Sunday 23 March 2008

Short bloggap

Today, Fr Julian and myself are taking a group of seminarians and young men who are thinking about the priesthood to Ars for four days. After that I'm going to help with the Youth 2000 Retreat in Falmouth next weekend. Back soon.

A great Easter proclamation from Lancaster

Not only has the Scottish Cardinal made a great proclamation today, but the courageous Bishop of Lancaster is also proclaiming the truth of the Resurrection in a tremendous way. Here is his sermon:
1. It was Sunday morning and Jesus was crucified on the Friday. Let us accompany Mary of Magdala and Mary, mother of James, as the two women approach the tomb where Jesus had been laid. Their memories of what had happened on the Friday are still very raw. They had seen his body taken down from the cross and placed in this tomb. Now they come in sadness to the burial place; all that was left was to show how much he had meant to them by anointing his body with spices (Mk 16:1; Lk 24:1).

2. The angel’s extraordinary words terrified them and must have burned into their minds and hearts. One can imagine them repeating the words. In fact, it’s easy to imagine that, for the rest of their lives, they were ready to repeat them to anyone and everyone who would listen:
‘He is not here, for he has risen as he said he would. Come and see the place where he lay; then go quickly and tell his disciples. He has risen from the dead and now he is going ahead of you to Galilee. That is where you will see him.’

3. “He is not here” – not in the tomb – that place of sadness and terrible memories. He is risen from the dead. We hear these words, which are very familiar. But it would be easy to miss the wonder of it all.
The Gospel tells us that the women were ‘filled with awe and great joy’. And that was even before they saw Jesus coming to meet them.

4. The accounts of Easter Sunday pay great attention to the empty tomb. The angel invited them to come and see the place where Jesus lay. When the apostles heard the women’s news, they came running and they ‘saw the linen cloths on the ground’. They saw and they believed. The tomb was no longer a tomb. Is it likewise for us? Are we aware that Jesus is alive and offers hope to each one of us?

5. The Sequence of Easter expresses it like this:
‘Death with Life contended: combat strangely ended!
Life’s own Champion slain, yet lives to reign.’

6. Everything has changed, changed utterly. The one inescapable, inevitable, unconquerable reality - the reality of death - had seemed to defeat Jesus as it had defeated every human being, every living thing on earth. But the reality now is that Jesus conquered death.

7. We must hold on to the hope of these words: Jesus conquered death! We need to hold onto this truth today because death takes on so many guises;
· through legalised abortion – that kills nearly 200,000 children a year,
· through experimentation on the unborn, that has resulted in the deaths of 2.2 million,
· and euthanasia through the withdrawal of food and fluids, here the numbers are countless.
Jesus has conquered death, but the powers of death and evil still strive to overcome the light of love and life.
The tragedy is that the authority and power of Government seem to be behind the greatest threat to the dignity and rights of human life.
As your bishop, I want to join my voice to that of Cardinal Keith O’Brien and others, in protesting in the strongest terms against the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.
If this bill becomes the law of the land, it will allow the creation of animal-human hybrid embryos for medical experimentation.
Supporters of this so called ‘medical’ experimentation, justify it by offering the hope that at some unknown date in the future the dissection and destruction of unborn human life will lead to cures for truly terrible diseases, such as cancers, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and M.S.
All right thinking people will agree that we must seek to discover cures for diseases that cause so much human suffering. But compassion cannot result in us exploiting and destroying the life of unborn human beings.
Many in government, the media and research are so strident in promoting research on embryonic humans that they forget to mention that the greatest strides in discovering cures derive from adult stem cell research - not the defenceless unborn.
We need to ask who are these vested interests in the promotion of experimentation on embryonic humans and the creation of animal-human hybrids. I read about them but I’ve yet to find them in person.
The Prime Minister has made it clear that he wants Britain to be the world's number one centre for genetic and stem cell research. He sees it as building up the hi-tech sector of British industry and contributing to economic growth.
It is good to develop British industry and foster economic growth, but not through exploiting and destroying embryonic human persons.
A society that seeks medical cures and economic development at the cost of human rights, human dignity and human life is ‘monstrous’.
It is not the defenceless, human-animal embryo, that is ‘monstrous’; it is we ourselves who have become ‘monsters’ for allowing the exploitation of the unborn for our economic and medical gain.
On this holy night when we celebrate life conquering death, I want to make two appeals as your Bishop:
First, to the Prime Minister and his ministers. Please stop the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Stop exploiting embryonic human beings, and support adult stem cell research instead.
Prime Minister, if you insist on promoting this bill through parliament, allow members of your government and party to vote according to their consciences.
Second, I call on the Catholic community - clergy and laity - to speak with one voice and insist that parliament: protects and cherishes human life.
Pray, Protest, and Petition your Member of Parliament to stop this monstrous medical experimentation on human beings.
Never give up hope, nor allow it to be dimmed, because the light of Christ shines out in the darkness, and the darkness can never overcome Him.
8. We began our vigil outside the cathedral with the Easter Candle spreading its light through the darkness. We processed singing “Christ our Light!” In the Scriptures we heard how God rescued Israel from the Egyptians and how promised to quench their thirst by sending his Word, his Son. Tonight this promise is being fulfilled and we are given a new depth to that truth.

