4 November 2010

Smile whilst you're singing!

Thanks to The Deacon's Bench blog for this excellent post. Deacon Greg writes:

...and suddenly everybody did THIS (see below)?

It happened at Macy's last weekend, when 600 members of the Opera Company of Philadelphia, mingling with the other shoppers, unexpectedly burst into the "Hallelujah!" chorus. Just watch and try not to smile.

And of course he's quite correct - watch and smile...

29 October 2010

The lonely death of Jimmy Mubenga

It may be that you have already seen the story of Jimmy Mubenga's untimely death. If you have not, then do take the time to read about it. For a few days I've been away on vacation so I haven't, to my shame, even been aware that it's been in the news. Reading about Jimmy's case, however, really brings home the need to bring the best of British to the quagmire that is immigration, and especially asylum seekers, to these shores. By the best of British I mean: compassion, hospitality, protecting the vulnerable and fairness. Such values which we find littered across our Christian roots!

You can read Jimmy's story here, from ICN, and the Guardian story here.

Jimmy Mubenga died on the runway at Heathrow Airport last Tuesday night. He died a very public death, in the final row of seats of British Airways flight 77 to Luanda. Witnesses have claimed that he shouted that he could not breathe for over ten minutes, as three large security guards forced his head down into his lap. No-one helped him.

18 October 2010

St Luke and Seminarians

Wow, so much to do and such little time!

Happy Feast to Luke (you know who you are) and did you read the letter from the Holy Father to seminarians? You can follow this link here. My favourite passage is:

Anyone who wishes to become a priest must be first and foremost a “man of God”, to use the expression of Saint Paul (1 Tim 6:11). For us God is not some abstract hypothesis; he is not some stranger who left the scene after the “big bang”. God has revealed himself in Jesus Christ. In the face of Jesus Christ we see the face of God. In his words we hear God himself speaking to us. It follows that the most important thing in our path towards priesthood and during the whole of our priestly lives is our personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ.

I kind of wish I'd realised that myself when I was in seminary! Time flies so quickly and before you know it you're ordained. Still, at least the Pope reiterates that this personal relationship is the centre of all that a priest is.

St Luke
Pray for Us

16 October 2010

The Sacred Heart

On feast of St Margaret Mary Alocoque, which we celebrated at Mass this morning, we recall her passion in drawing us ever closer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The above photo is the statue of the Sacred Heart in the centre of the sanctuary at Fatima. Please pray for all those who make this pilgrimage, as the parish did earlier this year, that they may be drawn to a deeper appreciation of the love which Mary shows for her Son.

St Margaret Mary, pray for us.

Pope John Paul II and the Priesthood

Today, 32 years ago, the Holy Spirit prompted the conclave of cardinals to elect a new Pope: John Paul II. This is the power of saying 'yes' to God, none more so than when a young man says 'yes' to serving Christ as His priest. Perhaps, in our midst, is a future pope who simply needs your encouragement to enable him to say 'yes' to Christ when He says "come" and become His priest...

15 October 2010

St Teresa of Avila

Fearsome old battle-axe or joy filled advocate?

St Teresa of Avila, Pray for us


One of the blogs I catch up with from time to time is Illegitimi non carborundum written by Fr James Farfaglia. I'll leave you to work out the translation if you're not familiar with Latin, but a short cut is here.

I digress. Today, Fr James is defending himself against some critics of a recent article he has written in regard to the new translation of the Roman Missal, widely reported to be introduced to these shores on the first Sunday of Advent, 2011. You can read the response to the critics here, and the original article written here (beware there are annoying little pop ups). Again, I
digress. What caught my attention was this quote from Chesterton in regard to Orthodoxy. I'm not sure the orthodox church comes out in the best light, but the style and force of Chesterton's statement is worth repeating in full...

“This is the thrilling romance of Orthodoxy. People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy. It was sanity: and to be sane is more dramatic than to be mad. It was the equilibrium of a man behind madly rushing horses, seeming to stoop this way and to sway that, yet in every attitude having the grace of statuary and the accuracy of arithmetic. The Church in its early days went fierce and fast with any warhorse; yet it is utterly unhistoric to say that she merely went mad along one idea, like a vulgar fanaticism. She swerved to left and right, so exactly as to avoid enormous obstacles. She left on one hand the huge bulk of Arianism, buttressed by all the worldly powers to make Christianity too worldly. The next instant she was swerving to avoid an orientalism, which would have made it too unworldly. The orthodox Church never took the tame course or accepted the conventions; the orthodox Church was never respectable. It would have been easier to have accepted the earthly power of the Arians. It would have been easy, in the Calvinistic seventeenth century, to fall into the bottomless pit of predestination. It is easy to be a madman: it is easy to be a heretic. It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one’s own. It is always easy to be a modernist; as it is easy to be a snob. To have fallen into any of those open traps of error and exaggeration which fashion after fashion and sect after sect set along the historic path of Christendom—that would indeed have been simple. It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.”

