Sunday 31 December 2006

New Year's Resolution at Balham

The Youth 2000 New Year retreat - which goes under the name 'Resolution' - is well under way at Balham's Holy Ghost Parish. The food's good, the venue is great, and the flowing of grace is magnificent as usual. There are plenty of priests here for confession - so why not get down here? The Eucharistic Healing Service begins at 8pm tonight, followed by Holy Mass at 11pm (bit late for me I'm afraid, but still - not a bad place to be at midnight). Mass for New Year's Day is at 12noon.

Friday 29 December 2006

What a flaming liberty!

What a liberty that the liturgical terrorists (whoever they are...Bishops, Liturgical Commission) have downgraded St Thomas of Canterbury to a commemoration when it had been a feast since the liturgical reform. St Thomas is the patron saint of the pastoral clergy of England. At a time when we need priests with courage and certainly of their identity, surely we need the prayers of this great saint. Maybe we should have a show of people power and petition the Holy See to make it a feast in England again.

Just reading in the office of readings today the reading from St Thomas' letter shows that he is also a great intercessor and example for the New Evangelisation in this country: 'Many are needed to plant the word, and many to water it.The spead of the faith, the increase in population demand this. God's people of old, who had but one altar, still needed many teachers. How much greater now are the needs of this rich gathering of the nations... But whoever waters or plants, God gives no increase except to him who has planted in Peter's faith, and who has assented to his teaching.'

St Thomas represents the true English fidelity to the Church of Rome, which the English Church exemplified before the cruelty of the Reformation: 'Who can doubt that the Church of Rome is the head of all the churches, the source of Catholic teaching? Who does not know that the keys of the Kingdom were given to Peter? Is not the whole structure of the Church built up on Peter's faith and teaching, so to grow until we all meet Christ as one perfect man, united in faith and in our recognition of him as Son of God?'

Sometimes we think the Protestant evangelicals are so much more successful at evangelising. And it is true that they have many people who they draw to themselves. But often their faith is planted in shallow soil of 'sola Scriptura' - Scripture alone without Tradition. There are many who, for example, are drawn to faith by Christian Unions, in University and by the time they get to their late twenties, life has outgrown this form of faith. We need to be more courageous, and less inward looking. We need to be upfront about spreading the Faith, and bearing witness to it. For the Catholic faith is the rich soil in which the individual faith can grown abundantly. So, the message of the day: Have courage, you have a great message.

PS Don't forget that the Youth 2000 Balham retreat starts this evening at the Holy Ghost Parish in Balham. Do come along if you're in the area. The big evening will be on 31st with the Eucharistic healing service and late night Mass for the new year.

Tuesday 26 December 2006

We still need a Saviour!

What a tremendous message the Holy Father gave before giving the great blessing Urbi et Orbi, to the City of Rome and to the World, yesterday. It just needs to be read. To read the full version, go here. It shows how he's got his finger on the pulse of the New Evangelisation. Have a look:

But does a "Saviour" still have any value and meaning for the men and women of the third millennium ? Is a "Saviour" still needed by a humanity which has reached the moon and Mars and is prepared to conquer the universe; for a humanity which knows no limits in its pursuit of nature’s secrets and which has succeeded even in deciphering the marvellous codes of the human genome? Is a Saviour needed by a humanity which has invented interactive communication, which navigates in the virtual ocean of the internet and, thanks to the most advanced modern communications technologies, has now made the Earth, our great common home, a global village? This humanity of the twenty-first century appears as a sure and self-sufficient master of its own destiny, the avid proponent of uncontested triumphs.

It isn't that technological advance or scientific insights are a barrier to evangelisation, though you have to be prepared to be able to 'give an account of the hope that is in you' (I Peter 3.15). It is the life which technological advance has produced which has caused people to think that they no longer need a Saviour. The safe, comfortable, every bodily comfort provided for environment which we have created leads most people to the false sense of security that they are self-sufficient and certainly don't need a God, never mind a Saviour. They may say they believe in God, while not being religious - but actually they believe (faith shown in action) in shopping. Let's get this inconvenient religious feast of Christmas out of the way, so the shops can open again, the great basilicas of consumer religion. Indeed the religious feast of Christmas has become a mere focus, for most people, for consumer frenzy - leading up to Christmas with extravagant present buying, food shopping and alcholic consumption, getting over Christmas with shops opening at 5am on St Stephen's Day to flog off the tawdry goods nobody wanted before Christmas. The Saviour has hardly had time to be born...

