Wednesday 26 December 2007

Was St Joseph a strict father?

Today's studies of parenting styles reveal the effect of different styles on the personalities of children, and they can be a good indicator for parents who are endeavouring to be the best parents they can be to their children.
Maccoby and Martin in the late 80s undertook an extensive study of parenting. Their work was measured according to two variables:

1. The demandingness of parents - ranging from authoritarian to permissive.

2. The responsiveness of parents - ranging from reciprocative to negligent.

Thus, the opposite of authoritarian/reciprocative parents are permissive/negligent ones, and the opposite of permissive/reciprocative parents are authoritarian/repressive ones. So, with that in mind we could describe permissive/reciprocative parents as non-traditional and lenient, but conscientious and committed to their children. Authoritarian/repressive parents are obedience and status oriented who give a structured environment to their children. Authoritarian/reciprocative parents give clear standards, asserting and supporting (rather than permitting) their children. Permissive/negligent parents are basically uninvolved with their children.
Which category do you think St Joseph and Our Lady would represent?
It is also very indicative to look at the consequences of these parenting styles in the personalities of their children. These studies found that children of permissive/reciprocative parents had only average behaviour and low academics, but high self-esteem and good social skills. Children of authoritarian/repressive parents had good academics and behaviour, but poor social skills and low self-esteem. Children of authoritarian/reciprocative parents had good academics and behaviour, and good social skills and high self-esteem. Children of permissive/negligent parents showed little sense of educational development.
For a fuller treatment of this put Maccoby and Martin into a Google search - you will find a host a very accessible web pages.

Monday 24 December 2007

Live Christmas with the Holy Family!

The circumstances surrounding his birth were most unpromising for the founding of a universal religion. For what God asked of Joseph, his spouse and the baby, the challenges were very great.

A new start

Yesterday the News carried reports that Catholicism was the leading religion in the country. The statistics show that attendance at Anglican Sunday services has dropped by 20 per cent since 2000. A survey of 37,000 churches shows the number of Catholics going to Sunday Mass in England last year averaged 861,000, compared with 852,000 Anglicans ­worshipping, and thatthe rise of Catholicism has been bolstered by an influx of immigrants from eastern Europe and Africa, who have packed the pews of Catholic parishes that had previously been dwindling.
However, beyond the sensationalism of the Headlines, that Britain is now Catholic, lies another reality: the reality of pagan Britain. These religious statistics reveal that proportionally the number of Christians in the country is very small in a society whose predominant culture is antithetical to the Gospel, a culture marked by consumerism, alcohol and drugs poisoning, pornography, chav, gay, violence, and the culture of death, and a mass media which operates at an IQ level of 14 and which is utterly opposed to the Gospel. Indeed, in choosing to give up the Gospel our country is reverting to its original indigenous state, adopting cultures which are virtually impossible to evangelise, as we are experiencing. What’s more, those who are the forefront of evangelisation today are neither the Catholics nor the Anglicans, but the Evangelicals – they are doing our work for us!
Last week’s headline statistics put one in mind of the first evangelisation of our country which was carried out, after the long brutal centuries of the ‘Dark Ages’, largely by celibate Cistercian monks. These monastic communities gradually first civilised, brought order, then evangelised and baptised the peoples of this country. It was a task which took hundreds of years and which brought spiritual, material, social and political benefits. It is that same task which we must begin again, except that today, this task is being experienced as a new Pentecost and is rightly called the New Evangelisation.

Saturday 22 December 2007

A private religion?

When bombs expode in Afghanistan and the news report is at pains to tell us that this act by Muslims is not faith-based but merely an abberation by some citizens, it is yet another way in which our culture has separated religion and life, spirituality and culture; making religion an unhappy tag which really doesn't help any more. Our whole western culture separates spirituality and life. We do it best of all by promoting abortion and saying that a person has a right to choose quite apart from what God says. And the media downplays the meaning of spirituality so as to promote the culture of death with more impunity.
Of course spirituality is connected with life, in fact, it is spirituality which informs our life. At least, this is the case with Christianity which is an incarnate faith - our spirituality is the very substance of our lives.
How then can someone who has been at the forefront of promoting the culture of death become a Catholic except by a radical change of heart. How can someone who has been, in the most public way, an architect of the culture of death become a Catholic?
Tony Blair's conversion seems very much like a disincarnate conversion. His public life was given over to promoting the culture of death, but his religious life on the other hand is a private matter. This 'cafod catholicism', a catholicism in which the personal and the social have no real connection, is deameaning to the Church. The Church needs to hear Tony Blair's testimony of conversion so that the grave matters, of which he had governance, can be seen anew by many in the light of Christ. After all there are many others, much better than he, who we should seek to convert.