Taken from 'Orthodoxy' by GK Chesterton and available to buy here.

11 October 2010

Blessed Pope John XXIII

Blessed Pope John:
Pray for us

8 October 2010

Ushaw College may close...

The BBC write:

Historic Catholic college in County Durham to close
Ushaw College Ushaw College is close to the city of Durham

A Roman Catholic college that can trace its roots back to the 16th Century is to close, its trustees have announced.

Ushaw College in County Durham is home to St Cuthbert's Seminary, which trains young men to become priests.

Run as a charity, it also provides conference and event facilities and accommodation, but maintenance and running costs have increased.

The college is due to shut in June 2011, and its 26 students will transfer to another seminary.

Ushaw College can trace its roots back to Douai College, which was founded in 1568 in the Spanish Netherlands, now northern France, to provide priests when traditional Catholicism suffered persecution under Queen Elizabeth I.
Drastic step

Students and staff later relocated to County Durham and eventually settled at Ushaw in 1808.

Kay Wightman, director of finance and commercial development at Ushaw College, said the business had been facing tough times for many years.

She said: "We are a charitable organisation and as such unfortunately we've had to bear increasing costs of maintaining and running the facilities we provide, and this has led to the sad proposal that Ushaw is to close."

Monsignor John Marsland, president of the college, added: "Words cannot express how sad we are that we are considering such a drastic step.

"We have long tried to find a development partner and it would be nice to believe that a partner will still come forward with a viable business plan, but unfortunately time is running out and we have to face the reality of the situation we are in."

H/T to Forest Murmers for the story.

When we were in Valladolid the shock of the closure of the Scots college in Salamanca was quite devastating for all those concerned and tonight we think and pray for those who will be effected by the closure of the northern seminary, if it becomes necessary. Can't help but feeling, however, that the northern bishops are taking a strong and courageous lead on the issue...

Sad, really sad!

14 August 2010

Papal Infallibility & The Assumption

(Murillo, Assumption of the Virgin, 1670,
Oil on canvas. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg)

Readings for the Assumption

Do you believe the Pope to be infallible? Do you think, in matters of faith and morality, the Pope is able to speak with such authority that it must be held to be true by all Catholics? Well, that is our understanding. This is the teaching of the Church going back well over a century now and yet it has often been cited as one of the whacky things that Catholics believe. It will be raised in the media as we prepare for the Holy Father’s visit next month. Surely no man can be without error, people will say. Of course these people misunderstand the teaching of Papal Infallibility, yet today is a perfect example of what we mean by it. Let me explain.

In 1946 Pope Pius XII polled the Catholic bishops throughout the world and after their affirmative response; he officially promulgated the dogma of Mary’s assumption on 1st November 1950. The Pope spoke, ex cathedra, infallibly. We, therefore, as dutiful Catholics hold this dogma of our faith to be absolute. Quite simply: Mary was assumed into heaven. No doubt whatsoever. Now, do we know this to be true because the Pope says so, or is it, as I suspect, because we simply know it as truth and, therefore, believe it. It’s a simple question to always ask yourself: is it true because we say it is, or do we believe because it is true!

Whilst there may be no explicit evidence within scripture for this truth; I don’t recall reading the Angel saying to Mary, “oh, and by the way, because you have said yes to be the Mother of God it means that you’re going to be assumed into heaven one day”, there is none the less clear signs within both Scripture and especially within our Tradition that bears witness to this special honour for Our Lady.

In the Gospel Elizabeth says two very interesting things during her greeting of Mary: she refers to Mary as “the mother of my Lord” and also “she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Thus, we have long held that the ravages of the tomb would never touch such a chosen one as Mary. Once Christ had died and then rose from the dead, it must surely be only natural that which was the way of the Son would be replicated in the mother. It is interesting to wonder if the dragon in the book of the Apocalypse somehow represents the decay of the tomb from which the child is snatched up to heaven and the woman is safely removed to the desert to await her turn and thus follow the son. To be assumed into heaven in due course. We will hear, in a moment, the priest say to God: you would not allow decay to touch her body, for she had given birth to your Son. In a sense, Mary’s assumption is pretty obvious really.

When Pope Pius declared this to be true, then, he wasn’t coming up with something new. Often, the harsh critics of Papal Infallibility will say: if the Pope loses the plot then, and says so and so, you have to believe it! As though Catholics were not born with reason and will believe anything and thus, subtly, those who would criticise us can declare all truth to be flawed: All truth to be simply a matter of choice and why is your choice any more important than mine?

