Pilgrimage to Rome

rome1

Exciting news! I am in the initial stages of organising a parish pilgrimage to Rome for 2016 and can confirm some early details.

The proposed dates are 10-14 October 2016 with an estimated price of £599 per person sharing. Single rooms are available on a first come/ first served basis at a supplement of £35 per night.

The price includes:
Return flights from London Gatwick to Rome including hand luggage
Return transfers from Rome airport to your hotel in Rome
4 nights bed and breakfast in the 4 star Gioberti hotel in Central Rome
Luxury air-conditioned coach for all transfers and tours
Fully planned itinerary with masses arranged for each day
Tickets arranged for audience with Pope Francis (subject to the Pope being in Rome)
A representative to accompany the group
Guided tour of Religious Rome with local guide
Guided tour of historical Rome with local guide

If anyone is interested in signing up for the pilgrimage or has any questions then do not hesitate to email me. It should be a lot of fun so book early to avoid disappointment.

A voice crying in the wilderness…

cvggo_peter

I must confess to being very confused about the message, words and example coming from many Christian leaders today. Am I missing something?

We Christians worship Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, who encountered hostility and rejection on earth because he came, not to court popularity, but to speak the truth in love. His suffering was not unique. For all who had come before him to prepare the way, the prophets of old, had also been rejected and despised on account of God’s word. Nevertheless they stood firm to the revealed faith and willingly embraced suffering for the sake of the world.

After Jesus came the saints and martyrs. They too tell a story of incredibly bravery in the face of worldly rejection. Time and again they were mistreated, misunderstood and unwanted but, nevertheless, they stayed true to Christ and were prepared to suffer for the salvation of souls. Indeed the first 33 popes laid down their lives for the love of the church.

A prime example of one who suffered for the faith, shedding his blood that it may be handed on without blemish, is John the Baptist. Like us he lived during a decadent era in which morality was in crisis. A time when the world was not remotely interested in what God had revealed about marriage and family life. But the Baptist would not be swayed by cultural change or supposed societal enlightenment. He bravely spoke out against Herod at the cost of his life.

A central truth then is that those who stand for God’s word have ever been rejected and called to take up the cross in defence of the faith. What unites the great Saints and martyrs in all past ages was that they never felt compromise with the world was acceptable. They never believed being nice was more important than speaking truth. They never acted as if the main purpose of Christian faith is to gently fit in with the world to court popularity and praise.

And so to my confusion.

Why do so many modern Christian leaders today – across all denominations- act as though we can dispense with that cross? As if the church is called to court popularity not speak the truth in love? Why do they sound like obsequious politicians not saints of God? Why do so many remain silent in the face of grave moral evil and even champion worldly thinking at the cost of the Gospel?

Where are the men of faith like the Saints of old? Where are those who will stand up for Jesus? I feel so terribly let down by this generation of church leaders for too often where we need strength and clarity we find weakness and fuzziness. We have a crisis of Christian leadership and it is costing us heavily.  Too many hirelings and not enough shepherds. But what can be done?

How risible has been the defence of marriage and family life as the oxymoron fad of so called “gay marriage” sweeps the globe. In the UK, in Ireland and in America the response of bishops has been timid and feeble. So to my question.

When did standing up for faith like the Saints of old become unimportant? When did God reveal the cross is no longer integral to the Christian life? When did being inoffensive become the prime virtue of Christian faith? Can anybody tell me? Or is it high time we held our leaders to account and demand they start acting like apostles and not politicians?

Perhaps the answer must come from the grass roots. That is certainly what Archbishop Fulton Sheen thought. I end with a quote from him:

Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops, like bishops, and your religious act like religious.–Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, 1972 

Think small

ChestertonUSETHIS-746x488

G. K Chesterton had a genius for throwaway remarks imbued with deep wisdom. One of my favourites is this:

“There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.”

How often we make ourselves deeply unhappy because we yearn for what is wanted not actually needed. How often children are deprived a glorious time with their parents- time which can never be taken back- because, in truth, the grown ups are too busy accumulating material wealth to notice the living treasures in the home. How many people today live to make money when they ought to turn things around and make money to then go out and live!

Our culture is obsessed with the acquisition of goods. And long working hours and dual income mortgages are a genuine cancer on life. How many people are locked into a lifestyle that is centred on work not home? How many fall for the salesman’s lie? That the new iPhone or handbag or car (insert whatever) is going to deliver our happiness. All the continual acquisition of goods really does, of course, is provide a fleeting feeling of exhilaration before the next item tugs at our desire. No matter how much we have we can always hunger for more…

The Christian life calls us to step away from such banality to hunger instead for things that matter. We are called to love God and neighbour and to care for this world in which we live. Learning to do so in simplicity is the surest path to happiness. Little wonder the greatest Saints got by on almost nothing in worldly terms- yet they shone with joy and fulfilment like lights in the darkness.

If you have a roof over your head, a job that can stimulate you, food on the table and family and friends then you are a truly wealthy soul. God has already given you all that you need to be fulfilled and happy in life. I might add a decent pub for good measure but you get my drift. We really do need  less than we imagine. And we often do spend time on what is not important at the cost of what actually is.

