31 May 2009

Six Weeks

Whilst the countdown meter did indeed breakdown, time did not stand still. Today marks the six week point until ordination. Wow. Soon be upon us. Pray not for me, however, but for our five deacons to be. They will be ordained on 27th June, that is, four weeks yesterday. They are Michael, Andrew, Michael, Luke and Roger. I'm sure they would appreciate your kind thoughts and prayers for their year of diaconate which is now almost upon them.

Pentecost II

Thanks to Laurence for bringing this piece to our attention. Wonderful, though not sure where it originates. Does Our Lady not, indeed, shine like the radiant sun that she is? Clearly the light source of this picture is 'from above' but Mary also becomes, for us, a source of the light. A channel of light, if you prefer. Great.

30 May 2009


There is no better blog on this wonderful feast than to look at Jane's My Heart Was Restless contribution. Excellent. Spend 10 minutes in prayer - you know you're worth it.

Dedication of the Church

Some thoughts from a homily I preached on Friday, the Dedication of the Chapel at Oscott. Interestingly, though the chapel was consecrated on 29 May 1838, it was not dedicated, to Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, until two days later.

Dedication of the Church – 29 May 2009

A braver man than I would have stayed in the pulpit and preached, but I am no Fr Newman, who sat almost exactly there in 1852, in this chapel; but I am no Fr Newman, and this is no Second Spring. According to James Doyle’s unfinished oil painting, on the landing, Newman was sat next to Fr Manning at the Synod of Westminster, the newly restored hierarchy of our lands. Sitting where I am now in front of the altar like so many bishops who grace our presence these days, Cardinal Wiseman, the first Archbishop of Westminster. Just behind him, was one Fr John Wheble, he of the stained glass window fame, and MC to the first Synod of Westminster, over there was Provost Weedall and just to my left was Bishop Ullathorne who is wearing his beloved and stunning pectoral cross now adorning the current Archbishop of Westminster. With the religious (Benedictine and Jesuit) sat by the clavinova, truly the great and the good of the Church, seemingly dead now and yet very much alive in these hallowed stones.
Here stood the new triumphant Church! But these men were not triumphant in and of themselves. Oh no, they were triumphant because of what they were about, or rather who they were about. St John teaches us in the book of the Apocalypse “You see this city? Here God lives among men. He will make his home among them.” It is tempting to imagine a place in which men gathered in His name when suddenly there came a great whoosh and the Spirit entered their lives to carry them on to the mission. They waited for the Paraclete, promised so long ago. Do you think the Spirit soared that fateful day in 1852 and drove a young and vital Fr Wheble out from this chapel to the Crimea and to face almost certain death in the most appalling conditions, to be with the dying catholic soldiers as he ministered to them?
I tell you, it was ever thus. The Spirit is here now and driving you onward to mission. You are not merely engaged in being examined this week to demonstrate your youthful pride remembering theories and doctrines and philosophies. NO. You are being prepared for mission! You sit in this chapel today, the living Church. What you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to God himself.
God does not ask what percentage you achieve in your exam or what classification of degree you get, nor even if you passed or failed. God asks only one question: my son, did you give a good account of yourself? Did you use all of the gifts and talents and wonder of your being to show your love for me? Did you, my son?
Our gospel today teaches one thing, if nothing else, and it is this: this chapel is not the Church, the body of Christ; it is not the temple of old. Today we celebrate the dedication of this chapel in 1838, but it is not the grandeur of the seven hour liturgy, or the staggering costs incurred by Pugin, who MC’d the event, nor even that Oscott on this day was the first in the country to dispense with the fiddleback chasuble and go for the full Gothic!
Today is a living memory of those who have gone before us and who teach us so much for today. One such luminary is John Wheble. Nicolas Wiseman, when returning to Oscott for the third synod of Westminster in 1855 said of his beloved MC: “Who amongst us that saw him conducting the ceremonies of our fist synod with so much grace, accuracy and cheerfulness, did not feel how earnest and holy a duty he considered his to be, and how deeply he reverenced and prized the rubrics of the Church, and all her ceremonial enactments? And seeing him still so young, and so fitted for his office, did we not naturally expect to find him here today directing our functions, instead of our being seated beneath his monument, or rather receiving light through his memorial, as we do through his example.” Those who inspire us to march on to battle, no matter the cost, inspire us to victory for Christ. We know the hallowed ground upon which we walk and we remember. We are proud to be Oscotians, we are proud to be the Church, and together we will succeed.

