Tuesday 21 September 2010

A new springtime of grace

The Holy Father's visit was a grace beyond all expectations; and how long this nation has waited for such a great grace. Perhaps the anti-Papal frenzy of the media helped to set the Visit in relief, or perhaps it was a deep and ancient longing of the British people, somewhat hidden, but suddenly released by the presence of the Holy Father. One thing was certain: the immense and spontaneous joy on the faces and in the hearts of a multitude, from Her Majesty to the casual tourist, caught up in this grace-filled encounter. I remember so well, a joy and an excitement that was hard to contain when John Paul II visited the UK in 1982; I was then twenty one.
Frankly, I am overwhelmed by the nature and content of this State Visit. I imagine that that is also the case for many back home in the UK. It will take me some time to re-visit the tremendous papalvisit.org.uk website and to contemplate the Holy Father's discourses on video. As for the Church in the UK, and for its society as a whole, I can only state the obvious; that nothing will be the same from now on. Even the 'neo-pelagian congress of Twickenham' was not unaffected by the presence and message of the Holy Father.
Before beginning to digest the the huge number of wide-ranging addresses of the Holy Father, I have to say that one address really stands out for me - the address in Westminster Hall. Again, it is hard to begin to appreciate the meaning of this event - the Holy Father, in the heart of the capital, speaking to the British establishment. And not only that, but he places before the citizenry of the UK the person of St Thomas More as a model of Britishness! And he invites us all to ponder the values of his witness to faith and reason, his witness to Christ; timeless values that anyone in any age can espouse to the betterment of the common good. How wonderful that this great Martyr of the English Reformation should be taken out from the devotional niche which has become his present-day place of honour, and has been placed again right of the heart of the public forum as a genuine point of reference for all the people of the UK.
I will, in due course, post again on the Visit, and I offer my own thanks to God for the extraordinary channel of grace that we have been given in the person of Benedict XVI. Thank you, Holy Father, for coming to the UK.

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