Thursday, 15 November 2012


Last week we had a retreat led by Fr Stephen Wang, the Dean of Studies at Allen Hall seminary in the Archdiocese of Westminster. He gave some excellent reflections. You can have a look at his blog, Bridges and Tangents, where he writes about faith and culture. He is also the chaplain to Youth 2000, which has a prayer festival in Walsingham every August bank holiday, as well as other such events in different locations throughout the year. There is a real emphasis on Adoration and Confession, and the days are well attended by lay movements, religious orders and diocesan priests, who help run workshops and give talks during the events for the young people that are present.

During the retreat I was rereading Pope Benedict's homilies on Priesthood when he was Cardinal Ratzinger. Here are a few things he said that I really liked:

On not procrastinating in vocational discernment:
"There is a moment of Jesus Christ which one cannot put off and calculate and say: 'Yes, I want to all right, but at the moment it is still too risky for me. At the moment I still want to do this and that.' One can miss the moment of one's life, and with prudence gamble away the real worth of one's life never again to be able to recover it."

On priests accepting their weakness:
"[The priest] learns how through him God does great things, through is very weakness, and is full of joy that God has found someone as mean as him worthy of such mercy."

On being a disciple of Christ, who Ratzinger compares to Elijah in his fiery chariot:
"...discipleship demands that we have the courage to stand by is fiery chariot; that we have the courage to be near the fire which he came to cast upon the earth that it might be kindled... we must be ready to be burnt by him, to let ourselves be set on fire, with our hearts burning with the power of his word."

On faith as the most realistic worldview:
"I think we should find this courage once again: to recognise faith as the real objectivity, as the understanding that accepts the world in its true language."

Friday, 26 October 2012

Funeral of Fr Ben

Yesterday was the Funeral Mass of Fr Ben Grist in St John's Cathedral, Norwich. Fr David Bagstaff, the diocesan administrator, presided. The day before, Fr Mark Hackeson presided at the reception of the body and Evening Prayer. It was wonderful that the whole of Oscott seminary, including the domestic staff, were able to get a coach from Birmingham to attend the funeral. And there were many other people there, who knew Ben from various places along his checkered journey. It was good to see his family there, especially his dad and his brothers. Please continue to keep the family in your prayers, as well as Fr Ben himself, that he enjoys now the fulness of the Trinity's glory.  

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Requiesce in Pace, Fr Ben!

Many of you will know about the Ordination of Fr Ben Grist for the diocese on June 30th, after the discovery that he had advanced liver cancer in his third year at seminary. Some of you will also know that he passed away early this morning, peacefully and having been given the Anointing of the Sick. He will be greatly missed in the diocese and by the guys here at the seminary. As Ben himself would be the first to admit, he was always something of a "free spirit", and found it a challenge to adapt to the rules and routines of institutional life! But he was a person of deep piety, with a child-like heart, who knew how to appreciate small graces. He would often be found sitting out under the trees in the seminary grounds, reading a book and taking in the sunshine. With his outgoing personality he was also a great friend and evangeliser of the domestic staff at the college, as well as the doctors and nurses in the hospitals. I think these last months of his illness were a great blessing for him in many ways, as he came to terms with what God was doing in his life, and his new role as a priest in the diocese. When I spoke to him a fortnight ago, he said of his illness: "When you're not in control, God is, and that's a blessing. Everything is a gift".

Please pray for Fr Ben, that he go straight to God. I know I have no authority to presume his eternal state, but I have an unofficial hunch that he will be a great intercessor for our diocese, and I for one will be asking for his prayers in return.

Requiescat in Pace.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Happy Feast of the Confessor

Happy Feast of St Edward the Confessor!

When I say "Feast" I use that word as it is used in common parlance. Actually, in the English Church, today is a Memorial, which means liturgically-speaking that we don't sing the Gloria at Mass or the Te Deum at the Office of Readings as we would on a "Feast" technically so-called. We only use the prayers proper to him at Mass and the Divine Office.

Or so I thought... I've discovered (or possibly rediscovered since this time last year!) that at some point since the Breviary was published today's celebration appears to have been relegated to an Optional Memorial, meaning the priest can choose whether or not he acknowledges Edward by using his prayers in the liturgy.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems a shame that this national saint-king - the only King of England in fact to be canonised - is not observed with more ceremony! Along with our own East Anglian king St Edmund the Martyr, and Pope St Gregory the Great, St Edward was regarded as the official patron of England until St George was made so in 1351. There seems to be a lot of contention over the issue of whether St Edward was a successful monarch or not. Shortly after his death in 1066, England was conquered by the Normans. But he was apparently loved for his gentle and generous spirit. He avoided starting any wars. He did not enforce the Danegelt (a tax which Viking invaders had periodically demanded from England). He gave willingly to the poor. He loved participating in the liturgy. He built Westminster Abbey (though not as it appears today). Perhaps it was his gentleness that made him prone to pushy opportunitists like the Godwin family. Such was appropriate to his saintly gentleness, but let us not be meek on his behalf and allow him to go unnoticed!

I'm sure our historian confrere Simon could tell us more, and that more accurately, about St Edward. At any rate, let us invoke St Edward's intercession for those in government in our country, that they make decisions not based on superficial motives but out of a real love for what is true, good and beautiful. We can also pray to him, the Confessor, as a model for us in this Year of Faith. He can help us to live our faith in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, great or small.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Year of Faith

So it begins! The Year of Faith which the Holy Father has inaugurated on the anniversary of the opening of Vatican II (1962) and the publishing of the subsequent Catechism (1992). It is a year in which he invites us to enter more deeply into the faith, as through a door into our true home:

"The door of faith" (Acts 14: 27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church. (Pope Benedict, Apostolic Letter "Porta Fidei", 1) 

Far from being something closed, then, faith is something that opens us to the full panorama of our human horizons, where earth and Heaven touch. For this reason, the Catechism dares to say that

faith is already the beginning of eternal life. (CCC 163)

 In this Year, we are encouraged to renew our faith in two ways:

i) we renew our fundamental act of faith, by which we place our trust in God alone, whose initiative of grace invites this response from us. In this way we imitate Mary, who offered her life to God in complete confidence, thereby loosening the knot of Eve's disobedience (see Lumen Gentium 56).

ii) We turn again to the content of our faith, the fidei depositum. What do we believe? What has God entrusted to us through his Word in Scripture and in the Church's Tradition? Who is Christ? How does God act in human history? How are we saved? What is the Church? What is the purpose of the sacraments? What is the role of the saints? We ponder these questions anew as we reflect on our Creed. Again, we imitate Mary, who pondered in her heart the mystery of her Son, who is the fulness of revelation (Lk 2: 51).

