Saturday 30 March 2013

Leaking grace.

Many thanks to Fr Stephen of "Southwark Vocations" for giving us a translation to Cardinal Bergoglio's handwritten note made before the Conclave. What a great vision and what an extraordinary way that it has come to light. Grace at work! These few lines do indeed represent an agenda for another Pope of the New Evangelisation.
I also found the reference to Cardinal Hummes' fraternal support of Cardinal Bergoglio, during the Conclave, to have a note of grace about it. Cardinal Hummes was a great Prefect of the Congregation of the Clergy in his time, and is said to have offered words of support and encouragement to Cardinal Bergoglio as the votes in his favour began to mount. I can imagine that you would need some very dear and heartfelt support in a Conclave if the voting began to point towards you!

Thursday 28 March 2013

A wonderful read.

During this my Silver jubilee year I have been enjoying reading more than ever. In fact, these past three months have been enriched enormously by much that I have read.
I recommend here some of the books which I have read. And just as a little encouragement I paste a photo of the windowed chamber where Charles II sat with Fr Huddleston on 9th September 1651 in Moseley Old Hall, talking, reading, and watching for the approach of news.
"Secularisation" by Edward Norman. This is an very insightful book which analyses the current social movement from the point of view of Anglicanism. His observations are very pertinent and, when referring to the impact of secularism on Christianity he speaks of how Christians and especially Christian leaders have let go of Christ, in favour of a secular project.
"Tolkien: the making of a legend" by Colin Duriez. I read the Humphrey Carpenter biography many years ago and found this new biography very refreshing, particularly in terms of appreciating the interconnection of Tolkien's own life and the growth of his mythology. Also, for the way in which Duriez speaks of Tolkien's Catholic faith.
"An accidental jubilee" by Alice Warrender. This fascinating account by Alice of her unexpected solo pilgrimage across Europe is utterly engaging. I could hardly put it down. Many congratulations to Alice for her courage in undertaking this journey alone and in the immediacy of her narration.
"Thomas More - portrait of courage" by Wegemer. As I read this book I felt as though the author was someone who had known More personally. This book is very enlightening and inspiring, especially for men.
"How many will be saved?" by Ralph Martin. A thorough theological exposition of 'Universalism' - the way in which we understand God's will for all men and women to be saved. The author has really gone into the matter and shows a whole theological movement; where it came from, where it went wrong and where it is secure. The author has done a great job here for the Church.
"All glorious within" by Bruce Marshall. This novel set in Catholic Scotland during the first half of the last century was, unexpectedly for me, a sort of antidote to recent revelations from the Church in Scotland. It a novel it speaks very intimately to anyone with a Catholic heart, and reveals much about Catholic life for our grandparents generation.
"The essence of prayer" by Ruth Burrows. This Carmelite nun from Norfolk has written a tremendous book about the very heart of Christian living, and has also made the Carmelite experience particularly accessible in the way she speaks about some of the great Carmelite saints. I think that this book really should be standard reading for Catholics.  
I have also begun making a systematic reading of the Timothy McDermott edition of St Thomas Aquinas' "Summa Theologiae". All I will say at this stage is, it is brilliant.
There are a number of other books which I have read but which, although I have enjoyed them, are not books that I would particularly recommend. My next book in waiting is George Weigel's "Evangelical Catholicism". I'm looking forward to this one very much.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

4th May 2013.

Following my last post about St Margaret Clitherow here are the details of the National Pilgrimage to honour the Pearl of York, which takes place on Saturday 4th May this year.
Note that the Pilgrimage begins with Holy Mass at 1.30pm in St Wilfred's church, close to the west front of the Minster and, following the procession through York, ends with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at 4.00pm in the church of the English Martyrs, close to the Knavesmire. I will be participating in this pilgrimage and hope that you too will be free to take part.

Monday 25 March 2013

The Pearl of York.

Today is her feast day; the day of her martyrdom, 25th March 1586. I was in York a few days ago and visited her shrine in the Shambles. St Margaret Clitherow is one of my favourite people; she is for me the greatest british person in the history of England. She is wonderful and, in the company of a friar of the Renewal, we visited all the sites which are connected with her, finishing our visit by calling into the Bar Convent to venerate the relic of her hand.
During our tour we popped into the Merchant Adventurer's Hall where hangs a painting of the old Ouse Bridge. It was at one end of this bridge that St Margaret Clitherow was pressed to death. Today's Ouse bridge dates from the 1800s, but the painting which hangs in the Adventurer's Hall depicts the old bridge. The painting was made in 1784 by Joseph Faringdon; it depicts the bridge almost 200 years after her execution. However, it is so interesting to see what the old bridge and its associated buildings looked like. 
St Margaret was pressed to death at the Toll Booth, which is one of the buildings on the left of the picture on the viewers side of the bridge. Before her trial and execution she was held in prison in a building on the right hand side of the bridge, probably on the further side and so, somewhat obscured in this painting.
There are a number of paintings and prints of old York and the old bridge in the Adventurer's Hall, which is well worth a visit if you in York. As a building of this kind, it is unique in this country.
St Margaret Clitherow's witness and intercession is so powerful; I rely on her so much. For priests she is pure grace.

