Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

Catholics brave the elements: day 1

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Yesterday morning our doors opened for the annual children’s summer holiday club, this year entitled ‘Catholics brave the elements’. Some 30 primary school aged children gathering together for games, craft and daily devotion. Each day we are focusing on a different aspect of the weather- a very British thing to do- and Monday was the sunshine.

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During devotions in church the children watched a short video about Moses leading the children of Israel across the wilderness. It helped us realise that the sunshine is not always welcome- in desert regions of the world it can lead to danger and difficulty- and much grumbling by those sweltering in its heat. We then considered how in our own journey of faith we must learn to trust God, like Moses, and not complain too much, like the people of Israel. We must learn to be a joyful nor complaining people…

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Being Christian isn’t a ‘get out of jail free’ card in life, God does not remove difficulty or suffering from our path!  But if we remain close to him then he can and does work in us and will provide for our needs. He will give the strength to overcome life’s obstacles and produce fruit in our lives.

The craft activity saw the children making their own sunglasses, pictures of the sun, clay models of the sun and large sheets depicting different weather. There was much industry in our lovely new hall.

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For the creation of the large sheet art the children broke into small groups. One group painted a brilliant orange sun.

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Another group took on storm clouds and lightening.

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There was a sheet set aside for rain

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Another for snow and ice. Which produced a handsome snowman.

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The wind had worried me, but fortunately the children are more mature than the priests within this parish and produced a tree with falling leaves.

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And finally we had some fluffy clouds produced with cotton wool.

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Lunch was well deserved and watching the children play on the grass and enjoy the church grounds made every hour of our hauling down 72 trees seem worthwhile.

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I end with the finished weather sheets which are hanging out to dry in the hall. Didn’t the children do well!

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Tomorrow we return from 10am- 2pm for a day centred on rain. Let us hope the actual weather remains firmly fixed on glorious sunshine!

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The parish pilgrimage to Rome

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Yesterday morning the liturgy booklets, produced for our parish pilgrimage to Rome in October, arrived in the post. I am delighted with them. This document, which runs to 72 pages, contains the texts for Mass and morning and evening prayer, it contains all the psalms and readings we will require and also the hymns. It took me a while to compile but was well worth the effort. It means that each pilgrim need only carry one booklet and it also makes a lovely memento. How exciting to be offering the Ordinariate’s Divine Worship in some of Rome’s most beautiful and significant buildings!

Thus far our schedule looks like this:

Day 1: Monday 10 October

We set off in the early hours of the morning to arrive by midday at the Casa Santa Francesca Romana a Ponte Rotto, on the Via di Vascellari in Trastevere. There we freshen up before enjoying lunch at a nearby restaurant.

In the early afternoon we visit the oldest church in Europe. The Papal Arch-basilica of St. John Lateran, Cathedral Church of Rome and official seat of the Roman pontiff; the principal church of Catholicism. During the visit we have the opportunity to climb the famous Sancta Scala (holy staircase) brought to Rome having originally formed the staircase to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem. They were therefore sanctified by the feet of Christ himself during his passion. Look out for the baldacchino containing the skulls of Ss. Peter and Paul!

On leaving St. John Lateran we walk a short distance to the beautiful church of St. Clemente. Here we discover over 2000 years of history as we visit, not only the current church which is a gem, but also the remains of a 4th Century Basilica as well as a 1st Century Temple of Mithras, both of which are well preserved within the foundations.

We return to the hotel for worship in the hotel chapel, after which there will be free time.  Come dine at a nearby restaurant alongside the clergy or make your own arrangements. Rome by night is charming. The Campo de Fiori is always buzzing and comes highly recommended for its eateries and bars.

Day 2: Tuesday 11 October

After morning prayer in the chapel we head to the little church of St. Giorgio in Velabro. This 7th Century house of worship is of special significance for the Ordinariate because it was Cardinal Newman’s Titular Church in Rome. Mass will be offered here according to Divine Worship and we will pray for St. Anselm’s in Pembury.

