been born unto us. Indeed, it is no bad thing asking her intercession, for we cannot go wrong with Christ's own mother on our side.

One cannot deny the inspirational value of Mary's 'fiat', her 'yes' to God's will. Every Christian should regularly reflect on this story, in order that they may come to a better understanding of God's will for us, and the vocation he has bestowed upon us, so that our own 'yes' may be forthcoming.

As seminarians, we regularly ask ourselves, 'is this God's will for me?' But this question is not reserved to those who feel called to a priestly or religious life, it is a question for everyone, for each of us has a divine vocation God is asking us to fulfill. Should I get married to this person? Am I called to the single life? Does God will that I be a lay missionary? Am I to offer my working life to the service of the poor? Can I use my skills to further the kingdom of God?

Here at Oscott, we are reminded of our quest to find our true vocation with our regular recitation of the Angelus. Blessed Mother, pray for us, that we, like you, may be able to echo your prayer to Our Father in heaven:

behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Sydney Seminarians' Testimonies

Thanks to Friends with Christ blog for posting about the updated website of the Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Sydney. Click HERE for some interesting personal testimonies about how the guys came to seminary.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Siege of Jericho

When I was in school, we often sang (unusually for secular schools nowadays) Christian songs at assemblies, one of which recounted the biblical story of the battle of Jericho. I always enjoyed this particular song, because it evoked such strong imagery in my imagination: "the walls came tumbling down."

But those words took on a new meaning for Henry and me today, along with three of our Oscott brethren, as we joined about 30 others on a walk around an abortion clinic in Birmingham. 'The Siege of Jericho', as the events of this week have been called, recalls that very battle as we circumnavigated the clinic seven times, in the obvious presence of the Blessed Sacrament, under the banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is patroness of the unborn.

We prayed three mysteries of the Rosary together, a Divine Mercy chaplet, as well as singing several hymns, that the hearts of those involved in those dreadful actions would be converted, and also with the intention to renew the priesthood in the eyes of people in this Year of the Priest. At the end of our procession, we sang hymns to the Blessed Sacrament, and the priest gave us all benediction with It.

There was no opposition to our peaceful prayers, but many people passed by, on foot, bicycle, bus and car and saw our banners and heard our voices raised in song. Hopefully our small act of witness will encourage everybody to think about this most dark blight on our 'civilised' society.

And she who gives a baby birth brings Saviour Christ again to earth.

Therese takes Birmingham by Storm

Last night the seminary went to visit the relics of St Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face in St Chad's Cathedral. There we led sung evening prayer with a full congregation, to start the night vigil in the church. The relics arrived yesterday afternoon, and it has been estimated by the cathedral clergy that 8,000 people passed through the doors of St Chad's up to that evening. And many more no doubt will come before the relics leave on Monday! I know people travelled to Birmingham from Nottingham, Northampton and even as far afield as some Carmels in Scotland - it was great to have some Carmelite nuns praying with us, and to know that they're praying for the seminarians!

After evening prayer there was a rosary and Holy Hour led by the youth team from Soli House in the diocese, and at Midnight there was a Mass (deaconed by our very own Roger who was ordained at Oscott in the summer). Many people were there during the night, including lots of parents and children, which was very encouraging. To be in the presence of Therese's relics, this young enclosed religious who felt that she must be 'Love in the Heart of the Church,' was incredible. I must admit to having not had a notable devotion to her before, but reading about her this last month or so, and getting to know her, I can see why she is indeed a Doctor of the Church. Her Little Way is not a way of saccharine piety, but gets to the very essence of what it is to be truly human - that is, abandoning ourselves as children to God our Father. She very much teaches us what we are first told in the Letters of John: 'In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the expiation for our sins' (2 Jn 4:10).

