Saturday, 28 March 2020

A beautiful word of encouragement

I often think of, and refer myself to these words:
"Dear friends,
may no adversity paralyse you.
Be afraid neither of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness.
The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment of history so that,
by your faith, his name will continue to resound throughout the world."
Benedict XVI, 28.8.11

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

A supreme court

The present hearing in Australia about the erroneous conviction of Cardinal Pell is something that is easily fathomed.
This conviction and subsequent appeals are not about Cardinal Pell, who everyone of right mind knows is innocent of the very thing that he was charged with and convicted of. This is about the incapacity of Australian society to be able to deal with the appalling sexual abuse phenomena, both inside and outside the Catholic Church, in recent decades.
I lived in Australia for over four years and liked every second of it. It is a land of huge horizons, of beauty, light and openness. But I was aware also, from Australian Cinema, Australian drug culture, alcohol culture, its suicide rates, all the various routes of hedonism, the terrible youth culture, and its strict and neurotic Anglo-Saxon bureaucracy, that there is a very dark side to Australia. 
In our home countries - and in the most surprising places - we are aware of this and try to circumnavigate it as best we can. But Australia is intent on making a scapegoat out of one of her very best sons. Cardinal Pell has done more to nurture Australian goodness than any other Australian, of our life time, who we could mention.
The conviction of Cardinal Pell on such a ludicrous charge beggars belief. Australia - you have a big problem, and treating your Cardinal in this way is not going to help you. He has already helped you more than you know. Do not darken the Southern Cross more. Australia - you are called to grow in grace and in goodness. Do not be oppressed by the darkness. Let there be interior light in Australia. You are on a knife edge. Why? You have so much to lose, and you have so much to gain. Why do you want dark powers to hold sway in your midst?

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Catholic History Walk near Towton.

Saturday 28th March 2020 to Towton battlefield.
We will visit the battlefield site, the village of Saxton, and finish with a visit to the church of the Immaculate Conception at Barkstone Ash.
The battle field walk is around 3 miles on country paths, and we could walk to Barkstone Ash and back which would add another 3 miles. Please wear outdoor shoes, and we can decide, as before, whether to bring a packed lunch or to find a pub.
We’ll leave the parish at 9.30am on the Saturday, or we could meet, just after 10am at the battlefield site, which is just north of Saxton village.
We’ll finish the walk with the Guild prayers in the church of the Immaculate Conception.
The battle was fought in 1461 on 29th March. Our visit will be on the eve of the anniversary.

Sunday, 1 March 2020

A beautiful day

Yesterday's Catholic History Walk was wonderful. As you know, because of the poor weather, we exchanged the walk to Hathersage and back for the celebration of Mass at the Padley Chapel.
We had a beautiful, votive Mass of the Martyrs in the chapel at Padley, after learning so much about the site and its significance from the custodians. We sang much of the Mass in honour of the two Blesseds, Frs Nicholas Garlick and Robert Ludlam, who were captured there in 1588.
Special thanks to the custodians of the chapel for preparing the place for our visit and for the wealth of knowledge which they shared with us.
Following the Mass and a look round the remains of the old manor house, we all drove over to the beautiful village of Tideswell, about nine miles away. The custodians had told us that the house in which Nicholas Garlick had lived, together with the connecting buildings which had been the school where he had taught local children the Catholic Faith, before he became a priest, is still there at the top of Hardy Lane in in the village. We also learned of the tradition; that following his execution in Derby, local Catholics brought he severed head back to Tideswell and buried it in the graveyard of St John's, the 'Cathedral of the Peak'. A plaque on the entrance to the church yard states this tradition.
I should also say that we had a wonderful lunch at the Anchor pub, just outside Tideswell. It really was a wonderful day.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Catholic History Walk at Padley.

This coming Saturday we have the Catholic History Walk. However, because the weather forecast is promising a lot of rain I have changed the plan somewhat.
We will celebrate Mass at the Padley Chapel at around 11am, instead of making the walk to Hathersage and back.
Following the Mass we could have lunch in a local pub.
So, please do come for 11am and park near Grindleford train station. Postcode S32 2HY.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Remember the date

The meeting the Regina Caeli initiative is this coming Saturday.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

A second Catholic History walk.

The walk is scheduled for Saturday 29th February 2020 and will visit the Padley Chapel and Hathersage in Derbyshire. For information on the Padley Chapel.
We will meet at Grindleford train station at around 10.30am. There is parking room on the  lane down to the train station. From there the Padley Chapel is only a few minutes walk away. I have arranged with some of the chapel's guardians for us to visit inside.
We will pray for our country using the prayers of the Guild of Our Lady of Ransom.
From there we will set off walking to Hathersage, a three mile walk. So, in all, the walk is six miles. The walk is on the flat, fairly easy, and only a part is on a road. Please wear outdoor shoes.
We can have lunch in Hathersage. There are a number of pubs and cafes. We can also visit Little John's grave. Although we walk back to the Padley Chapel, it is by a different path.
We could envisage being back at Grindleford station at around 3.30pm

Monday, 27 January 2020

Leatherwood Honey

This is my favourite honey - Leatherwood. I've never been a fan of honey, but this honey, which I discovered while I was on mission in Sydney, is exceptional.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

A new Home Schooling initiative

An exciting new schooling venture is announced. Regina Caeli is an independent and authentically Catholic tutoring centre providing two full days of taught lessons in school and lesson plans for three days of lessons taught at home, for boys and girls aged 4-18.

