28 March 2009


God, the Father of mercies
through the death and resurrection of his Son
has reconciled the world to himself
and sent the Holy Spirit among us
for the forgiveness of sins;
through the ministry of the Church
may God give you pardon and peace,
and I absolve you from your sins
in the name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

This week, I am preaching about the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We have children making their first confession on Sunday and we have a service of penance on Thursday. It is, therefore, all the rage, this week, here in Wolverhampton. I am sure this is not confined to the wonderful city of Wolverhampton alone, as, around the world, parishes are making the sacrament available for all.

I am not going to bore you with my planned homily, save to say that I am encouraging people to think about going for this sacramental encounter with God, the Father of mercies. I wonder, though, why is confession such a little-used sacrament these days? Why is it that priests are not being inundated with penitents? The singular thing which seems to impact on most new young priests, or at least those who I have talked to, is the humbling experience of hearing people's confession. Why is that? Is it, perhaps, because even priests are not enthused about the sacrament? Of course it is not - or at least I hope it is not. I'm sure that it is simply because it is the grace reflected on the priest which is, in turn, pouring out onto the penitent. If you have an opinion, do, please, chip in.

One thing is for sure, it's one of the sacraments that I am most looking forward to celebrating with people. What wonder, that another person will trust you enough to share the most intimate concerns of their life! I just cannot wait.

I do think, however, that since people have grown out of going to confession (I still tend to use the old titles) they tend to be fearful of what to say. I would love to see churches having the necessary words available, easily accessible for all, and then I'm sure more people would attend. Perhaps, if I may be cheeky, priests might make themselves more available, too. Why don't we start a campaign encouraging everyone to ask the priest to hear their confession at a time which suits? Oh, hang on. This may not be a good thing. I don't want to be busy! Seriously, I hope, and I pray, that I may always be attentive to the people I serve, and that I may make myself available to hear people's confessions at all times.

St John Marie Vianney, Pray for Me.

27 March 2009

Pope Class Travel

Thanks to AmericanPapist for this photo! Think I will be asking for Pope Class next time I travel Ryanair.

26 March 2009

Missionaries of Charity

Pray for the Missionaries of Charity who have elected their superior-general in Calcutta. Read more about about Sister Mary Prema, the German who has succeeded Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta in this most excellent of orders.

We have some missionaries based here in Birmingham and it is always a blessing to have their presence at the seminary. Please pray also for Deacon Paul Leonard, who I know works with them in their ministry. He is always grateful for an extra prayer, or two, I'm sure.

Africans don't need condoms

This was the headline on zenit.org, today, in response to comments made by Rose Busingye, who directs Meeting Point Kampala, a center in Kampala for those suffering from AIDS, and cares for about 4,000 people a day. Coming on the back of my post yesterday, it adds more weight to those who actually work in the field vehemently supporting Pope Benedict.

It is important that we remember to pray for those who affected by AIDS/HIV.

25 March 2009

The Pope, AIDS and Condoms

Like many, I was rather saddened that the whole condom debate, and media furore, which rather overshadowed HH Pope Benedict's trip to Africa. I have been mulling over the issues, comments and reports and just today came across this wonderful piece by Michael Czerny SJ. I'm particularly impressed that he writes out of personal experience as well as offering insightful views of those actually affected in sub-Saharan Africa. Not, like me, those with Western views and experience of the issues involved. He concludes:

The Holy Father concludes by answering again the journalist’s allegation of ‘unrealistic and ineffective?’: ‘It seems to me that this is the proper response, and the Church does this, thereby offering an enormous and important contribution. We thank all who do so.’

According to my experience, most Africans, Catholic or not, agree. To them, what the Holy Father said is profound and true. He is reiterating what they have been experiencing for years and what they continue to expect. They too thank those who implement the Church’s strategy.