But the comfortable existence that we experience in the western world, the product of technological and economic advance, has not removed the human need for a Saviour. Consumerism may anaesthetise our feeling of sin, and weakness, and vulnerability, but just look around and you will easily see the need for the Saviour is greater than ever. All this consumer happiness...and yet drug use is endemic, the rate of suicide among the young grows year on year show that the happiness is only skin deep. People giving themselves over to relationships and sexual expression - and young people doing this at an age when they don't have the personal maturity to deal with it - is a symptom of the search for fulfilment in love, but so often ends in a broken heart and the growth of mistrust.
People continue to die of hunger and thirst, disease and poverty, in this age of plenty and of unbridled consumerism. Some people remain enslaved, exploited and stripped of their dignity; others are victims of racial and religious hatred, hampered by intolerance and discrimination, and by political interference and physical or moral coercion with regard to the free profession of their faith. Others see their own bodies and those of their dear ones, particularly their children, maimed by weaponry, by terrorism and by all sorts of violence, at a time when everyone invokes and acclaims progress, solidarity and peace for all. And what of those who, bereft of hope, are forced to leave their homes and countries in order to find humane living conditions elsewhere? How can we help those who are misled by facile prophets of happiness, those who struggle with relationships and are incapable of accepting responsibility for their present and future, those who are trapped in the tunnel of loneliness and who often end up enslaved to alcohol or drugs? What are we to think of those who choose death in the belief that they are celebrating life?

That last question is really chilling for me: "What are we to think of those who choose death in the belief that they are celebrating life?" That is a question which should cause us sleepless nights, a question which should get us dedicating ourselves to the New Evangelisation with all ourlives. We cannot be content to sit around and watch people around us choosingthe culture of death - and not just in its extreme forms of abortion,euthanasia, suicide, terrorism but even in its more pathetic form of throwing your life into the consumer culture - when we have the message of life. This is why the message that a Saviour has been born for us is more necessary thanever.

Today "our Saviour is born to the world", for he knows that even today we need him. Despite humanity’s many advances, man has always been the same: a freedom poised between good and evil, between life and death. It is there, in the very depths of his being, in what the Bible calls his "heart", that man always needs to be "saved". And, in this post-modern age, perhaps he needs a Saviour all the more, since the society in which he lives has become more complex and the threats to his personal and moral integrity have become more insidious. Who can defend him, if not the One who loves him to the point of sacrificing on the Cross his only-begotten Son as the Saviour of the world?

Sunday 24 December 2006

Happy and Holy Christmas

A Very Happy and Holy Christmas to all our readers.
God bless you all.
Fr Richard & Fr Julian

Second FWC Retreat

Early in the new year Fr Julian and myself are offering the Friends with Christ retreat to young ladies, 4th - 7th January. More details are available on Book soon as places are being filled.

Saturday 23 December 2006

Give your computer a heart

I really like this as a wallpaper for my desktop, and thought I'd share it with you:

If you want to use it just right click it and save it, and then go to control panel on the start menu, choose display and set it as your wallpaper.

It originates from the website of the Centro de Espiritualidad of the Archdiocese of Valladolid. The centre there is a great centre of the New Evangelisation in that city. When I was a seminarian I used to go for spiritual direction, courses, retreats etc there. Loads of young people went and still go. The priest who directs it is Fr Francisco (Paco) Cerro Chaves and is a great priest - he seems to have time to do so much work! There is a lay community of women there who are great and who help to run the retreat house. The highlight of the week there is the Thursday evening Holy Hour in the Basilica next door, dedicated to the Sacred Heart. It is full of young people from the University who go there after lectures. The spirituality of the Centre is centred on discovering the Heart of Jesus, and entering into friendship with Christ. It is where I learnt alot of what I put into practice now, and was the first place I ever heard of such great things as the Theology of the Body.

Maybe we need somewhere like that in the centre of one of our large cities in England.

Friday 22 December 2006

Another witness to truth.