Please pray for the men of Oscott, currently immersed in the examination schedule!

26 May 2009


I am most pleased to report, today, Roger, Paul and I were awarded an STB from the University of Leuven in the class Magna cum laude. Well done, guys! We were very fortunate to welcome Prof. Lieven Boeve, Dean of Theology, who came over to examine us.

24 May 2009

The double edged sword

It has been a wonderful week in which we have installed our new Archbishop of Westminster, and in the course lost our own Ordinary. We thank God for the loving care of Bishop Kenney and beseech the Lord to look kindly upon this humble particular Church and send us a shepherd after his own heart.

There is another paradox taking place and that is all the column inches which +Vincent is attracting in the media. It is a great thing, surely, that he is in all the papers. I only wish they would be a little gentler; or so I thought. I am changing my opinion, not least from this piece in the Guardian earlier in the week, by Cole Morton.

I find it hard to be lectured on sex by a celibate, but then I'm not a Catholic. Isn't it just possible that everything he does is based on self-deception? That there was no God nagging him on the terraces and his calling was just the fretting of a teenage boy overwhelmed by hormones and powerful priests? Not even this agitates the archbishop. He leans closer. "Then it is a very remarkable pattern in life, repeated millions of times over, that people give themselves to following a call in God, and live fulfilled and happy lives. Are you saying it's all a myth?"

I might be, I say. Nichols smiles again, the game show smile, as if indulging a child. "I don't think so."

Perfect response. Is it me, or does this bishop's faith just shine out? Even in the face of adversity and this self evident virulent atheism, +Vincent just smiles and tells the truth. To paraphrase something off Oprah, with a hip swivelling action ...

Go +Vinnie, Go +Vinnie.

23 May 2009

Peter the Pig

Meet Peter the Pig, over on the right. I know - a pig is for life, not just for stress busting! Anyway, a bit of fun to see how he goes on. There has to be something of the Franciscan in me. Keep the comments clean, please.

Novena to the Holy Spirit

If you'd like to join the community of Oscott in prayer, then a simple way is to join our novena for Pentecost. Each morning, we're praying the following:

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth.

O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise and ever rejoice in his consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

O Holy Spirit, divine Spirit of light and love, I consecrate to you my understanding, my heart, my will, my whole being for time and for eternity. May my understanding always be submissive to your heavenly inspirations and to the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church, of which you are the infallible guide; may my heart be ever inflamed with love of God and of my neighbour; may my will always conform to the divine will, and may my whole life be a faithful imitation of the life and virtues of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, to whom be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen.

22 May 2009

Bishop William Kenney to look after Birmingham

Humblepiety is running with the news Bishop William Kenney, currently auxiliary of Birmingham, is our new Diocesan Administrator. Great photo, Father.

This is great news and I'm sure I speak for many in our seminary community who will want to reassure Bishop Kenney of our prayers. We were very blessed to have him lead a retreat some while back based on the psalms. My recollection is of a wonderful and uplifting retreat. I look forward to seeing you up at Oscott sometime soon, my Lord, God willing.

Some very basic background details here.

21 May 2009

Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols

Having just taken time out from a busy revision schedule, I couldn't let the moment slip by without congratulating our new Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols on a wonderful installation. It was marvelous but let me give just a few brief comments and/or thoughts...

Good that the BBC covered the installation and have it on their news website too. It was nice that +Vincent thanked the TV channel for covering the Mass, too, and thus he was able to welcome all those at home watching - like my brother seminarian and I.
Good to see Mass celebrated, live, on national TV. Good, also, how +Vincent talks so warmly, regularly and relevantly about the Lord in his life.

Good that we got to see many face we knew, though a reminder it would have been wonderful to be there also. Lots of BBC coverage of Dr Judith Champ, Director of Studies here at Oscott. There were many priest we recognised and, of course, the bishops. Cardinal Cormac spoke very warmly and from the heart at the end.

Good to see the vestments! Loved the chasuble, totally. Just right for the occasion. I have to say, however, I wondered if he knew mine (being designed and crafted by Dawn) was just so similar! (he he) Talk about jewel encrusted cross on that cope, though. You can see where the money was going!

Good homily to hear. Clearly setting the scene for what is to follow and he is not frightened to get in their and start telling people like it is, from a Catholic perspective. Well done!