So during this year I for one will be thinking of ways I can renew my confidence in and dependence on God, as well as how I can internalise the mysteries of the faith which God reveals in the Church for our salvation.

There is a Mass in St John's cathedral Norwich today to celebrate the start of this year. Though I cannot be there, I am thinking of and praying for the diocese as we enter into this privileged time!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Popular rock group professes Tridentine anthropology

Yesterday I bought the recently released second album from the alternative, English, folk rock group Mumford & Sons. The album, styled "Babel", was released on the feast day of Our Lady of Walsingham (probably a coincidence), and is the fasting selling UK album of 2012. In their first song their singer makes clear where they stand on the Reformation shibboleth of "sola gratia" ("grace alone"). Mr Mumford sings repeatedly: "I believe in grace and choice!"    

OK, perhap he just thought it sounded nice, and it happens to rhyme with the previous line. But funnily enough, this is exactly what the Council of Trent had to say on the issue.

In response to the Lutheran claim that our human nature is completely corrupt and our good works make no difference to our salvation because we are saved through grace alone, Trent said in its Decree on Justification in 1547:

"Those who through their sin were turned away from God, awakened and assisted by his grace, are disposed to turn to their own justification by freely assenting to and cooperating with that grace".

This two-fold profession of God's grace and our free assent is only a recognition of what is in Scripture, to which Trent refers:

"...When it is said in Sacred Scripture: 'Return to  me and I will return to you" [Zech 1: 3], we are reminded of our freedom; but when we reply: 'Restore us to thyself, O Lord, that we may be restored' [Lam : 21], we acknowledge that God's grace precedes us."

In other words, our salvation is the work of God's grace, without which we can do nothing; but we play an active part in cooperating with that grace. This is an optimistic understanding of the human person, acknowledging that our nature is good because created by God, even if it is damaged by sin. We are in the image of God because we are what Blessed John Paul II called self-determining beings, that is, on a human level we determine who we are by the way we choose to live and the habits we form. God's grace enables us to do this.

Choice, by the way, is actually a lesser, earthly type of freedom. In heaven the saints will not choose to love God, they simply will love him, because they have attained that higher freedom in which they participate effortlessly in the glory of the Trinity. 

So thank you Mr Mumford for recalling us to our Catholic anthropology.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Faith, Food & Fun (ie. Blessing of Beer)

I went to the baptism of the baby of some friends of mine today as the godfather, and after a beautiful ceremony we moved next door to the reception, where the the father asked me to bless the beer. Believe it or not there is such a blessing! Perhaps it seems a trivial thing to do. Of course it is not a patch on the mystical incorporation into the Trinitarian life that the baby received in baptism. But I think it highlights the truism that the Christian faith is something that engages the totality of human existence. By sanctifying the culinary dimension, the Church makes her home in our home. It reminds me of the late Bishop Michael advocating "Faith, Food, and Fun"  - perhaps we should change "Food" in this case to "Fermentation"! Moreover, I take my cue from Fiddler on the Roof. When the Rabbi is asked if there is a blessing for a new sewing machine, he says "Of course! There is a blessing for everything!"

Incidentally, the beer was East Anglian...

Friday, 28 September 2012

The Overwhleming Quality of Grace

On Wednesday, which is our free day at the seminary, I went to see Anna Karenina with a fellow seminarian. I'm ashamed to say I've never read the book, so I can't say how faithful an interpretation the new film is. While I was disappointed that there were a few unnecessary scenes, by no means fleeting (cue to close eyes!), I liked the way the public and social life of the characters was played out on a stage, but in such a way that it merged with reality. Cleverly done, and quite wonderful I thought. The selfishness of Anna, the title character, and her lover Alexei was fairly depressing. In their infantile infatuation with one another, all sense of commitment was thrown to the winds, even to the point that Anna spurned the near-heroic forgiveness and patience of her husband. They sought merely to indulge their own passions, and as a consequence, Anna began to doubt the authenticity of Alexei's love, while Alexei grew bored of Anna's emotional stranglehold on him. This doubt, resentment and disillusionment is the inevitable result of sin, even if sin presents itself to us in an attractive guise at first. God warns Adam and Eve that the illicit fruit leads to death, and this death is not just physical but spiritual. Sin makes us bored and boring.

Therefore I was moved by the contrasting story of Kitty and Levin. Kitty originally spurns Levin's suit to her in favour of the dashing Alexei, but when Alexei in turn spurns her for Anna, Kitty becomes sick and depressed. Later on in the film, Levin meets Kitty again, when she has learned of her mistake but has no hope that Levin will propose again after the initial slight. Levin is unchanged, however, and when Kitty discovers this from him she becomes tearfully overwhelmed by her happiness and gratitude for his faithful love. Call me a softy, but this was my favourite scene of the film. In contrast to the cynical, possessive love of Anna, who feels she deserves it, Kitty is the one who gratefully receives a love she knows she has not earned. The Cure of Ars said that if the priest knew what he truly was, he would die of love. I think that's the case for grace as well. If we truly realised how unmerited the grace of God is, for us human beings who have countless times spurned it, then we would be helpless with wonder and love in the face of such faithful gratuity. It would overwhelm us.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Happy Feast!

I know it's a bit late, but hope you've had a Happy Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham! I said her litany on behalf of the diocese today...

Friday, 21 September 2012

The Holy Land 2: Bethlehem

Bethlehem, as many of you will know, is one of the largest Palestinian territories, walled off from Jerusalem which it borders. I was surprised at how the suburbs of Jerusalem suddenly turned into the threshold of the town of the nativity as we drove along. The infamous wall is very imposing, and manned by young Israeli guards – all Israelis are required to do military service for a time. We usually got through the checkpoints without any fuss, though the Palestinians who have permission to come out of Bethlehem (for work, perhaps) are sometimes detained for hours before they are allowed to pass through. The Palestinian side of the wall is covered with graffiti recording the bitter tensions between Palestine and Israel. We should pray for an end to these tensions, and make an effort to support the Palestinian Christian population, which has been haemorrhaging in recent decades as many emigrate from their homeland. Most of the population seem to be Muslim, and I was awoken a few mornings by the imam’s call to prayer at 4.30 am...

As in Jerusalem, the Basilica of the Nativity is used by different ancient Christian traditions, with the Greek Orthodox once again appearing to have the biggest privileges in the original site. (The Church of St Catherine which adjoins the ancient basilica is where the Catholics worship, and it is the church in which Midnight Mass from Bethlehem is televised.) “Noble simplicity” doesn’t seem to be an architectural/ liturgical phenomenon with which the Orthodox are enamoured. I was amused at how there were gigantic Christmas baubles hanging all over the chapel! After all – unlike the White Witch’s Narnia – it’s always Christmas in Bethlehem! The site of the basilica dates back to the time of Constantine, who built a church over the cave which is believed to be the place of Jesus’ birth. This allegedly makes it the oldest continuous church in the world. But the present building is Byzantine in origin. The medieval Crusaders added to it, as they did many other churches in the Holy Land.