Fr Julian has brought to this Blog an important concern which was approached very courageously by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor. Speaking on the BBC's Sunday AM programme last week, the cardinal said it would be 'much better' if money for the increased distribution of condoms was spent on anti-retroviral drugs instead. And he said Catholic bishops in African countries had told him their dioceses were 'flooded' with condoms which had led to 'more promiscuity and more Aids.' His comments followed a call from Tony Blair for religious leaders to 'face up to reality' and drop bans on condoms. The Cardinal stressed that the way to combat Aids was 'behavioural change, monogamous partnerships between a man and a woman. 'During the interview, the cardinal said he could see the Catholic Church coming into conflict with the government in several areas, including education and the new Sexual Orientation Regulations which come into force next April. He said laws being passed would limit the religious freedom of Catholics and other Christians. He added that it was vital for the Church to be involved in politics, especially in issues concerning the rights of the individual and the family.
Are you aware about the controversy over the use of condoms to counter the Aids epidemic or about the Church's teaching regarding contraception? There is obviously confusion here and the Cardinal has inserted the light of truth into this increasingly political issue.
However, the charity CAFOD is also a cause of confusion in this matter. The CAFOD website publicly esposes the use of condoms in the fight against Aids saying that this "reconciles solid science and good community development practices with established and evolving moral theology and Catholic social teaching." This approach seems to be an entirely contrived one, since the Bishops of African countries have made it clear that condom use is directly linked to promiscuity and, consequently, to the spread of the Aids virus. Whatever the effect is that the condom has on preventing the transmission of the virus during sexual intercourse, it does not change people's behaviour, but actually promotes promiscuity.
That is not all. CAFOD's website publicly dissents from the teaching of the Church concerning the use of contraception within marriage: " ... the prohibition of Humanae Vitae on the use of artificial contraceptives as disrupting the intrinisic connection between the unitive and procreative dimensions of the marriage act does not seem to apply. In these practices there is no truly unitive act to disrupt."
Humanae Vitae is an Encyclical letter of Pope Paul VI, written in 1968, which declares that the use of artificial contraception within marriage is an intrinsic evil. It also teaches about the nature of human love and responsible parenthood. You should read it.
With such confusion it is not surprising that the Holy Father has convoked a Commission to look into the matter of condom use between spouses where one spouse is infected. However, the position which the charity CAFOD has taken is wrong.
First, as a Catholic Charity it should not dissent from the Church's teaching nor pre-empt clarification about this matter which the Church will provide in due course.
Secondly, CAFOD's position lends credence to the International project to impose condom culture on African countries.
Thirdly, CAFOD teaches illogically that there can be a form of sexual intercourse between spouses which is non-marital! It is strange that after 8,000 years of recorded human history, that CAFOD has just discovered this form of behaviour. No, the use of condoms in marriage makes sexual intercourse between spouses non-marital.
The Christ the Healer Project is a great venture of taking truth into human lives. Perhaps there are many others with the pedigree of truth. The influence that our Government and CAFOD will have upon the lives of many in the world is that of taking truth out of human lives. Courage in the storm!

HIV, AIDS, Africa, Condoms, and Pope John Paul II

More and more recently I've come across nice middle class Catholics espousing 'justice and peace' but not really interested in pro-life issues. It confuses me. As Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said often, there can be no justice while the lives of the unborn are destroyed, and no peace while such a silent holocaust of violence against the unborn continues. But I don't want to talk abortion today. I want to talk condoms. Well I don't exactly want to, but I feel the need to raise this.

The Church in our country seems to have ditched talking about sexual issues publically - what one might call 'from the pulpit' if our churches actually had pulpits any more - just at the time when sex has become the one thing everyone else talks about. The lack of teaching in the public forum means that many people think that, although they know that there is official Church teaching on these moral issues, they can make up their own version to live by. And having made up their own version to live by, they then keep to it dogmatically, and impose it on everyone else. So, a young Catholic might think it's OK to use contraception, and so not only is it right for him or her to use it but it is wrong for anyone to try and say that it's wrong.

