Saturday, 30 August 2014

A living fraternity.

At the beginning of August I was in Ars for nine days, taking part in the Summer Session of the Society of St John Vianney. This session incorporates the feast of the saint, when hundreds of priests come and join us for the solemn Mass on 4th August. The photo above shows some of us after the Mass.
The theme of our reflections this year was priestly fraternity; bringing to the fore this essential dimension of the priesthood and enabling it to be lived within the Diocesan priesthood. What a tremendous grace this Society is!
However, the Society of St John Vianney does not see priestly fraternity in the sense of a caste or privilaged status, but rather, it is the humility and weakness of the priest which is the source of our brotherhood, set in relief by the sacrament of Ordination.
When you look at St John Vianney, you know what the priesthood is. He doesn't lead to a particular priestly spirituality, and for this reason he is the model for all priests. St John Vianney was all for Christ, and so claiming him as the model is actually opening ourselves to a universal model. St John Vianney is the answer to all the critics of the priesthood over the past fifty years.
It is the missionary witness of this Society which first attracted me and drew me to become a member, for it witnesses not so much to the man who is a priest, but to the reality of priesthood itself.
Our days in Ars were divided up between celebrations, trips out and time spent together with the Lord, and in reflection. One day we even went rowing on the River Saone at Lyons. It is a mighty river and I was surprised that no one fell in. I took this photo of the river before we embarked; boats and cameras don't mix well!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Defence of the realm.

When will England be open to God's plan?
Defending itself against the truth has been been its predominant attitude for almost five hundred years. So long that you almost want to fall in line. From women bishops to guarding cyclamen against slugs, it is as though we must see ourselves, in this island, as competent in all fields, including most importantly, overriding the beauty of God's plan.
Wearing herself out across the past five centuries, and yet God's plan still shines with beauty.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Set in relief.

The New Evangelisation sets the Christian life in relief; this is becoming clear as this new era in salvation history gets underway. I became very conscious of this during Eastertide as we read the Acts of the Apostles during the Liturgy. The movement of the New Evangelisation is causing the Scriptures, the Seasons and the feasts, indeed, the Christian life itself to be set in relief.
Today's feast of St Benedict, the towering Patron of Europe, is an example of this. Monasticism, seen in the light of the identity of the Church today, was and is a gift to the Universl Church, an enabling of its mission.
Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium 262, describes "spirit-filled evangelisers" as those who "pray and work". The ora et labora of a past, golden age of evangelisation is newly seen today as the kernel of the New Evangelisation as its actually is. In the future we will look back and see the truth of the Holy Father's contemporary description of the New Evangelisation. That unity of prayer and activity, rather than mere talk (or blogging), seen again, through the prism of the New Evangeisation for its tremendous value. A Church which is unself-consciously engaged in prayer and work is a Church which will mark this age that we are living in, not through any desire to achieve self-importance, but through the transformation which grace alone acheives.
St Benedict, lead us to live under God.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Paella above Hartlington.

Just in case you were wondering what cooking a paella on the hillside above Hartlington looked like.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

The other vision of reality.

Campion College Australia, where I worked for two years as its first full-time Chaplain has, this year, recorded its largest intake of new students. Forty one first year students brings the student roll to one hundred.
I applaud the College in its work; it was such an extraordinary privilege for me to have been asked to be its Chaplain. The new students, at the start of the year, were introduced to the vision of the College which is founded upon two great Englishmen: Edmund Campion and Christopher Dawson. I wonder how many people today in England would have heard of either of them.
Edmund Campion is the pearl of the English Renaissance. He lived in the 1500s, became a Jesuit priest and is now a Saint. He, better than anyone in his day, enunciated the call to live the Christian life. He was executed at Tyburn, London, on 1st December 1581.
Christopher Dawson, a Yorkshireman (1889-1970), enunciated the same vision, probably better than anyone else, in the 1950s and 1960s. While British and Western culture was going headlong into an empirical-scientific and technological vision for understanding reality, he presented anew that vision of life which is based upon Salvation History.
Salvation History is today disregarded in a peculiarly irrational way, in favour of rationalistic hypotheses about reality. However, not everyone has gone over to looking at the world according to the modern pseudo-rationalistic fashion. Although Campion College is small, its endeavour is genuine and many will, one day, come to reap the benefits of the genuine vision of human life which is being nurtured and explored by the College and its students.
When we see the difference between the two visions of reality; one perportedly scientific, the other attuned to grace, we begin to see the dire state that the Western World is in and, at the same time, the tremendous light that is being mediated by colleges such as Campion College.
I have read some of Dawson's works and I want to read more. His works are tremendously important for our age, and we should not let them be forgotten. The other day I parked up on the hillside behind Hartlington in order to make a paella, and fondly remembered him and his endeavours - which are to enable modern people to see the world as a gift from God, and its renewal through the saving work of Jesus Christ, and to take part in that great endeavour.  

Monday, 30 June 2014

Lying with a saint.

