Thursday 25 December 2014

A new presence in the Church.

Our long wait is over and there is a new presence of Christ in His Church. 
Christmas greetings to all my readers. This Christmas I was joined by the newly ordained deacon, Lewi Barakat, who is now completing his preparation for the Priesthood in Rome. Deacon Lewi, who is training for the Sydney Archdiocese began his seminary formation in Sydney in the same year that I joined the staff there. It has been a great joy and honour to welcome Deacon Lewi to the parish and to the celebration of this great feast.
Warm greetings to all our Australian colleagues and friends - may our fraternity in Christ's mission bear much fruit.

Friday 19 December 2014

Inspirational staging posts

In speaking about the recent Supreme Court rulling on the Scottish midwives, Bishop Keenan describes them as "inspirational staging posts". These two humble yet courageous women may wonder at this description of themselves.
For my part, I think of this description as similar to John Paul II's words at the World Youth Day Vigil in Toronto 2002, when he called on those young people present to work with God in building, brick by brick, the civilisation of love.
For anyone of us to be called "inspirational staging posts" is today an extraordinary honour. We are called to obey the State, yes. But, if the State is wrong, then we have to tell the State that it is wrong. Today, our society says that our conviction has nothing to do with reality and, to a great extent, we have accepted this judgement of us by society. Society tells us that our view of reality is actually a refuge from reality, and many of us have to some degree probably accepted this trivialisation.
No, Christian faith does not cut us off from reality, but rather it enables us to embrace the reality, dignity and destiny of every person.
Abortion is not a Catholic issue, as our society likes to think of it. Abortion is wrong, not because the Church says that it is wrong, but because abortion corrupts the reality, dignity and destiny of the human person.
There are indeed two visions here, one which is cut off from reality, and the other which refuses to set reality aside. Much of our society has a vision of life which is very far from reality, but there are many in our midst who have not capitulated to this "worn out logic of meanness and fear", and who even now are forerunners for the life and freedom of many.
God bless Connie and Mary.

Thursday 18 December 2014

Reality unveiled.

Bishop John Keenan of Paisley has spoken about the High Court ruling over the two Scottish midwives, who were seeking the protection of law from being involved indirectly with abortions in the hospitals they worked in. The High Court has ruled against them. However, Bishop Keenan's words, the text of which I include in its entirity below, distinguishes with clarity the two cultures which today stand side by side, one is a culture, the other, an anti-culture - he says: "We should be in no doubt that this was a battle between competing proposals of the kind of country we want: a project propping up a culture of death by means of oppressing any legitimate opposition to it or a vision promoting respect for the life and freedom of all peoples." His tremendous words here unveil, as it were, what is real and true in the midst of an inauthentic version of human life which we all daily jostle with. And, in so doing he points to true human culture as the only viable course for us. Indeed, he says, it "is surely only a matter of time" before the anti-culture in which we live will be overturned - as has been the case with every single ideologically led civilisation. Enjoy digesting Bishop Keenan's words.

I read with disappointment and concern the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court judgement against two Scottish midwives, Connie Wood and Mary Doogan, who have today been denied their basic human right to freedom of belief in the course of their employment in the NHS. In short they have lost their jobs because they were pro-life. At the same time the courageous and convincing witness of these two women, ready to take on the might of the establishment no matter what the personal cost, makes me and many others more certain than ever that the final victory of a free and pro-life generation is surely only a matter of time.
Years ago Connie and Mary went into the midwifery profession following a call of the heart to be there for mums giving birth to their children. They devoted themselves to this work faithfully until the NHS management decided to move an abortion provision into their unit and demanded that they made up the abortion rosters. When Connie and Mary made a request to be exempted because of their beliefs they were refused, with the ultimatum that they would be sacked if they did not comply. The NHS management pursued the case all the way to the highest court in the land at the cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money. Mary and Connie had to fund their own legal costs. Today the Supreme Court backed their NHS managers and Connie and Mary lose their jobs even though it would have meant the most minor of adjustments by NHS managers to get other nurses to see to the rosters. So let us be clear right away that this case was not about depriving women of abortion services. It was about forcing nurses who had trained to deliver babies to become involved in medically killing them. We should be in no doubt that this was a battle between competing proposals of the kind of country we want: a project propping up a culture of death by means of oppressing any legitimate opposition to it or a vision promoting respect for the life and freedom of all peoples.
When Pope Francis addressed the European Parliament last month he spoke of a once great Europe that used to have confidence in humanity not so much as citizens but as men and women whom it respected as persons endowed with transcendent dignity. This same Europe, he said, had somehow become old and haggard, less an innovator of a better world and now increasingly aloof, mistrusted and even suspect. He added, ‘What kind of dignity is there without the possibility of freely expressing your thought or professing your religious faith? What dignity can there be without laws to limit the rule of force’ over the freedoms of others.
The decision handed down today, the collaboration of supreme judges and NHS managers, is that of an old and tired establishment that has run out of ideas and vision as to how to bring about a brighter and better future for our people. Having committed itself to supporting a culture of death in the past generation it now sees that to preserve this culture into the next generation it has to become an oppressor of the basic human freedoms of ever increasing numbers of its citizens and all, with ultimate irony, in the name of being pro-choice. It has ended up in an intellectual bankruptcy plain for all to see.
Out of all of this, however, two of the most genuinely unlikely of heroes have emerged. Today Connie and Mary have lost their jobs, their livelihoods and their legal arguments but will have won the respect, good will and admiration of thousands upon thousands of their fellow citizens up and down the land who work and hope for a better world tomorrow, for a society that celebrates heroes who refuse to be silenced as a voice for the voiceless and who will stand up for human life and freedom, whatever it takes, against any reactionary forces peddling their worn out logic of meanness and fear.
As Pope Francis said; “In many quarters we encounter a general impression of weariness and aging, of a Europe no longer fertile and vibrant. . . which once inspired but seems to have lost its attraction, having been replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions. Such an establishment has lost its right to inspire the young.’
Connie and Mary, on the other hand, will, without doubt, some day be seen as pioneers of a fresh start, as inspirational staging posts for a new generation determined that it does not have to be this way.