What a terrible thought ...

I had a dream Joseph. I don’t understand it, not really, but I think it was about a birthday celebration for Our Son. I think that was what it was all about. The people had been preparing for it for about six weeks. They had decorated the house and bought new clothes. They’d gone shopping many times and bought elaborate gifts. It was peculiar though, because the presents were not for Our Son.They wrapped them in beautiful paper and tied them with lovely bows, and stacked them under a tree. Yes, a tree Joseph, right in their house. They decorated the tree also. The branches were full of glowing balls and sparkling ornaments. There was a figure on the top of the tree. It looked like an angel might look. Oh, it was so beautiful. Everyone was laughing and they were very happy. They were all excited about the gifts.They gave the gifts to each other, Joseph, not to Our Son. I don’t think they even knew Him. They never mentioned His name. Doesn’t it seem odd for people to go to all that trouble to celebrate someone’s birthday if they don’t know Him? I had the strangest feeling that if Our Son had gone to this celebration, He would have been intruding. Everything was so beautiful Joseph, and everyone was so happy, but it made me want to cry. How sad for Jesus not to be wanted at His own birthday party. I’m glad it was only a dream. How terrible Joseph, if it had been real!

Lay Chaplain required

St Wilfred's Catholic High School near Wakefield/Pontefract is recruiting a Lay Chaplain. 32 hours per week (£15,800 - £16,900). Further details and information pack from the school: Closing date 25th January 2008.

Friday 21 December 2007

Living in abberation

Today we are seeing what it means to live 'after Christ'. The usual course of events for most people is to be in period 'before Christ', and then, when Christ is revealed, to begin to live 'with Christ'. Indeed, Advent is the representation of this: the world is in darkness and is enlightened uniquely by the coming of God, an event which leads us to embrace the mystery of Christ.

The architects of today's culture have created an abberation, for having lived in the light of the Mystery of Christ, and then to have choosen to help create a post-Christian culture, is an abberation. Living 'after Christ', but apart from him. Yet, it is this culture of abberation which is the setting for the New Evangelisation.

Let us not forget however, that many still live in a culture that can genuinely be called 'before Christ', and who still await the full revealing of God's light. The New Evangelisation is for them also.

Saturday 15 December 2007

From the perspective of humility

This is what the original statue of Our Lady of Walsingham may have looked like after it was dragged to London in 1539, by Royal Decree, to be burned on Chelsea Old Bridge, along with the statues of Our Lady of Glastonbury, Doncaster and Coventry. The statue of Our Lady Vulnerata (wounded), originally in the Jesuit church in Cadiz was broken and spoiled there by English soldiers of Drake's warring squadron in 1586. It is now enshrined above the high altar in the English College, Valladolid, where she is honoured weekly, and annually with her own Feast Day. Smashed up as it is, this is the image of she who, as B16 has said, opened up the windows of the world to let the light in. Not surprisingly she is honoured still by many.
But in one long slow blow England went from being part of a Universal Communion to become a religion of museum culture and of shopping. Yet still the Holy Spirit insists on our company, and during this Advent there "are those whose interior sensitivity enables them to see and hear the subtle signs that God sends into the world to break the dictatorship of convention." (B16, "Jesus of Nazareth) The Festival of Consumption is almost over. Keep watch!

Living Christmas with the Holy Family

"The family is the basic cell of society. It is the cradle of life and love, the place in which the individual is born and grows. Therefore a primary concern is reserved for this community, especially in those times when human egoism, the anti-birth campaign, totalitarian politics, situations of poverty, material, cultural and moral misery, threaten to make these very springs of life dry up." (Christifildeles Laici, 40)

Sunday 9 December 2007

Another tale for rediscovery

Here's a great find. I have looked for this for years; it used to be shown on TV every Christmas during the 1970's. It is a tremendous animated cartoon version of Oscar Wilde's top short story, "The Selfish Giant". This is another great tale for Advent and Christmas, a tale of conversion and salvation. But you'll have to watch it here in three parts:

Reclaiming Advent culture

Do you remember the days before "Harry Potter and the clinting crag", "Shrek", or "Golden Compass", when sotries would be read aloud to amusable and expectant children. There are two book which come to my mind as exceptional stories for this time before Christmas.

The first is "Bill Badger's Winter Cruise" by "BB". It is a tale of how badger and his friend Izzy Bizzy, a hedgehog, go down the canal on a barge in deep winter. They share together many of the simple experiences which you and I cherish during Advent - hope, expectancy, friendship and generosity.