We are not talking about who is right and who is wrong. We are taking about the truth revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ. Always, this is our starting point. Everything points to this. Mary’s assumption has its basis in being the Mother of God: thus is makes clear sense that she should be born immaculate and that she is, for us, the model of all humanity. Not only our personal model but also she shows the Church the way; not only in destiny but via the right route. We prayed at the beginning of Mass: May we see heaven as our final Goal and come to share her glory. We will conclude by praying: may we “be led to the glory of heaven by the prayers of the Virgin Mary.” Amen!

Thanks to Mary, and her assumption, we are able, therefore, to make very clear to people exactly what we mean by Papal Infallibility. This has been our understanding for well over a century now; can anyone actually name a time when it seemed like a daft idea. We love the Pope and we will give him due reverence and we are proud to listen to him speak!

13 August 2010

St Margaret of Scotland

I know we're a little early (16 Nov) but it's always good to seek the intercession of those whom you feel close to, spiritually. So, with this in mind:

St Margaret of Scotland
Pray for us

First Blessings

H/T to Vincenzo over at SANCTE PATER for this video of an FSSP priest giving first blessings. It's lovely to see the crowds who, clearly, seek the spiritual blessings. At the risk, however, of sounding Palagian, I thought he might have put a little more effort into his work!

12 August 2010

Quote of the day...

Recently a parishioner gave me the following quote from Marcus Aurelius, one time Roman Emperor and Stoic Philosopher...

Press on steadily. Keep to the straight road in your thinking & doing and your days will ever flow on smoothly. The soul of man, like the souls of all rational creatures, has two things in common with the soul of God: It can never be thwarted from without, and it's good consists in righteousness of character and action and in confining every wish thereto.

Wonder what Russell Crowe thinks of that, then!

11 August 2010

Lead Kindly Light

(Newman, centre right, 3rd cleric from the right with cotta)

Jackie Parkes, I see, has a new blog: Lead Kindly Light, which you can link to here. Delighted to see she has a copy of the unfinished portrait of the meeting of the hierarchy at Oscott College in 1852 (if memory serves me correctly). It is a delight to see the painting again, which I passed many a time on my way up to see the Rector, over the years!

Newman RIP

10 August 2010


Remember, today, in prayer all those who are ordained Deacon, both transitional and permanent. Especially, we pray for Deacons Gerry and Pat, here in the parish, and for Craig and Padraig at Oscott, who are preparing for ordination to the presbyterate next summer.

8 August 2010

Fides et Ratio

Readings for 19th Sunday, Year C

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” These are the words of the great Doctor of the Church, St Thomas Aquinas. On the face of it we may conclude that if you don’t have faith, then you will never understand what it is that Catholics believe. Or you might conclude that it is only to those whom the Lord has given the gift of faith that salvation is possible suggesting that Catholics are the lucky ones and everyone else is condemned. This is simply not true.

Faith is a gift, a wonderful gift, which comes from the Creator of all humanity. I can think of no reason why God would not give a person this enlightening gift. Rather it is a little like we are given a birthday gift which relies upon batteries. How often have we found ourselves searching through draws and boxes on Christmas morning looking for batteries for the children? Perhaps in an age which relies so heavily upon battery operated items this is now less a problem, but I digress. The gift of faith, which we have all been given, relies upon the batteries of reason to get it going.

Pope John Paul II, in his mind-blowing encyclical letter, Fides et Ratio says: Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth. This brings to mind an image of the human spirit like some graceful butterfly, full of colour and wonder and beauty soaring toward heaven and coming ever closer to being with Jesus. As though heaven were some distant plane upon which we know we shall find the most treasured and striking of flowers upon which to land, toward a light that gives warmth, love and comfort. Surely this is something we all seek in an age of ugliness amid the harsh reality of our lives. It’s not a daydream, however, but rather it is our destiny.

Oscar Wilde, I think it was, said that scepticism is the beginning of faith. He talks, one suspects, of the need for reason in matters of faith. Faith may well be blind, but we need the clear sight of reason to bring that faith into its full light and beauty. If faith is gift, then we might say reason is natural to us. We all, regardless of our faith, have an innate desire to know the truth. Those, however, who have found the batteries can get the toy going and see creation in all its wonder. Pity those who have batteries, but no toy to play with!

Perhaps the greatest of all scientist, a man of outstanding reason you might say, Albert Einstein, said once: There are only two ways to live . . . one is as though nothing is a miracle . . . the other is as if everything is. So today we have that choice of how we are to live our lives. Do we believe, or do we not.

6 August 2010


In thanksgiving, on this wonderful feast, for our friends at St George's, Worcester and for a God-given opportunity to gaze upon the original earlier this year! It never ceases to amaze me that though once I had the opportunity and money to see all that I wanted, it just never happened. Giving it all up, seemingly, has opened horizons I could only ever dream about. Thanks, Jesus.