The interior, minus the Christmas baubles

One interesting change over time is the gradual reduction of the size of the front entrance. Originally a huge door, it got smaller and smaller as there was more need to defend the Church from invading horsemen. But this historical incident gives way to a spiritual interpretation. We can only enter into the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation by becoming small and humble ourselves, by becoming “poor in spirit”, like Mary and Joseph, or like St Therese in more recent times...

"The Little Way"

As well as venerating the cave of the Nativity beneath the sanctuary, we got to celebrate Mass in another cave under the church very near the old burial site of St Jerome, the Scripture scholar who translated the Bible into Latin in the 4th century. His body is now in St Maria Maggiore in Rome, as is the manger. So I prayed for all Scripture scholars, and for a new flourishing of the traditional four-fold sense of Scripture, not just the historical-critical method (more on that some other time).

The site of the Nativity
Here is a clip of an Armenian liturgy taking place in their side chapel in the basilica, very similar to one I witnessed there, only the one I saw was much more spendid, and the priest was wearing a blue crown while the cantors/ servers/ deacons (?) were wearing blue copes. Come to think of it, it might have been their celebration of the Assumption, which is later than ours.

More accounts of my adventures to follow!

Monday, 17 September 2012

The Holy Land: Jerusalem

If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither! Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!

There is an old saying about Jerusalem. When God created the earth, he distributed ten portions of beauty, nine of which were allotted to Jerusalem. And he also distributed 10 portions of sorrow, nine of which were allotted to Jerusalem.

Staying in Jerusalem was my favourite part of the pilgrimage. The city is such a melting pot of different traditions and cultures rubbing elbows together, composed as it is of the Jewish Quarter, the Palestinian Quarter, the Christian Quarter and the Armenian Quarter. In its ancient history it has seen numerous wars and is still a place full of underlying tensions. Christians reverence the place where Jesus preached, healed, worshipped, was crucified, was buried and rose again. For the Jews it is the Holy City of Zion, where Abraham was prepared to sacrifice Isaac, where David and Solomon reigned, where the Temple stood, and where according to rabbinic legend Adam and Eve and the whole world were created. And it is held holy by the Muslims, who believe that Mohammed ascended into Heaven from there. Yet somehow all these groups manage to live more or less together, though perhaps more by force of circumstances than by choice!

Every day I got to visit the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. In the basilica there are three main Christian groups with the greatest privileges in terms of celebrating liturgies: the Latin rite Catholics, the Greek Orthodox and the Armenians. There are also three smaller Christians groups: the Copts, the Syriacs and the Ethiopians. One night I stayed up and observed the different liturgies that happened throughout the night, starting with the Greeks at midnight. Before that got underway though, a represenative from each of the groups went around the whole basilica incensing all the altars. I've never seen so many thuribles being swung at once, and so hastily - I had to make sure and keep out of their way!

The Holy Sepulchre

The next morning our group had our own Mass in the tomb of the Resurrection, which I had the privilege of deaconing. Golgotha, the site of the Crucifixion, is also within the Basilica, just near the Sepulchre as St John notes in his Gospel.

We saw so much of the city: the Western Wall, which is the last remaining wall of the Herodian Temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD; the Cenacle where the last Supper was celebrated (until recently a mosque!); the pool of Bethsaida where the crippled man was healed; the Mount of Olives where Jesus prayed to the Father before his Passion... For me being in Jerusalem was like being at the heart of life itself, in all its nobility and in all its ignominy, without pretence. I’m sure the Incarnate Word of God would have felt quite at home walking its streets! (I mean that in an idiomatic rather than a theological sense...)

Next time I’ll say something about Bethlehem.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The Prodigal Deacon Returns

Seeing as Simon has done an excellent job in saving this blog from extinction, and seeing as I am, after all, a seminarian for another 8 months, I've repented of my indolence and returned to posting!

As Simon said, I had a chance to go to the Holy Land in the summer, which was a very blessed opportunity. Our group of priests and deacons stayed in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Galilee.

Tomorrow I will start to post about it, so stay tuned!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Parish fundraising concert

You may be interested in looking at the details of a concert at Down on the Farm for 22 September, to help raise money for that church.

Click on Mozart to connect
Down on the Farm
There are many new church projects in East Anglia. St Felix in Haverhill has been recently completed, but money still needs to be raised to pay off the debt.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Pope's prayer intentions

Every month, the Pope's curia announces what his special prayer intention is every month. When we pray for the Pope, such as during the rosary, or in our acquisition of indulgences, we pray not only for his person and his well-being, but we also unite ourselves to his prayer intentions. Prayer, of course, is very powerful, and if we are adding our prayers to Peter's prayers, then they will be very effective prayers indeed.

This month, being the first day and all that, the Pope's prayer intention is:

That politicians may always act with honesty, integrity and love for the truth.

And his intention for the missions is:

That Christian communities may have a growing willingness to send missionaries, priests and lay people, along with concrete resources, to the poorest Churches.

Monday, 13 August 2012

A new section to our blog

As we heard in our last post, Simon is taking time out of seminary and is working in a parish in the diocese, undertaking his priestly formation in a pastoral context. Lest our readers feel bereft, you may now follow him on a new section of our blog, called Down on the Farm. You can click the link, or click the Down on the Farm icon on the pages bar just below this blog's title. He hopes to post regularly, though there might not be much on there for a few days; parish life is busy, it seems!

Henry will be going on pilgrimage to the Holy Land this week, with a group of clergy from the Archdiocese of Birmingham, as is his seminary's tradition for the diaconal year. We know that he will be taking the diocese's intentions with him in prayer to the holy places, and we wish him a safe, prayerful and unforgettable time. We look forward to hearing from him soon.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Of priests and deacons...

2012 cannot be said to be an uneventful year, and I hope that you can understand, therefore, why it has taken so long (nearly 4 months) to write another article for you.

First of all, Simon left the seminary on Palm Sunday for personal reasons. He is presently employed within the diocese, and hopes to use this time to gain more experience in the wider world and wider Church, and, after such a time that his personal situation has improved, the diocese and he may discuss whether it is prudent that he should return to priestly formation in the future. Please keep him in your prayers during this uncertain and difficult time.

Shortly after Simon left Oscott, Ben was taken seriously ill, and, after examination, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It soon became clear that Ben's earthly sojourn was drawing to a close, and, as we are presently without a shepherd (it is at such times at these that we need especially the pastoral love of a bishop), our temportary ordinary, the diocesan administrator, Fr Bagstaff, granted permission for Ben to be ordained to the presbyteral order, so that he may enjoy this most precious of times as a priest, and that he and others may receive many graces.

