Pictured above on the left, alongside Archbishop Peter Smith, is Father Paul Mason. Currently Episcopal vicar for the Kent area he will tomorrow become area Bishop. The consecration taking place at St. George’s Cathedral in Southwark.  All are very welcome to attend. The service begins at 12pm.

I shall be present to represent St. Anselm’s parish and convey our best wishes to our new area bishop. Since taking on the role of Episcopal Vicar, and prior to that in his educational role with clergy within the diocese, Fr. Paul has been very fair and supportive. His appointment is good news for Southwark Archdiocese.


It would appear our little parish of Saint Anselm’s, Pembury is cutting edge trendy! For our beautification project saw an intentional shift in liturgical approach so that all main services are now celebrated ‘ad orientem’- a position encouraged within the Ordinariate; that is with priest facing East when addressing God and turning West, to face the people, when addressing them.

This week the man in charge of liturgy at the Vatican, Cardinal Sarah, underlined the benefit of this ancient approach. He suggested readers and listeners might face each other during the Liturgy of the Word but that change should occur when moving to the liturgy of the Sacrament. At that sacred moment, when the priest addresses the Almighty, Cardinal Sarah says ‘it is essential the priest and faithful look together towards the east. This corresponds exactly to what the Council Fathers wanted.” He suggests it should become the norm in places of excellence and especially within the world’s Cathedrals.

Cardinal Sarah went onto say “It is legitimate and complies with the letter and spirit of the Council. As prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, I wish to recall that the celebration versus orientem is authorised by the rubrics, which specify the times when the celebrant must turn to the people. It is therefore not necessary to have special permission to celebrate facing the Lord.’

I applaud these comments having witnessed how Eastward celebration re-orients Mass, infusing it with a greater sense of mystery and awe. It makes space for God by shifting the focus beyond the gathered assembly; thereby emphasising that vital supernatural aspect; one that is too often missing in modern celebrations. Which is not to suggest Westward Mass cannot be celebrated with dignity, it can, but that where the supernatural aspect has vanished- and it often is amidst Westward celebrations- there Mass has grown overly chummy and informal; a celebration of the community by the community. A problem more widespread than it should be.

For nearly 2000 years, of course, ad orientam was normative. It only fell out of vogue in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. At that time when enthusiasm for modernity encouraged a whole generation of sandal wearing clerics to ignore the  written instruction of Rome and spark, instead, a mini revolution. Dissent was in the air, altar rails ripped out, high altars abandoned, sacred images vanished and the creation of de-sacrilised space championed.

We witnessed a deliberate, and often politically motivated, shift away from ornate sanctuaries to brutalist concrete structures- an ever greater emphasis on man not God. And statistics now make the conclusions unavoidable. Jaw-dropping decline has plagued the church since this experiment began. The revolutionaries promised growth, through greater relevance, but ushered in an age of decline never before witnessed in history! And the unity of the church was damaged also as a tussle has emerged in recent time between the revolutionaries and those who oppose them.

Hence today we witness calls from Rome to reverse the decline through a renewed understanding of the council and the new evangelisation. Hence the introduction of new Missal and reform of the reform. Hence a revival of the Extra-Ordinary form. Hence the intended emphasis within the new liturgy of the Ordinariate where ad orientem worship is encouraged to place emphasis on beauty, tradition and holiness. Voices are calling then for a new approach but will they be heeded? I think three main issues make this difficult.

Firstly the problem of intransigence. Certain prelates and clergy will resist the call for change at any cost- because it is their baby! Never will they abandon the tired revolution for they are children of it. And having spent a lifetime as architects of modernity, sincerely believing the church was in need of their “greater relevance”, they cannot now bring themselves to join up the dots, ponder the evidence and accept that Cafeteria Catholicism has proved a disaster.

Understand this group will deny the need for change should they be the last Catholic standing! Yes even in the face of the latest shocking news; that for every new Catholic today – ten have left the church! The modernists will never accept that a kum-by-ah approach has largely scared off men, emptied seminaries and left most Catholics too ill educated to defend the faith, at least with any intellectual credulity, leaving them floundering and confused amidst a hostile secular culture. No this intransigent group are ideologues and far too rigid to change!

Then there are the overly timid clergy. Who know in their hearts that change is needed but are too afraid to take control of their sanctuaries and congregations. Those who would never dream of rocking the boat or standing up to modernist hierarchs and laity. Their hunger for popularity and the quiet life means that they might agree in private but will never act in public. For they dare not endure the short term pain that leads to change and long term gain. Until the majority move in the right direction they will continue to collude in what does not work for fear of the consequence of daring to be different.