9. Only Jesus can satisfy our thirst and in a way that no human being had ever imagined. Here was a light that the darkness could never overpower. This was something far above and beyond our ways and thoughts.

10. It is so much beyond our ways and thoughts that we think about it with a strange, contradictory set of attitudes. On the one hand, we can take it for granted as if it were, almost something to be expected. We have heard the Easter story all our lives; we know that Jesus rose from the dead.
On the other hand, though we treat it so familiarly, we do not really let the wonder of what we are celebrating sink in. There is no more amazing truth than this, yet how far does it transform our lives and our attitudes?
11. Jesus has passed beyond suffering, death and graveyards into a life which is no longer subject to death. The Lord rescued Israel from the Egyptians, but for us he has done something even more extraordinary; the Lord rescued us from death. We live with him; we live a life that death cannot touch. Death has no more power over us. Death must give way to the resurrection as it did for Jesus.

That is the Gospel, the Good News. The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!

+Patrick O’Donoghue, Bishop of Lancaster

Saturday 22 March 2008

Pre-Vigil glimpse

I have been waiting for new sanctuary frontals for my church in Leeds - here they are: frontals for altar and lectern, and tabernacle veil. They were made up, excellently, by Ormsby of Scarisbrick.

A stunning proclamation

Visit here to read some of Cardinal O'Brien's Easter Sunday sermon.
What he says is magnificent.

Silence before the Mystery

Today, is the day which "expresses the unparralleled experience of our age, anticipating the fact that God is simply absent, that the grave hides him, that he no longer awakes, no longer speaks, so that one no longer needs to gainsay him but can simply overlook him ... " (B16) Today, Christians are silent in their recollection of the Passion of the Christ. But for our culture, today is another day without God. As B16 has indicated, today is an unparralleled day in which Christian and secular culture seem to coincide: God is dead.
As we have been entering into the Liturgical commemoration of the Passion, a strange parody of this Mystery has been made available by the secularists. BBC's "Passion" documentary drama, put together by producer Nigel Stafford-Clark and writer Frank Deasy, is the secular culture's reaction to the Gospel. Perhaps you may wish to write to the BBC and challenge it and these two men over their work, but do not forget that we live in a moronic culture in a moronic age, in which the secular media is trapped. However, the power of the Gospel remains undimmed to those who seek.

