Thursday 26 September 2013

Priestly expression.

On our final evening in Kevelaer the St John Vianney Fraternity held a torchlight procession through the town to the shrine where we would make an act of reconsecration of ourselves to the Mother of God. The photo above shows us preparing for the procession in the grounds of the basilica.
More than any other aspect of the Society it is public acts, such as this one, which have drawn me to the Society. Each time we meet we hold some simple priestly act, undertaken unself-consciously in public, in which we, as diocesan priests, express our identity.
On  this occasion we processed from the basilica gardens, vested and carrying lighted candles while chanting the Litany of Our Lady, through the town to the shrine where Bishop Guy-Marie led us in re-consecrating our priestly selves to her.
This simple act, which concluded our week of fraternity, wonderfully expressed the depth of our Fraternity and our mission as priests - in making this act we know where we stand in the world, and in that office we stand together.

Monday 23 September 2013

Three witnesses.

During the SJMV summer session in Kevelaer we had two trips to nearby places. The first was to Xanten, the town in which St Norbert was born. It is here in the crypt of the Cathedral (photo above) that the mortal remains of Blessed Karl Leisner are buried. Karl Leisner, then a deacon, was imprisoned in Dachau Concentration Camp, and there in 1944 was secretly ordained priest. He died of TB only a few months after the liberation of the camp in 1945. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1996.

The following day we visited Munster, the See of the bishop Clemens August Graf von Galen, where the Cathedral holds his tomb.
The way in which this courageous bishop preached against the Nazi regime is now famous, and we were able to see the pulpit in the church of St Lambert from which he denounced the crimes of the Nazis. He was beatified in 2005 by Pope John Paul II.
The following day we celebrated the feast of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), Mgr Guy-Marie preaching about her witness.
These three days of our session together produced a most extraordinary resonance in us; to be touched by the example of these three saints who, in their day, resisted the prevailing culture and who lived and died in order to build, with Christ, the real culture. What was so impacting was to have made these visits with this group of priests, who conscious of the falseness of today's prevailing culture, are living in such a way as to help engender anew the real culture, the culture of grace - the Civilisation of love. May the vision of how we are to live today in the face of a prevailing culture which is destructive of human life become the heart of the New Evangelisation of Europe.

Friday 20 September 2013

The SJMV summer session.

This year the summer session of the St John Vianney Society took place in Kevelaer in Germany, last month. Almost a hundred priests and seminarians of the Society came together in this small town just fifteen kilometres from Nijmegen on the German/Holland border. The heart of the town is a shrine to Our Lady; all the the town's roads converge on the main square, where a small octagonal chapel holds the icon of Our Lady of the Afflicted. The shrine has stood here since the 1640s. It was wonderful to be in a place whose beating heart is not a shopping mall or a row of Night Clubs, but a working shrine to the Blessed Mother.
The photo above shows many of the Society's members being introduced to the shrine by a German guide. The photo below shows the act of homage being led by the Bishop emeritus of Belley-Ars, Mgr Guy-Marie Bagnard after our first Mass together in the Basilica.
This year's summer session of the Society was particularly inspiring for me. The last summer session which I took part in was in August 2007. The membership of the Society has grown since then and it was great to meet the recently ordained members and the new seminarian members, and to reconnect personally with the members: this priestly movement at the heart of Europe is well and truly alive and kicking. I'll post again on this encounter.

Thursday 19 September 2013

Pilgrimage for the Sanctity of Life.

This coming Sunday, 22nd September, Bishop John Sherrington, is leading a Pilgrimage at Our Lady's Shrine in Walsingham for the sanctity of life. The pilgrimage begins with Holy Mass at noon at the shrine, followed by packed lunch, Holy Hour, Holy Mile walk, concludes at about 6pm.
Following this, from 25th September till 3rd November, the "40 Days for Life" takes place. This movement to protect mothers and babies is now coordinated worldwide. Nine cities in England now participate, including leeds. The movement has three components; prayer and fasting, vigils, and community outreach. Visit

Friday 13 September 2013

My new mission begins.

Three days ago, on Tuesday, I arrived in my new parish. It is the parish of St Ignatius in Ossett, near Wakefield. Of course, there are boxes everywhere and I greet much of my stuff, as I unpack it, as I would an old friend; it is over five years ago now that I packed all these things away as I prepared to leave for Australia. It is with a certain sense of relief - that I can establish myself again here in England, and also of hope - that the home mission has such strength - that I begin this next stage in my priestly mission.
The photo above shows the interior of the church - a tribute to both the parishioners and the last Parish Priest. Below are photographs of the presbytery and the garden. In due course I hope to post about my mission here as it begins, and after I have settled in a little more.


Tuesday 10 September 2013

Remembered by name.

In my last post I spoke about visiting the site of the execution of the Oaten Hill Martyrs; Catholics who were executed for the Faith on 1st October 1588, just south of the old city walls of Canterbury. I should have remembered these great witnesses by name; they are:
Blessed Robert Wilcox, priest.
Blessed Edward Campion, priest.
Blessed Christopher Buxton, priest.
Blessed Robert Widmerpool, layman.
They offered themselves for the good of the Church in this country at the gallows which, formerly, stood on the site pictured above. The grace of their witness has marked this land for Christ.

Monday 9 September 2013

A week in the life of the New Evangelisation.

Last week I was in Kent giving formation to the new Mission Team of the Vocations Centre in Whitstable. It was the inaugural week for this new team which Fr Stephen Langridge is developing at the Southwark Archdiocese Vocations Centre. The year will be a year of discipleship and mission for the members of the Team. It was a great joy and honour for me to have been with them in their first week. My part in the week was to help them settle in by offering some foundational formation and by endeavouring to nurture their vision of the New Evangelisation. They will be engaged in evangelisation activities throughout the year and we look forward to hearing more about them on the Southwark Vocations Blog.
The above photo shows most of the Team, together with Fr Stephen and Fr Gerry Sheehan, who joined us for an afternoon visit to Canterbury. We visited the church of St Dunstan, where St Thomas More's head was buried by his daughter Meg, and later, the site of the gallows on Oaten Hill, where this photo was taken. Here on this site three priests and one layman were hung, drawn and quartered for their Faith, on 1st October 1588. We  prayed here together for the intercession of these four Blesseds for the mission today.
Another newcomer to the Vocations Centre, one who became an instant focus for the new Team, was the puppy Nemo. He even tried out his baby-teeth on my fingers! I imagine that the next time that I see him he will have forgotten me but will have become another great supporter of the New Evangelisation.

Tuesday 3 September 2013

A Festival of grace.

This photograph is the only one which I took during the Youth 2000 Festival at Walsingham last week - this is a shame since the lowering sky which you see above was, the next day, to give way to lovely August sun. The photograph captures the moment when the procession with the Blessed Sacrament moved from the Shrine to the Youth 2000 main Tent. What the photograph doesn't show are the thousand young people inside the tent waiting to greet the procession as it entered. A further two hundred young people would come to join in the Festival on the following day.
Apart from the years when I was in Australia, I have participated and served this Festival every year since it began in 1999. This year's event was, perhaps, the best that I can remember. At least half of the young participants had never been before, they were manifestly focussed on the Lord's Eucharistic presence in the main Tent, and whole event  took place seamlessly through the agency of the organising Team. Particular thanks are due to that organising Team from the Church in this country, for their time, dedication and skills.
Visit the Youth 2000 website to see details of other events which will be taking place in the country later this year.