Wednesday 10 December 2014

First guardian and catechist.

When I first read the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, and learned about St Juan Diego, what most struck me about him was that once the spernatural nature of the image and message of Our Lady was recognsied, Juan Diego dedicated himself to that image and message, becoming as it were, the first guardian and catechist of the new Shrine of Our Lady on Tepeyac Hill. For the rest of his life he lived in a small room behind the new chapel - effectively, in the sacristy - and gave himself to welcoming visitors to the chapel and in speaking about Our Lady to them. He became a catechist of the Mystery of Christ, being an agent of that Mystery in the first shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Yesterday, on his feast day, I asked his prayers for those who will be chosen to be the new guardians of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. Since the Marist Fathers will be departing the shrine soon, it seems to me that the prayers of this humble servant of Our Lady of Guadalupe should be sought. England's Nazareth will soon need new guardians - to welcome pilgrims, to pray with them and to lead them deeper into the Mystery of Christ.
The pattern of St Juan Diego's life after Our Lady appeared to him, is a tremedous model for any shrine's guardians to seek to follow.

Friday 5 December 2014

What does the land say.

Fr Thomas Tunstall was born in the small village of Whinfell, which was in the countryside about four miles north east of Kendal in Cumbria. The village no longer exists and the name 'Whinfell' is now little more than the name of a part of the parish of Kendal. The photo above shows the place of Whinfell, the last village before the Pennine hills of east Cumbria. The land, now as then, is farming land and, where there was once a village, there are now only occasional farmhouses.
This territory was once very Catholic and, during the 1600s, through sequestration of lands and heavy fines, the Catholics were diminished and livelihoods changed hands. Even so, this location feels like a place of grace, a place which welcomes and is nurtured by the Gospel. The religion of this State is not Catholic, but the religion of the land is.
Not far away, a little nearer to Kendal, one of those Catholic houses still stands. This region underwent huge challenges in the 1600s, yet the house and chapel at Dodding Green are still there, testimony to the originl religion of the land.
Three hundred years ago this territory was littered with such homes, homes which welcomed the priest and the Holy Eucharist. All it takes is for us to scratch the surface a little and there we find beauty and the desire to be Catholic.
It is good to remember, not just the martyr, Blessed Thomas Tunstall, but also the many families who payed a heavy price in order to remain Catholic. The land, at least, still honours their witness.

Thursday 20 November 2014

A glorious Norwich story.

Within the frame of the Stonyhurst picture of Blessed Thomas Tunstall is a sliding panel on which is written a short piece about the martyr. Sadly, this writing is not dated yet it must have been written after 1706 (a date mentioned in the text), and before 1828 (the year in which the painting came to Stonyhurst).
The text tells how Fr Tunstall was held for four of five years in Wisbech Castle, and after his condemnation was held in Norwich Castle (not the old city Gaol, which I had previously indicated). And that at his execution he showed more than natural courage, and prayed for his accusor and thanked him for being instrumental in his death.
After his execution his quarters were displayed at various parts of the city. These were later taken down by Catholics in the city and kept there until 1706, when they were given to a Benedictine who placed them in an altar at Bath.
These few details about a young priest, originally from Whinfell, just north of Kendal in Westmorland, who gave his life freely for Christ just outside the Magdalene Gate of the city of Norwich, where Magpie Road meets Bull Close Road, reveal an extraordinary character and a saint, who has marked this country and the city of Norwich by his commitment to the Mystery of Christ. This is a glorious story, and the more we uncover about the lives of these Blesseds, the more we too can honour Christ and by changed by His presence.
There really should be a memorial to Fr Thomas Tunstall at the Maudlin Gate. This isn't a story to be kept in the dark or in secret. It is full of virtue and of light.
Grateful thanks to Stonyhurst College for the image and permission to reproduce it here.

Monday 17 November 2014

A curious Norwich story.