After Mass there will be free time to allow people to explore Trasteveri, known locally as ‘Rome’s favourite neighbourhood’; it is crammed with little shops and interesting places. Don’t forget to sample the Romanesque Ice-cream!

At 1:30pm a coach will transport us to the Via Appia; an ancient Roman road which weaves through the city. Here we visit the infamous catacombs where many Christian martyrs are buried. A guide will lead this tour. After this we walk along the via appia for evensong in the charming church of Quo Vadis, situated on the site where St. Peter encountered the risen Lord when fleeing Rome.

Day 3: Wednesday 12 October

Wednesday begins with a tour of the English College. This famous seminary has trained some of the finest priests within England and Wales over many centuries and was of great importance in helping recusants uphold the faith during the trials of the English reformation. Many men who trained here during that time went back to England almost certain of death. Of particular interest are the gruesome frescoes which depict, in detail, the deaths they encountered!

Keeping with the English theme, we leave the college to take in the splendour of the nearby basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, titular seat of Cardinal Murphy O’Connor. This stunningly beautiful church will be the venue for today’s mass as, recalling our tour of the English college, we thank God for the English martyrs.

In the afternoon a coach takes us out of Rome’s city centre for a welcome break at the Palazzola in the hills. The more adventurous will be dropped off to hike the last miles around lakeside cliffs. The others travel direct by coach. We luncheon at the Palazola, summer residence of the English College overlooking Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence. A swimming pool is available for those who fancy a dip, and a bar is open to serve drinks. Evening prayer will be said in the chapel during the late afternoon.

In the evening the coach takes pilgrims back to our hotel in Rome. The more adventurous can opt to walk instead into the nearby villages for supper before another train journey and hearty walk back to the hotel. Bring walking shoes and proper socks if you fancy the strenuous option. Father Nicholas does not tolerate slackers!!

 Day 4: Thursday 13 October

In the morning we head for St. Peter’s and the Vatican. Those who wish to view the Sistine Chapel must arrive very early before huge queues form. The morning will be spent exploring St. Peter’s and its museums and there will be an optional trip to climb St. Peter’s roof to take in the view. At noon we celebrate Mass, over the tomb of Pope St. John Paul II, within St. Peters.

As we are visiting Rome during the Year of Mercy the special door will be opened at the major basilicas. Those who walk through them are granted an indulgence. An indulgence is remission before God of temporal punishment due to sin whose guilt has already been forgiven.

In the afternoon there will be free time for shopping and site seeing. This would be a great opportunity to take in the colloseum, the basilica of St Paul without the walls (where the images of every pope from St. Peter to St. Francis can be viewed) or any of Rome’s many other historical venues. The clergy will almost certainly be found in one of the better clerical outfitters buying more tat for our sacristy. Make sure you go and visit the Pantheon if you haven’t done so.

We re-group for Evening prayer in the church of Ss. Cosmas and Damian, named in the Roman Canon, before retiring to the hotel and a final supper together in the city centre.

Day 5: Friday 14th October

This day is not yet confirmed, and therefore cannot be advertised. But details will emerge. We fly back in the evening after a most worthwhile break.

Putting that slap-down in context

Let us put into context the slap-down handed to Cardinal Sarah by high ranking prelates in the Western church. What they object to, for no logical reason I can fathom, is Mass celebrated ad orientem- as in the video above.

Cardinal Sarah’s mere suggestion that the Novus Ordo might be offered with the same dignified ceremonial and ancient music from within the church’s own treasure stores, had bishops in America and England horrified and reaching for their pens to make it abundantly clear to priests that this was not to be done!

Yet those same prelates never bother to do anything about the Novus Ordo being treated with contempt by modernists. We might consider the use of banal and undignified music, usually from secular sources. If you can bear it, I only managed a few seconds, witness the awful video below. Ugh!!!! Whoever thought this an appropriate choice of music for sincere devotion must have been lobotomised!