And finally there is the problem of ignorance. The revolution is not new and poorly formed clergy and laity now exist who have no memory at all of all that went before. This generation were raised to fear tradition; it has been drummed  into them (by the ideologues) that the very notion of ad orientem or tradition is unhealthy.

Alas this group, having only ever worshiped in a modernist way, have almost no sound appreciation of liturgy or sacred music. They bought the lie that anything other than dumbed down entertainment is elitist. And so they wouldn’t know a nurse and veil if it hit them in the face. And without extra education -they are going to struggle as regards to a revival of lost ways. They will remain limited by the gaps in their knowledge. More comfortable to stick with what is known, without thinking, than admit you need much help to move on.

Yet despite these various challenges before us hope exists.  Because the influence of the modernist ideologues is waning, despite a recent bounce under the current papacy. The reality is that the open minded clergy are coming to see, in increasing number, a value in restoring what was lost. Across the Catholic world, like the first shoots of spring in winter, orthodoxy is found flourishing. And people are increasingly drawn to that which authentically exudes both beauty and holiness whilst respecting the traditions of the past.

Realising a need to leave behind the old fashioned approach of the last Century- this group is working instead for a restoration of the sacred. And I am delighted that the Ordinariate finds itself a small but precious part of this group!  Let us who embrace the new evangelisation become children of a new revolution- not of dissent but fidelity! Not of rupture but continuation! A group to restore lost treasures to the church, to combat shoddy liturgy and point again to God not man. A people rooted in the past but growing in the present. That we might open a door to the Holy Spirit and rid ourselves at last of that fascination, instead, with the Spirit of the age…


I am grateful to Mike Blande, ever helpful of this parish, who accompanied me yesterday on a mission to collect some unwanted altar rails from a parish in Sussex. He was later rewarded with lunch at the Black Horse.

Another great gift for our parish then! These rails being much finer quality than what was being used. They will look impressive, adding majesty to the sanctuary, once raised them onto a plinth for people to kneel on. Our need for a builder intensifies – as we also need to install our wonderful new reredos in the chapel, build a gradine and step for the altar and plaster a wall. With each new item comes unintended consequences and a little more work…but it is a wonderful problem for us to have as we continue to beautify this space to the glory of God.



The quality of debate surrounding Britain’s membership of the EU continues to be risible. I guess it is the price to be paid for living in a dumbed down culture intellectually. So much noise but so little meaningful conversation. So much fear-mongering but so little grappling with the important issues. Listen to politicians on either side of the conversation at present and you would be forgiven for thinking England will look like this, should the wrong decision be made.


What is clear is that the decision is splitting historic allegiances. Both Labour and Conservative party are torn down the middle. Even the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, normally so prone to group-speak, are coming out on different sides of the debate! Cardinal Nichols favours remaining, whilst Archbishop Smith seems to favour departure.

On the local level one also detects division. I have one friend voting ‘in’- because he is married to a Frenchwoman and wishes to send children to a Dutch university. Another  is passionately ‘out’ because he believes a reduction of EU interference will aid his business interests. Good personal reasons abound but there is the problem….at present people seem inclined only to vote based on personal circumstance. Which means the debate is not yet taking voters to the deeper and more important consideration. What are the philosophical, cultural and political ramifications for our nation as a whole?

Of course the MP who dreams of joining the EU gravy train on leaving the commons is unlikely to be against. Of course the local business whose trade will flourish without the EU will want out. So, in the national interest, these understandable but myopic views need to be suppressed. The voices we need to hear are those unaffected by outcome. Those who might help us drill down to the philosophical and cultural ramifications of what is at stake; not D grade celebrities and a biased media- as at present.

I say this because democracy is in crisis. Throughout the world we witness a revival of nationalism and increasing disconnect between the giant corporations and political realm and the man on the street. We also witness an obvious and deliberate erosion of Christian heritage and culture by those in power. The shift away from Christianity in the West into a new intolerant tolerance movement. These things are important; what are the values behind the ‘in’ and ‘out’ camps? Nobody has said because nobody wants to go there!  Forget money- which vote will help Britain flourish where morality, ethics and liberty are concerned?