The second is "Little Grey Rabbit's Christmas" by Alison Utley. This is probably my favorite children's (or adult's) book. It is the story of how a family of rabbits prepare their home, and by way of that, themselves, for Christmas. Such a story as this is set to help create just the kind of atmosphere in a family that you would wish for in Advent. One in which there is a simple but genuine joy and expectancy because a great Feast is approaching.
These books come from a less self-consciousness age and we have much to regain in this respect. May they take their place again in our lives and the lives of our children.

Friday 7 December 2007

Reality check

I wanted to share with you a passage from JPII's book "Memory and Identity" which he published shortly before his death. This book is a genuine source book for today's 'apostles' for it covers a huge spectrum of human identity and knowledge. In the passage I want to quote (from page 137) JPII speaks realistically about European countries, such as ours, at the very beginning of the era which we call the "New Evanglisation". I am reading this book for the second time and, when I came to this passage I was struck by the force of what the New Evangelisation of our countries means. We are rebuilding civilisation. What looks today as though it is civilisation, is really the remnant of civilisation. Our part in Christ's Body is far more real and we are called to help build "brick by brick" the Civilisation of Love. (This is not a photo of Niamh's car.)

In the twentieth century great efforts were made to stop people believing, to make them reject Christ. Towards the end of the century, the end of the millenium, those destructive forces were weakened, yet they left a trail of devastation behind them. I am speaking of a devastation of consciences, with ruinous consequences in the moral sphere, affecting personal and social morality and the mores of family life. Pastors of souls, who engage every day with the spiritual lives of their flocks, know this better than anyone. When I have occasion to speak with them, I often hear disturbing admissions. Sadly, one could describe Europe at the dawn of the new millenium as a continent of devastation. Political programmes, aimed principally at economic development, are not enough to heal the wounds of this nature. On the contrary, they could even make them worse. Here an enormous task opens up for the Church. The evangelical harvest in today's world is great indeed. We have only to ask insistently, that he send labourers for this harvest, ready and waiting to be reaped.

We need to give our lives to Christ and follow him. No one else will do. He will help us build. That's how it happened before in Europe and that is how it will happen again.

Thursday 6 December 2007

There's a pagan festival on its way ...

... and it's very hard to completely avoid it, especially if you are hoping to celebrate Christmas. The Virgin website is offering ways that seems to avoid the Yule, but as you can read, their ways are extremely pagan:
There'll be ice and snow but the absence of civilisation in Antarctica means you won'tbe subjected to any Christmas merriment there, besides whatever celebrations your fellow cruise passengers arrange...
Virgin has put its finger on it - the absence of civilisation. Anti-civilisation is the new Yule! (Oliver Cromwell, here we go!)
We, however, do want to celebate the birth of he who is the civilisation builder - he who builds the Civilisation of Love. And with the help of grace we want to be a part of the building of the Civilisation of Love. Families are at the forefront of this season, and I can't help but quoting JPII's call from the Letter to Families:
To the family is entrusted the task of striving, first and foremost, to unleash the forces of good, the source of which is found in Christ the Redeemer of man. Every family needs to make these forces their own so that ... the family will be strong with the strength of God.
I'd welcome any suggestions or discussion about how Christain families can avoid the Yule but celebrate the Feast.

Tuesday 4 December 2007

A leader in the north.

Bishop O'Donoghue is setting the stage to clear Pelagianism out of Lancaster Diocese. His "Fit for Mission: Schools" report has just been published and, although its style is not that of the Holy Office it does say that the congregation should kneel for the Eucharistic Prayer and that the Theology of the Body must guide teaching about the person in Catholic schools.
However, what makes this report so important is its main concern: "Is Jesus Christ the true centre of our schools and colleges?"
He distinguishes between the focus of Ofstead for schools and the focus of the Church - its Catholic ethos. Today we must create this ethos anew, since there is a crisis of values, relativism is a dogma, the secular vision sees education only in terms of career and bases happiness firmly in consumerism.
That the basis of the Catholic ethos is located in the dignity of the person and in the Sermon on the Mount, and that such an ethos comes about only through the living presence of Jesus and in embracing gthat presence.
He names other factors which affect the Catholic ethos: the parctice or non-practice of the staff, and even if they are practicing, are teachers modelling themselves on Christ? Do Heads, Senior Management and Governors know what the identity and mission of a Catholic School is? Are the parents embracing their own primary role under God? Is the Gospel proclaimed in schools?
There is an interesting comparison with Cardinal Pell's goals for Sydney's Catholic Schools: proclaim a Christ-centered life, embrace the full teaching of the Church, formation for Mission. Very sucinct!
We have been labouring under Pelagianism for far too long; let's support Bishop O'Donoghue with our prayers as he now begins the renewal of his schools. (You can find the report on "What's new" on the Diocese of Lancaster website.)