What could you do to simplify life today? How might you learn to be truly thankful for what you have rather than obsessing about what you do not have? How does your attitude to money and goods in life affect your overall happiness? How much is it affecting the time you spend?

“There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.”

A tabernacle for the High Altar

20091_10155742029395075_7052917132758848678_n

This morning I positioned a new tabernacle on the High Altar. It needs a jolly good polish in the coming days to bring it up to the colour of the candlesticks. It also requires, in the fullness of time and when we can afford it,veils in the appropriate liturgical colours. But for now it is enough that it is there. For having created permanent space for worship at Saint Anselm’s it was absolutely essential that -as soon as possible- we placed Jesus Christ at the heart of our church and in the most visible location.

10995441_10155742029370075_3287711591047708526_n

If you click on the images you will see greater detail. The tabernacle doors are adorned with the letters Alpha and Omega and on top of the tabernacle sits a fine little Pelican with her babes. The Pelican is an ancient symbol of the Eucharist given that Pelicans have been known to feed their young by drawing blood from their own breast.

IMG_0518

Situating the tabernacle on the High Altar necessitates a few small changes. Firstly to the current tabernacle in the side chapel. The sanctuary lamp will be taken down from there this week and a new one placed in the main body of the church. After that the old tabernacle will become an Ambry! Which is to say it will remain to house the holy oils for use throughout the year. A special notice explaining this new use -as well as what the oils are for- will be placed in the chapel tomorrow alongside the Ambry.

Secondly the location of a tabernacle on the High Altar means that all services from the high altar must now, by necessity, be celebrated Ad Orientem- that is with the priest facing East. This will bring a small change to the 11am Mass only. To retain balance weekday Mass in the side chapel will still be celebrated Westward facing according to the Benedictine arrangement.

Another step on the path to our development then as a functioning parish with use of both a church and a hall. It is going to take time for us to settle into the new space- and much needs doing. But bit by bit the transformation is occurring. My thanks for all the support and help from parishioners. It was so lovely to see so many smiles as people came to church last Sunday. These are exciting days!

The Summer BBQ

IMG_2130

Apologies for the broken service this week. The blog and website were down due to the server that hosts them crashing. A few recent photographs have been lost but it is back to normal service from today. And so to today’s news…

On Sunday 19th July we are holding our summer BBQ. The 9:15am Mass will be said that day and will be most suitable for those setting up and cooking. The 11am Mass will be a Sung Mass with baptisms and will be most suitable for those attending the BBQ. Tickets are now on sale at £7.50 per adult with children entitled to a free ticket. The ticket gains you entry, good quality meat and your first drink. We are asking for donations of salad dishes and deserts.

This year we are providing live musical entertainment courtesy of our local band “Sold Out”. There is also a silly hat competition with a prize for the best one. So be creative and make a glorious bonnet! All profit from the BBQ will be put towards our in house project of building new storage units in the new hall. These are desperately needed to enable us to function efficiently.

We are holding a special planning meeting for the BBQ this coming Wednesday after the 7pm Mass. Everyone and anyone is invited to come to this meeting and get involved. The more ideas the merrier and we certainly need some volunteer help to ensure the event goes smoothly.

We very much hope that as many of you as possible will support this event. Why not bring family and friends? And remember to buy your tickets early, not only to ensure you get one before they sell out but also to help us with catering.

Pray for priests

Praying for vocations to the priesthood should be a regular feature of every Catholic’s prayer life. In Southwark Archdiocese we are blessed to have an excellent director of vocations in Fr. Stephen Langridge. The Ordinariate also has seminarians who are a great blessing to us. We must pray for them.

Do you know somebody with a possible vocation to the priesthood? Encourage them to explore it further. Do you have a vocation? Then respond to it. After all studies have shown that priests top the tables when it comes to job satisfaction and happiness in life. Pray then that the Lord would continue to raise up men for the priesthood and that he will continue to bless them in the work that they do.

Catholics in space…

Slide1

This July St. Anselm’s will again be holding a summer holiday club for primary school aged children. In 2013 the theme was “Catholics on Safari” and in 2014 it was “Catholics under the Sea”. This year the theme is “Catholics in Space” and much work is already under way to ensure it will be just as enjoyable for the little ones as in previous years. This year, of course, the new hall offers even better facilities for the children to use.

And it isn’t only the building that is improved. This picture from last year shows the paddock with compacted dusty earth starved of water and light by over 70 overgrown leylandii. Those unsightly triffids have now gone thanks to a huge volunteer project and a beautiful grassy paddock will host the children this year.

IMG_2197

It is important that you book a place very soon as spaces are limited and this holiday club is always over subscribed. The club runs from July 27th – July 29th from 10am – 2pm. Children bring a packed lunch each day and old clothes suitable for painting and playing outdoors. Each day I deliver a short talk about the faith and there are lots of craft activities and games which will all follow the outer space theme.

