Friday 30 December 2011

Welsh Festivities

Ancient Cross in the Church in Wales' Parish Church in Llantwit

Months ago, before I had the responsibility of caring for an Ordinariate Group, we arranged a Christmas break with family in South Wales. Thanks to Fr Gerry, our parish priest in Bournemouth, I was able to fulfil that commitment, and our Group worshipped with the parish on Christmas Day. So we shall again on January 1st, though this time I will be able to preach and concelebrate.

Llanmihangel Church
In Wales you are in the land of the Saints. It is even said that in the ancient Monastery attached to the Church of St Illtyd in Llantwit Major, both Patrick and David received their education. Our daughter lives a few miles away in a hamlet called Sigginstone, where there is only a pub and a handful of houses. The Church of St Michael (Llanmihangel) is a mile away down a lane, and very lovely it is, hidden in its dell from any Danish marauders.

Our Lady & St Illtyd Catholic Church
The Catholic Church is rather more modern, but greatly loved by its parishioners. Fr William Isaac, the Parish Priest, invited me to celebrate the midnight Mass - he was at one of the two other churches in the parish, in Bridgend. Later on Christmas morning Fr Tim, his assistant priest, celebrated and preached and I concelebrated with him. Then on St Stephen's day I said Mass once more in Our Lady & St Illtyd's - and told the congregation a little about St Stephen's House in Oxford, and how it continues to provide priests for the Catholic Church (as well as a few for the Church of England). Now our Ordinariate Group is laying plans for 2012, beginning with Solemn Evensong and Benediction at St James' Spanish Place in a fortnight, and continuing with several of us joining the Ordinariate pilgrimage to Rome at the beginning of Lent. Meanwhile Jane is cooking endlessly, ready for an invasion this Monday, January 2nd, when we are declaring Open House for our Ordinariate Group. Hope we are strong enough!

The Catholic Church in Wales is not a separate entity from the Church in England; [Scotland, of course, is another matter altogether]. I found it interesting to discover that the Province includes Herefordshire, over the border in England, with the Archbishop of Cardiff caring for them all. So when the Ordinariate grows in the Principality, it will simply be another part of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. May that development begin very soon!

Friday 9 December 2011

Westward Ho!

On a day of foul weather we headed West to join in the Ordination of an old friend. It was some years since Paul Andrew left the Church of England. Now at last he is a Priest in the Catholic Church - not in the Ordinariate, but a Diocesan Priest of Plymouth Diocese. This means he is on home ground, being in origin a Cornishman.

The Parish Church of the Sacred Heart is a very grand Gothic Revival pile, a worthy neighbour to the Cathedral just a few hundred yards to the East.

I have posted another blog about the occasion at the "Anglo-Catholic" site,so this is just an opportunity to show a few more pictures from last evening.

Mercifully the gale had subsided and the rain ceased by the end of the Ordination Mass, and so many were able to make their way to the Pastoral Centre for splendid refreshments and barely any speeches. Good to catch up with old friends, some in the Ordinariate (Fr Robin Ellis is one of my longest-standing friends - we were undergraduates at Pembroke, Oxford, in the 1950s - and yesterday was his birthday, too). The diocese of Plymouth seems to be largely staffed by former Anglicans, some in the Ordinariate but many who made the journey some years ago.

Of forty priests present last evening I would certainly count fifteen, and probably more, who had once served in the Church of England. How will those numbers alter during the next year, as the CofE moves on its inexorable path towards 'ordaining' women as Bishops? Will many who said "a Code of Practice will not do" live up to their words and join the Ordinariate when no real Jurisdiction is afforded them?

A very pleasant surprise was the hotel where we stayed the night; an ancient coaching Inn which has retained much of its character. The sculpture is in white marble; it is a trick of the camera (perhaps reacting to pigeon guano) which has turned her pink - but she's a jolly image to conclude this blog.

Thursday 1 December 2011


The Ordinariates have to remain distinct: yet also they are a part of Catholic life in this country. So today I joined priests from the Bournemouth, Avon and Stour Pastoral District on their Advent day of Recollection.

It was a very happy experience. There was some input from one of the brethren, Fr Bill Wilson, and everyone seemed ready to contribute to the discussion which his talks provoked. It seemed a very good way to begin Advent, and we look forward to a similar occasion at the start of Lent.

We met in very comfortable surroundings, Wisdom House in Romsey. This occupies part of the site of a one-time French Convent. It was good to be at home so quickly with fellow priests, only a few of whom I'd met before today. One though, my namesake Fr Bruce Barnes, worked in the Anglican Diocese of Portsmouth soon after I served my Title there, and it was very good to catch up with him again.
It is a stone's throw from another former Monastic building, Romsey Abbey. That church, one of the loveliest in Hampshire, is now the Anglican parish church of the town. The famous local family is the Mountbattens and Lord Louis, cousin of the Royal Family, was laid to rest here.

Portsmouth Catholic Diocese has created a great facility in Wisdom House, and I look forward to coming here again in the future.

I can't leave Romsey without showing you its greatest jewel, the Rood which though much damaged is still magnificent. This early representation of the crucifixion pre-dates the distorted suffering figures of the Middle Ages. This Christ is not victim but Victor, his arms apread out to embrace the world, his feet side by side as though he stands erect. It was the inspiration for the silversmith who created the pectoral cross which I wore as Bishop of Richborough. To have an opportunity to continue in Ministry in old age is a great privilege - to Christ be the glory!