Where have we come from as a nation? Where are we as a nation? And where are we going as a nation? And why? And who says so? And by what authority? Until these things are answered- with clarity and truth- I do not think the debate has even begun. Which is worrying given that votes are being taken in a matter of weeks.


Yesterday Fr. Nicholas preached a solid sermon on the Trinity. I cannot hope to feed it back entirely faithfully so what follows is my picking up his main points and running with them…

First he underlined a need to respect ‘divine mystery’ on the journey of faith.  The Holy Trinity has been revealed to us and is not to be dismissed simply because it is a notoriously tricky concept. That it does not sit within our limited experience and understanding of reality does not make it false. Far from it. It makes it credible.

For God is not constrained by man. He is, by definition, beyond us. When trying to take in, from the human perspective, what it means to be God- immortal and immutable- how can we hope to succeed? If our heads cannot fully comprehend even the size and scope of the universe- then what chance of comprehending the creator himself -who by definition is greater than that which he has created?

Ultimately we fall into heresy if we try to explain the mystery of God. We are bound to cast him in our image, reducing him to a box we can handle intellectually. He becomes less than the sum of our minds. What arrogance! The bridge between man and God is impenetrable- from our end- which is why he came in human form, as the Son, that we might know and love him by virtue of being able to relate to him as one of us.

Father Nicholas went on to debunk the favoured illustrations for preaching on the Trinity. No; God is not like water which becomes ice and steam- because water is never all three simultaneously and independently. Nor is God like the man who is, for example, a clergyman, soldier and husband – because those are functions not distinct persons. Nor like shamrock because the leaves are not distinct. Such attempts to describe the Trinity using such simple language and image must fail. God is so very much bigger than that.

Acknowledging the mystery of God does not, however, make him unknowable. God is immutable. We are subject to change; our skin flakes, our hair greys, our bodies age. We were born, we will die. Not so the Almighty. He is, and was, and will ever be; the same. A oneness of constancy. A reality exists in God that goes far beyond our fragile existence. He is the first cause of all things. The unchanging centre of what we call reality. And this constancy makes him utterly dependable. And because he has revealed himself to us– not because we could work him out– we can know and love him. He becomes, by his divine revelation (that we call the Catholic faith) the only dependable.

This led Father Nicholas to speak bluntly about false gods that obscure the divine revelation. How people construct an image of the divine to worship in place of the one true God!  And a desire to be “nice” in recent time has meant the church has not underlined this truth as we should. There is too much confusion regarding the superior claim of the Christian faith! We cannot pretend our faith is anything other than incompatible with all other belief.

Of course we must respect other faiths and work for religious freedom. We must recognise that all who seek God with a sincere heart will be pleasing unto him. But this love for others must be tempered by a fidelity to our own faith. And our own faith centres on a claim that we have objective truth about God. We are guardians of a deposit of faith- from God himself- which makes the Christian message unique and above all other claims.

Only two possibilities exist. Either Christianity is false and we are wrong. Or, if the Trinity is truth, and God has revealed himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, then anything that does not uphold this revelation MUST be false. We cannot pretend Buddhist claims are sound. We cannot pretend Mohammedan claims are compatible with the message of Christ and that we worship the same God. We do not. We cannot espouse the ridiculous notion that all religions are equal paths up the one same mountain. For the Christian scriptures refute this. And claims about the divinity within other faiths do not point to the Trinity. So we must dare to proclaim, with love and respect, that from the Christian perspective there are false gods; man made constructs that are deviations from the one true faith.

And we cannot pretend it does not matter when those claiming the name of Christian deny or suppress the revelation; an all too common occurrence in the  world, especially since the various schisms of history split the one true voice of the church into myriad different opinions. So that anyone is free to interpret as they wish free from the apostolic authority of the Petrine office.

Ultimately a Christian can (and must) work for a world in which people of all faiths and none live together in mutual respect and friendship; what they cannot endorse is a universalist position. One in which it matters not what is believed and/or practiced. That is uncomfortable, and even offensive, to the modernist mind. For the modernist- inside the church and without- yearns for polite secular neutrality and comfortable acceptance of diversity. Because the modernist does not really believe in the reliability of a divine revelation. But read the scriptures and see that such compromised truth was never the message of Christ Jesus.

Hence the Gospel does not say – ‘go and make disciples of all nations allowing them to believe what they want from a secular vantage point and act as if all paths lead to the same destination anyway’. He said ‘make disciples of all nations baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” 

Why then do so many Christians today act as if it were not so? Why do they reject the doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity by promoting a universalist position?