Even if we don't accept his experience and knowledge of the subject, then we can listen to the voice of the Kenyan Bishops, who said, in 2006:
Even if HIV did not make pre-marital sex, fornication, adultery, abuse of minors and rape so terribly dangerous, they would still be wrong and always have been. It is not the risk of HIV or the sufferings of AIDS, which make sexual licence immoral; these are violations of the Sixth and Ninth Commandments which are sinful, and today in Kenya surely the worst of their many destructive consequences is HIV and AIDS. The Church does not teach a different sexual morality, when or where AIDS poses no danger. But this teaching is not easy for ‘the world’ including the media to understand, much less accept.
Excellent reading. Highly recommended.

Michael Czerny SJ is Director of the African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN)


Just love this interpretation of the Annunciation by Collier. I came across it on Fr Dwight's blog, here.

I was, particularly, struck by the modern interpretation of the classic scene. It is, evidently, a version of Fra Angelico's wonderful Annunciation with the door column seeming to replace the terrace column of the original. Also, theologically interesting, at least, is the eye line of the Virgin and the Angel. Notice that whilst the angel is quite clearly 'larger', in so much as Mary is but yet a child in many ways, because of the mat, and the position in the picture, she is above the angel in the hierarchy of being. Gabriel lowers himself in respect for whom he addresses, even though he brings the message of Almighty God, the very question upon which all creation awaits an answer. The whole of creation groaning in a new rebirth.
I also love the masculinity of Gabriel in this interpretation. He is evidently male and yet could be described as asexual, given the hairstyle, the wings and especially the dress. In her blue schoolgirl dress, Mary is quite feminine, and yet clearly innocent, too. When you compare the two characters Gabriel's masulinity seems, to me, to be just right.
Also, note that the house in the background looks very similar to that of Mary's home, suggesting, to me at least, that Mary is very human, just like you and I. She, who was to become the Mother of God, could so easily have had another life, or indeed God might have chosen someone else entirely as the one to whom he would send his mighty angel.


24 March 2009


... you were invited to an ordination, which you may well soon be, and you received an information sheet with the invitation. What might you expect to see on the said information sheet e.g. directions, parking etc.?

23 March 2009


Please pray for the people of Wolverhampton, UK.

21 March 2009

Goodbye, yellow brick road

An interesting choice for a title, don't you think? I'm not sure what attracted me to this particular thought, save to say that I wanted to say something about leaving Oscott and going on placement. It is, at least in my mind at the time of writing, the song from Elton John's 7th studio album. It is, indeed, the album title. Whilst I was surfing around for a suitable picture, I came across an interesting comment about the song.

The song, specifically the yellow brick road, is a reference to The Wizard of Oz. Let me quote from songfacts.com, the note:

The Yellow Brick Road is an image taken from the movie The Wizard of Oz. In the movie, Dorothy and her friends follow the yellow brick road in search of the magical Wizard of Oz, only to find they had what they were looking for all along.
Whilst I reflect on leaving Oscott (which is, after all, only temporary) then it seems very apt to talk of searching for some magic. I think about priesthood and all that my life will entail, and I seek the all-seeing, all-knowing solution to life. The thing that will get me through. I hear you calling out - stop it already! I know it is God, I know. Sometimes, just sometimes, it is nice to search and find rather than not even bother setting out from home at all because you know the answers. Does that make sense? Of course it doesn't, but I hope you know what I mean. Even though, like Dorothy and the others, that which we seek was with us all along, it often takes the journey to find it.

So, what do I mean? I'm far from home, excited and ready for the challenge/journey. So, bring it on! The answer is already within, but boy do I intend to enjoy the searching.

20 March 2009

Generally speaking...

Tomorrow, I start my parish placement as a Deacon. It is the second time I will be in the parish, having been there last summer, immediately following my ordination to the transitional diaconate. It will be interesting to observe the differences, both from my perspective as well as from the priest/parish, having now grown in confidence. I no longer feel nervous, all of the time, before mass, I feel more confident in leading prayers and, whilst I have always been assured in public speaking, feel able to hold my own in matters of faith. Let's see what unfolds over the coming month. The placement is designed to be the busiest in the parish/church year, including the end of Lent, Holy Week, the Triduum, and the first week of Easter. Then it is holidays again!