Ben was ordained first to the diaconate and then to the priesthood at the same short Mass, by His Grace, the Archbishop of Birmingham, on the afternoon of 30th June. Several priests and faithful of the diocese were able to assist this Mass, which was a very moving and noble occasion.

Now that the seminary term has concluded, Ben has moved back home to East Anglia, where he may receive care and convalesce, and be close to his family and friends. He was able to concelebrate Sunday Mass at his home parish of Bungay this last weekend, and has written a letter to the faithful of the diocese. Parishioners in East Anglia may have received this letter in their parishes, otherwise they may request it of their parish priest. As you may appreciate, I don't really have the words to write more here, so if you are able, please read Fr Ben's message to you.

We are all praying for Fr Ben, and thank God for his ordination to the priesthood.

Also on 30th June, in the morning, Henry, our fifth year seminarian, was ordained to the diaconate by the Archbishop, an event that we may also give thanks for! Henry's first liturgical function after his ordination was to assist the Archbishop at Ben's ordination a few hours later.

Henry is now undertaking a placement in Cambridge before the summer holidays start, and then he shall return to Oscott in September to undertake his sixth and final year, wherein he shall complete his theology baccalaurate, and, God willing, be ordained to the priesthood in one year from now! We are also conscious that Henry is now our only seminarian. We keep him especially in our prayers, and we continue to pray for vocations to the priesthood.

Finally, we must thank all our readers, not only for reading our articles, but particularly for your prayerful, and sometimes, also practical, support during our formation! So, thank you, and God bless you.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Acolytate retreat

This weekend, third year will travel to the Abbey Church of St Michael and All Angels, or Belmont Abbey, in Hereford, for their annual 'weekend away'.

On Monday, St Joseph's day, they will be assessed for acolytate (the second of the instituted lay ministries which are received along the journey towards priesthood), so rightly, we can call this their acolytate retreat. This is the first time our new, expanded year have travelled away together; the original few know Belmont Abbey reasonably well, but, for the new members of our year, it will be a new experience.

Invocation 2012

Invocation 2012 March Podcast from Vocationcast on Vimeo.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Protection of marriage

I'm just watching Daily Politics on the BBC, and there is a debate between two commentators, one from the group, 'Catholic Voices'. There is, of course, a consultation about 'gay marriage' going on at the moment (a consultation which only seems to actually listen and understand the voices it wants to).

Marriage is neither religious nor civil. You cannot have a 'religious' marriage, nor a 'civil' marriage; the marriage itself may be instituted in a religious or civil context, of course. Marriage, as an institution, does not belong to the Church, nor does it belong to the state.

As we heard in Mass this weekend, marriage is a "matrimonial covenant, but which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole life, by its nature is ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation of and education of offspring; this covenant between baptised persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament." (ccc 1601)

So, marriage exists outside of our religion; it is not a religious institution. It is a human institution, created for the good of the whole of mankind.

One of the reasons why the state exists is to protect the institution of marriage. The Church exists to sanctify it. 

If one of these parties (in this case, the state), attempt to re-define what this institution actually means, then the function of the other party is necessarily affected.

The Church is not worried about her 'religious ceremonies'; she is not worried that the state will make her  witness the 'marriages' of gay couples. It's not about what the Church can do in its own churches. Even if the state did require this to take place, the Church would rather be negatively affected rather than permit it. It is beyond the jurisdiction of the state to do this. Remember, a hundred years ago, the Church in France gave up most of its property to the state, rather than give in to error. Similarly, it is beyond the jurisdiction of the state to re-define something which is greater than itself. The Church - that's you and me, not just the bishops - is bothered about it, because the state thinks it can change what God has ordained for our own good. The state has put itself in God's shoes. The Church will fight, tooth and claw, to eradicate this idolatry and error, not for her own good, but because the whole of mankind will suffer.

If you're not bothered by this, or you even agree with government policy, ask yourself why.

Gay marriage: a new golden calf?

If you are bothered by it, you can sign the petition from the Coalition for Marriage by following this link

You can write to your MP. You can find your MP on this website

You can talk about it with your parish priest. You can ask him to preach about it, and write about it in his newsletter. You can talk about it with other parishioners, with your family and friends, especially those who are not Church-goers. 

Most importantly, you can pray, and remain steadfast to the truth.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Pastoral Letter on Marriage

You should have heard at Mass today a pastoral letter written by two of our country's archbishops, Archbishop Nichols and Archbishop Smith, to all the parishes in England and Wales, outlining Catholic teaching on marriage.

The government wishes to extend the legal definition of marriage to encompass same-sex couples. His Grace, the Archbishop, here explains why we should oppose this policy.

You can sign a petition by following this link.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Pastoral visitation

Yesterday and today, we received our termly pastoral visitation from our vocations director, Fr John Warrington, who drove all the way from Ipswich just to see us.

St Felix, holding a really tiny church, in
Woolpit, Suffolk.
And tomorrow, of course, is the feast day of St Felix. We wrote about him last year, which you can see here. Tomorrow, in the college, is the commemoration of St John of God, however, but happy feast to everyone in our diocese.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The priest and eucharistic concelebration

Cardinal Cañizares, Primate Emeritus of All Spain
Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, the incumbent Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, yesterday presented a new book on the subject of eucharistic concelebration by Mgr Guillaume Derville, Eucharistic Concelebration: from symbol to reality.

The Cardinal's preface to the book is published by ZENIT today.

In our times, concelebration in the Latin rite has been controversial; even Pope Benedict has raised questions about it, as the Cardinal mentions in his preface. Has the intention of the Council Fathers been distorted these past 40 years by bad practice? Has the intended symbolism of concelebration been lost in translation? Was it ever properly understood in the first place?

The Cardinal quotes an elucidates some words of the Holy Father:

“Beauty, then, is not mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God himself and his revelation. These considerations should make us realize the care which is needed, if the liturgical action is to reflect its innate splendour.” 
That is to say: the liturgy, and within it the act of concelebration, will be beautiful when it is true and authentic, when its innate splendour is really reflected. It is in this context that we should understand the question posed by the Holy Father regarding concelebrations with a large number of priests: “For my part,” said the Pope, “I have to say, it remains a problem because concrete communion in the celebration is fundamental, and I do not consider that the definitive answer has really been found. I also raised this question during the last Synod but it was not answered. I also had another question asked regarding the concelebration of Mass: why, for example, if a thousand priests concelebrate, do we not yet know whether this structure was desired by the Lord?” 
The question is precisely one of keeping “the structure desired by the Lord”, because the liturgy is a gift from God. It is not something fabricated by us men; it is not at our disposition. Indeed, “By his command to ‘do this in remembrance of me’ (Lk 22:19; cf. 1 Cor 11:25), he asks us to respond to his gift and to make it sacramentally present. In these words the Lord expresses, as it were, his expectation that the Church, born of his sacrifice, will receive this gift, developing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the liturgical form of the sacrament.”