Saturday 1 December 2007

Humanae Vitae 2008

Here is a banner which I offer for the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae. Feel free to copy and use it on your Blog or Website. I am grateful to a friend of mine, Tomas, who created it.

Spe Salvi

Thank you Holy Father for lighting our way!

I look forward to getting into this one.

Thursday 29 November 2007

A real question

Whilst the film "Goodbye Charlie Bright" is not a major screen production, nonetheless, it presents the simple outline of the culture of death as it currently present in all our cities and large towns. I watched the film the other day and was inspired in my own mind to ask again the pressing question: how can we evangelise young people who are trapped in the culture of death?
In the film, of the three young friends, one gets out by joining the army, one gets out by being driven off, hand-cuffed, by the police, and the third, miraculously, decides himself to leave the place where he has grown up and start afresh elsewhere (which is where the film ends).
I don't have the answer to my question; I don't know how you would even begin to evangelise such people, but I do know that the culture in which they are immersed should never have been allowed to develop. These young people have been let down by us.

Thursday 22 November 2007

Patroness of womanhood

Although St Cecilia is known as the Patroness of musicians, she was from the outset, venerated as a model of womanhood. This is not simply because she was a virgin and martyr; in fact, she was married (her biography on is worth reading). But because through her life and her spirituality she clearly expresses womanhood - both natural womanhood and Christian womanhood. You might look again at the first reading of her Mass today (from the Prophet Hosea) which says so much about the genuine character and personality of woman.
She is an important Saint for today when the secular model of womanhood has robbed women of so much dignity, and thereby confused and inhibited men in their own manhood. We might say that the way in which the Church promoted the dignity of women in the past is outmoded - which is not a fully coherent argument - but we have certainly allowed the secular models of womanhood to overwhelm us. There is so much to be rediscovered and regained here in appropriating a genuine feminine (and masculine) spirituality, and in the education of girls (and therefore boys).
It is here, rather than in music, that St Cecilia's prayers are needed - particularly as there is so much for us to do in this regard.

Wednesday 21 November 2007

We will miss you.

Today I took part in the Requiem Mass, in St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham, for Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville. He was a good friend to me since our first meeting in 1982. He was great Bishop of our era, unassuming but very affable and cultured. Hospitality and sociability were his hallmarks as a priest and a bishop. It is probably quite unusual to have a friend who is a bishop but he was so easy to approach and converse with that friendship with him was something that happened so easily. His funeral Mass was very beautiful and it was a privilage to have been a concelebrant. It was a great privilage for me to have known him; his death seems to have happened all too soon after his retirement only seven years ago. May he enter quickly into the Father's House. I will miss him.

Saturday 17 November 2007

The other approach. Huddersfield learn!

In north Leeds a group of Baptist Christians were inspired in the 80's to open house which has become a Christian community for many people. A few weeks ago I called at Crag House Farm and was very impressed by what I found. It is somewhat similar to Craiglodge in Scotland. Visit Would anyone like to help me establish a similar farm, Catholic and in England?

Friday 16 November 2007

Huddersfield, oh Huddersfield!

A report in the Huddersfield local newspaper the othe day told how vandals had covered an Anglican church with anti-Christian graffiti.

White painted slogans reading 'Lucifer is rising', 'the Anti-Christ is coming', and a range of swear words have been daubed on the outer stone walls of St Augustine's Church on Busker Lane. Signs linked with the Devil, including pentagrams and the number 666, were also included in the graffiti, which covered the walls, pathways, the church steps and vestry door and some of the stained glass windows. The graffiti is thought to have been written overnight on Friday and was discovered by ashocked resident who was passing through the churchyard early on Saturday morning. Churchgoers had to face the offensive messages when attending the Remembrance Day service on Sunday. Churchwarden Sandra Firth said people were shocked and disgusted by the graffiti and fear it could cost large amounts of money to remove. She said: 'It is just awful and very upsetting, especially as people had to see it on Remembrance Sunday. The church is absolutely covered and the words are quite nasty. It is going to be hard to shift.' Mrs Firth said she is hoping people will come forward with information about the culprit. She said: 'We have had graffiti before but we have never had it as bad as this. 'We used to have kids doing graffiti with marker pens but nothing like this. It seems very specific. I can't understand why anyone would want to go out on a cold night and do this.'