The issue which has been coming up in my conversations recently is the matter of condoms and AIDS, with the focus generally being on Africa. I have come across Catholics who think it's an absolute necessity to promote the Church's teaching on peace and justice, but who think that we can't possibly proclaim the teaching of the Church on the use of condoms. Without going into a complete diatribe, I'd just like to bring up two things. First, was an 'Any Questions' recently on Radio 4, where the question was put "Do you think Tony Blair has the right to tell religious leaders to change their teaching on the use of condoms in the fight against AIDS in Africa?" The target of that comment by Tony Blair was obviously the Pope. The first person to respond on the panel was the commentator, Matthew Parris. Now, he being gay and either atheist or agnostic didn't bode well for an answer that I was going to like. But hats off to him! He put his finger right on the button. He said that Tony Blair had no right at all to make any comment. The Pope, for example, does not proclaim what he proclaims because it is good world health policy - said Parris - but rather because he believes that what he proclaims is in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ, and that he is proclaiming virtue.

Just to put more flesh on the bones, I also recently read an article by Michael Cook, entitled "
Was Karol Wojtyla the Greatest Mass Murderer of the 20th Century?" I recommend it - it's a good read.

Before coming to Birmingham University as chaplain, I was over in Erdington as Parish Priest, and chaplain at St Edmund Campion School. I had the great privilege of working alongside Jim Meehan, who taught RE at the school, but has now retired. He introduced me to the work of Fr Matthias Nsamba, the youth chaplain in the Aliwal Diocese in Eastern Cape of South Africa. Fr Matthias has put together a programme called 'Youth Alive' for the young people of his Diocese, with workshops which help them to gain self-respect, to give each other support, and to change their behaviour as the only sure way to avoid HIV/AIDS. The programme is growing. In this country Jim Meehan has founded an organisation called '
Christ the Healer Project' to raise funds for Fr Matthias. I recommend it to you.

Thursday 21 December 2006

First FWC Retreat

Friends With Christ created the opportunity for the pondering of uncomplex faith issues and thinking of deep thoughts that allowed us to meditate upon what it means to have a relationship with Christ. The spirit of peace and fellowship flowed throughout the retreat creating an enjoyable and friendly atmosphere, especially during the shared meals, allowing for a very enjoyable time all round - Patrick :)
Friendship with Christ is exactly that--developing a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. The sessions are very practical to our lives in the world. The retreats are a wonderful opportunity to meet Jesus in each other, but most powerfully in the Blessed Sacrament; and to go back out into the world wearing the armour of Christ, proclaiming the Faith of the Church in the Friendship of Christ. --John
Friendship with Christ helps focus our attention on what really matters - loving the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind, and loving one another as Jesus loves us. These fews days here have encouraged me to want to build up my own parish community, and I now feel strengthened in my faith to share the Gospel at a new level through weekly bible studies and prayer evenings with the Rosary and Eucharist Adoration. Unless we share our faith as a community we will never fully appreciation what it means to be a lamp in a dark world. Jesus as the bread of life, never calls us to be alone, but always to share just as he did at the last supper.
John H.
This retreat begins right after my autumn term. During these four days, there wasn't a single concern about assignments, future uncertainties, or anything that bothered me. Each moment spent happened naturally, peacefully. The retreat had been helpful in relaxing myself, bringing my being back into its orginal state, where ego and self-importance have no place. In this house of our Mother, my meditation on the Words of Christ had not only deepened in my heart, but always grown the meaning of His Love in my heart... It had been like a pit-stop in my study life and earthly concerns. It had recharged me, spiritually, and stimulated the growth of faith in me... And its effects echo on...
Thank you Father Richard and Father Julian for all the love and care, guidance and sharing, and this opportunity to be closer with Christ. Thank you Peter, John H., John Browne, Patrick for your friendship and sharing in this warm and relaxing retreat.
I, Peter L Jones was on the friends of Christ retreat. Though the title had concerning undertones, the characters at the helm of this operation did not. Indeed i was most impressed by Messieurs Fr Julian and Fr Richard, their formula and content shone by virtue of its simplicity and tradition. I found myself readdressing founding matters of the faith, opening myself to change so that they might guide me more to Christ's way in today's world. Most notably i enjoyed the introduction to battling sin by way of listening to our human design.
Go the next one! 'am tellin' ya'!

Monday 18 December 2006

Good reasons to be Catholic

A friend sent me this link...they are certainly good reasons to be a Catholic.

Sunday 17 December 2006

New Evangelisation - what's it all about?