Good, finally, to be a Catholic today, and to have been part of it all.

19 May 2009

Speaker is silent

In a tragic day for the Mother of Parliaments, Michael Martin, the Speaker of the House of Commons has resigned. Those, sadly, not interested in politics may wonder why I'm blogging this; it's not my normal fayre. It's quite simple - I'm shocked, but not surprised. For the first time in over 300 years the Speaker, a most senior member of the House, has been forced out due to a lack of confidence in his ability to lead the chamber. My man at the BBC, Nick Robinson, sums up the reason simply:

Some will complain that he has been made a scapegoat for the failings of individual MPs. Others will insist that this Glaswegian sheet metal worker was the victim of class-based prejudice and snobbery. There is some truth in both those charges. However, the reason he has been driven from office is much more simple than that. At a time when the Commons desperately needed leadership, he failed to lead.

Michael Martin is the first Catholic Speaker of the House since the reformation. This, in itself, shouldn't be great news. But it highlights, for me, the disparity within our society. It is not that it's taken over 400 years for a Catholic to be considered for the job so much as it remains an issue which the BBC feels the need to comment about in their profile of the man.

This is a tragic day for politics, for society and for you and I. Why? Simply because it is a mere reflection of a distinct lack of honour at the centre of political life. When we operate outside of a clear moral code, then we risk the kind of approach which Michael Martin has engaged in: instead of remorse we go on the offensive, instead of humility we fail to listen and instead of leadership we are hounded and taken to places we don't want to go.

Michael Martin is a good man and a sad loss, but he serves as a salutary lesson to sort ourselves out. This is not a 'secular' problem per se as Fr Ray, of St Mary Magdalen parish, points out, here. No, Stephen Fry speaks for many when he says "it's not that important" but you know, it is important because as he then continues "we get the politicians we deserve"; so there you have it. Our MPs are, indeed, representative of us.

Chasuble Update

Spent a wonderful evening with a friend who is making the chasuble for my first Mass. It will be made in gold silk with a red taffeta lining. The front will be embroidered with this cross, crown and name of Jesus. Promises to look great and truly honour God. I'm so excited! Just the small matter of finals to get out of the way.

17 May 2009

Should Obama be honoured by Notre Dame?

I have been watching the blogs in regard to the awarding of an honorary doctorate to President Obama with much interest. Finally, we have the speech and, sadly, the honour has been made. Jane Teresa gives an excellent riposte to his statement that no one religion can solve all problems. I urge you to spend a few minutes and read the blog: My Heart Was Restless.

In his speech, President Obama quotes Cardinal Bernardin: "You can't really get on with preaching the Gospel until you've touched minds and hearts." This is very true and the President is quite right to remind us that until we find what we have in common it is hard to move forward. This can never mean a slow slide into relativism, though. There is only one truth and that truth is the Gospel. There is a way forward, but it does not begin with honouring an administration that supports abortion, surely.

16 May 2009

Do whatever he tells you.

It is surprising the lengths one will go to in order to avoid revision. Even blogging it would appear. Nonetheless, part of my catch up reading has been going through some old homilies and one, in particular, struck me from Bishop George Stack. He ordained five young men to the diaconate, recently, and during his excellent homily, he preached on the obedience due to Christ. The full detail of the homily is available here. He says:

In the Last Will and Testament of Jesus (John 15:9-17), Jesus reveals what gives us access to his love and friendship – obedience. This obedience is not an imposition from outside. Not a restriction of human liberty. Not conforming to rules and regulations. Ob-audire – an attentive listening with mind and heart to the impulse of God’s spirit, heart speaking to heart in the silence of the heart. This is how we comprehend that at the heart of God there is a place for me: loved, sustained, healed, forgiven.

It comes, for those of us already ordained Deacon, as a reminder of the promises we have made. Obedience, I sometimes suspect, is often overlooked or misunderstood. We certainly do not debate it as hotly as, say, celibacy, and when we do, it is often in relation to 'do as the church says' rather than the true sense which Bishop Stack is talking about. The source of all obedience is, surely, Christ himself, especially in scripture. That Word is, however, in reality mediated through your Bishop. This is why we promise respect and obedience to your ordinary and his successors. Nonetheless, it is reasonable to expect your bishop to be just as committed to "Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Practise what you teach." Obedience is, for me, not doing what the bishop says, but wanting, with all my heart, to do that which the bishop wills me to do in order to fulfil his own mission as the direct successor to the Apostle. Further, the will of the successor is to do the will of the Apostle, surely, and the will of the Apostle is but to follow the will of Christ. The will of Christ, evidently, is simply to do the will of the Father, who sent Him. Ergo my will must be conformed to the will of God.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols - Installation Blog