Earlier in the year I came across an old journal which had a reprint of a story which had originally been printed in 1736. The story was written by a Frederick Higbane who, in 1736, had visited Norwich from London, and had encountered a 'ghost' of the priest martyr Thomas Tunstall. Thomas Tunstall was martyred at Norwich, just outside the Magdalene Gate, in 1616 and was beatified by Puis XI in 1929.
Frederick Higbane's story is indeed curious. He was staying at an Inn (which he doesn't name) on Maudlin (Magdalene) Street, Norwich, and was struck by a portarit of a man which was hanging in his room. He didn't know who this man was. The following day, in the evening, he was near one of the old gates which lead through to the Cathedral domaign and noticed a shadowy figure who seemed to be beckoning to him. He drew near and, to his shock, saw that this figure was a man who had a terrbly bloated face, a rope around his neck and a knife sticking in his chest. The figure spoke no words and, as Mr Higbane withdrew, the figure vanished. 
When he returned to his room at the Inn he immediately recognised the image that was hanging on the wall as the man that he had just encountered. He enquired in the inn if there was a Catholic priest in Norwich. He was directed to a priest who told him about the martyr, Fr THomas Tunstall, and where the martyr had been executed. Now, Stonyhurst College in Lancashire holds an old painting of Fr Thomas Tunstall which, unlike most paintings of the English martyrs that show them robed, presents this priest in just his shirt - as he would have been at the execution.
I don't know if this painting is the same one which was hanging in 1736 in a guest room in an inn on Maudlin Street, but, as far as I know, there are no other images of this martyr. Stonyhurst acquired this image in 1828 and, I acknowledge, with grateful thanks, the photograph of the painting which I include in this post.
The image is small; approximately 5 inches by 4 inches and is enclosed by a wooden frame. The abundant black hair and the mustache, together with the shirt, indicate a contemporary, if not eye-witness of the Martyr, at the moment of his execution.
The appearance of a ghost of the martyr in 1736 is curious since Fr Tunstall is amongst the Blessed. Perhaps Frederick Higbane's story has more to do with his own state of soul. 
But let us also remember that "the saintliness of his demeanor on the scaffold produced a profound impression on the people." (Catholic Encyclopedia) Blessed Thomas Tunstall was living for Christ and gave his life as a witness to the saving Mystery of Jesus Christ. His self-offering stands forever before the Throne of grace - something that can be relied upon because it has opened up the Mercy of God; yes, to the people of Norwich, and to all of us.

Monday 10 November 2014

Returning to the the great corpus.

The recent Synod in Rome has kept inspiring me to revisit the extraordinary teaching about the family, given by Pope John Paul II in 1981, Familiaris Consortio and, in searching for my copy of that text, my hand lighted upon another Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in Europa. This was the last of the five continental Letters which John Paul II wrote; The Church in Europe was promulgated in 2003 and, since this was the text which my hand first took from my book cabinet, I decided that I would re-read this Letter first.
A great gift of understanding and of counsel was given to this Pope and, as I take up this Letter anew - the first re-reading of a 'Wojtylan' text since he was declared a saint, I can now ask for his intercession as I read, asking him to guide my heart and my mind as I enter into this Letter again.
I remember reading this Letter ten years ago and being struck by the clarity and courage with which he wrote it. I ask now that his clarity and courage will enter into me as I seek to respond to the very circumstances about which he wrote. 
I would like, in due course, to re-read all Pope John Paul's Letters and, this time, to rely on his heavenly patronage as I read.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Prophecy in our time.

My first awareness of a Holy Father was in January 1964 when my mother bought a copy of the magazine Paris Match for its coverage of Paul VI's visit to the Holy Land. I still remember being introduced to black and white photographs in which the Pope was present at a place where Christ had once been.
Now that Paul VI is numbered amongst the blessed we should remember his greatness. He who had so many critics and not enough brothers was a great prophet of our age.
Two prophetic teachings stand out:
First, in his great Encyclical Letter of 1968, Humanae Vitae, he gave what is arguably the greatest account ever written about the nature of married love. Without this vision of truth the contraceptive mentality might have completely submerged married love. But his prophetic teaching has kept the door open.
Secondly, in his 1975 Apostolic Letter, Evangelii Nuntiandi, he proclaimed the need for a new evangelisation. And the thing is, at that time, I think that he was the only person who saw it. Without that proclamation, much of the Church might have become utterly Pelagian. Because of his prophetic vision of 1975 he enabled a great grace for many.
When all is said and done, the 1960s and 1970s is more about Pope Paul VI than anyone else. The BBC may not recognise this, but many will.

Monday 27 October 2014

One of the great Company.