I thought I'd try a rose pink font especially for Gaudete Sunday! A few posts ago I said I'd give some ideas on what the New Evangelisation is. I was just going through some old bits I collected when I was in seminary and came across an article on the New Evangelisation written by the then Archbishop of Valladolid, Mons. José Delicado Baeza, so as an introduction to what I mean by New Evangelisation - which I suppose will take a few posts - I thought I'd put this up first, which is a translation into English of what Mons Delicado said then. He relies heavily on the Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici. So here goes...

'"The hour has come for a new Evangelisation" writes Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici: "Whole countries and nations where religion and the Christian life were formerly flourishing and capable of fostering a viable and working community of faith are now put to a hard test, and in some cases, are even undergoing a radical transformation as a result of a constant spreading of an indifference to religion, of secularism and atheism." All this is weakening the vigour of Christian life, reducing it to mere practices, empty traditions or cultural manifestations, even for many who call themselves believers, but who have not experienced personal relationship with Christ and are not able to feel admiration for the newness of the Gospel, and so are, as it were, vaccinated against conversion and entering the Kingdom. So the Pope insists: "Only a new Evangelisation can assure the growth of a clear and deep faith, and serve to make these traditions a force for authentic freedom."(ChL 34)

'This is what the Pope said to the young people at Santiago de Compostela: "The hour has come to begin a new Evangelisation; and you cannot fail to respond to this urgent call. In this place, dedicated to St James, the first of the apostles to give witness of faith in martyrdom, let us commit ourselves to welcoming the command of Christ: 'You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth' (Acts 1.8). What does it mean to give witness to Christ? It simply means living in accordance with the Gospel: 'Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind... Love your neighbour as yourself' (Mt 22.37-39). The Christian is called to serve his brothers and society, to promote and support the dignity of every human being, to respect, defend or favour the rights of the person, to be builders of a lasting and authentic peace, based on fraternity, in liberty, in justice and in truth."

'This has to be done from the conviction of being loved by God, in that this is the new and simple message of the Good News for all men. "God loves you, Christ came for you, Christ is for you 'the way, the truth and the life!' (Jn 14.6). This new Evangelisation is directed not only individual persons but also to entire portions of populations in the variety of their situations, surroundings and cultures. Its purpose is the formation of mature ecclesial communities, in which the faith might radiate and fulfill the basic meaning of adherence to the person of Christ and his Gospel, of an encounter and sacramental communion with him, and of an existence lived in charity and in service."(ChL 34)

'Afterwards the Pope refers to the necessity of a systematic catechesis for the new generations and for adults...'

What Mons Delicado (and Pope John Paul II) picks up on here that I like as a basis for thinking about the New Evangelisation is this:
  • The emptiness of the outward forms of religion where there is no real conversion to the person of Christ.
  • The aim of the new Evangelisation is 'personal relationship with Christ' ie friendship with Christ.
  • The call to young people to be at the front of this new Evangelisation.
  • Personal faith in Christ has to be backed up by action.
Next time I'll post on the New Evangelisation as seen from a historical perspective.

Saturday 16 December 2006

New Year Resolution

As you know, the Youth2000 New Year Festival is taking place (29th Dec - 1st Jan) at the Holy Ghost Parish, Balham, south London. This is an opportunity of grace. We need the atmosphere of Christmas to bouy us up at this time of year. Even more we need a lightening-hot prayer festival to help create in us a new decision for Christ. Come to the Festival. Not only will you find a community of priests, like these before Mass in the sacristy at the Holy Ghost, but you will find a small army of young people glad that the Holy Spirit is demanding their company. Find out more on

Friday 15 December 2006

Gordon Ramsey and the Tridentine Mass phenomenon.