If you don't already know that there is a blog for the Installation this coming week, then you can link to it here! All I have to say is, read it. I'm so proud to be Catholic when I read this blog. Why? Simply because it's a great celebration of all that we are. I love the thought of His Grace kneeling on the floor, as the site says: The Archbishop will kneel at the threshold, surrounded by the great marble medallions on which are representations of twelve sainted Archbishops of Canterbury. A fanfare will sound. Too right. How Catholic is that? We'll be using the "ancient Catholic rite"; talk about pre-Vatican II. This guy is so steeped in Tradition, he makes Trent look lightweight.

Whoever is behind it - well done. It's hitting just the right note, and at the risk of sounding horribly sycophantic, it's my favourite blog read at the moment. Everyone who is going along, and it tells you on the site if you are going or not i.e. if you have tickets, please, please, ensure you celebrate well. We ought to all rally behind our new Spiritual Father. I suspect in +Vincent we are in for a treat, and you who are there to witness it will be representing the many millions of Catholics in our land who join you spiritually.

Do us proud, folk.

Angels and Demons

I have a simple enough question: is it acceptable to watch Angels and Demons? I was fascinated to read Elisabeth Lev’s review of the movie, directed by Ron Howard and based on the book by Dan Brown; More to Rome Than Angels and Demons; a True Story.

In her review Elizabeth compares the plot of Angels and Demons to a film made about denial of the holocaust and the hurt that this would lead to. She, rightly, asserts that no defence based on ‘it’s just fiction’ would work in this instance. Why is it, therefore, justifiable watching Angels and Demons because it’s just a movie and no one has to go and see it?

Only recently I was having a discussion on this very subject. As you may imagine, here in seminary, we are careful to consider what we watch and the impact that this has on our own well being as well as the impact upon the faith of the community at large. There are times when a film, or indeed any form of art, can lead people away from Christ, as there are times when our faith is deepened by what we watch.

Is it ever justifiable to ban a film? Should we be protesting about watching Angels and Demons? It doesn’t portray the Catholic Church in a very good light, it is true. It is, indeed, a work of fiction. If I were preaching this weekend, which I am not, would it be acceptable or even expected that I should direct people one way or the other? Can a priest tell his people not to go to the movies?

I have to confess, that I have, in the past, tended to consider films as just films. Now I am changing. They do impact on our lives and they do influence the way we think. Can I honestly say that I would watch Angels and Demons and not leave the cinema saying, “I wonder…?”

It is not appropriate for me to say you must not watch Angels and Demons; as it is not appropriate that you tell me whether to go or not. You and I must make up our own mind, having fully informed our conscience.

I tell you one thing, though, which Elizabeth Lev is absolutely spot-on with and it is this:

“Angels and Demons” offers an interesting opportunity. While viewers reel at the breathtaking art and majesty of the Eternal City, there is a golden moment for Catholics to tell Rome’s real story, which is more fascinating than any fiction.

14 May 2009

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum:

Habemus Blogam!

Go check out the new blog which the students of Oscott Colllege are launching this very day. It promises to be excellent reading, if I say so myself. Their mission statement says:

The Seminarians of St Mary's College have created this blog in honour of the Year For Priests which the Holy Father has promulgated for the coming year.

With what seems like days to go now, I better get adding my piece soon.

Great name, guys.

13 May 2009


A couple of articles popped into my inbox from zenit.org of some interest. This is an 'independent' news agency that says of itself:

Our objective is to inform about the "world seen from Rome," with professionalism and faithfulness to the truth. We aim to view the modern world through the messages of the Pope and the Holy See; tell about the happenings of the Church; and inform about the topics, debates and events that are especially interesting to Christians worldwide. ZENIT carries out this service independently.

I was interested to read about a plenary indulgence granted by the Pope during the year of the priest, beginning as we all know, on 19 June. Indulgences, and the selling of them during the middle ages, are often misunderstood. I don't want to get into the detail right now - not least as it's pretty complicated and has much more depth than first appears. For an excellent summary you can do worse than go to the Catechism of the Church, available here. There is, however, a lovely line in the news report which goes: The plenary indulgence ... can also by applied to deceased priests. I love this idea. Using an indulgence for others is simply wonderful and wholesomely Christian. I pray when it is my time to purified in purgatory that there will be someone offering up indulgences for me.