This evening, I read an interesting article from Thinking Faith, the online journal of the British Jesuits, by Helen Costigane SHCJ. Entitled, Why excommunication?, the author considers the history of excommunication and, rightly, begins: 'The remission of the excommunication has the same aim as that of the punishment: namely, to invite the four Bishops once more to return.’ Costigane conclude "Nevertheless, the removal of the penalty can in no way be seen as an endorsement of Richardson’s views, either on the Second Vatican Council or on the Holocaust." Most interesting!
And, finally, this evening I was also involved in a presentation with Craig regarding Caravaggio. Roger has developed a series of lectures/discussions concerning the interface of culture and faith and, as a student body, we have been invited to participate in any way we feel able. Craig and I, it seems, share a love of the great master. Enthused, therefore, we happily gave a brief talk on Caravaggio, and then enjoyed the socialising and discussion which followed. There were several interesting contributions. An interesting one to note is the hand of Peter below the hand of Christ in the calling of Matthew. You notice how it is almost, but not quite, the same as Christ's, which in turn is the same hand as that of God in the creation of man on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. A fascinating artist. Much tortured soul and much the greatest artist to have lived, IMHO.

19 March 2009


The murder of two Colombian priests is reported by zenit, today. Pray, as the bishops ask us:

"We exhort everyone to pray for the two murdered priests and to ask the Lord, Prince of Peace, to touch the hearts of those who spread death in Colombia."

Sometimes, just sometimes, there are devastating examples of those who, daily, give their life for the spread of the Gospel. It humbles us in our weak Lenten sacrifice and yet strengthens us in our love of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pray for the Redemptorist mission in Colombia and for the 120 pupils at the school.

18 March 2009

St Joseph

I have a funny tale to tell of St Joseph. Well, perhaps others will think me awful, but nonetheless, it is a truth. Whilst the late pope, John Paul II, was extremely ill in 2004, I recall my neighbour at the time, Ed, a fellow seminarian and I would often talk of his likely fate. Often I would say something like - "ah, well, we must pray to St Joseph for a quick end", or some such comment. Can you imagine my shock at what I had been saying when, in the spirit of fraternal correction, my good friend rebuked me and said, "no, Paul, we pray to St Joseph for a holy death". The shame. I never forgot it, and even today say sorry, when I recall the error, to Pope John Paul the Great, who I feel sure understands me.


What joy to read of the Pope's calling for the Year of Priesthood, reported on zenit.org. This comes, I suppose not surprisingly, to me as great news indeed. Having just written a paper on the nature and mission of priesthood, I am even hopeful that we may get some encyclical or book on the priesthood from the Pope, over the coming year. I read that HH Pope Benedict will publish a book on St Paul in the coming weeks, to coincide with the year of St Paul. It is due out, according to Amazon, in the UK on 30th April and available to pre-order here. So a book on the priesthood is more than possible!

For those who, like me, are less than patient, then there is already a compilation of writings and speeches from the Pope on priesthood; see here. It is an excellent resource, and very readable. I love Benedict's clear writing style. Dare I say, so much easier to read than John Paul II. I love, too, the comment reported of Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange OP regarding Karol Wojtyla's doctoral thesis: "Writes much, says little". The Dominican was the pope-to-be's promoter.

On a final note of priesthood, perhaps you will join me in the words of St Thérèse de Lisieux, in praying for priests:

Prayer for Priests
by St. Therese of Lisieux

O Jesus, eternal Priest,
keep your priests within the shelter of Your Sacred Heart,
where none may touch them.
Keep unstained their anointed hands,
which daily touch Your Sacred Body.
Keep unsullied their lips,
daily purpled with your Precious Blood.
Keep pure and unearthly their hearts,
sealed with the sublime mark of the priesthood.
Let Your holy love surround them and
shield them from the world's contagion.
Bless their labors with abundant fruit and
may the souls to whom they minister be their joy and consolation here and in heaven their beautiful and
everlasting crown. Amen.