The whole preface is available on ZENIT

The book, published in French, is not yet available on the more commonly used book shops, but I've found it available in English from various US vendours, including Canon Law Books, and the MTF. Perhaps I'd better get hold of this work. I've always found concelebration quite difficult to understand and sometimes is an obstacle to my personal piety. Maybe this will provide some insights...

I'll leave you with another paragraph from the Cardinal:

As Benedict XVI stated: “I join the Synod Fathers in recommending ‘the daily celebration of Mass, even when the faithful are not present’. This recommendation is consistent with the objectively infinite value of every celebration of the Eucharist, and is motivated by the Mass’s unique spiritual fruitfulness. If celebrated in a faith-filled and attentive way, Mass is formative in the deepest sense of the word, since it fosters the priest’s configuration to Christ and strengthens him in his vocation.” 
For each priest, the celebration of the Holy Mass is the reason for his existence. It is, it must be, an entirely personal encounter with the Lord and with his redemptive work. At the same time, each priest, in the celebration of the Eucharist, is Christ himself present in the Church as Head of his body; and he also acts in the name of the whole Church “when presenting to God the prayer of the Church, and above all when offering the Eucharistic sacrifice”. When we experience the wonder of the Eucharistic gift, which transforms us and configures us to Christ, there is only room for amazement, gratitude and obedience.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Happy birthday Augustus!

One couldn't let today pass without a quick reference to the fact that today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin.

So, happy birthday, Mr Pugin!

He was, of course, along with Mr Joseph Potter, one of the architects of Oscott College, notably the chapel and other interior and exterior features (including the outdoor statues of Our Lady on the front terrace and the Sutton Lodge, the latter being the first image of Our Lady on an English highway since the reformation!). Oscott was one of Pugin's earlier works; only later came St Chad's, St Giles, and, of course, the Houses of Parliament. There are literally hundreds of buildings and items in his portfolio, one of which is one of our own churches, Sacred Heart, St Ives, which, though is many miles from its original location, and significantly, and unfortunately, altered from the original design, is something to be proud of!

I have a great admiration of Pugin. Born and brought up in London in a staunchly non-conformist household, he converted to the Catholic faith in the mid-1830s, and employed his zeal and enthusiasm in the Catholic, and Gothic, revival movement, recently brought about by the Catholic Emancipation Act, which removed most of the institutional barriers against Catholics in our country a decade previously.

The sedia in St Giles, Cheadle, designed,
of course, for the Sarum use. 
Kicked of by the strains of Blake's poem, Jerusalem, there was a intellectually violent rejection of the status quo: increasingly squalid living conditions, rapid industrialisation and consequent de-humanisation of society, decadence, social inequality, urbanisation, and, of course, King George IV.

Pugin was a spear-head of the Gothic-revival movement, which sought a return to the simple times of the mediaeval period, before the reformation, before the 'enlightenment'. The popular architecture summed up for Pugin the decadence of society. It was plain, boring, and all for show. The romanticism of the nineteenth century, which extended far beyond architecture, and even strayed into theological schools, for me, defines that oepoch. Indeed, we can learn something from it, as we know from the scriptures, a good housekeeper takes our from his treasures what is new and what is old. Indeed, we can say that Pugin laid some significant seeds for the second Vatican Council!

Pugin was controversial, even in his own time. What were these exotic creations he was coming up with, taken from a time long past, and made real for us today, using modern methods, and modern artistic talent? Pugin, for me, represents a movement which sought to restore what was being eroded from man's dignity by the 'progress' which he failed to realise was rotting his very soul. Perhaps, in our own era, we can learn some lessons from Pugin and the other romantics.

It cost him dear, however. Pugin's personal life was deeply troubled. He was widowed three times during his short life, and suffered many physical and mental illnesses, and died at the tender age of 40. Not wishing to question Providence, I do wonder what other marvels Pugin may have left us if he had lived a little longer. The good Lord obviously wanted him to design a few gothic stencils for the heavenly rood screen.

Happy birthday, Mr Pugin, and thank you.

The most important thing, of course, is that Pugin's works are
not for the museum. As he would of wished, they are still
alive and well today. I wonder what the Catholic Church
would have been like in our country without him. Much
more impoverished, I suspect.

Friday, 24 February 2012

And now it's Lent

Well, we have forgotten so far to undertake our annual tradition of putting an excerpt from our daily Lenten reading, so I suppose there is no reason to start now!

Every year, Father Spiritual Director selects a classic Christian spiritual work for us all to read during Lent, with a small reading planned for every day. We started with The Introduction to the Devout Life, by St Francis de Sales, then we had Revelations of Divine Love, by Julian of Norwich, and last year, The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis.

This year, we are reading the Cloud of Unknowing, by Unknown. It is a spiritual letter written at the end of the thirteenth century from (probably) a hermit priest in the Cistercian, probably in the East Midlands, to a young man. It's been on my bookshelf to read for ages, so I'm glad I'm finally doing it.

The book, of course, starts with a very well-known prayer, used in the Sarum liturgy before the protestant reformation in England, and, thankfully, was kept alive by the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, heavily amended over the centuries, a prayer known as the Collect for Purity.

In the Catholic context (many nations before the reformation used their own versions, or uses, of the Roman Rite, and some dioceses even had their own rite altogether. In southern England, the Use of Sarum - or Salisbury - was the common manner of celebrating the Roman Rite until 1549), it was recited in the vestry before the Mass. The priest would enter the sacristy, and put on the sacred vestments. Then he would recite the Veni Creator Spiritus, and then recite the Collect:

O God,unto whom all hearts be opened,all desires known,and from whom no secrets are hid,cleanse the thoughts of our hearts,by the impouring of thy Holy Ghost,that we may perfectly love thee,and faithfully serve thee.Through Christ our Lord.Amen.

In Latin of course!

Maybe we could say this prayer every morning this Lent.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Just another manic Monday...

Like the fact that Sandringham was in a different time-zone until 1936, so is the case in Oscott. Thursday is Oscott Monday, because Wednesday is our day off. So in Oscottspeak, Tuesday is Friday.

And seminary is full of surprises.

I was a little bleary eyed this morning, so I took a double take as I saw the bishop of Middlesborough and the bishop of Hexham and Newcastle on the sanctuary for Mass.

The I remembered that today, there is a meeting of all the bishops, or their delegates, of the dioceses which send their students to Oscott here today at the invitation of His Grace the Archbishop. Unlike Oscott, Ushaw was a provincial seminary (it was administered by the province of Liverpool, which includes many dioceses), whereas Oscott is a diocesan seminary, and the Archbishop of Birmingham is its sole president. With the greater number of dioceses and congregations using Oscott as 'its seminary', however, it seems fitting now to begin a dialogue about the running and upkeep of the seminary looking through the eyes of the wider Church.