Saxon Rood by the Northeast Cloister Door into the Abbey

Monday 28 November 2011

Busy Day

Introducing Fr John Hemer MHM
A busy day in London Town began at Our Lady of the Angels, Bayswater, where members of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy met to hear Fr Hemer on Catholic Scriptural Studies in the light of the teaching of Benedict XVI. It was so good to be reminded that the Scriptures are written "that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have life through his name". So much Biblical scholarship in the past Century and more has been undertaken by non-believers. They purport to take an unbiased approach; in fact, theirs is a post-Enlightenment stance which fails to acknowledge the whole purpose of Sacred Scripture. It is written "from faith to faith", not just meant to be dissected as a mere exercise in linguistics. To treat it as such an exercise is rather as though medical studies stopped short with anatomy, and never considered living patients; or as though misicologists studied scores, but never listened to music.

Our Lady of the Angels is a very grand neo-Gothic edifice, with a history going back to that famous one-time married Anglican, Cadinal Manning.

It dominates its corner of Bayswater and makes a grand foil to the Victorian villas facing it across Sutherland Place. We met in the Father Michael Hollings Centre, where we shared a meal and good company - for of course fraternity is one of the purposes of the CCC. We spent half an hour before the Blessed Sacrament, so between those devotions and our Biblical lecture we managed to show something of the two other elements of the Confraternity, Fidelity and Formation.

After lunch, rather than rushing back to Waterloo, I diverted to Two Temple Place. I had read about it in the press last week, and thought I should get to see this, one of the last works of the great gothic revival architect, J.L.Pearson.

He was commissioned by William Waldorf Astor to build the house, and what an extraordinary piece of work it is - a little Renaissance Palace quite unlike any of Pearson's famous churches. At present it is filled with an exhibition about William Morris, "Story, Memory, Myth". Check with the website ( before setting out, since occasionally the House in closed for Private events. But if you can get there before January 29th, it is well worth the journey - and what's more, it is free!

Sunday 13 November 2011

Where's that Patrimony, then? Part 2.

Oh dear: I thought the first half of my address to SVP [yesterday's blog] listed some of the things commonly thought to be the essence of 'The Patrimony' - ancient language, beautiful liturgy, rich hymnody &c - and then added BUT THESE ARE NOT OF THE ESSENCE because they are, or should be, the common concern of all Catholics, not just former Anglicans. Clearly I was misunderstood, since some have asserted that I was giving these priority. I don't; and I hope I said in the second part of my talk just what I DID think was at the heart of our Patrimony. It was about our concern for those beyond the walls of our churches... but judge for yourself, here is how the talk concluded:-

And here we do begin to get to a distinctive element in our Patrimony. Whereas Catholic Parishes count hundreds, even thousands, at Mass, Anglican Parish churches have been used to congregations of seldom more than a hundred. At its best, that has meant that the Vicar has a better chance of knowing his people. It does not mean, though, that he necessarily has an easier time than his Catholic counterpart. When an Anglican clergyman is appointed to his parish, he is inducted to his living. His parish is a geographical area, and until recently all marriages, baptisms and burials in that area were his concern. All the people in that parish were his to look after - and until recently many Anglican clergy tried to visit across the whole of the parish, not simply caring for nominal Anglicans. It is this sense of responsibility beyond a congregation which is, I believe, at the heart of our mission.

By being part of the ‘established church’, whatever that means now, the Anglican cleric has had the time to be a pastor to a whole community. At its best, that has meant that he would visit anyone in hospital - not just Anglicans, certainly not just his own flock - and from those encounters there would occasionally be a real conversion. So too with funerals. If in doubt, a person would be put down as ‘C of E’ – and that too gave, and gives still, great opportunities for genuine evangelisation, when bereaved families are visited before and after the funeral.

When we moved to our retirement house ten years ago there was still a hospital over the road. They built a new hospital, and gradually houses were built on the site opposite us, forty-one of them in the end. It gave me a conscience that I had no right to visit them. In my parishes I would have seen those newcomers as both responsibility and opportunity. If I’d not called myself, someone from our visiting team would have been there while the boxes were still being upacked, with a parish magazine to leave so that they knew when we met for worship. We had people keep en eye out for removal vans across the parish. The first few days after arrival were the best time. No one wanted you to stay very long, but you could answer questions about the neighbourhood – the doctors, the schools, the bus service – and your visit was often remembered many years after. A young couple were in my study preparing for marriage. ‘I used to be in the police’, she said. ‘I remember you visiting the Station soon after you arrived. We did not know why you had come, but we were glad you had’. It was as though being part of the Church of England gave us a right – and a duty – to do such things. I hope when eventually we get our Catholic parishes we shall continue in this way. I am sure some of the Ordinariate priests already are doing so. It is second nature to them.

Being part of "The Church of England by Law Established" gave us confidence to do this. Now if we believe that the Catholic Church really is meant to be the Church of this land, perhaps we can all rediscover this attitude, this sense of responsibility for entire communities - not just for those who happen to come to mass, or who had an Irish grandmother. It may be there are Catholic parishes where this happens; I hope so, and it would be good to hear your experience of this, and whether I am being quite unrealistic.