17 March 2009

Happy Feast Day

A wonderfully happy leprechaun, no?

My favourite cathedral, probably!

16 March 2009

St Patrick

In anticipation of the great Feast, thank you to Humblepiety for this great picture!

And enormous thanks to Pellegrinaggio, for the best laugh in a long while!

14 March 2009

We was robbed...

Well done to St John's Seminary, Wonersh, who have, sadly for us, beaten Oscott 4-3 in our annual football match. The seminary must be proud of their football team. They played with grace, accuracy and determination. Excellent.

Well done, too, to all the Oscott guys, who played so magnificently. We are all proud of you and I'm sure next year will be better. Truly, you are playing at international level, it's just your rewards that will come later.

13 March 2009

Calm down, dear, it's only a bishop

Fascinating to read Ruth Gledhill's blog, noting:

Westninster - no decision yet
The Congregation for Bishops failed yesterday to reach a decision. It is now likely that there will be no announcement on the new Archbishop of Westminster until after Easter. More soon.

Is it me, or does the entire world seem to be awaiting the outcome of the Holy Spirit's deliberations in this matter? I know, it's just me, that's okay, I can deal with it.

Nonetheless, I smirked when I saw Ruth's typo for Westminster. We all make them. Perhaps in her good grace to rush to get the news to us that it's merely an oversight. Though, it begs the question; just how does she know all this? That has to be one heck of a leak!

When you know, Ruth, do blog, please!

Prayer - that lesser discussed lenten observance

It strikes me that prayer is often overlooked during Lent. We will often talk of what we are giving up for Lent; indeed, I have done so already on this blog. Fasting is a fail-safe for Lent. Here at Oscott, we have communally given up puddings, for the season, and regularly fast on a Friday (though the paté on toast is always a mystery to me) and give the money to the poor.

Almsgiving, to another extent, is a regular of Lent. CAFOD Fast Days, especially the Lenten one, is a great opportunity to remind us that we fast for a reason, not simply out of habit. Giving the money saved to the poor is a wonderful means of doing more. It's a way to remind us that there are others who have less than we do. We must never forget the words of St Ambrose:
"the beauty of wealth lies not in the manner of life of the rich but in food given to the poor; wealth is more resplendent among those who are weak and in want; Christians should learn to use money in looking not for their own goods but for Christ's, so that Christ in turn may look after them."
To this end, I wanted to remind you, or, indeed, introduce you to, a triptych of websites, which I find helpful in my prayer life. Pray as you go (I was reminded by a friend on the telephone tonight) is a wonderful site with a daily gospel reading and reflection/meditation to aid you in prayer. It has some wonderful music to help with your prayers too, and is aimed at the audio generation. Sacred Space, another Jesuit website, offers less audio and more visual simple prayers to follow. I guess, good for people who prefer to read prayers than to listen on the old ipod. Finally, and don't we love things in threes, there is Radiant Light, for those who prefer the visual. The simply stunning work of Elizabeth Wang, offers many, many images to reflect upon.

12 March 2009

Rome says No!

This is the post of my neighbour and fellow blogger, David, who write as the Fullness of Faith. He says:
Yesterday I heard that Rome (the CDF I believe) have not granted my dispensation. I shan't go into the reasons here, but in case other people read this who are awaiting for dispensations I would counsel them not to be too worried, as my case is somewhat unusual!
David was awaiting dispensation to get ordained to the Catholic priesthood - having been ordained an Anglican Priest and converting to Catholicism. He moved into the adjoining room, here at Oscott, over the past 18 months or so, we've come to get to know one another well. The news came as a total shock to me. I'd not experienced the powers that be saying 'no' before. It only goes to show how we simply do not know the future.