When we place the videos  alongside one another the scale of scandal becomes clear. To quote Hamlet there is something ‘rotten in the State of Denmark’ -when those charged with guarding the faith seem unbothered by irreverent and man centred worship yet enraged by that which is holy and clearly oriented towards the divine.

WHY is ad orientem celebration treated with such disdain whilst monstrosities like that below are tolerated and even endorsed?

In the Lord of the Rings there is a powerful moment when Gandalf exorcises King Theodin. His majesty is under a spell which renders him unable to see things as they really are; and this blindness is so deep set that the man and his kingdom have been diminished by stagnation. Turned in on himself the King has grown hostile even to reason.

It reminds me of certain sections in the church today. Those places where people seem to have fallen under the spell of the modernist heresy. Clinging to a failed revolution, an outdated notion of what is trendy, they have turned in on themselves to the point that they are now hostile to reason; unbothered by the loss of vocations and closures of parishes such modernism has caused. Just so long as the ancient ways are held back then they are happy. For they are more in vogue with the thinking of the world and its favoured causes than the wisdom of our faith.

Come Holy Ghost and open the eyes of all to the need for reverent worship (and music) in Mass – regardless of the orientation of the priest. That our praise might lift hearts and souls to God, soften stubborn hearts and help us to find the path within our liturgy that leads away from self and closer to to you.

Why does ad orientem scare them?

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The photograph above was taken (as ever click to enlarge) when I was Anglican vicar of St. Barnabas parish in Tunbridge Wells. A truly beautiful shrine church, built during the height of Anglo-Catholic revival, in which I spent some happy years before joining the Ordinariate with 72 of my parishioners. What the photograph shows is that Ad Orientem worship was very much the norm in this parish, a custom which is now strongly encouraged within the Ordinariate.

When we left St. Barnabas, to join the first wave of the newly erected Ordinariate, we were sent to a dual use hall in Pembury with a small chapel attached. As is the case in a great many modern Catholic parishes the layout of the sanctuary was functional rather than elaborate. There was an altar and two candles and not much more. Certainly no altar frontals or altar rails. The congregation were sat on plastic hall chairs and used a strip of rubber linoleum to kneel on.

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Once settled into the new parish, and once we were functioning well as one family, we immediately set about beautifying the space we worship in to the glory of God. In keeping with the Ordinariate vision we wanted it to reflect that ancient English patrimony, much of which was lost at the reformation. It has taken five years but here are the things we have acquired, besides building a hall, despite having almost no budget: 2 altars, altar candles, pews, lectern, pulpit, stations of the cross, altar rails, vestments, chalices, burse and veils, servers robes, icons, reredos, organ, confessional and stalls.

The beautification project also saw the sacrament moved from a side chapel to pride of place at the heart of our new sanctuary. A move encouraging us to offer all Masses at the main altar ad orientem– as we do now- that is with the priest facing the Lord during the prayer of consecration. A change of orientation which was met with barely a ripple of discontent by those who worship here at present. Indeed most everyone has been very encouraging of the changes we have made. And we do well to ponder how the average age of worshipper went down and the level of giving has gone up. These things suggest the changes have been very good news indeed.

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Why am I telling this story again? Because what we have done these last five years is precisely what Cardinal Sarah suggested priests do during the recent conference on the liturgy in London. We turned to face East -during those parts of the Mass when God is being addressed -and tried to value beauty, culture and tradition. In short we listened to what Pope Benedict XVI was saying during his pontificate; that the church need look afresh at what the second Vatican Council actually asked for and resist what, in the worst instance, transpired.

“I am convinced that the damage that we have incurred in these twenty years is due, not to the ‘true’ Council, but to the unleashing within the Church of latent polemical and centrifugal forces” – Benedict XVI

Understand that Cardinal Sarah did not demand this be done. There is no formal change in the rubrics planned. He simply urged those priests interested in good liturgy to consider use of ad orientem worship when celebrating Novus Ordo. A custom neither shocking nor innovative given that it is legal and reflects the practice of all Catholics throughout the ages.