Also of interest this week was a post about the liturgy from Fr Edward McNamara, available here. He is debating the heart of the liturgy itself and considers the participation in the liturgy. I love his conclusion: Therefore if some of our Catholic faithful are migrating to Protestant groups, I don't think we should be blaming the liturgy but rather double our efforts to celebrate it properly and proclaim the truth of the great mystery of faith. I couldn't put it better myself, and so wont.

Installation Chasuble

Some of you dedicated followers of fashion, and I know there are some out there, will not, perhaps, have seen the new chasuble for the Archbishop of Westminster's installation. More details available here. Damien Thompson has a nice blog, too, with some background details and a great article from Christina White. Enjoy, guys.

12 May 2009

Two Months, be it the will of God

They say time flies when you are enjoying yourself...

Please say a prayer for Fr David Goodill who was ordained on 12 July 2003. A fine example of a priest. God bless him.

You came from among us to be, for us, one who serves.We thank you for ministering Christ to us and helping us minister Christ to each other.
We are grateful for the many gifts you bring to our community:for drawing us together in worship,for visiting us in our homes,for comforting us in sickness,for showing us compassion,for blessing our marriage,for baptising our children,for confirming us in our calling,for supporting us in bereavement, for helping us to grow in faith,for encouraging us to take the initiative,for helping the whole community realise God's presence among us.
For our part, we pray that we may always be attentive to your needs and never take you for granted.You, like us, need friendship and love,welcome and a sense of belonging,kind words and acts of thoughtfulness.
We pray, also, for the priests who have wounded priesthood.May we be willing to forgive and may they be open to healing. Let us support one another during times of crisis.
God our Father, we ask you to bless our priests and confirm them in their calling.Give them the gifts they need to respond with generosity and a joyful heart.
We offer this prayer for our priest, Who is our brother and friend,

Well Done Lads

Well done to everyone involved in the Sponsored Run for the Oscott Action for Justice and Peace. I'm pleased to report everyone completed the run in record times and there were no injuries. Quite whether everyone will be up and running about in the morning I cannot be sure - I suspect there may be several of my brothers 'resting' on their day off.
Any late contributions can be sent to:
Oscott College
Chester Road
B73 5AA

Archbishops of Westminster

As a follow up to my last post - might I suggest you read The Sequere Me Blog by Simon-Peter. He's running a series of insights into the Archbishops of Westminster, beginning with the restoration of the hierarchy in 1850 and Cardinal Wiseman. It is pleasing to see he begins with Thomas Walsh, who was so instrumental in the building of Oscott. Today we have Manning, and tomorrow, one assumes, it will be Vaughan.

10 May 2009

Au revoir, +Vincent

How do you know when you meet a saint? What are the characteristics of the saints? What do they have in common, since they seem such a disparate group of people? Well, Oscar Wilde said, “every saint has a past and every saint has a future.”

Today, I want to share with you a private moment in the life of the seminary. Whilst it is true to say we live very public lives in so many ways: in seminary, occasionally, we get a glimpse of heaven on earth, and these moments are often quite private, enjoyed almost like revelation it’s very self. Today, effectively, the college said au revoir to Archbishop Vincent, before he heads south to Westminster in little over a week. We enjoyed all the formal liturgical events and shared a lovely meal, complete with other guests at the college, so it was not particularly private. There were, however, speeches made, appreciation shared and gifts given to mark the occasion. They were thoughtful and touching tokens of our appreciation.

It was an emotional time. We have been blessed in having +Vincent with us these past years. I have known no other Bishop of the seminary whilst here, and do you know, if I may be brutally honest, I don’t think I appreciated just how blessed we were; I was. Today I witnessed firsthand just what a good man he is. I suspect it has not been an easy job, leading the Catholic community of Birmingham, and most certainly it is not going to be an easy task leading Westminster, effectively becoming our national spiritual leader.

Archbishop Vincent said he sought only to do his best and by golly I do declare that he means to do so. It was Saint Thomas Aquinas who said; that the saints may enjoy their beatitude and the grace of God more abundantly they are permitted to see the punishment of the damned in hell. Not for a single moment do I suggest that Birmingham is anything like hell, indeed Archbishop Vincent makes clear that we are a most wonderful diocese, but to those who have been critical of Archbishop Vincent, I say only this: we were much blessed to have him in the Midlands, and will be twice blessed now he speaks with faith and confidence for our nation. Indeed, the Spirit has made clear his intention.