I would encourage you to read David's post. He speaks well on the role of the magisterium in our lives and the need to be ever reminded that they offer, for us, a sound and lasting stability.

I daresay they get it wrong from time to time. Certainly the Pope's letter to the bishops of the world, due, I think, for publication tomorrow, speaks with candour for the need of the magisterium to be mindful of the Internet in order that mistakes are not made. He is, no doubt, talking of the widely known antisemitic views of the SSPX bishop, Williamson, recently Re-communicated (is that a word?).

Please, pray for David, his wife and their children. These are, no doubt, difficult times. It is hard, sometimes, to see the action of the Lord in our lives. He is always at work and always seeking to draw us ever closer to Himself. If we can but trust. Trust that He has only our best interest at heart. Even when the proverbial has hit the fan and flying all about us, when we can no longer see into tomorrow, much less next week, next month or even next year, then can our faith drive us on. Only through faith can we leap into the dark in the sure and certain hope that we will find the light.

Pax vobiscum, David, pax.

10 March 2009

Saint John Ogilvie SJ

1579 - 1615

Scotland's only post-Reformation saint. Born into a Calvinist family in Keith (Moray), Ogilvie was educated in Europe and converted to Catholicism in 1596. He continued his education in Regensburg (Germany) and Brno (Czech Republic) before being ordained as a Priest in Paris (1610). He returned to Scotland in 1613 disguised as a soldier and secretly offered mass to Scottish Catholics. However, he was captured by the authorities, tried in Edinburgh and hanged at Glasgow Cross. Ogilvie was canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1976 following the miraculous recovery of a cancer-sufferer from Easterhouse, where there is a Catholic church named in Ogilvie's honour. There is also a St. John Ogilvie Church in Irvine (North Ayrshire) and High Blantyre (South Lanarkshire).

There's also a wonderful parish in Corby, England named after this lesser known Scottish saint. I understand this may be due, in no small part, to all the Scottish miners, who settled into the area.

He was, daresay still is, an amazing Jesuit. I rather wish I had taken him as my confirmation saint, now, as I had originally planned. Still, St Peter has seen me right!

Further details on this great Saint are available on sqpn.com.
St. John Ogilvie, pray for us.

9 March 2009


A while ago, I blogged about the Walk With Me series of pod casts available on the CJM website. There are a couple of 'conversion' stories from Craig and Pádraig, both students for the priesthood, based here at Oscott. They come from completely different backgrounds in terms of their finding of the Faith, each fascinating and each absorbing. The introduction, by our Rector, Mgr Crisp, invites us to think about our own journey of Faith, whilst listening to Craig's and Pádraig's tale.

Our individual journey, does, at least at first glance, seem private and individual and personal to each of us. Yet, our journey is one which is, fundamentally, shared. First with the Lord, and then with another and eventually with the whole Church. It is, whilst reflecting on my own 'individual' journey that I come to see, of course, that from the beginning, it was always a journey which was communal. Like the body of Christ which we are, as church, we are utterly dependant upon one another.

What happens to one has an effect upon each of the other parts of the body. Even if this might seem an insignificant effect, it is, nonetheless, an effect and we do not know the full extent of that effect. I suppose it is what a chaos theorist might term the butterfly effect, or even the China syndrome, for those of a 1980s background, like myself. The concept that a butterfly beats it's wings in one part of the world and a hurricane wind results elsewhere. What we consider of no effect, does in fact have a huge effect on someone else.

Whilst we are fasting, praying and giving alms throughout Lent. The temptation, to consider our meagre efforts make no difference outside our own individual world, can be strong, and we have to rely on Faith to sustain us in our darkest moments. At this point in Lent, perhaps when we have failed to be as strong as we initially hoped we might be, or even have slipped into pride that we are doing better than we had hoped, it is good to take stock and think of the effect we may already have brought about. Somewhere, the Kingdom of God is present as a direct result of the actions, or omissions, we have personally effected. You did it!