Friday 21 March 2008

My correspondance

I recently wrote to my MP, Colin Challen, asking him to seek ammendments to the HFE Bill which would favour the dignity of the person. He replied saying:
On abortion, should any bill come to the House I will support the status quo. It is my view that the existing law provides sufficient protection for all concerned and maintains the principle that ultimately it is a woman's right to choose whether to have an abortion of not. ... On the issue relating to human tissues, and indeed inter-species embryos, I support research into the former, but am somewhat nervous about the latter. ... I do not consider an embryo in any sense can be described as a human being. I am concerned about inter-species tissue development, since I personally would prefer that experimentation on animals for human benefit were phased out as we develop better methods of addressing our own health concerns. I will not support inter-species proposals.
Actually, I wonder how prepared most of our MPs are for the kinds of decision-making that goes on now in Parliament. What kind of education did they have to form their understanding of what comprises the basic platform of human existence: human nature, ethics, society, culture, history and law. Anyway, I replied to him with the following letter:
Dear Mr Challen,
Thank you for your letter regarding the HFE Bill and for the indications which you have made to me. I am glad that you don’t want to extend the legal provision for Abortion, but I have to remind you to that it is not possible to say that the Law “provides sufficient protection for all concerned”, for Abortion, as you know, involves the killing of the pre-born child.
Later in your letter you explain that you “do not consider an embryo in any sense can be described as a human being”. This is extremely dishonest of you, since we know from science that a human life begins at fertilisation. Discussion over vocabulary and terminology such as “person” and “human being” is made at a philosophical level, whereas science has already clarified the status of the human embryo. And it is questions of science that are being put before Parliament at this time.
The reason for this Bill is because the UK wants to lead the global scientific community into the unknown. Whereas we should be refocusing our attention on adult stem cell research; not to do so will be a grave injustice to people with spinal cord injuries and other illnesses who could benefit from these technologies.
As for the “right to choose” which you speak about: freedom is not a political category but flows from the right to life. To place freedom before life actually goes against the fabric of political life and will tend to destroy it.
Sadly, I have to say, on the basis of your views, that in an Election I could not vote for you to represent me or any other human beings. Nor, on the same basis, would I recommend that anyone vote for you.

Thursday 20 March 2008

The foundations of Priestly celibacy.

St John Mary Vianney Society culture is a culture which helps priests to be born again each time they go up to the altar to celebrate Mass.
St Augustine asked: why did God not ask Mary to remain a virgin, but rather left her to make a vow of virginity? It was becuase He wanted Mary to choose this freely. Mary's virginity is the model of priestly celibacy and lies at the heart of the new creation. If we look at celibacy from a subjective or psychological perspective we fail to see its full meaning. Mary shows us what celibacy is; she shows us how a celibate person is prepared by God for ministry. Indeed, in Mary we see that celebacy is linked more deeply to the nature of the Church than is marriage.

The reason for celibacy is so that priests can love the Church as Christ loves it; and Christ's love for the Church is found in the Eucharist. This is why B16 has said so many times that the foundation of celibacy is the Eucharist. This is not a pietistical notion; the Church is called to receive the sposal love of Christ. A faithful priest is a necessity for the Church. What a priest accepts as an intimate gift to him - the love of Christ - is something that belongs to the whole Church. This is an objective thing. This is why a priest needs to be born again before he celebrates Mass, and he needs souls who will immolate themselves on his behalf! Here, both consecrated virginity and married spouses have much to offer in order to build up the priesthood.