I hope to post more about Therese later, particularly concerning her own words and some words about her by Fr Jean Lafrance whose book 'My Vocation is Love' I am reading at the moment. Meanwhile, Therese will continue her missionary apostolate in this country, and hopefully be a source of great renewal both in and outside the Church.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Christology in 3 Minutes

I'm studying Christology in this my third year at Oscott, so I found this video posted on the Hermeneutic of Continuity both relevant and entertaining (and completely true)! The basics are all there...

Click HERE to watch it.

That's my King... Do you know Him?

Monday, 14 September 2009

Day of Recollection - St Therese

On Sunday we had a beautiful reflection from Canon John Udris of Northampton Cathedral, a priest who trained here at Oscott in the 80's. He has a great love of St Therese of Liseux, being part of the committe that organised her relics coming here, and so he gave us a day of recollection about her in preparation for the relics arriving at St Chad's cathedral on Saturday. He spoke of three themes which run throughout her 'Story of a Soul' and which can be of immense help for us. Firstly, she recognised and embraced her own weakness, realising that it was in her nothingness that God loved her. In this way she was happy to see herself imperfect, and encouraged those around her to be the same. Secondly, she had immense trust in God. The French priest Fr Jean Lafrance says that her confidence is the way to Love, and Fr John Udris said that her trust worked miracles (rather like Our Lord saying that if we only had faith the size of a mustard seed, we could move mountains). Having no trust in her own nothingness, she put it all in the God on whom she depended for Everything. Lastly, Fr John talked of her great love. Similarly perhaps to Mother Theresa of Calcutta, St Therese came to discover in her own life a 'call within a call' - more than simply being a Carmelite nun, she felt that she was called to be Love in the heart of the Church, and she burned with a desire to make God loved by others as much as she loved Him.

When she was a little girl, she and her elder sister Celine were offered a toy from a box of assorted things. Celine thought for a while and then picked something, but when it came to St Therese, she said, 'I take it all.' That is her attitude to God. She takes all the grace and mercy He has to offer, even if her way is the Little Way, unnoticed and humble. She wanted likewise to give all to God, strewing the petals of her life before him. How fitting it is that this saint, who wanted so dearly to be a missionary and a doctor of the Church, is now able to be both, so many years after her death! Let's hope and pray that the visit of her relics will awaken our hearts and the hearts of our nation to the vast ocean of love that the Father means to pour into us.

Friday, 11 September 2009


My mum sent me a link today to the website of a small Anglican parish in East Tuddenham, Norfolk, which has an early 20th century tripdych displaying an unusual combination of saints. All of the saints have some connection to East Anglia or to current events in the life of the Church. In the middle of the tripdych is Christ in majesty. On the left is St Therese, Julian of Norwich and Our Lady, and on the right are Ss Francis, John Vianney and Felix. Now Our Lady is very important to East Anglia because of Walsingham, Julian of Norwich is an obvious native, and Felix is the patron of the diocese, as the bishop who evangelised this area in the 7th century. St John Vianney, as patron of priests, is being commemorated in this Year of the Priest which marks his 150th anniversary of death, St Therese's relics are in the country this month (we are seeing them next week), and St Francis was the focus of Oscott's pilgrimage to Assissi in June, during which we made a concerted effort to pray for vocations (and now have 8 new seminarians starting). All these saints have in some way influenced us East Anglian seminarians, and here they are all together, in a right hodgepodge of holiness!

Apparently this small church of All Saints was given the tripdych as the result of another Anglican parish closing in Norwich. I'd love to go and see the piece sometime, maybe have a pseudo pilgrimage...

You can see the whole thing here...

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Cause of our joy

Yesterday, we celebrated the feast of the nativity of Our Lady: the cause of our joy. For the younglings, it also marked the end of our very first week here at Oscott College and the end of our honeymoon period, as we were launched into lectures at the start of this week.

At the moment, I'm enjoying these early starts too - something which I wasn't very much of an advocate in my previous life outside the seminary gates - but we shall see how long that lasts! Apparently, the chapel gets colder too. Eeek!