So we are hosting not only the Archbishop of Birmingham, and the bishops of Middlesborough and Hexham and Newcastle, but the Archbishops of Cardiff and Liverpool, the Bishop of Hallam, the Bishop of Northampton, and the Bishop of Chunavia, as well as the vicars General of Salford, Shrewsbury and Leeds, and delegates from Motherwell and Nottingham.

So there will be zucchetti flying all over the place today.

We are also hosting our own administrator, Father David, by happy fault, who is representing the diocese of East Anglia. We only have three seminarians now... keep praying!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Is it St Valentine's Day?

It is. Happy St Valentine's day to you all!

Though St Valentine was expunged from the universal calendar in 1969, he still remains a saint, is still in the Roman Martyrology, and can still be venerated liturgically, when permitted. St Valentine, a third-century priest - there are, actually 14 Valentines; I think one of them is in Scotland, but the famous one is in Rome - whose relics were translated to their site of burial on this day, after his martyrdom by decapitation prompted by his miracle cures (this was a time of persecution in the Church). Given the tremendous familiarity of his name, and the potential benefits for evangelisation that this could have wrought for the Church in our times, it seems a shame that he was not deemed to be sufficiently venerated to eliminate him from the day-to-day life of the Church militant, but still, he has looked down on many generations of Oscotians from the stained-glass window, wearing his green cope, and holding his martyr's palm (wedged in between St James the Apostle and St Bernard of Clairvaux)

Also on this day, just over a thousand years ago, died St Cyril, a bishop in south-east Europe. He was a Greek, who, along with his episcopal and blood brother, St Methodius - or St Methodist, as a friend accidently called him today - (who died on 6 April, sixteen years after his brother) were missionaries in the areas we now call Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. 

They lived in a time before the great schism which divided the Church between the east and west, the most painful tear in Christ's sacred body, and, though they were bishops of the Greek rites, their efforts were lauded by their brother bishops in the west, so much so, that the Pope, upon the death of St Cyril, instructed that his funeral be conducted as if the Bishop of Rome were undertaking the rites himself. St Cyril is buried in Rome. What great model missionary bishops these saints are, and great patrons of the unity of the Church; in fact, they are the patron saints of Europe. 

In our country, it is very easy to think of oecumenism as our relationship with the protestant communions, but the most ancient and most disastrous of breaks forces us to look east, towards our brothers and sisters in the one, true Church, whose spiritual home is Constantinople, the other Rome. St Cyril and St Methodius must be weeping in heaven at our human frailty, but they must also be interceding with the Lord, that our hearts will soften to our historic bitterness and intellectual wrangling. How ironic, that the filioque should crop up in my lectures this morning!

So while we can be a little sad that we have lost something by replacing St Valentine with St Cyril and St Methodius, we can rejoice at their prayers for their spiritual children here on earth, both in the east and west. And besides, saints in heaven don't get jealous; they know better than that. 

Perhaps, today, we can also pray for an election of a new bishop for our own diocese, asking the intercession of these bishops, and also, that Roman priest!

O God, eternal shepherd,
who govern your flock with unfailing care,
grant in your boundless fatherly love 
a pastor for your Church
who will please you by his holiness
and to us show watchful care.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012


There is something quintessentially
English about a Krama
Well, it's been a couple of weeks since we returned from Cambodia, and, needless to say, has provided much material for conversations since we have been back at Oscott this past week-and-a-half. Like the rest of the continent, Oscott has been covered in a blanket of fluffy snow; a stark contrast to what we came back from, though one cannot but admire our western maritime climate for its marvelous eccentricities.

It is taking a long time, for me at least, to ruminate upon my two-week experience in Cambodia, though I'm sure I'll have further reflections to make when I see the millions of photographs we brought back with us. Oscott is now veritably littered with authentic Khmer scarves from the Arrupe centre in Battambang, that I brought back with me as gifts. Needless to say, being that they appear to be something very different indeed in our own culture, those who received one from me didn't know whether to wash up with it, or eat cream-tea off it.

During our stay, we visited Kompong Thom, Kompong Kor, Siem Reap (made famous, perhaps, by the Angkor Wat world heritage site, where we spent a day, and saw lots of monkeys), Svay Sisophon, and Battambang. Of course, while staying in those places, we had several day trips to other centres within the parishes.

Even if we hadn't taken a picture of absolutely everything and everyone, I would like to think that I would have remembered all of the faces that we met. As I said to a bemused congregation in Battambang, and later on, recycled the same material in Ta Hen, that even though we could not speak the language, we recognised the welcome by the warm and beautiful smiles. Language is not just about words, after all.

I'd like to thank everybody in the Apostolic Prefecture who looked after us. We were greatly touched by the welcome we received, and we shall keep the Prefecture and its members in our prayers. I hope that you - if you are reading, which I'm sure somebody is! - enjoyed our visit as much as we did, and please pray for us too.

Another tour of 'Suffolkian' churches

When I was at liberty before term started again in January, I spent a few days in Ipswich, and took the opportunity to visit a few of the parishes that I had missed out on during my last visit. This post is about history, so don't continue reading if that will bore you!

The Chancel of St Mary of the Assumption.
The Anglo-Catholic high altar and sacra-
ment house, juxtaposed with the vibrant,
yet stark clear east window. Some of the
windows are Ninian Comper; this one isn't.
The very reverend dean of Ipswich suggested a visit to the Anglican parish of St Mary of the Assumption in the village of Ufford, just north-east of Woodbridge, for its antiquarian novelties.

I often enjoy visiting ancient parish churches. Many of them have been damaged irrevocably over the centuries, though there are a few exceptions, and, of course, the Catholic revival in the Anglican church from the nineteenth-century sought to restore (well, restore is a bit of an exaggeration, perhaps!) something that was lost during the various protestant reformations.

There is an Anglican parish church in my own parish which has largely survived - the rood and ceiling are still intact, peculiarly so for the heart of Cromwell country - and I was reminded of this familiar church when I walked into the Assumption, though, clearly, the present pastor is a little higher than most!

The six-metre high baptismal font cover.
The structure is fifteenth-century, but the
features are a more modern introduction.

The pelican soars into the clerestory.
Many of the features are original, from the ceiling to the ornate (recent) baptismal font and 15th century cover, which extends almost the entire height of the interior structure. There are many such font covers in the east of England, but this must surely be the largest, surmounted, as it is, by the pelican in her piety. Many of the intricate decorations, however, were added in the last century.