Why then were his words met with such an explosion of rage from modernist quarters? Why were certain bishops, the sort who lose their tongue when doctrine needs clarifying or dissent quelled, so quick to pour cold water on what Cardinal Sarah was teaching? Flimsy arguments were quickly rolled out to tell priests -in no uncertain terms- that such practice was neither desired nor encouraged. The arguments of those hungering for a reform of the reform must be stronger than we think; why else would they be so visibly rattled?

That modernist prelates of a certain vintage resent where Cardinal Sarah points should not surprise us. These are the people who spent lifetimes as revolutionaries inspiring the very changes Pope Benedict attacks. But the strength of emotion in the backlash was surprising. It left me asking but one question…

Why does Ad orientem orientation scare them so?

What is so awful about worship in which the priest faces the Lord at times? For me it is normal and efficacious to church growth. What possible objections can these men have that they would slap down not only the Vatican’s liturgy expert but also the former Holy Father?

“The turning of the priest toward the people has turned the community into a self-enclosed circle. In its outward form, it no longer opens out on what lies ahead and above, but is locked into itself. The common turning toward the East was not a “celebration toward the wall”; it did not mean that the priest “had his back to the people”: the priest himself was not regarded as so important. For just as the congregation in the synagogue looked together toward Jerusalem, so in the Christian Liturgy the congregation looked together “toward the Lord”. (Pope Benedict XVI, Spirit of Liturgy, ch. 3)

So again. Why does ad orientem scare them so? Here are some possible answers

  1. They have an agenda to change church teaching and know that more reverent celebration of the Mass will lead to greater hunger and demand for orthodoxy.
  2. They have become inspired by politics and protestant theology and no longer understand or delight in ancient Catholic practice.
  3. They are terrified ideologues who know that such practice will bring about revival. And that revival will not reflect at all well on those who encouraged the ripping out of altar rails, naff choruses, guitars in the sanctuary et al…

Can you think of any others?

NB: Please note that I have no issue at all with Westward celebration of the Mass. We do it here at times. It can be done with reverence and beauty where care is shown. But what has become clear is that many who prefer the modern way have a serious issue with people like me…. Why?

First communions 2016

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Monsignor Keith Newton was celebrant today at the 9:15am Mass when five children were admitted to receive holy communion for the very first time. And what a very happy occasion it was. It is just as well many of our regulars are away on holiday at present or we would never have got everyone in!

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Monsignor Newton spoke to the children about believing, belonging and behaving – three key themes to approaching the sacrament worthily. The first lesson and intercessions were led by the children and Mass was offered according to Divine Worship, the liturgy of the Ordinariate which I pray will one day be open to all. It is such a reverent liturgy- ad orientem and in the vernacular- so in keeping with the intentions of the Second Vatican Council, as Cardinal Sarah made clear at the Sacra Liturgica conference earlier this month.

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After Mass we took some photographs before heading into the hall. There a very special cake awaited us, baked by a local parishioner, Sue. It depicts the Holy Spirit bursting forth from the cross of Christ. The candidates names included.

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Then it was time for toast the children. The adults being treated with something bubbly and the children making do with squash. On a very hot day these drinks were very welcome. Not least to those of us in layers of vestments!

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One of our candidates, Jesnia, made her promise before the Ordinary, and received gifts with the other children, but did not actually take communion. She is holding back until she travels to India later this year to take part in a ceremony there, in the presence of her wider family. But having been instructed in the faith with the other candidates here at St. Anselm’s it was only fitting that she took as full a part as possible being a regular member of our congregation.

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Then there were a few minutes left to natter with both outgoing and incoming people before the next Mass began. Mgr. Newton giving personal blessings in the garden and father Nicholas doing a little weeding. It was all very convivial and another wonderful day in the life of our church.