Two posts ago there was a suggestion that the re-employment of the Tridentine Mass would turn failing parishes round, in a way which would compare with Ramsey's methods in failing restaurants. Well, there is a very colourful thought. It is great that we can have the Tridentine Mass as well as the New Mass and, who knows, there may be a wider use of it in the future. But I would like to direct readers of this Blog beyond mere ritual to the person of Christ who is present in the Mass. Fr Julian has wonderfully sketched the heart of the Catholic Priesthood as a living relationship with Christ; I would like to say that this relationship, which feeds the whole Church, is the hinge of every baptised person's life. We are all called to draw people into the life of the Church - this is our primary task in life. Indeed, the priority and focus today is Evangelisation, not rites, customs, ways of thinking, frames of reference, what we like best nor what we did yesterday. Evangelisation is the focus - drawing people into the life of the Church.
The Tridentine Mass is an enormous inheritance for the Church (and the world) and it is very important for us, in appreciating the Liturgy of the Mass, to know something of how that Liturgy has arisen and been celebrated down the ages. In fact, I think that the Tridentine Rite of Mass today seems to be responsible for helping many people come to discover the extraordinary meaning of the Mass. This is a very good thing. But the work of the Church right now is not one of ritual. We are not called to draw people into a Rite but into the Life of the Church. This means enabling people to come to know Christ.
I don't want this post to irritate anyone who has an affinity with the Tridentine Mass, but I do want to point you beyond Ritual to the living relationship with Christ which uniquely is the hinge of life. Don't fall short of being made alive by Christ and witnessing to him by focussing on the forms of liturgy. Christ is greater than a Rite. The Rite helps us to possess Christ. Possessing Christ leads us to live in a new way. Living in a new way will enable grace to work in the world. And the only thing that lasts is grace.
Fr Richard

Thursday 14 December 2006

Friendship with Christ - for priests it means daily Mass

I was just re-reading the address of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, to the priests of the Diocese of Rome in the Papal Basilica of St John Lateran shortly after his election to the Chair of Peter. It's very interesting that the Holy Father sums up the life of the priest as friendship with Christ, on the basis that that is what Christ called his apostles. That friendship that Christ has particularly for his priests is so filled with confidence in the gifts of grace that he gives to them that he even entrusts his Body - the Church - and his Body and Blood - the Eucharist - to their care. What a responsibility! It's more than some superficial 'pally' friendship - it's a deep trust that leads our Lord to place into feeble human hands the care of the Ecclesial Body, composed of souls precious to him, and the Eucharistic Body, where he continues his action of humbling himself to come among us. I was always impressed by the words of that great old Eucharistic hymn "Ah, see within a creature's hands the vast Creator deigns to be, reposing infantlike as though on Joseph's arm or Mary's knee."

Being entrusted with such a friendship, with such a grace, with such a responsibility it means that the priest needs to do everything to stay close to Christ, and to develop that friendship with Him:
"Dear priests ... the Lord calls us friends, he makes us his friends, he entrusts himself to us, he entrusts to us his Body in the Eucharist, he entrusts to us his Church. Therefore, we must be true friends to him, we must have the same perception as he has, we must want what he wants and not what he does not want. Jesus himself tells us: "You are my friends if you do what I command you" (Jn 15:14). Let this be our common resolution: all of us together, to do his holy will, in which lies our freedom and our joy."
This friendship requires an intimate knowledge of Christ, not just to know 'about' Him, but to know him Heart to heart. But the Pope warns that the friendship of the priest is not just a personal friendship, but is a relationship for the Church. It's a bit like in a family. The father and mother have a relationship, but it's not just a private love affair, it involves the whole family - children, wider family, local parish, local community. It is a relationship for others as well as for self. So the priest doesn't just have a friendship with Christ which is personal and subjective, but it is a friendship with Christ for, on behalf of, and including the Church. This is especially so as the priesthood brings about both the Eucharist, and the building up of the Church.

"Since the priesthood is rooted in Christ, it is by its nature in the Church and for the Church. Indeed, the Christian faith is not something purely spiritual and internal, nor is our relationship with Christ itself exclusively subjective and private. Rather, it is a completely concrete and ecclesial relationship. At times, the ministerial priesthood has a constitutive relationship with the Body of Christ in his dual and inseparable dimensions as Eucharist and as Church, as Eucharistic body and Ecclesial body."

For the priest, this friendship which is both personal and on behalf of the Church, finds its consummation in the celebration of the Mass. And, as the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II said of himself, "The Holy Mass is the absolute centre of my life and of every day of my life." This is the text that Pope Benedict repeats, and says that every priest should make his own. If a priest is to live this friendship even if only for himself he would want to celebrate the Mass. But even if a priest does not "want" to celebrate Mass every day for his own personal friendship with Christ, then he still should on behalf of the Church, because his friendship with Christ is within and for the Church.