Last week they showed something of the funeral of Jimmy Saville. Typically, the BBC said nothing about how his fund-raising for Hospitals was inspired by his faith - and that is annoying. Then, when it showed the Procession coming out of Leeds Catholic Cathedral the commentator said something about it being “the City’s Cathedral” – once again I began to be annoyed. Then it occurred to me that perhaps this was of a piece with the way in which Archbishop Vincent is often asked for a religious slant on a news item when in the past it might have been the Archbishop of Canterbury. They say the Queen used to refer to Basil Hume as “My Cardinal”. It may be that gradually the Catholic Church is filling the space which was once claimed by the Church of England as the National Church. The Anglican Church is finding it ever harder to address the nation, and when it does, as in the St Paul’s affair, it does so with confusion. We should be getting bolder in using the media, expecting Catholic voices to be heard. I think there is a group of laypeople who are doing just that nationally. Perhaps we need to have more people locally making frequent contact with the local press and radio and TV; and if you are already doing it, hurrah, and let us know about it.

If, after all this, you say “But that is nothing different from what Catholics have always done”, that’s fine. It simply means our so-called Patrimony is less distinctive than I thought. But I believe it is an attitude to the outside world which the Holy Father wants us to develop - "The Church in the market place" - and something for which our Anglican experience has particularly qualified us.

Yet the truth is, we are Catholics. This week I have celebrated two masses for the Ordinariate – both of them straight from the new missal – and three masses in local catholic churches, where our parish priest is very hard-pressed. Our Group Council has decided that we should only have two masses each week which are billed as being ‘ours’, on Sunday at 9.30am and on Wednesday at 10.30am. The only difference between them and other masses celebrated in the parish is that we name our Ordinary, Keith, in the Canon, besides Crispian our Bishop. If we go to Mass on other days, we join our local Catholic parishes.

It is a delicate balancing act we are engaged in. We try to be as supportive as possible to our local churches, while keeping a distinct place for Anglicanorum Coetibus, groups of Anglicans. In our Ordinariate worship we are often joined by others, friends from St Joseph’s in Christchurch where the priest prepared our people for reception into the Church, from Our Lady Queen of Peace itself, and from other parishes – people who want to discover what we are about. What we are hoping to do, little by little, is invite current Anglicans to come and see for themselves what is going on. So many good members of the Church of England are very confused just now, especially those who would call themselves Anglo-Catholics. They were promised that they would always have an “honoured place” in the church of their baptism, but that promise is being ever more frequently broken. As they get more and more marginalised, and as the consecration of women as bishops draws nearer, we are trying to create a place of welcome for them.

We still have a great deal to learn. Our clergy are engaged in an ongoing course of instruction based on teaching at Allen Hall in Chelsea, at Maryvale in Birmingham, and at Buckfast Abbey. Young men with families are adapting to living on less than they were used to, and money is a constant concern for our Ordinary. But none of us regrets the step he has taken, and we are very grateful for the warm welcome and practical help given us by the Catholic Church in England and Wales. Somehow, together, we have to get on with the evangelisation of our nation.

Members of SVP beginning to gather in the Milner Hall

Saturday 12 November 2011

Where's that Patrimony, then?

The Society of St Vincent de Paul{SVP}in Winchester invited me to speak to them about the Ordinariate and how we see it from the inside. My address to them was rather long, so it had better make up two posts, Here is Part I - and I'd be grateful for comments, especially from fellow Ordinarians. It is the first time in six months that I have really tried to wrestle with the notion of Patrimony. We met in the Milner Hall, which began life as the first Catholic Church in England to be consecrated after the Reformation. Now this splendid church (below) is its replacement, standing almost next door to its predecessor.

The Ordinariate and Anglican Patrimony

There is a little group of former Anglicans who worship in the Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace and Blessed Margaret Pole. As with all such Groups, and there are now dozens up and down the country, there is a constant struggle to maintain our identity, and yet be clearly a true part of the Catholic Church. When the Holy Father, only two years since, produced “Anglicanorum Coetibus”, and startled the ecumenical world, there were two things the documents stressed.

One was that this was for GROUPS of Anglicans; that is what Anglicanorum Coetibus means. Some of us were meeting this week at Allen Hall, as part of our ongoing formation as Catholic priests. We spoke about the different situations from which we came; and found that no two were exactly similar. At one extreme was a strong Group in Kent, which represented almost the entire congregation of a local Anglican church. They and their Vicar had sought admission to the Church in one body, and the Catholic diocese had offered them the use of a small building a few miles out of town which had been no more than a Mass Centre for a larger town church. This group has become so established, and has built up such good relations with the Catholics they were joining, that it is likely the former Anglican Vicar will become the Parish Priest of a new parish based on that little mission building.

At the other end of the spectrum was a priest who had joined the Catholic Church with only a handful of parishioners. Another local Vicar had brought more of his people with him, so all the former Anglicans were put into one Group, and the priest with the handful was left without any. He was asked to go to a Catholic church a few miles away to minister to the existing congregation. To his delight, though, he has begun to find there are local ex-Anglicans worshipping with him. They had been travelling many miles to an Ordinariate Group – though only eight or ten at present, they look forward to building their numbers and so gaining some group identity.