Select Committee analysis

Thanks to Dr Tom Ward of the National Association of Catholic Families for this analysis (condensed) of the recent session of the Commons Select Committee for Schools meeting with the Bishop of Lancaster and others.
In the mind of the Committee the first issue was the elimination of selection of candidates for Faith schools which they considered to be to the disadvantage of “the poor”.
The measurements of poverty being used were the percentage of special-need pupils within the school and the uptake of free school dinners (Community schools 15%, Catholic schools 13.50 % and Church of England 11 %.). One had the distinct impression that the Committee had already formed the opinion that Faith schools were guilty of such discrimination.
The second leitmotiv of the Committee’s concern was ‘community cohesion’. On this, a list of specific mandatory proposals were sought from the academics on tightening up admission policy to Faith schools These were to spell out what schools must do rather than relying on prohibitions.
The clearest evidence was given by Professor Mark Halstead of the University of Leeds.
In answer to the question “In what sense can you blame Faith Schools for a failure of social cohesion?” Professor Halstead made the following points:
· Multiculturalism is the problem, not the Faith Schools.
· People, locally, were very suspicious of the government’s Community Cohesion policy.
· In the Bradford riots, there had not been one rioter from a Faith School.
· Young Moslems learnt to drink a bottle of vodka not at the mosque, not at home, but in the Community schools.
· What they learnt at Community schools caused a confusing conflict with the values both of their homes and the Mosque.
· Only 5-6% of Moslems go to Faith Schools.
Professor Halstead concluded firmly that Faith Schools could not be blamed for the lack of social cohesion.
Fiona Mc Taggart MP (Labour) expressed her concern that government policy on social cohesion was unpopular. ‘Did the teachers need more guidance on this, indeed did the policy need more resources?”, she asked. Professor Halstead replied that Faith groups were largely unaware of the government’s policy on social cohesion but believed that the issue was moral rather than political.
When challenged on whether Faith Schools used the prism of religion to view the issue of tolerance, Professor Halstead said that social cohesion is a problem of adults not of children. He believed that the key issue was education in moral values. He added that the teaching of moral education was taken very seriously in Moslem schools, whereas the teaching of morality was squeezed out in Community schools.
In reply to Fiona McTaggart’s question on whether Faith Schools were better at teaching tolerance, Professor Halstead replied that tolerance implied a framework of values as a starting point. To be tolerant you have to have your own values and, in this, Faith Schools had an advantage over Community schools.

My conclusions (Tom Ward)
1. The dominant section of the select Committee would allow Faith Schools, provided that they conformed to their political agenda - i.e. that theological and moral absolutes were absent.
2. There was no hint of understanding on their part that the Government’s unremitting attack on marriage and the family was largely responsible for child poverty.
3. Basically, they regarded the solution as the problem and the problem as the solution.
Following this part of the Hearing the Right Reverend Patrick O’Donoghue Bishop of Lancaster was questioned.
Bishop O’Donoghue told the Committee that in the Lancaster Diocese he has 84 schools with between 13% to 50% Moslem pupils and an increasing number of Eastern European children. He dismissed the school dinner statistics as not relevant to the Catholic schools, and stated that there was no evidence that the Catholic system discriminated against the poor.
On his Fit for Mission document he made the following points:
· God would be at the centre of his schools, as would Catholic morality.
· Religious education was no longer to be marginalised in the schools in his diocese, but rather it must now be clear and pervade every aspect of the school.
· Anti-Catholic books, such as the work of Marx and Camus, would be banned. This vetting would take place throughout Catholic schools in his diocese.
· Red Nose Day and Amnesty International would no longer be supported, because of their support for abortion.
· With conviction and passion he said that the Church was under attack in the media and in certain political circles.
· His intention was to develop and deepen young peoples’ faith.
· On being accused of “proselytising”, Bishop O’Donoghue said that he would have nothing to do with coercion, pointing out that they were Catholic schools and that parents chose them.
When he insisted that the Faith not be compartmentalised in his schools, an MP claimed that the Bishop was going to “evangelise every pupil in the school”. Bishop O’Donoghue answered that they have their freedom to accept or reject what was taught - as indeed was shown by the figures for non-practising former pupils of Catholic schools. When asked by an MP if he felt that he would have been given such a difficult secularist cross examination were he a Moslem, the Bishop adroitly replied by saying that Moslems in Catholic schools were very sympathetic to Our Lady.
Mr Sheerman disrespectfully asked whether or not in the light of “the change of occupant in the Vatican” the Bishop supported combined Catholic/Anglican ecumenical schools. Bishop O’Donoghue insisted that Fit for Mission? Schools would apply, and that parents would have to approve of the schools.
When challenged on Fit for Mission? Schools, he said he would not change his policy, insisting that without identity, sustainability and mission there would be no survival for his schools. He made it clear that 800,000 Catholics voted with their feet for Catholic schools, that Roman Catholics pay tax twice, first as citizens and secondly through the Church which pays 10% of the capital cost. In addition they were also very generous in their financial support for their schools. Furthermore, that Catholics rights are enshrined in the 1944 Act and in European Law. When challenged that the Catholic Hierarchy had fought “tooth and nail against an admission quota for non Catholics he replied, “and we will again!”
I was left with following impressions:
1. Against a hostile cross-examination, the Bishop had courageously defended God and our children’s right to be evangelised.
2. The Bishop has, with skill and clarity, defended the Church’s vision of Catholic Education as represented by Fit for Mission? Schools.
3. His dignity, goodness and competence were, on the whole, respected by hostile politicians who might otherwise have been yet more aggressive.
4. In this battle with the dominant neo-pagan culture, the Bishop has bought us a little time to begin the re-evangelisation of our youth.
6. The issue of the parents being primary educators was firmly emphasised.
7. In this, the centre of Common Law Jurisdiction, the war between the Civilisation of Love and the dominant Culture of Death will not be won by the secularists, few of whom will go to the stake for their disbeliefs. Rather it will be lost by Catholics if other Bishops fear to support Bishop O’Donoghue’s courageous witness to Our Lord Jesus Christ.
8. Every Catholic family in the country owes a debt of gratitude to Bishop O'Donoghue for Fit for Mission? Schools and for his defence of Catholic truth against a liberal Parliament.