Blessed Thomas Tunstall from the Lake District, a Douay priest, ordained in 1610 was executed at Norwich on 13th July 1616. Earlier this year I went to pray at the site of his execution.
The photo above shows "The Library" - now a restaurant - just behind the Guildhall, which is the site of the old City Gaol. It would have been here that Fr Tunstall was held, after his arrest in King's Lynn, while awaiting execution. He had already spent four or five of his six years of priesthood in one or another gaol in England.
Norwich, like York, was a place of frequent execution over the centuries. But, whereas Norwich Castle, or its ditches, were a usual place for criminals to be executed, a special gallows was set up for the execution of Fr Tunstall. This was just outside the Magdalene Gate on the north side of the old city.
If you walk up Maudlin (or Magdalene) Street you come to a cross-roads just outside the old city walls. It was here, on this open space that Fr Thomas Tunstall was hung, drawn and quartered.
A part of the old city walls is still visible, but there is no memorial for this Blessed, who stands forever before the Throne, and before Norwich, pointing to the Mystery of Christ.
The Grid reference of the site is TG232096. There should be some commemoration of him here.
Blessed Thomas Tunstall, be a light for us today, and especially be a strength to your brother priests who are still on the mission.

Thursday 23 October 2014

Hearty smoke.

For all you paella fans out there; leave aside the gas hob and light yourself a woodfire. The difference between a paella cooked on gas and a paella cooked on an open woodfire is massive. The insipid gas tends to create hot spots, on which the rice sticks. The woodfire gives a fuller but even heat, which together with the smoke, makes the paella rich, unctious and life-enhancing. Unless prevented, all my paellas will be cooked on an open woodfire from now. This is one of the greatest dishes ever. Viva la paella Valenciana!

Monday 20 October 2014

Set in relief.

I have been following some of the media coverage of the Synod about the Family, as well as the occasional presentation by the Synod itself. I have been quite alarmed by the way in which the media, for instance the BBC, has referred to the Synod, showing how far detached from reality both the secular world and its media are.
The BBC recently said that it was "dissappointed" in the "vote" taken by the Synod Father's about the nature of the family. Fifty years ago, and even twenty-five years ago, the "world" would have been very glad that the Catholic Church was discussing the Family. But today's response to the Synod shows that the secular world, and its unhinged media, has really lost its points of reference, and its way-markers. The way in which the media has spoken about the Synod shows how idealogically led it is. Individualism, relativism and agnosticism, the form of this vaccuus ideology, are creating the basis for quite an unpleasant future.
The Synod of Bishops looks at reality; the secular media looks to idealogy. In fact, so much so is this the case, that I think that the secular media is the measuring stick for our culture today. If you want to see how far from reality our culture is, then just listen to the media.
Of course, all this is quite alarming, because an ideology-led society can do some very unpleasant things. We have some awful examples from the recent past. Today, it seems, the pre-born are taking the brunt of the fall-out.
However, the Church stands in reality, and Christ said that no evil would overcome it. We do not rely on ourselves, but on Him who governs all things.

Saturday 4 October 2014

Such a great guide.

With great sadness I learn of the death of Fr Benedict Groeschel CFR; he died at 11pm on 3rd October, the eve of the feast of the founder of the Franciscan friars. May the Lord give him a special place in His Kingdom.
I first met him in Henley-on-Thames in December 1998 and was immediately struck by his integrity and his witness. I have met him on many occasions since then. He once gave me the best spiritual direction that I have ever received from another human being - that was in Leeds.
This humble friar had one of the best minds that I ever knew; he must have had a photographic memory for he could draw precise quotes from a huge range of texts, and draw out from them their meaning.
As a leader in the Christian life, he is one of the towering figures of the 20th century, particulary in the way that he guided many through the chaos of the past few decades. I will remember him very fondly for the rest of my life, especially as I regularly listen to his recorded talks. I will miss him. While I was in Sydney I had hoped to make another priest's retreat under his direction, but by the time I had returned to the UK he was no longer strong enough to give retreats. I am immensely grateful to him for all he did for us priests of the new evangelisation.
The friars of his community - the Friars of the Renewal - will be saddened at his passing, but he has given them a very good foundation.
I remember him saying, that as he was from New Jersey, going to Purgatory would be a "big step up". In fact, he said, "I'm looking forward to Purgatory!" Well, he has the prayers of many to support him in this last journey. And may he, who humbled himself before the Cross of Christ each day, be now transformed by Mercy.

Friday 26 September 2014

Grateful thanks.

For just three years Cardinal Mauro Piacenza was the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy. During that time his leadership of the priests of the Church was wonderful. The way he spoke to priests, and the way he spoke about the priesthood was a great grace. He placed the identity and mission of the priest firmly in the priest's sacramental conformation to the Priest, Jesus Christ. The rather secular and soulless notions about priests being aligned with a function or with a socio-political role in the Church or in the world he set aside and, taking up the great movement, which is the New Evangelisation, Cardinal Piacenza has, in such a short time, given priests a whole vision for the renewal of our lives and mission. Cardinal Piacenza, along with all Curial Office-holders stepped down from his post when Bendict XVI retired as Pope. His last work was to give us a new edition of the 1994 Directory on the Life and Ministry of Priests. This new edition of the Directory is an inspiring and grace-filled document to guide priests in this new era. In the St John Vianney Fraternity we are presently making our way through this document, and I, for one, am extremely grateful to Cardinal Piacenza for all that he has done for the Priesthood.

Monday 15 September 2014

The beauty of the Priesthood.