Friday 22 March 2013

Hope springs again.

The words of the new archbishop of Canterbury, that England recognise what it is presently doing with its Christian personality, and that he, as archbishop, personally desires fraternity with Pope Francis, are words of great hope indeed.
I visited Canterbury Cathedral in January and beheld again that awful empty space where the shrine of St Thomas Becket had been, and which the whole architecture of the building seeks to emphasise. This vacuum in Canterbury cathedral is symbolic, I think, of the dreadful emptiness which lies in our culture; that scoured out place when faith had  been. Christ was planted here in this island and, as the archbishop pointed out, for a thousand years we had embraced Him. And that this emptiness is organically linked to England's rejection of unity with the Church. The archbishop's voice, calling as it does from an Impeded See, is a voice of real hope. If our country can recognise what he is speaking of and allow it to resonate, this would be a moment of grace on grace.

Thursday 14 March 2013

Faith, Catechesis and Schools.

I returned yesterday in time to see the news programs showing white smoke emitting from the Sistine Chapel, from a three-day conference for priests. The 'Thornycroft Priests Conference 2013', held at Thornycroft Hall (photo above), in Cheshire.
Over thirty priests, mainly from dioceses in northern England took part, and it was really quite enriching to experience the wealth of talent and priestly contribution which is present in our northern dioceses. Our effect on one another, one springing from priestly fraternity, was an experience of grace in itself and an expression of the value and need for such priestly encounters.
The subjects which we covered, led by a superb range of speakers, are summed up in the title of this post: the morality of economics, an analysis of the last Synod on the New Evangelisation, bio-ethics and the renewal of the mind, the priority of adult catechesis, re-evaluating the relationship of faith and science, and the role of our Catholic Secondary schools. I know that what I learned during this Conference will influence much of what I think and do in the future.
This Conference and then the election of Pope Francis mean that this week has, so far, been almost a life-changing experience. Thanks go, in the first place, to the organisers of the Conference, the priests of the Opus Dei Prelature.

Wednesday 13 March 2013

A great joy indeed.

How wonderful it is that we have a new Pope so soon. He looks like a Pope too! His presence expresses a new experience of that fraternity which is always welling up from deep within the Church; priestly fraternity, Christian fraternity, ecclesial fraternity. It is indeed a great joy. We thank our heavenly Father for this great gift.

Saturday 9 March 2013

Who would the world choose now?

The coming Conclave will be the fifth during my lifetime. I was too young to remember the first of these which elected Pope Paul VI, but the others were a real focus of expectation and of excitement. 
A Conclave is first and foremost the moment when the Cardinals of the Church come into their proper role, but for the rest of us it is a time of humble prayer to God - almost a time of vigil - endeavouring to place the Church and especially the Cardinals under the mission of the Holy Spirit - that the choice which the Cardinals make will be God's choice. We all have a role to play in this matter, then.
I sense that the world, and particularly the Media, do not know who to look for in this Conclave. The gap between the Church and the (western) world has grown since the last Conclave, partly because of clerical scandals but much more because of the world's distain for the Christian life. I would expect to see the Media's own focus on the Conclave to miss the point entirely, which will help the Church and the Cardinals in their task.
Come Holy Spirit, come by means of the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, your well-beloved spouse.

Wednesday 6 March 2013

Prepare yourself well.

With the closure of the centres of Christian formation in England one of the most important things that you can do is to better equip yourself to take part in the future mission of the Church in this country.
In the past we relied largely upon the Religious Orders to lead us in developing our Christian formation. Those days are gone and the Church now comprised of just parishes, many of them merely Mass centres. Your presence and your gifts are needed today, but just as in the past, the Church needs us to be formed so that we can more competently take part in Her mission.
I know of no better place in England than Maryvale Institute in Birmingham where you can prepare yourself for an apostolic role in the Church today. The photo above is of me receiving my MA in Theology from Archbishop Csabo Ternyac, in St Chad's Cathedral in Brimingham in 1998. In those days Maryvale offered just two MA courses. Today there are five:
1. Personal, moral and spiritual development in a Theological perspective (which I studied).
2. Spiritual formation.
3. RE and Catechetics.
4. Marriage and the Family.
5. Apologetics.
Alongside these there are two Pontifical Licenses in Catechetics, and in Marriage and the Family. There are a whole range of under-graduate courses and more post-graduate ones. Check out the Maryvale Institute website and consider undertaking one of their courses this year. The Church needs you and it needs your skills, your enthusiasm and your desire to grow in God-given role in the Church. 

Saturday 2 March 2013


Last weekend Youth 2000 held its weekend-long "Aglow" retreat in Leeds at Notre Dame Sixth Form College. Two hundred young people took part, many of them from Leeds and Yorkshire, but there were people from all over the country. I was able to devote the best part of Saturday to the event and was so pleased to walk into the presence of the Blessed sacrament and the throng of young people in the college's gym. It too me back to the very first Youth 2000 event which I took part in in this country at the end of 1997. A whole new generation is now being led into the Presence, and I felt again that same enthusiasm for the Faith in young people, which I had encountered then.
Thanks to the Youth 2000 organising team; the venue was great - it would be good to have more than one annual event in Leeds.