Sunday, 31 March 2013

Christus Surrexit! Alleluia!

It's not every day I get a text message from a friend saying, "Χριστός Ανέστη!"

That is Greek. In Latin it would be "Christus surrexit!" In our mother tongue it is, "Christ is risen!" Last night I had the great privilege of singing the Easter Exultet, in which is sung the great joy of the night when Christ rose from the dead, conquered death, and turned the sin of Adam into a "happy fault". In the Gospels, the women run from the empty tomb to the apostles in "fear and great joy".

May our Easter celebration be marked by wonder and joy at the grace which God gives to us afresh at this time. Let us run to him!

Friday, 29 March 2013

Holy Week

It was great for me to travel back to Norwich on Wednesday evening for the diocesan Chrism Mass. There was a full cathedral to welcome the Papal Nuncio who presided at the Mass. Fr David joked that since we had the Cardinal last year, and the Pope's representative this year, then if we don't have a bishop next year we should have the Pope preside! The Nuncio was very gracious and spoke about - among other things - the role of the bishop leading us in worship and contemplation of God. I enjoyed seeing parishioners from placements I've had, and the priests and deacons of the diocese. I was also privileged to bring up the Oil of Chrism with which I will be anointed on the day of my priestly ordination in July.

Now the Triduum is under way. Yesterday we celebrated the Mass of the Lord's Supper in the parish where I am placed, and this afternoon I will be assisting the priest in the celebration of the Lord's Passion. That means narrating the Passion narrative, singing the introduction to the Universal Prayers of the Faithful, and bringing in the Cross for verneration, singing "Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the salvation of the world." The whole congregation well sing in response, "Come let us adore!"

Monday, 25 March 2013

White Palm Sunday!?

Yesterday I was in my weekly placement parish, and the parish priest had decided we were going to have a procession for the first time (recently, anyway) in the parish, come hell or highwater... or snow! We started in the school hall at 10.30, and after the introduction, blessing and sprinkling of palms, and Gospel, we processed briskly through the falling snow towards the church. The First Communion kids stood either side of the church doors, waving their palms wildly as the servers entered, and I couldn't help thinking they were waving them not only in accordance with the liturgical occassion, but also to keep warm!
I guess this isn't a scenario we had covered in Sacramental Celebration class!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Francis our Pope

Habemus Papam!

Yesterday the seminarians were flicking between Sky News, the BBC, and EWTN for coverage of the smoke at 5.30 pm. I realised that it was the first likely chance that we would have a pope, and had been saying so to the Missionaries of Charity down the road (who have to go to a neighbour's house to watch any TV!). As it got closer to 6 pm, the few seminarians in the Common Room began to think something was up, and when the smoke finally appeared there were a few suspenseful seconds until we realised it was white - then someone ran off to ring the chapel bell and alert the community!

Over the next hour, more of the seminarians and staff priests gathered in the Common Room, and the atmosphere was buzzing. Who could it be? What name would they take?

When the new Pope was announced, no one in the room seemed to know who he was! Who's Bergoglio? Where is he from? And we caught from the latin that his papal name would be Francis. A new name! How exciting!

I won't go into a biography of Pope Francis, as I still am learning, and I'm sure people know who he is from the news. First from the Americas, first Jesuit. Suffice to say that his simple, integral lifestyle is encouraging, and already a great witness to the world and a model for priests and seminarians. Authentic renewal in the Church begins with ourselves! I like what I've heard about his contravening security conventions to talk with the ordinary people of Rome and go check out of the hotel he's been staying in since he arrived in Rome!

Next week we have a silent retreat, but I'm sure things will be arranged so that we can watch the Pope's installation on Tuesday...

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Visit from the Parish

Last Sunday we had a Visitors Sunday afternoon, when the public can have a tour of the seminary and ask questions about priestly formation. It was a privilege for me to welcome my parish priest Fr Philip Shryane and some of the parishioners of my home parish of St Edmund, Bury St Edmunds. They hired a minibus and managed to make good time to be here at Oscott for tea, a tour, and Sung Evening Prayer afterwards. I enjoyed the afternoon, and they appeared to do so also! The next Visitor's Sunday is April 28th, which is already booked up, and I look forward to another East Anglia visit, from Fr Sean Connolly and the parishioners of March and Wisbech...

Sunday, 10 March 2013

House Group Mass

Laetare! Rejoice! We're halfway through Lent...

One aspect of community life at seminary is House Groups. Once a fortnight, we meet in small inter-year groups with a member of staff in order to pray, discuss issues in the community, and socialise. On Friday, we all went of for our termly House Group Masses, and my group trecked all the way to Stone, a market town in Staffordshire where Blessed Dominic Barberi ministered in the 1840's. The Italian Passionist was reviled by the townspeople initially, but eventually won them over through his gentleness, humility and perseverance, and a small chapel was built for the resident Catholic community. We were able to have Mass there, and also to sit in the chair where Blessed Dominic heard confessions!

It is well worth reading about this amazing priest who later received Newman into the Church. I recommend the CTS pamphlet by Fr Ben Lodge, or the older, very good book by Alfred Wilson.

And of course, Happy Mothers Day to all mother out there! Not long ago the Congregation for Clergy wrote a letter thanking the mothers of seminarians for forming their sons and generously giving them to the Church. Without mothers we wouldn't be here! For that reason, let's pray for the success of the Pro-Life march in Birmingham this afternoon, which is expecting great numbers of people from all over the country and beyond...