As well as recruiting children we also need lots of adult help. The club is run by Hayley, my wife, and we need leaders to be present on the day to assist with craft and games as well as adults willing to do preparatory cutting at home during the run up to the club in order to lessen the burden on Hayley and myself! If you need information are able to volunteer or wish to book a place, then click on the image above to enlarge it and follow the instructions given there. Only ten spaces remain. The countdown has begun…5, 4, 3, 2, 1…..

A new chapter begins

11535928_10155706663105075_8815284885559616760_n

On Sunday the new hall was used as the venue for our Sunday school. After several years of witnessing the poor children jammed into insufficient space on a tiny sacristy floor it was a moment of genuine liberation. Now they have tables and chairs and space in which to move. This is great news!

10469776_10155706663180075_7663388709804364691_n

It was also the first time we could use the new entrance into church. The doors need a few finishing touches but are now operational. The glass is welcoming and provides lots of light for the new lobby. Which is also now finished affording all visitors to Saint Anselm’s a view of the high altar on which the sacrament will eventually be housed.

10250279_10155706663150075_8078482422383645829_n

 

So now it is time to sit back and reflect. Over the coming weeks and months we must adapt to fit our new surrounds. The pre-school will be experimenting on how best to set up the new hall to suit their needs. And in church we will be pausing before bringing in the new pews to ensure we make informed decisions.

The five year plan has come to a close then.. in four years not five!  For which we are hugely indebted to those who managed the build. The project has come in just £94 over budget which is quite an achievement and evidence of how well things were managed. The next five year plan will see a significant chunk of the debt paid off on the hall and plans put in place to further beautify the church. But for now the pause. Time for reflection on all that has happened thus far and time to give thanks to God for the development of our parish.

Laudato Si

IMG_3409

God has given to us a beautiful world and we need to care for it. Not only for our own sake but for the generations who are to come.

There is an advantage in having time off to recover after sickness, one can read carefully Papal documents on the day they are released. Yesterday afternoon I therefore tucked myself up with a lemsip and opened Laudao Si, the first ever papal encyclical not to be given a Latin title. And also the first to be addressed not to the clergy or even the whole lay faithful but to the entire population of the world. That is quite some scope but then this message is important and it affects all of us who share this home that we call planet earth.

Yesterday I stated that the Pope needed to walk a very fine line to navigate the political games that hamper environmental progress on all sides of the political spectrum. This document proves he can do that and what emerges is a very sensible and hard hitting challenge to the human species.  It is, unsurprisingly, robustly Catholic and therefore a most pro-human document.

Do try and read it all by following this link. The Catholic Herald has helpfully produced a page of the most important quotes if you are looking for a summary concerning some of the central themes.

Update: I am grateful to those who pointed out that this is not, as I was informed, the first encyclical without Latin title. That honour goes to an earlier work addressed to the people of Germany!

 

Ahead of the encyclical…

twittearth

How very tedious is the warring of left and of right in the modern world! It serves the devil not the living Lord. I find it boring beyond words. What interests me is truth and what God is calling us to do in this life.

Today the Vatican releases the papal encyclical on the environment and it is already causing much screaming and angst across predictable fault lines. I guess it is hardly surprising given that ‘environmentalism’ has become a political hot potato in recent years. From where I stand, and before I have read and reflected at depth on the encyclical, both left and right deserve a yellow card regarding how they have chosen to approach this all important subject.

The right deserve a warning because they have tended to dismiss the needs of the environment altogether at times. Ignoring the needs of the planet entirely in pursuit of wealth. This is to ignore a central tenet of God’s command to man. That we are to be wise stewards of the earth and rule it according to his plan. Wherever big business is found decimating forests, poisoning rivers and encouraging poverty and human misery on grand scale for profit- there we see a clear sin in God’s eyes.

But the left are also guilty of naughtiness. They have tinkered with the truth and doctored scientific reports to suggest the crisis is more pressing than it is. Worse than that- they have pursued a path of caring for the environment in a way that is disgustingly profligate. Billions, that could have served the poor, have been poured into vanity projects which made almost no difference in real terms. Many got rich themselves turning environmentalism into a political game, that foolishly excludes the right and is manifestly anti-life. It has a contraceptive agenda for starters. Returning to Genesis it ignores the intended order. The needs of the natural world are ever placed above the need of man. The planet is worshipped in place of God.

Into all this mess and confusion, with much wrong on every side, the Pope has courageously decided to step in. That is very brave of him. The path he must cut is fine and I hope he charts it successfully.  To do so he must ensure he brings a necessary balance to proceedings. And he must show to us the word of God.

If the report reads like a non religious document dreamt up in a UN think-tank it will have failed. If it buys into/is duped by the politics of either side it will have failed. It if fails to celebrate the human person and the role, dignity and purpose of the family and of God then it will have failed. So which way will it go?

Who can tell?! At his best this current Pope is a maverick voice capable of grabbing the imagination of the entire world and making us think. At his worst he can seem a loose canon, at times overly dismissive of those who seek to be faithful and too bound up in the political world. He remains an enigma. It is going to be interesting then to see which way this document falls.