Yesterday evening Jack Lusted gave a thought provoking lecture on meekness which led into a worthwhile debate.  One of the dominant themes of the address was the need for stripping ourselves of self reliance and fostering instead personal holiness. Using Benedictine insight, and the writings of notable Anglican scholar Martin Thornton, we were urged to consider our own unique call to Sainthood.

Jack pointed out that whilst Saints can be great sources of inspiration, they must not be our actual model. How can we hope to be like St. Theresa of Avila given that we do not live in Spain and inhabit a different culture and era? Our vocation is to work on creating our own version of sainthood, the sanctification of ourselves as God desires. And whilst many of the great Saints embarked on ambitious and impressive ventures, most of us will not be called to do that.

We must weave a more simple holiness into everyday lives. Building up a healthy domestic church in the home and in the workplace. Finding the necessary balance in life between prayer, work, recreation and rest. Quite a challenge, we agreed, amidst the chaos of the present day. This led to our reflecting together on the need to witness, by our personal holiness, to a better way of life. But to do this our lives as Christians need to be discernibly different from those around us. At present, alas, they tend not to be.

Our discussions kept returning to the family. We need to embrace a call to live out our faith in the home.  One lay person present helpfully spoke of the importance of saying a family rosary, of spending time together as a family in prayer. How will you bring faith into the home?


The third lecture in our ‘Year of Mercy’ series takes place tomorrow evening. Mass at 7pm. Refreshments at 7:30pm and the talk itself at 8pm.

This month our speaker is Jack Lusted. Jack served for many years as an Anglican clergyman within the diocese of Chichester. More recently, along with his family, he joined the Catholic church and is now being prepared for ordination within it.

He will address us on the theme “Blessed are the meek” Everyone is very welcome to come and support this special event.


After the crucifixion the disciples were broken and downhearted. As the Gospel today reminds us; huddled together in an upper room with the doors locked for fear of the authorities. Then Christ appeared to them and he breathed on them and they were transformed. The fear was gone! Jesus healed and inspired in them healthy devotion, anticipation, even excitement. Now they trusted God. So, despite having no idea what lay ahead, despite the threat that remained, they hoped in God’s promise. Trust and hope…key themes of the faith which merit attention.

Today we celebrate Pentecost, the gift of the Spirit. The birth of the church. An historic- supernatural -event which began the outward mission of the early church; a church which, despite no clear plan, no resources and no elite, then managed- in just 300 years- to convert the world to Christ. We have never witnessed anything like it in history. The world turned on its head.

We might consider Pentecost the moment when, in the glorious light of the resurrection, man and God were finally reconciled – brought back to unity by the gift of the Spirit. A mystical presence to dwell in our hearts by faith that we might relate to God on a personal and life changing level. And it is through this life giving Spirit that, even today, prayers gain their power, Christ speaks to us in his Word and the Sacraments find gain their efficacy. This gift was essential!

For without the Spirit; bread and wine could not become body and blood. Baptismal water would dampen foreheads but not bring about real change in people so as to make them members of God’s family. Without the Spirit the church would be human construct not spiritual reality. And were that to happen it would surely collapse by the end of this year! Because, in human terms, the church is a pretty woeful at times. There is little by way of strong, clear leadership and too much by way of compromise, corruption and incompetency. A business run like the church would fail. So how is it the only institution to have survived since the Roman Empire? Because the Spirit works in it and for it; often in spite and not because of us humans. Supernatural grace has held it together in crisis from the cock crowing to the current confusion and mess witnessed in the synod on the family. It is because of the Spirit that the church is ever under attack, ever close to collapse, and yet will not fall until the end of time.

Strange then that God did not send the Spirit within minutes of the Ascension. Strange the gift was withheld and the majority told to watch and pray. Why the delay? Because these were essential days of preparation. The making ready for God by his people. Those first Christians, having encountered the risen Christ, were itching to get out onto the mission field but first they had to pause in prayer and adoration. To open their ears to God’s voice.

Today it is no different. We are called to trust God; though the culture around us is hostile. We should be itching to share the good news, having encountered the risen Christ,  that the West might again be converted to Christ. And we too cannot hope to do this effectively unless we begin with prayer. Unless we seek the Spirit; to bless our work, and to ensure we are motivated by divine will and not personal ambition.