4 August 2010

Newman by Fr Michael Rear

There is little time within an Assistant Priests schedule for reading, it seems to me. Perhaps, one wonders, if I spent a little more time in prayer then I would have the time for uplifting spiritual reading as contained within Blessed John Henry Newman by Fr Michael Rear. Fr Michael presents a short but excellent biography of Newman. Clearly, in this fervent time of Newman-appreciation in which we are all gripped, it's good to take time and learn about the man who will be declared Blessed by the Pope in a few weeks time.

If you have time for only a brief introduction to the man, then Fr Michael's account comes very highly recommended. The blurb on the back of the book states:

Newman’s life spanned nearly the whole of the 19th century, spent almost equally in the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. Michael Rear begins by exploring Newman’s immense influence on the Anglican Church, and the events that led to him being denounced as a traitor’ and virtually expelled from that Church.

Only after four years of prayer and of his study of the development of doctrine, did Newman find his way clear to enter the Catholic Church. Founder of the Oratories, of a school, and a university in Ireland, his views on the laity, papal infallibility, education, and conscience led to misunderstanding, until, at the age of 78, he was made a Cardinal. A century later he was called an ‘unseen presence’ at the Second Vatican Council, and revered for his holiness.

His prediction of the secular society, in which Religion, ‘is a private luxury, which a man may have if he will; but which… he must not obtrude upon others, or indulge in to their annoyance’, has a very contemporary feel.

Treat yourself: though at £4.95 it's not great value for such a brief book. Mind you, better value than other's I've read! Buy it here.

A great pleasure to spend time with one holy priest on the feast of another. St John Marie Vianney: Pray for us. Soon-to-be Blessed John Henry Newman: Pray for us.

2 August 2010

It's getting very exciting now...

H/T to Love Undefiled by Robert Colquhoun for pointing out this great video. I'm so excited I could crush a grape!

31 July 2010

Need not Greed

Today's readings

O that today you would listen to his voice! This response to our psalm is more urgent now than it has ever been. It recalls a time at Meribah when the Israelites were travelling through the desert and they doubted God speaking through the prophet Moses. How many of us listen to today’s Gospel and think that Jesus is talking about someone else? How many of us assume that it is good to make ourselves secure in this life with material possessions? Perhaps we convince ourselves that we’re saving to ensure our children have a secure life – it is surely good to save for a rainy day, is it not?

Only a fool would deny that we are gripped by economic hardship. Massive cuts in public spending are afoot; we know we are in for a rough ride; hard times are upon us. So perhaps we are saving, or at least being a little more economic. We don’t know what the future holds, so we are playing it safe. Now I don’t want to get into the politics of economic policy but we do need to refocus on our priorities. There is a lovely short story written by Leo Tolstoy called ‘How much land does a man need?’

A peasant, named Pahom, is fearful of the devil and is heard to exclaim ‘if I had enough land then I would not fear the devil’. A laudable cry! A local landowner decides to sell some land and many in the village buy a small piece each, including Pahom. He works the land and soon repays his debts but becomes very possessive and seeks to buy more land so he moves to a larger town buying more land and earning more and more money. He has become quite secure but seeks yet more security, more land.

Pahom hears of a nearby people who have plenty of land and are willing to sell so he sets off to negotiate as much land for as little money as he can get. He seeks a bargain. The Bashkirs, however, have an unusual policy of disposing of the land. They offer him as much land as he likes for only 1,000 rubles on one condition: he may steak out as much land as he likes but must return to the exact spot from where he starts within the same day. If he fails to return to the spot, then the Bashkirs will keep the money and all is lost. Pahom is excited as he is a fit man and can cover quite a distance in one day, so he goes to bed to get a good night’s rest.

That night Pahom has a terrible dream. He sees himself lying dead at the feet of the devil who is laughing! The very next morning Pahom sets off at the break of day. He covers a vast swathe of land and notices that the land is getting better and better the further he travels. Soon the sun begins to set and Pahom makes to return to the spot from where he began. It is some way and he has to move quickly to reach the point. Eventually, just as the sun sets he finally makes it and falls face down on the spot from where he started, now totally exhausted. The Bashkirs rejoice at his great triumph but are surprised when Pahom fails to respond. As they roll him over, they see he has died with exhaustion. Pahom is then buried in a grave exactly six feet long – the amount of land perhaps a man needs!

Today’s Gospel is not about need. It is about greed. The man was already rich and had no need of more. Perhaps a telling tale of our times is that we simply don’t know how rich we are. We may worry about the level of debt we now have in our country and yet we were in far harsher economic times just after the war in the 1940s. Everything, it may seem, is relative. What is never relative, however, is that we do well to listen to St Paul’s advice to the Colossians: you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is. Now, how wealthy do we seem in these terms? Suddenly we see that all we possess is as nothing! It is but vanity of vanities, the Preacher says. Vanity of vanities. All is vanity!

O that today you would listen to his voice!


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