It always pains me to hear priests referring to celebration of Mass as though it's a job which is tiresome. Celebrating three Masses on one day, and no Mass on a day off. Or "slaving over a hot altar" in the parish, but having a couple of weeks off celebrating Mass on holiday, or just going to Mass like a lay person. It is a completely mechanical and utilitarian understanding of the Mass and the priesthood which leads to this. Rather than being a task to be thrown off for relaxation, the Mass should be the centre of the priest's life every day, just like breathing, or eating, or drinking. You don't take a day off having friends - in fact you spend more time with friends - on a day off. So, as I remember my spiritual director say to me when in seminary, the day off is an opportunity to celebrate the Mass in a more recollected way and with more time.

Tuesday 12 December 2006

Turning restaurants round.

If Gordon Ramsey were a Catholic and didn't swear, can you imagine the impact that he would have on the Church and on parishes! Instead of turning failing restaurants round he could employ the same incisive methods to putting parishes back on course. "Put customers before your own ego!" he told one restaurateur in a recent TV program. "Put Christ before your own ego!" would be a great piece of advice for parish life. But actually, if you analyse the way in which he renews failing restaurants, you see great potential in his method for renewing parishes. If only he were a Catholic (and didn't swear). The lengths he sometimes has go to in dealing with restaurant staff says much about the stubbornness of the English, and his forthright approach achieves results where a softly, softly attitude would fail. Is there a Gordon Ramsey in the Church in this country? Fr Richard

Saturday 9 December 2006

A flying visit.

Just setting off after after establishing this Blog as a dual project, Fr Julian has already let you know that there are some spaces on the Friends of Christ retreat for young men in two weeks time.
Full details of the retreat can be found by visiting
I have just revamped this website with a new streamlined approach. Let me know if you find any anomalies on it. Fr Richard

Friends With Christ Retreats

There are still some spaces on our retreat for young men (18 to 35) which is taking place in Huddersfield 18th to 21st December. The retreat is a mix of spiritual formation, prayer, Mass and Eucharistic Adoration, activities together, relaxation, and fine food! It's being organised and run by the two of us - Fr Richard and Fr Julian. The retreats are in small groups - 6 or 7 maximum. Accommodation in shared rooms (that's why this one's just for young men) and the cost is donation according to what people can afford. If you want to take part then email either Fr Richard ( or Fr Julian (

"Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to Him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us?...No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation....When we give ourselves to Him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life." Pope Benedict XVI, April 2005

Friday 8 December 2006

The Old double act reunited in cyberspace

Ta-da! It'll come as no surprise to anyone who knows who's who and what's what that Fr Richard has now been joined by Fr Julian Green as contributor to this blog. The two of us have been working together for a few years promoting the New Evangelisation especially among young people. Retreats, formation weekends, peripatetic evangelisation, making merry mirth with creative use of language, and creative use of food - you name it, we're involved in it. We're also involved in working together under the guidance of Our Lady and St John Mary Vianney to bring the Good News of the Faith to young people as well as to support each other in priestly ministry. Anyway, more later...

Have you seen this?

I'm looking for an english translation of a recent Church document, published in spanish called "Teologia y secularizacion" (Theology and Secularisation). I've read it in spanish - it's magnificent. It was published at the end of March by the Spanish Bishops and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It focusses on the heart of our faith - how we approach Christ, and it shines light on the true path out of the secularist mud which we have been wading in. If you can find an english translation of it on the Internet, please let me know. If not, perhaps I can set about translating it myself.
We need this one! Fr Richard
The original is available on the Spanish Bishops website, top right hand corner:

Thursday 7 December 2006

A Feast of great light.

On the eve of the great Feast of the Blessed Mother we could ask ourslves, what can we give her?
An answer to this question may not come to us easily. Our culture and our society have been pouring water on the Gospel for centuries and we scarcely think of this land as her Dowry, the Dowry of Mary. But it is.
A dowry is a gift which a father makes to his daughter so that she is in a better position to be married. Why is a dowry given? Because a wedding is near.
England then, has a very special part to play in God's plan and, tomorrow's feast of the Blessed Mother should be a cause and an expression of great hope. What can we give her? We can give her the renewed decision to live by hope, by her light and to disentangle ourselves from the culture of death in whatever way it has dimmed our lives and our vision.
Tomorrow, let's consecrate this land to her again - she's a twelve-star general - the only one I know. Fr Richard

Here is a link to an excellent article about The Dowry of Mary written by Fr Peter Bristow:

Wednesday 6 December 2006

Pre-Christmas fun

Click on the bear and then click on the bear again to swing the bat!