Why did the disciples wait? Because none can discern God’s will without spiritual preparation. Because grace is the channel by which the Spirit works and the church grows and has its true being. And it only comes to us when we fall on our knees. Is the church today in crisis? If so, and I think it is, it is only because we have stopped praying as did our ancestors. We are too absorbed by the distractions, comfort and entertainments of the modern age and do not spend enough time in the upper room- waiting, watching and praying for the indwelling Spirit to come to us.

Whatever the future holds is in God’s power- not ours. And it is his power, not our ability, that we are called to draw on. To hope on.Thank goodness. For when God, not man, is in control then ‘smallness’ need never scare us. If God is on your side- blessings will come. Even if the world is against you. Is that not the message of scripture where God ever chooses the weak to shame the strong? David and Goliath. The babe in a manger. 12 weak apostles and a rabble who gathered on Pentecost and then transformed the earth.

Consider, in a small way, this tiny church. Five years ago the task before us seemed impossible. There was much discontent, fear, hostility and uncertainty with the arrival of the Ordinariate. Many said we were set up to fail. Certainly the future looked chaotic with two very different groups thrown together and nothing by way of resources or plant. But God had other ideas! And out of all that uncertainty, the Holy Spirit brought about the peace one senses today. I am not sure when it happened- or how we ever afforded it- but we became a united parish in which there is growth. So many beautiful items have found a home here and allowed us to create permanent space for prayer. Praise God- the Spirit is moving in this place.

So whenever you feel troubled or alarmed- by the world or your own journey- do not be afraid! God is working his purpose out, despite all the mess, and, as long as we remain faithful, his hand will guide. We must learn to trust. To trust completely. And this is the lesson of Pentecost. He, not us, is in control. Hence he said: ‘I am sending the Spirit! Hence he said- I will be with you till the end of time’. That is the Pentecost promise in which we trust. And history suggests it is well placed.

The message today is simple. Put your self ambition and reliance aside and let the Spirit of God dwell in you. That you might no longer be afraid but freed to unlock the doors in the upper room of your soul and get out to do the work of his kingdom.

56StPatrick outdoor classes

Our local Catholic Primary School, St. Augustine’s, has a vacancy for a Key Stage 1 teacher to begin work in 2016 on an initial one year fixed term contract. This really is a wonderful opportunity so spread the word to any teaching friends you have.

With my trip-fold role of parent, priest and vice chair of governors, I can assure any candidates that this is a fabulous, friendly, hardworking and aspirational school. In 2015, Ofsted judged us as being good with outstanding personal development, welfare and behaviour. It is a very caring school in which the behaviour of the children, who come from a wide range of backgrounds, was praised.

The person we are looking to appoint needs to:

  • Be strongly supportive of our Catholic ethos;
  • Have evidence of high standards of achievement;
  • Have good communication and strong interpersonal skills;
  • Have high standards of expectations for learning and behaviour;
  • The ability to work effectively as a team.

NQTs are very welcome to apply and visits to the school are encouraged. Please contact the office to arrange a visit.

Closing date 18 May 2016 1.00pm Interview 23 May 2016


Isn’t this a wonderful photograph? It was taken by professional local photographer, Bruce Elliott, who specialises in pets. For a reasonable fee he accompanies dog owners on a walk and then captures wonderful mementos of your four legged friend. Keeping it all outside of the studio ensures a natural product that must bring joy to those dog lovers who avail themselves of his service. Do click on the images to enlarge them and see them in all of their glory.


As you can see the end product is fantastic. What a great gift idea. Bruce has a website and blog if you are interested in his services.

But it isn’t only doggies who capture Bruce’s imagination. For Bruce is also a rugby fan and the man behind the lens at Tunbridge Wells Rugby Club. Week after week, in good weather and in bad, Bruce is ever present to capture the best moments in the season. He gives this time freely and, wanting to thank him for all he does, I thought I would shamelessly promote his work on the blog today.


Here is a photograph Bruce took during the Veteran’s final last month. As you can see he has a real eye for capturing the action- and my worst facial expressions. Bruce also took the brilliant photographs of the 1st XV victory at Twickenham, many of which I used in yesterday’s post. Tomorrow I will return to more theological musings. But for today here are three cheers for Bruce! If you need a photographer for any reason then look no further…


And my favourite ever Bruce shot? Why this one of course, captured when I took a very pretty young lady to a rugby club luncheon as my plus one. She was impeccably behaved and has become quite a fan of cheering on the boys!