8 May 2009

Poverty and 'stuff'

Is it possible that in less than ten weeks I will be ordained a priest, please God? Indeed, it is more than possible, quite probable. Bishop David McGough was at Oscott to celebrate the Candidacy of some of our chaps, recently, and said it was planned that he would ordain me on 12th July. This is comforting to know. Full steam ahead! There is much to be done, and little time left to do it, but nonetheless we plough on regardless.

Allow me, for just a moment, to wallow in self pity. I have the ordination to plan, materially as well as spiritually; I have my STB examinations looming on 26th May, and a raft of tests before this, including the first, which was this afternoon; I have to pack up my worldly belongings and get out of here. Ah, much to be done.

I am vexed as to what to take and what to leave. Already this is impinging upon my prayer life. During our weekly holy hour, earlier this week, I was reflecting in the meaning of poverty in scripture. How do we, as ordained ministers of the Church, live out the radical call to poverty? Through prayer I have determined criteria on what to keep and what to leave behind. Will I need it in the immediate future? By this, I mean in the next twelve months and to have specific need, not a ‘just in case’ need. Does it give me pleasure or have significant meaning for me, such that it would be detrimental for me to leave behind. In other words, is it life giving?

This leads me to make a decision on very simple terms and is, most significantly for me, either yes or no. I have need of it, or accept that it gives me pleasure. There is no in between.

Not a perfect solution but, nonetheless, helpful. Do you have any better criteria for what I might do with my ‘stuff’?

7 May 2009

English Martyrs

A huge advantage of seminary life is you hear homilies (or post communion reflections) from guys who have a real talent for using words. I quote, here, one such reflection given on the feast of the English martyrs on 4th May. Though, eastangliaseminarians did write about the stone at Tyburn, these words evoke, for me, the horror of martyrdom, but also the compelling draw of the Faith which these gentle folk engaged within. You know who you are, but thanks for your words. Inspiring, I think you will agree:

“Look Meg! These blessed Father’s be now as cheerfully going to their deaths as bridegrooms to their marriage!” So spoke Saint Thomas More on 4th May 1535 to his daughter from the window of his cell in the Tower of London.

The blessed Father’s were 3 Carthusian priors, Saint’s Augustine Webster, John Haughton, Robert Lawrence, a Brigitine priest Saint Richard Reynolds and another priest John Hale and all of them were the first martyrs of the English Reformation. They died witnessing to the truth of the Catholic faith. For all had refused to sign the oath of Supremacy naming Henry VIII as “the only supreme head of the Church in England.

The blessed Fathers, wearing their white religious habits, were tied to boards and dragged through the filthy streets of London, in full public view, to the gallows at Tyburn. There, they were hung, one by one, disembowled, dismembered and in a final humiliation their body parts were displayed throughout London. When Saint John Haughton was having his intestines drawn out he said “O Jesus, have mercy on me!” and when his heart was being cut out his last words were “Good Jesus, what will you do with my heart?”

“What will you do with my heart, good Jesus?”

Herein lies the mystery of martyrdom for the blessed Fathers and the many other Catholic martyrs of the Reformation, young and old, rich and poor, religious and lay, men and women, did not intend to be killed. Priests training in Valladolid and Rome went back to England and Wales to serve, trying to avoid capture, aided by people who themselves did their utmost to foil detection. How do their deaths serve when their intention to service is snuffed out?

The answer lies in God’s eminence and the Kingdom of Heaven.

God’s eminence is found in Jesus’ own words in the Gospel: “I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full”.

In the ordinary existence of human life, it’s triumphs and defeats the Blessed Trinity’s extraordinary divine superabundant fruitfulness is permanently communicated. Jesus says “I am the gate of the sheepfold” and he means, as with his other statements “I am the Good shepherd”, “I am the true vine” that He, God, is the source of all that is life-giving for Jesus’ “I am” statements are simply statements of “God is” – “God is spirit”, “God is love”. So where there is justice there is God. And even when there is injustice, when men and women are murdered for their faith, God is there too. He fills the void – in peoples eyes they recognise what is true, loving and holy. And this is how God’s extravagant fruitfulness is communicated to the lives of others.