Regina Caeli is a response to the need for affordable, authentic, classical education - to help our children grow in love for God while providing them with a “classical style” of education so they learn how to think critically and become life-long learners. It is also a response to the need for Catholic families to come together and build community.

Local Catholic families are exploring opening a Regina Caeli Academy in the North of England and an information afternoon is taking place near Thirsk on Saturday 29th February 2020. Kari Beckman, American founder of Regina Caeli, is our Keynote speaker. Tickets £15 per family. For more details and booking, visit  

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Trump Speaks At March For Life Rally | NBC News (Live Stream)

I cried when I watched this. This address is something I wasn't expecting ... I hope that the tide in turning.
Thank you President Trump.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Catholic History Walks

Now that I am more or less mobile again after my accident last year, and having had this desire in me for some time, I am launching out anew on the trail - Catholic History Walks.These will be informal pilgrimages, of cultural interest and with some prayer on behalf of our country and the Church's mission here.
I have explored and delved so much over the years and have acquired a quite a large repository and appreciation of many, many places that hold memories and meaning of our Catholic past. The sites that I am proposing to revisit, and to offer you the opportunity of of taking part, will invariably be in the north of England.
I am currently on mission in Wakefield, Yorkshire, and it is therefore opportune to select places that are in striking distance.
Now that we have entered into the new year and can see the evenings lengthening again, I propose Saturdays as the obvious days for these walks to take place.
Outdoor shoes will be necessary as we will inevitably use some country or rough paths. Lunch can be either packed or a pub lunch - although it will be better for us to decide beforehand which we would prefer, given the location.
The only costs involved will be the entry price if we enter managed locations, and of course, your own travel costs to and from the chosen location.
The Walks will be advertised and described here on this blog.
The first walk will be on Saturday 25th January 2020 to:
Osmotherly, the Lady Chapel and Mount Grace Priory. Meet outside the village pub, "The Queen Catherine", DL6 3AG, in Osmotherly at 10.15am. We will walk out of the village, up onto the escarpment and along, then come down towards the village and turn off to the track which leads to the Lady Chapel. We can spend some time there and pray the prayers of "The Guild of Our Lady of Ransom", before returning to the centre of the village and our cars. The length of the walk is around 6 to 7 miles in all, and will take in metalled roads and rough tracks. We will then drive round to visit the ruins of the Carthusian Priory nearby. The entrance fee is £9 per adult. Following that visit we will head home.
We could expect to leave the Priory ruins 2.30pm/3pm in order to return home.
Obviously you can use the comment feature on this blog to communicate your interest and ask me for further details.

Monday, 13 January 2020

A whole new horizon.

Last week I went to see the much acclaimed musical "A Girl from the North Country". It was superb!
What I experienced was a completely new appreciation of Bob Dylan's songs. The creators of this musical have delved into the 1930s and 1940s of America's mid-west and unearthed the deeper pathos of those years, which formed Dylan's own vision of life, and which we experience in the span of his songwriting.
Dylan had this pathos 'built into him', and it has flowed out of him in word and music. It is particularly the hardness of life, its struggles amidst hopes and glimpses of light and goodness, which this musical and Dylan's songs have brought to life. No wonder there is great depth in his songs!
This musical brought a completely new horizon into vision, one which has escaped me until now. The commentators of Dylan's music that I have encountered have largely come from the 'drugs, sex and rock and roll' culture, and I don't think that they have been able to get beneath Dylan's 'wordsmith' language and the very sound in which he expresses it. I wonder if Bob Dylan himself is aware of the depth of historical pathos which his songs contain. Sometimes it needs someone else to express for us the depth of what we want to say.
All I can say is: if you are able, go and see this musical before the season ends.
The 1930s and 40s stand in contrast to our our era; I wonder what pathos will come from the beginning of the new millennium, and who will express it (better than B16.)
The implicit pathos of many of Dylan's songs is perhaps what attracts so many to them. In an era of superficial happiness there is something much deeper which holds us. In that place God is freer to act.

Saturday, 2 November 2019


History shows us many examples of how the prevailing culture has tried to mould the Church according to its own agenda. For instance, in the 1970s at Nowa Huta near Krakow,  the Communist authorities tried to build a new city without any religious provision. But the Church there, led by her archbishop, took part in a Mass every Sunday there in an open field.

It is different when the agenda comes from within the Church. I use to the term ‘ecclesiocracy’ in a different way today, not so much as an ecclesial presence guiding society, but as an ecclesial presence shaping the Church according to its own agenda. And where an ‘ecclesiocrat’ is someone who has his or her own agenda for the Church. 