What a tremendous mystery is the Priesthood; to lie in prostration alongside the relics of a priest-saint, awaiting the imposition of hands!
Congratulations to the three men who were ordained on Saturday, the feast of St John Southworth, at Westminster. The relics of this holy martyr priest had been brought into the centre of the Cathedral for the ordination ceremony, and the Cardinal, in his sermon, linked the ordination to the priesthood of this saint. The more we draw on our martyrs, the more we are marked by the Mystery of Christ.
It was a particular joy for me to see one of the former Youth 2000 Mission Team members being clothed with the Priesthood of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

A celebration of Priesthood.

Last week I took part in the Silver Jubilee celebration of Fr Stephen Langridge, the Vocations Director of the Southwark Diocese. It was a tremendous celebration of the Priesthood; a sung Mass with a great homily by Fr Alexander Sherbrooke.
Following the Mass there was a Hog Roast, outside The Vocations Centre, for the crowd of participants in the celebration.
Celebrations of the Priesthood are not that common but are very important in the Church. Not only do they mark a priest's service, but they honour God's plan for the life of the Church.
Congratulations to Fr Stephen on his 25th Anniversary!

Wednesday, 25 June 2014


Congratulations to my 100,000th visitor, whoever you are. You should receive a New Evangelisation medal!

Monday, 23 June 2014

A House of witnesses.

Another site in the village of Chideock which should not be overlooked in Chideock House on the High Street. This house, now a B&B, is the place where the trail of Fr John Cornelius, Thomas Bosgrave, John Carey and Patrick Salmon took place. They gave their witness to Christ in this building before being taken to the gaol in Dorchester, and from there to the gallows.
The pub on the other side of the road is also worth a visit!

Thursday, 19 June 2014

A household of faith

No pilgrimage to the gallows site in Dorchester is complete without also visiting the Dorset village of Chideock. Here, the Arundell family kept the Faith through the darkest part of the Penal days. The Arundell family of Cornwall became the ownners of Chideock Castle in 1479. They remained Catholic as the sixteenth century progressed. In the late 1500s Sir John Arundell was imprisoned various times for recusancy and for nurturing a household of Faith in his castle. All the martyrs who were executed at Dorchester had been a part of this centre of formation and evangelisation. The castle was destoyed folowing the Civil War. 
In 1786 the Weld family of Lulworth, also Catholics, bought the Chideock estate and, in 1872, a new Church, honouring Our Lady and the martyrs was opened just north of the village.
This exquisite church is now a beautiful place of pilgrimage, its interior adorned with images of the martyrs of both Dorset and beyond.
The site of the castle, about half a mile from this Church, and entered via Ruins Lane, is now just an open field overlookiing the village. In the 1950s a cross was erected in the centre of the castle site to honour all those who were nurtured in this former household of faith.
The course of the original moat can still be clearly picked out, but there is not one stone standing on another. It is now a very partoral scene with the field given over to ewes with their lambs. However, the site is a wonderful place to pray the Rosary and to ask for the new evangelisation of this island. With such a great cloud of witnesses as our forbears, let our endeavours not fall silent.


Tuesday, 17 June 2014

An everyday matter.

Passing along the South Walk in Dorchester one sees a group of figures whose presence and demeanour do not catch one's attention until one draws near. Suddenly the figures, which seems like a group of friends in conversation stand out from the other people on the pavement.
In fact, these are stautues cast in metal. They are set on the site of the former Gallows, which, four hundred years ago would have stood just outside the old town walls of Dorcehester. They represent the Catholic Martyrs of Dorset, six of whom were executed at this site. The statues depict two people who are facing death, and although lacking a certain comeliness, could in fact, stand for any casual group of people. Therein lies the significance, to my mind, of this memorial. For the people who were executed here for Christ, were ordinary people. What distinguishes them is that they gave public witness to the Mystery of Christ before the people of Dorchester, of Dorset, and of the whole country. This memorial is quite extraordinary, given the culture and attitude of this country today. Its human dimension together with its very public, yet urbane nature, places these martyrs right at the centre of our life and our culture. Before any religious distinctions can cloud the reality, and before any polemic can take away from the directness of their example, six men, gave public witness, before all the authorities and before all the people, to the reality of the saving Mystery of Jesus Christ. What an extraordinary sign for any town in our country to be marked with.
Blessed Thomas Pilchard, priest, hung, drawn and quartered here 21st March 1587.
Blessed William, Pike, layman, hung, drawn and quartered here in 1591.
Blessed John Cornelius, Jesuit priest, hung, drawn and quartered here 4th July 1594.
Thomas Bosgrave, layman, executed here 4th July 1594.
John Carey, layman, executed here 4th July 1594.
Patrick Salmon, layman, executed here 4th July 1594.
Hugh Green, priest, hung, drawn and quartered here 19th August 1642.
Martyrs of Dorchester, pray for us, that the witness we give may also give life to many.
The memorial stands at the south end of a road called Icen Way. This road begins at the High Street where, in former times, the gaol stood.
I took the above photo from the High Street looking down Icen Way, the lane down which the martyrs would have been dragged. The site of the gaol is now a take-away. Much of the town of Dorchester was burned down in the 1700s and therefore very few of its mediaeval buildings remain. It was in this gaol that the martyrs were held before their execution.