They come to see the Kingdom of heaven being made present now – God reigning in the lives and deaths of those who are witnessing to him. They can see the salvation of the kingdom of heaven coming in power through the martyrdom of Jesus’ disciples. They can recognise the brigands and thieves who come to steal, kill and destroy. The sheep hear the voice of the good shepherd and see the true sheepfold.

God spoke and there was life – Each and every word of God is a deed of fruitfulness – Each and every deed of God is a word of fruitfulness – Each and every martyr speaking through the deed of their death is a word and deed of God and is fruitful.

And yet the English Martrdoms ended in 1680. What of testimony, through death, in our own times?

It requires a speaking and doing in our lives which mirrors the death of the martyrs – the primary Christian witness or so-called white martyrdom whereby one dies to those things that obscure God. Things that obscure God are the empty attractions and affections of selfishness, self-aggrandisement and cynicism. Our own modern day oath of supremacy. Dying to these attractions and affections are like tiny knife cuts – they cause wounds that hurt. This dying takes a courage that is only possible for the friends of Jesus who offer, as Pope John Paul II said, “the gold of their freedom, the insence of their ardent prayer and the myrrh of their most profound affections”.

In other words it means making Saint John Haughton’s prayer ones own: “Good Jesus, what will you do with my heart?” In doing so God’s eminence floods the kingdom of heaven such that others may perhaps say of us in hope: “Look! Those blessed fathers be so cheerfully going to their deaths as bridegrooms going to their marriage”.

6 May 2009

10km and 30km

I am not sure if you have had the opportunity to sponsor our fine runners here at Oscott, but if you have not, then do please send donations to

Oscott Action for Justice and Peace
Oscott College
Chester Road
B73 5AA
We are running 10km on Tuesday as a sponsored jog around our grounds. There seems no definitive distance around the seminary, but it is rumoured to be about 1mile. We are, therefore, running 7 times around ensuring we have surpassed the minimum necessary to complete 10km. I might add, incidentally, that when I say 'we', we are talking in the royal sense. If that makes any sense, at all.

Talking of 'we', royal or otherwise, I am very pleased indeed to announce my successor as Dean of Seminarians to be Michael Collis. He of eastangliaseminarians blogging fame. They have announced a secret coup of the seminary in due course! Hah, their plan has been foiled. Don't write, on a blog, what you don't wish the world to know. Come on, guys, it's not rocket science. Hats off to the chaps, though. There are four of them here, and each and every one of them is running the 10km on Tuesday. Meaning they will, of course, be too exhausted to engage in any form of coup.

On a far more serious note. I was distressed to read of further attempts by the Vietnam authorities to undermine Catholicism in the their country. They attempted to prevent people travelling to Hanoi to join in the golden anniversary celebrations of the Redemptorists. Read more about it, from Independent Catholic News, here. The authorities forced the drivers of coaches bringing Catholics into the Capital to turn around and go home, forcing those who wished to continue the journey to walk 30km into the city. It will not surprise you to hear that they marched on. Well done to them. God bless them, always.

We have three seminarians at Oscott from Vietnam, Linh, Thai and Long. Remember them in your prayers. Each of them far from home and so very committed to the Faith. It is to help with Justice and Peace in our world that we are engaging in a sponsored run. The money raised will help local and international charities, but it is not just about the money. It is also about raising awareness and encouraging others to live out the faith, and sometimes that includes doing something. It was Eleanor Roosevelt who said; when you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.


Congratulations to Ben,Craig and Padraig, our newly admitted Candidates to Holy Order. Don't they look good? Bishop David McGough was our principal celebrant, on Tuesday evening, and also in the picture, our illustrious leader, Mgr Crisp.

Update - it can vary between seminaries, but at Oscott a man is admitted to Candidacy toward the end of the fourth year. They have completed a long placement in a parish, achieved one degree in theology and have almost four years, at least, experience of formation under their belt. This is a good time, I think, to be sure that you are ready to seek admittance. By seeking admittance you are both saying, yes, I'm ready to move forward and also the Church says, yes, we receive you with joy. The Bishop says "may God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment". Amen, we say, Amen!