Our three Groups in this diocese also differ from each other. On the Isle of Wight the core members came from one Anglican Church with their Vicar, and gradually others in the Island are joining them. There are, though, a few Ordinariate Catholics on the Portsmouth mainland. They are worshipping with existing Catholic parishes, and only occasionally does the priest come over from the Island, with a number of his people, and celebrate with them. In Reading, it is a former Vicar with a small number who join him for Mass at a local Catholic Church; and he is earning his keep by teaching at the Oratory School. In Bournemouth, no Vicar has yet relinquished his living. There have been, though, three of us who were retired, and between us we have gathered a group from a number of different parishes around the area. We worship on Sunday and Wednesday at Our Lady Queen of Peace. One of the priests has lately moved on, and another is awaiting his Catholic ordination, so I am holding the fort in the meanwhile, though I retired as an Anglican Bishop ten years ago.

The second thing the Holy Father was seeking was an injection of some of the best of Anglicanism, what he called our Patrimony, into the Catholic Church. But what are the distinctive marks of our Anglican heritage that we bring with us, that Patrimony of which the Holy Father spoke? Some Catholics, I know, have been a little suspicious of us. They had heard other Anglicans call us backwoodsmen, old fashioned Christians who were frightened of women and wanted nothing but the security of the language of the 17th Century Prayer Book. If that had described us you would have been right to be worried. We opposed the Ordination of women to the priesthood, certainly, but that was on ecumenical grounds. It was putting up an insuperable barrier between Anglicans and both the Catholic and Orthodox churches, without any basis for it in Scripture or the Tradition. We believed it was not a matter to be resolved by just one tiny fragment of the Universal Church. What’s more, for most of us the old Prayer Book with its THEEs and THOUs is more a historic document than a source of current worship – though it must be said that Thomas Cranmer translated Latin Collects far better than the authors of the now superseded English Version of the Latin Missal.

So if those are not the matters that we want to preserve, what is this mysterious Patrimony? The Holy Father seems to have great admiration for the English Tradition of church music, especially Choral Evensong. Some of our Groups are trying to maintain a little of that with a sung service once a month or so. That service, though, is usually Solemn Evensong and Benediction.

To understand this, you need to know a little Church History. After the first founders of the Oxford Movement, Newman and Pusey and Keble, there came another generation very concerned with improving the liturgical practice of the Church of England. Choral Services had survived in many Cathedrals, but now parish churches began introducing robed choirs, and they spiced up Choral Evensong with incense, and ceremonial taken directly from Rome. They were also engaged in making a sung Eucharist their central act of worship. Since vestments and ceremonial had all but disappeared from the Church of England’s worship, many of the leaders in this Ritual movement looked to Catholicism, and especially to continental Catholicism.

For this they were persecuted. Some of them went to prison for their activities. A Bishop of Lincoln was put on trial for lighting candles on the holy table in his chapel, and for mixing a little water in the wine of the Chalice. In particular, bishops were infuriated by the practice of reserving the Blessed Sacrament, and there were court cases to try to get it banned. Equally, they were opposed to other so-called Popish Practices, especially Confession, which its opponents thought would be a way for priests to seduce the women of England.

Because of the persecution, for Anglo-Catholics these became the touchstones of authenticity; confession, the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, and a Sung Eucharist as the centre of their worship. Imagine our surprise on finding that in the Catholic Church these things were less valued than in our part of the Church of England! I caused some little stir in a local Catholic Church when I preached about confession. I told people that when I was asked in retirement to care for a little Anglican congregation I announced times for confession before Christmas and was delighted and not a little surprised to find a queue for the confessional. Equally surprising to me was the Catholic congregation which, on coming into Church after an Ordinariate Mass, flung open all the doors and windows to get rid of the incense! We had thought it was only Protestants who developed an aversion to holy smoke.

So is it our vocation to remind cradle Catholics of the value of some of the things you have lost? I don’t think so. That would smack of a terrible superior attitude; the very thing we wanted to leave behind with Anglicanism. It may be that the care with which we conduct worship is a mark of a former Anglican; but it is also surely the mark of any good Catholic. We enjoy singing hymns, and generally we have not gone for the vacuous little ditties which you would find in many Evangelical Anglican Churches – and also, I fear, in some Catholic ones. But that surely is something which the Church is tackling, in the wake of the new Translation of the Missal. It’s said our preaching is longer – I wouldn’t say better – than in Catholic Parishes. But that is maybe a function of being less rushed than most Catholic priests.

And here we do begin to get to an element in our Patrimony. [To Be Continued....]

Sunday 6 November 2011

Is it Autumn?

There has been, we are told, snow in the Eastern United States; yet here on the South Coast of England we still wait for our first frost. The picture above is of a rose in our garden - the Yellow Banksian Rose - which usually flowers in May. Then this afternoon we went to the Coast (Barton on Sea is just six miles from home) and saw these escapees from cliff-top gardens; I believe they known as Cape Fig, usually blooming in Summer - yet here are one or two precocious yellow blossoms.