Sunday, 15 June 2014

A centenary approaches.

On 28th July we will observe the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. I hope that it will be a moment when the whole world will stop again and recognise the terrible destruction that this war caused and the incalculable sacrifice which was made by so many. We should never let a single year go by without observing Remembrance Day, and more importantly, without holding up this moment of our history before the Throne of Grace.
The vaunting hopes of that age of technology, science and rationalism came to a unexpected and sudden end in the Battle of Verdun. A century of human advances, hoping for a future in which we would establish firmly the dominance of human reason and resourcefulness over shreds of all the previous attempts to build human civilisation. Such a vast hope was contained with the 1800s and so few saw its weakness - the stone rejected by the builders ... 
The tale of Nineteenth Century atheism should be told again in our day, and the way in which Christian Europe dropped the ball; yet the way in which grace was never withdrawn. This is the most important lesson that we can learn one hundrfed years on, especially at a time when our culture is turning is gaze away from the Divine Initiative and is again regarding confidently the possibilities of human resourcefulness 'set free'.
Apologies for my absence; it was not intended. A holiday, a busy time in the parish and dose of flu are bound to upset regular posting. I do intend to maintain this Blog and will do my best to keep it up.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Roaring like a lion.

Yesterday evening I went with a group of young people to see the film "God's not dead". I really enjoyed this new Christian film. Yes, it is quite American and somewhat implausible in parts. For instance, it is hard to imagine a first-year university student being able to have such a command of the contemporary debate about science and faith in the way that the film portrays. Yet, it was very refreshing to see faith in Jesus Christ so explicitly referenced on the big screen, and to hear grace being referenced in ordinary conversation. We long to hear people speak about grace and the work of God in normal life, yet it hardly ever happens, in my experience. Instead, we confine ourselves to more hollow subjects.
I also applaud the film for the way in which it "took the lid off" the reality of the Christian presence in our society, a presence which, today, tends go unspoken and unexpressed. In spite of this, the whole of life is lived at the interface of grace, and this film went some way to show this and, hopefully, to inspire a more normal public expression of faith in Jesus Christ.
What is of particular note in the film is the way in which masculinity is portrayed. In our era, in which there is a crisis of masculinity, "God's not dead" really does set masculinity in relief. The main character in the film, the young man, played by Shane Harper, expresses the basic identity of masculinity: leadership, service, strength of character and, above all, responsibility for the Gospel. Responsibility for the Gospel is the foundational task which all men have, a role which goes to the heart of today's crisis and one which the film nurtures and expresses quite well.
Christian films are few and far between; this film is a worthy addition and, I think, has been made with both self-confidence and the Gospel as its blueprint. "God's not dead … He's roaring like a lion!" I hope that we will get more and better Christian films as our era progresses.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

The whole world is waiting.

The whole world is waiting to celebrate the victory of Jesus Christ. There is a strange expectancy in the Church. After the long Lenten fast and the impacting events of Holy Week, I wonder if we don't all feel as did the first Apostles in the Upper Room, or the souls who had waited for so long in the place of death.
Yet today there is a new ingredient in our pause before Easter; today the Novena seeking the intercession of Blessed John Paul II begins. This Novena will end the day that he is made a saint - 27th April.
Amongst the many needs that we can place before him are surely the ending of contraceptive mentality and practice, and the ending of abortion; these two have brought our civilisation to its knees. The power of this great advocate of grace when he was among us, tells us how powerful must be his prayers now that he is in his Father's House.
I have placed the Novena prayers on my parish website:

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Post mission rewind.

Although this photo was taken last year at the shrine of St Thomas More in St Dunstan's church, Canterbury, and shows the Southwark Mission Team (including a couple of others) at the very start of their life together, I am still reeling from the impact of their missionary endeavour in my parish these last nine days.
I am extremely grateful to Fr Stephen, and to Michael, Anthony, Will, John and Tony for the considerable work that they undertook in giving a parish mission in Ossett and Horbury. The mission was entitled, "Heart speaks to heart, an introduction to living Christianity today". They achieved that very purpose, leading the parish through the basics of the Christian life, bringing people together to live that very vision, and bringing both newcomers and those who have not been a part of this life for some time, to practice the faith with a new openness.
I was sorry to see them leave on Palm Sunday as I would have liked them to stay and consolidate their work for at least another two months! This is a mission which will not be forgotten for many years to come, as a new foundation stone has been given to this parish. It was fashioned for us by the Lord and worked by these men. Pray the Lord of the harvest that he would send workers into his fields … The Southwark Mission Team have been fashioned by prayer and faith-filled hope. May they all go from strength to strength.