We see ecclesiocrats at work in the nurturing of theological positions, understood as projects which stand alongside or even claim precedence over the Teaching of the Church. We feel the presence of ecclesiocrats when the Teaching of the Church is simply set aside to make way for whatever project is on the table.

Where did this tendency, in our era, come from? I would be glad of some input here so I can better make sense of the situation that we are in today. So, please comment on this in order to help me.

The Church has an agenda, its own. That agenda is not a formula, but a person, as both St John Paul II and Benedict XVI pointed out. The Church’s ‘agenda’, her plan, was given by the Lord in the Great Commission. Any agenda that is given subsequently to the Church, or even searched for, makes the Church look as though she doesn’t have an adequate agenda already.

Ecclesiocrats come in both clerical and lay form. I think that we are so used to them being around today that we hardly notice them, and we become accustomed to the distance that is created between us and the Lord by this human posturing. But we should notice them and take stock because the Church is the Lord’s. It is not ours to shape and mould as we see fit. And we need to be aware of being shaped and styled as ecclesiocrats ourselves. 

So, how has ‘ecclesiocracy’ arisen in our day? I am reminded of a letter which Archbishop Heenan wrote to Evelyn Waugh in August 1964 in which he said,
“I think that the leaders of the new thought (if that is not too strong a word) are not so much the young pops as the Catholic ‘intellectuals’ That is what they call themselves and believe themselves to be. Everyone with two A-levels is now an intellectual.” These words suggest the birth of lay ecclesiocrats at the time of the Second Vatican Council. This movement grew apace and became well represented by certain religious interest journals that persist today, and the lay groups which thrive on such religious interest.

Of course, the activity of clerical ecclesiocrats within the Council has been written about extensively, and I don’t intend to go into that here. The theological currents were themselves caused most probably by a deeper anthropological movement. And the theological movement is being given in depth treatment today by some excellent minds.

Clerical ecclesiocrats are, I imagine, more influential/dangerous than their lay compatriots. No doubt they have always been around. But what has produced them today? I ask this because ‘ecclesiocracy’ seems rife in much of the Church today, as though the nature and meaning of the Church and the Christian life is up for total reappraisal! 

A realisation can to me when, five years ago, I read Sherry Weddell’s book ‘Forming Intentional Disciples’. As I put the book down, I thought to myself, today priests have become administrators and people have become consumers. But priests need to become pastors again, and people need to become disciples. Our consumerist culture has had a much deeper impact than, I think, any of us is aware of.

Clerical careerism is most certainly a cause of deflecting a pastor into another mode. The National Pastoral Congress of 1980 in Liverpool was another. This Congress had an unspoken question at its root – what kind of a Church would we like today? This is the question of ‘consumer Catholicism’ and, although the 1980 Congress seemed to go nowhere, its underlying agenda became very active in the Church in this country.

Pope John Paul II set out the unchanging ‘agenda’ of the Church in his 2001 Letter, Tertio Millennio Ineunte, detailing in Part 3 the priorities of the Christian life. As proponents of the new evangelisation, Paul VI through to Francis, have straightforwardly re-presented evangelisation in its proper place in the life and mission of the Church, namely, at the forefront. In this way they have addressed a ‘losing sight’ of something that is essentially part of the Church. Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI were notable for embracing new movements which were giving to expression to the Church’s timeless ‘agenda’ and allowing them to flourish. But where do the other agendas belong, and where are they going?

Saturday, 26 October 2019

A great vision shelved.

Back in the early-to-mid sixties, the vision for Catholic Education was developing magnificently. The campuses of Trinity and All Saints (pictured above) in Leeds, Newman College in Birmingham, and Strawberry Hill in Twickenham, and others, were being built or redeveloped.
The vision was that young people, aspiring to be formed in the heart of the Church, and possibly become teachers of the same Catholic vision, would enter into an integral formation of spirituality, faith and life, intellectual development, the formation of skills and abilities, living as Catholic men and women in separate formation houses, and finally being commissioned by a bishop of the Catholic Church to be agents of Christ in the various fields of employment, would enable the development of Catholic faith and life in this era.
That was the plan in 1966. When the doors opened to the first new students, the plan had already been set aside in favour of an accommodation with the secular vision that was developing in that decade.
What I describe is, no doubt, an over simplification of what actually took place. However, I state it in these simple terms because that vision, and that strategy, is needed today.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

The relationship between the Church and the Catholic school.

I am occasionally asked about this relationship - a matter deserving of proper thought and conversation by many, although such a thing is rarely the case.
Well, the matter was thought about and discussed by the recent Council. Its decree Gravissimum Educationis paints a great vision, in which this relationship is implicit. Paragraph 8 has the heart of it.

"Since therefore, the Catholic school can be such an aid ... " The relationship of the School to the Church is one of supporting the Church in her life and mission.

"But let teachers ... be very carefully prepared ... " The relationship of the Church to the school is to feed the school with evangelised, catechised and formed personnel to carry out that mission.

It is a very close relationship, one that was envisaged in the early 60s, a vision that is ripe for today.