For all that, the sun is very low in the sky, and there is not much warmth left. We reached not much more than 12 degress C today, though without a breeze it felt quite balmly.

Still, winter approaches. In the Bournemouth Ordinariate Group (some of them seen below after Mass this morning) we are making plans for Advent and Christmas. We shall be joining the Parish for Midnight Mass and on Christmas Morning. Our Servers are very pleased to have been asked to assist at Midnight. We were a bit unsettled a couple of weeks back, with the announcement that our Pastor, Fr Graham Smith, felt he must move on. Msgr Keith reluctantly agreed, and has asked me to look after the Group as a temporary measure until such time as we have another former Anglican priest ordained. We have resolved to have fewer Masses (just Wednesday at 10.30 and the Sung Mass on Sunday at 9.30) but most of the Group seem to think this is a good arrangement, giving them the chance to worship in their local churches on other days.

Click on the pictures for a larger view

Saturday 29 October 2011

Clergy Colloquium

Mgr Wadsworth was not the only Mgr - nor the only Liturgist - at the Colloquium

An extra hour in bed tonight, so time for a late night post. Just back from an amazing live telecast of Don Giovanni from the Met. Two days ago the entertainment was a little different - Mgr Andrew Wadsworth, genius of ICEL and the New Translation, speaking to a group of clergy at the Oratory School near Reading. We heard too from Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, and from the Australian part of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett. You can see more about it on the Anglo Catholic and elsewhere, but it gave me a focus for this Sunday's sermon.

‘They do not practise what they preach.’ : a sermon preached at the Ordinariate Mass on Sunday October 30,at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Southbourne

Jesus challenges every priest with his words to the Pharisees in today’s Gospel. We have far better news to share than ever the Pharisees had. They taught the Old Testament law, we are entrusted with the Good News of Jesus Christ. But as the Gospel is better than the law, so the judgment on those who do not practise what they preach is so much the harder. And how can any priest live up to the words of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?

Very well, you could say, that is for you and for Fr Graham and Fr Gerry to worry about. You are the ones who must preach, and must practise what you preach. but what does it have to do with us? We don’t preach, we have only to listen. Well consider this. For two days last week a group of priests met at the Oratory School near Reading, to consider our vocation and the way we live it. We were challenged by the Bishop of Shrewsbury, Mgr Mark Davies. He reminded us of St Jean Marie Vianney, the Cure D’Ars. That humble faithful little priest, who spent his whole ministry in that remote desolate French village, was instrumental in renewing the whole life of the priesthood, not only in France but far beyond. He was not particularly gifted, no great orator, no scholar; but as St Paul reminds us, it is our failings and our weaknesses that God chooses to use. So when Fr Jean-Marie spoke about his poor self, he did not want us to think he was exaggerating. Bishop Mark recalled us to our first stirrings of vocation. The saints often write of their own first call. The bishop spoke of the priest who encouraged him to consider whether he might have a vocation – when he was just twelve years old. When first we hear God speaking, as the child Samuel heard him calling when he was sleeping in the Temple, it is always a call to love. “The priesthood”, said Bishop Mark, “is the love of the heart of Jesus”. We are constantly to stir up that love in us.

Now the People of God have a very active role in this recall to love and holiness. Since becoming a Catholic Priest, only a matter of months ago, the affection of lay people for their priests has touched me. In previous ministry people have sometimes expressed their thanks; but never as regularly as now. Say a mass at my local parish church, and invariably people will thank me for it. It is as though the Eucharist, the thanksgiving, naturally overflows; as we have been giving thanks to the Father, so thanks continue after Mass, and are addressed not only to God, but to his priest.

Which is, or should be, very humbling; for we are only doing what we must do; as Jesus teaches us, when we have done all we have to do, we are to say “I am an unprofitable servant”. There is huge encouragement from the people towards the priests. It is not just explicitly in words of thanks that this is conveyed. As Bishop Mark expressed it, “Penance has a pedagogical influence on the priest as confessor”. That too I knew in my Anglican days. There is great grace given in hearing confessions – and especially the confessions of the very old, and of the very young, can challenge us. Can we be as honest, as straightforward, as trusting, when we make our confession? The penitent becomes the teacher, and the confessor the one who is taught.
This is why the Gospel tells us today “You have only one Teacher, the Christ.” So we do; and it is through our encounters, especially with our fellow Christians, that he teaches us. Similarly, when people address us as “Father” we know this is only because of our priesthood, not from any great virtue in us. He permits his priests to act on his behalf, to stand in for him – only in this sense can we be “Father” to the people of God.

So it is interacting with the family of the Church that a priest begins to learn what it is to be a priest. That means that although Our Lord’s words are addressed today to the Preachers, they are meant for all of us. The laity can encourage, or shame, or nudge priests into becoming what they should be, by having very high expectations of us. You will, alas, be let down. Priests are frail earthen vessels and things of no worth; but still you must persist in praying for them, and showing just how high a calling they have. That above all, his calling is to imitate Christ – in his humility. For today’s Gospel ends with Jesus saying “Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted”.

The Parish Priest fulfils an Office; but the priesthood is the shared gift of the holy common people of God. ‘For you also’, says St Peter (I Pet. 2.5), ‘are built up as a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ’. Certainly support your priests through your prayer; through your attendance at Mass, through your participation in the sacrament of reconciliation.