Why Huddersfield have you embraced the culture of death? Why have you taken to yourself a culture of alcohol, drugs and endemic prostitution? Why do you not choose the Culture of Life?

Thursday 15 November 2007

The priesthood revealed anew

The recent retreat for Diocesan Priests in Ars attracted fifteen priests who travelled out to Ars near Lyon in France for five days of retreat led by Mgr Francis Frost and priests of the Societe Jean Vianney. The retreat was titled "The Priest: brother, father, spouse" and focussed on the three relationships which the priest has with the Church, relationships which have come from the Heart of Christ as he gave the Priesthood to the Church.

Our retreat took place in the Foyer Sacerdotale Jean-Paul II in Ars, which is also the seminary of the Society. We were welcomed there by members of the Society and indeed, by the Cure d'Ars himself, who has inspired the creation of a whole priestly movement in Ars. This house is tangibily seeking the renewal of the Diocesan Priesthood.

In the group photo above, together with the fifteen UK priests, are Mgr Francis Frost and Elizabeth, a lay member of the Society who is at the heart of the running of the Foyer. This retreat has, I think, touched all the partcipants deeply as priests, and such a great grace may inspire all sorts of good things in the Church in the UK. I'll post on some of the themes which were addressed during the retreat. And, just in case you could not make this retreat, there will be more!

Tuesday 13 November 2007

Revisiting 'Humanae vitae'

I have begun placing resources for the 40th anniversary of Paul VI's great teaching about marriage on the Community of grace website. So far this includes a copy of the Encyclical itself, together with a precis which I have made. I shall add resources in due course and will be happy to add appropriate stuff which you might indicate to me - for instance, other websites or links to other web articles. I am having some A6 flyers printed to raise awareness about the anniversary and will be happy to send you small bundles for the purposes of dissemination.

Sunday 11 November 2007

Through the prism of pragmatism

Not having a television I often listen to the Radio and, in particular, to the BBC World Service. This channel presents a welter of affairs and issues from around the globe, including global ones. Here the BBC demonstrates its cleverness at being able to take whatever human issue or concern and channel it through its ever-so sophisticated secular-pragmatist filter so that every issue can be understood so perfectly, without of course, mentioning God or truth. You know that this is the case when every programme or presentation by the BBC concludes with 'paralysis by analysis' - that we can claim to understand an issue, but we cant resolve it.
Here lies the challenge for a Catholic Radio; one which is based upon truth, and God's truth for that matter. (After all, since Christ we know that God's truth is a mediated truth.) The field lies open for a Radio which does not conform to the subjectivism of the age, still less to Anglo-Saxon, Elizabeth I-inspired, pragmatism, but rests upon the axis of human affairs and truth. This is not to say then, that a Catholic Radio would be a religious channel, but rather, that it would present any human issues and affairs upon the basis of truth (not, so-called 'media truth', but truth) and seek to present a solution to human affairs (which is what truth does).
So, for instance, the question of Climate Change, when in the hands of the secular media, presents us with an issue for neurotic concern, could in the hands of a Catholic Radio, open us up to the plan of God in Creation and in the Redemption. Indeed, the question of Climate Change is intimately connected with man's reconcilaition with God. Such a work would require a completely new way of understanding journalism and producing (particularly for the Western World). We are going to need a lot of self-sacrificing staff to bring this about - are you up for it?

Saturday 3 November 2007

A new start

I'm starting a weekly Lucenarium again in my new parish next Saturday evening at 7.00pm. If you would like to come you would be very welcome. The Postcode is LS27 7QR. A reminder of what the Lucenarium is. It is the weekly Vigil of Sunday, beginning with the lighting of candles as a symbol of the Resurrection. It includes Evening Prayer followed by Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, a time a silent adoration and the proclamation of a Gospel of the Resurrection, ending with Benediction. The Lucenarium dates back to the Second Century.
A fairly big way to start the new week!

