Saturday 3 March 2012

Busy, Busy

Quite a week after the Pilgrimage to Rome. The priests in Bournemouth and in the Avon/Stour Pastoral areas had asked me to help them with a quiet day. When eventually I found them in a retreat house in Westbourne I gave them a couple of reflections on the Ordinariate Pilgrimage; taking them first to Subiaco and the beginnings of Western Monasticism, then to St Gregory's to remind them about the Missions of Augustine and his companions. We had an interesting discussion on how far the Catholic Church should be triumphalist (the gospel for the day was about not hiding light under a bushel) and how far it must be modest and ready to give way to the Established Church. I had suggested we need to be ready to claim our rights as the natural Church of this land.

The same evening I went back to Bournemouth to celebrate Mass for the local Catenian Circle. They had come, I think, expecting a different liturgy; instead they found the new translation of Mass celebrated not quite as they are accustomed. "How good not to have any guitars" said one; "Liked the singing" said another; "We don't often have incense said a third" - and I think he approved that we do.

After Mass in St Agatha's

Today was a trip East, forty miles to Portsmouth. Fr Jonathan Redvers-Harris is currently engaged on a course in Canon Law, and is in the midst of a residential fortnight in Leeuven (Brussels). We are so short of Ordinariate priests in this area that he was coming back on the Eurostar tonight in order to say Mass for the Isle of Wight Group tomorrow - then off in the afternoon to Belgium again. They will certainly be glad when (Bishop)Robert Mercer C.R. is ordained into the Catholic priesthood - which I understand is to be in Portsmouth Cathedral on Monday March 26th (the Annunciation, transferred from Sunday).

Annunciation Tympanum in St Agatha's

(Fr)John Maunder and some of his people have begun preparation for reception (and in his case, I hope, Ordination) so the Portsmouth Group is looking increasingly healthy. As always, the preparations John had made for me to say Mass were immaculate, and his welcome most warm and generous.

The present shortage of priests, though, gave me the opportunity of celebrating at mid-day according to the Use of the Book of Common Worship, in that wonderful church of St Agatha, Portsea.

Picture (left) Wendy Redvers-Harris who in her husband's absence ensured things went smoothly - despite delays with the ferry. The hovercraft was full and some coming from the Island were delayed

Sunday 26 February 2012

Rome Pilgrimage

Fancy us, being here! That was the constant cry from members of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham throughout last week's Pilgrimage. There were around a hundred of us, incuding two deacons, ten priests, our Ordinary, and representatives from many of the Groups in England and Scotland. There are pictures elsewhere - find them from the Ordinariate's web page - so I shall just add a few of my own. We did not have much spare time, but on the afternoon of Ash Wednesday I managed half an hour in front of Saint Peter's to make a scribble - chiefly because you look more carefully and remember better when you have a pen or pencil in hand.

Sue sponsored Barbel and I sponsored Brian at their Reception

For our Bournemouth group the highspot was the Confirmation of Brian and Barbel Copus. They have been waiting for a year and more to have their marriage convalidated. That happened just days before we left for Rome, so Mgr Keith was able to confirm them - to their delight that occurred in the church of St George in the Marsh (San Georgio Palabro) which was the titular church of John Henry Cardinal Newman, our Patron. Their happiness was infectious, and the whole Pilgrimage rejoiced with them.

Perhaps, too, we should mention the Papal Audience - when, on our name being announced, we all stood and sang a verse of 'Praise to the Holiest' - not sure what the thousands present made of it, but they applauded and the Holy Father waved to us, and it seems we were also on the Tele. So that bit of the Patrimony has gone world-wide, thanks to EWTN. It was good to see Mgr Keith up among the great and good, and he conveyed the Pope's good wishes to all members of the Ordinariate.

Pope Benedict looked bigger on screen!

So much else to tell you about; a wonderful trip up into the snow (while the sun shone warmly) to see the Monastery of Scta Scholastica, and the Cave where St Benedict spent three years in preparation for his great work of founding Western Monasticism.

I had the good fortune to preach there, so I append a version of the sermon. You may skip it and just look at the pictures if you'd rather.

Vesting again!


We are just overwhelmed – so much to see, so much to take in. Here, for instance, the very birthplace of monasticism, where the Offices of the Church began to become distinctly Christian, growing away from their Jewish origins. There are those who claim that the Anglican Patrimony at its best is Benedictine, and that in Cathedral worship those monastic ideals continue. So should we look at Benedict and his sister, and learn lessons from them? Well, we could think of the complementarity of male and female, and how as Scholastica’s nunnery paralleled her brother’s monastery as much later Clare’s foundation underpinned the work of Francis – or again looking to England consider how important the dual foundation of Whitby was for the church of our land, and how Hilda exercised great influence – without ever being a priest! But then we have heard from the Abbot so much more about the history of this place, and our Tour guide has blown much of the story of Scholastica clean out of the water!

But time is short - so let’s focus on one small thing, the newly translated prayer for Scholastica’s feast day. There had been an ancient prayer recalling how Benedict had seen her soul ascend as a dove to heaven. By the 1980s there was instead a very pedestrian little effort; “that by her example we may serve you with love and obtain perfect joy”. Well, forget that. Look instead at what the new Translation has given us:-
‘That, following her example, we may serve you with pure love
and happily receive what comes from loving you’.
Not ‘perfect joy’ you see, that is altogether too trite, Better than that, we ask for what comes, whatever comes, from loving God. There’s a wealth of meaning in that sentence. The lives of Benedict and of Scholastica are lives of pure love for God; and that is what we ask for ourselves – “that we may happily receive what comes from loving you”. So what does come from loving God? Not just joy, surely. John Wesley understood it well – he is part of the Patrimony, a part we should not forget: here is what his followers pray each New Year:

“Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal”.

That is genuinely asking to love God.

Love is not without pain. There are those refuse love for fear of being hurt, people who can never commit themsleves to another person because it might bring pain.. Not so the saints, not so Scholastica. They risk loving God, for the joy of being loved in return. The pain that love brings them is worth it; love like that Jesus spoke of “A woman when she is in labour has sorrow – but as soon as she is delivered of the child she remembers the anguish no more, for joy that a man is born into the world”. (John 16.21) Can we pray too, that ‘we may happily receive what comes from loving you’?

The Shrine at Subiaco