Fr Marcus and Fr Peter, two of the originators of the British Province of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy.

Sunday 23 October 2011

..Books in the Running Brooks...

Our little Ordinariate Group in Bournemouth is going through some teething troubles just now - so we would value your prayers, dear reader. We'll say more about this another time. Meanwhile, for a little refreshment, Jane and I walked across the Salterns. Salt was what made Lymington its money - real money in the 18th Century, in one year alone this local industry paid £40,000 in tax - at a time when £4 a year was a decent wage!

The saltmarshes are now a nature reserve, and there are just a few places where some of the old industrial buildings survive. They were used to boil the brine after the saltwater had evaporated in the saltpans - whose outlines are still traceable here and there. These barns are very ancient, and were probably used for storing salt before it was taken away on barges.

There were lapwings and curlews, and great flocks of geese - probably Canada geese, they were a little far off to identify them postively. There was also this elegant Little Egret. Only a few years ago they were great rarities; recently, we have seen thirteen in one day.

Today's bird was especially elegant.

Except when the wind blew to ruffle his feathers, when he looked more like a dishmop than the suave hunter of fishes.

I suppose we can all look a bit stupid when our feathers are ruffled. Then we need time to compose ourselves and put a brave face on the world once more.

And although they don't fit in with this piece of sermonising, here are some of the fruits of the forest;

acorns, so plentiful in the New Forest this year that the pigs are being turned loose for longer than usual to consume the pannage - if the pigs don't eat them the ponies will, and acorns are poison to horses. This little herd on the Salterns looked very excited in the windy conditions.

Whereas some stick-in the muds were quite unmoved.

Sunday 16 October 2011

A Bit More Patrimony

Concerning Eikons - the picture above being from Eikon Basilike of Charles I.
Life has been busy; daily masses either in Lymington or with the Ordinariate, and my first Funeral Mass as a Catholic. So I am turning to that great stand-by of clergy bloggers, the sermon. Today's, preached for the Southbourne Ordinariate Mass, concerned Jesus' response to the Pharisees.

Whose head is this? Whose name? [MTT xxii.20, JB version]

We’ve heard a good deal about our Anglican Patrimony these last months; without ever discovering just what it includes. Surely one element is the desire to find out just what Scripture really says. Fortunately, those of us who have become Catholics in the past year have joined the Church just as she too is concerning herself with the real meaning of words. That is why the new translation of the Mass seeks to be much more accurate when it quotes the words of Holy Scripture; for instance “Behold the Lamb of God”, quoting John Baptist, rather than the old words “This is the Lamb of God”.

So far, in the readings from Scripture we are mostly using the Jerusalem Bible – but the Church has authorised other versions, and one, the Revised Standard Version, is usually far more accurate than the looser paraphrase that we hear read – this morning, for instance. Now often the differences don’t matter that much; but sometimes we miss something really important if we do not have an accurate translation of what Jesus said.

We heard him say today, holding up the denarius, “Whose head is this; whose name?” Sorry, that is not what the Greek of the New Testament says. He asks about the EIKON: and eikon does not mean “head” – the Greeks had a perfectly good word for “head”. No, EIKON means an image, a representation. It is a word which keeps coming up throughout the Bible.

In the law given to Moses, for instance, we’re not forbidden to make heads: we are forbidden to make images; in the Greek version of the Old Testament that word is EIKON. But there is an even more important place where the word is used – and even the Jerusalem Bible translates it properly there. In the very first book of the Bible, Genesis, we read how the Lord decided to create human beings; and he said, “Let us make man in our own image”. And, just as he had decided, “God created man in his own image: male and female created he them”.

So back to today’s Gospel. The Pharisees have been trying once again to trap Jesus; we have heard about the way they went about trying to trap him in the Gospels for the last few weeks. Now it’s ‘Is it right to pay tribute to Cesar or not?’ Say yes, and he will be branded a traitor to the Jewish people. Say no, and he will be reported to the Roman authorities as an agitator. Catch 22, you could say. So Jesus asks for a coin; not just any coin, but the one they paid their taxes with. Until the Roman invasion, the Jews had had their own coinage, and in obedience to the law of Moses, those coins did not have any human face depicted on them. The Romans were having none of that second-rate stuff; only good Roman money would suit them, so the taxes had to be paid in Roman coins … which to a good Jew would seem blasphemous, with its picture of the Emperor. They hand Jesus a denarius. Whose head is this, he asks; no, he doesn’t, he asks WHOSE EIKON, whose image is this? Whose name is here, he asks? Well, no he doesn’t, not exactly; he asks whose EPIGRAPH, whose WRITING, whose SIGNATURE is on the coin?

'Caesar’s', they answer. 'Very well then, give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s; and to God what is God’s.' Fine, that means we have to pay our taxes. But what about God: what are our dues to Him?

Look round you. Whose IMAGE, whose LIKENESS do you see? On the coin there is just one face: around us are many faces – the faces of our fellow human beings. In the image of God made he them; male and female created he them. Each of us carries God’s likeness, not in our pocket on a coin, but on our faces. And what inscription, what signature, appears there? Well of course when we were Baptized we were given a signature; we were signed with the Cross. That is the epigraph, the signature, on us.

