Friday, 25 January 2013

Soft light on a winter shore

Last week the SPES mission school retreat took place at the Vocations Centre in Whitstable. The whole week was lovely and, with God's grace, will bear fruit in the lives of the young mission school members.
I was out on the sea front earlier today and took this picture looking east towards Herne Bay. In a short while another group will be arriving at the Vocations Centre to take part in a Marriage Discernment weekend. Hopefully there will be more soft winter sunlight during the weekend so that this young might likewise enjoy a walk along the seashore.  

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

One cold winter's afternoon in Whitstable

The bleak, shuttered, row of beach huts along the seafront at Whitstable stood in stark contrast to a very warm welcome at the new Vocations Centre in the town. I am here with the SPES missionary school members giving them their mid-year retreat. Our thanks go to Fr Stephen, the Director of the Centre, for the way in which he has prepared the Centre for use by such groups and for his warm hospitality.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

A deeper glimpse

I took some photos inside the remains of the old Manor at Ince. Do you think that it is a building which could be renovated as a piece Catholic legacy for the future? 

Friday, 11 January 2013

A glimpse of Lancashire recusancy

In the grounds of Ince Blundell Hall just north of Liverpool is a remnant of the old Blundell Manor House of Ince. The Manor House dates back to the 1100s but the remaining wing is early 1500s. Robert Blundell, born 1575, was a recusant and established priests in his home,  building a secret chapel (no longer extant) nearby in the woods of his estate. 
In 1720 the Blundells began building a new Hall, a short distance from the old Manor, which remained a centre of faith down to the present day. Today the Hall is a home for retired priests run by Augustinian Canonesses. The wing of the old Manor which you see in the photograph is now derelict, but still allows you to see the brick and stones of a house that survived the Reformation and the Civil War with its Catholic life intact.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

A powerful perspective.

I have read many histories and commentaries on the Reformation, many of which are loaded with partisan rhetoric, some of which I enjoy using myself. But the historical perspective on the Reformation which I regard as second only to that given by the Martyrs themselves (which should be evident from this blog), is that of Christopher Dawson. 
In his book "Progress and Religion" he speaks very pithily about the Reformation in about four pages (pp140 - 144) from the perspective of sociology. What he says speaks volumes, I think, about the history and culture of England since the early 1500s, by speaking about it in with reference to the Renaissance.
His point is essentially that the Renaissance was a movement in Europe which sought to move away from the Medieval world and to return to an older form of culture. In southern Europe this culture was obviously Classical culture, a culture which was now linked to the Catholic Faith, a Faith to which southern Europe maintained its embrace. In Northern Europe however, what had preceded Christianity was pagan culture, and so what took place there was not simply a rejection of Medievalism but of the Catholic Faith as well. In other words, rather than re-embrace its pagan background again (which, incidentally, it is doing now), the focus of the Renaissance in Northern Europe was to re-mould Christianity.
Such a perspective helps us to appreciate the force with which the Catholic Faith and Church was rejected in the North, and how that rejection is still so firmly in place. As Dawson says, "The Renaissance of Northern Europe is the Reformation." (p141) 
No where more than in England did this rejection take place in such a powerful way, incorporating all the energies of the State to scour out, in a detailed way, the very substance of Christianity from the fabric of English life, and to impose in its place an idealistic form of Christianity.
So, when we look at such topics as the Royal Succession or Ecumenism itself, Dawson helps us to see beyond merely Theological or cultural arguments, to something which lies very deep in the psyche and personality of a people who have gone through a profound and complex revolt. Making England Catholic again must involve a deep respect for what has transpired here; many of the prejudices and now subconscious attitudes to whatever is Catholic, can only be undone by grace. 
Dawson's book, "Religion and Progress", is a book which you should all have and imbibe, especially its second Part.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Towards an honest posture.

The questions being raised by the Prince of Wales about the Royal Succession are a step in the right direction. However, it would be reasonable to ask, for instance, why stamp collectors are not barred from the British Throne as are Catholics? 
The most important question to ask is what is the basis for barring Catholics? Once this question can be publicly asked then there is a chance that the present discussion about the Succession become one that goes beyond another round of posturing. Surely the English have it in them to come to terms with truth.
I paste the above image of King James III of England, not as a pro-Stuart gesture, but simply a reminder that the 1702 Act of Succession was set in place specifically to exclude Catholics. 

Monday, 7 January 2013

Lincoln Green

On the western side of the castle at Lincoln, away from the Cathedral and city centre is the old execution site. The only evidence that it was here is the pub which is called "The Strugglers Arms" (photo above). The place of execution itself was probably where the Phone Box is. In the past, his site would have commanded a tremendous view looking out west to the countryside below. On 1st July 1600 two priests were here hung, drawn and quartered for their priesthood. Frs Thomas Hunt and Thomas Sprott; both were beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1987.
Fr Thomas Hunt had previously been captured and imprisoned in Wisbech Castle; Fr Thomas Sprott had also been captured and imprisoned in the Bridewell, London. Both priests had escaped and were brought together by the then Jesuit Superior, Fr Henry garnet and sent north as missionary companions. While staying in the Saracens Head pub in Lincoln they were arrested and condemned. At the scaffold they were prevented, by the authorities, from addressing the crowd, who then insisted that both priests should hang till dead before they were butchered.
Their witness remains unmarked at this former gallows site, and it would be very fitting for a public memorial to be placed near this place. It is not every town that has a beatified saint; and Lincoln has two! 

Friday, 4 January 2013

Warwick Street

I am so pleased that there has been a turn of events at the church of the Immaculate Conception in Warwick Street, Soho. And I am very glad that this wonderful church has been given to the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham; what a beautiful church for the Ordinariate to have as their own.
The three Soho churches have long been my favourite churches in London: the Immaculate Conception, Warwick Street, Notre Dame de France, Leicester Square and St Patrick's, Soho Square. I make a point of visiting these three churches each time I am in the West End, but my preference has always been for the Warwick Street church. I look forward to keeping up my visits to this church now that it is given over to the Ordinariate. 

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

A jubilee year.

This year, 2013, is the year of my Silver Jubilee of Ordination. I was ordained priest on the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in 1988. The photo above was taken two days later. I intend to offer this year to God for Him to use, and I hope that some fitting celebration(s) of this anniversary, in thanksgiving to God, might take place later in the year.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

The Year of the Lord 2013.

What is time, asks St Augustine; "If no one asks me, I know; if I want to explain it to someone who asks me, I do not know." (Confessions, Book XI) Time is a mystery which we live with daily, and we are satisfied to consider it as something as meaningless as 'duration', something which we somewhat neurotically have to measure as 'periods of duration'. 
Yet here's a thing: the Church does not live in time; time is in the Church! Who but the Pope has ever established, and changed, a calender? What is unique about the calender is that it is oriented by Jesus Christ (rather than the Pope). His incarnation uniquely establishes meaning and orientation in the mystery of time. Time is now His, and He gives it to us as a gift. It is the Church which again, is uniquely disposed to receive the gift of time. The Liturgy of the Church expresses our real relationship with time.
The purpose of time is Christ; it receives its meaning and its fulfillment in Him. The Church knows and understands this; she knows that time is given in order to be marked, imprinted, and consecrated by the Person of Christ. That is why this new year is the Year of the Lord, 2013. This new year is not another period of the passage of duration, to be entered into as something fundamentally ambiguous. No, time is a part of the Mystery of Christ, by which He enters into human life, and the life of the Universe, in order to transform it. This is the real meaning of the splendid fireworks that we have seen. 2013 is already in good hands, and it comes loaded with Grace. What a gift - and He comes every day in the Mass!