Wednesday 19 March 2008

Holy Week and God's plan is clearer.

In these days the architecture of evangelisation is being revealed by the Holy Spirit in our celebration of the Paschal Mystery and in its expression in the Church.
The themes for the three days of catechesis during World Youth Day have been announced; they are to be led by bishops from around the world in over 300 locations in Sydney.

On Wednesday, July 16, the theme will be the call to live in the Holy Spirit, drawing from Galatians 5:25.
On Thursday, July 17, the catechesis will consider the Holy Spirit as the soul of the Church, as expressed in 1 Corinthians 12:13.

And on Friday, July 18, the teaching will focus on the Holy Spirit as the principal agent of mission, seen in Acts 1:8.

"Catechesis represents the spiritual heart of World Youth Day, when young people from various backgrounds and circumstances unite to listen, reflect, discuss and pray in harmony," said Auxillary Bishop Fisher, the Co-ordinator of Sydney World Youth Day '08. "I encourage all pilgrims who are attending WYD08 to begin reflecting on the catechesis themes now," he said, "so that come July, they are spiritually prepared to witness the Spirit and gain as much as they can from their WYD08 experience."
Here, the Source of life, holiness and culture is being revealed in our midst and He will bring great joy.

Saturday 15 March 2008

Sheerman and friends

There is something very covert happening here and we should know about it: the media is beginning to focus in on the Christian life in a way which will make Christians, and especially Catholics, feel vulnerable - the secular media is going to intrude into the Christian Life and begin the explain the Faith as a belittling and destructive force.

Barry Sheerman MP has taken up the baton in a mild way on behalf of Parliament. Others, such as Richard Dawkins already hold positions, created by the Government, to lead and inform popular media-making in issues related to faith, and especially the Catholic Faith. You can see him, and Sheerman, with others taking part in a TV debate (on Youtube) about the the place and influence of religion in schools. In fact, programmes such as these are very good to watch and analyse in order to see trends taking place in our culture. The media itself also has a 'big handle' on this and we are beginning to see a new phenomenon in TV: cameras entering into Catholic Churches and presenters speaking in a cynical way about the Christian Life. A good example is here. In this video insert you can see presenters, including so-called Catholics, speaking about the Faith in a disparaging way.