So if we take the Bible seriously, and try to discover what it really says, we will find many connections like this, links between the New Testament and the Old, which will enlighten our understanding. We think we know the Bible so well. To be honest, we can even get a little bored hearing the same stories time and again. But if only we will work at them, seek out the connections, discover the echoes from one Book of Scripture to another, we shall constantly find new treasures. And Jesus tells us that the wise house-holder is the one who brings out of his treasures things old and new. This does not mean that each of us needs to learn Biblical Greek to understand; all we need is a good version of the Bible, preferably two or three, to compare them; if your Bible has footnotes and references, so much the better. Look them up, and follow the links.

So - just a coin; we handle them every day. The one Jesus took to show the crowd, though, taught us more than we supposed. Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s – pay your taxes, even while you grumble about it. But render to God what belongs to him - and what is that? It is us, made in his image, our bodies designed to be temples of the Holy Spirit – here we offer and present ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice…. That is from the Anglican prayer book, part of our patrimony; and it echoes Our Lord in today’s gospel; render to God the things that are God’s. So often we judge people by their wealth; the image of Caesar in their pockets and their bank accounts. Far more important, how they care for the image in which they are made – the image of God himself, the image we shall offer back to him at the last.

Friday 7 October 2011

Mary & the Patrimony

Our Lady of the Rosary at St Anne's Brockenhurst - what could former Anglicans add to that from our Patrimony? A church dedicated to the Mother of the Lord, and a Mass of Our Lady. Well, at the end of this morning's Mass I began singing the Angelus; and found I was operating solo. It was a great surprise to me that the tone I supposed everyone knew was unfamiliar to a Catholic congregation. They were very kind, though, and even said they would like to learn it! This just confirmed a conversation I'd had a few days ago. 'We thought', said this cradle Catholic, 'that the Church of England disliked such Roman things as "praying to the Virgin Mary" - yet we find you are far more Marian that we are!' The truth is, Anglo-Catholics have had to fight for a proper place to be given to the Mother of Our Lord - and in doing so we have probably become 'more Catholic than the Pope'. Now that we are in Communion with the Holy Father, we no longer have to fight in that way.

But it is still surprising to find that part of the patrimony we are bringing with us is devotion to Our Lady. At our Ordinariate Mass on Sundays in Southbourne we end by singing the Angelus - and again, those who join us from the Parish congregation seem delighted that we are using something which once was so familiar to them, but has largely been neglected in recent years.

I believe Our Lady has a great concern for the Ordinariate. The first of them here in England is dedicated to her under the title of Our Lady of Walsingham. For me, the process began years back, when we started the Ecumenical Friends of Fatima (EFFA), and I was asked to lead Pilgrimages there. At the end of the Procession on May 13th the Bishop of Leiria/Fatima generally calls four or five bishops forward. The crown is removed from the Image of Our Lady, and these bishops are invited to touch the Spina, the bullet set in the top of the crown. On our first visit it was intensely moving that Bishop Seraphim included me, an Anglican bishop, in that little group. The bullet was the one which had so nearly killed the Holy Father; that attack had happened on May 13th, the anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady in Fatima. In thanksgiving, the Pope gave the bullet to the shrine. It might seem a curious gift, but Mary's protection was something John Paul II valued hugely.

In all her conversations with the Little Shepherds, Our Lady emphasised the importance of praying the Rosary. Our Anglican Group, EFFA, has taken this call to prayer very seriously, and each day our seventy or so members pray one of the Mysteries in turn, asking Our Lady's prayers for others in the Association. Those prayers are still being answered. So far, thirty of us have come into Communion with the see of Rome. Perhaps part of our Patrrimony involves reminding our fellow Catholics that Mary is mother of us all, and calls us all to prayer with her.

Saturday 1 October 2011


Was it cheek or ignorance which led an Ordinand to ask "Father, did you know Father Dolling?" Since that great hero of the faith had died a third of a century before I was born, I did not immediately take it as a compliment. Yet it is true that I sometimes went on a little about Robert Dolling's work in Portsea. One of my home Communicants had been prepared for Confirmation by him, so I did feel a real link with this Portsmouoth legend. So many St Stephen's House ordinands came from London parishes and knew nothing of Anglo-Catholicism in the provinces. Yet Portsea was a slum every bit as much as London Docks or Pimlico, and Dolling's heroic work was still remembered sixty years later during the time of my second curacy (and another home Communicant threw me when she said her Grandfather had been a drummer boy at the Battle of Waterloo!)

Today was a great delight. Thanks to the generosity of Fr Maunder, who looks after St Agatha's and ministers there to a TAC congregation, the local Ordinariate Group was able to celebrate mass in that amazing building. I shall say a little more about it on the Anglo-Catholic blog, but thought my faithful readers must not be denied some report of today's event. Fr Jonathan Redvers-Harris ministers to a Group on the Isle of Wight, besides a handful of loyal Ordinarians on the mainland of Portsmouth. His is the next group along the coast from ours in Bournemouth; the third group in Portsmouth Diocese is Fr Elliott's in Reading. On the hottest October day on record we were joined by a few of the TAC congregation, together with Fr Maunder and Bishop Robert Mercer C.R. How we hope that their application to join the Ordinariate will be able to be expedited in Rome.