Since the Bishop kindly said he would send me here all those months ago, I've been excited about arriving and moving into my new room (which is of generous proportions!), and now I'm eagre to get going, using all the wonderful resources here at the college. There is just so much bounty to be had in the treasury of our Catholic faith, spiritually and intellectually, I can't wait to take a bite. All this around us is for our benefit, so that we may be formed into priests, praise God, to serve His people outside in the real world. Socialising, studying, making the occasional mistake, is all there to deepen our relationship with God, a portal to the mysterious depths of His love for us. How fitting, then, that the college's patroness is His holy Mother, Mary, the portal who brought Him to us and continues to lead us to Him.

Holy Mary, Mother of our Lord and cause of our joy, pray for seminarians, that we may be able to make the same fiat as thee.

Monday, 7 September 2009

A Year in the Heart of London, in the Heart of the Church

Once again St Patrick's Evangelisation School (SPES) is preparing for a new year starting in October, and is still open to any young people, between ages 20-30, who are interested in taking part. The year is one of discerning God's call for you, lived in community, in the life of London's busy West End but also in the heart of the Church, praying daily and studying the teachings of the Faith, but also reaching out to those without hope through evangelisation and service. It is well worth the risk, and as Fr Alex the School's founder says often, when you give to God, you receive a hundred fold! For more information, see their webpage here.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Come Along! Sunday Exposition and Evening Prayer

During the Year of the Priest, we are going to open up our Sunday Evening Prayer at Oscott to anyone who wants to join us. There will also be about 15 minutes Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament beforehand, with Benediction to finish. Please come by if you are in the area! The doors to the college chapel open at 6.15 pm, with the service starting a 6.30. The address of the college is

Chester Road (at the intersection with College Road)
Sutton Coldfield (to the north of Birmingham)
B73 5AA

We'd love to see you! By joining our prayers together we can contribute to a spiritual renewal in all priests.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Full(er) House

Well the induction week has gone fine, and our eight new seminarians have had no problems settling in. The rest of the community arrived yesterday, and we kicked off the year with a votive Mass to St John Vianney. Eveyone seems happy to be back, and even our singing in chapel is full of new gusto. It's nice to have a fuller house this year, and apparently the numbers have increased for all the English seminaries. Long may it continue!

Hope everyone has had a happy memoria of Blessed Mother Theresa.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

New seminarians!

Today is the first day of the Induction Week for the new seminarians at Oscott, and we are fortunate enough to have 8 starting this year. Two of these are from East Anglia (Simon and Ben), so please keep them in your prayers as they begin their life in Oscott. The other first years are for the dioceses of Northampton, Birmingham, Nottingham, and the Sion community and the Vocationist Fathers based in Holywell. May they all find Oscott a good place in which to discern the Lord's call for them.

Walsingham Youth 2000

At the weekend I went to the Youth 2000 pilgrimage at Walsingham, with the intention of recharging my spiritual batteries before returning to seminary. It was a wonderful couple of days, spent catching up with people, prayer, and talks. This year Eduardo Varastegui, a Mexican actor and producer of the pro-life film Bella, spoke of his conversion from an immoral Hollywood lifestyle to a life spent trying to glorify God through his talents. He said that through the constant questioning of his English teacher, he came to realise that he was not living as if he believed in God, or as if he believed that his body was a temple of the Holy Spirit. He decided then to reject all film offers that compromised his faith, his family, or his latino culture (which he said had suffered sever stereotyping in Hollywood). Because of this resolution, he had no work for four years, and it was not until his spiritual director suggested he produce his own films that he found a way of influencing the film scene. His film Bella, which won the Toronto film festival, has a strong pro-life story, and has so far caused at least one hundred women to cancel their abortion appointments and have their child. Eduardo plans to produce more films promoting the dignity of the human person, including a life of Mother Teresa.

During his testimony his humility came across particularly - he was evidently nervous addressing so many young people, and he was also choked with tears of gratitude for what had happened in his life. May his work bear great fruit, and help to build what John Paul II called the 'civilisation of love.'