You may think that I am overplaying the point. However, over the past couple of decades we have seen the media intrude so intimately into the Family, that it has made families become and feel utterly vulnerable. The media has made society question the purpose and meaning of the family to such an extent that, for many in our society, the family has become an obstacle to the individual's freedom. Freedom of choice, over and against others, has corrupted our understanding of the Family and destroyed its irreplacebale role in society. And this has happened through the incisive and cynical way that cameras and presenters have entered into the privilaged territory of the family. The media has represented the family as an impersonal reality, it has presented false models of the family, especially in the Soaps, it has dominated the family and made it question itself, and it has offered 'the media family' so that living family life vicariously through TV dramas, people can step aside, as it were, from their real life mission.

This same process is now beginning to happen to the Church and its life. So, what you see now on the TV is the start of a concerted effort to make people of faith, and especially Catholics, feel vulnerable and seem out of sink with the general tenour of society today. And we will see the media and its cameras intrude more and more into churches and conciences, presenting them in a cynical and contemptuous way. Look at how the media has damaged families - do not under estimate the immense impact that this same project will have upon the Church.

"The time is sure to come when, far from being content withsound teaching, people will be avid for the latest novelty and collect themselves a wholoe series of teachers according to their own tastes; and then, instead of listening to the truth, they will turn to myths." (2 Tim 4: 3-4)

We need to be aware of this, so that the pagan media doesn't cloud our own vision, and so that we are able to respond directly to every instance where the media will play-down or distort the Christian Life.

The beauty of Fatherhood

With great joy we keep the Feast today of St Joseph, the great model of manhood for humanity and for the Church. St Joseph is the greatest model of manhood and of fatherhood for he embraced all the gifts and qualities which God desired for him. Its is here, in his openness to God's plan for him, for his life and for his personality that we see a man embracing the whole truth about spiritual fatherhood - something which God desires all men to have - the mission to create and form goodness in the world. And he embraces also the second stage of fatherhood given to many men, that of becoming a parent. Here we see St Joseph striving, like God, for his family and being a real guardian of his son's soul. What a great model of manhood and fatherhood, and how dis-similar St Joseph is to secular models. John Eldridge in his insightful book about men - "Wild at heart" - speaks about how false are the secular models of manhood. He cites two important examples: John Wayne (at least, the characters he plays) and James Bond. Both these represent men who are utterly sufficient in themselves; they do not need any help, they do not need God. Whereas, every man in fact needs to be plugged into God, who alone can lead him to the full stature of his personality. How great it was for the whole world to see spiritual fatherhood in operation in the life of JPII, and again in B16, the world's "grandfather". And how great it is when, in our parishes, we see fathers at Mass with their children or spending time with them; whenever we see fatherhood in action.
When the qualities of God are seen in men, then we can see more clearly the beauty of God's plan and the irreplaceable role of the father in society.

Wednesday 12 March 2008

Sheerman's get-together

Today the courageous Bishop of Lancaster faced Barry Sheerman MP and his Commons Select Committee for Schools at Westminster. You can watch it here; but I warn you, it lasts two and a half hours and you will need to skip through most of it.
Sheerman's "umming" and "erring" made a very shabby start to the meeting, and then all he did was use statistics to fence with the Bishop. Statistics are a useful tool in such a situation because they prevent a real meeting between human beings. But in this case they also suppressed the ability of the Bishop to speak about the value of the Gospel and the dignity of the person redeemed by Christ. Sheerman's pragmatist's challenge to the Catholic Church proved to be a false-start today. The time has not yet come for a real meeting between the Catholic Church and the UK's arch-liberal Parliament. Perhaps today's meeting was seen by some in the Parliament as a way of testing the way it should approach the Catholic Church. Certainly Parliament would not want to upset public feeling, nor to appear an agressor. But one thing is for certain: Sheerman doesn't want Christ to look him in the eye.