As well as the font cover, part of the original rood screen survives. The rood itself is long-gone, but it's beam is still situated between the nave and the chancel, as does the dado-screen. That, however, still has some faint remains of the original paintings of various saints. Many such examples are extant in Suffolk and Norfolk, as explained by Eamon Duffy in his book, Stripping of the Altars, a must have for any Oscotian. In fact, plate 67 in the second edition is a picture of a carved pew-end from this church, another fifteenth-century survivor.

St Thomas of Canterbury, Woodbridge.
Much altered in the past, but is in the long
process of being restored. One of the finest
churches in the diocese, then, I am biased;
I understand my mother was baptised here.
Moving from the fifteenth to the nineteenth, I next visited the Catholic parish church of St Thomas of Canterbury in Woodbridge. I thought this church would be older than the gothic-revival movement, but it only appeared on the scene in 1850. Needless to say the influence of Pugin hadn't reached East Anglia by then! Neo-classical is, I think, one of my favourite architectural expressions, even though Pugin - an artist I admire deeply for his conviction, piety and unparalleled sense of taste and proportion - didn't think much of it. There aren't many examples in the entire country of this architectural style in the construction of Catholic churches; the other notable example in our diocese being St Edmund in Bury St Edmunds (incidentally, St Francis Xavier in Hereford is a copy of our own St Edmunds, and is a fine example of right-worship in a neo-classical setting). I was pleased to see that 'altare privilegiatum' still hangs underneath the baldacchino in St Thomas's. When this statement appears, it means that masses celebrated upon that altar provide a plenary indulgence to the holy soul for which the sacrifice is offered at that moment, provided that the mass is a Requiem mass, unless the rubrics prevent that particular celebration. All altars are privileged on All Souls' Day, and it used to be that some priests were granted a 'personal privilege'. I bet they were in high demand for funerals! Assuming that the new altar in this church was dedicated to St Thomas when it was installed after the previous one was removed, it retained the privilege. "Ah, but those things are not important anymore," I can hear somebody say. Lumen Gentium 49-51 provides a little foundation stone for our belief about life after death, as does the Credo of the People of God, composed by Paul VI at the conclusion of the last Year of Faith in 1968 (see Neuner-Dupuis 39/21; sorry that I can't provide a Denzinger reference, as mine stops eighteen years to soon). Perhaps we could re-discover this beautiful modern creed as we prepare for the new Year of Faith to be inaugurated by Pope Benedict in October this year, as the Church turns her mind and heart to the new evangelisation.

St Francis Xavier, Hereford, administered by the Benedictines.
A fine example of restored architecture in the context of a
liturgical celebration which is both modern and edifying.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Signed with the Cross

This morning I was at the parish RCIA meeting, called "Exploring Catholicism", for those who are considering becoming Catholic Christians. The priest led the rite of acceptance into the neocatechumenate for those who are not baptised - basically this means that they are showing a desire to let Christ into their lives, and more importantly they are receiving grace through the rite to do so. Those who are neocatechumens have "baptism by desire", and are in a certain relationship to the Church, even though they are not yet sacramentally baptised.

The rite of acceptance is very rich in symbolism. First the priest made the sign of the cross on each aspiring catechumen, so that they might know and follow Christ. Then he asked the sponsors to make the sign of the cross on the ears, that the aspirant might hear Christ's word; on the eyes, that they might see the glory of God; on the lips, that they might respond to the word of God; on the heart, that Christ might dwell there by faith; on the shoulders that they might bear the gentle yoke of Christ; on the hands, that they might manifest Christ in their work; and on the feet, that they might walk in the way of Christ.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Non Anglia Orientalis, sed Angli in Oriente

I'm languishing in the luxurious loungue complex in the space-age Seoul Incheon Airport, on my way back from Our apostolic journey to the Kingdom of Cambodia, which began on the Epiphany. More on that later (those posts will be interesting; this post is mostly rambling, so stop reading here if your dislike such things! I'm just excited about using the internet for the first time in weeks!).

Brother Assistant Sacristan took many photographs during our two-week journey, and so I suspect some of them shall appear here in the next few weeks, as we begin to trickle back into term-time.

Meanwhile, I have another hour before I can board my twelve-hour flight back to Blighty, so having exhausted all other avenues of entertainment which South Korea can provide (without having to acquire an entry visa, that is), I thought I'd send a little word of greeting to our readership from the Far East, as well as having to re-learn how to use Windows, and guess what the various different Korean keys and buttons mean.

Having slept through the entirety of our five-hour flight from Siem Reap to Incheon, I proceeded immediately to the airline lounge at Incheon, and slept for another two hours on one of the beds which are dotted around the airport. Fortunately, it was still dark, but my ear-plugs and eye-shade obscured a surely familiar winter sunrise; I awoke to a damp, misty morning - about nine hours before East Anglia's morning alarms went off - and, thanks to the heating in the airport, I'm protected by the freezing temperatures outside. I had my first hot shower in two weeks, in a well-appointed shower complex in the transfer lounge; the hand-towel and soap were complementary, at least.

I had hot chocolate to wake me up, recited the morning Offices, and then it was time for elevensies, and was grateful to find a shop that sold Ear Grey (with real milk!) and pastries. I read a little of my book, too. I've already finished reading my story book - part three of the Shardlake historical murder mystery and legal fiction novels - my spiritual reading book - Mgr Strange's Risk of Discipleship, which was eerily familiar to the recent three-day retreat he gave at Oscott, but fun nonetheless - and now I'm cracking on with my general interest book - the Lord Patten's Not Quite the Diplomat, which I first read years ago, and though it is six years old and a bit out-of-date, but I enjoy the former Governor's and Oxford University Chancellor's splendid use of vocabulary and wit.

I've had lunch, looked at all the Far Eastern shark cartilidge-derived health products (highly illegal in Europe, so I didn't buy anything!), rediculously over-priced chocolates and gin (not that I'm familiar with customs regulations regarding such products from outside the European Union. Besides, I fancied a bottle of Limoncello, but, it seems, unless it's whiskey, they aren't interested).

I've just looked around a museum-like exhibition on Korean wedding-customs, which was quite interesting, though I found the labels on each item was more descriptive than explanitory, so I'm none the wiser, but the outfits and trinkets were pretty enough to look at.

Now, I'll be off to recite the evening Offices, to save getting out my breviary on the areoplane; I'll save my rosary for take-off methinks!

This day, St Sebastian's day, because of time-zone changes, will not be a mere 24 hours, but 30 hours. The longest day. Until next time!