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And the new item of ecclesial furniture? Two magnificent clergy stalls erected in the sanctuary to the glory of God!

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They arrived on Friday on the back of a lorry. Just as Father Nicholas and I had smashed down an internal cupboard door and made ready the space for the old cupboard doors to be blocked by them.

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No longer will we enter the sanctuary for light bulbs et al! Now the only reason to enter the sanctuary, aside from necessary cleaning, is to serve at the altar. That is as it should be in all and every church. That the sanctuary may be set aside as sacred space to remind us into whose presence we come whenever we enter church.

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The stalls add even more dignity to our evolving sanctuary and represent the first phase of a summer/autumn project. Later the back wall of the church will be plastered and the altar raised. And new brass altar rails put into place. We will also be building a gradine to house the sacrament and moving the altar closer to the East wall to facilitate better use of space. Finally the sacred heart chapel will have its new reredos mounted and the walls plastered. So lots to look forward to. And that is before operation kitchen kicks in!!

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Congratulations to all our candidates and hearty thanks to our supporters. The first communions now over we look ahead to the summer holiday club in just over a week’s time. Some 30 children descending on us for craft, games, catechesis and fun….the summer is proving hectic but enormously worthwhile here in Pembury.

Six special gifts this Sunday…

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On Sunday morning, during the 9:15am Mass, five children will be admitted to Holy Communion. The Celebrant at this special Mass will be Monsignor Keith Newton. After Mass we will toast the occasion in the Hine Room with fizz and a celebration cake baked by one of our parishioners. It promises to be a happy day.

The gift of admission to holy communion is, of course, the most precious one that any Catholic receives in life after baptism. The children have been prepared over several months to ensure they view this celebration as the beginning of an entire lifetime choosing Jesus Christ. Please hold Jesnia, Melanie, Olivia, Bethany and Daniel in your prayers.

The sixth gift, counting the sacramental gift given to the children as the first five, is some new ecclesial furniture installed in the sanctuary yesterday afternoon!! It is the first part of a planned beautification project within the sanctuary, which will eventually see new altar rails installed, a gradine built, a wall plastered and the altar raised. It has been made possible because of the inspiring generosity of an avid reader of this blog. Thank you.

What is the new item? All will be revealed tomorrow! For now we want to leave it as a nice surprise for worshippers on Sunday. But here is a sneak peek…

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A great evening

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The Year of Faith lecture was well attended last night, Deacon Stephen Morgan giving us a belter of a talk on mercy which you can soon listen too again via our parish website. We were also joined by Fr. Piero Gallo of the Vatican who is currently staying in England to improve his English and who was very eager to experience the Ordinariate liturgy. He was very positive in his feedback and left the parish armed with a copy of our Mass booklet and also with the information booklet I wrote for CTS earlier this year.

It was then time to retire to the Black Horse and treat Frs. Leveseur and Morgan to supper. The food, as ever, was excellent and the beer and conversation was pretty good as well. Then it was back to Hartfield for the final night of our evacuation- we return to the re-wired presbytery today. It will not be long until I catch up with Revd. Dr. Morgan again as we are both due to speak at the Evangelium conference at the end of the month. If you haven’t yet booked a place there is still time

Blessed are the merciful

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Our Year of Mercy lecture series continues tomorrow evening when the Revd. Dr. Stephen Morgan, of Portsmouth diocese, visits St. Anselm’s to speak on the theme ‘Blessed are the Merciful.’ As ever the format is Low Mass at 7pm, refreshments at 7:30pm and the talk itself at 8pm. It promises to be, as all our talks have proved thus far, a most worthwhile evening. All are very welcome and do bring along some friends. The more the merrier.

On Sunday Monsignor Keith Newton will be visiting the parish. The special occasion being the admitting of five children to communion for the very first time. These first communions will take place during the 9:15am Divine Worship Mass when the candidates will lead our intercessions as well as the first reading.