Tuesday 11 March 2008

Annotations on the Tower

This photo, taken during the recent pilgrimage of grace to the Tower in the "Beauchamp tower", shows inscriptions made by John Collins (a priest hung, drawn and quartered 9th Jan 1539), Blessed Thomas Abell (a priest and personal chaplain to Queen Catherine of Aragon, hung drawn and quartered, 30th July 1540), and Doctor Cook (Carmelite Prior of Doncaster, implicated in the Pilgrimage of Grace and hung, drawn and quartered 3rd Aug 1540).
I have discovered some interesting reserach made by a Yeoman Warder, Brian Harrison, and published on-line. Visit the following link:

Sunday 9 March 2008

Another pilgrimage of grace

I would like to give you advance notice of another pilgrimage in the footsteps of the Martyrs which is going to take place in York on Sunday 27th April.
This pilgrimage is being organised to remember the 40 years of the Abortion Law in the UK, and also to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the great teaching on marriage, Humanae Vitae.
The pilgrimage will start at 1.00pm at St Wilfred's church, opposite the west-front of the Minster, processing past the Guildhall where St Margaret Clitherow was condemned for harbouring priests. Then on to the Ousebridge where she was pressed to death, and where flowers will be dropped in the river. The procession will then lead past the Bar Convent, which keeps the relic of her hand (pictured) and so on to the site of the Tyburn on the Knavesmire where Mass will be celebrated at about 3.00pm. It was here that so many priests were hung, drawn and quartered, including St Henry Walpole SJ in 1597 and St Nicholas Postgate in 1685.
This will be an extraordinary opportunity to ask our very powerful Martyrs for their intercession, for the conversion and evangelisation of our country and its culture.

Friday 7 March 2008

An SJMV pilgrimage of grace

Yesterday, Fr Julian and myself lead a group of young people on a pilgrimage of grace, in honour of the English Martyrs, to the Tower of London and then to the Tyburn Convent near Marble Arch. We were privilaged to have been given permission to enter the cells, within the Bell Tower, in which St Thomas More and St John Fisher were held.
In St Thomas More's cell we experienced what so many experience there - a place much prayed in. There too we prayed for the conversion of our country. We looked through the cross-bow slit windows, towards the main gate of the Tower, from which St Thomas and his daughter had seen the Cathusian martyrs being lead out towards Tyburn on the morning of 4th May 1535.

Through the Beauchamp Tower and along the Queens walk we entered the cell above in which St John Fisher, the rebel-Cardinal, had been held. This cell, somewhat better proportioned than More's cell was a place for a renewed encounter with that tremendous seam of grace which has been given to the Church in this country by the witness of the Martyrs.

Here in this cell we stood and spoke together quietly about the courage and the foresight of this singular Bishop who lead the Church during the great persecution. It was a real blessing for Fr Julian and myself to be joined by Fr Augsutine CFR, and to share our identity as priests in this place with the young people who were with us.

After the Bell Tower we visited the crypt of St Peter's church where the bodies of More and Fisher were interred after their execution. Then we visited a sucession of cells in which the Martyrs had been held: in the Beauchamp Tower, Cradle Tower, Salt Tower, Broad Arrow Tower and Martin Tower. The photo above shows the inscription which St Henry Walpole made in his cell in the Salt Tower. This priest was tortured fourteen times in the Tower before being sent for execution at the Knavesmire in York. We were amazed by the enormous record left by the Martyrs and others on the stone walls of cells - no visitor to the Tower should miss the poignancy or the significance of these inscriptions which are a record of a great struggle which these martyrs endured for Christ.

Finally, we visited the Mortar Room in the Basement of the White Tower. This room, rebuilt in the 1700s, was the torture chamber of old. It was in this place that the struggle was endured at its fiercest. Here St Edmund Campion and the others were racked. Here St Nicholas Owen, John Gerrard and others were suspended by manacles. Here in this place were numerous hideous cells, including The Little Ease, in which Campion was encarcerated during long periods.
We emerged again into the bright sunlight and, after lunch, took the river launch up to Westminster and then on to Marble Arch and the site of Tyburn.