Celebrating the Mass on the site of the original Holy House of Walsingham is a great grace. To see the lawn, where once the nave and chancel of the Priory church stood, thronged with a great crowd of young people was a moment fo great joy in the Church. Bishop Mark Davies celebrated the Mass - the joy on his face was evident, and the delight of the company of priests who concelebrated with him is something that I will remember always.
When priests come together there is a coming together and strengthening of the priestly charism. I am personally honoured that my presbytery is a house which is frequented by priests, but taking part in the mission of the Church in such an event as the Youth 2000 Festival at Walsingham, is such a wonderful confirming of the identity and dignity of the priest That the priest facilitates the action of the Holy Spirit through the gift of self. At Walsingham on this day there was no hint that any of us priests had a managerial, administrative or functional role. No, the Church was alive in Christ, and we were enabling that life through our sharing in the Priesthood of Jesus.

Thursday 11 September 2014

The beauty of God's plan.

For the first time at the Youth 2000 Prayer Festival, one of the Masses was celebrated in the ancient Priory grounds. Twelve hundred young people walked the Holy Mile singing songs of praise to the Holy Trinity and in honour of Our Blessed Lady. This was the high point of the Festival this year; the Church on the move is a something that is both visible and attractive.
The column of young people just kept coming from the Festival site by the Slipper Chapel, following the ancient pilgrim route, some of them barefoot, as they approached the 'Holy Land of Walsingham'. The enthusiasm was tangible.
As the young pilgrims passed through the old Priory gatehouse on the High Street, to the open lawns where the original Holy House had stood, and where now an altar had been set up for this Mass, I could suddenly see how Our Lady Herself is writing the history of the New Evangelisation of this country, through these striking events at Her Shrine in Norfolk. In drawing these young people to Her simple Shrine at Walsingham, She is drawing them to Her Son, in whose gentle, but life-giving presence, we are formed into the Church.

Saturday 6 September 2014

The beauty of conversion.

At The Youth 2000 Prayer Festival in late August in Walsingham, about 1200 young people from across the country came together and spent for and a half days in the close company of the Blessed Eucharist enthroned in their midst. 
This year's Festival marked the 25th anniversary of the founding of Youth 2000. This movement, founded in England, but represented now in many countries, has held a summer Prayer Festival for young people in England since the early 1990s. In August 1999 they first set up the Festival next to the Slipper Chapel at Walsingham, and for fifteen years now they have drawn an enormous crowd of young people to engage in time of joyful encounter and growth, awakenng them to the person of Jesus and to the new life of grace which he gives. Lives are changed, light is received, purpose is engendered and vocations are born.
For the priests who come to serve the Festival it is a time of great joy as we see young people drawing life from the Saviour and becoming established in His Church. Youth 2000 was born from World Youth Day in 1989, which that year took place in Santiago de Compostella, and mirrors those prophetic events: Christ at the centre surrounded by a community of disciples. The building up of the Church in this country lies at the heart of the mission of Youth 2000. The whole event takes place under the care of Our Lady of Walsingham, to whom we entrust the Christian formation of this generation.
And of course, when you are camping out in the open fields of Norfolk there is always space for a paella!

Saturday 30 August 2014

A living fraternity.

At the beginning of August I was in Ars for nine days, taking part in the Summer Session of the Society of St John Vianney. This session incorporates the feast of the saint, when hundreds of priests come and join us for the solemn Mass on 4th August. The photo above shows some of us after the Mass.
The theme of our reflections this year was priestly fraternity; bringing to the fore this essential dimension of the priesthood and enabling it to be lived within the Diocesan priesthood. What a tremendous grace this Society is!
However, the Society of St John Vianney does not see priestly fraternity in the sense of a caste or privilaged status, but rather, it is the humility and weakness of the priest which is the source of our brotherhood, set in relief by the sacrament of Ordination.
When you look at St John Vianney, you know what the priesthood is. He doesn't lead to a particular priestly spirituality, and for this reason he is the model for all priests. St John Vianney was all for Christ, and so claiming him as the model is actually opening ourselves to a universal model. St John Vianney is the answer to all the critics of the priesthood over the past fifty years.
It is the missionary witness of this Society which first attracted me and drew me to become a member, for it witnesses not so much to the man who is a priest, but to the reality of priesthood itself.
Our days in Ars were divided up between celebrations, trips out and time spent together with the Lord, and in reflection. One day we even went rowing on the River Saone at Lyons. It is a mighty river and I was surprised that no one fell in. I took this photo of the river before we embarked; boats and cameras don't mix well!

Sunday 27 July 2014

Defence of the realm.

When will England be open to God's plan?
Defending itself against the truth has been been its predominant attitude for almost five hundred years. So long that you almost want to fall in line. From women bishops to guarding cyclamen against slugs, it is as though we must see ourselves, in this island, as competent in all fields, including most importantly, overriding the beauty of God's plan.
Wearing herself out across the past five centuries, and yet God's plan still shines with beauty.

Friday 11 July 2014

Set in relief.