Friday 2 November 2007

A myth too far

The rewriting of history from an "English" perspective is creaking again under the weight of criticism which has come in response to the film "Elizabeth; the Golden Age". I haven't seen the film, but I have seen so much stuff in the media about it. This is the first time that I have witnessed the Elizabethan Settlement getting a public thrabbering. In Britain we are brought up to understand that the Elizabethan Settlement (a new political order in England in which the Monarch created her own church and in which law could be created independently of truth) was the main righteous player in creating a fairer world at the beginning of the modern age. In order to go with this theory you have to trash the spiritual past of England, claim that the trashing and attempted trashing of so many other States by the English was righteously undertaken (Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands and Spain) and that so much that has taken place since because of this is good. The thing is - we haven't yet recovered from the violence which our State used in the sixteenth century in order to separate ourselves from the great movement of grace. The 'creakiness' of this new film,in its obvious deformation of history and historical characters, seems to be a sign of this. Sukdev Sandu concludes his review in the 'Telegraph' saying "The pity of this botched follow-up is that it never once touches us." The real history of the English will be written one day when we have a clear conscience to do it.
Incidentally, the political intentions of Spain towards England which prompted the Armada, were contained in a letter from Philip II to the Duke of Parma, which he was to open when he landed in England. The letter spelled out three directives for the Spanish invading army:
1. That in England the free use and exercise of our holy Catholic faith shall be permitted to all catholics, native and foreign, and that the exiles shall return.
2. That all places in my Netherlands which the English hold shall be restored to me.
3. That the English shall recompense me for the injury thay have done to me, my dominions, and my subjects; which will ammount to an exceedingly great sum. (This third pount may be dropped; you may use it as a lever to obtain the other two.)
Its very unclear how things would have turned out had the Armada been sucessful.

Thursday 1 November 2007

A great cloud of witnesses

Let us take our place, dear brothers and sisters, at the school of the saints, who are the great interpreters of true Eucharistic piety. In them the theology of the Eucharist takes on all the splendour of a lived reality; it becomes “contagious” and, in a manner of speaking, it “warms our hearts”. (JPII, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 62)

Ode to Joy

A few days ago the Holy Father attended a concert in which Beethoven's Ninth Symphony was played. At the end of the concert, the Holy Father recalled that Beethoven composed his final symphony in 1824, after a period of isolation and difficulty "which threatened to suffocate his artistic creativity." Yet the composer "surprised the public with a composition that broke with the traditional structure of the symphony," rising at the end "in an extraordinary finale of optimism and joy," the Pontiff said.
Benedict XVI continued, "This overwhelming sentiment of joy is not something light and superficial; it is a sensation achieved through struggle" because "silent solitude [...] had taught Beethoven a new way of listening that went well beyond a simple capacity to experience in his imagination the sound of notes read or written." This was akin to "the perceptivity given as a gift by God to people who obtain the grace of interior or exterior liberation."

Monday 29 October 2007

Honouring the Martyrs

After holding the 'Friends with Christ' Retreat last weekend with Fr Julian in Birmingham, where we focussed on Christ in some of the classical methods of prayer, and in which we were joined by about twenty five young people, I headed for Valladolid in Spain where I had trained for the priesthood.

My penny-each-way Ryanair flight to Valladolid was marvellous, landing me 20 minutes from the English College, its staff and the twenty pre-seminary students who are taking part in the formation year that the College now offers. (More on

I don't know of a house in this land where our martyrs would have been more honoured than in the English College Valladolid this year. The chapel was decorated to honour the six canonised, thirteen beatified and one venerable, martyrs of the College during the Penal days. Their relics and their images lay before the altar during all the liturgies. Before High Mass, the relics were venerated and carried in procession through the college in which they had trained, and from which they left to return to the Mission in England and Wales.
Mgr Kujac, the Rector, spoke beautifully about the lives and the deaths of these ordinary young men who gave their lives for the Faith in our land, willingly paying a terrible price that many others might have the fullness of Christ available to them. Their witness feeds the Church still. They show us what it is to be a Christian, they show us what it is to be a priest, and they light the way powerfully for the Church in England and Wales.

Their memory has not dimmed in the College since I was ordained, rather, they seem to be powerfully present in the conciences of the young men who are training for the priesthood today. These are the heroes of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; not the great and the powerful, but these ordinary humble men who let the light of Christ shine in their age. With such great advocates, our enterprise too cannot fail.

Our Lady Vulnerata, the image of Our Lady which was defaced by English soldiers in Spain in 1586, enthroned in the College chapel still leads the College in its life and work. She will keep us on the main road.
St Henry Walpole
St Thomas Garnet
St John Roberts
St Ambrose Barlow
St John Plessington
St John lloyd
Bl Mark Barkworth
Bl Thomas Plasar
Bl William Richardson
Bl Roger Filcock
Bl Ralph Ashley
Bl Robert Drury
Bl Richard Reynolds
Bl Richard Cadwallader
Bl Thomas Holland
Bl Willaim Southerne
Bl Ralph Corby
Bl Thomas Bullacker
Bl Thomas Benstead
Bl Arthur Bell
Bl Edward Bamber
Bl Thomas Wittaker
Ven Edward Morgan Pray for us in the New Evangelisation

Sunday 28 October 2007

1967 remembered

The UK has just invested another £3 million in the project 'Global Safe Abortion'. We were the first country to legalise abortion and, since then we have confidently and systematically exported the culture of death accross the globe. The life of the world is at stake here.
We cannot, as a nation, claim to going anywhere at the moment, and with many parts of the world so fragile and unstable, we are not in a position to give real help either. Abortion is like a millstone dragging our societies and their cultures into a pit. When Abortion is illegal we will be able to make progress and to help other nations to develop. Reparation is a necessary and evangelising tool today.