The Tyburn Sisters made us very welcome and lead us down to their crypt chapel - the Shrine to the Martyrs. We venerated a huge array of relics of the men and women, priests, religious and lay people who were hung, drawn and quartered for the Faith at these gallows. I had no idea that such a huge collection of relics existed, nor before this day's pilgrimage had I realised how terrible and how fierce the persecution had been.
We celebrated Mass in honour of the Martyrs and opened ourselves in a renewed way to the call of Christ today. The call to embrace the gift of grace and to take part in the building up of the Church today.
Their witness and the inspiration they give us is without compare. Pray for us, all you holy Martyrs of England and Wales; pray for the conversion and evangelisation of our country.

Wednesday 5 March 2008

HFE Moot for South Leeds

South Leeds Co-ordination meeting 7.30pm, Tuesday 11th March at St Brigid’s parish hall, Elland Road, Churwell, Leeds LS27 7QR.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill presents a lot of seriously questionable material which needs to be opposed. There will be an informative talk followed by a discussion on an action plan to defend life and oppose the bill by writing and petitioning MP's, and to plan Prayer Vigils in South Leeds Parishes. It is important for us to act now before the Bill becomes Law and to help co-ordinate our response. Please come along, just one small thing you do to defend life could make the difference. A Speaker from LIFE will address the meeting.

Monday 3 March 2008

The Priesthood is born from the heart of Christ.

Following the reflections from the Ars Priest's Retreat, Fr Frost spoke about how the Gospels show us how the Priesthood is born in the heart of the Church from the Heart of Christ.
Before the Passion Christ says to His apostles: "It is good that I go away, or the Advocate will not come to you." Christ promises them that which will bring about their adulthood in the Christian Life.
For the Church is dependent upon Him as His Body, and she is identified with Him as His Spouse.
After the Resurrection Christ greets His apostles and breathes into them the Holy Spirit - "That which I gave on the Cross, I now give to you directly." The Priesthood derives directly from the Body of Christ on the Cross - it is the foundation of holiness in the Church. The Church becomes a living being through the Priestly Ministry.
The Church is born from the side of Christ as He dies, but she appears in public on the Day of Pentecost - Pentecost then is the fulfillment of Christ's Mission. (From the Resurrection to the Ascension, Christ spent forty days instructing His apostles about how the Scriptures were to be fulfilled.) For on the Day of Pentecost, all the gifts with which Christ had endowed His Church became fully alive and effective within the Church, and the foundation of the Church's life and mission is the Priesthood.

Saturday 1 March 2008

Newman saw our day

In summer of 2000 I took part in Bioethics Conference at Cambridge; during a presentation by Fr Dermot Fenlon of the Birmingham Oratory I took some notes.
Newman foresaw the loss of Christianity in England and the temptation to decide what the content of morality should be. Newman didn't call this secularism but intuited that the time would come when religion would no longer be the common bond of society, and that such a society would found a new morality.
In order to counter this possible future Newman said that we should see supernatural excellence in Catholics.
However, as we have seen Catholicism in the West has collapsed becuase Catholics have actually sought a religion of utility. At the heart of this crisis is the undermining of the Sacrament of Marriage by contracepting spouses.
Now that the secular world is here, man has created a new image of himself, a new way of looking at himself, a way that reflects his needs. However, there is a much more radical way of looking at human life: the Gospel, which looks at humanity from the perspective of all that is good and true.
So, the moment of decision has arrived: will men and women accept God's truth or not? It is in such a moment as this that man's true end should be recognised. In other words, it is God and the Culture of Life that opens the door to real life for the men and women of our age, and there are three tactics we should use:
1. Lead people to ask the right questions.
2. Teach the truth.
3. Develop and protect the full truth about marriage.