The New Evangelisation sets the Christian life in relief; this is becoming clear as this new era in salvation history gets underway. I became very conscious of this during Eastertide as we read the Acts of the Apostles during the Liturgy. The movement of the New Evangelisation is causing the Scriptures, the Seasons and the feasts, indeed, the Christian life itself to be set in relief.
Today's feast of St Benedict, the towering Patron of Europe, is an example of this. Monasticism, seen in the light of the identity of the Church today, was and is a gift to the Universl Church, an enabling of its mission.
Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium 262, describes "spirit-filled evangelisers" as those who "pray and work". The ora et labora of a past, golden age of evangelisation is newly seen today as the kernel of the New Evangelisation as its actually is. In the future we will look back and see the truth of the Holy Father's contemporary description of the New Evangelisation. That unity of prayer and activity, rather than mere talk (or blogging), seen again, through the prism of the New Evangeisation for its tremendous value. A Church which is unself-consciously engaged in prayer and work is a Church which will mark this age that we are living in, not through any desire to achieve self-importance, but through the transformation which grace alone acheives.
St Benedict, lead us to live under God.

Sunday 6 July 2014

Paella above Hartlington.

Just in case you were wondering what cooking a paella on the hillside above Hartlington looked like.

Thursday 3 July 2014

The other vision of reality.

Campion College Australia, where I worked for two years as its first full-time Chaplain has, this year, recorded its largest intake of new students. Forty one first year students brings the student roll to one hundred.
I applaud the College in its work; it was such an extraordinary privilege for me to have been asked to be its Chaplain. The new students, at the start of the year, were introduced to the vision of the College which is founded upon two great Englishmen: Edmund Campion and Christopher Dawson. I wonder how many people today in England would have heard of either of them.
Edmund Campion is the pearl of the English Renaissance. He lived in the 1500s, became a Jesuit priest and is now a Saint. He, better than anyone in his day, enunciated the call to live the Christian life. He was executed at Tyburn, London, on 1st December 1581.
Christopher Dawson, a Yorkshireman (1889-1970), enunciated the same vision, probably better than anyone else, in the 1950s and 1960s. While British and Western culture was going headlong into an empirical-scientific and technological vision for understanding reality, he presented anew that vision of life which is based upon Salvation History.
Salvation History is today disregarded in a peculiarly irrational way, in favour of rationalistic hypotheses about reality. However, not everyone has gone over to looking at the world according to the modern pseudo-rationalistic fashion. Although Campion College is small, its endeavour is genuine and many will, one day, come to reap the benefits of the genuine vision of human life which is being nurtured and explored by the College and its students.
When we see the difference between the two visions of reality; one perportedly scientific, the other attuned to grace, we begin to see the dire state that the Western World is in and, at the same time, the tremendous light that is being mediated by colleges such as Campion College.
I have read some of Dawson's works and I want to read more. His works are tremendously important for our age, and we should not let them be forgotten. The other day I parked up on the hillside behind Hartlington in order to make a paella, and fondly remembered him and his endeavours - which are to enable modern people to see the world as a gift from God, and its renewal through the saving work of Jesus Christ, and to take part in that great endeavour.  

Monday 30 June 2014

Lying with a saint.

What a tremendous mystery is the Priesthood; to lie in prostration alongside the relics of a priest-saint, awaiting the imposition of hands!
Congratulations to the three men who were ordained on Saturday, the feast of St John Southworth, at Westminster. The relics of this holy martyr priest had been brought into the centre of the Cathedral for the ordination ceremony, and the Cardinal, in his sermon, linked the ordination to the priesthood of this saint. The more we draw on our martyrs, the more we are marked by the Mystery of Christ.
It was a particular joy for me to see one of the former Youth 2000 Mission Team members being clothed with the Priesthood of Jesus Christ.

Thursday 26 June 2014

A celebration of Priesthood.

Last week I took part in the Silver Jubilee celebration of Fr Stephen Langridge, the Vocations Director of the Southwark Diocese. It was a tremendous celebration of the Priesthood; a sung Mass with a great homily by Fr Alexander Sherbrooke.
Following the Mass there was a Hog Roast, outside The Vocations Centre, for the crowd of participants in the celebration.
Celebrations of the Priesthood are not that common but are very important in the Church. Not only do they mark a priest's service, but they honour God's plan for the life of the Church.
Congratulations to Fr Stephen on his 25th Anniversary!

Wednesday 25 June 2014


Congratulations to my 100,000th visitor, whoever you are. You should receive a New Evangelisation medal!

Monday 23 June 2014

A House of witnesses.

Another site in the village of Chideock which should not be overlooked in Chideock House on the High Street. This house, now a B&B, is the place where the trail of Fr John Cornelius, Thomas Bosgrave, John Carey and Patrick Salmon took place. They gave their witness to Christ in this building before being taken to the gaol in Dorchester, and from there to the gallows.
The pub on the other side of the road is also worth a visit!