2 May 2009

St Athanasius

He is the "principle instrument after the Apostles by which the sacred truths of Christianity have been conveyed and secured to the world" is how Cardinal Newman described St Athanasius, whom we remember today. Bishop of Alexandria and the first ‘Doctor of the Church’; born in 296/7, he died in his mid 70s. He is known as the Father of Orthodoxy and for very good reason – he defended the divinity of Christ when all the world seemed set to follow Arius. Even Pope Liberius wobbled, yet our man in Egypt stood strong and resolute leading to his banishment on not less than four occasions.
It will not surprise you to know that his people loved him, not least for his pastoral strength. Described as a man of small stature, yet we are, indeed, standing on the shoulders of giants when we see the world through his eyes.
In our post Vatican II world, to be described as ‘orthodox’ is something of a pejorative term in some circles. Perhaps it is a term of ridicule only in those circles of liberalism, where anything and everything goes. Maybe to be orthodox is a badge of honour, to show that we are, indeed, in this world but not of it. I read recently, in Maryanne Confoy’s recent book that prior to the Second Vatican Council orthodoxy was measured in conformity. In other words, if you didn’t agree with us, you were accused of not being orthodox; ergo you were not following the teaching of the church, was the general gist. In a certain sense, this is the definition of orthodox. It is the “authorised or generally accepted theory, doctrine, or practice”.
Yet if St Athanasius teaches us anything in our modern world it is simply this – don’t follow the crowd. He heard the teaching of the Council (in his case Nicea in 325) as a brave young man, less than 30 years old, looking to make his way in the world. He then witnessed the church pull itself apart as it continued to fight over what the very Council had said, over who Jesus was. Clearly there were those who refused to accept the teaching of the Council and sought to undermine those who, like Athanasius, stood resolute in the face of adversity. I wonder, do you think they accused him of being orthodox? No they did not. They called him, or more specifically those who agreed with him, Athanasians! They missed the point. It was never about the man, it was all about the Son of Man; Jesus Christ; the Word made flesh.
Today, the gospel tells us “after hearing his doctrine, many of the followers of Jesus said, ‘this is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’” There were some “who do not believe”, those who simply couldn’t accept the Good News. If there were disciples then who struggled with Jesus’ teaching, we should not be surprised to find Catholics today who now struggle to hear the utterances of the Body of Christ, his Church, speaking in Council. The Vatican II fathers did not offer us an opinion, or a view, or even a persuasive argument. They taught the truth. The Church has spoken, my friends.
St Athanasius did not, however, hold fast because he blindly accepted what the Church teaches. No he, like Peter, says “Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.” It is Peter, who speaks for the Apostles, but it is also a well informed conscience and the Holy Spirit, which directs us toward the “straight or right opinion”; the orthos doxus.
St Athanasius, Father of Orthodoxy...Pray for us.

1 May 2009

News and Views

News which is interesting me at the moment is headed with the appointment of Fr Marcus Stock as the new General Secretary of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. Read all about it here. Fr Marcus is a wise choice and will be a very difficult person to follow at our Diocesan Schools Commission. Good luck in your new post, Father.

Of course it is not really a surprise that Archbishop Vincent has been elected President. Indeed, Ruth Gledhill comments this is "yet more proof that there is a God". I'm pleased she sees the new team in charge of the conference as "a great team and I can hardly wait to start working with them". Let us all pray for them, indeed for whoever is chosen to replace Archbishop Vincent in Birmingham, and for all Bishops in this coming year of priesthood.

Also, in the news, which I found amusing rather than interesting, was Andrew Lansley's late arrival to record Question Time. Having been to Ipswich, I totally understand Mr Lansley's problems. Much as you have to love those Ipswichonians (?) you do wonder what is going on in that town. Good luck Roy Keane, I say, but really, Mr Lansley, you are going to have to come up with better excuses than this! I do love Question Time and regret I do not watch it nearly often enough these days. Whilst it is great to keep abreast of current affairs, indeed I would argue essential for the modern priest, the programme is full of humour and tonight's show sounds real fun. I am hoping to get my Internet connection improved in the coming days and, if I do, then I will look forward to catching this programme on iplayer.

Now, that dreaded pandemic. I am reliably informed the best advice coming out at the moment is from Lancaster, available here, from the Bishops' Conference website. A quick read suggests it is full of very practical advice which is just what we need to know and do, not some theoretical points for concern. It does, however, raise an interesting point. Are we in danger of over-sanitising and, thereby, reducing our natural immunity to disease and bugs? Clearly, this a scale 5 pandemic and well beyond mere opinion of contagion, but let us not rush to rash action, rather let us adopt a sensible approach.


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