Wednesday 28 May 2008

St Margaret Clitherow Pilgrimage

Today, I went with my mother to the Forst of Bowland in Lancashire to visit the places where tradition says that the body of St Margaret Clitherow was taken after her execution.
Some weeks after her death Fr Francis Ingleby, the priest whom she was condemned for having haboured, arranged for her body to be taken into the safe keeping of a relative of his. Ingleby was related to the Catholic Hawksworth family of Mitton near Ribchester. Missionary activity in this area was centred on Bailey Hall, and it is beleived that Margaret's body was first taken to Bailey Hall. The photo below shows Bailey Hall today; only a part remains of this fortified and moated manor house, the home of the Catholic Shireburns. To the left of the house you can see a low stone wall - this is all that remains of their chapel of St John the Baptist.
Within the confines of this ruin you can see some old sheets of corrugated iron weighted down with house bricks. To my amazement, I could see beneath the remains the original mediaeval vault of the chapel. This vault was excavated in 1915 by students from nearby Stoneyhurst College who found the mausoleum empty. However, in 1716 the Shireburns were indicted for their involvement in the 1715 Jacobite rebellion and were imprisoned, forfeiting their entire estate. It is believed that at that time the body was removed to the greater safetly of the chapel of St Saviour, two miles away at Stydd.
We drove over to Stydd and were delighted to find the old church open.

And, within the old sanctuary, there we found the stone slab engraved with a simple cross which is believed to be the place where her body lies. (It is the stone in the photo which is immediately in front of the stacked chairs.)

Here we prayed for the conversion and evangelisation of the country. I would like the opportunity of returning to celebrate Mass there and, I would like, one day, to see her relics honoured. For she stood before the judge, the city, the nation, the Queen and State and would not be intimidated by their falsehood, choosing to honour God instead. Perhaps one day there will be sufficient interest to investigate the vaults within the Stydd chapel and to search there for her relics.
There is an oral tradition within the Vavasour family that "there she will remain until the Church is restored to its own."
(Acknowledgements to David Alton for the historical details)

St Margaret Clitherow, pray for us.

Tuesday 27 May 2008

St John Vianney Society and the implications of celibacy

Looking at celibacy today means looking beyond present day culture, beyond the violent and the erotic strands of contemporary culture, to the way we respond to God with generosity. It concerns the way in which we place our whole person before the Lord, asking Him to irrigate us with His love. Indeed, Adoration brings about a virginal love for Jesus.

Pius XII in his Letter Haurietis Aquas spoke about the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the kinds of love which that Heart expresses: emotional, spiritual and divine - all these 'loves' are united in His heart. It is this heart which the priest is called in imitate through an integrated interior life. Another way of saying this is "maturity". St Paul describes such a person in Galatians 5:52; a mature person, a person who has integrated Christ into his or her personality expresses the fruits of the Spirit. The Blessed Mother is the first person in the Church who expresses all the fruits of the Spirit in a perfect way. Indeed, Galatians 5:52 can be said to be a portrait of her soul.
What then are the characteristics which a priest is called to live is personality?
Self-effacement. The opening up of pastoral relationships to the presence of God without any possessiveness; being totally attentive whilst at the same time being reserved so that God can enter into the relationship. In other words, the priest is called to pave the way for the spousal relationship between Christ and the Church. So, in a completely real sense, the priest is "Father".
Tenderness. Being totally human in contact with people, whilst at the same time being totally chaste. We see Jesus being like this throughout the Gospel. The whole world saw JPII being like this also. Being tender in our relationships is costly because of our sinfulness; we have to allow God to prune us so that we can better be His instruments. If we are pure in ourselves, then we will better be able to carry other people's crosses. But the fact is that we do have the human capacity to receive Christ and to take Him to ourselves so that His life becomes our life.
Surely this speaks volumes about the renewal of the Priesthood in our time!
St John Vianney, pray for the renewal of priests.

Thursday 22 May 2008

Low Mass in Leeds

A lovely Mass yesterday evening. Thanks to all who took part, and to Mike for this pic.

Tuesday 20 May 2008

The HFE Bill

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? "
The Second Coming by Yeats.

Monday 19 May 2008

Commons vote for hybrid embryos

This evening's Commons vote makes me think of emmigrating. However, there is a great work of reparation to be done. Way back in 1992 the New York Cardinal suggested that a "tomb of the unborn child" be erected in every Roman Catholic diocese in the United States. John Cardinal O'Connor, the Archbishop of New York, spoke about such a monument he had seen at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. He suggested that similar memorials be erected to the "countless victims" of abortion in at least one Catholic cemetery in each diocese across the nation. Cardinal O'Connor said that, whether or not aborted fetuses were actually buried within such tombs, the monuments would "be a good reminder" that they had been "just as human" as others buried in the cemeteries. This surely is something that we can undertake in every Diocese in England.

Saturday 17 May 2008

Another extraordinary occasion ...

This coming Wednesday, 21st May at 7.30pm, I will celebrate Holy Mass in the extraordinary form at St Brigid's, Leeds. If you can come, please do.

Thursday 15 May 2008

You are invited ...