After Mass we sat in the ruined splendours of the vandalised South (Lady) Chapel - partly demolished after the Dockyard expansion scheme had engulfed St Agatha's, and new roads were constructed as the old slums (the few spared by German bombing) were cleared away. There we ate lunch, met some new friends, and looked forward to even great glory days when the Ordinariate is growing and flourishing. Fr Maunder (second from right above) has done heroic work in restoring St Agatha's, and the Lady Chapel is on his list whenever funds become available.
The need for Catholic mission is no less than in Fr Dolling's day, but the evils we combat are not the obvious ones of prostitution and drunkenness - rather the smug forgetfulness of God as we become more overtaken by the creed of acquisitiveness and 'rights'.
It was good to be joined by Fr Jonathan's parish priest in Ryde, Fr Anthony Glaysher (caught drinking tea in photo above), who is such a support to the Ordinariate Group.

Thursday 29 September 2011

Another Step for the Ordinariate

We country cousins have to ask our metropolitan friends to help us when we have an overnight stay in London. It was noble of Fr Rob Page to give hospitality to Jane and me this week, on the very eve of his move to the new parish. So (above) you will see our genial host, contemplating moving from his spacious Vicargae kitchen into something rather smaller in his Presbytery. Our overnight stay though was only one instance of the logistics of organising meetings for all the priests of the Ordinariate.

Getting fifty and more priests together from the corners of the Realm is an expensive business; just one of the many worries besetting our Ordinary. Mgr Keith's sunny demeanour, though, (here he is on the left) betrayed none of his financial worries when he welcomed Cardinal Levada today. The Cardinal, hot-foot from the enthronement of the Patriarch of Milan, spent two days in England first encouraging the newly former Friends of the Ordinariate, and then today, encouraging the Ordinariate's priests.

For many months now we newly ordained priests have been instructed in various aspects of the Faith at the Seminary of Allen Hall. Today Cardinal Levada addressed us about the hopes of the Holy Father for the Ordinariate. We have known in theory that Anglicanorum Coetibus was Pope Benedict's special concern, indeed very largely of his own devising. Now we are reassured by His Eminence's visit that what we are engaged in is very dear to the Pope's heart. The Cardinal generously answered questions (some of which are at present unanswerable - only time will produce the solution). Most of all, he showed us the caring face of the Catholic Church, and the warmth of his address to us gave many of us new heart.

(Click on this picture to see the Cardinal & Mgr Newton, right at the back of this group)
The Cardinal's visit was important for the life of Allen Hall - as a former theological college Principal I know how important such occasions can be - and it was good to see Cardinal Levada greeting so many of the seminarians individually. For us of the Ordinariate, it was a huge privilege to be able to celebrate Michaelmass with the man who, after Pope Benedict, has done most to further the Ordinariate not only in England but across the world. Having him with us at this time will surely enliven our prayers, and spur us on to make the Ordinariate an instrument of Unity and Evangelisation which the Holy Father wants us to become.

Sunday 11 September 2011

Bella Italia

Villa La Rotonda by Palladio (and copied at Chiswick)

Seven days, to see Vicenza, Padua, Venice and Verona! Madness... but it was lovely. Until visiting the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua (aka the Arena Chapel) I had never quite seen why Giotto was reckoned so outstanding. The Frescoes in Assisi are all very well, but they do not have the impact that the Padua frescoes make. They are such a coherent story, from Old Testament to New, from the Nativity of the Virgin to the Life of Christ. Such pathos in the faces of the weeping women - never before captured in paint. How Giotto's contemporaries must have been astounded - art could not be the same again.

So Padua was one highlight. In Vicenza, the attraction was the star among architects, Andrea Palladio. We see him second-hand in England, first through Inigo Jones - that 'finest barn', St Paul's Covent Garden; and the Queen's House in Greenwich, the Banqueting Hall in Whitehall, followed by a thousand imitators in the next three centuries. Even now, in the polite watered-down classicism of Brentwood Cathedral (archt Quinlan Terry, beloved of the Prince of Wales) there are the faintest echoes of Palladio. But the real thing is just knock-out.

In Italy, though, it is often the unexpected that manages to bowl you over. I had never heard of the Church of Santa Anastasia in Verona; yet it is an absolute wonder - here is just a detail of the ceiling decoration.

To say nothing of being able to pray at the tomb of St Antony (of Padua, as they call him in Italy; but in his homeland, Portugal, he is Antony of Lisbon). And devotion to Our Lady results in some magnificent, florid, loveable images of the Virgin.

Speaking of the unexpected, we hit Vicenza on the night of a great Parade celebrating the Rua. No, I'd not heard of it either. It is, in effect, a wonderful fairground ride. Painted in outlandish colours, it probably represents the sort of impact our mediaeval cathedrals would once have made (think the West Front of Exeter or Wells, Salisbury or Lincoln, all done in these colours - as originally they were). Fortunately Italy is not overwhelmed by 'good taste'; so the Rua is magnificently OTT, daring to stand as it does before two of the great works of Palladio.

What fun it must be, to be Italian! Perhaps that is what the Ordinariate is seeking - a bit of vulgarity in our religion.

Click on some of these images, please, to see a larger version.