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.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Another new beginning.

Today, Bishop Marcus celebrated Holy Mass to open and re-inaugurate the church of St Patrick in Bradford, the mission church of the Friars of the Renewal in the Leeds Diocese.
The Bishop was emphatic that this reopening was not a reclaiming of a past Catholic culture, but was a new venture for the mission of the Church today.
Many do not get, or do not want to get the new evangelisation, but Bishop Marcus does. The Friars of the Renewal now have an even greater base for being a centre of the mission today. Although they are not a parish, parishes far and wide can take their project as a model for themselves.
Take a look at the Friar's website:
I am so pleased for the Friars, who have worked selflessly for this enterprise, and which is now developing in a really encouraging way. Keep up the prayers for this arm of the Church - that it will go from strength to strength.

Thursday, 3 October 2019


I love the title of Cardinal Ouellet's new book, "Friends of the Bridegroom", about the priesthood. That is how I have always wanted to think about myself, as a priest. I'll have to get a copy of this one!

Saturday, 24 August 2019

An unexpected occurrence.

I have not been posting lately. Eight weeks ago I fell off my cycle during a beautiful summer's evening bike ride and broke a collar bone. I also badly damaged my right hand. This laid me up for a good six weeks and I am only just beginning to get back into action.
Although I have not been posting I have been doing a lot of other writing - with one finger of my left hand!

Friday, 23 August 2019

The keen arrow of truth.

The keen arrow of truth is virtually disregarded and unwanted today in our culture. I thank God for George Weigel and his analysis of Cardinal Pell's situation vis a vis the Australian, or better said, Victorian, Legal establishment and his alleged offence. These three posts, by George Weigel, about this matter, in chronological order, are excellent. May they help to unravel this appalling affair and open up the way for the keen arrow of truth to enter into Victorian justice.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

"Educating in Christ" by Gerard O'Shea

I have just finished reading Gerard O'Shea's excellent practical handbook on Catholic Education. I met Dr O'Shea twice when I was in Australia. It was through my first meeting that I heard of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and, subsequently, became acquainted with it through an "Atrium" in Sydney.
Dr O'Shea's new book is not about the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, but is rather a comprehensive presentation of what Catholic Education is. So much has been written about this subject during the past half century, not least by the Magisterium of the Church. The author bases his text upon the Church's actual teaching, and speaks about in in such a way that he reveals that he has been both formed and inspired by it. He also shows that he has integrated the various texts and understands the proper relationships that exists between the great themes that are involved: evangelisation, anthropology, scripture, morality, catechesis, formation of personnel etc.
By the time I had finished reading the whole book, I realised why the author had begun his text by speaking in detail about the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. It enabled him to begin his book by proposing the human subject, understood in his or her capacity to grow and be formed, from the earliest age, in his or her full humanity - body, heart, mind, together with all those relationships by which we become persons.
This truly is a practical handbook for parents, priests, teachers, catechists and all those who have any involvement in Catholic education. Moreover, the book is a joy to read because of the beautiful and easy way in which the author writes.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Definitive engagement.

On Wednesday of this week, 30th January, I made my definitive Engagement as a member of the Society of St John Vianney. This took place during a Mass in the chapel of the Bon Pasteur, in the John Paul II House at Ars, France, the house of the Society.
Definitive Engagement is the third and final stage of membership of the Society, and was for me the culmination of a process which I can trace back to the year 2000. In the summer of 2000 I returned to the UK from a two-year course at the JPII Institute in Valencia, Spain, and being appointed again as a Parish Priest became aware again of how important it is for priests to be able to share their life and mission with one another. So began a process of exploration and discovery of various priestly associations and societies. In 2006 I encountered the SJMV during the first International Priest's Retreat at Ars and, one year later entered into the first stage of its membership.
30th January 2019 was a day of special joy for me, to be able to commit myself to the Society for the rest of my life. A large part of my seeking full membership comes from a desire to contribute to the Diocesan priesthood, and feeling that I can do that more ably through a priestly movement, than on my own. And I am very happy to contribute to the nurturing of the priesthood within Europe, by belonging to a priestly movement at the heart of Europe.
The strength of welcome that I experienced on Wednesday of this week, from the other members of the SJMV, is the same as that which I have experienced all along since my first engagement with the Society in 2007. 
Thanks to Fr Gaspar for taking the photo above.