8 March 2009

Laugh, and the world laughs with you...

Back to Oscott and thus begins the second half of our winter term, taking us through to Easter. There is much to be achieved, though now that the STB essay is out of the way, I'm hoping to be able to spend more time just being. We will see.

Reading through a HUGE back log of blog posts, I came across this hilarious comment on lolsaints. If you have not looked at the site, I heartily recommend it to you. This one of Jesus handing on the keys to Peter was, I thought, particularly funny. Go and enjoy.

Also, reading Damian Thompson's blog, I came across this tale of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, a new order of nuns who have set up shop in Cornwall. What struck me, particularly, was the dress of the order, that is, they are in habit. Throughout our time in Poland we were ever, it seemed, in the presence of habit wearing nuns. Now, without wanting to get into the debate of should nuns wear a habit or not, it was striking that those with the habit, and, I suppose, the veil in particular, were offering a strong visual reminder to all that it was perfectly normal to give over your life to follow Christ in the form of a religious life. As one who has already offered his life to Christ in the clerical state, I was, nonetheless, in total admiration for these fine women who give such striking witness to our faith. Well done to all you nuns who inspire so readily!

7 March 2009

Divine Mercy

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven ... I recall, after being particularly naughty at school, once having to write out that whole speech by Portia from The Merchant of Venice. It has remained a favourite ever since.

To visit, and stay at, The Sanctuary of Our Lord's Mercy in Krakow's Lagiewniki District, was such an honour. During our time there, we were able to spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, join the community of the Sisters during their various communal prayers, to have Mass and even to shop for various items relating to Sr Faustina and the Divine Mercy. It was such an uplifting experience, and so enjoyable, that we have all committed to return next year!

We even met with a couple of the sisters to talk about Sr Faustina and the whole Divine Mercy devotions for over an hour - such an honour. Please, in your prayers, remember Srs Ignatius and Gaudia of the Congregation of the Sister of Our Lady's Mercy. Truly, they are servants of the Lord.

During our time in Poland, we were able to do some shopping, too. In fact, as one of our number said, we managed to change the fortunes of the Polish economy. I don't think it was money laundering, per se, but certainly I think we've been engaged in international money transference!! Totally worth the visit for the savings alone. I don't know how clerical shirts can be so expensive over in the UK? Can anyone explain?

Needless to say, I didn't manage to get online and update this blog. Rather too busy praying and shopping, and shopping and praying, to do much else. Totally exhausted now, and ready for a welcome break as I return to seminary this weekend. More will follow, I feel sure....

1 March 2009

Happy St David's to our Welsh sisters and brothers

A happy St David's day is wished to all our Welsh friends. Unable to be in Wales, as I was, I partook in leeks and bara brith, instead. Most delicious!

Papal Visit

I was very amused to read in the Scotsman that the Pope has been invited to visit Scotland. Of particular mirth, for me, was the comment:

A spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland said it is too early to say what form a visit would take. But he added: "We would absolutely welcome the possibility of a visit by Pope Benedict XVI. But, of course, we appreciate there are many other countries who have never had a papal visit and would like one."
Now, I know it is not good to read into people's words what is not actually said, but reading the comment it struck me that it was only the possibility of a visit which would be welcome; the actual visit, well, we'll just have to see. As for those countries who have never had a papal visit; maybe they'd prefer one to us, certainly there is more chance the Roman Pontiff will go there first.

Come on, let's talk it up. It would be fantastic for HH Benedict to come visit and we hope and pray that he will. I'm not convinced, myself, but if there is any chance, any chance at all, then I, for one, very warmly welcome both the possibility and the actual visit. Good on you Prime Minister for extending the invitation on behalf of the country. How wonderful it will be for the Pope to make a formal state visit and have tea at the Palace.

Viva Il Papa!


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