Monday, 16 January 2012

God Speaks to His Children

One of the brilliant things about being on parish placement is that you pick up tips on how to respond to  perennial pastoral challenges. Like "How do I introduce young kids in the parish to the Bible, in a way that is easy to understand and at the same time faithful to what the Bible actually says?". Well it so happens that at the weekend this particular question was answered for me. I was at a Maryvale catechists' training day in the parish, and someone gave me a copy of "God Speaks to His Children: Texts from the Bible". Published by Aid to the Church in Need in various languages - including the one in the picture above, though I don't know what it is! - this book gives an abridged account of the Biblical History of Salvation. The language is simplified, but pretty faithful to the content of Scripture, and it gives Scripture references at the end of each section. It also has beautiful illustrations. What strikes me is that although the book is quite short, it includes texts that other catechetical materials would omit as being too difficult for children. There is an account of the sacrifice of Elijah and the priests of Baal (leaving out the slaughter of the priests!), the sharp condemnation by the prophet Amos of Jerusalem's wrongdoings, the vision of the Son of Man and the Ancient of Days in Daniel, the Babylonian exile and the return of the people to Israel under Cyrus, and the new heavens and new earth of Revelation.

You can order the book for £3 from this site, and that enables ACN to give three copies to children in places where the Church is suffering.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Just What IS the Epiphany Anyway?

The Solemnity of the Lord's Epiphany is one of the most important liturgies in the Church's year. But sometimes it can seem as if it's just a hangover from Christmas - the wise men have finally arrived to present their gifts to the newborn king, long after every Catholic primary school in the country has rehearsed this encounter in a month of pre-Christmas nativity plays. Of course for Latin rite Catholics, this encounter is the main focus of the Epiphany. The wise men represent the Gentile people to whom God extends his salvation. They approach him through their observance of the natural world, and in faith, representing the mutual interdependence of faith and reason in the Christian life. And they give Jesus gifts that indicate who he is: gold for a king, frankincense as an offering for a priest, and myrrh as a tradition burial spice, to indicate Jesus' death as a prophet. Epiphany comes from the Greek word meaning "manifestation", because in the encounter with the wise men, Jesus is revealed to be the King of the World, the Priest who is Himself God, and the Prophet who will not only die for the sake of the truth, but will rise again so that we might have new life. 

But the Epiphany is also connected with two other manifestations of Christ's divinity. The second is the Wedding at Canaa, where in obedience to Mary his mother Jesus works his first miracle, the turning of the water into wine. In this way, St John tells us, Jesus "manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him". The third manifestation which is connected to the Epiphany is Jesus' Baptism in the Jordan. At this event, the Father bears witness to his beloved Son, and the Holy Spirit hovers over him, the New Creation, just as the spirit hovered over the waters at the beginning of creation in Genesis. In being baptised, Jesus not only identifies with us and gives us an example, but he sanctifies the waters, so that they are not just a symbol of conversion but also a means of grace. Though the Baptism now has its own separate celebration in the Latin rite since 1955, it is the primary meaning of the Epiphany in many Eastern Catholic and Orthodox traditions, where they have the Blessing of the Waters, and people swim or dance in ice cold water to recall Christ in the Jordan. Brrrr!!! Even for us, the Latin rite antiphons in the Divine Office still recall the three intertwining meanings of the Epiphany:

Today the Church has been joined to her heavenly bridegroom, since Christ has purified her of her sins in the river Jordan: the Magi hasten to the royal wedding and offer gifts: the wedding guests rejoice since Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia.

Monday, 2 January 2012


We've gone for a bit of a facelift this year, with a little more content than just our blog. We hope you like the changes. More things will be added over time, and altered a little, I'm sure, and, for a while, some of the new links won't take you to anything but a blank page, so treat it as an exciting teaser! Hopefully, we will be able to be a little more interactive, and we hope to be able to use this site as a place of prayer, discernment and maybe even a little catechesis!

There might not be many posts over the next few weeks, as placements will shortly commence. Term starts again on the week beginning 29th January. Please pray for us as we undertake our pastoral placements over the next three weeks.

Et Verbum caro factum est, et habitavit in nobis

Diamond Jubilee Year

2012 sees many big events (the end of the world too, if you are an ancient Mayan!).

One of those events is the diamond jubilee of the Queen of the United Kingdom. After 60 years on the throne, she has seen this country change quite radically, as well at the Catholic Church (she has seen 6 Popes during her reign, and met most of them), and she has presided over some considerable changes in the Anglican Communion as well. I can't possibly imagine how different life is now as it was in 1952.

Though she is not a Catholic, she is a deeply Christian lady, and this year, she used her Christmas broadcast to speak of the hope that Christ signified in his Incarnation as a human person. She said,

Finding hope in adversity is one of the themes of Christmas. Jesus was born into a world full of fear. The angels came to frightened shepherds with hope in their voices: 'Fear not', they urged, 'we bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 
'For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.'
Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves - from our recklessness or our greed. 
God sent into the world a unique person - neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive. 
Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God's love. 
In the last verse of this beautiful carol, O Little Town Of Bethlehem, there's a prayer: 
O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in. Be born in us today. 
It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.

How refreshing to hear the Truth broadcast over the whole world by the very head of our establishment! She also spoke of the importance of the family, especially important considering the erosion of the family in our modern society.

It was always an encouraged practice to recite a prayer for the Queen after High Mass on Sundays, a practice, like prayer in general, that fell into abeyance after the 1960s. This year, the bishops of our country have reminded us of this prayer, and have encouraged us to use it publically during this diamond jubilee year. It is the same prayer (the lack of hieratic language notwithstanding) that is found in the pre-Concilar manuals. We've put it in our side-bar too.

V. O Lord, save Elizabeth, our Queen.
R. And hear us on the day we call upon you.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come before you. 
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with your spirit.
Almighty God, we pray, that your servant Elizabeth, our Queen, who, by your providence has received the governance of this realm, may continue to grow in every virtue, that, imbued with your heavenly grace, she may be preserved from all that is harmful and evil and, being blessed with your favour may, with her consort and the royal family, come at last into your presence, through Christ who is the way, the truth and the life and who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The bishops' conference have requested that, on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Sunday June 3 2012, each parish will celebrate a Mass with prayers to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. During this Mass, the first reading is replaced by 1 Kings 3:11–14 and the Prayer for the Queen, which has been approved by the bishops, is used after the post-Communion prayer and before the final blessing."

The amended prayer in our side-bar can be used at any time.

I know some parishes that will be using this prayer more regularly than Trinity Sunday, even every Sunday throughout the year, after Mass. Republican or not, it is very important that we pray for our country and its leaders. We should always live in reality, after all! The Queen, as the wearer and manifestation of the Crown, our nation's supreme sovereignty, should receive our prayers most especially and regularly. Let's prove that prayer is fashionable. It does work, after all! As St. Peter wrote, "Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good" (2 Pet. 2:13-14), and also St Paul, who wrote, "I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour ..." (1 Tim 2:1-3).

So Gawd bless ya, Mum. 

God save the Queen!