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.