Do please make every effort to attend these special occasions. They are the last major events in our parish diary, save two baptisms on the first Sunday in August, before the inevitable winding down for the summer holiday season begins.

Please note that I shall be back in residency within the parish by the end of this week. The work on the house being completed in the next couple of days.

And finally, of your goodness, pray for the repose of the soul of Doris Smith. mother of our parish treasurer Michael, who passed away peacefully this week.

Praise in high places


I had very much wanted to attend Sacra Liturgica the special conference on liturgy taking place in London this week, but it just wasn’t feasible having only just returned from attending the Acton conference! So I am grateful to those who are in attendance for using social media to highlight the things being said. 

The most important person in attendance at this conference is Cardinal Sarah, the highest ranking liturgist in the Catholic Church today being head of the Congregation for Divine Worship. Last night he gave the key note address. Stressing that Pope Francis has asked him to continue the liturgical reforms begun by Pope Benedict, he again underlined a firm conviction that a return to ad orientem worship, that is with the priest facing East for those parts of the Mass in which God is addressed, is not only desirable but to be firmly encouraged. He went on to urge all priests, after a time for catechesis within the parish, to re-orient their parishes by Advent Sunday. He also encouraged the practice of kneeling for the reception of the Eucharist. Doubtless many will not heed this advice, for there is a liturgical crisis in many parishes today as regards even the desire for reverent and truly sacred worship, but it does signal encouragement to those who will listen. And Cardinal Sarah hinted that such practice might be at the heart of further mandated reforms being considered by the Vatican. 

Why does this matter? Because our liturgy helps form our beliefs and practice as Christians. We are what we pray. And the better our worship is, not in terms of entertainment but in lifting hearts and minds to God, the closer our union with Christ shall be. Grace may then flow. As the blogger Father Z puts it; save the liturgy, save the world! 

Cardinal Sarah, already a favourite of mine and my hope to be the next Pope, then went on to lift the hearts of all involved and/or supportive of the personal Ordinariates when he Singled us out for praise! Speaking on the theme of putting God before man in our worship he said:

I am an African. Let me say clearly: the liturgy is not the place to promote my culture. Rather, it is the place where my culture is baptised, where my culture is taken up into the divine. Through the Church’s liturgy (which missionaries have carried throughout the world) God speaks to us, He changes us and enables us to partake in His divine life. When someone becomes a Christian, when someone enters into full communion with the Catholic Church, they receive something more, something which changes them. Certainly, cultures and other Christians bring gifts with them into the Church—the liturgy of the Ordinariates of Anglicans now in full communion with the Church is a beautiful example of this. But they bring these gifts with humility, and the Church in her maternal wisdom makes use of them as she judges appropriate.

A strange week

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The re-wiring of the presbytery continues apace. Still no clear date for completion but it is good to know that the result will be increased safety for the family. Until then it is a strange time; old routines abandoned but performing as many parish duties as possible, between the longer and more complicated school runs and trying to cope without computer or office. The upside is time at the end of each day to collaborate with Fr. Nicholas and reflect on parish life. One gets a different perspective when away from normality.

Another unexpected blessing is that the children are loving every minute. A splendid country house and garden afford a real sense of freedom. They have fallen head over heels in love with Aeschylus, a delightful Spaniel. And pictured above is an impromptu lesson from Fr. N regarding the transformation of pheasant feathers into quills. Note the intense concentration from all!

On Sunday we enjoyed a splendid parish BBQ. I am most grateful to everyone who helped to organise it. We also held our parish gift day and I am delighted to announced that, only three weeks after launching our kitchen project, over £5000 of the £9000 has been raised. The exact total will be announced on Sunday.

Tomorrow I am able to perform my usual Wednesday duties in prison and parish mass continues each day. A reminder that this coming Saturday is the Kent Area pilgrimage to Arundel in Sussex. Do join us there from 11am for Procession, Mass and a picnic. And next Wednesday is the next in our series of lectures. More on that in the coming days…

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