Thursday 19 June 2014

A household of faith

No pilgrimage to the gallows site in Dorchester is complete without also visiting the Dorset village of Chideock. Here, the Arundell family kept the Faith through the darkest part of the Penal days. The Arundell family of Cornwall became the ownners of Chideock Castle in 1479. They remained Catholic as the sixteenth century progressed. In the late 1500s Sir John Arundell was imprisoned various times for recusancy and for nurturing a household of Faith in his castle. All the martyrs who were executed at Dorchester had been a part of this centre of formation and evangelisation. The castle was destoyed folowing the Civil War. 
In 1786 the Weld family of Lulworth, also Catholics, bought the Chideock estate and, in 1872, a new Church, honouring Our Lady and the martyrs was opened just north of the village.
This exquisite church is now a beautiful place of pilgrimage, its interior adorned with images of the martyrs of both Dorset and beyond.
The site of the castle, about half a mile from this Church, and entered via Ruins Lane, is now just an open field overlookiing the village. In the 1950s a cross was erected in the centre of the castle site to honour all those who were nurtured in this former household of faith.
The course of the original moat can still be clearly picked out, but there is not one stone standing on another. It is now a very partoral scene with the field given over to ewes with their lambs. However, the site is a wonderful place to pray the Rosary and to ask for the new evangelisation of this island. With such a great cloud of witnesses as our forbears, let our endeavours not fall silent.


Tuesday 17 June 2014

An everyday matter.

Passing along the South Walk in Dorchester one sees a group of figures whose presence and demeanour do not catch one's attention until one draws near. Suddenly the figures, which seems like a group of friends in conversation stand out from the other people on the pavement.
In fact, these are stautues cast in metal. They are set on the site of the former Gallows, which, four hundred years ago would have stood just outside the old town walls of Dorcehester. They represent the Catholic Martyrs of Dorset, six of whom were executed at this site. The statues depict two people who are facing death, and although lacking a certain comeliness, could in fact, stand for any casual group of people. Therein lies the significance, to my mind, of this memorial. For the people who were executed here for Christ, were ordinary people. What distinguishes them is that they gave public witness to the Mystery of Christ before the people of Dorchester, of Dorset, and of the whole country. This memorial is quite extraordinary, given the culture and attitude of this country today. Its human dimension together with its very public, yet urbane nature, places these martyrs right at the centre of our life and our culture. Before any religious distinctions can cloud the reality, and before any polemic can take away from the directness of their example, six men, gave public witness, before all the authorities and before all the people, to the reality of the saving Mystery of Jesus Christ. What an extraordinary sign for any town in our country to be marked with.
Blessed Thomas Pilchard, priest, hung, drawn and quartered here 21st March 1587.
Blessed William, Pike, layman, hung, drawn and quartered here in 1591.
Blessed John Cornelius, Jesuit priest, hung, drawn and quartered here 4th July 1594.
Thomas Bosgrave, layman, executed here 4th July 1594.
John Carey, layman, executed here 4th July 1594.
Patrick Salmon, layman, executed here 4th July 1594.
Hugh Green, priest, hung, drawn and quartered here 19th August 1642.
Martyrs of Dorchester, pray for us, that the witness we give may also give life to many.
The memorial stands at the south end of a road called Icen Way. This road begins at the High Street where, in former times, the gaol stood.
I took the above photo from the High Street looking down Icen Way, the lane down which the martyrs would have been dragged. The site of the gaol is now a take-away. Much of the town of Dorchester was burned down in the 1700s and therefore very few of its mediaeval buildings remain. It was in this gaol that the martyrs were held before their execution.


Sunday 15 June 2014

A centenary approaches.

On 28th July we will observe the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. I hope that it will be a moment when the whole world will stop again and recognise the terrible destruction that this war caused and the incalculable sacrifice which was made by so many. We should never let a single year go by without observing Remembrance Day, and more importantly, without holding up this moment of our history before the Throne of Grace.
The vaunting hopes of that age of technology, science and rationalism came to a unexpected and sudden end in the Battle of Verdun. A century of human advances, hoping for a future in which we would establish firmly the dominance of human reason and resourcefulness over shreds of all the previous attempts to build human civilisation. Such a vast hope was contained with the 1800s and so few saw its weakness - the stone rejected by the builders ... 
The tale of Nineteenth Century atheism should be told again in our day, and the way in which Christian Europe dropped the ball; yet the way in which grace was never withdrawn. This is the most important lesson that we can learn one hundrfed years on, especially at a time when our culture is turning is gaze away from the Divine Initiative and is again regarding confidently the possibilities of human resourcefulness 'set free'.
Apologies for my absence; it was not intended. A holiday, a busy time in the parish and dose of flu are bound to upset regular posting. I do intend to maintain this Blog and will do my best to keep it up.

Tuesday 29 April 2014

Roaring like a lion.