Thursday 18 October 2007

The cost ...

... of Saul's conversion was the death of St Stephen the deacon. What will the conversion of the UK cost? Elizabeth I renounced the Faith not just for herself but for her whole Kingdom. The conversion of this country and its entire culture so that God's plan can be embraced is an undertaking that our forebears willingly gave their lives for.
Many of the priests, religious and lay people who died on the various Tyburns up and down the country, did so praying for Queen Elizabeth and the country. Their prayers uttered in such tremendous moments have not gone unheard, but have been the source of life for the Church in this island. Perhaps these prayers have also been a source of redemption for Elizabeth I. Centuries have gone past and the conversion of the UK is still a real question - it's openness to God is its greatest issue. The dedication of the martyrs to the Spiritual Life of this country is real inspiration for us in this age.
I will be in Valladolid next week so I wont be posting till the following, but there is to be a celebration for the Forty Martyrs at the English College (where I trained). I'll post on that when I get back.

Wednesday 17 October 2007

The will of man

Deciding what is good or bad - does God do this or does man? When it is not clear what God has decided then man must make the decision himself. Or so we are told.
The first to do this was Henry VIII. In seeking to know how to proceed with the matter of his divorce, since he considered that the Pope and the Church were unable to decide, he would decide himself. This was the start of the slippery slope which today's culture is whizzing down. His sinister daughter took this to the sixteenth century limit - she decided what the Church should be and she created one for her Kingdom. Since those times, we have seen huge steps forward in decision-making. At the end of the eighteenth century, the people of France decided what was good and what was bad. The next logical step for a people who have taken the decison over good and evil to themselves happened in 1967 - the decision over human life - Parliament ruled that it can be good to take the life of a viable foetus in the womb. The next logical step: every person can decide to impede the transmission of life - the contraceptive pill and the condom. And today, our culture is one in which even though we cannot recognise goodness, each individual must decide for him or herself what is good and what is evil. So much for the Tudors. These false witnesses led the UK into a self-serving cul-de-sac.

In fact, the will of God and the will of man can act together in grace, in friendship with Christ. What is not clear is our integrity and our knowledge of the truth. But the call, in grace and in love, is made to us. (cf B16's "God is Love) This is the primary 'light' which we are called to recognise. Grace and free will - this is the real story.

Monday 15 October 2007

Sixteenth Century chavscum

New exposure to the Tudor dynasty will be taking us by storm soon with the TV series "The Tudors" and the feature film "Elizabeth: the Golden Age". Henry VIII, the original british thug and his illegitimate and sinsiter daughter, Elizabeth, are going be presented to us again as models of humanity. I look forward to how both these productions will throw into relief the Civilisation of Love and the Culture of Life.
However, we will still have to cope with the contemporary phenomenon of how the media projects today's personality and psychology onto a past age. Historic and period productions used to present past personalities as different to us - which they were. Present day personality and psychology which is so weakly Christian and so strongly bewildered cannot really be the measure of human identity - nor can that of the Tudors.

Sunday 14 October 2007

Dating with Dignity

Yesterday we held a 'Friends with Christ' Day of Recollection for dating couples near Gainsborough (Lincs). It is a very rich experience when dating couples spend some time together in the company of a priest and a married couple. The focus of the day was Christ and we reflected together on two basic dynamics of a Christian relationship: how I can develop my life so that I am in a position to marry, and how I can begin to test the quality of my love for my partner. Thanks go to Alan and Anne for hosting the Day, and to Rob and Emily, Sam and Amy (not pictured) and Paul and Hermione. May your relationships bear much fruit for you, and for God and His Church.

Wednesday 10 October 2007

40th Anniversary on its way

As you know, 2008 is the 40th Anniversary of Paul VI's Encyclical "Humanae Vitae". I would like to celebrate this teaching in some way between now and the end of 2008, and I would be very happy to receive any ideas from you about how we could do this.