A new centre of life?

This is the former Marie Stopes Clinic on Queens Square near the centre of Leeds. Until recently is was the main abortion centre from the region. Now it is vacant and its future is uncertain. However, it would be just the place to use as a centre of life and evangelisation, not only to make reparation for all the lives which were taken during its time as an abortuary, but to use it as a centre for proclaiming Christ. Please pray about this premise and, if you have any ideas which might support its becoming a centre for evangelisation - get in touch! Fr R.

The Marie Stopes Clinic has new, larger, premises nearby on Barrack Road in Leeds. This is now the place, outside of which, prayer vigils are held each week.

Tuesday 5 December 2006

Fr Benedict's latest.

It's not that I want to advertise a publisher and boost his sales, but that I do want to recommend this book - Fr Benedict Groeschel's "The Virtue Driven Life". I'm reading it right now and I love the word "driven" in its title. The virtues are the engine of the person, these are what drive us and, since the virtues are so neglected today, one wonders what it is that drives people! Fr Benedict makes a superb description and re-animation of the virtues - our inner motor which drives real human life. After all, the virtues are the human complement to grace. This book is top banana for Christmas/New Year reading whether you find it in your Christmas stocking or buy it on-line. Perhaps you too are reading it right now. What do you think? Fr Richard.

A time for courage, a time for truth.

Last week, the Archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols, stuck his neck out to defend morality against the secular agenda of the Government. We should not only hear and understand what he said, but also give him our support. The subtle but revolutionary changes which this Government is introducing into our country pass many of us by, but this Archbishop is a courageous witness to truth. Here is some of what he said in his Cathedral on the Feast of Christ the King:

"The secular agenda seems to propose that all we need is the clarification of what is lawful. But that is not so. Those who are elected to fashion our laws are not elected to be our moral tutors. They have no mandate or competence to do so. And the wise among them would not wish it, either. Of course, moral laws are more effective when they express the moral vision of a society. But when our moral vision has been neglected, or even marginalised, then the temptation to rely on the law as the moral guide becomes, for some, irresistible. The process of secular democracy in our country at this time, while claiming to act disinterestedly and in a morally neutral fashion is in fact engaged in an intense and at times aggressive reshaping of our moral framework. Think of the notion of the family and the moral equivalence being forced upon us between marriage of man and woman, on the one hand, and on the other, a legally recognised partnership of two people of the same sex. In contrast to this process, there is a profound conviction, shared by all the great religious faiths .... that moral norms cannot be deceided by the ballot box or Parliamentary debate."

We are near the brink! For the next step, which is so close, is for Law to forbid the teaching of truth in public and in private. Where would this leave the Catholic Church? We would not be able to teach many truths in our schools, our parishes, our pulpits, our catechisms, our books. Even our private conversations would hold us in jepardy.

Thanks to Matt Doyle ( for this picture. I was with the Archbishop recently in Birmingham University Chaplaincy ... and I'm with him all the way!

Saturday 2 December 2006

The message of the mass media

Have you noticed the effect which the mass media has on the message of the Church? The Gospel is not coming through the media clearly. Very often, as in the case of the "Regensburg Discourse" of the Holy Father, the media makes us feel that the message of the Church is wrong.

Obvioulsy, both the Church and the media are coming from differing perspectives: the perspective of the Church is the Gospel, the perspective of the media is the secular point of view. However, at present the media does not mediate the message of the Church, which it fails to understand, but rather the dynamic of its own understanding of an event.

The media has not been formed by truth and what we are experiencing is the awkward relationship between the Church and the mass media. This relationship is still developing, but I think that it is a realtionship which will be lead by the Church, because ultimately, she has more insight. We dont want a situation where the media is roving somewhat pointlessly round the solidly grounded Church, always on the outside, without ever getting closer to the truth. How can we help to form a better relationship between the Church and the media?
Fr Richard

Friends with Christ

It is definitely the season for renewing our contact with Christ; there is no doubt, for we who stake everything on Him, that bewilderment is the common thread of this age and that Christ is, in a sense, being judged. Well, let's be friends with Christ, at all costs. The choice we make now will mark us, our culture and the age in which we live. He is the focus, the goal and the priority of our lives. How else could we let us be called his friends.
Here's a new Blog on the net. We have got lots to do!
Fr Richard