Yesterday evening I went with a group of young people to see the film "God's not dead". I really enjoyed this new Christian film. Yes, it is quite American and somewhat implausible in parts. For instance, it is hard to imagine a first-year university student being able to have such a command of the contemporary debate about science and faith in the way that the film portrays. Yet, it was very refreshing to see faith in Jesus Christ so explicitly referenced on the big screen, and to hear grace being referenced in ordinary conversation. We long to hear people speak about grace and the work of God in normal life, yet it hardly ever happens, in my experience. Instead, we confine ourselves to more hollow subjects.
I also applaud the film for the way in which it "took the lid off" the reality of the Christian presence in our society, a presence which, today, tends go unspoken and unexpressed. In spite of this, the whole of life is lived at the interface of grace, and this film went some way to show this and, hopefully, to inspire a more normal public expression of faith in Jesus Christ.
What is of particular note in the film is the way in which masculinity is portrayed. In our era, in which there is a crisis of masculinity, "God's not dead" really does set masculinity in relief. The main character in the film, the young man, played by Shane Harper, expresses the basic identity of masculinity: leadership, service, strength of character and, above all, responsibility for the Gospel. Responsibility for the Gospel is the foundational task which all men have, a role which goes to the heart of today's crisis and one which the film nurtures and expresses quite well.
Christian films are few and far between; this film is a worthy addition and, I think, has been made with both self-confidence and the Gospel as its blueprint. "God's not dead … He's roaring like a lion!" I hope that we will get more and better Christian films as our era progresses.

Saturday 19 April 2014

The whole world is waiting.

The whole world is waiting to celebrate the victory of Jesus Christ. There is a strange expectancy in the Church. After the long Lenten fast and the impacting events of Holy Week, I wonder if we don't all feel as did the first Apostles in the Upper Room, or the souls who had waited for so long in the place of death.
Yet today there is a new ingredient in our pause before Easter; today the Novena seeking the intercession of Blessed John Paul II begins. This Novena will end the day that he is made a saint - 27th April.
Amongst the many needs that we can place before him are surely the ending of contraceptive mentality and practice, and the ending of abortion; these two have brought our civilisation to its knees. The power of this great advocate of grace when he was among us, tells us how powerful must be his prayers now that he is in his Father's House.
I have placed the Novena prayers on my parish website:

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Post mission rewind.

Although this photo was taken last year at the shrine of St Thomas More in St Dunstan's church, Canterbury, and shows the Southwark Mission Team (including a couple of others) at the very start of their life together, I am still reeling from the impact of their missionary endeavour in my parish these last nine days.
I am extremely grateful to Fr Stephen, and to Michael, Anthony, Will, John and Tony for the considerable work that they undertook in giving a parish mission in Ossett and Horbury. The mission was entitled, "Heart speaks to heart, an introduction to living Christianity today". They achieved that very purpose, leading the parish through the basics of the Christian life, bringing people together to live that very vision, and bringing both newcomers and those who have not been a part of this life for some time, to practice the faith with a new openness.
I was sorry to see them leave on Palm Sunday as I would have liked them to stay and consolidate their work for at least another two months! This is a mission which will not be forgotten for many years to come, as a new foundation stone has been given to this parish. It was fashioned for us by the Lord and worked by these men. Pray the Lord of the harvest that he would send workers into his fields … The Southwark Mission Team have been fashioned by prayer and faith-filled hope. May they all go from strength to strength.

Saturday 5 April 2014

Awaiting a mission.

Later today, Fr Stephen Langridge and the members of The Vocations Centre mission team will arrive in St Ignatius' parish, Ossett. Here in the parish we have been looking forward to, and preparing for, this parish mission which they will lead. The mission, which we have called Heart speaks to heart, lasts for eight days during which time we hope that there will be an opportunity both for those of there household of faith, and those not already of this household, but who are attracted by the mission events, to have some contact with this team.
The mission team will be leading events each day in the parish, and you can find fuller details on my parish website:
Acknowledgements to The Vocations Centre for the above photo, which shows some of the team preparing a car for the journey from Kent to Yorkshire.

Friday 4 April 2014

The Pearl of York.

It was a great joy, last Saturday, to take part in the annual St Margaret Clitherow Pilgrimage in York. In the photo above the procession is just setting off from St Wilfred's to move through the city.
Fr Richard Duffield preached a great sermon during the Mass, speaking of how she died to protect people such as ourselves, and that, although we come on pilgrimage to honour her, we come firstly to seek her prayers.
We stopped briefly to pray outside her shrine in The Shambles before moving on to the site of her execution on the Ouse Bridge.
This year's pilgrimage was marked by the welcome we received by the Oratorian Fathers who now run the city parish of St Wilfred's; may their life and apostolate be a beneficiary of the powerful intercession of the Pearl of York.

Thursday 27 March 2014

Soldier to Saint.

Yesterday evening I went to see the Leeds performance of Rise Theatre's production of Soldier to Saint. The play is set in 2020 and is based upon what we know of the life of St Alban. Alban was martyred in the year 140 just outside the Roman town of Verulamium for sheltering a priest.
The Rise Theatre production captured the very heart of the drama in which St Alban was entangled: loyalty to Christ in the face of the prevailing culture. The Rise Theatre group portrayed this drama without any dumming down, and showed the human context within which the Christian personality is formed and established. It was a tremendous portrayal by this company of three.
If you are able to see any of their performances in other cities in the land I warmly recommend this play and this performing company to you. As someone who comes from St Albans, I was very pleased to see, for the first time, a dramatisation of the life of this saint, our protomartyr. For more info. visit