Sunday 7 October 2007

A fledgeling fraternity

On Friday and Saturday last week Fr Vincent Siret, the Vice-Moderator of the John Vianney Society, came to England to visit Fr Julian and myself. This was an important visit for both of us. We joined the Society in August of this year and Fr Vincent's visit was a real expression of its fraternity, confirming us as the first fledgeling extension of the Society in England.
Fr Vincent is a priest of the Diocese of Nimes, France, and lives at the Foyer Sacerdotale in Ars working for the Society and teaching Moral Theology in its seminary.
We met at the Catholic Chaplaincy to Birmingham University, and apart from the time we spent in prayer and in speaking together, we were joined by some of the students - perhaps the first people in the UK to experience this priestly fraternity. It was certainly a grace-filled experience for all of us.
Fr Vincent will be supporting us during the Retreat for Priests from the UK which we have organised. This is taking place in Ars this November with the title: The Priest - brother, father, spouse (these being the three relationships which the priest has with the Church.) More on this later.

Sunday 30 September 2007

The identity card

"It will not suffice to declare that we are 'friends' of Christ, boasting of our false merits: "We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets".
True friendship with Jesus is expressed in the way of life: it is expressed with goodness of heart, with humility, meekness and mercy, love for justice and truth, a sincere and honest commitment to peace and reconciliation.
We might say that this is the 'identity card' that qualifies us as his real 'friends'; this is the passport that will give us access to eternal life." (26.8.07)

Keep the fire burning

Many thanks go to Chiara and Giovanna who yesterday offered a Day of Prayer and Evangelisation to all the young Catholics of Crewe and its environs at the Parish of the Immaculate Conception in Crewe.
This event, inspired by the Youth 2000 Festival at Walsingham this summer, was a courageous and very sucessful initiative to engage young people in the local area in the New Evangelisation.
The Day ran from 9am till 6pm and is a sign of what we can do in our own areas to kindle and re-kindle the faith in young people. Please do this again in Crewe, and let's have Days like this all over the country!

Thursday 27 September 2007

An immediate hit!

After only a few day in the charts, my precis of the "Letter to Families" has gone straight to the top! It now appears on - a website of the Bishops' Conference. What a result!

Monday 24 September 2007

A good leaven

The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Pell, has been cleared of contempt of parliament for comments he made on the Human Cloning Bill he made earlier this year. In a statement he said:

"My comments on the Human Cloning Bill were derived from the conviction that Parliamentarians who legislate for the destruction of human life (in any circumstances and especially in this case where no cures from human embryos have been effected during many years of research) are acting in a way that departs from the principles of both the natural law known through human reason alone and Christian teaching. The natural law principles and the teaching in question are that human life should be accorded the full protection of the law without regard to race, ethnicity, sex, religion, age, condition of dependency or stage of development. I put forward this moral argument as a contribution to the public debate because it is rational, an argument open to acceptance by all people of no religion and any religion. I was not asserting some supernatural dogma beyond human reason and seeking to impose it on the general community. It would be a sad day for Australia if only members of the Christian majority accepted the unique dignity of the human person. But this is not the case. Defenders of human life -- from conception to natural birth -- come from every section of the Australian population.As a Catholic archbishop I am also charged with ensuring that Catholics know the moral teaching of the Church. The Church's teaching on cloning states that the cloning of a human being is wrong and cannot be justified by any known or imagined effects. The Church also teaches that destructive experimentation on embryonic human beings -- cloned or otherwise -- is an intrinsically evil act, because experimentation involves their dismemberment and therefore mutilation and death."

In taking this position Cardinal Pell has thrown much light on the relationship of the Church and society - if only we had had such a reasonable King and Queen and Parliament in the UK in the 1500's! Nonetheless, Cardinal Pell has done a great work in expressing the vocations of a Catholic Bishop and of a Catholic in today's world. He has challenged, correctly and courageously, Australian society, represented by its Parliament, and he has thrown essential light upon the Cloning issue - light which otherwise would have been missing from the debate. All can see more clearly now. What a great leader he is!

Sunday 23 September 2007

New homes

My new placement finds me in Leeds again, or rather just outside the city to the south. This photo shows the church of St Brigid with my house just to the left. Yesterday I named the presbytery "John Paul II House". A whole series of events recently have led me to use the Prayer invoking the help of John Paul II - it seemed that the next step was to place myself and new inititatives, including my presbytery, under his patronage. Fr Julian has already visited my new parish and we held a very fruitful fraternal of the John Vianney Society.

A little to the north in Ilkley, the Elizabethan hunting lodge "Myddleton Lodge" is for sale again. This house, which dates from 1560, and which was the property of the Myddleton's, Yorkshire Catholics during the reformation and later, has been in Catholic hands until 2000. The house has been substantially restored and is for sale at £2.85 million. This house too could be a very good "John Paul II House" for the formation and evangelisation of young people. Any offers?