On Monday and Tuesday of next week the HFE Bill reaches the "Committee" stage; the final, third Reading is yet to be scheduled.
We are living at an extremely important time for the human race, for our country and for any concept of freedom based upon human dignity. It is up to you and me to place ourselves humbly before God and to ask that He would save us from all evil.
I invite you to spend some of next Monday and Tuesday in prayer and fasting with the intention of asking God to bring his grace to the British nation and its Parliament.
I am holding two Vigils of Prayer and Fasting in my parish on those days:
Monday 19th May.
7.00pm Holy Mass followed by a Rosary for Life, then Adoration and silent time.
9.00 - 10.00pm Holy Hour.
Tuesday 20th May.
7.00am Exposition and Morning Prayer.
8.00am Rosary for Life.
9.00am Divine Mercy.
10.00am Intercession.
11.00am Holy Mass.
My parish of St Brigid's is on Elland Road in south Leeds, LS27 7QR and you will be most welcome to take part in these vigils.

Wednesday 14 May 2008

For Matt

Let God act.

The British Parliament seemily cannot; it cannot wait for God to act, nor is it at all concerned that it is pushing God's hand in a dramatic way in the matter of the HFE Bill.
Rather than allow God to lead the progress and development of those things which would supply our needs today, the British Parliament wishes to place its faith in science and scientists who will provide us, in a scheduled and apparently controlled fashion, with mechanisms and technologies for manipulating human life.
We should not be at all surprised because this is the attitude of the Contraceptive Generation. The British Parliament, arguably, is constituted by a very full representation of the Contraceptive Generation. The promoters of the HFE Bill in Parliament are expressing very clearly the contraceptive mentality - to take total control over human life into our own hands, and not to leave any loose ends unattended.
However, the issues at stake in the House of Commons today, or better said, the persons who are at stake because of the proposed HFE Bill, need the support of as many of us as possible. Their fate should not be left to the judgement of the contraceptive mentality pragmatist MPs who are promoting the Bill. Indeed, human life and human nature could never be adequately understood or nurtured by a pragmatic mentality. The HFE Bill should be put not simply before the House of Commons, but before the whole world.
The HFE Bill is a sign of just how deeply our culture and our psychology is impregnated by the contraceptive mentality, seeking to take all human affairs out of God's reach and remove them from his influence.
Prayer and fasting, lobbying and making your voice heard - we all have much to do here.

Monday 12 May 2008

Lest we forget ...

It has always seemed very strange to me that resources, and especially video images, of John Paul II's visit to Britain in May 1982 are not available. It is as though his visit were best forgotten. Here is a photo taken during his meeting with Catholics on the Knavesmire at York.

During his address he spoke of the men and women who laid down their lives for the faith they loved "on this very spot". He spoke of Margaret Clitherow and Nicholas Postgate by name. His address was a catechesis based upon his own Letter about the family, Familiaris Consortio. That letter too is forgotten in this island, yet it is the fullest teaching about the family that exists on the planet.

Sunday 11 May 2008

With the Martyrs

Pentecost Sunday and our Parliament prepares to debate the critical issues of the HFE Bill. Thirty people from Yorkshire gather at the site of the York Tyburn on the Knavesmire to celebrate the Mass of Pentecost. The platform where the scaffold once stood by the roadside was a place which witnessed the most powerful offering of life for Christ by so many.
Here St Margaret Clitherow would come, at night, even before she was a Catholic, to pray after a priest had been hung, drwan and quatered - perhaps Blessed William Hart or Blessed Richard Thirkeld. Here Blessed Francis Ingleby, who she had harboured in her house, was excecuted. We came too in order to ask God, through the Mass, that the sacrifice of the Martyrs all those years ago might be effective for our nation and our culture today.

I was grateful to Fr Michael Kelly, also from Leeds, for coming out to join me in offering this Mass. We recalled the three day vigil of prayer and fasting which the Fathers of the London Charterhouse enjoined all those years ago in 1537 when the Oath of Supremacy was put to them, and how it was the Mass of the Holy Spirit offered by Fr John Houghton on the third day which broke the power of evil over them. Becuase of that Mass the whole community was able to witness to Christ with constancy and even joy. This was our prayer also; that the Holy Spirit would break the power of the culture of death in our country.
Thanks also to Mike of the Rudgate Singers for providing the sung chants in Latin throughout this Penetcost Mass.

Pam Stenzel in Leeds 2

Saturday 10 May 2008

Pam Stenzel in Leeds

At last - a break through in Leeds and an opportunity to break the exausting influence of secularism in our culture! Leeds Diocese is hosting an evening given by Pam Stenzel about God's plan for sexulality and relationships. You are invited to Pam's talk at Trinity and All Saints Colleges, the Mary Hallaway Lecture Theatre, Tuesday 3rd June at 7.oopm. Tell others about this event and bring them along. This event is suitable for all.
More information about Pam on

Sunday 4 May 2008

Gone fishing ...

I'm having a break. I'll be back in a week.

Friday 2 May 2008

Knavesmire Mass for the dignity of life

The HFE Bill finally returns to the Commons on Monday 12th May. I shall celebrate Holy Mass, open air, at the site of the scaffold on the Knavesmire at York, 3.00pm on Sunday 11th May. Leeds People for Life are organising this Mass and we have the permission of the local Parish Priest.

I invite you to take part in this Mass and join your prayers to those of the Martyrs who gave the most powerful witness to Christ on this site. The Mass will be offered for a complete overturning of this Bill and for the building of the Culture of Life.

Sunday 11th May, 3.00pm, at the Knavesmire, Leeds Road, York. (There is parking at "Park and Ride" at the large Tesco at Accomb, about 3/4 mile away from the site of the York Tyburn.)

Thursday 1 May 2008

Media talk available

The talk I gave in Soho last week, "Building the Civilisation of Love in a media-driven world", is now available on - via the "Media" button.
This pic was taken a few weeks ago walking along the old city walls of York.